Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Papism

Peter and the Keys to the Kingdom

The Filioque

Source FOR OUR FAITH Magazine

Selected texts by the Apostolic Diakonia of the Church of Greece (Kozani, August 2005.)


Is the Filioque supported Scripturally?

No, it isnt - no matter how hard Roman Catholics strive to back it with the Holy Bible - because the Bible itself speaks in a very explicit and undeniable way about the hypostasis and the particular relationship of the Holy Spirit, in John 15:26:

and when the Paraclete comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of the Truth Who proceeds from the Father

In this classic excerpt there is a clear distinguishing between the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father, and the sending of the Spirit by the Son (or in the name of the Son): the one is expressed with the use of the Present Continuous Tense (=Who proceeds), while the other uses the Future Tense (=Whom I shall send).  Given that this is a categorical teaching of the Holy Bible, it was recorded authentically and infallibly in the sacred Symbol (Creed) of the Synod of Constantinople (381 AD), i.e.: and in the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father  The Faith of the Church on this matter is clear and unquestionable.

However, according to the Papists, although the above words do of course mention the procession of the Spirit from the Father, they do not explicitly preclude the filioque possibility (=that the Spirit proceeds also from the Son).  They assert that since the Biblical text does not specify which proceeds ONLY from the Father, or the one proceeding ONLY from the Father, this leaves an opening that justifies their insertion of the filioque. 

But dont these Papist speculations seem like naive theological contrivances?  Because if we were to speculate reversely, we could likewise propose the following ideas:   If the filioque was indeed a possibility in Gods thoughts, then wouldnt the Saviour Himself have clearly stated the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father AND the Son, for such an important facet of the dogma?  And wouldnt the Oros (condition) of the respective Synod also have been recorded as .Who proceeds from the Father AND the Son?  Why would the Lord suppress such a significant truth?  Was it His intention, to purposely cause problems to His Church?

Finally, the verse of John 16:13-15 should likewise be interpreted in the same spirit as John 15:26; i.e., with the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and the temporal dispatching of the Spirit by Christ: And when He comes the Spirit of the Truth He shall guide you to the entire Truth; He shall not speak on His own, but whatever He hears He shall speak of, and He shall announce to you what is coming

However, the Roman Catholics again base their own filioque teaching on this excerpt, by directly linking the procession and the mission of the Holy Spirit to the person of Christ.


How is the filioque evaluated from the historical-ecclesiastic aspect?

The insertion of the filioque in the sacred Symbol of Faith (Creed) is arbitrary and coup-like. The Oroi (conditions) of the Ecumenical Synods are authentic, infallible and irremovable monuments. No individual and no local synods have the right to change them or amend them, not even in the least. Only another Ecumenical Synod can attempt something like that. This view has been officially consolidated by the 3rd Ecumenical Synod, when it opined with the following statement:  One cannot pronounce any other faith - that is, to author or to compose any except the one stipulated by the Holy Fathers who convened in Nice, in the Holy Spirit.  ( , ). This is also how Cyril, who had presided over the Synod, saw the matter and had stated in an epistle to John of Antioch, that it was not permitted to change a single word of those found in there, or to even omit any syllable. ( ) [1].

The abuse of the Oros of the 3rd Ecumenical Synod by the Papists, which was both outrageous and impermissible, caused immense turmoil in the ecumenical (worldwide) Church and eventually succeeded in tearing it apart.


Why is the filioque theologically blameworthy?

Because it destroys the monarchy (=single principality) within the Divinity and it creates confusion with regard to the hypostatic characteristics of the Personae of the Holy Trinity. Monarchy within the divine constitutes an apical point of the Triadic dogma of the Faith, for which some very fierce battles were fought by the ancient Church. As we can see from the precedent lines, the Father is acknowledged as the divine Source; it is from within Him that the other two Personae of the Holy Trinity originate; i.e., the Son (by birth) and the Spirit (by procession). It is this precise order within the Trinity that ensures both the unity of nature and the parity of the Personae of the Trinity.  This has been the way that Orthodox theology has always perceived the issue.

The filioque however has upset this very order. Not only has it destroyed the unity of their nature, but it also destroys the order of the triadic relations between the Personae. It abolishes the monarchy within Divinity by introducing diarchy (=dual principality) in the relations of the Trinitarian divinity. Instead of the one principality from whom the Holy Trinity unfolds, we have two principalities. The Father has ceased to be the only source of divinity, as they have now rendered the Son a parallel Source.  But this insertion of a second principality also upsets and confuses the hypostatic characteristics of the Personae; The hypostatic characteristic of the Son is no longer Birth (the only-born Son), but is now procession as well, and the procession of the Holy Spirit is no longer only from the Father, but also from the Son.

