Date of Award

Spring 2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Del Colle, Ralph

Second Advisor

Barnes, Michel R.

Third Advisor

Dabney, D. L.


This study explores justification as a triune act of God. If God is a Trinity and it is "God who justifies" (Rom 8:33) then justification must be an act of all three divine persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. However, justification has not traditionally been conceived as a triune act of God. This can be seen most clearly in the tendency in Protestant Reformed theology to appropriate the work of justification to Christ alone (solus Christus), and therefore to the exclusion of the work of the Spirit, due to its understanding of justification by faith alone (sola fide) through the imputation of Christ's alien righteousness (iustitia aliena) alone. This study seeks to correct this imbalance by arguing for a pneumatologically rich conception of justification. Specifically, this essay will argue the thesis that justification happens through union with Christ by the Spirit. The study begins with a survey of the historical literature on the Holy Spirit in relation to justification in the figures of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Petavius, Matthias Joseph Scheeben, and Albrecht Ritschl. In chapter two the biblical foundations of justification through union with Christ by the Spirit are explored from the 'new perspective' on Paul by E. P. Sanders. This study then examines the divergent views of the nature of justifying righteousness in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism in chapter three. Chapter four focuses on John Henry Newman's theology of justification that mediates between the Roman Catholic and Protestant ideas of justification because for him the Spirit is the formal cause of justification. Chapter five explores the Spirit as God's self-communication ad extra for justification in the theology of Karl Rahner and Karl Barth. Chapter six proposes a trinitarian theology of justification through union with Christ by the Spirit. In conclusion and prospect, the ecumenical promise of justification through union with Christ by the Spirit is examined in a case study of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.



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