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Educating in the Spirit: An Examination of the Person and Role of the Holy Spirit in Christian School Education (Part One)

Thyra Cameron and James Swezey, Liberty University


This essay is the first of a two-part article that examines the Person and role of the Holy Spirit within the context of Evangelical Christian school education. Both parts form the foundation of a study that compared and attempted to contrast two perspectives on the Holy Spirit: Reformed and Charismatic-Pentecostal. Part One is an extensive literature review of the Person and role of the Holy Spirit from the two perspectives. Part Two will be a cross case study of two principals who led schools representing each perspective. The rationale was that, since Christian schools submit to the authority of the Bible, and Scripture recognizes the preeminence of the Holy Spirit, these schools would seek to comply with this position. The literature review provided an understanding of the Spirit’s role from the perspective of Scripture and a wide range of Christian theologians and writers. This range extended from the Reformed to the Pentecostal-Charismatic positions. Since the importance of the Spirit’s role is established, the challenge became the development of theory and praxis that recognized the ascendancy of the messenger over the message but also followed the Spirit’s example in the employment of the message. Part One concludes with a series of implications for Christian schools.

Study Overview

A distinctive of Evangelical Christian schools is their commitment to following the precepts and directives of Scripture (Edlin, 1999). Ideally, such schools articulate vision and mission, pursue truth, create curricula, manage school life, evaluate material, conduct assessments, further character development, administer discipline, and address the needs they encounter according to the Bible (Edlin, 1999). Also ideally, the Bible provides the final authority for all discussions of current issues, thus equipping learners to cope with the world (Edlin, 1999). A further ideal is that such schools transform all they teach into an expression of biblical wisdom, causing truth to become meaningful and experientially real (Bolt, 1993). Kienel, Gibbs, and Berry (1995) believed that the Bible should be the infallible point of reference for the lives of those running the school, and for the lives of learners.

The Bible describes the Person and role of the Holy Spirit as indispensable for conversion and subsequent sanctification (John 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Biblical scholars of the Bible, such as Barth (1964), Berkhof (1969), Grudem (1994), Murray (1893, 1899, 2003, n.d.a, n.d.b), Packer (1984), Williams (1996), and Willard (2002) understood the Holy Spirit to be indispensable to believers for their conversion and subsequent steady transformation into Christlikeness. While it is possible to become a believer without the Bible it is not possible to become one without the work of the Holy Spirit. Ideally, Christian schools should pursue the conversion and spiritual development of their learners (Lamport & Yoder, 2006) and be directed by Scripture (Edlin, 1999). Therefore, it follows that, in this pursuit, such schools should seek to apply that biblical description that affords the proper respect towards the Person of the Holy Spirit and allows the proper acknowledgement of the role of the Holy Spirit.


We examined the biblical descriptions of the Person and role of the Holy Spirit, in order to establish an accurate and trustworthy standard from which to evaluate the theory and praxis of Evangelical schools. To do this, we consulted Scripture, theologians of note, and Christian writers, speakers, and pastors. Those consulted were drawn from the both Reformed and Pentecostal-Charismatic perspectives. Other than Scripture, the literature selected ranged from little emphasis on the role of the Spirit to a heightened Pneumatology. We included such a range in order to enhance the validity of findings in Part Two. In many cases, the Reformed persuasion places the least emphasis on the Holy Spirit, whereas the Pentecostal-Charismatic perspective manifests a heightened Pneumatology.

Literature Review

In order to explore the literary foundations to this study, this review concentrated upon the two types of literature that characterize qualitative literature reviews (Creswell, 2005). These two types are (a) literature that defines the phenomenon under scrutiny and provides information to ensure clear understanding of it, and (b) recent research of this phenomenon. Therefore, under the first category (Section 1) we accessed material that described the Person and role of the Holy Spirit. Under the second category (Section 2), we accessed research articles in Christian school education that addressed this or a related topic. We also provided a third section to deal with some implications for Christian schools and their leadership teams, including the principal.

Section One: Literature Defining and Explaining the Person and Role of the Holy Spirit

Section One of the review examines (a) the Person, and (b) the role of the Holy Spirit. In order to bring order into the considerable amount of information gathered, we concluded this section by summarizing the testimony gathered under the two headings, Consensus and Contrast. The most important resource was the Bible, while theologians of note, Christian writers, pastors, and others who addressed this issue were also consulted. Such literature ranged from authors characterized by a heightened Pneumatology to those who placed little emphasis upon the Spirit. Of special note is the inclusion of systematic theologians such as Barth (1964), Berkhof (1969), Grudem (1994), and Hodge (1972). As systematic theologians, they deduce theology from Scripture and arrange it according to an organized format. Hence, when such theologians described the Holy Spirit or any other such subject their focus was deliberate, highlighting only the most important facts.

Major Biblical References

What follows is a synopsis of what is pertinent to the theory and praxis of Christian schools. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). This initiative of the Father’s was underwritten by the provision of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). In cooperation with the mandate of the New Covenant, the locus of the Spirit’s activity is the human heart (Jeremiah 31:33) where He testifies of Jesus (John 15:26), satisfies the dictates of divine righteousness (Romans 8:4), and liberates believers from the law (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). Day by day, He inhabits believers (John 14:17), connecting them to God (Ephesians 2:18), confirming and sealing their hope (Romans 5:5), and transforming hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (2 Corinthians 3:3). He helps, teaches, enlightens, inspires, empowers, and also influences human utterances (John 14:26; Isaiah 59:21; Luke 12:12). He directs human actions (Acts 16:6-7) and addresses human weaknesses (Romans 8:26), cleansing, renewing, regenerating, and producing Christlike character in them (Titus 3:5-7; Galatians 5:22-23). He convicts humans of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7b-8), and enables them to put to death the things of the flesh (Romans 8:14-16).

