Feast of St Erasmos of Ochrid & His Companion Martyrs
FR. DUMITRU Staniloae’s 1981 essay for the World Council of Churches is just as dense and tangled as its title: “The Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and His Relation to the Son, as the Basis of Our Deification and Adoption.” Nevertheless, it rewards the relentless bushwhacker. The essay is one of a handful of WCC papers collected into the book Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ: Ecumenical Reflections on the Filioque Controversy. Ostensibly, Staniloae is responding to the papers of a Catholic (Fr. Jean-Miguel Garrigues) and a Protestant (Jürgen Moltmann). But in reality, the figure that provokes the most substantial response from Staniloae is Karl Barth. Although Barth is never named in the essay, Staniloae cannot avoid addressing the substance of Barth’s critique of those who would do away with the filioque. (That critique can be found in the final section of Church Dogmatics I/1.)
Barth is not the first to criticize those of us who refuse to add the phrase “and the Son” to the Nicaean Creed’s declaration that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Indeed, at various times Eastern Christians themselves have recognized that dismissing the filioque invites legitimate questions regarding the eternal relationship between the Spirit and the Son. The relation between the Son and the Father is clear (the Father begets the Son), and the relation between the Spirit and the Father is clear (the Spirit proceeds from the Father), but what is the relation between the Spirit and the Son? The most conclusive answer to this question in the East was composed by Pat. Gregory of Cyprus in the 13th century, and Staniloae resuscitates his argument for our benefit. (Short answer: the Spirit both “reposes” in the Son and “shines out” from Him.)
But Barth’s critique is not directed at the supposed failure of the East to articulate the eternal relation between the Son and the Spirit. Barth has a different, perhaps more pertinent concern. He is concerned to maintain a relationship between theological dogma and lived reality. The God of revelation must be identical with God as He is in Himself. If there is an unbridgeable ditch between temporal truths and the eternal truths of God, then God’s revelation of Himself has no integrity. Barth believes that such a ditch exists for those who reject the filioque. I was hardly surprised to see Staniloae tossing that accusation right back: the ditch between speculative theology and practical life exists not for those who reject the filioque but for those who affirm the filioque. Take that!
But, such a riposte belies a deeper agreement between Barth and Staniloae. Both are concerned to relate our formulations of God-in-Himself to our understanding of God’s being in our midst. Here is how Staniloae puts it:
In the East the Trinitarian relations are seen as the basis for the relation of the Trinity to creation and for the salvation of creation. (p. 178)
For Staniloae, the fact that we are brought into the life of the Son has consequences for how we conceive of the eternal relationship between the Son and the Spirit.
We are raised up in the Son, who is the eternal, filial dwelling place of the Spirit and with the Son we too become eternal, filial habitations for the Spirit. This is why the eternal relation of the Son to the Spirit is the basis of the sending of the Spirit to us by the Son. (p. 182)
Theology is not pure speculation. It is born of reflection on the economy of God. That is to say, our understanding of who God is in Himself and our understanding of how God acts toward His creation are interrelated. One informs the other, and vice versa.
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Jesus Christ, by His incarnation, death, and resurrection, has crossed the divide between uncreated and created and has made a way for mankind to ascend, through death, to the right hand of the Father. By our death—death to self and, eventually, death of our physical body—we are united with Christ. Thus, Christ’s eternal relationship with each of the other persons of the Trinity provides a parallel for our relationship with those persons. Since Christ is the Son of the Father, when we are united with Christ we too are made sons of the Father, by adoption. This aspect—being made sons of the Father—has been well-articulated in theologies East and West.
What has not been so well-articulated is how our relationship with the Spirit parallels Christ’s relationship with the Spirit. And this is precisely what Staniloae seeks to remedy in his essay (though his articulation could be a bit more… articulate). Since the Son is the place of repose of the Spirit and since the Spirit “shines out” from the Son, then when we are united with Christ we become—by grace—places of repose of the Spirit and the Spirit “shines out” from us. This has been the Eastern view at least since the 13th century.
But some filioque-philes in the West hold the view that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as from a point of origin. If Christ, in His eternal relationship with the Spirit is an originator of the Spirit, then when we are united with Christ we too would have to become—by grace—a point of origin of the Spirit. But what would that mean, for the Holy Spirit to proceed from us by grace? Any attempt to conceive of it approaches blasphemy. We cannot be originators of God! Instead, it is more proper to say that the Holy Spirit—by grace—reposes in us and shines out from us, as he does from the Son. If the filioque is used at all, we must be careful to see Christ not as an originator of the Holy Spirit but as a conduit for the Holy Spirit.
God intends that we fully participate in the life of Christ. Thus, the life of Christ must be something in which we can participate. For Staniloae, it is not just God’s revelation of Himself but also His divine action of bringing us up into Himself that informs our conception of God-in-Trinity.
Fr Joshua Burnett is the Assistant Priest at St George Orthodox Cathedral in Wichita, KS. He is married with five children.
This is a 'work in progress'. Please feel free to e-mail comments, suggestions, criticisms, arguments, etc.
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An Orthodox Guide
If you can keep your cool (alt. head)
while all around are losing theirs ...
...maybe you don't understand the situation.
This witticism could easily be applied to the dispute over the Filioque. A single word added to the Symbol of Faith (usually called in the West) and translated in English . Many Christians are tempted to dismiss the Filioque issue as too abstract, too complex, and irrelevant to most Christians. But the issue goes directly to the heart of Who we worship as God, something that should be relevant to every Christian. In this essay, we will explore what the Filioque means, its history, and why it is rejected by Orthodox Christians. We will see that although the Filioque may be abstract, its rejection is altogether down-to-earth and practical.
What is the Filioque?
In the table below, an English translation of the Symbol of Faith as composed by the Second Ecumenical Synod (see the history section for more information) is on the left; an English translation of the Western form is on the right. The words — the Filioque translated — have been highlighted.
|Original/Orthodox Form||Western Form|
|I believe in one God, Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:||We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.|
|And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of the Father before all ages; Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, of One Essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made:||We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.|
|Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man:||For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.|
|And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried:||For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered died and was buried.|
|And He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures:||On the third day he rose again in fulfilment of the Scriptures;|
|And ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father:||he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.|
|And He is coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead; And His Kingdom will have no end:||He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.|
|And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of the Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is equally worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets:||We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.|
|And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.||We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.|
|I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins.||We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.|
|I look for the Resurrection of the Dead;||We look for the resurrection of the dead,|
|And the life of the Age to come. Amen.||and the life of the world to come. Amen.|
A single word (three in English). The temptation to dismiss it as inconsequential is great, yet,
Since belief in the Trinity lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, a tiny difference in Trinitarian theology is bound to have repercussions upon every aspect of Christian life and thought. (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, pp. 218-219.)
History demonstrates the Filioque has been anything but inconsequential. It was invented by Western Christianity where it gradually gained acceptance and became the standard. But,
... each time the Greek East confronted the Filioque, there was an energetic reaction. This occured with the alleged Filioque expression of Pope Martin, with the Latin monks on Mount Olivet, and with Photius' reaction to the use of the interpolated Creed in Bulgaria. When the Latin monks wrote to Pope Leo III that the Greeks , they were not overstating the problem. (Richard Haugh: Photius and the Carolingians: The Trinitarian Controversy, p. 161)
For over fourteen centuries, the Filioque has been a significant point of contention.
... the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit has been the sole dogmatic grounds for the separation of East and West. (Vladimir Lossky: In the Image and Likeness of God, p. 71)
The filioque was the primordial cause, the only dogmatic cause, of the breach between East and West. The other doctrinal disputes were but its consequences. (Vladimir Lossky: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 56)
Other dogmatic issues have certainly arisen since the separation, but the Filioque was the only dogmatic difference at the time of the schism. Despite contemporary attempts to dismiss the Filioque as a dispute of the past that has now been resolved, despite the Vatican's Clarification in 1995, serious efforts to produce an agreement have failed. Though the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has produced on many issues, it has been unable to do so with regard to the Filioque, despite over four years of efforts. Since 1999, the Consulation has produced nothing nothing on the Filioque issue except press releases containing the names of attendees, the authors and titles of the papers presented, the location of the meeting, etc. Clearly, the Filioque remains a serious point of contention that divides Christians.
First, it is necessary to recognise the knowledge revealed by God to His chosen people is too great, too awesome, too beyond the capability of human language to be adequately expressed. This is what Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist means in the close of his Gospel (John 21:25). Even the most exalted human wisdom is inadequate. The early Christians knew this. They knew
My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
With Saint Paul, they understood
Did not God make foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world knew not God through (its) wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. ... Greeks seek wisdom; but we proclaim Christ Who hath been crucified, ... to Greeks ... foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20-23) ....
the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19).
