My friend’s father used to be a gambling drunk. And now by the transformational grace of God, he has turned from old ways and leads his family in a godly manner.
Or, there is the opposing hypothesis that this man’s life was changed by the idea of the transformational grace of God.
What I am talking about here is the power of the Holy Spirit versus the power of an idea. I would argue that an idea can have a force of equal power that a Christian claims only the Holy Spirit can have.
Let’s analyze this through the scope of two matters: 1) the power of an idea; 2) examples from other religions.
1) The Power of an Idea. Convince someone they are a worthless sinner before God, and you’ve convinced them of their need for Jesus the savior. Whether this is in actuality true or not, the idea is very attractive. And in fact, we find many attractive life-changing ideas in the world. The idea that money will buy happiness, or that money is itself happiness. People spend their entire lives “changed” and motivated by this idea. There need not be a Money Spirit. The idea that government is best when democratic–and wah-lah, the birth of supposedly the greatest nation on earth, America. What an amazing feat! Yet there need not be a Democratic Spirit, only the idea for which to motivate people. By analogy, imagine the great power of an idea which claims newness for its followers, which promises hope and restoration for those who believe. Newness, hope, restoration, someone who is always there to listen, and then reinforced by the practices of prayer, song, and community. Many people have centered their lives on this idea. When calamity strikes, there is the idea that everything will get better. When someone loses their job, there is the idea that someone higher has plans for them. Surely these ideas can motivate someone’s sense of well-being, peace, and even demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit. But do we need the Holy Spirit to explain such behavior? Anyone must grant that it is at least possible for the idea alone to account for such transformation.
2) Examples From Other Religions. Man says God told man to fly airplane into tower. Man flies airplane into tower. Christians, who reject this man’s religion, are forced to categorize his beliefs as ideas (since they are not true religion). By observation, what is now classified as an idea has truly transformed this man’s life! Christians claim that only the Spirit can be responsible for true and radical life change, yet reject that a spirit or religion which asks men to fly planes into towers can be true. We can assume that this man has experienced a great deal of life change–to the point of death. Yet Christians are forced to identify this as a mere life-changing idea. Could not the same be true of the Christian idea of salvation and the Holy Spirit? Could it merely be an idea?