The Spirit enables believers to set their minds on the things of God (Romans 8:5), guides them into truth (John 16:13), and anoints them to understand those things that are only supernaturally discernible (1 John 2:20; 1 Corinthians 2:11b-14). He endows believers with power that supersedes temporal dynamics (Zechariah 4:6) and bestows spiritual gifts, commissioning believers and releasing boldness in them (Acts 4:31; 13:4). Since He has brought them into the Kingdom of God, He sustains their Christian walk, steadily conforming them to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29b), and empowers them daily for Kingdom living (Ephesians 3:17-19). The Spirit repeatedly and constantly fills believers (Ephesians 5:17-18). As a result, they enjoy freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2). According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is indispensable to the perseverance and progress of believers.

The Reformed Perspective of the Identity and Role of the Holy Spirit

The identity of the Holy Spirit. The American Presbyterian Hodge’s (1972) examination of the scriptures led him to conclude that the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit was beyond question. Hodge described Him as a “separate agency” (p. 174), who inspired the scriptures and illumined the truth. Like Hodge, Reformed theologian Berkhof (1969) systematized theology from exposition of the scriptures. From the Hebrew term ruach and the Greek term pneuma in early texts of the Bible, Berkhof identified the nature of the Holy Spirit as spirit or breath; from the Greek term parakletos this scholar identified His character as that of a helper. Furthermore, Berkhof defined the Holy Spirit as divine and eternal, manifesting the attributes of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. This scholar understood the Spirit’s intimate relationship with the other members of the Trinity to be part of the “communication of the whole divine essence” (p. 97), and concluded that the Holy Spirit was a Person who manifested intelligence, will, and affections.

The British theologian Packer (1984) described the Holy Spirit as the seal of the ownership of Christ of believers and defined Him as “energy let loose, executive force invading, power in exercise” or “power in action” (p. 57). This writer understood the Spirit to embody acute awareness of the reality of Christ. Packer claimed that the term paraklete (John 14:16; 25; 15:26; 16:7) defied translation into English and could, at best, be understood to mean that the Holy Spirit was a comforter, counselor, helper, supporter, advisor, advocate, ally, and senior friend (p. 61).

The Swiss theologian Barth (1984) considered the revelation of the Spirit as important, at least, as the saga stretching from Good Friday to Easter. He claimed that the Holy Spirit was called the Spirit of Jesus because it was from Him and to Him that the Spirit led, and it was for Jesus that the Spirit prepared human witnesses. Barth equated the Holy Spirit to the eternal love of God. He believed that “the doctrine of Christ points to the objective, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit to the subjective side of …reality” (p. 130, italics original). According to Barth, while Christ’s way was the objective, the Holy Spirit manifesting all that this meant was the subjective, i.e., the falling of the Spirit upon humans.

Murray (1828-1917) experienced revival firsthand while pastoring a Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. His books reveal that he emphasized the empowerment aspect of the Spirit’s activity as far as the provision of grace was concerned. Hence, to some degree Murray manifested a heightened Pneumatology. Murray (1893) came to see the Holy Spirit as the disseminator of all the many facets of Jesus’ life. Murray (1899) claimed that the Holy Spirit alone successfully effected the transition from the old covenant to the new, actualizing all the new covenant promises in the hearts of believers. Hence, it was He who freed believers from their failure under the law. The more believers cooperated with the new covenant activity of the Spirit as He revealed God to them, the greater the spiritual prowess they experienced. Murray believed that, as a result, hearts became tender and obedient to the dictates of God’s statutes.

The role of the Holy Spirit. Hodge (1972) maintained that the Holy Spirit mediated on behalf of Christ, and was responsible for the success of God’s plan of redemption. He declared, “He brings all the grace of the absent Christ to us, and gives it affect in our person in every moment of our lives” (p. 175). Hodge believed that, in relationship with the believer, the Spirit provided supernatural gifts and performed a number of functions to promote sanctification, such as teaching and reproving when necessary. The purpose of such activity was to regenerate and restore humans.

Berkhof (1969) understood the Spirit’s role to be the continuance of the mission of Christ and the generation of life. He believed the Spirit was to actualize Christ within the human heart. Hence, according to Berkhof, the Holy Spirit was to take up residence in such hearts, sanctifying and separating them unto God, at the same time inspiring and qualifying humans for their tasks. This scholar claimed that the Spirit expressed His redemptive role by inspiring Scripture and bringing the special revelation of God to humans. While indwelling believers, the Spirit developed this special relational context by teaching and testifying of Christ.

For Packer (1984), the central task of the Spirit was to mediate the presence of Christ so that believers experienced this presence and fellowship. He explained, “It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us” (p. 66). Packer understood the Spirit to function as a catalyst, transforming believers from carnal control into Christlikeness. This scholar believed the Spirit provided the inspiration and dynamism believers needed. In His omnipotence, the Holy Spirit revealed truth, communicated God’s will, taught through revelations bringing enlightenment, and equipped believers. Packer claimed the Spirit brought about the ministry of Christ through the gifts He endowed upon believers and which He required them to exercise. Such gifts equated to “actualized powers” or manifestations of Christ (p. 84) which superseded human abilities.