Yet, it is through language that humans communicate. In order to share the Good News, in order to lead people to the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to correct misunderstandings, it is necessary to employ language, even though inadequate. The goal must be to seek the best words — even whilst realising their ultimate inadequacy — to explain to others. It is also important to recognise our explanations are not the truth — Truth is a Person: the Lord Jesus Christ — they are merely aids to humans in marking out distortions of God's revelation and the Christian Faith.
Because many people are more comfortable when they understand something, when they can grasp something with their mind, and are uncomfortable relying on faith, there has always been the temptation to God's revelation into human thinking, to make it more according to human ways of thinking. Philosophy, the greatest manmade wisdom, has often been employed by people trying to comprehend the Christian Faith — and has inevitably caused them to distort that faith. That is why the Church Fathers did not employ philosophy. In fact, they consistently opposed it.
Many, especially those who have made philosophy the basis of their knowledge about God, perhaps to justify their own use of philosophy, point to the Fathers' use of philosophical terminology and claim — incorrectly — that the Fathers employed philosophy. But, in truth, such people simply demonstrate their ignorance.
... in "borrowing" language, images, and ideas from the Greek philosophers, [the Fathers] maintained, in this process, views that are wholly at odds with the cosmology and anthropology of the Greek ancients. One might even say that their debt to Hellenistic thought is not so much that of a student to his mentor as that of a sculptor to his stone. The Greek Fathers built with the basic materials of Greek philosophy, but what they produced was different in form and in intent from that philosophy. (The Transformation of Hellenistic Thought on the Cosmos and Man in the Greek Fathers, second paragraph)
All of the philosophers' views were rejected by the Fathers of the Church. ... But the holy Fathers also rejected the method used by the ancient philosophers, their way of arriving at these conclusions, for it leads to erroneous theories about God, man and creation. ... And indeed we observe that all the heretics through the ages used philosophy, whereas the holy Fathers lived heyschasm. ....
If we carefully study the history of the Church, we will find that the heretics were usually supporters of philosophers and followers of their teachings (Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos): The Person in the Orthodox Tradition, pp. 32-37).
The philosophy that was responsible for many of and certainly the most serious of the earliest heresies was Neoplatonism. Founded by Plotinus (his definitive work was the Enneads, compiled by his disciple, Porphyry), Neoplatonism taught a First Principle, an Uncaused Cause known as the . The was the source of all being, all will, all activity, all thought, all everything — yet the was beyond all these things. According to Plotinus, one could ascribe nothing, not even thought, to the because thinking implies a distinction between thinker and the object of thought and there is no distinction in the . The is (i.e. the quality or state of being not complex, consisting of no ). Somehow (it is never really explained), the , in an overflow of sheer perfection produces an emanation, and thus causality is attributed to the . But since there are no distinctions within the , there is no difference between causality and divinity. To cause is to be divine. The first emanation from the is called which, together with the , causes the which is between the and the material world. An important characteristic of Neoplatonism was its opposition between the spiritual realm and the material world: it was an anti-materialistic philosophy.
The First Ecumenical Synod
One product of Neoplatonism was the Arian heresy which viewed the Son's relation to the Father the way Neoplatonism viewed the relation of the to the . The Son was therefore seen as very nearly the equal of the Father, a little less perfect than the Father, but still divine and transcendent to the material world. The Arians knew the Holy Scriptures well and found many to support their views (John 14:28, , was a favourite). They insisted the very names and testified the Son was less perfect than the Father. Employing Neoplatonic thinking, they argued the Father's being the cause of the Son was proof of the Father's divinity, and that because the Son did not cause, but was caused, he was not equal to the Father.
When Christians with personal experience of the Living God first encountered Arian teaching, they immediately knew it was incorrect, that it was a distortion of God's revelation and the Christian Faith. They did not engage in a battle of (which would have proven nothing). They did not need to do so. They recognised the Arian teaching was inconsistent with their personal experience of the Living God. Yet there were many people, especially since Christianity had been legalised, who had recently joined the Church without the personal experience of the Living God that testified to the error of Arianism. Many of these people found the explanation of Arianism attractive and thus Arianism gained many supporters. The uproar in the empire became so great that Emperor Constantine ordered the leaders of the Christians (the bishops) to gather in an assembly of the oikoumene to resolve the issue. Thus, the First Ecumencial (from oikoumene) Synod or Council met at Nicaea in a.d. 325.
The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod (First Ecumenical Council) were not recent Christians. They had not embraced the Christian Faith out of expediency. Many bore the scars of earlier persecutions — scars which so moved Emperor Constantine that he caressed their wounds and kissed their empty eye sockets. Having first-hand knowledge of the Living God, personal experience of God, they knew, These Fathers had the same experiential knowledge that had transformed the Disciples from the fear and timidity that kept them behind locked doors in the Upper Room into powerful preachers of the Good News. This experiential knowledge allowed these Fathers to immediately recognise Arianism to be a distortion of the Christian Faith. Their task was to find terminology that could mark Arianism as a distortion. They borrowed a term from Greek (pagan) philosophy without embracing its manner of thinking: homoousios (literally homo + ousios, same + being/essence, meaning or ). They rejected an alternate with only : homoiousios ( or , from homoi meaning ) because the Arians could interpret it in a manner consistent with Arianism. The Fathers would not compromise, a teaching was either consistent or inconsistent with the Church's communal experience of the Living God; they refused to accept and homoousios became the watchword of a correct understanding of the Son. The word homoousios was enshrined in the Symbol of Faith (Creed) produced by the First Ecumenical Synod:
We believe in one God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the ousia [being] of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, homoousios [same in being] with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who for us men and for our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the Heavens, and is coming to judge the living and the dead;
And in the Holy Spirit.
And for those who say, , and , and , or who pretend the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or ousia [being], or is subject to alteration or change — these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematises.
The temptation to the Christian Faith into human thinking was strong and it took a long time for Arianism to be overcome by Orthodoxy. Even as Orthodoxy triumphed in the Roman Empire, Arianism became the faith of the Germanic tribes that were soon to overrun western portions of the empire. As we will see, this was to play an important role in the history of the Filioque.
The Fathers distinguished between the economy of the Holy Trinity (the work of the Holy Trinity in time for the salvation of mankind) and the theology of the Holy Trinity (the eternal existence of the Holy Trinity, outside time). The former was known experientially and the Holy Scriptures testified to it. The latter was beyond the experience of mortals; all that could be known of the theology of the Holy Trinity was what had been directly revealed to mankind and was contained in the Holy Scriptures, especially the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most of the passages in Holy Scripture that speak of the Holy Spirit testify to His coming into the world (in time and thus explain the economy of the Holy Spirit). The most important passages regarding the Holy Spirit are in the Gospel of John: 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7. Verse 14:26 tells us the Father will send the Holy Spirit in the name of the Son; verse 16:7 tells us the Son will send the Holy Spirit after the Son has gone. These verses testify to the economy of the Holy Spirit inasmuch as the sending of the Holy Spirit upon mankind is an event that takes place in time. They say nothing about the theology of the Holy Spirit, the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit. But John 15:26 does. As the Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible says, Let us take a close look at this verse.
|to you||from||the||Father||the||Spirit||—||of truth|
|that One||will witness||concerning||me|
Examining the key words, we find:
|active voice of ἔρχομαι meaning|
|in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant. More specifically, one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, defence counsellor, legal assistant, an advocate|
|derived from ἐκ + πορεύμαι|
|ἐκ||preposition denoting origin as in , or , the point from whence the motion or action proceeds|
In the phrase whom I will send (which modifies the subject the Comforter), Saint John uses πέμπω in the future tense (πέμψω), indicating the sending of the Holy Spirit has not yet happened. Saint John uses this verb, in various forms, frequently (4:34, 5:23, 5:24, 5:30, 5:37, 6:38, 6:39, 6:40, 6:44, 7:16, 7:18, 7:28, 7:33, 8:16, 8:18, 8:26, 8:29, 9:4, 12:44, 12:49, 13:20, 14:24, 14:26, 15:21, 15:26, 16:5, and 16:7).
