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Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. This invocation, accompanying the sign of the cross, marks the beginning and end of every Roman Catholic prayer. It has become synonymous with Catholicism -- a celebration of the crucifix as representative of the Blessed Trinity. While, every good Catholic takes this Triumvirate for granted, it is left to theological scholars like Jurgen Moltmann to dissect and analyze the salient features of the Trinity. Is the Trinity a Pneumatological or Christological entity? Is it a combination of the two? Where is God in the scheme of Moltmann's thesis? The theoditic question challenged the omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience of God in his relationship with man. Is this question revisited in relation to Jesus Christ as the carrier of the Holy Spirit during his life on earth? Moltmann presents a clear interpretation of the relationship between Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Blessed Trinity in the chapter: "Trinitarian Experience of the Spirit" from his book, "The Spirit of Life." (Moltmann, 1992)
Moltmann's thesis is to crystallize the two schools of thought: 1. Christology -- God the Father is at the head; the Holy Spirit flows from God to the Son. The father loves the world through the son and he can only do this through the spirit. Christology marks the life of Christ on Earth from a historical/faith perspective. 2. Pneumatology -- God the Father sends the Son to save mankind. The son breathes the Spirit into the disciples. The Spirit rises from Christ at the time of the resurrection. The Holy Spirit becomes the origins of evangelicalism. This marks the beginning of the spread of Christianity -- eschatology (Vos, 1912). That Moltmann attempts to establish the role of Christ, the Spirit and the Trinity from the New Testament (where no explicit reference to the Trinity is made) is testament to his theological and philosophical abilities.
In essence, Pneumatology follows Christology. Or one might consider the two as parts of an eternal wheel with God as the hub. Moltmann describes how the Christology draws from the Pneumatology, and vice versa. The synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are examples of Pneumatological Christology. John, considered as the writer of one of the four gospels, however, is not synoptic. John's work marks an effective transition between the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, namely the epistles of Paul, Peter and some of the other apostles. John, in his Gospel, and Paul, in his epistles (mostly to Timothy) portend the coming of the Holy Spirit, emanating from the Son, Jesus Christ.
In order to understand how Moltmann espouses the role of the Spirit in Trinitarianism, it is necessary to gain an idea of how Trinitarianism is perceived. The doctrine of Trinitarianism is the orthodox Christian belief that despite God's singular essence, God also exists as three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. The scriptural origins for Trinitarian thinking can be found in the verses such as: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..." (Matthew 28:19). And, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." (1 Peter 1:2)
These passages neither describe a three-in-one god, nor do they necessarily espouse a belief in one. They do, however, set the stage for the development of Christian Trinitarianism. It was not, in fact, until the 4th century that theologians began to officially describe God as three persons (hypostases) with one being (ousia).
Trinitarianism is not the teaching of Scripture. It is a theological construct developed from Scripture to explain the Biblical doctrine of God. There are Scriptures that seem to teach Trinitarian dogma. In reality, however, no single verse does so. There are verses, or a combination of several verses that might support the Trinitarian dogma, as seen earlier. The doctrine of the Trinity is seen to be an implicit teaching, formulated from the inferences and exegesis of the Biblical data. It is viewed as the only viable explanation of all the Biblical data concerning God's identity.
There is another school of thought that espouses a single God (with Christ and the Spirit) -- Oneness. The problem facing both Trinitarians and Oneness believers is how to reconcile three seemingly contradictory teachings of Scripture: There is only one God; The New Testament makes a distinction between the Father, Son, and Spirit; and, the appellations "Father," "Son." And "Spirit" are used in reference to God. The question that both Oneness and Trinitarianism seeks to answer, then, is how to understand God as being one, and yet account for the Scriptural distinctions.
In the chapter being studied, Jurgen Moltmann would argue that Trinitarianism is alive and well; and, it can be read in every line (or between the lines), verse and nuance of the New Testament. The author presents several facets of the Trinity. In the first part, he shows how the synoptics presented the Spirit in Christology. The second part shows how the first evangelists, entrusted with the furtherance of Christianity, pursued Pneumatology. The receivers of the Spirit, in turn, are examples of eschatology. The third part seeks answers to the fundamental questions: What part does God play in the Trinity and the Spirit. In the fourth section, Moltmann introduced eschatological pneumatology.
As mentioned in the earlier part of this essay, in Christology, the Spirit flows from God the father to the Son. Historically, Moltmann avers, the Spirit coming on Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism at the hands of John the Baptist marked the beginning of Christ's ministry. Incidentally, it also marked the decline of John the Baptist's influence. After the Spirit descends on Jesus, "the phraseology about the 'descent' of the Spirit on Jesus, and it 'resting' on him suggests that the Spirits should be interpreted as God's Shekinah." (Moltmann, 1992, p. 61) Shekinah means "the Divine Presence of God." The Sprit "indwelling" in Jesus Christ now manifests itself in Jesus' ministry. The various miracles, the healings, the driving out of demons are illustrations of the Christological aspects. Before Jesus' ministry begins, Moltmann reminds the reader, Satan in the form of a snake tempts Jesus. The Spirit (which we assume is present in Jesus at the Baptism) is really inactive until after the temptation. Here the fact that Jesus is the messiah is established; even Satan acknowledges it.
Moltmann raises a very pertinent question. In Christology, one finds Christ in action. Is the true identity of the Spirit really in evidence -- as an independent entity? The concept of Shekinah demonstrates that the Spirit is alive and well. By that it means that the Spirit is the integral to Christ -- almost as a part of him. The Spirit "accompanies" Christ in his trials and tribulations. The Spirit suffers when Christ suffers. Through the endowment of Shekinah Moltmann declares that the "Sprit of God" becomes the "Spirit of Man."
So what happens during the extremis that Jesus suffers at the Garden of Gethsemane before his imprisonment and subsequent death? Perhaps, for the first time since his birth that Jesus shows human weakness, he cries out "Abba, dear Father!" (Moltmann, 1992, p. 63) The Spirit is still there. The Spirit abides by Jesus through his passion and death. A naysayer might question the role of the Spirit in Christ from a theoditic perspective. Was all this part of the Grand Design? If it was, the role of Christ and the Spirit are premeditated. Analogously, David Hume proposed the Theodice Problem to counter the apparent contradictions in God's omnipotent and Man's free will. Simply stated: if God was all-powerful, then everything that occurred was based on a pre-determined designed; this was contrary to the concept of Man having been given free will. (Wigglesworth, 1662) gave way to the theoditic concerns that were part of the Age of Enlightenment and Pragmatism. Even John Milton's epic, "Paradise Lost" allows the first couple -- Adam and Eve -- free will (this becomes their eventual downfall).
Moltmann points out that it is really the Spirit interceding on behalf of Jesus when he cries out in despair. The fact that his pleas are not answered illustrates the "will of God." I would disagree with Moltmann in the premise that almost being forsaken by God during his trial and tortured walk to the Golgotha (place of Skulls or where the crucifixion was about to take place) is a sign of the awakening of the Spirit to the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies. I would aver that the entities of the Trinity are so intertwined that isolating each from the other is a stretch at best.
Pneumatology, from the perspective of this topic, is when the Spirit takes over. The conditions surrounding Christ's death and resurrection are…[continue]
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