Packer (1984) claimed that the Spirit also actualized the relationship between God and believers. He compared such activity to the love and intimacy between marriage partners. Such love served as the source of their new life, since they became one with the Spirit. The tireless orchestration of constant, faithful, love-driven abiding by the Spirit was solely responsible for authentic Christ-like living. Such living was accompanied by sanctification and regeneration. As a result, Spirit-derived activities such as prayer and fellowship with God, as well as the Spirit’s fruit, became evident in believers.

Barth (1984) described the role of the Holy Spirit as the conversion, sanctification, and preservation of believers. He believed humans came to believe in Christ only through the intervention of the Spirit. Hence, human belief itself was God’s achievement and not by human prowess. Barth maintained that the Holy Spirit imparted Himself to humans, took them with Him from the condemnation of death to spiritual life, and became manifest to them, bringing about their reconciliation to God. The Spirit nurtured growth in Christlikeness, facilitated by divine truth and the actualization of the claims of the Word. Barth considered the filial relationship between God and believers, as well as other blessings such as their pardon, as miraculous as conversion.

According to Murray (1899), the ceaseless, omnipotent work of the Spirit overcame human inadequacies. The Spirit also continuously revealed the truth of the Bible. Murray (1893) claimed His teaching of believers communicated the mind and disposition of Christ, and guided them into the dynamics of all He taught. Murray (1893) understood that the Spirit enabled believers to discern divine truths; He steadily promoted mastery of the different aspects of truth and the practice of different graces. According to Murray (n.d.a.), the Spirit took it upon Himself to convict of evil and create that which pleased God, perfecting believers in love. Thus, hour by hour and day by day, the Spirit mortified the carnal self. Murray (2003) posited that He humbled believers so that their lives became “a tender, broken-hearted waiting on God in the consciousness of mercy coming from above” (p. 92). Murray (n.d.a.) taught that the indwelling Spirit made the daily lives of believers into exhibitions of divine power. He (1893) believed that, in this way, the Spirit increased the obedience of believers. Murray (n.d.b.) equated the redemption of human hearts to the relationship of sap and vine as described in John 15:1-11. Murray (1899) maintained that the spiritual life of believers depended upon their abiding in Christ. He (1893) taught that God constantly worked in such believers and upon them to bring about their surrender. Hence, according to Murray (n.d.a.), these believers came to appropriate God’s love and, as lovers, readily sacrificed self in order to become more like Jesus. Murray (1899) concluded that once the lives of believers were entirely the work of the Holy Spirit, His task was complete.

The Pentecostal and Charismatic Perspective of the Identity and Role of the Holy Spirit

The identity of the Holy Spirit. As a professor of theology and an author, Grudem (1994) expressed non-cessasionist, Charismatic beliefs, and supported the Vineyard church movement which was founded by John Wimber (1934-1997). This movement was characterized by a heightened Pneumatology. Grudem identified the Holy Spirit as fully God, one of the Persons of the Trinity, and equal to Christ and the Father. He believed the Holy Spirit to be the empowerer of the humanity of Christ, enabling Him to perform miracles, cast out demons, and to heal. The Spirit’s anointing upon Jesus was without measure and remained constantly upon Him. According to Grudem, after the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit became the primary manifestation to humans of the presence of the Trinity.

Johnson (2008) declared that the Holy Spirit encompassed the Kingdom, and caused the collision of this Kingdom with the domain of darkness, demonstrating that His presence resulted in a ministry of power. This conference speaker and author explained that it was the humility of Jesus that enabled Him to be an authentic model for believers seeking to carry out that which was impossible to them without the supernatural. He declared, “As a sculptor looks at a model and fashions the clay into its likeness, so the Holy Spirit looks to the glorified Son and shapes us into His image” (Day 99).

The role of the Holy Spirit. Unlike many Reformed theologians, Grudem (1994) did not see the role of the Spirit merely as illumination and glorification of Christ, but believed the Spirit played a role in His own right. For example, the Spirit made Himself known at Pentecost, bore witness with the spirits of men, and gave gifts that manifested His presence (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Grudem claimed He also provided a godly influence in the following ways. First, in a distribution of compassion, the Spirit poured out many facets of love into believers’ hearts. Second, His influence extended to provide blessings such as wisdom and hope. Third, He brought conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Therefore, through all of these activities, He made His own Person and character known. Grudem (1994) believed that the ultimate blessing the Spirit provided was life in the “atmosphere of God’s manifested presence” (p. 648, italics original). Believers needed to do their entire ministry in the Holy Spirit, consciously dwelling “in the Godlike atmosphere …of power, love, joy, truth, holiness, righteousness, and peace” (p. 648). Grudem claimed that the nature of the human response revealed stronger or weaker evidence of the presence and blessing of God. He believed that this presence could inundate believers, enabling them to feel, desire, and do what God wanted. As a result, they spoke by God’s power, prayed, and ministered in His strength, and enjoyed an enlightened epistemology.

The Chinese writer and church planter Nee experienced the power of the Holy Spirit during a revival. In his publication, The Normal Christian Life, Nee (1961) explained that, in order to save humankind through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the power of the Spirit embodied all that Jesus achieved. Nee explained that Jesus procured two substitutions for humans: (a) He died in order to pay the penalty for sin and enable forgiveness, and (b) He lived in order to pave the way for righteous living and enable deliverance. The one substitution occurred on the cross, and the other occurred within humans, securing victory for them. Nee understood the Spirit to actualize the daily cooperation of believers with these substitutions. Such cooperation enabled the progressive manifestation of new life. Thus, according to Nee, the Spirit became the source of true life for believers, and transferred them from one kingdom to another, transforming their dynamic from that of the flesh alone to that of the Spirit. Nee considered this transformation crucial for redemption.

