Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fruits of the Spirit

A favorite topic among Protestant Christians is the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These fruits are:
  • Faithfulness

  • Self-Control

  • Patience

  • Goodness

  • Gentleness

  • Joy

  • Kindness

  • Peace

  • Love

I've heard these spoken of a few different ways. One theory is that these "fruits" are present in anyone "filled by the Holy Spirit", and presence of these "fruits" is evidence that the person is indeed holy or spirit-filled. I've also heard Christians say that it should be the primary aim of any Christian desiring to please God to strive to attain these characteristics through conscious choice and acts of will. Now, these are more different than they maybe sound. On the one hand you have the God-did-it solution: You ask the Holy Spirit to make you a kind, generous, nice person and he/it does it. On the other hand, you desire to BE a spirit-filled person, or a person with fruits of the Spirit, and so you do your best to be a person who displays all these characteristics, in the hopes to be good enough for God (or other Christians).

As a child I grew up with a very guilt-inducing dogma: All life's problems were my fault. Sickness was a sign of being out of God's favor; tragedies indicated I had somehow "opened a door" for demons to enter and start screwing with my life. Once I became a teen and tried to find more liberal, forgiving churches, I embraced Ephesians 2 as my absolute favorite chapter of the Bible. It states in verse 8 that "through grace we are saved, not by works, that no man may boast". It meant that I could screw up as often as I wanted - that I had carte blanche immunity to sinning - and God would forgive me. After all, if we don't get into heaven based on our own works, why bother doing good works? Besides, some sins are a lot of fun. (You'll find out which ones when you're older.)

Now as an atheist, I don't think anyone can take away my responsibility for my actions. I don't think any mystical being, holy or otherwise, can change my basic character. All of that is my job now. And I would have to say, that although I'm certainly not filled with any kind of Holy Spirit, I do seem to have quite a bit of his fruit. I'm generally loving, kind, gentle, and good. Anyone who has seen me with my son will vouch for my patience and self-control. I majored in Middle East Relations in college, with the hopes of being a peace negotiator, so I would have to say I'm fairly peaceful. I laugh at life's struggles and absurdities, and while everyone has their blue days, I'm overall a joyful person. The only question left is faith. If by faith we mean belief in an unseen deity, then clearly I am not faithful. But if faithfulness means reliability, keeping my word and my commitments, or loyalty to my loved ones, then yes, I am faithful also.

So if an atheist, apostate, non-believing blasphemer can attain or possess all 9 Fruits of the Spirit without being "filled" please answer me this: What is the point in the Holy Spirit in the first place?


  1. Hi,"It meant that I could screw up as often as I wanted - that I had carte blanche immunity to sinning - and God would forgive me."

    I don't suppose it would mean much to you at this point to tell you about corruption of Christian doctrine that this exemplifies."What is the point in the Holy Spirit in the first place?"

    Good question.

    Well, the Holy Spirit does a lot of things, but I guess you're talking specifically in relation to the fruits here, so that's what I'll limit my answer to.

    I suppose one response I could give to your question would be that all of those aspects are fully realized in a Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit. As in, you may think you're a great representation of those nine virtues (and humility as well, I assume), but ultimately you aren't as much as you could be. But this sort of answer, though potentially true, is likely unsatisfying.

    Another possible answer would be that perhaps the Holy Spirit is working within you unknowingly, even though you are an atheist. As a Christian, I don't see this as unthinkable. Perhaps God hasn't given up on you yet after all.


  2. Patrick - another possible answer is that the Holy Spirit doesn't exist. Go be humble on your own blog - I don't think pride is a sin.

  3. To Patrick:
    Another possible answer would be that perhaps alien spirits/buddhist souls/greek gods/highly-evolved-alien-nanomachines-that cannot-be-detected are working withing you unknowingly, even though you are christian.

  4. Hi Angie!! Excellent post!! Nice blog.