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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik


Badcock, Gary D.


Light of Truth and Fire of Love. A Theology of the Holy Spirit.


Grand Rapids-Cambridge: Eerdmans 1997. VIII, 306 S. gr.8. Kart. $ 25.-. ISBN 0-8028-4288-7.


Vitor Westhelle

In the recent awake of Trinitarian theology, Gary Badcock’s book represents a substantive and by a large successful attempt at filling "a pronounced pneumatological deficit in Christian theology" (1). The work is both a historical and a systematic examination of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The organization is rather traditional.

The first chapter develops the biblical view of the Spirit moving from the Old Testament through Paul, Luke-Acts and John. The examination of the biblical material lays out the basic trust of B.s argument, i.e., that there is development in the conception of the Spirit that shapes itself along with the slow formation of the Trinitarian doctrine and is definitely grounded both in Christology and ecclesiology. The author recognizes what will become the main trust in the book: a "coincidence of opposites" (161) between a Spirit and a Logos Christology. If this indeed indicates the strength of the book, the connection of pneumatology to creation theology, one of the great deficits in the West, is not at all discussed. The second chapter is dedicated to what is called the "Patristic concensus" shaped in the midst of the struggle against modalism, on the one hand, and Arian subordinationism, on the other. B. finds, particularly in the Cappadocians, a formulation of the doctrine of the Spirit more adequate than the minimalistic formulation agreed upon in Constantinople. However, the "consensus" reached is clearly an Eastern consensus. Augustine, for that matter, is dealt with in the next chapter that is dedicated precisely to the filioque controversy and the resulting schism. Although recognizing that the filioque clause does intend to express a necessary Trinitarian relationship between the Spirit and the Son, the author concludes "that it is neither necessary nor obvious that this can be adequately achieved throught the filioque" (81). It is with the Reformation, argues B., that the question the filioque aimed at addressing receives a new treatment that shifts from the immanent speculation that dominated medieval concerns to the relationship between the work of the Spirit and the Word of God. This chapter moves swiftly from Luther to classical liberal theology (Surprising for such a well-based research is the fact that Regin Prenter’s groundbreaking work on Luther’s pneumatology, Spiritus Creator, is totally ignored). Chapter five, on the experience of the Spirit, represents the transition to a constructive effort on the part of the author. The discussion is extended to recognize the importance of both the spiritual manifestations outside of the Christian church and the charismatic/pentecostal movement. The result of these recent developments in practical pneumatology calls for a reassessment of the necessary link between Spirit, spirituality, and morality.

The second part of the book lays out options and suggests ways of evaluating them. First, in chapter six, the author reviews the resurgence of an "anointment Christology" in the work of Heribert Mühlen and Walter Kasper. The basic argument calls for recognition of the need for Logos and Spirit to go together in Christology. Such a position finds support in the New Testament, in which particularly the Gospel of John serves as the basic biblical source. It is only the fear of adoptionism (which the author regards as not the necessary implication) which has kept historically pneumatological Christology from receiving its due recognition as a basic New Testament motif and a necessary theological correction. The next chapter reviews critically some contemporary articulations of the Trinity by examining mainly the theologies of Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Jürgen Moltmann. The discussion offers a helpful and detailed examination of the strength and weaknesses of each position, and serves to launch B.s own constructive proposal. But before the conclusion of the book that bears its itle, we have a summary of three possible options for the contemporary articulation of pneumatology. The first is the Spirit-Son reciprocity as elaborated in Hans Urs von Balthasar Eastern-friendly adaptation of the filioque. The second is the Orthodox renewal of the doctrine of divine energeia. Finally, there is the elaboration of the patristic idea of perichoresis (236-246). Recognizing these options helpful advances in the discussion, B. finds them still wanting and suggests a new reading of the social doctrine of the Trinity, which, unlike sometimes alleged, is not concerned only with the "irreducible plurality of persons," but primarily "with inner-trinitarian relationality" (246). To elaborate this further, the author finds inspiring support in the older Western trinitarian tradition as represented by Richard of St. Victor. In Richard’s recasting of the Augustinian motif of the vinculum amoris B. finds a guiding thread that bypasses the majority opinion in the West which goes from Augustine through Thomas, and from there establishes itself as the hegemonic interpretation. Richard will provide the main argument sought for in the book, i. E., that both "the Spirit and the Son must be capable of being the subject of acts that relate each to the other" (252). The final chapter summarizes the work and draws the fundamental criteria for pneumtology in the midst of the challenges ecumenical theology is faced with. According to the author this challenge is the one that calls for a combination of a Christological pneumatology with a pneumatological Christology, a doctrine of the Logos with a theory of anointing by the Spirit, an utterance of the truth of the faith combined with an abiding love. This is the point of the book: the theological search for truth must necessarily lead to a religious life of love.

The book closes with a helpful bibliography which, unfortunately, for its date of publication (1997) goes only to works publishd in the end of the 1980s, missing thus some important more recent developments in pneumatology.