Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Sunday, 2 November 2014

God the Holy Spirit - Filioque

Augustine argues that the Holy Spirit is the Communio between Father and Son - focusing on 1 John 4:7-16, with the metaphor of Love.

Augustine's argument, using this passage:

v12. If we love one another, God abides in us
v16. God is love, and he who abides in love, God abides in him
v.13. We recognise that we abide in him and he in us because he has given us his Spirit




- So for Augustine, the Holy Spirit is this love that connects the Father, and Son. This led to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed, where the additional phrase 'who proceedeth from the Father and from the Son' was edited into the original Creed of the Early Church. However, by focusing on this metaphor of love, he disregards the Personhood of the Holy Spirit in a way, which is of course a crucial element of Trinitarian thought and theology. This additional difference, known as the Filioque, which was officially adopted in 589, essentially leads to a split and separation between the East, and West - as it is the main theological cause of the Great Schism (1054) One of the main reasons for this misunderstanding, is the translational problem with the word procession. The original Greek meaning is a direct step, where as the altered Latin meaning, which Augustine uses ( having a very minimal knowledge of the very language of the New Testament - Greek ) then means intermediary steps or ways, rather than a direct procession. This misunderstanding resulted in huge repercussions : with clear theological differences between the original Orthodox Church, and the western Latin church's points of view. This basic table highlights how the issue of the Filioque leads to these differences:


WestEast ( Orthodox )
Relationship within GodheadDouble procession of Holy SpiritMonarchy of the Father
 -  *Perichoresis 
TrinitarianismEmphasises individuality within GodheadEmphasises unity
AnthropologyOriginal SinRenewing the image of God
SoteriologyForensicDeification
God’s workOn the CrossIn Creation



St Irenaeus of Lyon emphasises that the unity of the three Persons (of the Godhead) is of great importance - and by separating the Holy Spirit we undermine this importance, as it implies that the Holy Spirit is not the third Person of the Holy Trinity, but rather a loving energy. The word *Perichoresis ( as seen in the table ) indicates the modes of existence of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity - characterised by mutual fellowship, co-inhabitation and unity. 'Perichoreo' means to go or revolve around - so this indeed highlights the fellowship and loving unity of the Triune God, rather than the separation of the Holy Spirit ( as the communion between Father and Son, rather than the third Person) which Augustine insinuates. The Holy Scriptures, as well as early Patristic writings, are very clear - that there is indeed a co-inhabitation and consubstantiality (homoousion) of the Trinitarian Persons. ( John 15:26, John 14:11, John 10:30 ), ( Justin Martyr, Origen, Athanasius, Basil the Great )

 In addition he states that the Spirit does indeed proceed from the Father, but he also writes 'through the Son.' 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa agrees with the original view of the Early Church, however he writes that the Spirit does indeed proceed from the Father, but through the Son. This is where we see the link between the Orthodox position of the Early Church and its Fathers, and Augustine's misinterpreted view of the Spirit proceeding from the Father and Son. Here we have a possibility of being able to resolve the issue with the procession, and the differences that had unfolded through Augustine's misunderstanding of this vital Greek word. With this view, Saint Gregory of Nyssa upholds the unity and consubstantiality of the Three persons:

'..power is One, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.. issuing from the Father as from a spring ( so the Spirit still proceeds from the Father alone ), brought into operation by the Son, and perfecting its grace by the power of the Spirit.' ( highlighting this unity, and fellowship within the Triune God )

'..we find that the power which we conceive as preceding this motion, which is the Only-begotten God, is the maker of all things; without Him no existent thing attains to the beginning of its being: and, again, this same source of good issues from the will of the Father'  ( Again, upholding the Orthodox position of the Spirit proceeding from the Father, but through the Son ):

'If, then, every good thing and every good name, depending on that power and purpose which is without beginning, is brought to perfection in the power of the Spirit through the Only-begotten God, without mark of time or distinction (since there is no delay, existent or conceived, in the motion of the Divine will from the Father, through the Son, to the Spirit'

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