According to Cooke (2008), in order to help believers depend upon Christ, the Spirit engaged them in one-on-one discipling and mentoring. In this intimate relationship, such believers received perspectives that empowered them to be God’s instruments. Cooke posited that the patience and lovingkindness of the Spirit facilitated the mortification of the flesh. Believers used personal disciplines developed in the Spirit to overcome in spiritual warfare. He believed the Spirit also renewed the capacity of believers to think differently (Romans 12:1-2), and to be “intuitive, revelatory, and spiritual” (p. 107), activating their wills and emotions to engage their hearts. The Spirit also led them into experiential knowledge of truth, and provided believers with the powerful discipline of abiding in Christ. Therefore, Cooke explained, “We are wonderfully ruled from within and powerfully expressive of this life without” (p. 154). Cooke claimed that, as a result, such believers chose to be vulnerable and were as God-conscious as Jesus was.

Johnson (2008) believed that the Holy Spirit came upon believers in the same way that He came upon Christ. Johnson understood the invasion of God’s Kingdom into the temporal realm as a response to the suffering of humankind and explained, “God, in response to our cries, brings His world into ours” (Day 32). He posited that, in so doing, the Spirit demonstrated the sovereignty of Christ, which resulted in freedom for believers. It was the Spirit who continuously supplied the power necessary for conformity to Christ in what was, in effect, a continuous encounter with God. Johnson believed the Spirit transformed believers into Christ’s co-laborers, sanctifying their minds, and orchestrating integrity in them through their surrender to Him. Johnson (2008) explained that the Holy Spirit came upon these co-laborers to accomplish a supernatural ministry, and continuously filled believers because “they leak!” (Day 44). The Holy Spirit searched for that which would specifically bless each believer at a particular given moment. Consequently, moment by moment, the Spirit endowed such believers with the full stature of Christ. Johnson explained that the Spirit revealed hidden truth, enabling hearts to hear Him, over and above knowing the scriptures. He claimed these activities enabled believers to build upon knowledge of the Word and, consequently, to manifest supernatural action. Hence, the Spirit in His own right enabled such believers to penetrate impossible situations with the power of God.

Conclusions from the Literature Describing the Person and Role of the Holy Spirit

Consensus. Within the wide range of authors consulted, the consensus over the identity of the Holy Spirit has been demonstrated to be considerable. These authors identified the Holy Spirit as divine and in the most intimate relationship with the other members of the Trinity. They believed He manifested omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. These writers understood Him to be the Paraklete, which term encompasses many aspects of His nurturing demeanor towards believers. These scholars agreed that, as the seal of Christ’s ownership of believers, the Spirit continued Christ’s role and mediated the Savior to them. The context of involvement with humans was the relationship between themselves and God, and the locus of such activity was the human heart.

The literature also revealed considerable consensus over the role of the Holy Spirit. This literature found the Spirit indispensable for conversion and, thereafter, for the perseverance of believers. In order to progress God’s salvation plan, the role of the Spirit was multi-faceted and all-embracing. For example, He inspired the Scriptures and actualized the claims of the Word. These scholars also agreed that, in a loving, intimate relationship with humans, the Spirit dispensed grace and laid the foundation for the development of supernatural fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). Furthermore, His indwelling inspired growth in Christlikeness. Consequently, repentance and holiness resulted. Thus, He steadily endowed the full stature of Christ upon such believers.

This consensus also recognized the Spirit as the catalyst to transform believers from carnal control to Christlikeness. He interceded so that such believers might mortify the flesh. In this process, believers came to discern spiritual truth and experience increasing hunger for God. They sought greater alignment with the will of God and pursued righteous works. To this end, they practiced spiritual disciplines and manifested Christ-like characteristics such as obedience and loving service. This consensus claimed that, as a result, believers experienced the blessing of inward peace; moreover, they knew fulfillment and joy. Hence, the Spirit successfully glorified Christ.

Contrast. The literature revealed that the contrast between the Reformed and the Pentecostal-Charismatic perspectives was, to some extent, one of emphasis. Jesus procured, and the Holy Spirit continued to actualize, two substitutions for humans: He died in order to enable forgiveness and, in a second substitution, He lived as the Spirit in order to enable deliverance (Nee, 1961). We suggest that the Reformed persuasion seems to emphasize the first substitution, while Pentecostals-Charismatics focus on the second to which Holy Spirit intervention is indispensable.

The literature revealed further contrasts. First, while Reformed writers did not strongly emphasize the supernatural, nor seem to refer to the Holy Spirit’s role in spiritual warfare, Pentecostals-Charismatics gave considerable attention to these two aspects of Christian faith. These writers focused upon the supernatural invigoration of believers by the Spirit. Pentecostals-Charismatics believed the Spirit transformed the daily lives of believers into exhibitions of divine power. For this purpose, the Spirit invaded temporal reality with a supernatural life from God, doing for believers what they could not do for themselves. These scholars also emphasized the Spirit’s enabling of believers to build upon biblical knowledge so that they could instigate supernatural action. Thus, believers were equipped to use signs, wonders, and other supernatural phenomena to validate their message. Pentecostals-Charismatics also emphasized the Spirit’s support of believers in spiritual warfare, whereby He enabled them to distinguish between spirits.

