English theologian Colin Gunton points to three accounts of the person and the work of the Holy Spirit that dominate the Western ecclesial landscape. In the charismatic view Gunton points out the weakness to sometimes separate the Spirit and Son from each other, as the Spirit becomes the cause of religious phenomena. In another view, which is connected to certain cultural and historical developments; the identification of the Spirit is mainly to connect Him with a process. In a society influenced by Hegel and in some ways Karl Marx, the spirit is identified as a force that operates within the created order to slowly bring change or to direct the human. In another third view, not accounted for above, Gunton points his readers to a dogmatic tradition that signifies the Western Church. Here, the Spirit’s work is mainly seen as “applying to believer and Church the benefits of Christ.”
While these views all have their particular problems they share a common characteristic in that they depersonalize and internalize the person and the work of the Spirit of God. In this paper I argue that although Saint Augustine certainly made great theological contributions to the Church, his pneumatology hasn’t always been helpful in shedding light on the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. For, concerning this doctrine Augustine’s Platonic tendencies kick in with full effect. I argue (1) that much confusion in the church concerning the Holy Spirit, as described in my opening remarks, may be traced back to Augustine’s Neo-Platonism which led him to, according to Gunton, depersonalize the Spirit, by constructing a self-consumed trinity, and as a consequence the failure to develop a Trinitarian economy for the Godhead. Then, (2) I contrast Augustine’s ideas with a theology that informs us about the Spirit’s distinctive role in the economy of God. For reasons explained, this endeavor must begin with looking at the economic (Gunton) rather than imminent Trinity (Augustine).