Given this confusion of the hypostatic characteristics of each of the Personae, one can only ask oneself: Why shouldnt this confusion be extended even further? In other words, why cant the Father be born of the Son, or, why cant the Son proceed from the Holy Spirit, etc.?  Where do we draw the line, and where do we stop destroying the dogma of the Holy Trinity?


Are there any practical repercussions for the Church on account of the filioque?

There are, for the Orthodox Church. At a theological level, apart from ruining monarchys much-lauded and godly status[2] by creating confusion around the hypostatic characteristics of the Personae, the filioque is also clearly underrating the godly rank of the Holy Spirit.  For indeed, if the Holy Spirit was not directly dependent on the Father (just like the Son is, but in a different manner), but was concurrently dependent on a second factor (the Son), then the Holy Spirit would be rendered inferior to the Son and would therefore not possess an independent and homologous status towards the Son (which is the case, when the Spirit originates directly from the Father).

For the Orthodox Church, the demoting of the Holy Spirit at a theological level also has repercussions on the matter of salvation. If the Spirit is not equally honored and of the same prestige as the Son (and of course the Father) in other words, if the Spirit is second-placed within the Holy Trinity then the work of the Spirit in the sphere of salvation (as the finalizing principality of the work of Christ, of the Church, and the sanctification of mankind) is jeopardized.

For the Orthodox Church, which lives and moves within the grace of the Holy Spirit, this has tremendous repercussions on Her hypostasis.  Her struggles against the insertion of the words and from the Son were not (and are not) about hunting shadows, as some people may think. They are struggles for existential matters, which relate to the preservation of Her hypostasis and Her essence, as well as the success of Her soteriological aims and Her redemptive drive. Orthodoxy cannot shun the sanctifying opus of the Holy Spirit, in which it lives, holds on to and hopes. And it is not without reason that the churchgoers in Orthodox temples cross themselves during the reciting of the Symbol of Faith (Creed), and specifically when the words the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father are mentioned: this matter is deeply engraved in the faith and the conscience of the Orthodox!


What is the significance of the expression from the Father, by the Son in regard to the Holy Spirits procession?

According to the sacred Fathers of the Church, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, by the Son. This is the customary form by which the faith of the Church is expressed.  When interposing in this matter, theology formulates many and subtle thoughts, which are difficult to perceive by most of the faithful, for whom theology is both difficult and abstruse.  We will attempt to give an elementary reply here, avoiding complex theological thoughts and without deviating from the teaching of the 4th Gospel (John 15:26).

Linguistically, the preposition from denotes the cause from which/whom something takes place, whereas the preposition by denotes the cause by which/whom something takes place.  In the theological Trinity, the from refers to the Father, from Whom the Spirit proceeds eternally, acquiring His divinity from the Father (= the Spirit Who proceeds from the Father, and the One proceeding from the Father). The preposition by on the other hand pertains to the Son, in Whose name the Spirit is sent to the world (without this implying that the Son is just a menial instrument of the Father). It is obvious that with regard to the Holy Spirits procession, the preposition by pertains to the providential Trinity; i.e., to the external energies of the Triadic God.  Equally obvious is the fact that the preposition by reveals the sameness of nature between the Son and the Spirit.  It is on this fact that the other statement is based; i.e., that the Spirit reposes in the Son (and reposed in the Son) and is referred to as the characteristic quality of the Son[3].


Is the filioque a Triadological cacodoxy?

Unquestionably yes, and as a matter of fact a huge cacodoxy, because it vitiates the teaching on the Holy Trinity. According to the Orthodox Faith, the Holy Spirit proceeds ONLY from the Father (Who is the Source of divinity for BOTH of the other two Personae of the Triadic God) and is sent into the world by the Son, for the completion of the opus of redemption.  This teaching is based on the classic Scriptural verse of John 15:26, and when the Paraclete comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of the Truth Who proceeds from the Father where the Present Continuous Tense of the verb proceeds signifies the Holy Spirits eternal procession from the Father, and the Future Tense of the verb shall send signifies the forthcoming, temporal mission of the Spirit that was being promised by the Son. This is the generally accepted Orthodox form of the Holy Spirits procession.

