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1548Summary of the Filioque Dispute

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  • Christopher Orr
    Mar 3 9:39 AM
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      Concordia Series 1, Post 21: The Filioque Dispute of the Ninth
      Frontier Orthodoxy<https://www.google.com/reader/view/feed/http%3A%2F%2Ffrontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com%2Ffeed%2F>by
      Fr. Oliver Herbel, North Dakota State University
      The Trinitarian Definition

      The Son and the Spirit are co-essential, or consubstantial, with the Father
      (*homoousios* with the Father). Properly speaking, there is one God, the
      Father. He eternally begets and spirates (or breathes forth) his Son and
      his Spirit, who, being eternally produced from the Father�s own being, are
      all that it means to be God.

      The Beginnings of the *Filioque* [�and the Son�] Dispute

      In the midst of the second struggle against the iconoclasts, another dispute
      began, one which cut to the heart of the rule of faith.

      According to some statements by the fourth century saints, Hilary of
      Poitiers and Ambrose of Milan, already in the fourth century some already
      were suggesting that the Spirit comes from the Son. At times, both men
      write of the Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son.

      Augustine (354-430) writes of the Father and the Son as sources for the
      Spirit�s existence. At times, he writes of the Spirit being the bond in
      love that joins the Father and the Spirit. Augustine�s starting point is
      not that there is �one God, the Father.� Rather, for Augustine, the one God
      is �the Trinity itself.� The reason for this seems to be that Augustine was
      not living in the East and having to address the details of the issues that
      confronted the East between the first and third ecumenical councils.
      Augustine knew the orthodox/catholic faith to be that there is one God in
      three persons and one person, Jesus Christ, in two natures. In other words,
      he knew the summaries, but did not have to invest himself in the largely
      Eastern controversies.

      One Christian source for Augustine was Marius Victorinus (ca. AD 280-365),
      who strongly connected the Son and the Spirit in order to argue against

      In 589, a local council, the Council of Toledo, in Toledo, Spain, condemned
      local Arians. When the council cited the Creed, it said �We believe in the
      Holy Spirit, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father *and the Son* [

      The Conflict Begins

      In 796 or 797, Paulinus, bishop of Aquileia, held a council for the region
      of Friuli (the part of Italy containing Aquileia). Given the task of
      addressing radical, adoptionist Arians, Paulinus� council spent a fair
      amount of time addressing the subject of the *filioque*, arguing that a
      council could add something to the Creed. Paulinus of Aquileia�s main line
      of argumentation is that interpolation (or even subtraction!) can occur (in
      his case by the council of Friuli) if the addition or subtraction does not
      go against the Fathers� �intention� and �a blameless discernment.�

      In 806, some Western monks in a Latin monastery in Jerusalem began singing
      the *filioque* in the Creed. Greek monks heard this and were scandalized
      that their Latin brethren had dared to change the faith. When asked, �Do
      you believe just as the Church of the Holy Resurrection of the Lord does?�
      they replied they believed the same as the �Roman See.� The question
      concerned the Rule of Faith. Pope Leo III soon sent a letter to the Eastern
      Churches in which he confessed the *filioque*. He then told Charlemagne
      (742-814) to tell his theologians to argue on its behalf.

      Pope Leo III soon backtracks, however, and when the Carolingians seek papal
      approval of a council they held, Leo III tells them the Creed must not be
      altered. He went so far as to engrave the Creed (without the *filioque*) on
      silver shields and placed them upon the doors to St. Peter�s cathedral in

      Boris, Pope Nicholas I, Ignatius of Constantinople, and Photios of

      In 865, Boris, the leader of the people in what is today Bulgaria, decided
      to become a Christian, asking Photios to baptize him and Emperor Michael III
      to be his godfather.

      Photios (patriarch from 858-67 and again from 878-886), sends missionaries.
      When Boris did not get all of the concessions he wanted from Constantinople
      (especially his own patriarch for his capital city) he asked for Rome�s help
      and sent the Byzantine missionaries back to Constantinople. The
      missionaries reported on the different practices of the Latin missionaries
      they encounter. A significant difference is the *filioque*.