Second, the Reformed persuasion claimed the Holy Spirit’s main purpose was to manifest Jesus. Hence, they considered the role of the Holy Spirit the illumination of the Person and work of Christ. Therefore, the Reformed persuasion understood His involvement in the relationship between God and believers to be not in His own right, but as Christ’s representative. In contrast, some Pentecostals-Charismatics believed that, while the Holy Spirit disseminated all that Jesus did, He also ministered in His own right (Grudem, 1994). Activities unique to the Holy Spirit were cited to justify this claim. First, according to Galatians 5:22, it is the Spirit and not the Father or the Son who produces spiritual fruit in believers. Second, the Spirit is responsible for the empowerment of believers (Johnson, 2008, p. 30) and the source of their spiritual prowess. Third, the Spirit enables and sustains Kingdom dynamics including spiritual warfare (Cooke, 2008, p. 28; Johnson, 2008, p. 29; Nee, 1961, p. 28). Fourth, the Spirit is that source of life that establishes the context of relationship with God for humans from that of the flesh to that of spirit (Nee, 1961, p. 28). Fifth, the Spirit provides regular infilling for believers upon which their spiritual lives depend (Johnson, 2008, Day 30).

Third, unlike the Reformed persuasion, some Pentecostals-Charismatics placed a degree of emphasis upon the eschatological aspect of the Spirit’s work: these writers believed He actualized aspects of the final eschatological outpouring to come in the present day lives of believers, and, in so doing, became the source of Kingdom life for them. Morphew (1991) described this ingression of God’s supernatural Kingdom into the secular realm as breakthrough, and entitled his book on the Kingdom accordingly. In fact, the Spirit transferred believers from one kingdom to another by changing their dynamic from that of the flesh to that of the spirit. Pentecostals-Charismatics considered the church to be the community of the future, sustained by the Spirit, in order to live eternal life in advance, and foreshadow Kingdom living.

Fourth, unlike the Reformed perspective, some Pentecostals-Charismatics emphasized practicing the presence of God. Interestingly, from the Reformed persuasion, both Packer (1984, see p. 21) and Barth (1964, see p. 23) implied that believers lived in the presence of God through the Spirit. However, it was the Pentecostal-Charismatic perspective that emphasized practicing His presence (Johnson, 2008). Grudem (1994) also claimed that the Spirit manifested the presence of the Trinity and that the operation of spiritual gifts manifested God’s presence (p. 25). These writers understood one of the tasks of the Holy Spirit to be such manifestation in the world and, especially, in the church. Hence, the context for all ministries was to be the atmosphere created by His abiding presence.

Section 2: Christian School Education Literature that Addresses the Phenomenon

An examination of Christian school education literature that, in some measure, addresses the implications of the ascendancy of the Holy Spirit follows. There is a paucity of this kind of literature. We conducted a number of searches which produced no results. For two such fruitless searches, we employed the full text journal finder of a university library to investigate what was available in databases such as Philosophy and Religion, Christianity, Social Sciences and Education. We also used the full text database to search under Education and, in particular, Educational Journals such as Pro Quest. A search under the discipline Divinity rendered no results. The small number of articles discovered that were vaguely relevant was still very wide of the mark.

We were aware that the resources we did find were from writers who placed considerable emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to balance such input, we conducted a little exercise in which we pulled books written by Christian educators randomly from personal shelves. The six books reviewed totaled 96 chapters of which only one addressed the role of the Spirit. This is obviously by no means a rigorous exercise but perhaps it does suggest a conclusion. Perhaps it is reasonable to conclude that general Christian literature does not emphasize the role of the Spirit because their author’s theological persuasion placed limited emphasis upon Him? What is clear is that the gap in knowledge the present study sought to address is a considerable one.

The Person and Status of the Holy Spirit

Hess (1991) posited that Christian education should focus upon the Holy Spirit, since He was its origin and meaning. Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) claimed that the Holy Spirit was the principal teacher and primary initiator of truth. Rogers (1994) concluded that the Holy Spirit was the power which grounded education and upon which Christian education depended. Rogers acknowledged the Spirit as the teacher since, by His indwelling and gifting of them, He empowered learners for a reconciled life. Zuck (1988) claimed that the Holy Spirit and not man was the Teacher. According to Zuck, as the source and applier of truth, the Holy Spirit provided wisdom, understanding, and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) particularly of the scriptures. This scholar understood that the Holy Spirit related to learners as the Paraklete or comforter, helper, advocate, and strengthener. Therefore, Zuck concluded, learners could not understand Christ’s teachings without the Spirit.

The role of the Holy Spirit. Relevant Christian education literature affirmed the truth that the Holy Spirit sustained and upheld humanity. For example, Rogers (1994) declared, “To live in the Spirit is to move, with increasing fluidity, to the dynamic pulse of a Spirit which grounds, empowers, and redeems” (p. 387). He claimed that such increasing partnership with God steadily grounded educators in God’s grace and power and motivated their service of Him. From such a dispensation it could be argued that the Spirit initiated and empowered all educational activity. Hence, according to Rogers, such Christian education intentionally cooperated with God’s teaching Spirit. Hess (as cited in Wilhoit & Rozema, 2005) declared that the Spirit provided supernatural Kingdom knowledge by centering the human spirit in the love of God, rather than in human wisdom. Loder (as cited in Wilhoit & Rozema, 2005) considered the work of the Spirit essential in personal formation, and objected to human-centered approaches to Christian education. According to Wilhoit and Rozema (2005), in the context of spiritual warfare, the Spirit sustained the growth of believers and promoted the development of the fruit of Galatians 5:22-23 in them. These authors insisted that more than community was essential for education; its context needed to be prayer and worship, since these practices actively invoked the sustaining power of the Spirit. They believed that the Spirit needed to permeate every facet of teaching; therefore, the need to listen to the Spirit was implicit. In every lesson, learners and teachers each needed to hear from God.

