|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Papism and Ecumenism|
Thomas Ross Valentine. All rights reserved.
Revised (2nd) edition
The First Ecumenical Synod (Council) at Nicaea in A.D. 325, was concerned with defending the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ against the heresy of the Arians. As such, the Symbol of Faith formulated by its fathers said little about the Church's belief about the Holy Spirit. It stated:
The Second Ecumenical Synod, at Constantinople in A.D. 381 (also known as the first Synod (or Council) of Constantinople) was again concerned with defending the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but was also concerned with defending the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, it expanded the Symbol of Faith formulated by the previous Ecumenical Synod in the section pertaining to the Church's belief regarding the Holy Spirit. This section then read:
The Symbol of Faith, as formulated by the Synod of Constantinople, is commonly known in the West as the "Nicene Creed" and more technically known as the "Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed" or sometimes the "Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed". Since then, Orthodox Christians have steadfastly refused to modify the Symbol in any way. The faith of Orthodox Christians today is identical to the faith of the Second Ecumenical Synod. Unfortunately, there were some who chose to follow a different faith.
In A.D. 587, the local council of Toledo (Spain), attempting to combat Arianism by emphasising the Son's equality with the Father, added Filioque to the Symbol. (The Latin word Filioque is translated into English as "and the Son".) This changed the Symbol of Faith to:
From Spain, the Filioque spread to the Germanic tribe of the Franks (in present-day France). It was embraced by Charlemagne who went so far as to accuse the East of having deliberately omitted it from the ancient Symbol. Pope Leo III (795-816) intervened, and forbade any interpolations or alterations in the Second Ecumenical Synod's Symbol of Faith. He ordered the Symbol — without Filioque — to be engraved in Latin and Greek on two silver plates and mounted on a wall of St. Peter's in Rome. The Franks ignored the pope and continued to use the Filioque. Many historians think Charlemagne used the Filioque in an attempt to justify his claim to be emperor in opposition to the Roman Empire (located in New Rome, also known as Constantinople). The dispute between East and West grew and became the focus of the Synod of Constantinople which met A.D. 879-880. This synod (recognised as the Eighth Ecumenical Synod by Orthodox Christians) reaffirmed the Symbol of A.D. 381 and declared any and all additions to the creed invalid. This synod's teaching was affirmed by the patriarchs of Old Rome (John VIII), New Rome [Constantinople] (Photius), Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria and by Emperor Basil I.
Still, the Filioque continued to be used by the Franks and even spread to other Germanic tribes. Eventually, even Rome began to use the Filioque — at the coronation of Henry II in 1014 as emperor of the so-called Holy Roman Empire. Most historians agree the pope (Benedict VIII), due to his dependence on the Holy Roman Empire for military protection, acquiesed to its use. But from that point, Rome continued using the Filioque. In time, belief in the Filioque became dogma in Roman Catholicism.
Criticism of the Filioque
The addition is neither from, nor consistent with, Sacred Scripture.
The original phrase of the Symbol of Faith: "We believe ... in the Holy Spirit ... who proceeds from the Father" is directly from John 15:26:
Examining the key words, we find:
Thus, the most important word of the passage, ἐκπορεύεται ("proceeds") refers to the Holy Spirit's origin. Since that origin is "from all eternity" (i.e. outside of time), it refers to the Holy Spirit's eternal origin and not to the Holy Spirit's being sent in time (temporal origin).
Roman Catholicism admits ἐκπορεύεται refers only to the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit. It has acknowledged this in publications:
Because of this recogition, Greek-speaking Roman Catholics do not use the Filioque when reciting the Creed.
To use an analogy, if I give a Rawlings baseball glove to my son he may tell others he received the glove from me, but the glove's ultimate origin is Rawlings. Similarly, we can say we receive the Holy Spirit from the Son (because the Son sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost), but the Holy Spirit's ultimate origin is the Father.
The difference between the "eternal origin" and the "sending in time (temporal) origin" is important. Most attempts to support the Filioque confuse the two or fail to recognise the difference. They are not the same.
The procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son is not to be be found in Sacred Scripture. It is a man-made addition. However, recent Vatican statements notwithstanding, because Roman Catholicism has altered the ancient Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Faith and now teaches that the Holy Spirit's eternal procession is from both the Father and the Son, it is commonplace for Roman Catholic translations of the Bible to distort the plain meaning. Here's how two popular Roman Catholic translations handle the passage (John 15:26).
There is nothing wrong with the New Jerusalem Bible's translation. The use of "issues from" instead of "proceeds" is a fine translation of ἐκπορεύεται, but by footnoting "issues from" and stating this does not refer to the Holy Spirit's eternal procession (His ultimate origin from all eternity) but only to the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world (in time), it simply denies the truth.
The New American Bible (deliberately?) distorts the passage using the verb "comes" in place of the far more accurate (and traditional) "proceeds". This mistranslation obscures the clear meaning of the Greek text. Its comment is essentially the same as the New Jerusalem translation: a denial of the clear meaning in favour of the Roman Catholic error. The reference to John 14:26 is a red herring. No one denies the Holy Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son into the world. These Roman Catholic translations would have one believe there is nothing in Scripture that explicitly reveals the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps future editions will follow the more recent Vatican statements and correct these errors.
Thus, the addition of the Filioque is neither from nor consistent with Sacred Scripture. Whereas the Symbol of Faith as maintained by Orthodox Christians retains the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, Roman Catholicism (and its Protestant offspring) add to the Scripture.
The Filioque is the result of giving human "wisdom" (philosophy) precedence over Divine Revelation
The Orthodox approach to the Holy Trinity stresses more what cannot be said rather than what can be said. This is predicated on the recognition that, ultimately, God is beyond human comprehension; beyond human language and definitions. The following are typical:
Unfortunately, Augustine of Hippo, the originator of the Filioque, did not have the same attitude. He was a Neoplatonist, well-read in the Marius Victorinus' Latin translation of Plotinus' Enneads as evidenced by the numerous passages Augustine took and placed into his writings. (Augustine also expressed gratitude to Plotinus in the Confessions for leading him to the truth and even compared Plotinus' writings to the Scriptures.)
Neoplatonism metaphysics held there to be a series of emanating principles beginning with an Uncaused Cause known as the "One". This "One" was the source of all being, all will, all activity, all thought, all everything — yet the "One" was beyond all these things. According to Plotinus, one could not even ascribe thought to the "One" (or anything else) because thinking implies a distinction between thinker and the object of thought and there is no distinction in the "One". The "One" is "utterly simple" (i.e. the quality or state of being not complex, consisting of no "parts"). Somehow (it is never really explained), the "One" overflows an emanation, and thus causality is attributed to the "One". But since there are no distinctions within the "One", there is no difference between causality and divinity. The first emanation is called "Thought" which causes the next emanation, the "World Soul" and the series of emanations continues.
Arianism was Neoplatonic. It identified the Father with the "One", the Son/Logos with "Thought", and the Holy Spirit with the "World Soul". Arguing against Arianism, Augustine accepted the Neoplatonic assumptions. Reading his On the Trinity, the reader is struck by Augustine's effort to show the Son's equality with the Father. (The preoccupation is so great, the Holy Spirit seems largely overlooked.) Time and again, Augustine shows how the Son is like the Father in all ways, demonstrating Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all equivalent to the Neoplatonic "One".
As the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself.
But this "divine simplicity" causes Augustine to subordinate persons to attributes and attributes to the essence. He shows no hesitation explicitly confusing Persons with attributes:
(Note in the last quote how Augustine not only exchanges the Father's personal distinction of causality with the Son because of a shared attribute of "life", but also makes the shared attribute a Divine Person: the Holy Spirit. Thus, a person is confused with an attribute common to all three Divine Persons.
This concept of "divine simplicity" creates a problem for Augustine. The names "Father" and "Son" express a clear relationship: the Father is unbegotten and the Son is begotten. But where does the Holy Spirit fit? There cannot be more than one means of generation of Divine Persons in the Godhead as that would be a distinction contrary to "divine simplicity". But if the Son and the Holy Spirit are both generated by the Father by the same means of generation, they would both be Sons. Augustine's "solution", conceived within the Neoplatonic framework, was brilliant — but it was the wisdom of philosophy.
