On the Love of God
This dissertation queries the ongoing significance and fruitfulness of Augustine of Hippo's insight that the Holy Spirit is the Love of God. Rather than turning to the standard text, his De Trinitate, this project examines closely the earlier Tractatus in Epistolam Joannis ad Pathos, a set of sermons on 1 John delivered mostly during the Octave of Easter.
The study of the Tractatus is offered in conjunction with a much later interlocutor, John Wesley. A close reading of Augustine's sermons of the Tractatus is synthesized with a close reading of Wesley's five extant sermons on texts from 1 John. The principal argument in this dissertation is that a synthesis of Augustine and John Wesley on the Holy Spirit produces a nuanced understanding of the Holy Spirit as the Love of God that enriches contemporary systematic theology. Furthermore, instead of either a purely archeological retrieval or genealogical study of these two theologians, this dissertation demonstrates the potential for enrichment by offering constructive proposals concerning the systematic coherence between a theology of divine desire and a theology of Christian initiation made possible by this Augustinian-Wesleyan approach to the Spirit.
The opening chapters, one through three, form an exegetical and synthesizing foundation, establishing the basic building blocks of the constructive proposals of chapter four, a theology of divine desire, and chapter five, a theology of Christian initiation. In the early chapters, the dissertation draws on the recent insights into systematic theology of Sarah Coakley and A.N. Williams in order to approach systematics in a way that brings coherence to a disparate set of homiletical texts. The conclusion of the dissertation is that Augustine's naming of the Holy Spirit, far from being an ancient relic best abandoned, resonates strongly with Wesley's own insights into the Spirit's person and work and that an Augustinian-Wesleyan pneumatology suggests possibilities for further cross-centuries examination of these two significant Christian preachers.
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