Bonaventure and John Calvin: The restoration of the image of God as a mode of spiritual consummation

Hae Yong You, Fordham University


This thesis is a comparative study of the spiritualities of Bonaventure (1217-74) and John Calvin (1509-64). They are representative of their own traditions, the Franciscan and the Reformed. This comparative study has ecumenical significance in spite of certain doctrinal differences. This thesis is based on the two major sources, Itinerarium in Mentis in Deum of Bonaventure and Institutio Christianae Religionis of Calvin. The ultimate goal of the spiritual journey discovered in this study consists in the restoration of the image of God in the soul through progressive renewal. Bonaventure and Calvin describe similar stages for this journey: from below to upwards; from outside to inside; from intellect to affectivity. Final restoration of the image of God is expressed as union with God in the inmost affection of the heart. A "models methods" provides the framework for exploring the spiritualities of the two authors. The "imago Dei," is a richly significant concept for each theologian, which functions as an expressive model. More than a static theological concept, the imago Dei is discovered to be a dynamic force revealing the spiritual movement of each toward its restoration. The expressive model includes the experiential model. From this point of view, the dissertation posits the human potentiality for the spiritual journey as well as its limitation for attaining to God. It is the restoration of the imago Dei, not its nature, that is focused on in this study. The journey is from a distorted imago Dei to a restored imago Dei, which is revealed through the illumination of Scripture. The role of Scripture emerges in a significant way at this point in both Bonaventure and Calvin. Each has a different emphasis in the process by which the imago Dei is restored. Bonaventure follows the traditional stages of spiritual growth: purification, illumination and perfection. Calvin emphasizes justification by faith alone and the sanctification based on it. The experiential and phenomenological dimensions of spiritual consummation are also addressed. Briefly, Bonaventure and Calvin express spiritual consummation from their particular perspective of the unio mystica. Throughout this journey Bonaventure and Calvin keep a balance between affective and intellectual activity.

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Recommended Citation

You, Hae Yong, "Bonaventure and John Calvin: The restoration of the image of God as a mode of spiritual consummation" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223829.