A Pneumatology of Christian Knowledge: The Holy Spirit and the Performance of the Mystery of God in Augustine and Barth
Ables, Travis Evan
This dissertation is a study of the pneumatologies of Augustine and Karl Barth, and argues that pneumatology is the performative discourse of participation in Jesus Christ. I claim that for both theologians trinitarian doctrine is the logic of the gratuity of the divine self-giving, and the function of pneumatology in particular is to articulate the human enactment of that participation as itself inherent in the historical self-donation of God. This thesis is argued in the course of two investigations. First, I examine the problem of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Latin Christian thought in terms of the rhetoric of Geistesvergessenheit in the late twentieth century revival in trinitarian interest; I analyze the principal historical claims about the shortcomings of the Latin trinitarian tradition and, insofar as Barth and Augustine are representative of that tradition, show these historical claims to be unsubstantiated. Moreover, through a reading of the philosophy of Hegel as interpreted by Jacques Derrida, I argue that much of contemporary trinitarianism is based upon ontological assumptions which undermine its intended goals, notably the construction of a relational or social ontology as derived from a reconstructed trinitarian personalism. Second and most substantively, I undertake a close reading of Augustine’s De Trinitate and Barth’s Church Dogmatics in order to construct a pneumatology of Christian knowledge. I argue that Augustine and Barth both articulate their pneumatology as a textual strategy that performatively corresponds to the construction of the ethical subject as a participant in grace. This logic of grace is therefore a self-involving understanding of the knowledge of God as an ethical and enacted, not simply epistemological, matter of correspondence to Christ. Furthermore, both theologians employ pneumatology as a discourse that christologically appropriates and displaces a metaphysical system: Augustine, through his transformation of the Neoplatonic mystical ascent, and Barth through his dependence upon Hegel. Finally, I undertake a comparative analysis of the two theologians to explore ways in which their theology of the Spirit mutually corrects and enriches.