I pray that this post finds everyone happy, healthy and blessed within the afterglow of celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior. As I promised you and myself, I will continue to make my way through all three books of On the Holy Spirit by St. Ambrose (though at a much more leisurely pace). In case you misplaced it, here is the link to all the works of St. Ambrose and here is a link to the chapter I am currently meditating on.
After establishing in the first five chapters of the second book that various titles given to the Father and the Son in Scripture are also given to the Holy Spirit, in chapter six St. Ambrose moves on to tackle one of the proof texts for those who claim that the Holy Spirit is merely a creature and not God — Amos 4:13.
Behold, I am He that establish the thunders, and create the wind, and declare unto man his Christ, that make light and mist, and ascend upon high places, the Lord God Almighty is His Name.
In English translation, this verse does not appear to have anything to do with the Holy Spirit. The problem arises in Greek and Latin where the words for spirit (πνεῦμα and spiritus) can also mean wind. Thus, Amos 4:13 appears to say that the Spirit (wind) is created.
St. Ambrose deals with this by first pointing out that in context (where thunder is listed before wind), this verse is obviously referring to wind and not spirit. He then does this wonderful bit of reasoning, where he takes his opponents’ argument to its logical conclusion:
And so, as to that which the prophet declared as it were of the daily working of God in the thunder and the creation of the wind, it would be impious to understand any such thing of the Holy Spirit, Whom the ungodly themselves cannot deny to exist from before the world. Whence with pious asseveration we testify that He always exists, and abides ever. For neither can He Who before the world was moving upon the waters begin to be visible after the world’s creation; or else it would be allowable to suppose that there are many Holy Spirits, Who come into being by as it were a daily production. Far be it from any one to pollute himself with such impiety as to say that the Holy Spirit is frequently or ever created. For I do not understand why He should be frequently created; unless perchance they believe that He dies frequently and so is frequently created. But how can the Spirit of life die? If, then, He cannot die, there is no reason why He should be often created.
If the Holy Spirit is the wind, as those who use Amos 4:13 as a proof text for the creation of the Spirit argue, then the Holy Spirit must die, because the wind dies. How can this be if He is called Life?
It is stuff like this that makes me firmly believe that the Fathers of the Church could argue circles around the opponents of Christianity today. The most educated and erudite philosophers, politicians and cultural elite cannot hold a candle to these guys. Most of our elite argue to a narrative that has little or nothing to do with reality — most, if not everything, is geared to what looks good on TV. In biblical terms, those who argue this way are eisegetes— they read into reality and what they want to see, not what is. St. Ambrose and his contemporaries are consummate exegetes — they are able to see what is actually in Scripture and reality, not what they wish to see.
One of my laments about living in the 21st century is that while we understand ourselves to be one of the most educated generations in history (we fool ourselves by the level of technology we use on a daily basis), if we are honest, our ability to think and argue clearly pales in comparison to the great Fathers of the Church. Through the prayers of St. Ambrose, may we see even a fraction of their ability in this day and age. Amen.