Using the Neoplatonic model, Augustine stressed the Son's equality with the Father by making the Son the cause of a Divine Person, thus sharing the attribute of causality with the Father and solving the "problem" of distinguishing between the Son and the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit was made ontologically different than the Son: the Filioque.
There is a problem with this reasoning. If the Father is divine because He causes the Son, and the Son is divine because He causes the Holy Spirit, should the series not continue? Is the Holy Spirit not the cause of a (fourth) Divine Person? Why not continue the Neoplatonic series? Here Augustine encounters an explicit limit from Divine Revelation: only three Divine Persons have been revealed. Augustine executes another brilliant manouevre. He makes the Holy Spirit the source of unity between Father and Son.
This last quotation, Augustine's infamous definition of the Holy Spirit as the love between the Father and the Son, again manifests Augustine's confusion of "persons" and "attributes".
But there is still a problem with Augustine's reasoning. If the love between Father and Son establishes another Divine Person, there is no reason to stop there. The love between the Father and the Holy Spirit could be a fourth Divine Person; the love between the Son and the Holy Spirit could be a fifth Divine Person; the love between the Father and the fourth Person could be a sixth Divine Person; etc. etc. ad infinitum. He rejects this as "most absurd" [On the Trinity, 15.19.37] and refused to go farther. One cannot help but wonder if Augustine was not "stricken with madness for prying into the mystery of God"!
By beginning from a pagan philosophical presupposition of "divine simplicity" instead of Divine Revelation, from whence we know there are three Divine Persons in one Godhead, the West has so confused the Divine Persons that their distinction becomes unimportant. (Roman Catholicism's offpring, Protestantism, tends to go the furthest, commonly resorting to blatantly Sabellianistic anaologies like the three forms of H2O (steam, water, ice) to explain the Holy Trinity.) When faced with this:
Roman Catholics do not know how to respond. For those who recognise three distinct Persons Who have been revealed to us, it is clear that if the ability to "spirate" is attributed to the Godhead, then there are two options: either the Holy Spirit is not God, or the Holy Spirit has the power to "spirate" Himself
The first is a denial of the Holy Trinity; the second a ridiculous absurdity.
Thus, we see the rationale for the Filioque is based on a feeble attempt to employ human wisdom to explain that which is unexplainable. It is convoluted, confused, and rooted in a man-conceived god (as of the Neoplatonists) rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, the God of Jesus Christ. From the Orthodox perspective the only acceptable attitude towards God is one of humble awe and submission. We humbly and gratefully accept that which He reveals to us. We recognise that our feeble minds are utterly incapable of understanding God as He is. We recognise that our human conceptions of justice, mercy, and everything else — even love itself — falls infinitely short of the Truth. God is "beyond all intellection", or as Saint John of Damascus wrote:
The Filioque distorts the meaning of personhood within the Holy Trinity
Pagan Greek ontology taught that God is first and foremost, His substance or nature. Heretics such as the Arians and Nestorians, working from this pagan Greek thought, taught that the substance or nature preceded God's existence as Trinity, i.e. as Three Persons. This is the same interpretation that has come to prevail in Western Christian thought as can be seen by the typical arrangement of books on dogmatic and systematic theologies. (First is the existence of God, then the nature of God, then the attributes or qualities of God; all before the existence of the Trinity is broached.)
This interpretation is important inasmuch as it assumes a priori that the ontological "principle" of God lies not in a Person, but in the substance, the "being" of God. In the West, this has led to the belief that the unity of God consists of the one divine substance.
This is a distortion of Patristic theology. Among the Fathers the unity of God, the "cause" of the being and life of God consists not in the one substance of God, but in the Person of the Father (His hypostasis). The one God is not the one substance, but the Father who begets the Son and "spirates" the Holy Spirit. Thus, God is not bound by some ontological "necessity" to exist. God exists because the Father exists, He who out of love freely and eternally begets the Son and freely and eternally "spirates" the Holy Spirit.
