Holy Trinity 2013, Volume XXII, Number 3Table of Contents
(A feature article from the journal: Life in the Spirit of Christ: Models of Sanctification as Sacramental Pneumatology by Leopoldo A. Sanchez)
This essay argues that the Lutheran tradition offers a sacramental approach to the theology of the Holy Spirit that shapes its view of the sanctified life. The term sacramental is used in the broad sense to speak of the Spirit’s work in salvation history through means in creation — fundamentally, through the Son’s own human life and history. Because such a pneumatology is grounded in the identity of the incarnate Christ as the privileged locus of the Holy Spirit, as the bearer and giver of the Spirit of God, we may refer to this sacramental view of the Spirit as an incarnational pneumatology. The term sacramental is also used in the narrow sense in this essay to refer to God’s work through his instituted means of grace, namely, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.1 The Holy Spirit works through ordinary means or signs in creation (that is, water, bread, and wine) not only to deliver God’s word of forgiveness, life, and salvation to us now but also to shape our lives after Christ’s own life in the Spirit. If the forgiveness that God delivers through his means of grace points us to the benefit of the sacrament, the life in the Spirit of Christ that flows from receiving such gifts of salvation refers us to the daily use of the sacrament.
Our argument proceeds in three stages. First, we show that a Nicene approach to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, while interested in drawing the Third Person’s ontological distinction from us, ultimately points to his sanctifying works on our behalf as the basis for acknowledging and confessing his divine equality with the Father and the Son. In a creedal hermeneutic, an important shift is made from the immateriality to the materiality of the Spirit, from ontology to soteriology, which sets the stage for conceiving the Spirit’s work through means in creation to bring about God’s saving purposes.
Second, we argue that a material or incarnational view of the Holy Spirit finds its basis in the affirmation of the Spirit’s inseparable connection to Christ’s own flesh, the incarnate Word’s life and mission. Pneumatology does not only look for the Spirit who comes after Christ, but sees the Spirit already in Christ. In a prominent patristic reading of the Jordan event, Christ’s receiving of the Spirit for us in baptism paves the way in the Father’s plan of salvation for Christ’s giving of the Spirit to us in our baptism.2 There is a chain of salvation, a pneumatological link, between Christology and ecclesiology. We see that a sacramental pneumatology is finally grounded in a pneumatological Christology. In Lutheran theology, Luther’s affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s work through the external word is not merely a polemic move against enthusiasts but is an approach to pneumatology that assumes the Spirit’s inseparable connection to Christ and his words of life.
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