Filioque and Eastern Christian Trinitarian understanding


#1

This is a side thread prompted at the request of posters elsewhere who expressed an interest in the Eastern Christian understanding of the Trinity, and objections to the Filioque.

With some trepidation I will begin this thread by quoting Saint Gregory of Nazianzus “You hear that there is generation? Do not waste your time in seeking after the how. You hear that the Spirit proceeds from the Father? Do not busy yourself about the how” [Orat XX, 2] [size=2]“You ask what is the procession of the Holy Spirit? Do tell me first what is the unbegottenness of the Father, then I will explain to you the physiology of the Son’s generation and the Spirit’s procession and both of us shall be stricken with madness for prying into the mystery of God” [Orat XXXI, 8] [size=2]

http://www.wellsprings.org.uk/images/trinit1.jpg[/size]
[/size]


#2

Rather than quoting, probably out of context from an early Church Father, why not examine the evidence of the Scripture?

Maggie


#3

[quote=MaggieOH]Rather than quoting, probably out of context from an early Church Father, why not examine the evidence of the Scripture?

[/quote]

The words of the Lord in Scripture support Saint Gregory.

But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.

Gospel of Saint John 26:15 (Douai-Rheims)__________________
God is the one loveable who is always rejoicing without end in infinite happiness.
~St.Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, died 395


#4

[quote=Fr Ambrose]The words of the Lord in Scripture support Saint Gregory.

But when the Paraclete cometh, **whom I will send **you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.

Gospel of Saint John 26:15 (Douai-Rheims)


God is the one loveable who is always rejoicing without end in infinite happiness.
~St.Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, died 395
[/quote]

Fr Ambrose,

your evidence from Scripture is not very strong here. My copy of the Scripture does not have chapter 26 in John’s Gospel, so I will have to guess that you mean John 16:15. My copy of St. John’s Gospel says the following:

“I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of himself, but he will speak of what he hears, and he will tell you of the things to come. He will take what is mine and make it known to you; in doing this He will glorify me**. All that the Father has is mine; because of this I have just told you, that the Spirit will take what is mine and make it known to you.” **(John 16:12-16)

The verse: “All that the Father has is mine” supports the double procession, since what processes from the Father also processes from the Son.

However, this is just a start of the verses that come direct from the Scripture. It is now over to you to show me a verse that negates the double procession.

Maggie


#5

Hello Father:

And Our Lord’s words here also support the Filioque, although we are partly talking directly about mission rather than procession, it seems. Our Lord says " . . . whom I will send you", which statement shows that the mission of the Holy Spirit comes also from the Son.

And the statement that the Spirit proceeds from the Father does not deny that He also proceeds through the Son. At Florence the East accepted the Latin explanation that by ex Patre Filioque it meant nothing more than from the Father *through the Son (ek Patros dia Huiou), *an expression used by the Greek fathers, as you know.

Our Lord further says that the Spirit will give testimony of the Son.

Regards,
Joannes

[quote=Fr Ambrose]The words of the Lord in Scripture support Saint Gregory.

But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.

Gospel of Saint John 26:15 (Douai-Rheims)


God is the one loveable who is always rejoicing without end in infinite happiness.
~St.Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, died 395
[/quote]


#6

#7

[quote=MaggieOH]your evidence from Scripture is not very strong here.
[/quote]

Well, I would not speak so offhandedly myself of the words of our Lord :frowning:

My copy of the Scripture does not have chapter 26 in John’s Gospel, so I will have to guess that you mean John 16:15.

Sorry, I reversed the numbers. It is John 15:26

My copy of St. John’s Gospel says the following:

“I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of himself, but he will speak of what he hears, and he will tell you of the things to come. He will take what is mine and make it known to you; in doing this He will glorify me**. All that the Father has is mine; because of this I have just told you, that the Spirit will take what is mine and make it known to you.” **(John 16:12-16)

The verse: “All that the Father has is mine” supports the double procession, since what processes from the Father also processes from the Son.

