A Response to The Way International's Teaching on Holy Spirit

by Donald Dicks

Wierwille's Position

According to Victor Paul Wierwille, confusion reigns in the minds of most people who study the topic of the Holy Spirit. Differentiating between the Holy Spirit and His gift is the major point of perplexity. "The Giver is God, the Spirit. His gift is spirit." 1 Therefore, "failure to recognize the difference between the Giver and His gift has caused no end of confusion in the Holy Spirit field of study as well as in the understanding of the new birth."2 Thus, "it is of utmost importance to be keenly aware that the Spirit, the Giver, is God and that his gift is power from on high." 3

As stated, the Holy Spirit is God the Giver. His gift is defined as Pneuma hagion, holy spirit, power from on high, spiritual abilities, enablements;"4 "'Christ in you, the hope of glory' with all its fullness;5 "'the promise of the Father' ... inherent spiritual power, dunamis;" 6 and once received it becomes "the believer's spirit." 7

This giving or creating of a spirit within the new believer is essential for salvation. When Adam disobeyed God in the Garden, man's spirit died. This is not to be understood simply as a spiritual death or death in relationship to God, but rather that man's spirit disappeared. The reason the spirit was called dead is that it was no longer there. Their entire spiritual connection with God was lost. From that very day Adam and Eve were just body and soul - as any other animal.8

The reception of this gift, holy spirit, is necessary for salvation. However, "there is something more after salvation for the Christian to receive, lambano, into manifestation..9

"without the working of the Holy Spirit, no one can be saved. After conversion or salvation, however, the Word of God plainly teaches that there is an act of receiving into manifestation the holy spirit. The primary purpose of receiving the holy spirit into manifestation is to give us power for abundant living."10

The entire procedure of being saved and living a victorious life is quite mechanical. The person acting on Romans 10:9-10, i.e. confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead, shall receive the holy spirit and be saved. This holy spirit, dunamis or power is like the potential energy of an idle engine in one's automobile. When a believer exercises his authority as a son of God, this dunamis or potential energy, "is put to Work and is then manifested in the outward world of the senses."11 "The key to transforming our potential power into active power lies in our worship, specifically in our speaking in tongues."12 The manifestations of this dunamis is left to the control of the believer, "as God the Giver activates His gift in the believer."13

As the believer voluntarily activates the manifestations of the spirit, as listed in I Cor. 12:8-10, he produces the fruit of the spirit described in in Galatians 5:22-23. 14 Therefore, "the experience of receiving the power from on high is only the beginning of a fellowship which should lead to the manifestation of victorious living."15

In summary, when a person receives holy spirit from the Holy Spirit, he receives potential Power For Abundant Living.

Wierwille's Arguments

Wierwille's primary goal in his arguments for his position is to demonstrate than there is a difference between the Giver and His gift. He begins by pointing out that in interpreting the Bible one must be careful in their understanding of the word pneuma. "In Greek manuscripts the wordpneuma is never capitalized," 16 nor do any of the translated versions or the Aramaic Peshitta text offer us any help. Thus, in order to understand if the inspired writers were referring to the Giver, Holy Spirit, or the gift, holy spirit, one must study the words pneuma hagion, how they appear, with or without the article ("the"), and the surrounding context. Since the inspired writers do not capitalize pneuma at any time, then to translate "'Spirit' with a capital S [would be] an interpretation rather than a translation, and as such is of no higher authority than the person or translator giving it." 17 It is in this lack of understanding the proper way pneuma or pneuma hagion should be interpreted that causes such confusion in pneumatology and soteriology.

Nevertheless, Wierwille does give us one rule to follow in the interpretation of pneuma hagion, He states;

"When we consider the Greek words pneuma hagion without the article "the," as seen in fifty passages in the critical Greek texts of the New Testament, we discover that these words are seldom used in the sense of the Holy Spirit, who is God, the Giver. Thus, pneuma hagion, when referring to that gift of holy spirit which came on the day of Pentecost, ought always to be translated with a small h and a small s. Pneuma hagion as used in the New Testament regarding that which was received into manifestation on the day of Pentecost always refers to what the Giver, the Holy Spirit, God, gave."18

Thus, we have one rule whereby we can interpret pneuma hagion when it appears without the article.

