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The Filioque

This following article is by Thomas Ross Valentine

Salvation Worship Life Mission

dove

The First Ecumenical 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:

"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 from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who because of our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, will come to judge the living and the dead;
 
And in the Holy Spirit.
 
But as for those who say, There was when He was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance, or is subject to alteration or change — these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematises."
[trans. from Early Christian Creeds by J.N.D. Kelly]

The Second Ecumenical Council, at Constantinople in A.D. 381 (also known as the first 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 Council in the section pertaining to the Church's belief regarding the Holy Spirit. This section then read:

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
 
In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
 
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
[Orthodox Church in America translation]

In A.D. 587, the local council of Toledo (Spain) added Filioque to the Creed in an attempt to combat Arianism. (The Latin word Filioque is translated into English as 'and the Son' and changes the Symbol of Faith to

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;

This addition was intended to emphasise the consubstantiality of the Father and Son against the Arian heresy.

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 Creed. Pope Leo III (795-816) intervened, and forbade any interpolations or alterations in the Nicene Creed. He ordered the Creed, without Filioque, to be engraved in Latin and Greek on two silver plates on the wall of St. Peter's in Rome. Nevertheless, the addition was maintained by the Franks. The dispute grew (many historians think Charlemagne used the Filioque in an attempt to justify his claim to be emperor against the Emperor of the Roman Empire located in Constantinople) between East and West and was the focus of the council of Constantinople which met A.D. 879-880. This council (recognised as the Eighth Ecumenical Council by Orthodox Christians) reaffirmed the creed of A.D. 381 and declared any and all additions to the creed invalid. This council'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 spread to other Germanic tribes. The Filioque was first used in Rome at the coronation of Henry II in 1014 as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Historians see this as a passive acceptance by the pope (Benedict VIII) due to his dependence on the Holy Roman Empire for military protection. From that time, Roman Catholics began adding the Filioque to the creed and have continued doing so.

Criticism of the Filioque Objection 1:

The addition is neither from nor consistent with the Sacred Scriptures

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

      elqh
comes
active voice of erxomai, meaning 'to come from one place to another (used of persons arriving), to appear, make one's appearance, come before the public'
paraklhtoV
Comforter
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
pemyw
send
'to dispatch', 'to send', 'to thrust in'
ekporeuetai
proceeds
is derived from ek + poreuomai
      ek
preposition denoting origin as in 'from', or 'out of', the point from whence the motion or action proceeds
      poreuomai
'to traverse', 'to travel'

Thus, the most important word of the passage, ekporeuetai ('proceeds') refers to the Holy Spirit's point of origin. Since that origin is 'from all eternity' (i.e. outside of time, before time began), it refers to the Holy Spirit's eternal origin and not to His temporal mission (His being sent into the world in time).

Even recent statements from the Vatican recognise this understanding:

the term ekporeusiV as distinct from the term "proceed" ( proinai) can only characterize a relationship of origin to the principle without principle of the Trinity: the Father.

Source: L'Osservatore Romano, 20 September 1995:
'The Greek and Latin Traditions Regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit'

Put in simpler terms, 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.

The procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son cannot 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 Roman Catholic translations handle the passage (John 15:26). 

New Jerusalem Bible New American 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.
 
Translation
 
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.
* The sending of the Spirit into the world rather than the "eternal" proceeding from the Father within the Trinity. Notes
 
Comes from the Father: refers to the mission of the Spirit to men, not to the eternal procession of the Spirit. Compare 14:26, where the Father, not Jesus, is said to send the Spirit.

There is nothing wrong with the New Jerusalem Bible's translation. The use of 'issues from' instead of 'proceeds' is a fine translation of ekporeuetai, but by footnoting 'issues from' and stating that 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 that the Holy Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son into the world. These Roman Catholic translations would have one believe that there is nothing in Scripture that explicitly reveals the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.

The Filioque contradicts the clear and explicit teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ as found in the Holy Gospel.

