Thursday, September 27, 2012

Servetus' holy human spirit

Through all of [his travails], [Michael] Servetus' thought was permeated by a profound sense that the new life in Christ is a life in which men and women live, not their own life,but one in which God, through God's spirit, lives in them.
This brief quote from Charles Howe's For Faith and Freedom references a major shift in the emphasis of a theistic to a more humanistic faith.  If people no longer live for God's pleasure but as a representation of God or as a necessary part of God, then they are inherently dignified.  This dignity remains whether we look at people as individuals or as a community:  as individuals, each person is God's method for experiencing life; and as a collection of individuals, each community is God's method for experiencing life together.

In his On the Errors of the Trinity, quoted in David Parkes' Epic of Unitarianism, Servetus writes:

[Of the Holy Spirit I say] that our spirit dwelling in us is God his very self; and that this is the Holy Spirit in us...And he who contemns us contemns God, because he put his spirit in us; and he who lies to the Holy Spirit lies not to men but to God.  And herein we bear witness to a certain heavenly feeling, and a hidden divine something...

suggesting that humans, far from being wretched, sinful vessels, are imbued with a divinity, elsewhere in Servetus named as the same divinity imbued in the Christ, that elevates their status among the rest of God's creation.  There is no denying people commit evil but it's not in their nature to do so.  Evil acts--genocide, extortion, purposeful maiming--are something we create and choose to do ourselves.  That evil isn't imbued with the Holy Spirit is proved because not everyone does it; it's true, some choose not to, but most simply never act on whatever impulse they might feel (and some don't even feel or identify the impulse).

This is not a proof that people are inherently good only that they aren't inherently bad.  Michael Servetus' still-Christian Holy Spirit, which over the centuries has become an agnostic humanism, which is put into them is, at worst, neutral, open to all experiences. 

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