Another of Wierwille's arguments takes its form in a rebuttal against Trinitarians who attempt to use the masculine pronouns of John 16:13-15 to demonstrate the personality of the Holy Spirit. He says;

"All the pronouns "he" referring to the spirit are masculine to agree with the word "comforter" in verse 7. This word "comforter" is a descriptive word used in place of the word "spirit," and grammatically pronouns must agree in gender with the noun to which they are related. In Greek the gender of a word does not necessarily denote the actual gender of the object. If this verse really meant that the spirit is masculine (and therefore a person and part of the trinity), what about Romans 8:26 where we find the pronoun 'itself' which refers back to "spirit" in the neuter form? Therefore, John 16:13 and 15 do not prove the holy spirit is part of the trinity."19

Thus, Wierwille not only argues against the personality of the Holy Spirit, but against the doctrine of the Trinity as well.

He raises as extensive argument against the Trinity in his book Jesus Christ Is Not God, the essence being that the doctrine was a result of pagan influences upon the early church fathers and scribes. As a result, the doctrine of the Trinity was not formulated until 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea and that the few verses which trinitarians refer to in support of their position were actually non-existent prior to this Council. These verses were later added or tampered with by trinitarians to protect their doctrine. 20

Another hard-fast law Wierwille states in understanding the difference between the Giver and His gift, is as follows:

"At this point a law is involved. God cannot give mashed potatoes and gravy or books or houses. God can only give that which He is. Since God is Holy Spirit, He must give this as His gift. On Pentecost He gave holy Spirit .... God gave what He is -- Holy and Spirit; His gift is the power from on high, holy spirit."21

And again, he says;

"God is Holy Spirit and God can only give that which He is; therefore, the gift from the Giver is of necessity holy and spirit."22

Thus, when we attempt our own interpretation, we can use this law in determining whether a certain passage of Scripture is referring to the Holy Spirit, Giver, or the holy spirit, the gift.

Last but not least is Wierwille's anthropological argument. As mentioned earlier in this work, Wierwille maintains that at the Fall of man, Adam and Eve lost their spirits, with which they were originally created. In order to communicate with God, man needs a spirit because his composition after the Fall was simply body and soul. God can only communicate to the natural man through the senses, or "Senses realm." However, since Pentecost the gift of holy spirit was made available in order for God to have direct communication with man in 'the spirit realm. Therefore, it is essential to correctly divide the Word of God to ascertain what passages refer to the Giver, Holy Spirit, and to His gift, holy spirit, dunamis, power from on high.

Thus we have a brief systematized presentation of Victor Paul Wierwille's major arguments for his version of pneumatology. A response to his position follows. Since the scope of this paper is his view of the identity of the Holy Spirit, his arguments concerning the Trinity and anthropology will not be directly dealt with here. 23

A Response To Wierwille

A prevailing attitude of Wierwille's must be pointed out, in order to begin this response. That attitude is that he is, without doubt, correct in his interpretation of the Bible so as to understand the word of God, We have already noted that he feels the translation of pneuma to either "Spirit" or "spirit" is "of no higher authority than the person or translator giving it." This makes him at least equal to the greatest linguistic scholar and translator. But, if one adds to this the idea that God Himself has spoken to him, we have an even greater authority than the greatest of all translators. Wierwille recounts; "And that's when He [God] spoke to me audibly, just like I'm talking to you now. He said He would teach me the Word as it had not been known since the first century if I would teach it to others.'24 Thus, it can safely be said that Wierwille's attitude is that his understanding of the Word of God is correct.