Objection 2:
The Filioque is the result of giving human 'wisdom' (philosophy) precedence over Divine Revelation

Following the teaching of Plotinus (known as Neoplatonism), Augustine equated deity with the essential simplicity of the Neoplatonic 'One':

Godhead is absolutely simple essence, and therefore to be is then the same as to be wise.

On the Trinity, 7.1.2

Following the Neoplatonic teaching that being, will, and activity of the "One" were wholly indistinguishable, Augustine taught that the term 'God' did not mean directly the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but the more general notion of the godhead, not as any one Person in particular. Augustine so confused Person and essence that he went so far as to refer to 'the Person of that Trinity'. [On the Trinity, 2.10.8]

By starting with this philosophical assumption of essential simplicity and that this simplicity cannot and does not generate Divine Persons in more than one way (because to believe that He could generate Divine Persons in more than one way would mean God had parts, one part to beget and another to give procession), a 'problem' is found: the Son and the Holy Spirit, if both generated from the same source of Absolute Simplicity are indistinguishable. Unfortunately, this ignores the warning of two great saints:

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.
— Saint Gregory the Theologian
 
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

The contrived 'problem' is 'solved' by making the Holy Spirit proceed from both the Father and the Son, thus making the Holy Spirit's origin ontologically different from that of the Son.

The emphasis on simplicity reduces the identity of the three Divine Persons to relative terms to each other. As Augustine wrote:

The terms [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] are used reciprocally and in relation to each other.

On the Trinity, 6.5.6

Like the Arians who denied the full deity of Christ because He did not cause the Father (like other Neoplatonists confusing being, will, and activity), Augustine argued for the Son's divinity because He was the cause of another Divine Person (the Holy Spirit):

As the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself.

On the Trinity, 15.27.47

 

For we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is not life, while the Father is life, and the Son is life: and hence as the Father ... has life in Himself; so He has given to Him that life should proceed from Him, as it also proceeds from Himself.

On the Trinity, 15.27.48

Thus, there is a subordination of Persons to attributes, and attributes to the divine essence (which is equivalent to the Neoplatonic 'One'). Augustine doesn't seem to shy away from explicitly confusing the Persons with attributes:

Because both the Father is a spirit and the Son is a spirit, and because the Father is Holy and the Son is Holy, therefore ... since the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, and certainly God is Holy, and God is a spirit, the Trinity can be called also the Holy Spirit.

On the Trinity, 5.11.12

This confusion is also manifested in Augustine's infamous definition of the Holy Spirit as the love between the Father and the Son:

Wherefore also the Holy Spirit consists in the same unity of substance, and in the same equality. For whether He is the unity of both, or the holiness, or the love, or therefore the unity because the love, and therefore the love because the holiness ... 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

Augustine identifies deity with causality and regards causality to be the defining attribute of Divinity. Thus the Father causes the Son (the second fully Divine Person) who in turn has His Divinity affirmed by being the cause, along with the Father, of a third Divine Person: the Holy Spirit. This follows exactly the Plotinian model of 'One' which causes 'Nous' and the two together cause the 'world soul' (which, incidentally, is the same structure of thought which supports the errors and heresies of Origen). This Plotinian model is the Neoplatonic idea of a 'plurality of spheres of being, arranged in hierarchical descending order ... each sphere of being is derived from its superior, a derivation that is not a process in time or space'. [Encyclopaedia Britannica]

Logic shows this reasoning is flawed. 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 can be a fourth Divine Person; the love between the Son and the Holy Spirit can be a fifth Divine Person; the love between the Father and the fourth Person can be a sixth Divine Person; etc. etc. ad infinitum. Augustine chose to stop with the Son causing the Holy Spirit and was unwilling to posit the Holy Spirit being the cause of a fourth Divine Person because Divine Revelation teaches that there are only three Divine Persons. Unfortunately, he failed to start with Divine Revelation which teaches us that each of the Divine Persons are unique and follow the advice of St Gregory the Theologian and Saint John of Damascus given above. As a result Augustine's hierarchical arrangement certainly suggests that the Holy Spirit is not Divine inasmuch as He is not a source of causality.