The Roman church however has a different understanding of the matter. Thus, it teaches that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father ONLY, but from the Son also (in Latin=filioque). It supports this teaching on Scriptural verses (John 16:13.5 e.a.), which it has interpreted in its own way. The filioque idea which was derived from Augustines theology was added to the sacred Symbol (Creed) by the Latin church in Spain (in a Toledo synod, in 589), evidently in order to strengthen the faith in the Logos divinity (which was fiercely denied by Western-Goth Arianism at the time.  The filioque was eventually transfused to other European counties, but not without any reactions.

The filioque addition, which has no real backing in the Scriptures and the teachings of the Fathers, was seen by Orthodoxy as a terrible Triadological heresy and She opposed it tenaciously, because

1) it abolished the Fathers status as the single source of divinity,

2) it ruined monarchys much-lauded and godly status by arbitrarily introducing dual principality in godhood: the Father AND the Son,

3) it brought about confusion with regard to the hypostatic characteristics of the Personae; characteristics that are strictly personal, irremovable and incommunicable, making one wonder why the Father shouldnt be born of the Son and the Son proceed from the Holy Spirit, etc.,

4) it demotes the Spirit opposite the Son, by demoting the Spirits godly rank and thus endangering the Spirits sanctifying opus.

The filioque, which was the cause of the split between the two Churches during the time of Photios (867) and Michael Keroularios (1054), is not an item that is pending theologizing  in other words, an ambiguous dogmatic view which, if violated, does not have any significant repercussions. Quite the contrary. For the Roman church it is a supreme dogma of the faith, which if denied will deprive mankind of its salvation. For the Orthodox Church, the filioque addition is a violation of a supreme point in the teaching on the Holy Trinity, and the acceptance of this addition condemns man for all eternity.

In the ongoing theological dialogues with the Roman Catholic church, the issue of the filioque continues to be a thorny problem.

We need to be very cautious, and not play where one shouldnt play.


Does the denial of divine energies in God impair the dogma on the Holy Trinity?

Yes it does.  It vitiates the meaning of the true God. As noted earlier, in the Triadic God there are: the essence, the hypostases and the divine energies.  If any one of these three were missing, the meaning of the true God is frayed.  Heresy is not only the denial or the misinterpretation of the Triadic hypostases, but the denial or misinterpretation of the uncreated divine energies as well.

And these divine energies of God are in fact denied, by the Roman church. It has rejected them, because according to its own theories, the existence of divine energies would mean that the nature of God is composite and therefore His infinite simplicity would be negated by them; they acknowledge that there most certainly are powers within God, however they are not uncreated powers (for example divine grace and the light of Christ are not uncreated). To Latin theology, these are all created magnitudes, which the transcendent God has specifically created in order to save Man.

The issue of uncreated divine energies was the topic of many tough arguments between the Orthodox East and the Latin West. The monk Barlaam, a representative of the Latin spirit, had fought vehemently against the Orthodox teaching; he was however confronted with the utmost perseverance by a major advocate of Orthodoxy, Saint Gregory Palamas, the Bishop of Thessaloniki.  Pursuant Synods of the Church vindicated all the struggles and the teachings of the Saint, and condemned the Latin-minded Barlaam [4].

The matter of divine energies is of supreme importance to the Orthodox Catholic Church, not only for the fullness of Her teaching on the Holy Trinity, but also for Her overall hypostasis and Her salvatory opus.  The uncreated divine energy (Grace) comprises a vital and sanctifying bond for Orthodoxy. Man is deified, through his in-depth union with it.  Would theosis (deification) have been attainable, if the divine energy (of Grace) were not an uncreated magnitude, but a mere created one?

Honestly, how is it ever possible for a co-existence between Orthodoxy and Roman Papism to be reached, with such extreme soteriological and eschatological deviations and differences between them?  The Orthodox on the one hand visualizing and hastening towards deification, and the Roman Catholics totally oblivious to this extremely important aspect



1. See Symboliki by Chr.Androutsos, Athens 1930, p. 157.

2. Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople.

3. This is a much-discussed expression by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, which has received numerous attacks by his enemies (mostly Theodoretus Kyrou). However, with this phrase the renowned theologian was referring to the kinship (of the essence) between the Spirit and the Son.

4. See the Tomes of the Constantinople Synods of 1341 and 1351 On Hesychasm (. Karmiris, The Monuments, 1952, pages 294 etc.)  E. Christology (pp. 91-109).


Translation by A.N.

Article published in English on: 16-8-2008.

Last update: 16-8-2008.