Lesson 22B Preview: Early Church Fathers Comment On The Filioque Clause; History Channel presents “Greek Byzantium”; Jeffrey MacDonald Audio Lecture “The Filioque Clause and St. Photius”
Please note the selections below from the early church fathers appear on a Catholic website; therefore, we can quite naturally expect these carefully selected excerpts to be supportive of the Roman Catholic position on the Filioque Clause:
“The Early Church Fathers on
The Filioque Clause
Contrary to claims by the Orthodox Church the Catholic Church did not invent the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The teaching not only appears in Scripture but was taught by the early Church as well.
“I believe that the Spirit proceeds not otherwise than from the Father through the Son” (Against Praxeas 4:1 [A.D. 216]).
“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” (Commentaries on John 2:6 [A.D. 229]).
Maximus the Confessor
“By nature the Holy Spirit in his being takes substantially his origin from the Father through the Son who is begotten (Questions to Thalassium 63 [A.D. 254]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
“[There is] one Holy Spirit, having substance from God, and who is manifested 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” (Confession of Faith [A.D. 265]).
Hilary of Poitiers
“Concerning the Holy Spirit . . . it is not necessary to speak of him who must be acknowledged, who is from the Father and the Son, his sources” (The Trinity 2:29 [A.D. 357]).
Didymus the Blind
“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” (The Holy Spirit 37 [A.D. 362]).
Epiphanius of Salamis
“The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son” (The Man Well-Anchored 75 [A.D. 374]).
Basil the Great
“[T]he 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” (The Holy Spirit 18:47 [A.D. 375]).
Ambrose of Milan
“The Holy Spirit, when he proceeds from the Father and the Son, does not separate himself from the Father and does not separate himself from the Son” (The Holy Spirit 1:2:120 [A.D. 381]).
Gregory of Nyssa
“[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” (Against Eunomius 1 [A.D. 382]).
The Athanasian Creed
“[W]e venerate one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in oneness. . . . The Father was not made nor created nor begotten by anyone. The Son is from the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding” (Athanasian Creed [A.D. 400]).
“Why, then, should we not believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, when he is the Spirit also of the Son? For if the Holy Spirit did not proceed from him, when he showed himself to his disciples after his resurrection he would not have breathed upon them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ [John 20:22]. For what else did he signify by that breathing upon them except that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from him” (Homilies on John 99:8 [A.D. 416]).”
Tensions between the East and the West grew in the centuries following the Filioque Clause debate. The short video begins with a painting of Peter Mogila, (1596-1646) Metropolitan (Bishop) of the Orthodox Church who is eventually quoted, along with many other Patriarchs from Orthodox history, on the failings of the Roman Catholic Church. Our narrator details Orthodox reactions to Western “heresies”, including their very negative response to the Gregorian Calendar:
“A beacon of light with a dark side”. This dramatic statement opens an excellent series from the History Channel on Greek Byzantium. How did Constantinople and its Patriarch become such an influential force in the East, to say nothing of the Patriarch’s repeated challenges to the authority of the Bishop of Rome? Engineering An Empire: The Greek Byzantium (five 10 minute segments) answers this question and many more:
Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a convert to Orthodoxy, very capably lectures on the Filioque controversy and its roots going back to the time of Augustine. Click here for the Community Audio page and find lecture #23.
A Quote for Your Consideration: “Because the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, Christ could breathe and bestow Him upon His disciples, John 20, 22.” (John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, p. 156)
Questions for Discussion:
1. Origen’s statement above: What issues do you see as potential points of debate in theology when closely analyzing his statement?
2. As we have learned, the slightest nuance of language can have a profound impact on theological debates, creeds, and church doctrines. As you read the quotes above, did you note any language that might trigger a need for further clarification? Can you detect any language that an early theologian – from the East or West – might point to as hinting of an incipient pneumatomachianism? How about Subordinationism? Sabellianism?
3. In the short video above that Peter Moglia of the Orthodox Church narrates, an Eastern slant on the “heresies” of Rome describes an event in 1925. What does this event, occurring outside Athens, Greece, suggest to us about Orthodox believers and the cultural divide between East and West that we have discussed?
4. What was Justinian’s impact on the intellectual and spiritual climate of Constantinople? How did his policies affect the economic-political system of the city?
5. Cannon and gunpowder – when and how did these military innovations impact the city of Constantinople? Who was most responsible?
6. Dr. Macdonald discusses a council in 587 A.D. What caused this council, held in Toledo, Spain, to introduce the Filioque Clause? Specifically, what does Prof. Macdonald suggest may have been a main motivating factor for the insertion of the Filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed at this time? What role did Charlemagne’s theologians play in the emergence of the Filioque debate with the East?
7. What historical evidence would you cite to explain Pope Gregory’s response to the Filioque? How did Gregory respond to Charlemagne’s theologians and reports of the Filioque being used in the Creed at the Court of Aachen?
8. In the Q & A session that follows his lecture, a participant indicates laymen have asked him “why did this controversy divide the church?” “Why is it so important spiritually that the churches, East and West, decided to separate?” [The preceding questions are paraphrases.] Can you cite a few of the reasons that Dr. Macdonald delineates in response?
GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND NAMES: Please click on the concept and you will jump to a source document.
12. Gregory of Nyssa
14. Ambrose of Milan
16. Saint Photius
19. Metropolitan (Bishop)
20. Pendentives (architecture – St. Sophia)