So far, we
have examined the historical side of the Filioque (how
it came into being), which involved its canonical
aspect; in other words, how the Westerners had
unilaterally introduced the Filioque into the Symbol of
Faith (the Creed), without asking the Eastern Church, or
asking for it to be accepted.
This is the
canonical side of the issue, which Westerners today are
beginning to acknowledge and they appear to be somewhat
predisposed towards rectifying what they had done, by
officially removing the Filioque from the Symbol of
Faith. Perhaps some day soon, this will finally happen.
For us, in
Dogmatics, the problem is not the canonical one. There
is the theological aspect that is related to the
Filioque, and that is what we shall now focus on.
examine the theological side of the problem, by
separating the whole issue into two parts. On the one
part, we shall examine the arguments that the Westerners
presented in favor of the Filioque, and then we shall
see what the Orthodox arguments were, against the
Filioque. We shall see how serious these problems were,
and if they could be solved.
theological justification of the Filioque in the West
began basically with the Franks, who had relied on
Augustine’s theology to support the Filioque. This is
the theology that we analyzed, which contained the
following elements that were implemented, in favor of
Augustine’s position that in the Holy Trinity, the Son
is also named the Logos of God, therefore, He represents
the Knowledge of God, while the Spirit represents the
Love of God. On the basis of this assumption, Augustine gave precedence to the Son and not to the
Spirit, thus making the Son a Source of the Spirit also,
adjacent to the Father. And this was the concept of the
justified by the argument that, since the Son is
Knowledge and the Spirit is Love, Knowledge
supposedly precedes Love, so the Son must therefore
precede the Spirit. Given that Love is supposedly
dependent on Knowledge in order to exist, so the Spirit
is dependent on the Father and the Son.
used to theologically justify the Filioque was that
–according to Augustinian theology- in God, the
Essence has precedence. The “one God” equals the one
Essence of God. The Persons are pursuant to the
Essence. Thus, for Augustine, the Persons are merely
relationships that stem from -and reside in- the one
Essence. In other words, God is a Being, He is an
Essence, He is the one God, in Whom three relationships
exist: the Father (Who is also Memory), the Son (Who is
Knowledge) and the Spirit (Who is Love). Thus, the
Spirit is also a form of relationship.
order to have a proper and complete form of
relationship, we must necessarily have pairs of
relationships. This idea was developed by the
scholastics, mainly Thomas Aquinas. Pairs of
relationships are what the scholastics called
“relationships between contrasts” or “contrasting
relationships”. In other words, in order to have
something that originates from a relationship –like the
Spirit- it must originate from a relationship of two
others, and not one. That is precisely why we need a
must originate, not from one person (because one person
is like no person); it must come from a relationship
between others. So, it does come from a relationship.
Given that there is no other Person -except for the
Son- from which the Spirit can originate, we can thus
appreciate the need for the Filioque, inasmuch as the
Spirit has to originate from a relationship, and not
from one single person.
Protestants inaugurated an entirely different approach.
They cast out all this theology that speaks of the
Essence of God, or of God as a metaphysical Being. In
their place, they introduced the principle that we
recognize God through His works in Providence, in
History. In this way, we always commence from History,
i.e., what God did throughout History. That is
our basis; We cannot have a metaphysical theology on
interesting thing is that, with this approach, the
Protestants supported the Filioque in another way. They
claimed that since the Holy Trinity appears in
Providence, in History, in this manner, i.e., that the
Father sends forth the Son, and the Son gives the
Spirit, the Spirit is therefore given to us by the Son.
Given that everything we know and can say about God is
dependent on what we see in Providence, in History, we
must therefore say that the Spirit is dependent on the
Son, and not just the Father.
Protestants returned to the confusion that the
Westerners had introduced, back in the 4th
century, between the two meanings that are expressed by
two different verbs in the Holy Bible: the verb
(travelling/proceeding out of) and
The Spirit proceeds from the Father, but it is sent -or
is given to Providence- by the Son or through the Son.
Therefore, the Son apparently has something to do with
the appearance of the Holy Spirit.
West, both these two verbs had been translated
into Latin -from the very beginning- with the one
verb: “to proceed”. This caused
confusion. When saying that the Spirit originates from
the Father and the Son, what are we referring to?
Are we referring to the eternal existence of God, or of
Providence, where the Spirit is given through the Son?
Protestants, there can be no talk of an eternal Trinity,
except only with regard to Providence. Consequently, “procedure”
expressed both the “travelling out of” and the “sent
by”; in other words, both the eternal relationship
of God in His eternal existence, and His eternal
the situation in the West, and these were the arguments
used, to theologically found the Filioque. Now let’s see
what the arguments against the Filioque were in
the East, when the politics on this problem became more
exacerbated between the East and the West.