In Zuck’s (1988) focus upon Christian education, this he asked himself what the functions of the Holy Spirit were for such teaching. Zuck believed that, first, the Spirit guided learners into “all truth” about Christ (John 16:13) and revealed “the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10) to them. Zuck quoted 1 John 2:27 which reads:

The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teaches you: but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Second, the Holy Spirit enabled learners to recall the truth. While John 14:26 referred specifically to the instruction of the apostles, the outcome of which was their writing of scripture, Zuck believed that it was reasonable to conclude that the enablement of learners in general to recall truth was a function of the Spirit. Third, referring to New Testament eschatology, the gift of prophecy, the second coming, and the age of grace, this scholar claimed that the Holy Spirit revealed events that were still to come to learners.

Zuck (1988) referred to 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 which explains that the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry is necessary if believers are to understand spiritual truth. Hence, this author concluded that the Holy Spirit’s teaching was indispensable in Christian education. He wrote, “Spiritual truth revealed by the Spirit is spoken in spiritual words taught by the Spirit” (p. 37). According to Zuck, unbelievers could not receive such truth and needed regeneration for spiritual life which opened hearts to “the illuminating ministry of the Spirit” (p. 37).

The impact of the Holy Spirit upon Christian school education. Such education needed to appropriate the Holy Spirit’s involvement with humans as the origin and foundation upon which to build (Hess, 1991). Hess equated educating in the Spirit to living in the Spirit. This scholar encouraged the construction of educational theories within an established theology of the Holy Spirit. Hess’ contention was that such education became a means of grace that transported learners to where the Holy Spirit was at work. As a result, such education became patterned after the inspiring and re-centering work of the Holy Spirit.

Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) declared, “Christian education only deserves that name when it is saturated by a grace received through prayer, humble study, and awareness that we cannot achieve what we seek in our own power” (p. 254). These writers posited that teaching according to the Holy Spirit implied dependence upon the Spirit to work inner transformation. They believed that the Spirit needed to open the human spirits of teachers too, beyond their limited capacity, so that they could seek His ways of formulating salvation and life. Such openness to the Spirit provided “a grounded centeredness” (p. 246).

Rogers (1994) emphasized the empowerment of learners so that they could live redeemed and forgiven lives and declared:

If it is true that the Holy Spirit is the True Teacher, the effective Agent which sustains this life, then Christian education should attend to, take its own coordinates from, and seek to cooperate with the Spirit’s work. Educators should be an instrument of the Teaching Spirit which goes before them. And Christian education should be “Spirit-centered” education. (p. 387)

Zuck (1988) posited that teaching spiritual truths was a supernatural task and required the work of the Holy Spirit. This was because the Holy Spirit added a unique dimension to Christian education. For example, He provided Spirit-filled, Spirit-gifted, and Spirit-guided teachers, who depended on Him and taught creatively. The divine Teacher guided learners into truth and enabled learners who opened their hearts to the Bible and cooperated with the Holy Spirit to appropriate and live out such truth.

Like Wilhoit and Rozema (2005), Zuck (1988) emphasized the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christian teachers. Zuck defined the Spirit’s role for such teachers as the provision of guidance, power, and insight, so that teachers could communicate and exemplify truth. He believed that the Spirit employed teachers as His instruments and empowered them accordingly. Such teachers were to motivate and enable learners to appropriate truth. They were to encourage understanding of the Bible to enable learners to apply it in their lives, to model truth, and manifest Christlikeness. According to Zuck, in order to teach effectively and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, teachers needed to learn how learning occurred and to effectively address the implications of the developmental constraints of their learners. He claimed that teachers manifested their relationship with the Holy Spirit through loving their learners. They cared for and were lovingly sensitive to their needs and interests. Awareness of learners’ needs opened teachers to the direction of the Spirit in order to relate truth to those needs. Zuck referred to Paul as an example for Christian teachers. This apostle declared that his message, though communicated through human ability, was executed with inner spiritual power (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4).

Zuck (1988) believed that the benefits of the Spirit’s direction of Christian education were the conversion and sanctification of learners, inspired teaching and application of the Bible to the lives of learners, and divinely enabled teachers modeling pure lives. Hence, Zuck concluded, “Without the work of the Holy Spirit, in the teaching-learning process, the educational goal of spiritual transformation cannot be accomplished” (p. 37).

Zuck (1988) also addressed that form of teaching that involved the specific and prominent spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:6. He understood spiritual gifts to be provided to some teachers to edify others and defined the gift as “the supernatural, Spirit-endowed ability to expound … the truth of God” (p. 38). According to Zuck, the difference between natural teaching ability and supernatural endowment seemed to be that the spiritual gift of teaching sanctified, enhanced, and channeled natural abilities into the spiritual realm. Hence, the gifts were “natural abilities sanctified” (Packer, as cited in Zuck, 1988).