Not really, by that logic, we would have to say that the Son possesses the Fatherhood of the Father and that the Son begets Himself.

However, this is just a start of the verses that come direct from the Scripture. It is now over to you to show me a verse that negates the double procession.

There is NO verse that says: “the Spirit does not proceed from the Son” just as there is no verse saying: “the earth does not revolve around the sun” or “Mary is not the mother of the Trinity.”

There is nothing at all in Scripture that we know of which teaches the the Spirit has his eternal origin from both the Father and the Son.


#8

Dear All,

I will be very busy for the next two weeks, so I will not be able to get involved in these threads as usual, and need to be very selective about the threads I do participate in. This topic has been amply treated in other threads (please do a search on filioque or St. Gregory Nazianzen from GAssisi).

I will say two things which I pray will offer some resolution on one point, and offer some food for thought on another:

  1. The Greek use of the word “proceeds” is different from the Latin use of the word “proceeds” because the original words in Greek and Latin (in both the Bible and Creed) are different. Latins may feel using quotes that indicate Jesus “sends” the Spirit will convince the Greeks, but this is not the case because the issue with the Greeks is not that Jesus sends the Spirit, but that the Spirit ORIGINATES from the Father ALONE.

  2. Orthodox understand that the Spirit ORIGINATES in ESSENCE from the Father ALONE. Unfortunately, this is not the faith of the Fathers before the ninth century. The Fathers East and West before the ninth century believed a slightly different version, which is – the Spirit ORIGINATES in ESSENCE from the Father THROUGH THE SON. This belief is preserved only by the Catholic Church East and West (and, from what I’ve read, several individual Orthodox theologians and hierarchs, and whomever else they may have managed by the grace of the Holy Spirit to return to the patristic faith).

God bless,

Greg


#9

[quote=GAssisi]The Fathers East and West before the ninth century believed a slightly different version, which is – the Spirit ORIGINATES in ESSENCE from the Father THROUGH THE SON. This belief is preserved only by the Catholic Church East and West
[/quote]

The belief which you have expressed is unfortunately heretical and any Fathers who held it were in serious error.

This definition below is the authentic and infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic Church given at the Council of Florence after several years of deliberation. It specifically excludes the speculative interpretation which you desire to attribute to the phrase “from the Father through the Son.”…

In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this holy universal council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it: that the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration. We declare that when holy doctors and fathers say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, this bears the sense that thereby also the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father.

And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.

We define also that the explanation of those words “and from the Son” was licitly and reasonably added to the creed for the sake of declaring the truth and from imminent need.


#10

Dear Father,

We’ll discuss the meat of it another time. For now, clarification please: when you say “heretical” do you mean according to Orthodoxy, or according to Florence?

God bless,

Greg


#11

[quote=MaggieOH]Rather than quoting, probably out of context from an early Church Father, why not examine the evidence of the Scripture?

Maggie
[/quote]

Thanks for the advice. I am sure that you did not intend to be rude, but your comment took me by surprise.

As I am sure you realize, practically everything we can write here (including quotes from scripture) are axtracted from a wider context, even the Gospels: There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 It most certainly would be hard to avoid it.

I thought I had made clear that I was opening this thread on behalf of others to facilitate dialogue. I don’t feel qualified to contribute on the level of the many erudite posters like yourself, and my quotes from Saint Gregory just about describe my position.

So I will leave the debate to those who think they know better than Saint Gregory.

+T+
Michael


#12

[quote=Hesychios]I thought I had made clear that I was opening this thread on behalf of others to facilitate dialogue. I don’t feel qualified to contribute on the level of the many erudite posters like yourself, and my quotes from Saint Gregory just about describe my position.

So I will leave the debate to those who think they know better than Saint Gregory.

+T+
Michael
[/quote]

Michael,
The quote you provided is perfect, fits my thinking too.

The issue here comes down to theological tradition I think as the quote from St Gregory sort of sums up the way the eastern traditions approachs theology. Eastern Theology takes more of an Apophatic approach, that is it is an attempt to express knowledge of God in the negative, by affirming what He is *not *rather than what He is.

