of the Holy Spirit

Bible study Holy Spirit
Starting my sermon critique by quoting my own source material:
    Language is a necessary condition for the existence of societies. A society is not merely a collection of discrete individuals but involves relations between individuals; it is necessary that there be communication: some kind of language must exist.  Rules of the kind we call logical must also exist: It must be possible to follow through arguments, however primitive.  Some things have to be done by agreement, and there cannot be agreement without a shared understanding of what is to be achieved and how it can best be achieved.  Some kind of reasoning is needed.  That is to say, language and logic are needed.
--Thomas McPherson, Social Philosophy111

I checked my sources on rules regarding pronouns, and in a nutshell:

    Within a sentence, the sentence structure limits the choice of pronoun.  ... In a discourse, context plays a primary role in pronoun interpretation.
    ... Most of the rules of grammar we have studied are for phrases and sentences.  Such rules interact heavily with nonlinguistic knowledge in discourse.  The "context" of an utterance is often necessary to understand it.  We saw this in the discussion of ambiguous sentences and discourse.  For example consider a sign that states:

Best place to take a leak.

In the context of a radiator repair garage, only one meaning is reasonable. Posted near toilet facilities at a campsite, the other meaning is more likely.
--Victoria Fromkin & Robert Rodman, An Introduction to Language112

The "they all" being gathered together (Acts 2) and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit would have one significance if they were the apostles in their specialized ministry (radiator repair shop), and another if they were the followers in general gathered together (at a campsite).  Since "they all" is at the beginning of a new sentence--new paragraph, new chapter, new thought--we have to look at the whole context rather than simply a rule of grammar.  We are, after all, reading a discourse (ref. Luke 1, Acts 1). If the context shows Luke developing a well defined group of which the apostles are but a subgroup, the narrative alternating between the two, the "they all" would be taken to mean the larger group.  If however, Luke's narrative dealt exclusively with the group of apostles, the others being vaguely on the periphery, then "they all" would be the apostles only. To use only a straightforward rule of grammar is to treat Acts 2:1 as if it were part of a sentence ending Acts 1, which it isn't.  If it were, we certainly would have proved "they" are the apostles.
    ignoratio elenchi (Log.) ; 'ignoring of the (required) disproof'. A fallacy consisting in disproving or proving something different from what is strictly in question ; called in English the fallacy of irrelevant conclusion.  If the question is whether the law allows me to pollute water passing through my garden, & I show instead that it ought to allow me, since the loss to me by abstaining is a hundred times greater than my neighbor's from the pollution, I am guilty of i. e.
--H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage113

If we have to follow the law according to how it is written, not how we think it should have been written, how much more so the Bible. Proving a point from a rule of grammar that would work for a single sentence is substandard exegesis, in my opinion, when the words in question are not in a single sentence but part of a larger discourse, and in which case the larger context is the primary consideration instead of that rule of grammar.

I think what's relevant goes back to, "language must exist.  Rules of the kind we call logical must also exist: It must be possible to follow through arguments, however primitive.  Some things have to be done by agreement, and there cannot be agreement without a shared understanding of what is to be achieved and how it can best be achieved," where as a result of the apostles' baptism of the Holy Spirit, they as a group could speak with authority of inspiration, (Acts 2:14) "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, ...," and by agreement certain of the writings by recognized inspired men were gathered into our New Testament which forms our highest leadership here on earth. There remain, however, issues connected to whether or not the rest of the 120 received the descent of the Holy Spirit too, as per: "Social psychologists have generally concluded by now that there are no leadership traits, that leadership is a function of the situation, including the kind of people, the kind of problem, the kind of group, etc."--Victor Thompson, Modern Organization114 I think that if the rest of the 120 just sat around while the 12 received the charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit and then preached, we non-apostles would feel that any spiritual experience we'd have would be almost exclusively from reading the Bible, their inspired words, but if instead, all 120 received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the same time, and then Peter with the 11 preached, I'd be more inclined to believe that believers could have more spiritual experiences apart from reading their Bibles (which they should still do.) Of course, that's all too feeble to base a position on, one way or another, and in fact I agree with the preacher's main point that we get more mileage from a slow burn than from a big bang, but I don't think he needs the pronoun argument to reinforce that position, and it could harm his credibility, especially if he preaches or talks to someone who actually understands pronouns.

Even the most earthly things are subject to the slow-burn principle:

    I learned about women in sports from a woman, a skin diver named Marie Prenderghast. Marie told the papers the other day that more and more women are going to take up this delightful subaqueous sport. "It'll be just like when women took up bowling," she said. "They'll wise up to where the men are."
    The idea that bowling alleys, and tennis courts, and softball fields--and even, by Jupiter, under the water--should be mating grounds in disguise, is a proposition too large for me to digest with ease.  It requires a bit of absorption. At least for me. I don't catch on quick like that fellow Saul did when he fell off the horse on the way to Damascus.
--Charles McCabe, Tall Girls are Grateful115

    Rhonda has gotten twenty years of mileage out of four names; She had a sports-crazed beau a few years back, and he insisted she memorize the names of the Fearsome Foursome on the 1967 Los Angeles Rams. She'd recite them casually at parties and stun her beau's buddies. Her boyfriend is ancient history, but she can still stand out from the crowd by injecting the Foursome into a conversation with an interesting man, then smiling and ordering them both another drink.
--Sharyn Wolf / Katy Koontz, 50 Ways to Find a Lover116

A little bit of Bible goes a long way, but if God wants to bop someone on the head to learn him something, far be it from me to argue.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III

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