Substance or nature does not exist in a vacuum, without a mode of existence (i.e. a hypostasis or person, an individuation). The one divine substance/nature is the being of God only because it has three modes of existence — Three Persons — which it owes not to the substance, but to the source (αρχή) of the Three: the Father. Apart from the Holy Trinity there is no God, no divine substance because the ontological "principle" of God is the Father. By regarding some Divine substance as the source of the Holy Trinity, the existence of the Three Divine Persons is made a kind of logical necessity, thus undermining the autonomy of the Holy Trinity. In the Filioque, this emphasis on likeness of Divine substance between the Father and the Son results in the subordination of the Holy Spirit.
The addition of the Filioque was arbitrary
Even Roman Catholic historians and theologians now admit that the addition of the Filioque was done arbitrarily, without consulting the East. The Filioque expressed a novel belief which was not a part of that which had been believed "everywhere, always, and by all". As Alexei Khomiakov wrote in "The Church Is One":
If the True Faith were not preserved in the West where love had grown weak (as evidenced by the arrogance of Rome in arrogating to itself all authority within the Church) then one should expect that innovations that developed in this realm where the True Faith were no longer preserved will be inconsistent with the truth. Sadly, this is the case with the Filioque.
The addition was novel
The Eleventh Council of Toledo (Spain) is the first organized attempt to make an addition to the Symbol of Faith. The language is right out of Augustine, who had reposed two and one-half centuries earlier. (Note: All text in this format has been added for emphasis.)
Other attempts were made, but none ever received support from the pope. Charlemagne's Libri Carolini, issued in response to the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787, insisted on the use of the Filioque (and opposed the Seventh Ecumenical Synod's teaching on ikons). Local councils held under Charlemagne defended the use of the Filioque (Frankfurt, 794), decreed the Filioque was necessary for salvation (Aachen, 809), and petitioned the pope to authorize the addition of the Filioque to the Creed (Aachen, 810) even though they were already using it. (Pope Leo III refused the request.)
It was not until after the Filioque had been accepted in Rome (1014), the hot-headed Cardinal Humbert exceeded his authority in excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople (1054), and the Papal Revolution (1075-1122) that Roman Catholicism made the Filioque official. This first occurred at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, regarded by Roman Catholicism as an ecumenical council.
The 4th Lateran Council, 1215
"A definition against the Albigenses and other heretics"
After this, the Filioque became a routine part of Roman Catholicism.
The 2nd Council of Lyons, 1274
"Constitution on the Procession of the Holy Spirit"
The Council of Florence, 1438-45
"Decree for the Jacobites"
The Roman Catechism
(The offical Roman Catholic catechism, 1566-1994)
First Vatican Council, 1869-1870
"Dogmatic Constitution on the Principal Mysteries of the Faith"
In recent years, Roman Catholicism has soft-pedalled the Filioque. This change of tone is reflected in the Catechism of 1994.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
(The offical Roman Catholic catechism since 1994)
With these statements and the 1995 essay "The Greek and Latin Traditions Regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit", Roman Catholicism has probably gone as far as it can without repudiating councils it deems to have been Encyclical. Unfortunately, because of Roman Catholicism's understanding of its "teaching authority" (magisterium) in conjunction with the belief in Roman Catholicism's infallibility, it is unable to repudiate earlier these statements, even after recognising them to be in error.
As much as Orthdox Christians appreciate Roman Catholicism's move away from the more radical aspects of the Filioque and its affirmation of the Father as the ultimate Source of the Holy Trinity, expressions like "The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son" and "He proceeds eternally from both" remain problematic. These statements reaffirm a subordination of the Holy Spirit to Father and Son and are thus unacceptable.
The above referenced article from L'Osservatore Romano is typical of these recent attempts to distance themselves from the older, explicit teachings of a double procession. The article is easily summarised: although the Greek word εκορευσις which in Latin is rendered procedit "can only characterize a relationship of origin to the principle" [first page of article], procedit can refer to either an ultimate origin or an intermediary origin.
In effect, the Vatican document claims that the Latin rendering of the Symbol of Faith is really the equivalent of:
The problem with such an interpretation should be obvious. First, it is a clear change from the original meaning. Even for those who might not understand that εκορευσις can only refer to ultimate origin (and, since the Holy Spirit is eternal, must refer to His eternal origin), it should be clear that this disrupts the parallel with the Symbol's explication of the Son's origin ("one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, eternally begotten of the Father").
