The Spirit and the Church: A Redaction-Historical and Theological-Historical Analysis of the Pneumatological Renewal in Lumen Gentium

Jos Moons

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The Spirit and the Church. A Redaction-Historical and Theological-Historical Analysis of the Pneumatological Renewal in Lumen Gentium

    For Christians, the very core of their faith is the belief in God Father, Son, and Spirit, yet generally, that common conviction is poorly translated into faith practice and theological reflection. Theologians capture that situation with the term Geistvergessenheit: too often, the Spirit is either forgotten, or pneumatology functions as an ‘appendix’ to Christology (Otto Dilschneider).

    Major theologians consider the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) as a pneumatological break through. Initially, the 2.500 bishops, theological advisors, and observers who gathered in Rome to discuss important faith matters were unsure what to expect, as the Vatican had not exactly welcomed the renewal movements that had emerged before the Council. Would the spirit of concern and condemnation also dominate the conciliar deliberations? Ultimately, openness and renewal prevailed, including pneumatological renewal. Amongst other things, the Spirit was said to work in other religions and to build up the Church not only through the hierarchy but also through charisms given to all the faithful.

    In my research, I explore the positive evaluation of the conciliar pneumatology. What does the Council’s pneumatological renewal actually consist of? Limiting myself to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, I focus on the fundamental conception of the Holy Spirit rather than pneumatological topics such as charisms, or the Spirit’s working in other religions. How does Lumen gentium portray the Holy Spirit? And what is new in that portrayal, both in redaction historical perspective – the text underwent dramatic changes – and in comparison to preconciliar pneumatology?

    To this end, I have done three things. Firstly, to ensure that my evaluation of Lumen gentium’s pneumatology is based on facts, not first impressions, I have developed and applied a method of ‘close reading’, consisting of a structural, theological and argumentative analysis. The structural analysis reveals amongst other things that most articles in the document feature references to the Spirit, but also that these are unevenly divided. Further, the argumentative analysis reveals that Lumen gentium’s references to the Spirit are in most cases part of the clarification of the ecclesiological reflection, not the core. In the second place, I have scrutinized the redaction history of two articles, no. 4 and 48, both of which underwent substantial pneumatological amendments. Yet in both cases, these were realised by a very small number of Council participants, so that it can hardly be claimed that pneumatology was a common concern. Finally, I have made a comparison with earlier magisterial teaching, namely Pius XII’s 1943 encyclical Mystici corporis and noted both similarities and differences with Lumen gentium.

    In conclusion, Lumen gentium represents a promising step forward in overcoming Geistvergessenheit. The Spirit is more consistently part of the reflection than in earlier drafts and than in Mystici corporis, and some text fragments clearly witness to an active conception of the Spirit’s role in the Church. Still, the Spirit is often conceived as Christ’s instrument rather than as Himself actively involved in the Church, so that arguably Lumen gentium’s pneumatological renewal is more modest than commonly assumed. Therefore, I recommend that the Creed’s confession that the Spirit is "Lord and Giver of life" (Dominum et vivificantem) be taken more seriously, expecting that this would result in a more affective, discerning, open and receptive faith practice and theology.

    Jos Moons SJ (1980) studied theology in Utrecht and Paris. After four years of parish ministry in the diocese of Rotterdam he entered the Jesuits. Over the past years he worked as a student chaplain and PhD student at the Tilburg School of Theology, where he also taught homiletics. Currently, Moons combines chaplaincy work for the University Parish at the KU Leuven with a post-doc assignment at Tilburg University.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Tilburg University
    • Witte, Henk, Promotor
    • Schelkens, Karim, Co-promotor
    • Sarot, Marcel, Member PhD commission
    • Famerée, Joseph, Member PhD commission, External person
    • De Mey, Peter, Member PhD commission, External person
    • Murray, Paul , Member PhD commission, External person
    Award date30 May 2018
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Vatican II
    • Pneumatology
    • Ecclesiology
    • Lumen gentium
    • Renewal
    • Holy Spirit
    • Mystici corporis
    • Yves Congar
    • Gerard Philips


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