The Anointed Church: Towards a Third Article Ecclesiology

Liston, Gregory John
Habets, Myk
Sutherland, Martin
Item type
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

The phrase Third Article Theology is used in two senses: first to characterise a methodological approach that intentionally starts with the Spirit; and second as the theological understanding that emerges from this approach. Over recent decades, Spirit Christology has utilised the approach of Third Article Theology to gain insight into the person and life of Christ. This thesis extends the methodology in order to construct the constituent features of a Third Article Ecclesiology. The research divides into three parts.

In part one, following a description of Third Article Theology and its application to Christology, it is argued that the Spirit informs the connection between other theological doctrines and ecclesiology. Following this insight, a methodological framework is developed that examines ecclesiology from the vantage point of other doctrines, through a pneumatological lens. Given their advanced state of development, the doctrines of Christology and the Trinity were chosen as the initial vantage points from which to observe ecclesiology.

Part two examines ecclesiology from the perspective of Christology, through the lens of the Spirit. By critically utilising the ecclesiologies of Barth and Zizioulas as complementary starting points, it is argued that coherently accounting for the Church’s humanity and divinity requires both the Son and Spirit’s ecclesial roles to be logically distinguished without being existentially separated. This leads to analogically comparing the Spirit’s involvement in Christ and the Church. Five pneumatological parallels between Spirit Christology and the Church inform the development of a Christological Third Article Ecclesiology, which is determined as being tripartite in nature, relational in identity, unique in context, Christ-centred in orientation, Christotelic in momentum, indivisible in constitution, cruciform in shape, missional in purpose, and narrative in character. These constituent features are contrasted with other ecclesiologies that over- or under-emphasise the roles of the Son and the Spirit in the Church.

Part three examines ecclesiology from a Trinitarian perspective. It is first argued (with Habets and Weinandy) that Spirit Christology implies a Trinitarian understanding where the Father (the originating person) begets the Son (the personed person) in or by the Spirit (the personing person), and the Son returns love to the Father by the Spirit of Sonship given to him. Second, it is demonstrated that the analogical link between the Trinity and the Church is not reflective (cf. Volf’s approach) but intrinsically pneumatological—the Spirit’s ecclesial role parallels the Spirit’s immanent identity. Based on these initial determinations, this thesis explores the implications of the immanent identities of the Spirit and the Son (as identified above) being reprised on a series of expanding stages: Christologically, soteriologically, and most pertinently here ecclesiologically. The resulting Trinitarian Third Article Ecclesiology characterises the Church as existing in any and all relationships where by the Spirit the love of Christ is offered and returned. The constituent features of this understanding are contrasted with ecclesiologies derived from alternative Trinitarian starting points.

A concluding discussion explores extending this research to other doctrinal vantage points—particularly eschatology and the world—and examines how the various pneumato-ecclesiological perspectives gained could be integrated to construct a comprehensive Third Article Ecclesiology.

Theology , Ecclesiology
Publisher's version
Rights statement