According to Zuck (1988), the role of the Holy Spirit directly impacted other aspects of Christian education as well. For example, Spirit-driven teachers selected the best methodology at their disposal. Such teachers sought the most effective techniques and tools; they studied the Bible in the presence of the Spirit in order to design effective lessons. Such diligence paved the way for guidance by the Spirit for appropriate teaching techniques. He believed that educational methods were used by the Spirit as His instruments. Zuck suggested, “Methods are simply … means by which learners are brought into contact with God’s word and God’s Son. And is that not the goal of the Holy Spirit?” (p. 41).

Zuck (1988) suggested that another aspect of Christian education impacted by the role of the Holy Spirit was the selection of educational goals. These goals included acceptance of Christ and the pursuit, growth, love, enjoyment, and worship of Him. This author believed that “spiritual goals require the spiritual teacher” (p. 41) and that the Holy Spirit was indispensable to their accomplishment. Zuck noted that the voluntary cooperation of the learner with the Holy Spirit was the other essential for the accomplishment of such goals.

The role of Spirit-directed Christian school education. Spirit-directed Christian school education has many facets. For example, Hess (1991) believed Christian education proclaimed the truth and fostered productive encounters. He claimed that such education offered the redemption of the gospel and served as a context for the Spirit to operate in grace. Hence, Hess maintained that education of this kind engaged the learning community in those events that provided the Spirit with the opportunity to move learners into centeredness and obedience.

Rogers (1994) posited that the fundamental purpose of Christian education was to increase the human capacity to appreciate redemption and to participate in this redemption with growing ease. He understood the role of Spirit-filled education in terms of a metaphor, equating life in the Spirit as being a dance partner with God, while the teacher, as choreographer, laid out a life which moved with the Spirit. Rogers (1994) explained, “Life in the Spirit empowers one’s true personhood, entailing both a personal power with individual giftedness and a love in which mutuality is cultivated” (p. 384).

Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) noted that educational outcomes were usually measurable, but that outcomes of Christian education went beyond temporal parameters. They claimed that such education provided a community upheld by the transmission of grace from Spirit to spirit, as a result of which Kingdom outcomes became possible. Learners were transformed and, by grace, stepped outward to engage others. Zuck (1988) declared that it was the work of the Spirit that made Christian education distinctive, glorious, dynamic, and noble. To emphasize his point, Zuck quoted Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord.”

Neglect of the Holy Spirit in Christian school education. The literature identified a number of reasons for the mismanagement of the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian education. First, the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Christian education, though widely acknowledged, was not clearly understood (Hess, 1991). Largely due to lack of knowledge, systematic theories of Christian education had not been applied to understand this relationship (Hess, 1991). The problem was not where the Holy Spirit fitted in to education, nor how education was influenced by Him, but how education could be “according to the Spirit” (Hess, 1991, p. 383).

Second, while much has been done in Christian education to accommodate aspects of education in the Spirit, the pervasive problem is one of confusion and incoherence (Hess, 1991). Hence, the intentionality to maintain the correct balance is absent. The nebulous hope exists that education will somehow foster conversion and sanctification (Hess, 1991). Such education appeals to the Spirit to complete teachers’ educational interventions, once they begin to apply them (Hess, 1991). The assumption is that human efforts cause sanctification in some way, making the Holy Spirit’s role somewhat superfluous (Hess, 1991). Farley (as cited in Rogers, 1994) suggested Christian education, often misunderstood and malpracticed, did not really need the Holy Spirit (p. 378). This was because Christian education was so organized that all the tasks were allotted to human teachers, leaving the Holy Spirit bereft of His role and with no part to play.

Third, educators do not sufficiently acknowledge the importance of the Holy Spirit. Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) claimed, “The missing crucial element in Christian education is the Holy Spirit” (p. 242). These writers believed that the issue of anointed teaching was neglected; what attention such teaching did receive was largely in connection with preaching, and then as an enrichment of it, and not as essential to it. Hess (1991) explained that the Spirit was treated as a function of the educational process, instead of the educational process being treated as a function of and subservient to the Holy Spirit. Rogers (1994) argued that the Holy Spirit was rendered superfluous and an afterthought to what was a human exercise. He advocated that the relationship between Christian education and the Holy Spirit be recontextualized. Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) claimed that during the last quarter-century Christian education had suffered from attempts to reduce it to a natural process. Hence, these scholars suggested that to reincorporate the concept would progress the restoration of a rightful focus on the Spirit in Christian education.

Zuck (1988) commented that, on occasion, educators, in their commitment to theory and programs, goals and learning objectives, actually elevated human creativity and acumen above God’s methods. In so doing, such educators denied the truth that “only the Spirit can accomplish the spiritual goals of Christian education” (Zuck, 1988, p. 33) and neglected the Spirit. According to Zuck (1988), to simply dispense information outside of the context of a loving relationship with Christ through the Spirit was also a denial of the importance of the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, misunderstanding of the roles of human teachers and the Holy Spirit also lead to neglect of the Spirit. Zuck (1988) explained that God used such teachers in the Bible and gave the spiritual gift of teaching to some. As instruments of the Master Teacher, human teachers were to stimulate, challenge, and enlighten. This scholar explained that the divine-human process of Christian teaching involved a united effort of the Holy Spirit with teachers under His leadership. Zuck referred to 1 Corinthians 3:6 (KJV): “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