      In response, Photios issued an encyclical to the major Eastern sees, wherein
      he condemned the *filioque *and calls for a council to address the issue.
      This council met in 867 and condemned the filioque and Pope Nicholas I.
      Later that same year, a new emperor takes the throne (almost certainly
      through leading the murder plot that killed Emperor Michael). Photios
      submitted his resignation and Ignatius, Photios� predecessor, is

      In the meantime, supporters of Ignatius had gone to Rome and tell the pope
      an exaggerated story of how Photios became patriarch. In 867, Nicholas I
      died. In 869, his successor, Hadrian II, sent representatives to Rome who
      demanded that a council be held to undo Photios� 867 council and to condemn
      Photios. At this point, Boris sends representatives asking which see is in
      charge in his territory�Rome or Constantinople. The three patriarchs of
      Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch make the decision in favor of

      In 877, Ignatius died and Photios was re-elected as patriarch of


      In 879-80, however, another council convened in Constantinople, with the
      desire to settle the matter between Hadrian II�s successor, Pope John VIII,
      and Photios. At this council, the papal legates pressed for a Roman-centric
      perspective, but signed the conciliar documents, documents which reveal a
      more �ecumenical� mindset. At this council, it is proclaimed that whatever
      Rome decides within her jurisdiction, Constantinople must accept and
      vice-versa. Also, all additions to the Creed are condemned. No addition
      may be made (following the 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Councils), which means the
      *filioque *is prohibited. The question of Illyricum (Bulgaria) was left to
      the emperor to decide and he did decide to give the jurisdiction back to
      Rome, but little ever comes of this, as Bulgaria was now looking toward the
      East and Byzantine Orthodoxy remained the dominant form of Christianity from
      then on.

      Pope John VIII writes to Photios sometime after the council to assure
      Photios that Rome does not support the *filioque*, but rather �We judge them
      [those who say *filioque*] with Judas because they have done as he did,
      since, although it is not the Body of Christ which they subject to death,
      they nevertheless bring schism to the faithful who are his members.� He
      concludes, however, by arguing for a slow decrease in its usage since many
      in the West had been saying it for some time.

      This council did not completely settle matters, however. In 883, Photios
      writes to the patriarch of Aquileia, encouraging him to listen to the pope
      (John VIII) and to note the stance of Pope Leo III earlier. He also
      provides arguments against the filioque. Clearly, things did not improve,
      and shortly thereafter he wrote his *On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit*,
      in which he expands his earlier argumentation in the *Letter to the
      Patriarch of Aquileia*.

      *John 16.15*

      �All that the Father has is mine. Because of this, I said that he [the
      Spirit] receives what is mine and proclaims [it] to you (pavnta o{sa e[cei
      oJ path;r ejmav ejstin. dia; tou`to ei\pon o{ti ejk tou` ejmou` lambavnei
      kai; ajnaggelei` uJmi`n).�

      *Central arguments put forth by the West*

      The most basic Western concern was that the East was �Arianizing� by
      refusing the filioque.

      Ratramnus of Corbie (786-860) became a key spokesperson for the West and
      presented at least three major lines of defense.

      The New Testament clearly speaks of the Spirit as being the Spirit �of the
      Son.� This is, indeed, one of his most important apologetics, with an
      exegesis of Galatians 4.6 playing a key role.

      2) Ratramnus builds on John 16.15 to say that whatever the Spirit receives
      must refer to an eternal reception and so the Spirit receives the substance
      of His being from the Son.

      3) Ratramnus argues that the pope has the power equal to or greater than an
      Ecumenical Council and can, should he so desire, interpolate the Creed at

      *St. Photios� main arguments against the filioque*

      Photios objects to the filioque for four central reaons (each of which may
      be found in his *Letter to the Patriarch of Aquileia* and the *On the
      Mystagogy on the Holy Spirit*).

      1) He objects to a change in the Creed. According to both Ephesus and
      Chalcedon, the Creed may not be altered. At the very least, any change
      would require an ecumenical council.

      2) The *filioque* confuses *hypostatic *(personal) and natural properties.
      So, he argues that if the Son receives divinity from the Father and part of
      what he receives is property of producing of another, then the Spirit must
      also receive that ability if he is truly divine because the ability to
      produce another being who is fully God would be a �natural� quality, not the
      quality if the person of the Father. This criticism is the main objection
      because if there is a divine, or Godly, property that is part of what it
      means to be God and the Spirit does not have it, then the Spirit is not
      fully God.

      3) He says the filioque also argues against the perfection of God, as the
      Father apparently needs the Son�s help. Also, if there are two causes, then
      the Spirit is a composite being, which calls into question his perfection as

      4) Exegetically, Photios notes that Jesus says �of mine,� not of me, meaning
      the �mine� is something He has received, such that the Spirit is eternally
      and ontologically from the Father and the Son is sending Him in view of
      God�s mission into the world. He also notes that the West dogmatizes that
      the Father proceeds from the Son since the Bible says �Father of the Son.�
      And what does the West do with phrases like �Spirit of power� or �Spirit of
      Wisdom�? That is to say, �the Spirit of His Son� is not a subjective
      genitive or a genitive of sources.

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