The Symbol declares what we believe regarding the ultimate origin of the Son. Does it not make logical sense that it would also declare what we believe regarding the ultimate origin of the Holy Spirit instead of the sending of Him into the world at a specific moment in time?
The addition of the Filioque was a violation of the ancient principle established by Saint Vincent of Lerins (? - ante A.D. 450):
The Filioque certainly was not and is not something believed "everywhere, always, and by all". Roman Catholicism, by adopting something not "truly and properly Catholic" forfeited its claim to be "Catholic".
Responses to Arguments in Support of the Filioque
In this section, we will examine the usual arguments presented by supporters of the Filioque. The first part of the section will be an examination of the "logical" arguments. The second part will look at excerpts taken from Patristic writings that apologists for the Filioque present as proof-texts. Not surprisingly, Augustine and other Western writers are the most frequently cited Patristic sources. But since we have already demonstrated that Augustine is unreliable as an orthodox source of theology of the Holy Trinity, we will not examine his texts in this section. Neither will we examine the texts of those writers who followed in Augustine's footsteps. Rather, we will limit our examination to Eastern writers since apologists for the Filioque think these should be more impressive to Orthodox Christians.
Three warnings about Patristic citations should be noted:
Before proceeding, it should be noted that one frequently finds in the writings of the Eastern Fathers the formula "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son". This formula is deemed perfectly orthodox by Orthodox Christians. It testifies to the fact that none of the Divine Persons acts apart from the others; they share the one Divine Will.
A common analogy is that as a man, when vocalizing a word exudes breath, so the Father, when speaking (begetting) the Word exudes (spirates) the Holy Spirit (the Greek word for "breath", πνεύμα also means "spirit"). This analogy demonstrates both the distinction between the Son and the Holy Spirit and their inseparableness. It also demonstrates that the Son and the Holy Spirit are of the Father and not the Father's creations.
When the Fathers testify that the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of God" as well as the "Spirit of Christ", they mean that the Holy Spirit has His eternal and existential origin in the Father whilst being inseparably one with the Son with whom He (the Holy Spirit) is naturally united and of the same essence. In other words, the Holy Spirit has His "perfect procession" (the phrase is from Saint Cyril of Alexandria) from the Father and is joined to the Son in unity by reason of their shared essence (their consubstantiality). It is the consubstantiality of the Three Divine Persons that is being expressed or, as Saint Maximus the Confessor phrases it: "the unity and unchangeableness of the Divine Essence".
Apologists for the Filioque frequently assert that "proceeds from the Father and the Son" is equivalent to "proceeds from the Father through the Son". Although "and" and "through" may sometimes by synonymous in English (the paperwork must go through the boss usually means that the boss needs to add something such as a signature and thus constitutes an addition, an "and"), in Greek "through" (διά) and "and" (και) are never synonymous. "Through" (διά) never means a contributory effect; it means a "tunnelling" or "channelling", whereas "and" (και) usually means a "copulative" (i.e. a joining together which expresses an addition) and sometimes also a cumulative effect (i.e. an addition which implies an insufficiency on the part of the elements separately). In sum, διά always excludes addition; και always means addition. The words are mutually exclusive.
ARGUMENT: Just as the Father externally sent the Son into the world in time, the Son internally proceeds from the Father in the Trinity. Just as the Spirit is externally sent into the world by the Son as well as the Father [John 15:26, Acts 2:33], He internally proceeds from both Father and Son in the Trinity. This is why the Spirit is referred to as the "Spirit of the Son" [Gal. 4:6] and not just the Spirit of the Father.
RESPONSE: The phrase "Spirit of the Son" [Gal 4:6], "Spirit of Christ" [Rom 8:9 and 1 Pet 1:11], and "Spirit of Jesus Christ" [Phil 1:19] do not speak of origin, let alone existential origin as does John 15:26. All beings have "spirits". The Spirit of the Son, He Who is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, must be the Holy Spirit lest we separate the Son and the Holy Spirit. This does not, however, mean that the Son is the existential origin of the Holy Spirit. As explained above, if I give a Rawlings baseball glove to my son he may tell others he received the glove from me, but the glove's ultimate origin is Rawlings. Similarly, we can say we receive the Holy Spirit from the Son (because the Son sent Him), but the Holy Spirit's ultimate origin is the Father. Possession is not the same as existential origin.
