Pneumatology (Christianity)

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For other uses, see Pneuma (disambiguation).

In Christian theology pneumatology refers to the study of the Holy Spirit. Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is Greek for "breath", which metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence. The English word comes from two Greek words: πνευμα (pneuma, spirit) and λογος (logos, teaching about). Pneumatology would normally include study of the person of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the Holy Spirit. This latter category would normally include Christian teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts (charismata), Spirit-baptism, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity (which in itself covers many different aspects). Different Christian denominations have different theological approaches.

Church history contains four critical discussions that have served to progressively define Christian pneumatology:

1. Patristic period. The early Church engaged in a debate over the divinity of the Holy Spirit, with Arius asserting that the Son is a "creature" or "angel" and Athanasius countering that the Son possesses divine attributes (such as immutability, transcendence, ability to sanctify, and involvement in creation). Although the debate is not pneumatological in nature, it led to a very similar debate between the Pneumatomachians and the Cappadocian Fathers.

2. Medieval period. In this period ensued a debate regarding the relationship between Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Church asserted that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father alone (as stated in the original Nicene Creed), while Augustine of Hippo and the medieval Catholic Church added the "filioque" clause to the Creed (the Spirit proceeds from the Father "and the Son").

3. Reformation and Counter-reformation. Here the relationship between the Spirit and the Scriptures is re-examined. Martin Luther and John Calvin hold that the Spirit has a certain "interpretive authority" to "illuminate" scripture, while Counter-reformation theologians respond that the Spirit has authorized the Church to serve as authoritative interpreter of Scripture.

Philipp Melanchthon (February 16, 1497 – April 19, 1560), born Philipp Schwartzerdt, was a German reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and an influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and molder of Protestantism. As much as Luther, he is the primary founder of Lutheranism. The scholarly work of Professor Philipp Melanchthon of the University of Wittenberg played a crucial role in the Protestant Reformation. He was a theologian, a student of the classics, a German reformer and collaborator of Martin Luther. As an expert in Hebrew and Greek, he helped Luther translate the Bible into German. Based on theology, he laid the foundation of pneumatology—the mother of psychology.[1]

4. Contemporary era. The contemporary church understands a distinctive relationship between the Spirit and the Church community. Various contemporary theologians grant the Spirit as authority to govern the church, to liberate oppressed communities, and to create experiences associated with faith. Contemporary pneumatology is often marked by the Pentecostal Movement.

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Further reading[edit]

  • Linton M. Smith Jr. "Not By Might Nor By Power: The Bible Believer's Guide to the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit" (DayStar Publishing; Miamitown, OH 1995)
  • John McIntyre, The shape of pneumatology: studies in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997)
  • Graham A. Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007)
  • G. James Olsen, "Why Angels Have Wings: A Pneumatological Assay of Beings from the Spirit Realms" (Chicago, IL: Eschaton, 1997)