Section 3: Implications for Christian Schools

In this final section of the literature review, we suggest some of the implications from the contents of the previous sections for Christian schools. A large number of implications for Christian schools arose from the literature. We suggest that such schools need to acknowledge the Holy Spirit to that degree that Scripture indicates. Wherever possible in their theory and praxis, these institutions need to ensure that He is given the status He has biblically. In addition, Christian educators need to define their responsibilities in recognition of what role the Spirit has reserved for Himself. Such educators need to apply the biblical understanding of the relationship between the roles of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

Acknowledgment and Application of the Spirit’s Role

The pervading challenge to Christian schools always remains diligent application of biblical descriptions. Hess (1991), Farley (as cited in Rogers, 1994), and Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) identified ignorance of the Spirit’s biblical status as responsible in some measure for His neglect. Hence, Christian schools need to ensure that they prioritize this commitment; if they do, they will find themselves constrained to give due recognition to the Holy Spirit. Since the involvement of the Holy Spirit with every believer in the school is substantial and affects every aspect of their daily spiritual growth, the challenge schools face is to give Him the precedence He merits, in every aspect of their praxis. Such praxis includes school staff responsibilities and consequent ministry to learners. Therefore, in order to honor the status of their learners and to recognize the importance of the Holy Spirit, schools need to factor in His leadership for every aspect of the educational process that constitutes the life of a school. Rogers (1994) explained, “The Spirit precedes and empowers all educational activity” (p. 379, italics original).

Accurate Role Definition of Staff Members

Management and staff need to understand what respective responsibilities they and the Holy Spirit have regarding the salvation and spiritual growth of learners. The Holy Spirit reserves conversion for Himself, as well as grace-derived growth in Christlikeness. Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) explained, “Anointed teaching is dependent upon the Spirit’s personal work in, upon, and among the participants and the entire educational process.” The teacher’s spiritual maturity is critical as they invite openness to the Holy Spirit. As servants of the Spirit, staff members need to define their responsibilities; they need to acknowledge subservience to the leadership of the Spirit, in a relationship similar to that of teacher aid and master teacher. A further example of such role definition manifests in the area of assessment of learners. Here, the school’s role is to assess what can legitimately be evaluated by humans. Hence, we suggest that, while schools must evaluate abilities such as mathematical or language skills, they should be extremely cautious when evaluating a learner’s spiritual standing before God.

Authority Issues

Every aspect of the Christian school’s existence comes under a dichotomy of control. As a human institution, these schools allot authority over certain pursuits to particular staff members. As an expression of the Kingdom of God, these schools come under heavenly authority, largely actualized through the Holy Spirit. Mims (as cited in Schultz, 1998) explained, “The Kingdom of God is the reign of God through Jesus Christ in the lives of persons as evidenced by God’s activity in, through, and around them” (p. 23). Hence, the highest temporal authority over the school should accommodate the ingression of a higher authority (the Kingdom of God) upon its domain.

Balancing the Roles of Scripture and the Holy Spirit

Christian schools need to apply the biblical descriptions regarding the roles of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, and of their relationship to each other. Some Christian persuasions tend to treat these two roles as exclusive of one another. On the one hand the emphasis is upon the Bible to the exclusion of the Spirit, while on the other the emphasis is upon the Spirit to the exclusion of the Bible. Lamport and Yoder (2006) claimed the Bible had the ultimate authority, but predicated the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit as essential for the transformation of students. Wilhoit and Rozema (2005) believed the Bible to be inseparable from the Holy Spirit. The Bible devoid of the Spirit became words without life. The Spirit devoid of the Bible was deprived of that means of grace that declared and explained the truth. Zuck (1988) said, “Changed lives require both the Word and the Spirit” (p. 33). For the teaching-learning process one without the other is simply inadequate.

Gorman (2001), in particular, gave much thought to the correct balance between Scripture and an emphasis upon the Holy Spirit. She posited, “The power is not in the messenger, nor even the message, but rather in the Source and Creator who wills and makes the message live as truth” (p. 29). Her belief was that intuitive reality shaped by the Word was the reality inhabited by the Spirit, as He sought to help believers discern God’s truth in specific circumstances. Gorman claimed that what kept this discernment accurate was the objectivity of God’s Word, and the purpose of God’s Spirit for it. She wrote, “True transformational learning involves staying alive and responsive to the transforming Spirit of God who continually gives rise to biblical, theological, and historical meaning in the very midst of human action” (p. 34). To Gorman, learners were to reflect upon the Bible in the presence of Christ. Hence, the Spirit of God illumined their thinking and inquiries. Therefore, Gorman concluded, “Nothing is more important in the nature of spiritual transformation than the role of the word of God in the hands of the Spirit” (p. 35).


The intent of this literature review was to examine the Person and role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelical Christian school education. The literature assists in our understanding of the Spirit and His role, and will inform a research study regarding the perceived role of the Holy Spirit by principals at two Evangelical Christian schools in South Africa. The paucity of literature addressing this research problem indicates that the need for research in this area is considerable. This review also summarized what the Bible, theologians of standing, and Christian writers, pastors, and speakers had to say about the subject. In order to provide a range of opinion, sources included the Reformed persuasion as well as the Pentecostal-Charismatic perspective. The review revealed considerable consensus over the identity and role of the Holy Spirit. The differences between the Reformed and Pentecostal-Charismatic persuasions centered on the role of the Spirit in His own right, the empowerment and invigoration of believers, and the dynamics of supernatural reality. It is our hope that all believers will reflect upon their own understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit and experience His grace in their own lives and ministry.


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