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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


BEINTKER, Michael. Calvin's Theology of the Holy Spirit. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.3, pp.447-500. ISSN 2224-7912.

ABSTRACT Calvin's treatment in the Institutes of the reality of Christ, of salvation, of the most existential and fundamental questions of being a Christian - eg. what faith is, how it actually comes into being, how we become aware of it - is preceded by a chapter on the Holy Spirit and his significance for Christian existence and life. What is known or confessed or experienced of Christ, is effected and realized through the concealed work of the Holy Spirit. Calvin thus intentionally argues the soteriology on the foundation of pneumatology. The Holy Spirit pre-eminently sustains not only the Trinitarian unity and community between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but also creates the mutual communio sanctorum between the believers. This communion is an unio cum Christo, determined by Christ. It is though realized by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. This Spirit leads us through faith to the light of the gospel. In this way the reality of the whole Christian life depends on the work of the Holy Spirit. In and through the Holy Spirit we are met by the authentic and Trinitarian God Himself. The Trinitarian unity, Calvin argues, is not an undifferentiated identity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unified in a unitas essentiae. The only way to differentiate between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is possible in terms of the relation (relationes) between the Persons of the Godhead. This differentiation is linked with the pluriformity of the work of God: the Father and creation, the Son and (re)conciliation and salvation. The work of the Holy Spirit is to effectively realize what the Father and Son do. The Holy Spirit is God's activity in action. The only biblical way to understand and comprehend this is along a Trinitarian-theological line. The Trinitarian relation can only be apprehended in pneumatological categories. Calvin develops his pneumatology accordingly in two directions. 1. Re-creation regeneration and salvation. The focus here is on the work of the Spirit in the sphere of faith and the Christian congregation. Sanctification and faith are seen as specific concretizations. The Spirit, effectuating the Christ-event, is also designated as the ..Spirit of Sanctification" (..Geist der Heiligung"; Spiritus sanctificationis) and distinguished from the general operation within the context of creation. The Spirit of sanctification shows itself as the root and seed of the heavenly life within us which, in turn, is only possible because we can believe. Therefore believing is emphasized as the most significant work of the Holy Spirit. After pneumatology the chapter on faith has to follow. Two aspects are of importance. The first is connected to the hermeneutical issue. On what grounds do we know for sure that the Scriptures testify of the living God and that they are not human (religious) words? The certainty of this conviction does not rest upon disputations, Calvin states, but on the concealed testimony of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, Calvin elucidates the work and testimony of Holy Spirit in relation to the Word and sacraments. The praesentia realis of Christ in the Lord's Supper, is a presence through Word and Spirit. The second direction in which Calvin expounds his pneumatology, is related to creation and the sustaining or preserving of the cosmos. In this regard his teaching on the Holy Spirit becomes a Trinitarian bridge to the doctrine of the Providence of God. God's Spirit is obviously the effector providentiae. Consequently the Christian appreciation of reality receives a characteristic and distinctive spiritual foundation.

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