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. Thus, when faced with the following question:

Does the ability to 'spirate' the Holy Spirit
come from the Godhead or from a Person?

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:

      • the Holy Spirit is not God, or

      • He has the power to 'spirate' Himself

The first is a denial of the Holy Trinity; the second a ridiculous absurdity.

The entire teaching 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:

God then, is Infinite and Incomprehensible, and all that is comprehensible about Him is His Infinity and His Incomprehensibility.

Objection 3:
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). 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 ( arch) 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.

Objection 4:
The addition was novel

There are plenty of Roman Catholic teachings which explicitly teach a double procession. Here are some of the more important (emphases added in bold, red italics, all other emphases in originals).

The 11th Council of Toledo, 675 We also believe that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person in the Trinity is God, and that he is one and equal with God the Father and God the Son, of one substance as well as of one nature. However, he is not begotten nor created, but he proceeds from both and is the Spirit of both. We believe that the Holy Spirit is neither unbegotten nor begotten: lest, if we say unbegotten we should be asserting two Fathers; and if we said begotten we should appear to be preaching two Sons. He is called the Spirit, not only of the Father nor only of the Son but equally of the Father and of the Son. He proceeds not from the Father into the Son nor from the Son to sanctify creatures; but he is shown to have proceeded from both equally, because he is known as the love or the sanctity of both.

The 4th Lateran Council, 1215,
A definition against the Albigenses and other heretics
The Father is from no one; the Son is from the Father only; and the Holy Spirit is from both the Father and the Son equally.

The 2nd Council of Lyons, 1274,
Constitution on the Procession of the Holy Spirit
...we confess that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son , not as from two principles, but as from one; not by two spirations but by one.

The Council of Florence, 1438-45,
Decree for the Jacobites
The Father is not begotten; the Son is begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The Roman Catechism, I.8.6
(the official RC catechism from 1566-1994) With regard to the words immediately succeeding: "who proceeds from the Father and the Son," the faithful are to be taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds, by eternal procession, from the Father and the Son as from one principle. This is a truth taught to us by the rule of the Church from which the least departure is unwarrantable on the part of Christians.

Vatican I, 1869-70,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Principal Mysteries of the Faith
For from all eternity the Father generates the Son, not in producing by emanation another essence equal to his own, but in communicating his own simple essence. And in like manner, the Holy Spirit proceeds, not by a multiplication of the essence, but he proceeds by a communication of the same singular essence by one eternal spiration from the Father and the Son as from one principle.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 246
(the official catechism since 1994) The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)." The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: "The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration . . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son ."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 248
At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he "who proceeds from the Father," it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque).

As can be seen from the above examples, there have been attempts to 'nuance' the older teaching with statements such as 'the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son as from one principle'. The problem with the Father and Son as 'one principle' is that the Holy Spirit, Who obviously is excluded from that principle, ends up being subordinated — the fundamental problem with the Filioque. Unfortunately, because of Roman Catholicism's understanding of its 'teaching authority' (magisterium) in conjunction with the belief in Roman Catholicism's infallibility, they are unable to repudiate earlier statements, even after recognising them to be in error.

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 ekporeusiV 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:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who is sent   from the Father and the Son ...

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 ekporeusiV 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):

In the Catholic Church herself every care must be taken that we may hold fast to that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. For this is, then, truly and properly Catholic.

The Notebooks, ca. A.D. 434

The Filioque certainly was not and is not something believed 'everywhere, always, and by all'. The Roman Catholic Church, by adopting something not 'truly and properly Catholic' forfeited its claim to be 'Catholic'.

Objection 5:
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:

Therefore the pride of reason and of illegal domination, which appropriated to itself, in opposition to the decree of the whole Church (pronounced at the Council of Ephesus), the right to add its private explanations and human hypotheses to the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Symbol is in itself an infraction of the sanctity and inviolability of the Church. Just as the very pride of the separate Churches, which dared to change the Symbol of the whole Church without the consent of their brethren, was inspired by a spirit not of love, and was a crime against God and the Church, so also their blind wisdom, which did not comprehend the mysteries of God, was a distortion of the faith; for faith is not preserved where love has grown weak.

