Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Del Colle, Ralph

Second Advisor

Long, Duane S.

Third Advisor

Carey, Patrick W.


This dissertation explores the pneumatological significance of the Reformed doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Confessional Reformed teaching is distinguished from Lutheran and Roman Catholic accounts of eucharistic presence by claiming that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that believers are made to participate in the flesh and blood of Christ. The Spirit is not a mere proxy presence of Christ, but mediates to us in the eucharistic celebration the presence of the whole Christ. This position, I argue, reflects the pneumatological orientation of Reformed Christology and points to an understanding of the Holy Spirit as the reality constituting agency of God in the world. At one level this work is a commentary upon the implicit pneumatology of the Supper, at another level it is a systematic development of its potential in the areas of Christology, ecclesiology and spirituality. Although this is a constructive work my reflections are rooted in classical sources of the Reformed tradition, in particular the thought of John Calvin, John Williamson Nevin and the English Puritans. The center of my argument is that the whole of life in the Spirit, inside and outside the eucharistic context, is oriented around union with the glorified body of Christ. Scripture conceives of the eschatological consummation of human salvation as coming into possession of a body like that of Jesus-- resurrected and glorified. Such a possibility highlights the eschatological work of the Spirit as well as accenting the Spirit's unique historical relationship to the bodily humanity of Jesus within the economy of salvation. This means that we cannot simply think about the Spirit "spiritually;" we must think about the Spirit "corporeally." Human experiences of the Holy Spirit are therefore best understood to be embodied experiences, emerging theologically where the Spirit and the ascended humanity of Jesus touch and conjoin. John Calvin understood the grace of the Lord's Supper to be the "visible Word," by which Christ in the Spirit is accommodated to the human body. Against the deep suspicion within American Protestantism towards mediating agencies (i.e. church and sacraments) and the tendency to set the work of the Holy Spirit in opposition to corporeal and visible reality I argue for an embodied pneumatology that leads towards a revitalization of the spirituality of the visible church.

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