Reassessing John Owen’s Spirit Christology in Conversation with Herman Bavinck

This paper will compare the works of John Owen and Herman Bavinck to better understand the debated Spirit Christology in Owen’s Pneumatalogia (3:159-88). Spirit Christology refers to the necessity of the Spirit’s work in the incarnate life of Christ to accomplish the works of his incarnate life. Owen’s controversial Spirit Christology has been described as novel, some as Nestorian, and exemplary. John Owen’s Spirit Christology will be shown to be a helpful articulation of the biblical data within Chalcedonian orthodoxy.
The objective will be accomplished with the establishment of Owen’s Spirit Christology in his own writing in Pneumatalogia and his Christological statements in his other works, then comparing Owen’s doctrine with Herman Bavinck and other theologians. Then I will suggest an appropriate view of Owen’s Spirit Christology which resides within Chalcedonian Christology and the historic creeds. This conclusion will build upon the work of similar positions in Patristic, historic Reformed Christologies, and contemporary scholars.
This study is important for evangelical theology because: 1) the role of the Spirit in the incarnate life of Christ is often overlooked; 2) Owen’s Spirit Christology is easily misunderstood apart from the rest of his Christology and Trinitarian theology; 3) Owen’s Spirit Christology is better understood in its historical context where his doctrinal affirmations are more customary; and 4) because Owen’s Spirit Christology forms a helpful corrective to some modern attempts at Spirit Christology which tend toward modalism and adoptionism. Finally, the work of the Holy Spirit in the incarnate life of Christ can be a helpful model to arrive at a better understanding of how the Spirit works in the lives of Christians.

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