Who is the Holy Spirit and how does the Spirit come to be in relation to the Father and the Son? What is the mission of the Spirit and where does it come from? Chris Holmes takes up the questions surrounding the Spirit’s procession and mission with the help of three of the church’s greatest teachers—Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Karl Barth.
Drawing on their engagements with the Fourth Gospel, Holmes presents an account of the Spirit’s identity, origin, and acts, to show how the acts of the Spirit derive from the Spirit’s life in relation to Father and Son—and the extent to which the Spirit’s mission testifies to the Spirit’s origin.
Holmes presents a way forward for pneumatology. Housed within the doctrine of the Trinity, pneumatology’s joyful task is to describe the Spirit’s acts among us in light of their source in the Spirit’s acts in God. The end of this inquiry is our beatitude—knowledge of the Trinity that yields to love of the Trinity.
I have never been given a clearer description of who the Holy Spirit is, and how he’s working in my life. It took me a little longer than it should have to get through this book because discussion of the trinity is always weighty. Here’s some of the truths that I’m holding on to…
- The humility of the Spirit – “We see a person who is so secure in himself that he can be entirely given over to declaration of another…The Spirit points us to Jesus Christ, knits us into life with him and his people, all to the glory of his Father in order that we might share in their life to all eternity” (p. 24).
- Unique works of the Spirit – “In the great acts of creation, reconciliation, and redemption, we see the three doing different things” (p. 27).
- The Spirit’s deity is from the Father and of the Son.
- “The Spirit is the “gift of the giver.” The giver is the Father, and the Son is the “giver of the gift.” The Spirit is of both, but not in the same way” (p. 70).
The greatest insight comes from Aquinas explaining the Spirit as the “love proceeding” from the Father and Son.
The Spirit is the “love proceeding” from Father and Son. The love in which they love one another is not external to them. It is not a force or presence in which they participate. The Father and Son do not love each other by way of someone or something outside of them. Rather, Thomas’s point is that the love whereby they love one another has a name and is a personal subsistence: the Holy Spirit (p. 108).
The Holy Spirit as love between the Father and Son explains how we receive the Spirit after redemption. We are covered in the righteousness of Christ, adopted into his family, given an inheritance as a son. We can now participate in the love that has been shared eternally within the Trinity. The sign of this love is the Spirit charitably/lovingly gifted to us.
I’m thankful for the lessons learned through Holmes’ book. He presents manageable arguments from amazing theologians. I especially enjoyed the focus primarily on the Gospel of John. It shows a consistent presentation of the Spirit throughout scripture and tradition.