ARGUMENT: All things that the Father has belong to the Son [Jn 16:15], and thus the Father's ability to "proceed" the Holy Spirit is given to the Son.
RESPONSE: Those who use this argument must admit that this cannot mean all things since the Father cannot give His Fatherhood to the Son (which would be an absurdity!), but because they make a Divine substance the source of the Holy Trinity, they fail to understand the nature of the Fatherhood — that which makes the Father the source (αρχή) of the Son and Holy Spirit.
ARGUMENT: That the Holy Spirit is from the Son can be seen in Jn 20:22: "And having said this He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
RESPONSE: This argument ignores the difference between the Holy Spirit's Eternal Origin and His temporal coming into the world. The Holy Spirit was not "spirated" for the first time in the Upper Room, but exists eternally. Once this distinction is recognized it becomes clear that this passage speaks of the Holy Spirit's coming into the world (His temporal origin) and does not refer to His eternal, existential origin. This verse does, however, testify to the formula "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son" because the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
ARGUMENT: It oversimplifies to say that the Son does not impart existence to others. John 1:3 states: "All things through Him came to be, and without Him came to be nothing which has come to be." This is reaffirmed in the Nicene Creed itself which makes clear that the creation is the work of both Father and Son. Indeed, Christians both East and West acknowledge that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the work of creation (see Genesis 1:1-3).
RESPONSE: This argument has been included because, as incredible as it may seem, it is frequently found in arguments presented in support of the Filioque. Roman Catholics arguing for the Filioque (self-described as "traditionalist and/or conservative") have written these passages:
... the procession into the temporal world must be through the Son (and as such from both simultaneously) because all temporal creation is through the Son, or Logos.
All temporal creation is through the Logos, and all procession in the temporal world is through the Logos, "as from one principle". Still, from the Father ultimately who creates all, including the begotten Son.
The point missed in the east is that all creation was through the Logos, and as such the Spirit must come to us through the Logos.
"Father and Son as from one principle" implies the necessity of the Son, upon which all creation depends, for procession to the temporal world. Ultimately, the question is, does or can the Spirit exist or come forth into the temporal world without participation of the Logos? We say no, because the entirety of temporal creation, it is revealed, is through the Word.
This argument is incredible because John 1:3 (as well as the application of that which is the Nicene Creed) teaches that "through the Son" all creation was created. The Holy Spirit is not a creation, He is eternally God. Any person who teaches that the Holy Spirit is included in those things which "came to be" as referred to in John 1:3 cannot be regarded as a Christian. Such an argument is in the same category as the claim from the Jehovah's Witnesses that the Son is created as "a god".
ARGUMENT: If the dual procession be denied, it is not clear how we are to distinguish between the Word and the Spirit, between the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity. We distinguish between the Father and the Son, even though they are co-eternal and co-equal, and omni-perfect, by virtue of the fact that the One begets and the other is begotten — that is, the being of One is derived from the being of the Other. But if we say that the Son is derived from the Father alone, and that the Spirit is derived from the Father alone, how are the Son and the Spirit different? We may indeed say that it is the Second Person, not the First or the Third, that was made flesh for our salvation in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. But this does not answer the question at hand, for the distinction of the Divine Persons must lie in the nature of the Godhead, not in the relation of God to a universe which He need not have created.
RESPONSE: This argument was taken, verbatim, from a supporter of the Filioque. It is, of course, the problem explained in Objection #2 above, that human "wisdom" (philosophy) is given precedence over Divine Revelation. Rather than restating all the problems with this argument, let us simply recall the statement of Saint John of Damascus:
We have learned that there is a difference between begetting and procession, but the nature of the difference we in no wise understand.