Unless one asserts that either the Lord Jesus Christ spoke a superfluous repetition or that Saint John distorted the Lord's words and created a superfluous repetition, it is not possible to claim, as have some supporters of the Filioque, that ἐκπορεύεται has the same meaning as πέμψω. Not only are the words etymologically different with distinct meanings, but the phrase who from the Father proceeds uses ἐκπορεύομαι in the present tense (ἐκπορεύεται), indicating the proceeding of the Holy Spirit is not a future event, but a present reality having begun in the past and still in progress. Moreover, the fact that Saint John only uses ἐκπορεύομαι one other time (5:9) should make the reader-interpeter aware that Saint John may be indicating something special or unusual.
The combination of these facts makes clear that the proceeding of the Holy Spirit is something quite different than the sending of the Holy Spirit. Most English translations of the Holy Scriptures make the distinction between the Son's promise that he will send the Holy Spirit from the Father and that the Holy Spirit is proceeding from the Father quite clear. The notable exception is the Vatican-approved New American Bible which badly distorts the passage.
|King James Version||But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me|
|New King James Version||But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.|
|New American Standard Bible||When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me|
|New International Version||When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.|
|Young's Literal Translation||And when the Comforter may come, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth, who from the Father doth come forth, he will testify of me|
|New Jerusalem Bible||When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.|
|New American Bible||When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father — and whom I myself will send from the Father — he will bear witness on my behalf.|
Although the New Jerusalem Bible (also a Vatican-approved translation) does a fine, if unusual, translation of the verse, it footnotes and comments: What is most interesting about this comment is that it distinguishes between the sending in time and the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit — but would have the reader believe there is nothing in the Holy Scriptures that tells us about the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit! It simply denies the truth!
Not only does the New American Bible (deliberately?) distort the clear meaning of the Greek text, it also adds a comment to the verse: Like the New Jerusalem Bible, it simply denies the truth and would have the reader believe the Holy Scriptures say nothing about the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit.
It is not surprising the Vatican-approved translations deny the clear meaning of the text which clearly testifies against the Filioque: denying the Filioque would mean repudiating centuries of Vatican teaching. But what about the Protestant translations? The exalted view of the Bible in Protestantism prevents a translation that distorts as badly as the New American Bible, but because Protestants have tended to uncritically accept their inheritance from the papacy regarding the Filioque with few giving the issue any thought (the few who do mostly follow Augustine), it is not surprising the Protestant translations offer no comments. Thus, the Protestant translations render (as well as can be done in English) the meaning, but (unlike the Vatican-approved translations) make no attempt to deny the verse's meaning.
To use an analogy to illustrate the difference between the sending of the Holy Spirit in time from the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit, consider what happens 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 Cappadocian Fathers
As Arianism was disappearing, a new heresy arose which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Immediately, the search began for the best terminology to show this heresy was a distortion of the Christian Faith. Those who accomplished the most towards this goal were the Cappadocian Fathers (Saint Basil the Great, c.330-379; Saint Gregory the Theologian, 329-389; and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, c.340-c.394). Like all the Church Fathers, they eschewed the speculative reasoning of philosophy, they (St Gregory the Theologian: Homily 23:12) whilst striving to find the best terminology for expressing the Church's communal experience of the Holy Trinity.
The Cappadocian Fathers confronted the fact that in Greek philosophy there was no concept of person as we understand it today. (In fact, it was the Cappadocian Fathers who worked out the uniquely Christian concept of person we now know.) They worked out the distinction between what a person was (the ousia — the nature or essence) and who a person was (the hypostasis). Working from the Christian belief that each soul was uniquely and freely created by God, they were able to give the concept of person an ontological existence denied by Greek philosophy.
The deeper significance of the identification of "hypostasis" with "person" ... consists in a twofold thesis: (a) The person is no longer an adjunct to a being, a category which we add to a concrete entity once we have first verified its ontological hypostasis. It is itself the hypostasis of the being. (b) Entities no longer trace their being to being itself — that is, being is not an absolute category in itself — but to the person, to precisely that which constitutes being, that is, enables entities to be entities. In other words from an adjunct to a being (a kind of mask) the person becomes the being itself and is simultaneously — a most significant point — the constitutive element (the "principle" or "cause") of beings. (John D. Zizioulas: Being As Communion: Studies in Personhod and the Church, p. 39.)
What the Cappadocian Fathers worked out has become so widespread and widely accepted that it is familiar to us: An ousia is either uncreated (God) or created (by God, a creature). An ousia neither begets nor is begotten. An ousia has no independent existence — there is no ousia: an ousia only exists as it is manifested in an hypostasis — there must be an hypostasis to manifest and make known an ousia. There is no impersonal human ousia — there are hypostases such as Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Sarah who manifest human ousia and thus make it knowable.
The hypostasis Adam begot the hypostasis Seth and the hypostasis Abraham begot the hypostasis Isaac; Because the hypostasis known as Adam had a human ousia, the hypostasis known as Seth also had a human ousia; because the hypostasis known as Abraham had a human ousia, the hypostasis known as Isaac also had a human ousia. Likewise, if the hypostasis known as Fido who has a dog ousia begets the hypostasis known as Rover, Rover will also have a dog ousia because that is the ousia of Fido. When an hypostasis is begotten, it has the same ousia as the begetter. This means that, as regards ousia — the essence — all hypostases sharing an ousia are essentially equal: Seth is as human as his father, Adam. It is this fact that gives us the concept that . This is the meaning behind homoousios — the only-begotten Son is essentially equal to the Father: both Father and Son are equally Divine.
In rejecting the teaching of Greek philosophy that God is first and foremost his ousia, the Cappadocian Fathers also rejected the teaching of those attempting to Christian teaching to Greek philosophy who taught the impersonal Divine ousia was ontologically prior to God's existence as Trinity and was the source of the unity of the Godhead. Rather, relying on what God had revealed to mankind (especially the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ), the Christian community's shared experience of the Holy Trinity, and the Christian distinction between ousia and hypostasis, The Cappadocian Fathers' teaching was experiential and existential. They rejected attempts to bypass the reality of the person (hypostasis) by means of an intellectual leap directly to the essence/nature (ousia):
In Orthodox theology ... the problem of the energies is put exclusively in terms of existential experience. The experience of the Church is the knowledge of God as an event of personal relationship, and the question raised is one of witness to and defense of that event, the question of . The knowledge of God as an event of personal relationship reveals the priority of the truth of the person in the realm of theological knowledge. There is no room for bypassing the reality of the person by means of an intellectual leap directly to the essence: . The person recapitulates the mode of existence of nature; we know the essence or nature only as the content of the person. (Christos Yannaras: "The Distinction Between Essence and Energies and its Importance for Theology", from St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, vol. 19 , pp. 234-235.)
Regarding the economy of the Holy Trinity, the Cappadocian Fathers taught the Son was sent by the Father, born in time of the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin; they taught the Holy Spirit was sent in time by both the Father and the Son. This was the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ as preserved in the Holy Scriptures and the experience of the Christian community. Regarding the theology of the Holy Trinity, the Cappadocian Fathers taught the Son was caused by the Father apart from time — in Biblical language, the Father eternally begot the Son and the Son was eternally begotten of the Father; they taught the Holy Spirit was caused by the Father apart from time — in Biblical language, the Father eternally gave procession to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit was eternally proceeding of the Father. This was the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ as preserved in the Holy Scriptures (especially John 15:26) and consistent with the Christian understanding of ousia and hypostasis. Since the Father was the cause of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, the ousia of the Father was the ousia of both the Son and the Holy Spirit — in the language of the First Ecumenical Synod, both the Son and the Holy Spirit were homoousios with the Father.