But does Wierwille really rely on God's direct instruction? Apparently not! Concerning pneumatology, it may easily be seen and has been pointed out by others that Wierwille borrows heavily from Rev. J.E. Stiles' book The Gift of the Holy Spirit and from Dr. E.W. Bullinger's book The Giver and His Gifts. In Appendix A parallel columns demonstrate how Wierwille virtually quoted from these other authors without giving proper reference, if any at all. This is, at least, scholastic dishonesty.

Of course, if Wierwille were to claim that what he used from Stiles and Bullinger was true and correct, then one must ask why their resultant theologies are not the same as Wierwille's. For example, Bullinger is a Trinitarian, believing in the deity of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. He also believes in the distinction of te Holy Spirit from the Father. However, Wierwille denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and claims that the holy spirit is simply power, and that the Holy Spirit is just another name for the one "person" of the Godhead. This is far from consistent with his own theology. We shall discuss this later.

When investigating Wierwille's grammatical rule concerning the absence of the article with pneuma hagion, thus indicating the gift and not the Giver (quoted on page 4 of this work), we discover four very interesting and revealing points.

The first is that this "rule" is found almost verbatim on page 26 of Bullinger's 1953 reprint of The Giver and His Gift, though Wierwille did not give credit to Bullinger.

Secondly, one may ask what the difference would be between the terms pneuma and pneuma hagion or hagion pneuma, i.e., the word pneuma with or without the adjective hagion. In an appendix of his book Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, Wierwille assigns the different appearances of pneuma or pneuma with hagion a specific usage, whether it be in reference to the Giver, the gift, man's soul-life, etc. Throughout his assignments, he calls pneuma, with and without the adjective hagion, the gift at times and the Giver in other verses.25 Thus, the presence of hagion is negligible in reference to the gift or the Giver.

Now we are ready to consult Greek grammar experts concerning Wierwille's supposed rule. Greek scholar Dr. A.T. Robertson notes exceptions in his monumental grammar. He states,

"so also pneuma and pneuma hagion may occur with or without the article. Garvie quotes Bartlet on Acts as saying that when pneuma hagion is anarthrous it describes the human condition, not the divine agency. But it may be questioned if this is not a purely artificial rule, as there are evident exceptions to it. The use of pneuma with- a genitive like pneuma Christou (Ro. 8:9) -and with a preposition, ek pneumatos (Jo. 3:5), accounts for some examples. An example like oupo ne pneuma (Jo. 7:39) merely illustrates the use of pneuma like theos as substantially a proper name."26

So also Greek grammarian Dr. Nigel Turner notes the same exceptions when he states,

"... the omission of the article ... is often arbitrary. To hagiou pneuma (rather more often to pu to hag) is sometimes personal. When it is anarthrous it is a divine spirit inspiring man..., but the matter is complicated threefold by the question of the non-use of the article with proper nouns, and in prepositional expressions (increased in Hellinistic. Greek), and even (in Biblical Greek through influence of the Heb. construct state) before a genitive."27

Therefore, we can see that Wierwille's rule is in no way consistent and his theological distinction becomes arbitrary as it is complicated by the omission of the article:

a.) with pronouns (i.e. names for Deity)

b.)in prepositional expressions (increased in Hellenistic Greek)

c.) before the genitive (from the influence of the Hebrew construct state)

d.) in reference to anaphora.

Now it can be asked if Wierwille is consistent in using his own rule. In several editions of Receiving the Holy Spirit Today prior to the seventh edition, Wierwille's rule read that "never once" does the anarthrous pneuma hagion refer to God the Giver. In the seventh edition Wierwille altered his rule to read "seldom" instead of "never once." His "never once" rule first appeared in the third edition (1957) and was not changed until the seventh edition (1983) even though he consistently interpreted three particular passages (Matt. 1:18,20; Luke 1:35), which contains the anarthrous pneuma hagion, as referring to the Holy Spirit, the Giver. Wierwille was never consistent with his own rule until he altered his rule!

