Not being embarrassed of God as “imaginary friend”

Secularists have often ridicule Christians for believing in an “imaginary friend”, conjuring up pictures of a young child playing a bit too seriously with a large teddy bear or having an engaging tea party with empty chair. In response sometimes, not wanting to be associated with what seems to be an embarrassing image, we have resorted to describing our faith more as an abstract set of ideas or of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force bringing well-being. Since Jesus and his serious work is anchored in the historical past, he naturally doesn’t fit into this embarrassing image from the skeptics and can be safely emphasized instead.

But the Holy Spirit is a person, not force. And his voice sounds with (almost) audible words in our hearts and heads. He is indeed much more like an imaginary friend than any of the less personal things we might substitute in his place to describe him. To be sure, he is augmented by our imagination, sometimes in ways that obscure his face, but that doesn’t mean he is entirely imaginary. He is real a person and here with us right now. Jesus is in heaven and will return, but in his stead, the Spirit (still completely God and completely personal) has joined with us in fellowship. Let’s not be quick to de-personalize him in an attempt to remain respectable to the skeptics. Let us instead pray the Holy Spirit speaks to them too, erroding their unbelief.