“The Lord, The Life-Giver”: Confessing The Holy Spirit In The Fourth Century -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:1 (Mar 2019)
Article: “The Lord, The Life-Giver”: Confessing The Holy Spirit In The Fourth Century
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


“The Lord, The Life-Giver”: Confessing
The Holy Spirit In The Fourth Century

Michael A. G. Haykin*

* Michael Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280. He delivered this plenary address at the 70th annual meeting of the ETS in Denver, CO on November 13, 2018.

Abstract: The fourth century witnessed a quickening of pneumatological reflection on the ontological status of the Holy Spirit, after a long hiatus—since the second century—in which a subordinationist perspective of the Spirit had been regnant. This essay explores the way in which personal experience and scriptural exegesis led Basil of Caesarea to affirm the fully divine status of the Holy Spirit and opened the way for the Council of Constantinople in 381 to affirm the Spirit’s conglorification with the Father and the Son.

Key words: Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; Gregory of Nyssa; Basil of Caesarea; Holy Spirit; Eustathius of Sebaste; Pneumatomachi

“It is sweet to confess this faith, and one never tires of saying it; for the prophet says, ‘Sweet are thy words unto my throat.’ And if the words are sweet, how much sweeter is the holy name, ‘Trinity,’ the fount of all sweetness. This, then, is the enumeration of the Trinity: ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’”

Epiphanius of Salamis1

In the fall of 379, Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335–ca. 395), the probable architect of the pneumatological article of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that was issued less than two years later,2 was travelling to see his elder sister, Macrina the Younger (ca. 327–379), at their family estate in Cappadocia. A day’s travel from his destination he had a troublesome dream. In the dream, he later wrote, “I seemed to be holding in my hands the relics of martyrs, and there came from them a bright gleam of light, as from a flawless mirror which had been placed face to the sun, so

that my eyes were blinded by the brilliance of the gleam.” The dream was repeated two more times before the dawn, and Nyssen was both baffled and deeply troubled as to its possible meaning.3 Filled with foreboding, he reached his sister’s home only to find her dying and his fear realized. Nine months earlier their beloved brother Basil of Caesarea (ca. 329–379) had died, and that loss was still a fresh wound. ...

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