The Son And The Spirit: The Promise And Peril Of Spirit Christology -- By: Kyle Claunch

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 19:1 (Spring 2015)
Article: The Son And The Spirit: The Promise And Peril Of Spirit Christology
Author: Kyle Claunch

The Son And The Spirit: The Promise And Peril Of Spirit Christology

Kyle Claunch

Kyle Claunch is Senior Pastor of Highland Park First Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Systematic Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kyle has published an article on the Trinity and Christology in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and he is the author of two chapters on the same subject in One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (eds., John Starke and Bruce A. Ware; Crossway, 2015) and the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2nd ed., eds., Steve Bond and Chad O. Brand; B&H, 2015).


In recent years, a growing number of Christian theologians have devoted considerable attention to the person and work of the Holy Spirit in relation to the person and work of the Son. That is, various forms of Spirit Christology have become commonplace on the landscape of contemporary theology. The term Spirit Christology is used broadly to refer to any proposal in which the person and work of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) figures prominently and indispensably in one’s articulation of the person and work of Jesus Christ (Christology).

Some contemporary proposals of Spirit Christology are explicitly non-Trinitarian, articulating a unitarian/modalistic paradigm for understanding the mission and message of Jesus in light of his experience of the Spirit of God. That is, for some, Spirit Christology is an alternative to the Logos Christology of the ecumenical creeds.1 It will be seen that such non-Trinitarian proposals are little more than contemporary iterations of an ancient Christological heresy—adoptionism.

Many contemporary proponents of Spirit Christology, however, attempt to develop their models within the general boundaries of Trinitarian orthodoxy, as established by the ecumenical creeds, even if they critique the traditional formulae at key points.2 For heuristic purposes, two methodological approaches to this Trinitarian variety of Spirit Christology can be identified.3 The first may be called the “biblical-exegetical approach” because proponents devote their presentation almost exclusively to the exegesis of key biblical texts. Such proposals tend to focus on the role of the Holy Spirit upon or through Christ according to his human nature during his earthly life and ministry. The other methodology may be called the “historical-systematic approach” because propon...

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