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.

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:

  1. Just as it is quite easy to proof-text the Scriptures, it is also quite easy to do the same with Patristic writings. Frequently, such proof-texts are taken out of context and/or misapplied to the topic. One need not look very far to see how various Protestant denominations use proof-texts to support mutually exclusive beliefs.

  2. Orthodox Christians do not regard any single person as infallible in matters of dogma. It is not difficult to find instances where the Fathers have been in error about a particular thing. (Of course, if the errors are serious or numerous, the writer does not qualify as a 'Father'.) Orthodox Christians seek to find the consensus of the Fathers. In non-dogmatic matters, this may be very difficult to do as the Fathers may have a wide variety of opinions. But, in cases of dogma, it is generally easy to find that which has been believed 'everywhere, always, and by all', i.e. universality, antiquity, and consent. Opinions which are limited to a region ( e.g. the West), that have developed after the Apostolic Age, or are not held by the overwhelming majority of Fathers, does not meet the standards for dogma.

  3. These texts are presented in English to English speakers. They are translations. Without examining the passage in its original language and in context, it may be easy to misinterpret these texts. If anyone reading this could supply the original Greek for the following passages, this author would be most grateful.

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 vocalising a word exudes breath, so the Father, when speaking (begetting) the Word exudes (spirates) the Holy Spirit (the Greek word for 'breath' (pneuma 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' (dia) and 'and' (kai) are never synonymous. 'Through' (dia) never means a contributory effect; it means a 'tunnelling' or 'channelling', whereas 'and' (kai) 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, dia always excludes addition; kai 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 (arch) 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: It is incorrect to argue that because the Holy Spirit is conveyed to the Apostles by the breath of the Son that the Holy Spirit's eternal and existential origin is the Son. To argue in this way is to demonstrate ignorance of 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 recognised 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. For example, in correspondence received from Roman Catholics arguing for the Filioque (self-described as 'traditionalist and/or conservative'), I have been informed:

... 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.

        and

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.

        and

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.

        and

"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, subtler 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.

QUOTATIONS
 
Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 4:1

I believe that the Spirit proceeds not otherwise than from the Father through the Son.

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

We believe, however, that there are three persons: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and we believe none to be unbegotten except the Father. We admit, as more pious and true, that all things were produced through the Word, and that the Holy Spirit is the most excellent and the first in order of all that was produced by the Father through Christ.

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

By nature the Holy Spirit in his being takes substantially his origin from the Father through the Son who is begotten.

This is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

 

Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Confession of Faith

One God, the Father of the living Word, of subsistent Wisdom and Power, and of the Eternal Image. Perfect Begetter of the Perfect, Father of the only begotten Son. One Lord, Only of Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of the Godhead, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehending the constitution of the universe, and Power shaping all creation. Genuine Son of Genuine Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal, and Eternal of Eternal. And one Holy Spirit, having substance of God, and who is manifested [to men, that is,]* through the Son; Image of the Son, Perfect of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of living; Holy Fountain; Sanctity, the Dispenser of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. Perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty neither divided nor estranged.
*(The bracketed phrase above is thought to be a later editorial addition.)

'... 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

As we have understood discussions . . . about the incorporeal natures, so too it is now to be recognized that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son that which he was of his own nature . . . So too the Son is said to receive from the Father the very things by which he subsists. For neither has the Son anything else except those things given him by the Father, nor has the Holy Spirit any other substance than that given him by the Son.

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

Insofar as we understand the special relationship of the Son to the Father, we also understand that the Spirit has this same relationship to the Son. And since the Son says, 'everything that the Father has is mine' [John 16:15], we will discover all these things also in the Spirit. through the Son. And just as the Son was announced by the Father, who said, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' [Matt 3:17], so also is the Spirit of the Son; for, as the Apostle says, 'He has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"' [Gal 4:6]

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

For the Only-Begotten Himself calls Him 'the Spirit of the Father', and says of Him that 'He proceeds from the Father', and 'will receive of mine', so that He is reckoned as not being foreign to the Father nor to the Son, but is of their same substance, of the same Godhead; He is Spirit divine,... of God, and He is God. For he is Spirit of God, Spirit of the Father and Spirit of the Son, not by some kind of synthesis, like soul and body in us, but in the midst of Father and Son, of the Father and of the Son, a third by appellation. ... The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son; and neither is the Son created nor is the Spirit created.

