Recognizing the spirit: An ecclesial pneumatology

Kathryn L Reinhard, Fordham University


This dissertation considers the problem of how to negotiate diversities in identity and practice within the unity of ecclesial relationship in both ecumenical and intra-church contexts of ecclesial division and conflict. As it has arisen in ecumenical and intra-church situations, this problem often presents itself as a problem of "recognition." While the dissertation offers some basic features of a recognition ecclesiology, its main focus is to clarify elements with the doctrine of God that make recognition theologically possible. The project gives theological grounding to the concept of ecclesial recognition by supplementing it with insights from Continental philosophy (particularly Hegelian intersubjective recognition), literary theory (particularly the poetic concept of anagnôrisis as it operates in biblical texts), and Pneumatology (particularly in the Augustinian formulation of the Spirit as a "person" of dual subjectivity). While self-consciously situating itself in contrast to trinitarian ecclesiologies, this project follows the work of Eberhard Jüngel to propose a correspondence between the existence of the church and the existence of the triune God, in that both exist as "a communion of mutual otherness." This ecclesiological proposal is possible because of a constructive Pneumatology, based in the principles of Augustine's doctrine of the Holy Spirit and carried through the pneumatological and ecclesiological writings of Jüngel. Ultimately, the thesis of this dissertation is that both ecumenically and intra-ecclesially, it is the "person" of the Holy Spirit who effects the unity of the churches within diversity through recognition. This project is an explicit attempt to think ecclesial unity in a manner transcending ecclesial strategies that negotiate differences by means of polity and structures of "visible" unity, which can function to flatten rich instances of diversity, vilify difference, and catastrophize conflict, and which may ultimately prove ecclesiologically idolatrous. The near exclusive focus on the nature of the church at the expense of its larger grounding context in the existence of God has left the ecumenical and intra-ecclesial churches without a robust, overarching ecclesial Pneumatology, which provides a framework for containing issues of conflict and difference.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Reinhard, Kathryn L, "Recognizing the spirit: An ecclesial pneumatology" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3715000.