Thirdly, Wierwille wisely broke his rule concerning Luke 1:35, whereas Bullinger did not. According to the Bullinger/Wierwille pneumatology the anarthrous pneuma hagion is dunamis or power from on high. Luke 1:35 reads, pneuma hagion shall come upon thee, and the dunamis of the Highest shall overshadow thee..." To say, "the power of God shall come upon thee, and the power of God shall overshadow thee" is redundant. Wierwille wisely broke the rule and interpreted Luke 1:35 as referring to the Holy Spirit, whereas Bullinger attempted to explain his redundancy.28

Another point of interest concerning consistency, is to note the number of changes Wierwille makes in assigning the meaning or "usages" of the word pneuma, and its variations, among the editions of Receiving the Holy Spirit Today. Between the fourth and sixth editions there are at least 29 changes, six of which are very significant. Of the six, one change is from "Holy Spirit" to "holy spirit." (Phil. 1:19). The other -five changes are from "holy spirit" to "Holy Spirit" (Heb. 3:7; 10:29; Rev. 3:6,13,22).

Between the sixth and seventh editions, there are 17 alterations. Five of these are very significant and are all changes from "Holy Spirit" to "holy spirit." Three of these changes again include Rev. 3:6,13,22. The other changes are Acts 5:32 and Heb. 12:9. In the light of this alone, it is difficult for me to accept Wierwille's claim that God has taught him.

In retrospect, the second and third points concerning Wierwille's grammatical rule show the inconsistency of the rule and that Wierwille himself broke the rule and ultimately had to alter it. The fourth point is that he never provides a rule whereby we can determine when a passage is referring to the Holy Spirit, the Giver. At this point, let us again consult the Greek grammarians. Robertson notes,

"As for Middleton's rule that the article is present when the personality of the Holy Spirit is taught, that is illustrated by Jo. 14:26, to pneuma to hagion, where the Holy Spirit is spoken of in distinction from the Father and the Son. Cf. also 15:26. See also Luke 3:22 at the baptism Of Jesus. Kurios ("Lord") like theos ("God") and pneuma ("spirit"), is offen practically a proper name in the N.T."29

And likewise, W.E. Vine says, "As a general rule the article is present where the subject of the teaching is the personality of the Holy Spirit, e.g., John 14:26, where He is spoken of in distinction from the Father and the Son."30 Thus, from Robertson and Vine we may conclude two things. First, that generally the presence of the article does indicate reference to the Holy Spirit, the Giver, and secondly, that it is in reference to the Holy Spirit's personality as distinct from that of the Father and the Son.

To both points Wierwille would object. Concerning the first, he will have to argue Greek grammar, and we have already seen inconsistencies in this regard. To the latter, he has implied (but not literally stated) that the Holy Spirit, the Giver, is another name for the Father. However, in the Passages Robertson and Vine both mention, a personality called the Holy Spirit is being spoken of in direct distinction from the Father and the Son. But, Wierwille would argue, "this usage of 'the pneuma the hagion' or 'the pneuma' is in reference to the gift, the power from on high." 31

Now, we must inquire as to whether this is in reference to an inanimate gift or a personality. Let us consult the Greek grammarians concerning the Johannine passages. Vine notes,

"The personality of the Spirit is emphasized at the expense of strict grammatical procedure in John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8,13,14, where the emphatic pronoun ekeinos, "He," is used of Him in the masculine, whereas the noun pneuma is neuter in Greek, while the corresponding word in Aramaic, the language in which our Lord probably spoke, is feminine."32

Also, textual critic Dr. B.F. Westcott (of Westcott and Hort fame) commenting on John 14:26 says:

"he shall ... ] The emphatic masculine pronoun ekeinos brings out the Personality of the Advocate ..." 33

And Dr. Joseph H. Thayer, a Unitarian, notes in his Greek-English lexicon concerning ekeinos:

"demonst. pron., that man, woman, thing... properly of persons, things, times, b. of noted persons... of the Holy Spirit, with an apposition added, ekeinos, to pneuma tas alatheis, Jn. Xvi. 13."34

Thus, we have personal masculine pronouns which refer to a personality and not to an inanimate object, such as a power. Wierwille would again object, saying that these pronouns are masculine in order to agree with the gender of the noun for "Comforter" (see this argument in reference to John 16:13-15 on page 5 of this work). He may he able to get away with this argument in reference to John 14:26 and 15:26 (though grammatically doubtful) since the words for 'Comforter' are located within the same verse. However, in John 16, the masculine pronouns referring to the "Spirit of truth" appear in verses 13-15, whereas the term for 'Comforter' is located as far back as verse 7, which is too far for the antecedent to occur both grammatically and contextually.

