In chapter 12, McGrath focuses on pneumatology which is an area of Christian theology that focuses on the Holy Spirit. The author gives an informative historical background and development of one of the most fundamental biblical doctrines. McGrath underscores the importance of the Holy Spirit as one of the pillars and central dogmas of Christianity. With the view of highlighting why the Holy Spirit has featured prominently in Christianity and general theological discourses, the chapter focuses on its divinity, personality, and works. In particular, the chapter discusses the various notions associated with the Holy Spirit including ‘wind’, ‘breath’, and ‘charism’, and how these notions connect with God and Jesus Christ. The author also walks the readers through the evolution of the perceptions of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. From the Patristic period and the Second Vatican Council. The evolution is discussed through the early writings of scholars such as Justin Martyr, Montanus, Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius as well as the Council of Constantinople.
The article provided an interesting and transformative perspective on the evolution and history of the Holy Spirit. I especially found the various traditional meanings of the Holy Spirit quite interesting. These traditional meanings informed the writings of early scholars and the perception of the early church on the true personhood and divinity of the Holy Spirit. I find the view that the Holy Spirit is ‘wind’ is rather more encompassing of its divinity and personhood and that of Jesus Christ and God by extension. As McGrath points out in chapter 12, the Holy Spirit is perceived as the wind which I believe embodies power, invisibility, uncontrollability and movement. These qualities that Christians of all ages have attributed to God. It is a notion that truly captures the omnipresent and mightiness of God’s power; a power that is beyond the control of human beings. Therefore, by describing the Holy Spirit as wind the author consciously and unconsciously identifies its personhood as God’s active force from the onset. Consequently, its divinity is also revealed.
Irenaeus of Lyons’ distinct theological views on the Holy Spirit particularly resonated with me as they formed the foundation of later works and theology on the Holy Trinity. His writings not only entrenches the role and place of the Holy Spirit within the realm of divinity; it also establishes the divinity of Jesus Christ and the role of the two in the creation of mankind. Irenaeus of Lyons challenged early discussions which elevated God and Jesus Christ while pushing the divinity and deity of the Holy Spirit aside. His challenge of the binitarian Christianity set the discussions on the right course towards Trinity theological discourses of the later churches.
However, I find the challenges to the personhood and divinity of the Holy Spirit and the reluctance of the Patristic writers to openly acknowledge it rather controversial. This is because its power and importance is well set out in the first verse of God’s word acknowledges its presence. Throughout the bible, the Holy Spirit has been cast as divine and capable of conferring divine power to people including the power of wisdom and healing. The uncertainty of these early theologians points to a lack of scriptural insight. Indeed, it shows a lack of wisdom in the ways of God that only the Holy Spirit can give.