Wednesday, 1 April 2015

James Lee: The Church and the Holy Spirit: Ecclesiology and Pneumatology in Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine

What is the relationship between the church and the Holy Spirit? In what sense is the church a visible, historical institution and a charismatic community, led by the Spirit? Such questions remain as relevant for global Christianity today, with the continued growth of charismatic communities, as in the early church. This study explores the development of ecclesiology in relation to pneumatology in early North Africa from 200-250 AD, while considering the implications for contemporary Christianity. In the historical context of early North Africa, with the rise of movements such as Montanism and Donatism, there developed an increasing tension between the church's charismatic dimensions and its visible, institutional marks. For Tertullian of Carthage, the church is constituted by bodies that can claim possession of the Spirit as present in unmistakable power. Tertullian is the herald of a kind of rigorism that limits church membership on the basis of a particular charismatic authority. In the midst of the complex process of readmitting lapsed Christians into the unity of the Church, bishops such as Cyprian, Optatus and Augustine sought to develop practices and to articulate ways of welcoming those outside of the visible church. For the bishops of North Africa, this pursuit of unity required an approach that mitigated the rigorism of Tertullian so as to offer a more inclusive understanding of church membership.This study explores how early North African authors attempted to integrate the visible and invisible aspects of the church as a charismatic and institutional body.

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