The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation

The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation

The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation

The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation

Excerpt

About twenty years ago it was usual to introduce studies on the Holy Spirit with a complaint about 'forgetfulness of the Spirit' at the present day generally, and in Protestant theology in particular. The Holy Spirit was said to be the Cinderella of Western theology. So it had to be specially cherished and coaxed into a growth of its own. This was undoubtedly a reaction against a particular kind of 'neoorthodoxy' in the Protestant churches, as well as a counterweight to the christocentricism of Karl Barth's theology, and the theology of the 1934 Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church. So one of Barth's own last words was always quoted: he dreamed, he said, of a new theology which would begin with the third article of the creed and would realize in a new way the real concern of his old opponent, Schleiermacher.

This criticism of contemporary theology, and this reminder of the master's blessing, initiated a whole flood of writings about the Holy Spirit and its special efficacies. 'Forgetfulness of the Spirit' gave way to a positive obsession with the Spirit. But if we look critically at the actual results, we are bound to conclude that in sober fact, although light has been thrown on a whole number of individual aspects, a new paradigm in pneumatology has not yet emerged. Most studies are no more than prolongations of the traditional doctrines, either pursuing further the Catholic doctrine of grace, or expanding the Protestant pattern 'Word and Spirit'. It is only hesitantly that the very foundation of the Western church's pneumatology is even put forward for discussion – by which I mean the doctrine about the Spirit's origin a patre filioque, the doctrine which led to the division of the church in 1054. No less hesitant is recognition of the new . . .

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