T Nation

What is Holy (Christian Versions)


It seems the longer I'm away from the faith I grew up in, the less I remember or the less I understand. One of these issues regards the "Holy". I envision this thread going the way of the other thread I started (What is a Christian) in which I get a varied of opinion and thoughts to chew on - so I'm not going to necessarily debate you on your responses (others might).

So, with that preamble out of the way, some questions:

  1. What does being holy mean?
  2. It's my understanding that we are not Holy, that we attain Holiness through Jesus Christ, and then we can get to heaven. What exactly does this mean though? Is it permanent? Do we attain it after death, only?

Now, I've been thinking about it and it seems to me that Jesus washes away our sins, making us 'clean' and I suppose presentable to God. The trouble with this is that it's a very materialistic view - it's like getting the dirt off of our bodies. I don't think this is what 'Holiness' is though.

Holiness, to me, seems to refer to something in the mind. So what is it? Is it a barrier that prevents us from sinning again? Maybe 'barrier' is the wrong word - by barrier I suppose I mean something closer to desire.

Enough rambling from me, what say you?


In my understanding (and this is just my understanding) something that is Holy must come from or be filled with the Spirit of God. The Bible is Holy because is was inspired by God. A church can be Holy because it is filled with the Spirit of God.

Whether a person could be Holy or not would, I think, lead to a further debate. A church is an amoral place. It is not evil or good it is just a building. Using it for a place to worship God makes it Holy because we have called God's presence into it. A person through their sinful nature is immoral. They can be filled with the Holy Spirt of God but not truly attain Holiness until the time we receive are resurrected. At least that is my take on it.

Any other thoughts?


I like how your thinking about these things. Not enough people put this type of thought into it before simply walking away. There is no more important decision than that of where you'll spend eternity.

First of all when you accept Jesus Christ as your savior you are in fact forgiven for all of your sins. One only has to look at the old testament to see the blood sacrifices that were made for sin. A fatted calf, two bulls etc. This was necessary as God wants sin atoned for. When Jesus Christ came to this earth he washed away all sin for all time in those who accept his great sacrifice. A simple and easy plan, but rejected by many for a myriad of reasons. Largely I think because they lack the knowledge that you already have.

Finally, when you become a Christian you try not to sin. We want to leave our old sin nature behind. Naturally being human you will fail. But just like failing on a bench press attempt, you try again only harder next time. Sometimes I think it's about falling down and getting up each time we fall - Knowing that each time we are forgiven.

This is true holiness to keep trying and get better as we move forward.


As a Christian, I saw holiness as different from sanctification. The Spirit sanctifies those who accept Christ as their Savior, which makes you spiritually clean. However, as a human being you are still flawed and prone to sin. Holiness is a state of perpetual sanctification. We draw nearer to holiness as our spirits become more pure, our characters more refined, and our nature more submissive to the will of God. Many have been sanctified, but the only truly holy person that has ever lived is Christ.


Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly [is] ready, but the flesh [is] weak.

Maybe part of us is holy or can be holy?


I see holiness as the integration of both spirit and flesh with God's will. The spirit may be willing, but until the flesh is equally willing, you are only aspiring to holiness without having yet achieved it.

That said, as long as the spirit is willing, the atonement of Christ pays the price required for the sins of the flesh.

Just a general caveat for this and other threads: Obviously, I'm speaking from the perspective of my former Christian self when discussing these topics.


To me, holy is something that God appoints as sacred. Man was created holy, but gave that up after we sinned. Jesus was holy (he was God and man).

The scriptures, though not a living being, are holy. God appointed them holy for they contain his commands and his will.

The human body is holy, as it belongs to God and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (however, human nature is not holy).

Angels are holy (the scriptures say Jesus will return with his holy angels), though like humans, they can give up their holiness by sinning.

Catholics believe Mary, the mother of Jesus was holy.

There are many more examples, but from the looks of it, for someone or something to be holy, it has to be appointed by God as such.


Yes, we are all aware that when you saw the homosexual light that changed everything.


Plainly it means set aside, set aside for God.

We are able to merit our Holiness through Jesus Christ, but first sanctifying ourselves (baptism, which just requires faith) and justification (works & faith). Like I said above, it is setting ourselves aside for God. No, it is not permanent, you can be a very holy person, become a bad person. If you do not obtain it before hand, I do not suspect you can afterwards.

It sounds materialistic, but it's talking about the soul of the person. Yes, it is part of holiness. It is in material terms, however is ever much ghostly.

No, being Holy doesn't put up a barrier that won't allow us to sin again. It means you've not inflicted yourself with mortal sin. There have been some people like St. Thomas Aquinas who have made a vow of celibacy and then never had a struggle the rest of their lives. However, that is not everyone.

If something is holy, it is set aside for God, like the holy fat of the animal sacrifices, it was set aside for God.


God is by definition holy. Holiness is the divine attribute that arguably governs the rest if there could be such a thing. That is holy which is like God and conformed to His will. Specific content for this glorious truth is provided through His direct revelation in the scriptures.

