Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Professor Michael Jackson

Second Supervisor

Dr Henry Novello


Colin Gunton was one of the leading figures in a late twentieth century movement which sought to rejuvenate interest in systematic and trinitarian theology. Gunton’s theology was heavily influenced by the trinitarian thought of Karl Barth. As his thought matured, however, he was increasingly drawn to resources found in Irenaeus and the Cappadocian Fathers. Drawing from these patristic sources, Gunton sought to develop a trinitarian theology formulated upon personal and relational categories of thought as a corrective to the over-emphasis upon substantialist conceptuality in the Western tradition. He held that a doctrine of God that desires to remain consistent with the presentation of the divine economy of redemption revealed in the scriptural narratives must be formulated upon a personal and relational conceptuality. To this end, he adopted the Irenaean metaphor of the ‘two hands’ of God to speak about the complementarity of the Son and the Spirit in the economy of redemption. Gunton’s trinitarian pneumatology is distinguished by an emphasis upon the Spirit as person, as transcendent, and as creation’s perfecting agent. His conception of the Spirit as person is developed as an argument for the particularity and relationality of the divine persons within which notions of individualism and depersonalising tendencies are specifically rejected. An emphasis upon the transcendence of the Spirit opened the way for Gunton to speak about the Spirit as mediator between the Father and the humanity of the Son, between the Son and his followers, and between God and the remainder of creation. The personal and transcendent Spirit is the perfecting agent of the whole creation inasmuch as it is drawn, by the Spirit, toward eschatological perfection in Christ. Understood thus, Gunton’s view of the Spirit as person, transcendent and as perfecting agent remains wholly consistent with the creed’s declaration of the Spirit as the Lord and Giver of life. Moreover, his theology of the Spirit is in harmony with the principles of the Reformation tradition insofar as the whole of creation is brought to fulfilment in praise of the Father, through Christ, and by the Spirit.

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