— Saint John of Damascus
ARGUMENT: The first distinctive statement about the Holy Spirit that we find in the Creed is that He is the Life-giver. Now, what does it mean to give life? What is the difference between a dead cat and a live one? A dead body may have all the parts that a live one has, but in a live body the parts are interacting, each part carrying out its distinctive function for the good of the whole body. The life of an organism, the spirit of an organism, is the "glue" that unites the parts into an integrated whole. So, in the Church, it is the Spirit that gives to each member a function to be carried out for the enhanced life of the whole Body of Christ, and gives the gifts necessary for carrying out that function. Not all members receive the same gifts; but, as the Apostle Paul points out to the Corinthians, the one gift available to every member is also the one gift most to be desired, and that is the gift of love, by which the whole body is joined together, all the members being united in love with Christ and with one another. Thus, if anyone asks what is the special activity of the Holy Spirit, we must answer that it is to unite in love. And if it is of the nature of the Spirit to unite things, then we may be sure that He has been carrying out this activity for all eternity. Before there was a Church, before there was physical life of any kind, the Spirit was the bond of love and unity between the Father and the Son. From all eternity, independently of any created being, God is the Lover, the Loved, and the Love itself. And the bond of unity and love that exists between the Father and the Son proceeds from the Father and the Son.
RESPONSE: This argument was also taken from a supporter of the Filioque. The error of subordinating the Holy Spirit to a bond of love between the Father and the Son has already been addressed. There is a second error in the above argument: equating the Holy Spirit to a member of the Church. The Holy Spirit is God, not a member of the Church. There is also a third, more subtle error in this argument: the idea that life is dependent upon role/purpose. First, the Holy Spirit, being God, is not dependent upon anything for His existence. Second, the gift of life we humans have from the Giver of Life (the Holy Spirit along with the Father and the Son) is a free gift. We live the roles of our life because we first exist. It is not necessary for us to engage in some role in order for us to exist.
ARGUMENT: A creator (e.g. a writer, sculptor, musician, architect, etc.) first conceives of an idea before he is able to give it expression (e.g. a word, statue, composition, building, etc.). The expression does not create the idea; the idea creates the expression. Thus it is that "No one knows the Son, except the Father, and no one knows the Father, except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." [Matt 11:27] Thus theologians say that the Father is aware of Himself only by contemplating His image in the Son. And, just as in any creative act on the part of a human creator, the appreciative and understanding response proceeds not simply from the creative idea but from the creative idea revealed in the creative expression of that idea, so on the level of the Divine Creator, the Holy Spirit proceeds not solely from the Father but from the Father and the Son.
RESPONSE: The first part of this argument is fine. Clearly, idea precedes expression. But one needs to be careful about applying human concepts about human beings to the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. As soon as one expresses a limitation of any of the Divine Persons (e.g. "the Father is aware of Himself only ...") alarms should go off in the mind of any right-thinking Christian. This idea seems more dependent upon human "wisdom" (philosophy) than upon Divine Revelation. It seems to deny the Father's self-awareness. But if even human creatures possess self-awareness, then to deny this to the Father is a gross blasphemy. Furthermore, it is unclear how the creative process of human beings can apply to the Son or the Holy Spirit Who are not creatures.
Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 4:1
This is the typical Eastern formula "through the Son" discussed above.
It should be noted that whenever Tertullian is cited, one must examine from which of the three periods of his life the citation is taken: his Orthodox period, his semi-Montanist (a heresy) period, or his Montanist period. His Against Praxeas is from Tertullian's Montanist period. Since Tertullian died a heretic, he is not deemed a Father of the Church.
Origen, Commentaries on John, 2:6
Like Tertullian, Origen was judged by the Church to be a heretic and is not deemed a Father of the Church. The above is clearly heretical, reducing the Holy Spirit to being the first of creation, i.e. a creature. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit is uncreated God.
Saint Maximus the Confessor, Questions to Thalassium, 63
This is the typical Eastern formula, "through the Son".
Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Confession of Faith
"... manifested through the Son" means that it is through the Son that the Holy Spirit is presented to men. This has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit's eternal origin. It refers to His temporal origin as is described in John 20:22.
Didymus The Blind, The Holy Spirit, 37
Didymus the Blind followed Origen in much of his teachings regarding creation. Like Origen, his writings were condemned as heretical. For this reason, he is not a Father and is not regarded as a reliable source for doctrine. This passage appears to be Neoplatonic inasmuch as it appears to echo Augustine's identification of causality as the defining attribute of Divinity. The above presents the Father as the cause of the Son and the Son as the cause of the Holy Spirit, i.e. a plurality of spheres of being, arranged in hierarchical descending order, each sphere of being derived from its superior. If this is an accurate understanding of the above, the passage should be rejected as heretical.
Saint Athanasius, To Serapion of Thmius
We have previously addressed the passage of John 16:15. "Announcing" obviously is not the equivalent of existential origin. We have also previously addressed the passage of Gal 4:6 and similar passages that speak of the 'Spirit of the Son'.
Saint Epiphanius of Salamis, The Well-Anchored Man, 8, 75
Epiphanius of Salamis is regarded as an Orthodox saint primarily for his work as a pastor of his flock. He is not a "Father" of the Church. Most of the above passage addresses the consubstantiality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The only phrase that may bear on the Filioque is 'the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son'. It would be helpful to study the original language. However, since εκορευσις is conventionally translated as 'proceeds' whereas this passage employs 'breathes', it seems unlikely that εκορευσις is used. That the Holy Spirit is 'breathed' forth from the Son (see John 20:22) refers to the Holy Spirit's temporal mission into the world, not His eternal origin.
Saint Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion (Breadbox), 62:4
Like the previous passage from the same saint, the thrust of this passage is the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity. Saint Epiphanius does not assert that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son — only the Father is presented as the source of the Holy Spirit's procession, i.e. the eternal and existential source of the Holy Spirit. Rather, Saint Epiphanius states that the Holy Spirit "receives" from the Son. Though this passage does not explain what it is that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son, Orthodox teaching is that the Holy Spirit is eternally manifested by the Son. Since it would be proper, therefore, to state that the Holy Spirit receives His eternal manifestation from the Son, there is nothing in this passage to which Orthodox Christians would object.
Saint Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, 18:45
This is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'. It ought to be noted that the purpose of Saint Basil the Great's On the Holy Spirit was to demonstrate against the Pneumatomachoi (literally 'Spirit fighters') that the Holy Spirit was a Divine Person within the Holy Trinity. The Pneumatomachoi were anathematised at the Second Ecumenical Synod in 381.
Saint Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, 18:47
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 1
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Letter to Ablabius
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son', albeit much more wordy.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Treasury of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, thesis 34
At first appearance this passage seems to support the Filioque. However, Saint Cyril also taught that the Holy Spirit had His 'perfect procession' from the Father. The writings of Saint Cyril were thoroughly discussed during the Filioque controversy that erupted during the patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyrus (1283-1289). The Synod of Blachernae (1285) concluded that Saint Cyril was addressing the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity rather than the eternal and existential origin of the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, this same Saint Cyril of Alexandria's interpretation of John 21 is often used against Roman Catholic claims that Saint Peter was made leader over the Apostles. The usual response by Roman Catholics is that the 'solitary phrase of Saint Cyril is of no weight against the overwhelming patristic authority' which stands against him. Of course, the same could be said if indeed this solitary phrase of Saint Cyril supports the Filioque. It would be necessary to examine the original language to be certain.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Letters, 3:4:33
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, The Twelve Anathemas, Error 9
This passage addresses the consubstantiality of the Three Divine Persons.
Saint John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 8
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.
Saint John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 12
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.
Saint John of Damascus, Dialogue Against the Manicheans, 5
Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.
Thus, once the the "preponderance" of Patristic support for the Filioque is examined, the claims of supporters of the Filioque are shown to be non-existent. Granted, many Latin writers endorsed the Filioque, but they were caught in the wake of Augustine's disproportionate influence on the West.
To conclude this section and the essay, let us look at this explanation by Saint Gregory Palamas (from his Confession). It is one of the most succinct and precise expressions of the Holy Spirit's relation to the Father and Son in all of Patristic writings.
Article published in English on: 19-8-2009.
Last update: 19-8-2009.