A Modest Plea for Retaining the Holy Ghost

To paraphrase Luther, the Holy Ghost Himself remains without our prayer or my plea. My pleas is for using the title Holy Ghost as opposed to Holy Spirit. Yes, I know the Greek and Hebrew are better translated ‘Spirit’ not ‘Ghost.’ Yes, I know you have to explain to a kid what’s all this about a Holy Ghost, and therein lies the basis for my plea.

Even a kid knows that a ghost is a bad thing. You don’t want a ghost in your room and when adults say something doesn’t have a ‘ghost’ of a chance they mean it has little to none. Ghost indicates the creepy and the malevolent if not outright evil. Ghost goes with ghoul and haunting not heaven and holy.

Confessing there is a Holy Ghost is a shocker. In the realm of the unseen, there moves a Ghost who is holy and who wants to share His holiness with us, who wants to keep us holy, who want to call, gather, and enlighten all people in the one true faith of Christ.

It is not shocking, or all that memorable, that there is a Holy Spirit.  Being spiritual, of the spirit, into spiritual things is universally thought of today as good and only good. No one checks in the closet or under the bed for spirits, and if you watch enough Disney movies you know a spirit companion is desirable.

One scholar offers a convincing argument that Medieval scholars wished to make a distinction between the Spirit in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit in the new, so they translated the latter Holy Ghost. He shows the distinction to be aberrant, and I agree (http://www.hebrew-streams.org/works/spirit/spirit-to-ghost.html). Today most Christians would say that the Spirit moving over the face of the waters in Genesis 1 and that the Spirit in Zechariah 4 who is beyond human power and might is the Holy Ghost.

I wish to make no distinction between the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit. I agree that the Third Person of the Godhead can be referred to as the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost. Because there are many more words that rhyme with ghost than spirit, it’s not likely the title Holy Ghost will ever go out of our worship, prayers, or liturgy. For that reason, I think we should make the most of it.

In the realm of ghosts and the ghostly there is always a creepy quotient. We confess there is something, no Someone who is holy. This is that part of a children’s story were the child finds someone in the bad realm who is kind and helpful. Our society embraces spiritual concepts as superior ones, but you drop the word ‘holy’ from ‘spirit’ and you may or may not be talking about the Holy Spirit. You drop ‘holy’ from ‘ghost’ and everyone knows you’re no longer speaking about the Third Person of the Trinity.

And speaking of pleas, the Holy Ghost pleads for us so deeply they can only be expressed as groans. Not the moans of a ghost, but the groans of the Holy Ghost.

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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