Where as Western Theology is more scholastic in nature and expresses what God is.

This, I believe, is the root of the problems that average Catholics have with us from the East. Sometimes it is hard to see that we really agree on much, it is just expressed differently.


#13

[quote=Hesychios]So I will leave the debate to those who think they know better than Saint Gregory.

[/quote]

Dear Michael,

Well, I guess that I must withdraw. I certainly do not know better than the divinely inspired Saint Gregory.

Holy Fathers Basil and Gregory, pray for us!

http://demo.lutherproductions.com/historytutor/basic/early/people/images/cappadocian.jpg


#14

I am a curious Protestant who enjoys studying these issues, but I don’t hold so passionately to one position in the debate. It has always interested me that both sides (Catholics and Orthodox) fight so over this issue.

Let me ask you all this. I believe that the Nicene Creed rightly interprets Scripture concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. But I don’t believe that it accurately represents the relationship of the Father to the Son as one of “eternally begotten.” They used this phrase because they did not know what else to do with John’s statement that Christ was “begotten” because in human language it implies “origin” and therefore, creation. Therefore, they said that Christ was never begotten in a point of time, but that He was “eternally” begotten and therefore eternally proceeds from the Father in an ontological relationship. In other words, there was never a time when He was not begotten or proceeding. Do I have this right so far?

However, recent linguistic studies have shown that the Greek word used by John did not stem from the Greek word that means “to beget” or “to give birth to” (gennao) but from a word that means “one of a kind” or “unique” (genos). Therefore, it does not imply ontological generation or procession, but an ontological uniqueness (i.e. Christ sonship is not like that of believers). That is why virtually all modern translations (at least Protestant translations) have changed their translations to “one of a kind” or “unique.” In other words, the Bible teaches that Christ was and is always the second person of the Trinity, but the it does not say nor support that He is “eternally begotten” or in an eternal relationship of procession.

Have you all studied these issues in linguistics? If so, how does this affect the debate at hand?

Thanks for your response.

Michael


#15

Hello Michael:

I am tempted to think that this may be a distinction without a difference, unless you can say more about it. It strikes me that both genos and gennao seem to come from the same root, so how can “linguistic studies” show your difference between “ontological generation” and “ontological uniqueness” ?

But there is the other matter that the Church cannot have essentially misunderstood ths teaching of Scripture in this regard. If so she would have taught error, something that God would not have allowed.

Regards,
Joannes

[quote=michaelp]I am a curious Protestant who enjoys studying these issues, but I don’t hold so passionately to one position in the debate. It has always interested me that both sides (Catholics and Orthodox) fight so over this issue.

Let me ask you all this. I believe that the Nicene Creed rightly interprets Scripture concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. But I don’t believe that it accurately represents the relationship of the Father to the Son as one of “eternally begotten.” They used this phrase because they did not know what else to do with John’s statement that Christ was “begotten” because in human language it implies “origin” and therefore, creation. Therefore, they said that Christ was never begotten in a point of time, but that He was “eternally” begotten and therefore eternally proceeds from the Father in an ontological relationship. In other words, there was never a time when He was not begotten or proceeding. Do I have this right so far?

However, recent linguistic studies have shown that the Greek word used by John did not stem from the Greek word that means “to beget” or “to give birth to” (gennao) but from a word that means “one of a kind” or “unique” (genos). Therefore, it does not imply ontological generation or procession, but an ontological uniqueness (i.e. Christ sonship is not like that of believers). That is why virtually all modern translations (at least Protestant translations) have changed their translations to “one of a kind” or “unique.” In other words, the Bible teaches that Christ was and is always the second person of the Trinity, but the it does not say nor support that He is “eternally begotten” or in an eternal relationship of procession.

Have you all studied these issues in linguistics? If so, how does this affect the debate at hand?

Thanks for your response.