The East found it difficult to give precedence to the
Essence and not the Persons; i.e., that primarily, the
one God is the Essence; that God is expressed by an
essence and that the three Persons are relationships
within that one Essence. It was difficult for the East,
because for Eastern Theology – the Theology of the
Cappadocian Fathers – the one God is the Father;
the one God is not a faceless Essence. It is the
Person of the Father.
see how this made things difficult for the East. If the
one God is the Father, then, by making the Son equally
the Source of the Holy Spirit, it would be like
acknowledging two Gods, two ontological
principalities in the Holy Trinity. Monotheism would
be at risk.
West, this problem does not exist, because for them, monotheism is secure, with the essence. The essence
expresses the one God. Thus we have here a
discontinuation in the discussion, because the argument
posed by the one side was not a valid argument for the
East, this was a very powerful point, i.e., that with
the Filioque, ditheism is being introduced. Because
for the East, that which secures the one God, the
unity of God, is that the Person of the Father is the Source, the
only Source, the only Causer. That which secures monotheism in
Patristic thought is monarchy (sovereignty). In God
there is monarchy, from which stems God’s entire Life.
This one principality is not the one
Essence, which the Persons spring from; the one
principality is the one Person –the Father- Who
gives birth to the Son, and sends forth the Spirit.
If we try
to parallel monotheism to monarchy, the following
question is posed: Where do we place monarchy?
If we place it inside the Essence, we don’t have
a problem with the Filioque – monarchy is preserved. But
if we place monarchy inside the Person of the
Father, then we cannot have the Filioque, because
that would signify an acknowledgement of two principalities in God; in other words, we would be
annulling monarchy (sovereignty). The Father would no
longer express monarchy. And if monarchy is annulled,
so is monotheism, because here is the sensitive
point in the Holy Trinity.
How can we have three
Persons, without having three separate Gods? That
which allows us to escape this danger of not having
three Gods, is that in these three Gods, the two
of the three come from the one Source. The one
God is now understood from the aspect of principality,
since it is One, who provides existence to the
whole Holy Trinity; God is one. Given that these three
Gods are Uncreated and are naturally in perpetual
Communion between each other, we do not have a case of
three separate Gods.
which secures the one God is the monarchy (sovereignty)
of the Father. Consequently, if we annul the monarchy of
the Father and introduce the Son as a new principality,
then we are annulling the monarchy and we no longer have
any means of supporting monotheism; not unless we
in the essence,
as they did in the West.
one of the serious arguments, one of the greater
difficulties that the East had to confront opposite the
difficulty lies in the similes used by Augustine, when
resorting to psychological characteristics to describe
the Holy Trinity. He asserted that the Father is
Memory, the Son is Knowledge, and the Spirit is Love.
For the Eastern Greek Fathers, these created a serious
problem of anthropomorphism in God, because it
was the projection of human experiences onto God. The
Greek Fathers’ view is that we cannot resort to
such arguments (that the Son is Knowledge and the Spirit
is Love) and use them to support the Filioque. According
to the Greek Fathers, the only thing we can say about
the Father, the Son and the Spirit is that: the Father
is Unborn and that He is the Father; the Son is Born and
that He is the Son; and the Spirit “proceeds from”
and that He is the Spirit. All of these
characteristics are what we call hypostatic characteristics, which have to do with their “being”;
with the how these three Persons came into
say what psychological characteristics each of
the three Persons might have, because that would
inevitably entail anthropomorphism.
So, we have
here a kind of negation, which however is not
agnosticism; i.e., we aren’t saying that we don’t know
anything; we are simply saying that what we
know about God, about the Father, are not things
that we have taken from human experience; they merely
denote God’s manner of existence – they denote how
a similar problem, when giving precedence to
Knowledge instead of Love. To the Easterners,
Knowledge does not precede Love. We need to
remember what we said about the
cognizance of persons
cognizance of things.
In order to recognize something as a person, I need to
simultaneously love it. I cannot firstly attain
cognizance and then love. Therefore, if the Spirit is
Love, it cannot be something that is pursuant
to the Son, if we uphold that the Son is Knowledge. For
the Easterners, Augustine’s argument that Knowledge
precedes Love is unfounded. Love is linked to
Knowledge; we “know” persons, only to the degree
that we love them.
conditions can Orthodoxy therefore accept the Filioque?
Filioque can be understood Orthodoxically, and it can
become accepted by Orthodoxy, under certain conditions.
is to uphold the discernment between
the eternal and the providential Trinity.
