Reply To: [Orthodoxy] Filioque

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The subject of the [i:2cdc0s47]filioque[/i:2cdc0s47] is both simple, and complicated. In both cases, I honestly believe the Orthodox Church is correct in this matter, and it is one of the reasons why I eventually decided to enter the catechumate.

First, the simple part.

The simple part is, whether or not one believes that the [i:2cdc0s47]theology[/i:2cdc0s47] behind the “filioque” clause (and there are a couple of different versions of this btw.) is [i:2cdc0s47]true[/i:2cdc0s47], the way the westerners began to stick it into the Creed was incorrect, and the way it was finally imposed by the Popes in the 11th century (previous Popes being quite conservative in this matter, and not wanting to disrupt the unity of the Church, did not allow it to be officially inserted into the Creed in Rome), was entirely illegitimate and sinful. The Creed is the fruit of pan-Orthodox Christian witness, and it’s choice of terminology was not accidental and undebated [i:2cdc0s47]within[/i:2cdc0s47] the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople I. To just willy-nilly alter this, is of itself a schismatic act.

Thus as a start, the Latin Church needs to remove this clause from any of it’s official [i:2cdc0s47]readings[/i:2cdc0s47] of the Nicene-Constantinoplean Creed. This is because [i:2cdc0s47]this[/i:2cdc0s47] Creed is not a local or provinicial witness, but speaks for the entire Church.

As for the [b:2cdc0s47]theology of the filioque[/b:2cdc0s47], like I said previously, this is a bit more complicated…

St.Gregory Palamas, engaging a now separated Latin Church, speaks well in the [i:2cdc0s47]consensus[/i:2cdc0s47] of the pre-schism “undivided church” on this matter. In fact, His very clear teaching on the “energies/essence distinction” goes some way in articulating the form of the “filioque” teaching which Orthodox Christians could accept.

Many have heard Orthodox say that we could accept “proceeds from the Father, [i:2cdc0s47]through[/i:2cdc0s47] the Son”. [b:2cdc0s47]Basically[/b:2cdc0s47], that is correct. However, even more ought to be said than this, and St.Gregory actually does say more than this.

Basically, “according to essence” the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father [b:2cdc0s47]alone[/b:2cdc0s47] (as St.Photios rightly taught, and which unfortunately some of his contemporary Latin Christian neighbours sincerely disagreed with; and in that, they were wrong). However, “energetically”, He does proceed “from” the Son – in the sense that He rests upon the Son (even in eternity), is manifested with the Son, and is sent into the world [i:2cdc0s47]by[/i:2cdc0s47] the Son.

The Orthodox cannot agree with anything beyond this, and that includes the principle that somehow the [i:2cdc0s47]essential[/i:2cdc0s47] procession of the Holy Spirit (which in Greek, is what the Council of Constantinople was talking about) is from the Son, or that [i:2cdc0s47]this[/i:2cdc0s47] can be “given” to the Son. This confuses hypostatic qualities (qualities unique to the particular Persons of the Trinity), and also undermines an important teaching found in the Fathers regarding the “monarchy” and “firstness” of God the Father – that He is the “arch” and “source of the Trinity”. All three Persons are equal in essence and glory, nor was there ever a point in time that any of them “was not”, but still the Father is “first”. He is neither begotten nor proceeds. To say the Holy Spirit then “proceeds” from the Son in that sense, partially undoes that primacy.

It also plays into a tendency which the Church had to fight called [i:2cdc0s47]Sabellianism[/i:2cdc0s47]. This was a pre-Nicean heresy (though which lived on after Nicea) which basically taught that the Three Persons of the Trinity were simply [i:2cdc0s47]modes[/i:2cdc0s47], understood in the pagan, un-Christianized sense of the Latin term “persona” of a singular, [b:2cdc0s47]unitarian[/b:2cdc0s47] “God”. Indeed, in some respects, many ended up (wrongly) ascribing to Arianism, or some form of semi-Arianism, precisely because they knew this Sabellian teaching was a blasphemy – thus for these people, Arianism/Semi-Arianism was a kind of “over reaction” to Sabellianism, facilitated by the real ambiguity that existed around a lot of the Christological/Triadological terminology during that time.

Where as the original Greek language theology of the Ecumenical Councils and of the early Roman Church itself (which probably was still liturgizing in Greek toward the end of the fourth century) spoke of “Three Hypostases” (of which our English word “person” is only an aproximation, and if you really look carefully, not really a great translation at all as it implies things which are not correct) which had a singular essence, the Latins began to emphasize a common “substance” (which they more or less used, in their Latin tongue, as the equivelent of “essence”, though in reality it was actually a more literal translation of [i:2cdc0s47]hypostasis[/i:2cdc0s47]…I bet you can already see the trouble brewing), with three “personae” (which they used as a translation of hypostasis).

Rightly understood, in context, this was all fine. But with an increasing emphasis upon the “substanital unity”, the distinctness of the Three Persons eventually got reduced (and you see this in scholasticism) solely to “relations in an essence”. Thus, there was felt some need to say how “procession” and “begotteness” were different, where as according to other Fathers (like St.Gregory of Nyssa) these were unfathomable mysteries – what mattered was, they weren’t the same.

While this is certainly not Sabellianism, it’s coming pretty darned close. And this understandably made Eastern Christians extremely nervous, and is why when they finally admonished their western brethren over this (after it had ceased being a regional oddity in Spain, and began to chracterize most of western Christendom, thanks to Germanic filioquist propaganda – the Franks seemened attached to this teaching, in particular the Imperial court in Aachen) – and when the admonishment failed, you saw the first Rome – Orthodox schism. Unfortunately, eventually the estrangement became permanent. <img loading=” title=”Sad” />