Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Beyond Religious Dogmatics

Filioque Controversy

Home
Personal Reflections
Historical Perspectives on Christianity
Theological - Historical Works
Interested in Learning Biblical & Modern Hebrew?
Contact Me

The Filioque proceeds from the combination of Latin words meaning "and from the Son," that was added to the Nicene Creed by the Third Council of Toledo in 589. The whole phrase that was modified reads: et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre Filioque procedit[1] ("I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and Son"), referring to the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit not only from the Father but also the Son; but originally, there was no this phrase in the confessions agreed to at Nicaea held in 325 AD and Constantinople in 381 AD.

Filioque became heavily disputed clause that formed a divisive difference to the present days in particular between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The starting point of the procession of the Holy Spirit is in the New Testament, when Jesus in John 15:26 says: “When the Advocate is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he shall bear witness of me”. Based, primarily on this phrase the church fathers at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 modified the statement of the First Council of Nicea in 325, that closed with the article that we believe in the Holy Spirit, by stating that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father." The problem here is that Jesus nowhere in the New Testament (and it is not the only thing that he leaves off, obviously) points if the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son. Probably, it wouldn’t matter if various Christian groups including Roman Catholics and Protestants at later centuries didn’t start pointing out that there was and is a necessity to recognize the connection between Son and Spirit, as well.

The filioque was accepted by the Western church by the end of the IV century but it wasn’t authorized for general liturgical use before the early part of the XI century and the Eastern church didn’t accept the addition because, in their view the Roman Catholics didn’t have any right to alter the creed approved by early ecumenical councils “for in the ecumenical Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople the Western church was scarcely represented, at Nicaea only by one bishop (Hosius of Spain), in the second not at all; and in the Council of Chalcedon the delegates of Pope Leo I fully agreed to the enlarged Greek form of the Nicene symbol, yet without the Filioque, which was then not thought of, although the doctrine of the double procession was already current in the West.”[2]

The original cause for the Filioque conflict seems to be a kind of response to the Arianism that denied the full divinity of the Son teaching that the Father and Son didn’t exist together eternally and the Jesus was created by God at some point and was an inferior creature to God but, unquestionably, more superior than ordinary human being. At the same time, the reaction of the Eastern church, in my opinion, also makes a lot of sense, as the clause, in their view seems to compromise the primacy of the Father which, again in their opinion, is the source of deity. At the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1439, there was an attempt to reconcile two different views, the session took several years and had no any positive results as each party remained to stand on their points and the doctrine represented by Filioque remained one of the primary points of difference between them that affected the shape of the church as a whole in the long history of doctrine.

To me, for instance, as an individual who follows Jesus Christ as a primary teacher, the clause such as Filioque seems to be a very minor detail that wouldn’t matter, but when I look at the bigger picture, I witness a major deal that brings a separation between a large group of people realizing that the conflict of two schools such as Antiochene and Alexandrian is not over; it only took on another form and modified.  The problem with the any theological controversy including Filioque, is that it is, practically impossible to solve the conflict without coming to a contradiction as the claims about the Spirit or Jesus himself would always depend on the individual Christology or the agreed and common Christology of the group. If I, for example, look at Jesus Christ and perceive him as an eternal Logos who abided with the Father and was the Father etc. in the eternity, than it would be important to me to believe and claim that the Holy Spirit that is paradoxically also Father proceeds from both. If I am more inclined to the view that Jesus is the superior human being in whom the word of God indwelt, then I would not claim that the Spirit proceeds from both, which is obvious. Another problem is, over the time even the individual Christology transforms and modifies making the confessions and perception about God-Father, Son and Spirit modify with it and at times, the statements about and beliefs in the Trinity lose their sense completely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

-          Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073 (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1919) – Digital Version of the Book at Christian Classics Ethereal Library – www.ccel.org

-          Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume II. The History of Creeds (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1919) p. 79 – Digital Version of the Book at Christian Classics Ethereal Library – www.ccel.org

 

 



[1] Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume II. The History of Creeds (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1919) p. 79 – Digital Version of the Book at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds2.i.html

[2] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073 (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1919) – Digital Version of the Book at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc4.i.xi.ii.html?highlight=filioque#highlight

Created December, 2007