In his argument concerning Rom. 8:26 (also stated on page 5), he is correct as to the pronoun agreeing with the gender of its antecedent and thus the pronoun "itself" is used in the K.J.V. However, Vines notes, "The rendering 'itself' in Rom. 8:16,26 due to the Greek gender, is corrected to 'Himself' in the R.V." 35 And, concerning Rom. 8:16 Robertson states,

The grammatical gender of pneuma is neuter as here, but the Greek used also the natural gender as we do exclusively as in John 16:13 ekeinos (masculine he), to pneuma (neuter). See also John ib:26 (ho ekeinos) It is a grave mistake to use the neuter 'it' or 'itself' when referring to the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, our inquiry has revealed that John does refer to the 'Spirit of truth' as a personality in John 16: 13-15, and in verse 15 it is seen that the Holy Spirit is Spoken of as distinct from the Father. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor an inanimate, impersonal gift. The Holy Spirit has power (Luke 4:14, 'Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee...,' and Acts 10:38 speaks of Jesus being anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power.") Thus, being called God (Acts 5:3-4) and having a personality, the Holy Spirit must be of the same essence as the Father, yet not confusing their individualities.

Clearly the above would lead to a Trinitarian concept to which Wierwille is opposed. However, in his earlier days as an author, he acknowledged Trinitarian ideas, but through the evolution of his theology he has come to oppose them. For instance, in the second edition of Receiving the Holy Spirit Today published in 1955, Wierwille Says, "Remember that the Holy Spirit is a person, and God has made it possible for Him to dwell in you."37 In the third edition, published in 1957, we still find traces of Trinitarianism. In reference to the usage of pneuma he writes, 'It is used of all the Godhead. Pneuma, "spirit," is used of God, John 4:24; Christ, 2 Cor. 3:17; Holy Spirit, Acts 5:3."38 However, this edition also reveals influences of Bullinger. In 1962, the fourth edition was published in which no trace of the Trinitarian concept can be found.

In closing this response to Wierwille, one last point of theology must be considered and that is the essential nature of the divine Being Himself.

Throughout his writing, Wierwille states the never-before-heard-of law that 'God can only give that which He is.' This profound statement must be thought through carefully. If God gives only that Which He is, spirit, then we must ask, 'what is this thing (spirit) like?' Wierwille has defined holy spirit as dunamis, power from on high, etc. In reverse thinking, are we to say this is what God is like, a mere power, an inanimate force, a promise, a created 'thing' which empowers believers?

If God truly gave that which He is, then the believer would contain within him a portion of divine essence; a divine essence which is a Person, i.e., personal, and is eternal, having no beginning or end. Yet Wierwille creates a spirit within the person.39 In a footnote, he defines spirit as 'the quality of which God is constituted." 40 Again, it has already been noted that Wierwille defined the gift, holy spirit, as power, an enabling force within the believer. Therefore, either God does not give that which He is or else He is an impersonal force!

It is interesting to note that prior to contact with Bullinger's writings Wierwille wrote, 'Remember that the Holy Spirit is a person, and God has made it possible for Him to dwell in you.' Since that time he has made statements such as, 'We know that the Holy Spirit is God (never called a person in scripture),'4l and, 'God is not a person; God is Spirit - John 4:24."42 1 suspect that these last two statements were borrowed from Bullinger's discussion on the term 'person' found on pages 36-39 of his book The Giver and His Gifts. These pages are the content of Appendix B of this paper and have been added for the reader's examination. Bullinger appears simply dissatisfied with the term "person" yet in no way opposes the idea of a Personal God.' As for Wierwille's implications, well ......

