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  • Luthers trinitarische Theologie des Heiligen Geistes
  • Christine Helmer
Luthers trinitarische Theologie des Heiligen Geistes. By Pekka Kärkkäinen. [Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte/Abteilung Abendländische Religionsgeschichte, Band 208.] (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2005. Pp. viii, 208. €34.80.)

A new picture of Luther is thankfully emerging as the result of detailed studies, among them Pekka Kärkkäinen's book Luthers trinitarische Theologie des Heiligen Geistes, on Luther's thought as contextualized in late-medieval nominalist theology and philosophical theology. The choice of the Trinity, and in Kärkkäinen's case the Holy Spirit as related to the Trinity, lends itself to the study of Luther's rich understanding of the knowledge and the experience of the triune God, as well as to the analysis of characteristic themes in Luther's thought—e.g., the relation of law and gospel—as those themes are interwoven with classical doctrines. Kärkkäinen's study is representative of this new line of scholarship on Luther, heralding the growing consensus that Luther cannot be studied without paying careful attention to the distinct influences on his thought by his teachers Trutfetter and Usingen, particularly their connotation theory (p. 43), by the metaphysical and language-philosophical issues of the via moderna represented by Ockham, d'Ailly, and Biel, and by the precise doctrinal questions posed by Lombard in his Sentences. Luther must be studied, as Kärkkäinen demonstrates, with the full critical apparatus of late-medieval thought at one's disposal in order to understand the distinctions and predications that Luther makes when articulating doctrinal claims, as well as the way in which his thought is deeply informed by philosophical-theological issues.

Kärkkäinen's study begins with a description of the historical trajectory of trinitarian theology from significant proponents in the Middle Ages (e.g., Aquinas, the Victorines), and ending with d'Ailly and Biel. Kärkkäinen effectively shows Luther's thought on the Trinity to be a development of the tradition in Western theology that reaches back to Augustine's psychological model, rather than a break from it. Luther's vast corpus is organized chronologically in three parts:the early marginal notes to Lombard's Sentences, the biblical commentaries from 1513 to 1520, and the various writings—sermons delivered primarily at Pentecost, catechetical material, and disputations—until his death in 1546. By this seamless historical order the argument is made that Luther develops features of his understanding of the Trinity from his earliest days as a student, particularly that he considers the Spirit in full view of [End Page 314] the complexities of trinitarian-theological themes. One question concerns the relation of the Spirit to Father and Son in the inner Trinity that Kärkkäinen shows Luther answers by stressing the filioque in the relations of origin. The crucial outer-trinitarian question concerns the personal marks of the Spirit in the economic order of grace that is dictated by the axiom opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa. Kärkkäinen shows that Luther understands the Spirit's distinct contribution to grace by the Spirit's presence of love as gift (donum), while also discussing in detail the relation of the Spirit to the law and to the hidden aspect of the divine essence. Another result of this study is that we may now understand that claims about the Spirit's work in the world can be made analogously to claims about Christ. The union of eternal essence with bodily manifestation and the communication of attributes show that the Spirit's work is not reducible to applying Christ's work to the believer but that the Spirit has its own integrity in contributing to the grace available by presence (pp. 98, 100).

Kärkkäinen's study is a hopeful indication that important epistemological and doctrinal questions are raised in Luther scholarship and it will serve as an exemplary monograph on how these questions should be treated. The historical approach tends, however, to overshadow the conceptual-doctrinal results. The Spirit is encountered in Luther's corpus through the vast array of biblical images—the dove, flame of fire, tongues—and creedal...


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