As we recognise unique characteristics of specific human persons to distinguish one from another, the Fathers identified characteristics unique to each of the Divine Persons to distinguish one from another. The Father is neither begotten nor proceeds, but begets and gives procession. The Son neither proceeds nor gives procession; He does not beget, but is eternally begotten. In the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), the Son became perfect Man whilst remaining perfect God. The Holy Spirit neither begets nor is begotten; He does not give procession, but eternally proceeds and was sent in the fullness of time (Pentecost) to the Church. Yet, just as a human person is more than the sum of his characteristics, the Fathers knew the Divine Persons were more than their characteristics:
(Haugh, pp. 187-188)
Thus, the Cappadocian teaching is always personal and based on the personal knowledge of Christians, the personal encounter with the Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, they avoided the error of tritheism by emphasising the unity of the Divine Persons. Unlike the pagan-inspired attempts to make an impersonal ousia the source of unity, the Cappadocian Fathers located the unity in the person of the Father:
Among the Greek Fathers the unity of God, the one God, and the ontological or "cause" of the being and life of God does not consist in the one substance of God but in the hypostasis, that is, the person of the Father. The one God is not the one substance but the Father, who is the "cause" both of the generation of the Son and of the procession of the Spirit. Consequently, the ontological "principle" of God is traced back, once again, to the person. Thus when we say that God "is," we do not bind the personal freedom of God — the being of God is not an ontological "necessity" or a simple "reality" for God — but we ascribe the being of God to His personal freedom. In a more analytical way this means that God, as Father and not as substance, perpetually confirms through "being" His free will to exist. And it is precisely His trinitarian existence that constitutes this confirmation: the Father out of love — that is, freely — begets the Son and brings forth the Spirit. If God exists, He exists because the Father exists, that is, He who out of love freely begets the Son and brings forth the Spirit. Thus God as person — as the hypostasis of the Father — makes the one divine substance to be that which it is: the one God. This point is absolutely crucial. For it is precisely with this point that the new philosophical position of the Cappadocian Fathers, and of St Basil in particular, is directly connected. That is to say, the substance never exists in a "naked" state, that is, without hypostasis, without "a mode of existence." And the one divine substance is consequently the being of God only because it has these three modes of existence, which it owes not to the substance but to one person, the Father. Outside the Trinity there is no God, that is, no divine substance, because the ontological "principle" of God is the Father. The personal existence of God (the Father) constitutes His substance, makes it hypostases. The being of God is identified with the person. What therefore is important in trinitarian theology is that God "exists" on account of a person, the Father, and not on account of a substance. (Being As Communion, pp. 40-42.)
By locating the unity of the Holy Trinity in the person of the Father, the Cappadocian Fathers made a clear distinction between the unity of the Holy Trinity from the unity of human beings (whose unity is in the ousia). Lossky explains:
Ousia, in the Trinity, is not an abstract idea of divinity, a rational essence binding three divine individuals, as humanity for example is common to three men. Apophaticism gives it the metalogical depth of an unknowable transcendence; the Bible envelopes it in the glorious radiance of the divine names. As for hypostasis — and it is here, under the influence of Christianity, that a true advancement of thought emerges — it no longer contains anything individual. The individual is part of a species, or rather he is only a part of it: he divides the nature to which he belongs, he is the result of its atomization, so to say. There is nothing of the sort in the Trinity, where every hypostasis assumes in its fullness divine nature. Individuals are at once opposite and repetitive: each possesses its fraction of nature; but indefinitely divided, it is always the same nature, without authentic diversity. The hypostases [of the Holy Trinity], on the other hand, are infinitely united and infinitely different: they are the divine nature, but none possesses it, none breaks it to own it exclusively. It is precisely because each one opens itself to the others, because they share nature without restriction, that the latter is not divided. (Vladimir Lossky: Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, pp. 41-42.)
Since the Father was the only beginning (Greek: μόνο as in the word μονογενοῦς found in John 1:14 and translated ; αρχή as John 1:1 — ), the Cappadocian Fathers taught the monarchy (μοναρχία) of the Father, but this means the or of the Holy Trinity and does not imply any inferiority of the Son or the Holy Spirit.
The teaching of the Cappadocian Fathers regarding the Holy Trinity is probably best summarised by this passage from St Gregory the Theologian:
For us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceeds from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons. For one is not more and another less God; nor is there an earlier and a later. Neither are They divided in will nor divided in power; nor can you find here any of the qualities of divisible things; Rather, the Godhead is, to speak concisely, undivided in separate Persons; and there is one mingling of Light, as it were of three suns joined to each other. When then we look at the Godhead, or the First Cause, or the Monarchy, that which we perceive is One; but when we look at the Persons in Whom the Godhead dwells ... there are Three Whom we worship. (Oration, 32:14)
St Gregory even anticipated the objection of those entrapped by Greek philosophy who claimed the (undividedness/oneness) of God necessitated the rejection of any idea that the Father's generation of the Son (the begetting) could differ from the Father's generation of the Holy Spirit (the proceeding). The answer for St Gregory was simple: the Lord Jesus Christ had made a distinction between the begetting of the Son and the proceeding of the Holy Spirit and no creature could experience the inner life of the Holy Trinity to know otherwise:
You ask what is the procession of the Holy Spirit? Do you tell me first what is the unbegottenness of the Father, and I will then explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son, and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be stricken with madness for prying into the mystery of God. (Oration 32:8)
The Second Ecumenical Synod and Later Ecumenical Synods
The work of the Cappadocian Fathers was endorsed by the Second Ecumenical Synod (also known as the first Synod (Council) of Constantinople) of a.d. 381). The synod renewed condemnations of the Arian heresy, but also faced heresies regarding the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. Contrary to popular belief, the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Synod did not simply expand the Symbol of Faith from Nicaea. Rather, they created a new Symbol of Faith, incorporating into it many ideas from the previous Synod's Symbol. (A side-by-side comparison of the two Symbols is available.) The Symbol of the Second Ecumenical Synod is found at the top of this page in the column. This Symbol was consistently endorsed by subsequent Ecumenical Synods, many of who issued anathemas against any who would alter the Symbol of the Second Ecumenical Synod. (Orthodox Christians have maintained the Symbol without change for over seventeen centuries.)
Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), the first century Christian experience of the Holy Trinity was the same as the fourth century Christian experience, but the latter now had a more developed vocabulary for speaking of the experience — even though all human language is ultimately inadequate to describe the experience of God as Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist testifies (John 21:25).
The eighth century Christian experience of the Holy Trinity was still the same. Saint John of Damascus (c.675 - c.749) was clear that the Faith was unchanging:
As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1:1)
Thus, it is no surprise that Saint John's writings on the Holy Trinity are very similar to the teachings we have already examined:
(We believe) in one Father, the beginning, and cause of all: begotten of no one: without cause or generation, alone subsisting: creator of all: but Father of one only by nature, His Only-begotten Son and our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and Producer of the most Holy Spirit. ...
Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceedeth from the Father and resteth in the Son: the object of equal adoration and glorification with the Father and Son, since He is co- essential and co-eternal ...
So then in the first sense of the word the three absolutely divine subsistences of the Holy Godhead agree: for they exist as one in essence and uncreate. But with the second signification it is quite otherwise. For the Father alone is ingenerate, no other subsistence having given Him being. And the Son alone is generate, for He was begotten of the Father's essence without beginning and without time. And only the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father's essence, not having been generated but simply proceeding. For this is the doctrine of Holy Scripture. But the nature of the generation and the procession is quite beyond comprehension. ...
All then that the Son and the Spirit have is from the Father, even their very being: and unless the Father is, neither the Son nor the Spirit is. ...
Further, it should be understood that we do not speak of the Father as derived from any one, but we speak of Him as the Father of the Son. And we do not speak of the Son as Cause or Father, but we speak of Him both as from the Father, and as the Son of the Father. And we speak likewise of the Holy Spirit as from the Father, and call Him the Spirit of the Father. And we do not speak of the Spirit as from the Son: s but yet we call Him the Spirit of the Son. For if any one hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His, saith the divine apostle. And we confess that He is manifested and imparted to us through the Son. (Exposition, 1:8)
And we speak also of the Spirit of the Son, not as through proceeding from Him, but as proceeding through Him from the Father. For the Father alone is cause. (Exposition, 1:12)
In regard to the consubstantial and life-giving Holy Trinity we confess one essence, one will, one operation, one virtue and power and domination, as also one Godhead, three Hypostases or Persons, while preserving the distinction of each Person. (On the Holy Trinity, 1)
The fourteenth century Christian experience of the Holy Trinity was still the same. Saint Gregory Palamas (c.1296 - 1359), wrote similarly:
On the one hand, the Holy Spirit is, together with the Father and the Son, without beginning, since He is eternal; yet, on the other, He is not without beginning, since He also — by way of procession, not by way of generation — has the Father as foundation, source, and cause. He also [like the Son] came forth from the Father before all ages, without change, impassibly, not by generation, but by procession; He is inseparable from the Father and the Son, since He proceeds from the Father, and reposes in the Son; He possesses union without losing His identity, and division without involving separation. He, also, is God from God; He is not different since He is God, yet He is different since He is the Comforter; as Spirit, He possesses hypostatic existence, proceeds from the Father, and is sent — that is, manifested — through the Son; He also is the cause of all created things, since it is in the Spirit that they are perfected. He is identical and equal with the Father and the Son, with the exception of unbegottenness and generation. He was sent — that is, made known — from the Son to His own disciples. By what other means — the Spirit which is inseparable from the Son — could He have been sent? By what other means could He — Who is everywhere — come to me? Wherefore, He is sent not only from the Son, but from the Father and through the Son, and is manifested through Himself.
