Printer Friendly

God without a Face? On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit.

GOD WITHOUT A FACE? ON THE PERSONAL INDIVIDUATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. By Najeeb Awad. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Pp. xii + 307. $147.50.

The original title of Awad's 2005 doctoral dissertation at King's College London, here expanded with two later articles, indicates precisely what it is all about: "Pneumatology and the Defence of the Hypostatic Individuation of the Holy Spirit on the Basis of a Comparison and a Scrutiny of Eastern and Western Pneumatological Perspectives." The book under review here essays a Pneumatology in which the alleged weaknesses of the theology of the Holy Spirit--both Eastern and Western--are overcome by defending the "hypostatic individuation" of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, both ad intra and ad extra.

Such Pneumatology, which accords the Spirit a particular hypostatic identity and represents him as a person constitutive of the Godhead and as a particular hypostasis, equally influential on and consubstantial with the Father and the Son, will correct the two deficient views of the Trinity that are prevalent in contemporary theology but with deep roots in ancient theologies, both Greek (prior to the fourth century) and Latin. The first two chapters expound these two errors, which A. terms "pneumatic-monism" and "pneumatic-jesuology" respectively. The former, traces of which A. finds in Karl Barth, Hendrickus Berkhof, G. W. H. Lampe, Jurgen Moltmann, and Pentecostal theologies, sees the Spirit as a mere cipher for God's presence and action in the church and in the world. The latter, which he finds in James P. Mackey, Michael Welker, C. K. Barrett, and James D. G. Dunn, subordinates the Spirit to the Father and the Son, with its model of descending, linear origination of the Spirit from the Father through the Son. Chapter 3 shows how this subordinationist Pneumatology, and its implicitly anhypostatic (or at least insufficiently hypostatic) conception of the Spirit, are present in Latin theologians such as Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas, and among Greek theologians such as Athanasius and even Basil of Caesarea and his brother Gregory of Nyssa. It is only with Gregory Nazianzen, A. argues, that the Holy Spirit is understood as a distinct and particular hypostasis/person who is eternally constituted as such. This is not simply in terms of the Spirit's mode of origination from the Father (that is, by way of "procession" instead of "generation"), or as the subsistent relation of love between the Father and the Son. It is also in virtue of the Spirit's "impact" on the Father, without the "mediation" of the Son, within the triune consubstantiality of the three hypostases in the one Godhead. Such a conception of the Spirit is predicated upon not the notion of "mediation" of one divine Person through the other two, but rather, to use A.'s awkward term, upon that of "alongsidedness."

A. next examines how the concept of "person" as applied to the Trinity has been contested by Augustine and especially by Barth (with his proposal of "modes of being")--one might add Karl Rahner--and the various, inadequate (to A.'s mind) attempts to preserve its use, such as those proposed by Robert Jenson ("being as becoming") and John Zizioulas ("being as communion"). Among contemporary theologians with whose trinitarian thought he is most sympathetic are Colin Gunton (A.'s supervisor until his sudden death in 2003) and Ian McFarland.

The last part of the book provides a relecture of the New Testament on the Trinity as an attestation to (and not as a proof-text for!) A.'s view that "the individuation of the Holy Spirit lies in His particular role as the hypostasis who witnesses to the particularity of the three persons of the Godhead as an equally free, eternal and divine hypostasis who not only responds to the Father and the Son's influence on Him, but also has a real impact on the Father and the Son" (202).

The volume is a theological tour de force, displaying considerable expertise on biblical, patristic, and contemporary trinitarian theologies. Of special value is its interpretation and retrieval of Gregory Nazianzen and the New Testament data to build a robust Pneumatology. One extremely important implication of such a Pneumatology, which the author himself does not envisage, concerns the theology of religion. If the Spirit's "divine personhood is not constituted merely by virtue of either origination from the Father or commission by the Son" (139), then it is theologically possible, even necessary, to posit an "economy" of the Spirit in the history of salvation that is distinct from, independent of, and "alongside" that of the Son, and that this economy is active in non-Christian religions.


Georgetown University, Washington
COPYRIGHT 2013 Theological Studies, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Phan, Peter C.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2013
Previous Article:The Trinity in History: A Theology of the Divine Missions. Vol. 1, Missions and Processions.
Next Article:The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. Vol. 5, The Sanctifying Mysteries.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters