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Jim Purves: The Triune God and the Charismatic Movement

Purves spends the next five chapters continuing his historical survey of the developments of Trinitarian and pneumatological thought feeding into the Reformed position in present-day Scotland. John Calvin, the Scots and Westminster Confessions, Edward Irving, Thomas F. Torrance, Tom Smail and James Dunn all come up for overview. While Purves finds helpful developments in all of these, particularly Irving and Dunn, he also spies out what he perceives to be the inherited pneumatological weaknesses of all Reformed thought: a Western assumption of the Spirit as the bond between the Father and the Son, and a rational function of the Spirit in making Christ understood by us, which subsumes the Personhood of the Spirit under that of Christ.

In the final chapter, Purves seeks to correct this trend by asserting that the Spirit’s being must not be separated from the Spirit’s functions. Like the early church and its focus on the economic Trinity, Purves conceives of the Spirit and Son as fulfilling complementary missions to the world. While the two are never unrelated to each other, each has a specific role to play in revealing the Father. Purves speaks of two processions of the Spirit from the Father. The first is Christological, and refers to the charismatic anointing of Jesus’ humanity, facilitating the union between the eternal Son of God and the human Jesus. The second is an anthropocentric (human-oriented) focus, in which the Spirit acts upon our humanity in the same way the Spirit acted upon Christ, allowing us to experience relationship with the Father in the same way as Jesus. There is, of course, a difference on our end in terms of quality, or at least degree, since we are not incarnations of the Son, but the Spirit’s action is nonetheless equivalent precisely because of the work of Christ. This, Purves maintains, provides some theological grounding for Charismatic renewal in the Scottish Reformed setting.

Reviewed by Matthew K. Thompson

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Category: Church History, Spring 2007

About the Author: Matthew K. Thompson is a PhD student in systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He holds a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO.

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