The experience of the Holy Trinity is still the same today. Thus, a contemporary writer describes the same experience with similar words:
In the life of the Church, God reveals Himself as the hypostasis of being, the personal hypostasis of eternal life, exhaustive expression of the truth of being. It is not the essence of the energy of God which constitutes being, But His personal mode of existence: God as person is the hypostasis of being.
In other words, the Church does not identify the truth of being with God as an objective and abstract first cause of existence and life: God is not a vague supreme being, and impersonal essence which may be approached only through the intellect or the emotions. Nor is He a "prime mover," a blind energy which sets in motion the mechanism of the world; not yet an image of man exalted into an absolute, and infinite magnification of the individual characteristics and psychological demands of the human being. The God of whom the Church has experience is the God who reveals Himself in history as personal existence, as distinctiveness and freedom. God is person, and He speaks with man "face to grace, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Ex 33:11).
It is precisely as personal existence, as distinctiveness and freedom from any predetermination by essence or nature, that God constitutes being and is the hypostasis of being. When Moses asks the identity of the God whose will he is to proclaim to the Israelites, the answer is "I am He who is" (Ex 3:14. God identifies the truth of existence, the reality of being, with His personal hypostasis. This means that the divine essence or nature is not an ontological reality prior to God's personal existence and determining it: God's being is not an ontological datum, anterior to the distinctiveness and freedom of the divine person. Rather, it is the personal expression of His being. :And when speaking to Moses, God did not say, 'I am essence; but, 'I am He who is'; for He who is, is not from the essence, but the essence is from Him who is. He who is has comprehended within Himself all being."
The identification of being with the personal existence of God — an identification with vital consequences for the truth of man and human morality — explains the revelation of the God of the Church, who is one and at the same time trinitarian. The one God is not one divine nature of essence, but primarily one person: the one person of God the Father. The personal existence of God (the Father) constitutes His essence or being, making it into "hypsostasis": freely and from love He begets the Son and causes the Holy Spirit to proceed. Consequently, being stems not from the essence, which would make it an ontological necessity, but from the person and the freedom of its love which "hypostasizes" being into a personal and trinitarian communion, God the Father's mode of being constitutes existence and life as a fact of love and personal communion.
The identification of being with the freedom of love — of that love which forms being into hypostases — reveals that the truth of the ethos or morality is equivalent to the truth of being. When we speak of the unity and communion of the three divine persons, we are referring to God's mode of being, which is the ethos of divine life. And the ethos of God is identical with His being. When the Christian revelation declares that "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16), it is not referring to one among many properties of God's "behavior," but to what God is as the fulness of trinitarian and personal communion.
Thus love is singled out as the ontological category par excellence, the only possibility for existence, since it is through love that God gives substance to His essence, and constitutes His being. Any other definition of God's ethos with evaluative content is ontologically unfounded: it applies a priori conventional predicates, taken from philosophical thought or social experience, to the mode of divine existence, which is nothing other than personal distinctiveness and the freedom of love. If we accept evaluative definitions of the Godhead, we make the personal distinctives of divine love subordinate to them, and consequently do away with it. Evaluative categories could refer only to nature or essence, but then personal distinctiveness would be subordinated to the necessity imposed by natural definitions, and consequently, once again, it would be non-existant or substantially curtailed. In that case, the person of God would "undergo" whatever happened to the nature. The "accidents" of the nature would be "passions" of the person -- things undergone passively. This is why St Maximus the Confessor affirms of the Godhead: "It is neither beautiful nor good: for these are as it were passions, and conditions and accidents." (Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality, pp. 16-18)
Thus, we can see Orthodox Christian teaching has remained the same without innovations. Unfortunately, there were some who chose to follow a different faith.
This is a 'work in progress'. Please feel free to e-mail comments, suggestions, criticisms, arguments, etc.
The History of the Filioque
Neoplatonism and Augustine
Marius Victorinus (c.280 - 365), sometimes called , was a Neoplatonist. Most of what we know of him comes from Augustine's tribute in the Confessions. Some historical scholars credit Victorinus with the idea of the of the Holy Spirit. It has been demonstrated by Pierre Hadot that (Neoplatonism and Contemporary Constructions and Deconstructions of Modern Subjectivity) But others insist (Eugene Webb: Augustine's New Trinity, p. 7) Gennadios of Constantinople, that city's first patriarch after the city's fall in 1453, certainly attributed the invention to Augustine: .
There is no doubt that Victorinus was a major influence on Augustine. Besides the panegyric to Victorinus that he wrote, Augustine regarded Victorinus as an important factor in his conversion to Christianity. In the Confessions, Augustine writes that, after learning from Simplicianus of Victorinus's conversion, (8:5:10). Throughout his writings, Augustine frequently quotes from Victorinus' Latin translation of Plotinus' Enneads (the most important writing by the founder of Neoplatonism). Regardless of who invented the — the Filioque — it was Augustine's influence that made the Filioque known in the west.
It is not surprising that Victorinus was a major influence on Augustine. Both, prior to converting to Christianity, had worked as Neoplatonist philosophers. Victorinus' renown was so great that — whilst still living! — he was honoured with a statue in the Forum of Trajan, a very rare tribute. Victorinus, being fluent in Greek, would have had access to the writings of the Greek Church Fathers. Unfortunately, Augustine knew very little Greek and admitted very little of their writings had been translated into Latin:
... these subjects ... cannot easily be found by us in the Latin tongue ... we are not so familiar with the Greek tongue as to be found in any way competent to read and understand therein the books that treat of such topics, in which class of writings, to judge by the little which has been translated for us (On the Trinity 3:1)
Augstine believed Neoplatonism and Christianity were compatible.
For Augustine, the essential part of Platonic doctrines overlapped with the essential part of Christian doctrines... Such, for Augustine, is the essence of Platonism, and such is also the essence of Christianity. As proof, he cites a number of passages from the New Testament, which oppose the visible and invisible world, the flesh and the spirit. What, however, one might ask, is the difference between Christianity and pagan philosophy ? For Augustine, it consists in the fact that Platonism was not able to convert the masses and turn them away from earthly things, in order to orient them toward spiritual things; whereas, since the coming of Christ, people of all conditions have adopted the Christian way of life, so that a true transformation of humanity is under way. If Plato were to come back to earth, he would say "This is what I did not dare to preach to the crowd." Although "blinded by corporeal stains," souls have been able "without the help of philosophical discussions" to return within themselves and look toward their homeland" because God, through the Incarnation, has lowered the authority of divine reason down to the human body. [citation: Augustine, On True Religion, 4:7] From this Augustinian point of view, Christianity has the same content as Platonism (Pierre Hadot: What is Ancient Philosophy?, p. 251).
Augustine saw Plotinus as one in whom "Plato lived again," and regarded Plato's thought itself as "the most pure and bright in all philosophy," so profound as to be in almost perfect concordance with the Christian faith. (Richard Tarnas: The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 103)
Augustine correctly suspected that Greek texts contained the correct understanding of the Holy Trinity ( — On the Trinity 3:preface:1), but lacking translations and unfamiliar with their teaching, he did what he knew: philosophy. Not knowing how to , Augustine did what he knew and with which he was comfortable: he , or, to be more precise, in the manner of Plotinus. This was a radical departure from the way of the Church Fathers, and this is widely acknowledged:
[Augustine] is the foundation of everything the West has to say (Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, p. 103).
... as far as it is possible to assign or discover a watershed, this is to be found at the end of the fourth century: on the one side is Augustine, whose writings form the basis of the Latin tradition; on the other, the Greeks who followed the Cappadocian school. (Joan Hussey: Church and Learning in the Byzantine Empire 867-1185, p. 203)
Augustine's teaching marks a distinct epoch in the history of Christian thought and opens a new phase ... each new crisis and each new orientation of thought in the West can be traced back to Augustine. (Eugène Portalié, A Guide to the Thought of St. Augustine, pp. 81-83)
Augustine would eventually transform traditional Christian teaching on freedom, on sexuality, and on sin and redemption for all future generations of Christians. ... cataclysmic transformation in Christian thought (Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, p. 97)
Augustine ... that individual whose effect on Christianity in the West would be uniquely pervasive and enduring. (Tarnas, p. 143)
[Augustine's] approach to the doctrine of the Trinity ... is also coming to be recognized as a distinctly innovative approach which led to a radically original interpretation of that doctrine. (Webb: New Trinity, p. 2)
It is beyond the scope of this essay to examine all the errors in Augustine's trinitarian speculations. We will focus on one aspect particularly pertinent to the Filioque issue: his inability to break away from the Neoplatonic insistence on the of the Divine which led to two important results: (1) confusion between the external existence of the Holy Trinity (the of the Holy Trinity) and the work of the Holy Trinity in time for the salvation of mankind (the of the Holy Trinity) and (2) the Filioque. Augustine regarded any distinction of the Divine Attributes as mere verbal distinctions and considered them to be identical. Moreover, he identified the Divine Attributes with the being of God:
... to be true is the same as to be, and to be is the same as to be great; therefore to be great is the same as to be true. (On the Trinity, 8:1:2)
He is called in respect to Himself both God and great, and good, and just, and anything else of the kind; and just as to Him to be is the same as to be God, or as to be great, or as to be good, so it is the same thing to Him to be, as to be a person. (On the Trinity, 7:6:11)
Augustine ends up subordinating everything to the essence of God — to the point that he seems to posit existence to the essence separate from the Divine Persons, going so far as to refer to ! (On the Trinity, 2:10:18) and asks ? (On the Trinity, 7:4:8) Is it any wonder that even a supporter of the Filioque admits that Augustine could be understood as teaching that one could know God in all the fullness of His attributes ? (Portalié, p. 132) Is it a surprise another support of the Filioque admits that Augustine's notion of divine being remained Greek, that is, ultimately pagan? (Etienne Gilson, God and Philosophy, p. 61)
Ignoring the fact that an essence has no existence apart from its hypostasis, Augustine adopts the philosophical category of relation. For Augustine,
the origin of the persons of the Trinity therefore is impersonal, having its real basis in the one essence, which is differentiated by its internal relations. The general character of this triadology may be described as a pre-eminence of natural unity over personal trinity, as an ontological primacy of the essence over the hypostases. (Lossky, p. 77)
For Augustine, existence is not in itself personal, for whatever is personal in the Divinity is not absolute but relative. ... It is clear [Augustine] would like to consider "person" as a common element in the Divine nature, reducible to essence.
Perhaps the most infamous example of Augustine subordination of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity (patriarch Gennadios Scholarios labelled it ) is his identification of the Person of the Holy Spirit with the Divine Attribute of love:
[With the Father and the Son] the Holy Spirit too, exists in this same unity of substance and equality. For whether He be the unity of the Father and the Son, or their holiness, or their love, or their unity because He is their love, or their love because He is their holiness, it is clear that He is not one of the two, since it is by Him that the two are joined, by Him that the Begotten is loved by the Begetter, and in turn loves Him who begot Him. ... Therefore the Holy Spirit, whatever it is, is something common both to the Father and Son. But that communion itself is consubstantial and co-eternal; and if it may fitly be called friendship, let it be so called; but it is more aptly called love. (On the Trinity, 6:5:7)
the Trinity that is God; because there also, by the understanding, we behold both Him as it were speaking, and His Word, i.e. the Father and the Son; and then, proceeding thence, the love common to both, namely, the Holy Spirit? (On the Trinity, 15:6:10)
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that whether the Divine Persons have been made merely attributes of the Godhead or the attributes of the Godhead have been made Divine Persons, that both are of little importance to Augustine: only the essence of God seems to have any real meaning. Haugh concludes that
in the final analysis Augustine's analogy of love seems to do serious harm to the Christian doctrine of the Divine Triad. The Father and the Son love each other reciprocally and the Holy Spirit is the expression of this love. Although Augustine does not seem to be aware of it, he has given the Holy Spirit an inferior role, excluding him from the very act of love.
Augustine's enslavement to the idea of in the Godhead compelled him to insist that generation by begetting and generation by processing must be identical, thus meaning if the Son were caused by the Father only and the Holy Spirit were caused by the Father only, Son and Holy Spirit had to be identical!
And here, too, that question comes to light, as it can, which is wont to trouble many, Why the Holy Spirit is not also a son, since He, too, comes forth from the Father, as it is read in the Gospel. (On the Trinity5:14:15)
Augustine's of the was a brilliant solution ... to a contrived problem separated from reality and only a figment of his Neoplatonic thinking. Faced with the plain words of the Lord Jesus Christ, (John 15:26), Augustine engages in reasoning which Webb calls a that is :
Wherefore let him who can understand the generation of the Son from the Father without time, understand also the procession of the Holy Spirit from both without time. And let him who can understand, in that which the Son says, "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself," not that the Father gave life to the Son already existing without life, but that He so begat Him apart from time, that the life which the Father gave to the Son by begetting Him is co-eternal with the life of the Father who gave it: let him, I say, understand, that as the Father has in Himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from Him, so has He given to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed fromHim, and be both apart from time: and that the Holy Spirit is so said to proceed from the Father as that it be understood that His proceeding also from the Son, is a property derived by the Son from the Father. For if the Son has of the Father whatever He has, then certainly He has of the Father, that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him. (On the Trinity, 15:26:47)
Joseph P. Farrell, in his brilliant introduction to his translation of Saint Photios the Great's Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit writes:
The whole process seems to defeat itself at every turn. Having made the Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son because the Father and the Son share common attributes, since the essence is simple, the Spirit then becomes an attribute, He defines the essence and, indeed, is the essence, the unity of the Trinity ... Having begun with a definition — simplicity — the process has ended with the same definition, after a dazzling display of sublime, if not confusing, dialectics. It may be useful at this point to anticipate one argument of Saint Photios. If the Holy Spirit is life, proceeding from the Father and the Son, then what should stop one from making the Son take His life from the Spirit, so that the "Son turns out to be the Son, not of the Father only, but also of the Holy Spirit?" [a reference to On the Trinity 15:19:37] But this is "most absurd," [a reference to On the Trinity 15:19:37] because "being the Father is not common to them, so that they should be interchangeably Fathers to one another." [a reference to On the Trinity 7:4:7] What makes these remarks so significant is not so much that they are arguments that Photios employs, but that they came from the lips of Saint Augustine himself. Seeing the logic of his position, he simply repudiated it as being absurdly contradictory to the faith. Saint Augustine, for some reason, sees the obvious implications of his theology at this point, yet for some reason fails to see it at the point of the filioque. (pp. 30-32)
In his Retractions, Augustine admits to working On the Trinity for seventeen years and informs us that it would not have been released except for pressure from his friends. Nevertheless, the Retractions contains no substantive amendments to the work. Perhaps, given more time and/or less pressure, Augustine might have avoided the many errors which plague On the Trinity. Perhaps, had On the Trinity been translated into Greek earlier (it was not translated until the thirteenth century, by the monk Maximos Planudis), corrections might have been made. Unfortunately, the work did see the light of day and stood, uncorrected, until long after it was too late and it resulted in many being led astray. As we will see, Augustine's writings produced a lot of bitter fruit.
The Psuedo-Athanasian Creed and the Council of Toldedo
The so-called Athanasian Creed, forged by an anonymous writer (probably in southern Gaul) and falsely attributed to the great Athanasius in an apparent effort to gain credibility, was first mentioned in a.d. 542 by Caesarius of Arles. It is also known as the Quicumque or the Quicumque Creed from its first word in Latin.
All the ancient creeds, even those in vogue at the time of Augustine and used by him at Milan and in Africa, are drawn up according to the old idea beginning with faith in One God who is the Father. But the Quicumque Creed, based upon Augustinian inspiration, opens by professing faith in the Godhead common to the three persons.
Thus, only a century after Augustine's death, we see his influence in southern Gaul (present-day France). This creed clearly teaches the Filioque:
It has been suggested that, at least in some areas, it was soon thought the Filioque the norm and copyists assumed its absence to be an error of omission and inserted it for the sake of accuracy. This might account for the teaching of the in the so-called Athanasian Creed. Richard Haugh writes:
In his opening speech to the council King Reccared declared that "the Holy Spirit also should be confessed by us and taught to proceed from the Father and the Son." (Mansi, 9, 978) ... Then, after professing his acceptance of the first Four Ecumenical Councils, he recites both the Nicene and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds, the latter with the Filioque addition. Ironically, even the definitions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council prohibiting any alteration of the Creed were appended to this Spanish council.
There are twenty-three anathemas declared by this council, the third of which "anathematizes those who do not profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son." (Mansi, 9, 985) Again ironically, the eleventh anathema is against those who do not accept the decrees of the first Four Ecumenical Councils. (Mansi, 9, 985) By his kingly authority Reccared also decreed that
all the churches of Spain and Gallica, in order to give support to the recent conversion of his people, should observe this rule: that is, at every sacrifice, before receiving the body or blood of Christ, the most holy symbol of the faith should be recited in a loud voice by all, according to the custom of the Eastern Fathers (Mansi, 9, 990)
Of the twenty-three canons issued by this Spanish council the second is noteworthy:
in all the churches of Spain and Gallica, the symbol of the faith of the Council of Constantinople, that is, of the 150 Fathers, be recited according to the form of the Eastern Churches, so that it be chanted in a loud voice by the people before the Lord's prayer is said. (Mansi, 9, 992)
It is strikingly clear that the Council of Toledo did not consciously alter the Ecumenical Creed. They obviously believed the Filioque was included in the original Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The Filioque, both as doctrine and as found in various creedal statements and professions of faith, had so firmly rooted itself in the Latin West after Augustine that its authenticity and authority were simply taken for granted. (Haugh, pp. 27-29)
Haugh presents strong support for his argument, but his conclusion seems a bit too broad. It may well be that the Filioque was so firmly rooted that its authenticity and authority were simply taken for granted — in some areas of the Latin West, but not throughout the Latin West. After all, the Council of Toledo was a local council held by the King of the Germanic Visigoths to eliminate Arianism in his kingdom. It represented the Iberian peninsula, not the entire Latin West. There is no evidence that the Filioque had become rooted in Rome at this time. Still, one cannot avoid the evidence that, at least amongst the Visigoths, the Filioque had become . Of course, this does not mean the is correct (and Haugh makes no such suggestion), but it does give strong evidence that the error of the Filioque was spreading and becoming entrenched and would mean the Council of Toledo was trying to maintain the Apostolic Faith, not introduce innovations.
Saint Maximos the Confessor and Pope Martin I
There is a fragment of a letter purportedly written by Saint Maximos the Confessor to the priest Marinus is frequently cited by proponents of the Filioque (and by those who wish to deny the judgement of an Ecumenical Synod that Pope Honorius was guilty of heresy). Its authenticity is not certain. According to Haugh, there are three reasons for doubting its authenticity: Saint Maximos elsewhere writes of a letter to Marinus falsely attributed to him, there is no extant synodical letter by Pope Martin I stating as is claimed in this doubtful letter, and the letter in question mentions councils when only five had been held. (Haugh, p. 32, fn 31) We have no way of knowing whether this letter in question is the one Maximos says was falsely attributed to him and the absence of a synodical letter does not prove it was not written, but the reference to six councils is an extreme problem and suggests the letter may have been written after the Sixth Ecumenical Synod of 680-681, (Saint Maximos died in 662, Pope Martin in 655).
If the letter is authentic, then we have evidence that Pope Martin I wrote a synodical letter that, because it professed the Filioque, had its orthodoxy challenged by Constantinople and Saint Maximos sought to defuse the situation, insisting that the Latins were The letter in question claims the Latin Filioque was an attempt , that he had admonished the Latins to be more careful in how they expressed the faith, and that he felt confident that Constantinople's reaction would make the Latins more cautious in the future. (Haugh, p. 33)
One ought to consider that if Pope Martin made the mistake of professing the Filioque, Saint Maximos would have had a strong incentive to defend the pope of Old Rome. Having fled to Old Rome to escape persecution from the Monothelite heretics (officially supported by the Empire), it was the only city willing to protect Maximos against the imperial forces. It would not have been in Saint Maximos' interests to turn against Old Rome when it was possible to interpret the statement in an orthodox manner.
If the letter is authentic, we have evidence that as soon as Constantinople received the first indication of the Filioque, it condemend the error. Thus, if the letter is authentic, the oft-repeated claim that the East offered no protest against the Filioque until it was politically expedient to do so, is simply not true. If the letter is not authentic, then the supporters of the Filioque cannot claim Saint Maximos the Confessor defended the Filioque.
If the letter is authentic, then we have a problem reconciling the words of Saint Maximos:
[The Romans] have produced the unanimous evidence of the Latin Fathers, and also of Cyril of Alexandria, from the study he made of the gospel of St. John. On the basis of these texts, they have shown that they have not made the Son the cause of the Spirit — they know in fact that the Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession — but that they have manifested the procession through him and have thus shown the unity and identity of the essence. (Letter to Marinus, PG 91, 136)
with the words of Augustine:
Further, in that Highest Trinity which is God, there are no intervals of time, by which it could be shown, or at least inquired, whether the Son was born of the Father first and then afterwards the Holy Spirit proceeded from both (On the Trinity, 15:26:45)
Wherefore let him who can understand the generation of the Son from the Father without time, understand also the procession of the Holy Spirit from both without time. (On the Trinity, 15:26:47)
Clearly, Augustine taught a double procession of the Holy Spirit outside time. Thus, if the letter is authentic, Saint Maximos may well have been mistaken about the Latin meaning of the Filioque. He certainly did not endorse the Filioque of the double procession taught by Augustine.
Finally, it should be noted that when the letter purportedly from Saint Maximos was presented by the Latins to the Greeks at the Council of Florence, the Greeks suggested it as the basis for an agreement on the issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Latins rejected this proposal, insisting on the double processsion of Augustine.
Charlemagne and the Franks
The Franks, having become the dominant group of Germanic tribes that had overrun the Roman Empire in the West, reached their peak of power under Charlemagne. When Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans in 800, the so-called was born and the split from the Roman Empire in the East was cemented. From the Roman's perspective, the pope's action was treason — the Roman Empire had a ruler in the city of New Rome (Constantinople). But, according to the Annals of Lorsch, the pope (and, presumably, Charlemagne) had a different perspective:
Since there was no longer an emperor in the land of the Greeks [sic!] and they all were under the dominion of a woman, it seemed to Pope Leo and to all the fathers who sat in the assembly, as well as to the whole Christian people [sic!], that they should give the name of emperor to the king of the Franks, to Charles, who occupied [Old] Rome, where the Caesars had customarily resided, and also Italy, Gaul, and Germany. Because Almighty God had consented to place these lands under his authority, it seemed right, according to the desire of the whole Christian people [sic!], that Charles should also bear the imperial title. (quoted in Pierre Riché, The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe, p. 121)
Obviously, the is a gross exaggeration. Labelling the Romans was the practise of the Franks in an attempt to justify the claim that their was a reincarnation of the Roman Empire: they could not grant the label to the inhabitants of the Roman Empire — who called themselves Roman, who spoke the Roman language, who lived under Roman law, whose capital was officially New Rome, whose coinage said Roman, etc. — without undermining their claim. Thus, they had to invent the fiction that the Romans were actually . In this essay, we will avoid the fiction and use the proper names: the Romans lived in the Roman Empire in the East, the Franks lived in the so-called in the West.
Calling the Roman was but one of the tactics used by Charlemagne and his supporters to justify their so-called . They used religious differences. Under Charlemagne, the council of Frankfurt (a.d. 794) opposed the decisions of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (Nicæa a.d. 787), denied it had been an Ecumenical Synod, condemned Pope Hadrian for his energetic support of it, and rejected giving honour of any kind to images (declaring they were to be used only for decoration and instruction of the illiterate). Also under Charlemagne, the council of Aachen (a.d. 809) insisted that the Filioque was necessary for salvation and mandated its addition to the Creed. Neither Pope Adrian (pope, 772-795) nor Pope Leo III (pope, 795-816) could mount resist the overwhelming military strength of Charlemagne and the Roman Empire was too involved with its own problems to be of assistance. With this background information on Charlemagne and the Franks, let us examine their actions regarding the Filioque. Additional historical information can be found at Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay between Theology and Society
Pope Adrian sent the Acta of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod to Charlemagne who responded with a list of objections. The very first objection deals with the Filioque:
That Tarsius [the Patriarch of Constantinople] is not correct in professing that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father and the Son, according to the faith of the Nicene Creed, but that he proceeds from the Father through the Son.
Pope Adrian responded to the objection:
We have already shown that the divine dogmas of this Council are irreprehensible ... For should anyone say he differs from the Creed of the above-mentioned Council, he risks differing with the Creed of the Six Holy Councils, since these Fathers spoke not according to their own opinions but according to the holy definitions previously laid down. In the acts of the Sixth Holy Council it is written among other things that "this Creed had been sufficient for the perfect knowledge and confirmation of religion."
In response to this rebuke from the pope, the Libri Carolini were composed. On the issue of the Filioque, there were five objections to the teaching of the pope and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod: (1) is too imprecise, (2) it has been and to teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds made the Holy Spirit a creature since (John 1:3), (3) was not in the original Creed because , (4) Augustine taught the double procession, and (5) the inner life of the Holy Trinity is too mysterious for mere man to comprehend so the Creed should be left without change. The Libri Carolini were approved by the Council of Frankfurt.
We will fully deal with these objections in the appropriate section of this essay. For now, we will not that the first and fifth objections contradict each other, the fifth objection is historically wrong, the second exhibits the confusion of the eternal and timeless existence of the Persons of the Holy Trinity (the theology of the Holy Trinity) with the work of the Holy Trinity in time for the salvation of mankind (the of the Holy Trinity), the third objection anticipates the objection of Saint Photios the Great who insisted that the Father was not so imperfect as to need the assistance of the Son to give procession to the Holy Spirit, and the fourth objection is moot.
Around the year 807, Orthodox monks in the Holy Land, upon hearing Latin (Frankish) monks using the Filioque, strenuously objected, accusing the Latin monks of heresy and labelling their books heretical. The Latin monks, obviously bewildered by these accusations, wrote to Pope Leo III asking for his counsel. The full text of their letter is available. Haugh summarises the letter:
Some noteworthy facts emerge from this controversy. First, there is little doubt that the interpolated Creed had for some years now received "imperial" sanction. Secondly, the Latin monks consider the Filioque as only a liturgical difference, no more important than other liturgical differences between Latins and Greeks. Thirdly, what has quite perplexed the Latin monks is the seriousness with which the Greeks react to the Filioque. Fourthly, their claim that the Rule of St. Benedict contained the Filioque means that the Carolingians had appended either the interpolated Ecumenical Creed or the Athanasian Creed to the Rule of St. Benedict. And fifthly, it is noteworthy that the bond between the Carolingians and the Papacy is so strong that the monks think an attack on Frankish practices is also an attack on the Roman See. (Haugh, pp. 67-68)
To these observations should be added that this proves the falsity of the claim that the Orthodox originally accepted the Filioque, only objecting when it became politically expedient to do so.
In his response to the Latin monks, Pope Leo professes that he personally believes in the double procession of the Holy Spirit, but it is unclear if he gave specific instructions on whether the use of the Filioque were permissible. However, just three years later, meeting with a Frankish delegation (the dialogue was recorded by the head of the delegation and may be read here) the same pope makes it quite clear that adding the Filioque to the Symbol of Faith was . Pope Leo III order the Franks to remove the Filioque, and
He took other measures. He considered the problem so serious that he had "two silver shields" engraved with the original Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in both Greek and Latin and then placed on each side of the Confession of St. Peter. He did this, according to Anastasius Bibliothecarius, (PL 128, 1238) "for the love he bore to the Orthodox Faith and out of care for its preservation." Photius refers to these shields, even though he mistakenly thought that both shields were engraved in Greek. The existence of these shields is confirmed by the later testimony of Peter Damian, Peter Lombard, and Peter Abelard. Recent historical research has also confirmed the historicity of these shields.
The shields were placed with the notice, The Franks ignored the pope and continued to use the Filioque. Taking the addition to the Symbol of Faith to the Slavs, they set the stage for the next major clash over the Filioque. For further reading about the Filioque issue and the Franks, Richard Haugh's well-researched and well-written book, Photius and the Carolingians: The Trinitarian Controversy is highly recommended.
The Mid-Ninth Century
This period is far too complex to adequately cover here. The reader is again referred to the excellent book by Haugh. For an older, but still useful work from a Latin author, see Francis Dvornik's The Photian Schism: History and Legend, first published in 1948, reprinted 1970.
The aftermath of the Iconoclasm in the East resulted in a split between the Moderates (who favoured a tolerant approach with the Iconoclasts) and the Zealots (who desired punishment for the Iconoclasts). Patriarch Ignatius, a Zealot, gradually alienated the wrong people and he was exiled for and, after twelve years as patriarch, was forced to resign in 858. He agreed to resign on the condition that he would be succeeded by another Zealot — a condition unacceptable to the Moderates. Photius was selected as a compromise (his iconodule parents had suffered much from the Iconoclasts, his orthodoxy was unquestioned, but he had not aligned with either the Zealots or the Moderates). The historical record shows Photius initially refused because he wanted to continue his academic pursuits and because he realised that a patriarch would have to walk an impossible tightrope between the two parties. In the end, however, others prevailed upon him, convincing him that he was the only candidate acceptable to both sides and thus able to avert a schism.
Not long after becoming patriarch, some of the more extreme Zealots declared they would not recognise Photius and wanted Ignatius returned as patriarch. Despite, Photius' calls for tolerance, Moderates reacted by persecuting the Zealots and full-blown hostilities erupted. In an effort to heal the strife, the emperor convoked a General Synod with invitations to the other patriarchates (Old Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem). Pope Nicholas I of Old Rome saw the General Synod as an opportunity to regain the provinces of Illyricon and southern Italy which, as part of a reorganisation by Emperor Leo III (not to be confused with Pope Leo III) in 733 had been transferred from Old Rome to New Rome (Constantinople). Nicholas instructed his delegates to support Photius only if Illyricon and southern Italy were returned to his control. The General Synod met in 861, but we have no details since its records were destroyed by the Robber Council of 869-870. It is clear, however, that Photius was vindicated, the extreme Zealots were censured, and Illyricon and southern Italy remained in the jurisdiction of New Rome. Unhappy with the results, Nicholas excommunicated his delegates upon their return and convoked a Latin synod (863) which excommunicated Photius.
When Emperor Michael III, replying to Nicholas' letter announcing the excommunication of Photius, informed him his Latin synod had no validity in New Rome because it had not been appointed to judge the issue, Nicholas replied by invoking the forged Donation of Constantine and demanded that Photius and Ignatius both be sent to Old Rome to be judged. The Emperor refused. Attempting to maintain peace, Photius did not respond.
The conversion of Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria (864) set off a competition for who would dominate in Bulgaria between the so-called , the papacy, and the Roman Empire (mis-labelled the in most Western histories). It also exacerbated the tensions between Old Rome and New Rome. As Dvornik notes, it was merely a matter of prestige for the so-called and the papacy, but for the Roman Empire, it was a matter of . (Dvornik, p. 94) The Roman emperor Constantine V (741-775) had conducted eight military campaigns against the Bulgars without achieving lasting success, the emperor Nikephorus (802-811) died in battle against the Bulgars, and the emperor Michael I (811-813) died from wounds sustained during war with the Bulgars.
Boris was baptised in New Rome (the Roman Emperor Michael III was his godfather) and Patriarch Photius sent missionaries to Bulgaria. Boris, an astute politician who demonstrated extraordinary skill in playing off those who competed for influence in Bulgaria, desired an autocephalous church and asked to have a patriarch for the church in Bulgaria. When New Rome refused, he turned to the West who sent missionaries. These Western missionaries engaged in practises contrary to the tradition known by the Eastern missionaries (e.g. use of milk and cheese during Lent, fasting on Saturdays, prohibiting married men from being ordained, only allowing bishops to confirm, and, of course, use of the illicit Filioque). Even worse, they taught the Bulgarians condemned the teachings of the (as they incorrectly called the Romans)! They convinced Boris to expel the Eastern missionaries, who, upon returning to New Rome, reported what had happened. The reaction from Patriarch Photius was swift.
Saint Photius expressed willingness to tolerate differences in practise whilst expressing concern that . But Saint Photius was most emphatic in his condemnation of the Filioque which he called . He asks:
Where have you learned this fact which you assert? In what Gospel have you found this word? To what Council belongs such blasphemy? Who will not stop his ears at this enormous blasphemy? It stands in battle, as it were, against the Gospels. It takes up arms against the Holy Councils and falsifies the Blessed Fathers — the great Athanasius; Gregory, hymned as the personification of theology; Basil, that royal robe of the Church; and Chrysostom, the golden mouth of the world, that sea of wisdom. Why should I name this one or that one? This blasphemy, which declares war on God, is armed against all the Holy Prophets together, the Apostles, the priests, martyrs, and even the voice of the Lord Himself. (PG 102, 728-729, nos. 15 & 16, quoted in Haugh, pp. 98-99)
Saint Photius' Encyclical to Five Patriarchs of the East (866), after accusing the pope of (1) inserting Filioque into the Symbol of Faith, (2) improperly interfering in the Church of Bulgaria and attempting to dominate churches outside his jurisdiction, (3) endorsing an improper repetition of the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) on the pretext that Chrismation done by married priests from New Rome was