A critical inquiry into Karl Barth's doctrine of the Holy Spirit for constructive work in feminist pneumatology

Rebecca Blair Young, Fordham University


The thesis of this project is that Karl Barth's trinitarian doctrine of the Holy Spirit can contribute to constructive work in feminist pneumatology. Barth's contributions enhance the ability of feminist pneumatologies to share in ongoing theological dialogue by establishing a trinitarian foundation to undergird their creative and cosmological doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Feminist theologians object to Barth's theological anthropology, which subordinates women to men, and his use of gendered God language. The introduction analyzes Barth's doctrine of gender relations, concluding that his pneumatology offers more promising resources for feminist constructive work. The first chapter is a survey of existing literature on feminist pneumatologies, followed in chapter two by an exploration of Barth's pneumatology. A comparison between the pneumatologies of Barth and feminist theologians reveals three commonalties: existence as being-in-relation, the significance of presence, and freedom. A trinitarian pneumatology such as Barth's can address the full flourishing of women and creation without the unitarian or modalistic perspective of many current feminist pneumatologies. The three contributions of Barth's pneumatology are his understandings of the Holy Spirit as: (1) the Creator Spirit, who is at work creatively and re-creatively throughout the universe; (2) the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is the Creator-become-creature, expressing the love of the Creator for creation, and whose contemporary presence is a particular community gathered by the Holy Spirit; and (3) the Spirit of Creation, who draws creation into mutual relationship with its Creator and celebrates the current era as the "time of community." The final chapter presents a feminist pneumatology that incorporates Barth's contributions to Spirit doctrine by constructing a view of the Holy Spirit as the creative, cosmic Spirit of Christ. This construction incorporates trinitarian views with feminist interest in the creative and cosmic dimensions of the Holy Spirit and has potential for contributing to ongoing constructive work in systematic pneumatologies.

Subject Area

Theology|Womens studies|Religion

Recommended Citation

Young, Rebecca Blair, "A critical inquiry into Karl Barth's doctrine of the Holy Spirit for constructive work in feminist pneumatology" (2003). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3083166.