A full Systematic Theology on the Holy Spirit, is it possible?

Dr. Rodman Williams in his book “A Theological Pilgrimage” writes:

Here there are a wide variety of testimonies – and in large part this is due to the fact that we are talking about the Holy Spirit. To try to track the Spirit is a little like tracking the wind; it is indeed hard to accomplish! “The pneuma blows where it wills….” There is about the Spirit an unpredictability, a freedom that makes suspect any claim that “this is exactly the way it always happens,” etc. The Spirit has a way of moving not according to our plans and schemes but according to His own sovereign intention. So the dynamic movement of the Spirit cannot be charted but occurs in an unlimited number of ways and situations. Blueprints are out!

Do you think based on what he is saying that it is possible for a Theologian to develop a complete Systematic Theology on the Holy Spirit?

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “A full Systematic Theology on the Holy Spirit, is it possible?

  1. Nick, I think I agree with you, but just wondering if you would care to elaborate a bit more.

    Are you saying that it would be complete if you included the other parts of theology?

    Dr. Williams statement “There is about the Spirit an unpredictability” and “the Spirit cannot be charted but occurs in an unlimited number of ways and situations.” seems to imply that you cannot completely state all the ways in which the Holy Spirit will operate, and therefor an incomplete theology???

    Gordon Fee seems to be implying something along the same lines, he says: “For some a book on the Spirit as “theology” is the kiss of death: and in many ways I am in that camp. But we lack a better word; and in the final analysis, the health of the contemporary church necessitates that its theology of the Spirit and its experience of the Spirit correspond more closely” — Gordon Fee “God’s Empowering Presence”, pg2

  2. Robert: When we speak of God we’re speaking of the Trinity. To focus on any single person of the Trinity only gives us a piece of the whole picture. Systematic theology is concerned with a number of areas outside of theology proper and while the Spirit might be evident in each area he doesn’t constitute the whole thing. That’s pretty much why I say that you can’t have a “systematic theology of the Spirit.”

  3. I dunno if I agree on this one, simply because if the three within the Trinity all have equal weight and represent the nature of God, then it’s as possible as starting with say, God the Father. We don’t have to look too far back to see that Neo-orthodoxy started with Jesus and then developed the other persons of the Trinity from there.

    However, if someone assigns only “support roles” to the Holy Spirit then a full Holy Spirit systematic theology isn’t going to happen. For example, if you only allow the HS to function in soteriological roles and you’re fully committed to an evangelical outlook, you’re just gonna end up back at Jesus. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but it does place order of procession above Trinitarian equality.

    So, yes I think it can be done, but most modern evangelicals would probably reject it for it’s lack of “christocentricity.” Hey, I just think I made up a word! πŸ™‚

    Sam

  4. Sam: If only you had used “christocentricity” a century ago you might have made up a new word. C. C. Martindale used it almost 90 years ago in St. Justin the Martyr, (New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1921), 13, 123, 125, 151, 156.

    But I don’t think that the problem is starting with the Spirit (although in my mind that would be working backwards since the Father is the fons divinitatis) so much as it is saying that we can have a “systematic theology” of the Spirit (which implies an exclusion of the others in the Trinity). I can’t conceive of theology without reference to the Trinity so that’s where I’m coming from.

    Perhaps the problem is that Robert is using “systematic” differently than I am and I may have misunderstood his question and in turn your response. I welcome any elaboration by either of you.

  5. Sam, I think what Dr. Williams is trying to say, and I hope I am not misunderstanding him. “Do we know every possible way that the Holy Spirit will move/operate on his people and how?” When he says things like the “Spirit an unpredictability” I think that is what he is getting at.

    Understanding it that way, in one sense we cannot have a complete theology of the Spirit, but yes I think that you can have a theology of the Holy Spirit, that is as good as can be, but not apart from the other doctrines.

    Maybe I phrased my question wrong, maybe I just should have stated “is it possible for a Theologian to develop a complete Theology on the Holy Spirit?”

  6. Nick, you are right in how I used the word Systematic, and now I am thinking I should have left that out.

    As I stated to Sam — Maybe I phrased my question wrong, maybe I just should have stated β€œis it possible for a Theologian to develop a complete Theology on the Holy Spirit?”

  7. Robert: Gotcha. If that’s the case then I think it would be hard to have a complete theology of any of the persons. But that’s the beauty of the mystery of the Trinity; we’ll never completely figure God out!

  8. To answer your question, I don’t think it is possible to have a complete systematic theology on the Holy Spirit but I do think it is possible to have it in part.

    I had Prof. Rodman Williams for a class at Regent Univ. and took one of his courses on systematic theology. Amazingly, it was on the Holy Spirit. He didn’t teach the entire course on the Holy Spirit but it was covered quite a bit on the Holy Spirit…or a lot more than other systematic theologians would have covered, that’s for sure. My prof now at my other seminary barely mentioned the Holy Spirit and has made him almost a non-entity. I don’t think that is fair for the other member of the trinity.

    I’ve never read his book you quoted from: A Theological Pilgrimage but I really should pick it up.

  9. Kevin, that is really cool to have known him, I heard he had passed away last year in November, he was 90 years old.

    I am reading his book for a class that I am taking on-line and came across this section which is I posted it. He use to teach out here in California in the 70s-80’s (around that time), at Melodyland, in Anaheim, Ca.

    The book is available on line, or I can email you an PDF copy of it if you like just let me know.

    J. Rodman Williams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s