Confusion however exists in the West, between
“proceeding from” and “sent forth”. The “proceeding
from” pertains to the eternal existence of God, while
the “sent forth” pertains to providence. These two terms
are clearly distinguished in the East, because it is one
thing to say that the Spirit is equally dependent on the
Son with regard to Providence; in other words, that the
Spirit is given to us in History because Providence is
chiefly the Son’s; that the Son is incarnated, and that
the He gives us the Spirit, through Providence. And it
is another thing, to say that this dependency between
the Son and the Spirit somehow also pertains to the
“proceeding from”, i.e., to the eternal, never-ending
existence of God. In Eastern tradition, these two must
be clearly discerned.
As far as
the eternal Trinity is concerned: The Eternal Existence
of God does not allow us to speak of the Filioque,
because the Causer is only one – the Father. We
cannot have the Son as the co-Causer.
the above, the Greek Fathers do make a certain
distinction. They allow a particular role to the Son,
during the “procession” of the Holy Spirit. In one
of the passages by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, which is a
key passage for this subject, he says: “We
do not deny the difference between Him (the Father), who
exists as the Causer, and Him, Who is of the
In this way, we can comprehend how the one Person is
distinguished from the other Person; i.e., by realizing
that “the cause” is one thing, and that “of
the cause” is another thing. In other words, if we
ask what the difference is between the Father and the
Son (or the Father and the Spirit), then, according to
the above passage, the difference is that the Father is
“the Cause”, while the Son and the Spirit
are “of the Cause”. Therefore, the
distinction between “the Causer” and “of the Causer” is extremely significant.
continues his “key passage”, by saying: “as
for that which is of the causer
we acknowledge a further difference
both the Son and the Spirit, “the Causer” is the Father,
while the Son and the Spirit are both “of the Causer”).
One difference is that the Son originates immediately,
directly from the First, from the Cause, whereas the
other, the Spirit, originates via the One who
originates directly from the First; through the
intervention, the mediation of the Son.”
And why is
this? Because, in this way, the mediation of the Son in
divine life preserves His characteristic as the
Only-born, while the natural, the essential relationship
of the Spirit towards the Father is not annulled. In
other words, the problem is that we must somehow move
away from the notion of two Sons; to concede that the
Son is the only-born son, and that there is no second
to Gregory, this compels us to “attribute” to the Son a
characteristic, an intermediary role –a mediation– in
the “procedure” of the Spirit. This mediation
preserves the essential relationship of the Spirit with
the Father. This is what led many to the idea that there
is an “orthodox Filioque” and that the Filioque is
admissible, provided it doesn’t refer to the Persons;
in other words, that the Spirit does not proceed from
the (Person of the) Son also, but that it proceeds from
the Essence of the Father, which is common between
Father and Son..
the status of the Essence, well, it could be considered
a “dependency” by the Son…This is in a certain way
correct, but it also creates various difficulties,
because neither the Son nor the Spirit proceeds from the
Essence directly; because the Son is born of the Father,
and the Spirit proceeds out of the Father, i.e., out of
the Person of the Father. It is difficult for one to
discern these two statuses –of essence and hypostasis-
given that it is the hypostasis that provides existence.
In the passage we just
mentioned, there is a certain truth in the fact
that the Filioque can somehow become acceptable, except
in the way it discerns between Providence and eternal
Godhood, where the issue is very clear.
here, it can become acceptable. In what way? If we
don’t accept the discerning of those two statuses
between essence and person. What matters in the
Cappadocian Fathers’ Theology is that we are not
allowed to attribute the role of Causer to the Son.
Since we do
not recognize the role of Causer in the Son, one
could say that any other role of the Son in the
procedure of the Spirit is permissible.
conclusion, the Filioque would be acceptable, under the
condition that the Son does not become the Causer
of the Spirit, and that the Cause is only one: the
Father. That is where Maximus the Confessor –and
Photios the Great later on- rested their entire line of
arguments against the Filioque. Because according to
them, the Westerners were bestowing the role of Causer
on the Son also.
why it is so important not to attribute such a
role to the Son is because it is only in that
way, that we preserve monotheism, monarchy.
question was posed in recent years, and because it had
also been posed during the 15th century at
the synod of Florence, whether the Filioque can be
theologized or if it is a heresy, the answer is that it
depends on one thing only, and that is: if –with the
Filioque- we acknowledge the Son as ontologically the
co-Causer of the Existence of the Spirit, together with
the Father. If we interpret the Filioque in a way
that does not make the Son the Cause, but
reserves the role of Causer exclusively for the Father,
then the Filioque can be taken into consideration for
theologizing and become accepted.