Stiles, 1948

8. Is it not possible for a Christian to receive false tongues or a false spirit when seeking to receive the Holy Spirit? Answer.

Wierwille, 2nd ed., 1954

8. Is it possible for a Christian to receive false tongues or a false spriit when seeking the Holy Spirit?

When people ask that question, we know that they have somewhere come in contact with one of these "faith blasters" who go about making statement which have no foundation in Scripture. When we suggest to earnest Christians that they may get something false, when seeking more of the fulness of God, we sinfully dishonor God and His Holy Spirit. When people ask that question, I know that they have somewhere come in contact with one of these faith blasters who go about making statements which have no foundation in Scripture. When someone suggests to earnest Christians that they may get something false, when seeking more of the fulness of God according to God's Word, he sinfully dishonors God and His Holy Spirit.

from John Juedes and Douglas Morton, From "Vesper Chimes" to "The Way International, p. 14


1 Victor Paul Wierwille, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today 7tb ed. (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, 1983), P. xvi.

2 Ibid. 3 Ibid., p. xxi. 4 Ibid., p. xvi. 5 Ibid. 6 ibid., p. xviii. 7 Ibid., p. xxi.

8 Victor Paul Wierwille, Power For Abundant Living (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, 1971), p. 258.

9 Wierwille, Receiving .... P. 3. 10 Ibid., p. 4. 11 Ibid., p. xvii.

12 Victor Paul Wierwille, The New, Dynamic Church (New Knoxville, Ohio: American

13 Wierwille, Receiving ... p. 242. 14 Wierwille, Power..., p. 279.

15 Victor Paul Wierwille, 'Receiving the Gift of God, The Way Magazine (May-June 1982):6.

16 Wierwille, Receiving, p. xiii. 17 Ibid., P. Xiv. 18 Ibid., p. xv.

19 Victor Paul Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God 2d ed. (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, 1981), p. 143.

20 Ibid., pp. 11-27. 2l Wierwille, Power.,., p. 358. 22 Wierwille, Receiving .... pp. xvi.

23 For a response to his arguments concerning the Trinity, see D. E. Dicks, "Is Jesus Christ Not God?" (M. Div. thesis, Melodyland School of Theology, 1980).

24 Elena Whiteside, The Way -Living In Love (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press; n.d.), p. 178.

25 An example is on p. 266 of RTHST, 7th ed., concerning Acts 2:17, and on p. 290 concerning Heb. 9:14.

26 A. T. Robertson, A Grammer of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historica1 Research(Nashville: Broadman Press, 19

27 Nigel Turner, A Grammer of New Testament Greek Vol. 3 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963), p. 175.

26 E. W. Bullinger, The Giver and His Gifts (London: The Lamp Press, Ltd., 1953), p. 53.

29 Robertson, op.cit., p. 795.

30 W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Westwood, NJ: Fleming Revell Co.1966), Vol. 4, p. 63.

31 Wierwille, Receiving ... 7th ed., p. 265. 32Vine, op.cit., p. 64.

33 B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According To John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdmans

Pub. Co, 1975), p. 209.

34 J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1975), p. 194.

35 Vine, op. cit., p. 64.

36 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931, Vol. 4, p. 374.

37 Victor Paul Wierwille, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, 2nd ed. (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, 1955), p.61.

38 Victor Paul Wierwille, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today 3rd ed. (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, 28 1957), p. 144.

39 Wierwille, Power..., p. 298.

40 Victor Paul Wierwille, God's Magnified Word (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, 1977, ftnote on p. 213.

41 Wierwille, Receiving ... 3rd ed., op.cit., p.146.

42 Victor Paul Wierwille, "Forgers of the Word" in Bibliography Jesus Christ Is Not God (New Knoxville, Ohio: American Christian Press, n.d., p. 25.

By Donald E. Dicks

originally presented to the ARC/Tyndale Symposium, 1989, under the title The Identity of the Holy Spirit According to Victor Paul Wierwille.

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