Original Research - Special Collection: Holiness

Holiness without the holy One(s): Towards an ‘evental’ account of holiness

Jakub Urbaniak
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3485 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3485 | © 2016 Jakub Urbaniak | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 May 2016 | Published: 14 November 2016

About the author(s)

Jakub Urbaniak, Department of Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, South Africa


Should holiness be conceived as a predicate (an attribute), a state (a mode of being) or an event (a process)? It can certainly be understood as God‘s primary attribute. This is how much of classical Christian theology sees it. It can also be thought of as a particular modus of existence shared by God and the holy ones (the saints and the angels), as attested by much of Christian tradition and popular imagination. A more dynamic view of holiness can be found in Scripture and throughout Christian theological tradition; and yet, in the modern era, it has been overshadowed by the first two tendencies. This article offers a tentative enquiry into an ‘evental’ account of holiness by drawing from (1) Niels Gregersen’s and Elizabeth Johnson’s reflection on ‘deep incarnation’ and ‘deep resurrection’ as well as (2) John B. Cobb’s and Marjorie Suchocki’s process theology of the Spirit. Firstly, the ‘from above’ approach to holiness, prevailing in modern Christian theology, is briefly discussed based on John Webster’s understanding of holiness as God’s personal moral relation to humanity. Secondly, I suggest an alternative ‘from below’ approach to holiness based on Gregersen’s and Johnson’s deep Christology. Thirdly, Cobb’s and Suchocki’s take on ‘creative transformation’ and Suchocki’s original appropriation of Cobb’s insights on process pneumatology are used as a hermeneutic key to reinterpret holiness as an ‘evental’ category. Finally, the notion of the holiness of life is reconsidered in light of my proposal.


Holiness; Holy one; Event; Evental; Niels Gregersen; Elizabeth Johnson; John B. Cobb; Marjorie Suchocki; Deep incarnation; Deep resurrection; Process theology


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