Epiphanius of Salamis is regarded as an Orthodox saint primarily for his work as a pastor of his flock. 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. Since ekporeusiV is conventionally translated as 'proceeds' whereas this passage employs 'breathes', it seems unlikely that ekporeusiV 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

The Spirit is always with the Father and the Son, ... proceeding from the Father and receiving of the Son, not foreign to the Father and the Son, but of the same substance, of the same Godhead, of the Father and the Son, He is with the Father and the Son, Holy Spirit ever subsisting, Spirit divine, Spirit of glory, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of the Father. ... He is third in appellation, equal in divinity, not different as compared to Father and Son, connecting Bond of the Trinity, Ratifying Seal of the Creed.

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

Through the Son, who is one, he [the Holy Spirit] is joined to the Father, one is one, and by Himself completes the Blessed Trinity.

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 Council in 381.

 

Saint Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, 18:47

The goodness of [the divine] nature, the holiness of [that] nature, and the royal dignity reach from the Father through the only-begotten [Son] to the Holy Spirit. Since we confess the persons in this manner, there is no infringing upon the holy dogma of the monarchy.

Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 1

The Father conveys the notion of unoriginate, unbegotten, and Father always; the only-begotten Son is understood along with the Father, coming from Him but inseparably joined to Him. Through the Son and with the Father, immediately and before any vague and unfounded concept interposes between them, the Holy Spirit is also perceived conjointly.

Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Letter to Ablabius

While we confess the invariableness of the [Divine] Nature we do not deny the distinction of cause and of caused, by which alone we perceive that one Person is distinguished from another, in our belief that it is one thing to be the cause and another to be from the cause; and in that which is from the cause, we recognize yet another distinction. It is one thing to be directly from the First Cause, and another to be through Him who is directly from the First, so the distinction of being Only-begotten abides undoubtedly in the Son, nor is it doubted that the Spirit is from the Father; for the middle position of the Son is protective of His distinction as Only-begotten, but does not exclude the Spirit from His natural relation to the Father.

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

Since the Holy Spirit when He is in us effects our being conformed to God, and He actually proceeds from the Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that He is of the Divine Essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it.

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 Council 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

Just as the Son says 'All that the Father has is mine' [John 16:15], so shall we find that through the Son it is all also in the Spirit.

Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

 

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, The Twelve Anathemas, Error 9

We must not say that the one Lord Jesus Christ has been glorified by the Spirit, in such a way as to suggest that through the Spirit He made use of a power foreign to Himself, and from the Spirit received the ability to work against unclean spirits, and to perform divine signs among men; but must rather say that the Spirit, through whom He did indeed work His divine signs, is his own.

This passage addresses the consubstantiality of the Three Divine Persons.

 

Saint John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 8

Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life . . . God existing and addressed along with Father and Son; uncreated, full, creative, all-ruling, all-effecting, all-powerful, of infinite power, Lord of all creation and not under any lord; deifying, not deified; filling, not filled; shared in, not sharing in; sanctifying, not sanctified; the intercessor, receiving the supplications of all; in all things like to the Father and Son; proceeding from the Father and communicated through the Son.

Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

 

Saint John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 12

And the Holy Spirit is the power of the Father revealing the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, proceeding from the Father through the Son in a manner known to Himself, but different from that of generation.

Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

 

Saint John of Damascus, Dialogue Against the Manicheans, 5

I say that God is always Father since he has always his Word [the Son] coming from Himself and, through his Word, the Spirit issuing from Him.

Again, this is the typical Eastern formula, 'through the Son'.

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.

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.

Copyright: Thomas Ross Valentine