Personal holiness, without which no one will see God, is that state of surrender to His mind, commandments and will which is induced in His children through their love and gratitude to Him for His having first loved them to the point of Himself not only paying for their sin, but blessing them with His very life. A holy person loves what God loves and hates what He hates just because He loves or hates it and or because He directly commands it. Unless otherwise specifically commanded. Example? God does not love all His enemies, but commands us to love ours.

We, that is, human children of Adam, are altogether unholy and opposed to all that is like or pleasing to God, being dead in sin and enemies until resurrected with Christ.

BTW, Pangloss, interesting thread and Forlife? You have convinced me you had at one time at least some intellectual grasp of the things of God. Your posts, while not perfect, do carry a surprising degree of truth.


My head is a bit fuzzy this morning (not enough coffee?) and I appreciate everyone's responses, so thank you.

This bit is interesting to me. I think we could argue about the finality of what is holy with reference to this universe, however this argument would be less interesting to me as I think it would be off target.

You seem to suggest that what is holy is something chosen by God. So, to use an analogy, something that is mine is something that is in my possession. I own it, due to a legal claim. It seems to me that you are suggesting something similar with God.

Under this view, "Holiness" isn't a new attribute, per say. It's a designation. So, my owning my clothes does not imbue the clothes with any new attributes. Would you say the same is true with what God considers holy?

So being Holy is kind of like having a ticket to paradise, in that it allows us to be near God, by virtue of us either being saved and/or living as best we can to a certain standard.


It seems to me that you are saying that what is Holy is, basically, actions. We act in a way that confirms to God's will. I would guess that you would argue that in order to do that we would need the Holy Spirit, to basically show us the 'truth', since we are blinded by sin.

Am I correct here or off base?

I'm also glad that this isn't devolving into a euthrypho dilemma argument, which wasn't my intent at all. I'm more concerned with understanding the ontology of 'Holy'.


Currently thinking:

A church cannot be Holy - in and of itself.
Places and things cannot be Holy, only people through virtue of their actions (and God's favor?).

Okay, that said:

Does God, for lack of a better term, pay more attention to the Holy? Say two people are praying, one who is Holy and the other who is not (but, I suppose is trying to see the light). They are praying for an opposite effect on something. What happens? One side of me says that God would act in favor of the Holy person. The other side thinks that this could be a selling point to the person trying to see the light - but would God act as such? Seems kind of beneath him - yet, God sacrificed himself for the sinners, so I don't think it's necessarily out of bounds.

The above scenario, of course, presumes that God would act - which is not something I'm sure that all Christians accept. Some Christians suppose that God has a plan, which is unalterable. We could argue what that essentially means, but right now I'm more interested in those who believe God would act in some manner.


Pangloss wrote:

Not really, but I don't have time to properly answer right now. Actions are but the external manifestation. Personal holiness is a state, a decision and an attitude before it becomes action and identical actions may or may not be holy depending on the motivation behind them. NO action whatever that is not spawned of the Spirit of God can in any way be acceptable and pleasing to God who alone is holy. My holiness/righteousness IS Christ and He works in me to do what is pleasing to the Father. God is life. Dead people cannot please Him. Later I hope I will have more time.


Thanks Tiribulus :slight_smile:

Pangloss, to answer your questions I would argue that places can also be holy. The sanctum of the biblical temple was actually named the Holy of Holies. Anything designated by God as His is holy, and remains such until it is desecrated by the unholy actions of others. For example, Jesus overturned the tables in the temple of Solomon in outrage that the unsanctified had turned the holy place into a den of thieves.

I wouldn't say God pays more attention to the Holy, but that the Holy pay more attention to Him. The prayer of the Holy would be answered over the prayer of the Unholy, because his will is definitionally aligned with the will of God.


Holy shit we have a lot of religion threads!

Little know fact about the phrase 'Holy shit'. The first utterance was when Mary was away at St. Elizabeth's house and Joseph was left with that feisty little toddler who have just experimented eating squash and green beans for the first time. He noticed the foul stench coming from the young man and upon opening his exclamation of 'Holy shit!' was reportedly heard all the way to Alexandria.
It was the last known time St. Joseph was left alone to take care of Jesus as a baby.


This inspired me to look up the phrase Jumping Jehosophat. The explanation I found, which I am not making up, said the phrase is to remind people that when startled or scared to leap for the Lord's arms just like King Jehosophat did.

I could find no explanation for the H in Jesus H. Christ.


God owns everything, he created it.

Not sure, I'm not quite getting your comparison. I will give you the simple definition of holy, it means set apart for a special purpose by and for God.

Being Holy is being the best person you can be. This comes with the precept that you can only do this with the strength of God and by following His will, which requires faith.

That is why we say Mary is most Holy, she followed God's will to a T, she had complete faith in God.


It matters how you define "Church" and "in and of itself." If you define a Church as a building, but Catholics don't define Church as a building, the people are the Church, the building is a Parish, Mission, Cathedral, Synagogue, place of worship, &c. However, the Catholic Church is not a building, it is a society of people that is not held within a building. So, one of the Four Marks of the Catholic Church is Holy, because we are the Mystical Body of Christ, which is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

A building can be Holy as well, the reason why Catholics build such beautiful buildings for their places of worship is because our Lord resides in the building, in the tabernacle. However, it is a reverent place.


Holy was the tale I was told as a youngster.