Michael
[/quote]


#16

[quote=Hesychios]Thanks for the advice. I am sure that you did not intend to be rude, but your comment took me by surprise.

As I am sure you realize, practically everything we can write here (including quotes from scripture) are axtracted from a wider context, even the Gospels: There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 It most certainly would be hard to avoid it.

I
So I will leave the debate to those who think they know better than Saint Gregory.

+T+
Michael
[/quote]

Michael,

I have researched this subject in the past, and although you might not like my “tone” I cannot apologise for the fact that this question needs to be answered by reference to the Scripture.

St. Gregory is not an infallible source. If he expressed an opinion, then it was his opinion alone. However, that is not my real concern here. What I am driving at is the fact that there is always the danger of taking any of the Church fathers out of context to come up with the things that support our views.

When I have discussed this subject in the past, the word that has come up for consideration is that of spiration. What I am trying to establish here is whether Scripture supports the inclusion of “the son”, which, after research I believe to be the case. There are other verses from the Scripture that need to be discussed, and I think these should be examined together with the Sacred Tradition that includes the work of the early Church Fathers that we share in common.

Do not be so hasty in condemning someone because he or she disagrees with your point of view. This is a serious issue (and you are nowhere near as rude as the first gentleman who confronted the list where I first waded into the subject - because you are not arrogant like him).


#17

[quote=Fr Ambrose]Well, I would not speak so offhandedly myself of the words of our Lord :frowning:

Sorry, I reversed the numbers. It is John 15:26

Not really, by that logic, we would have to say that the Son possesses the Fatherhood of the Father and that the Son begets Himself.

.
[/quote]

Fr. Ambrose,

thank you for making the correction and giving me the correct verse that you are using :slight_smile: . I must point out that I am not using Scripture in an offhand way, but I am questioning the eastern interpretation of the words that are found in John’s Gospel as a means of supporting the contention that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from both the Father and the Son.

I think that we can say that we both agree on the fact that Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of the Father. I think we can agree that Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of the Father. Therefore the verses that we need to examine in their proper context are those verses that actually speak one way to you as a member of the Eastern Orthodox faith and one way to myself, as a member of the Latin or western tradition.

Now that being said, I want to look at the context of the verse that you have quoted:

“When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses because you have been with me from the outset.” (John 15:26)

(Now I am going to digress for a moment because I noticed something in the next paragraph that leaves room for thought - “and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is doing a holy duty for God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself” - sorry I had to write this down because I suddenly realised that this verse has a lot of meaning in today’s hostile environment)

It is true that the words from John 15:26 could be taken the way that you suggest. However, I think that one must look to the exact wording, as well as the whole context of what is written or said, that is the words that surround this most powerful statement from Jesus. What stands out for me is that Jesus says that He will send the Advocate, who will be the spirit of Truth that issues from the Father. What else did Jesus say in this same discourse?

“I am the true vine and my Father the vinedresser” (John 15:1)

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” (John 15:9)

“Anyone who hates me, hates my Father.” (John 15:23)

These words of Jesus suggest that you cannot separate the Father from the Son, thus the Advocate is sent to us by both the Father and the Son, not just the Father.

God Bless,
Maggie


#18

[quote=Joannes]Hello Michael:

I am tempted to think that this may be a distinction without a difference, unless you can say more about it. It strikes me that both genos and gennao seem to come from the same root, so how can “linguistic studies” show your difference between “ontological generation” and “ontological uniqueness” ?

But there is the other matter that the Church cannot have essentially misunderstood ths teaching of Scripture in this regard. If so she would have taught error, something that God would not have allowed.

Regards,
Joannes
[/quote]

The significance is that one (begotten) implies Christ’s origin of being (i.e. dependant on the Father as His source of existence) and hence Arianism (without the word “eternally”) or subordinationalism, and one implies a unique type of sonship, speaking nothing to an ontological dependency.

In other words, Genos means “kind or type”, ginomai is a verb of being.

Saying that Christ is the unique Son of God is much different than saying that He is the begotten Son of God, since begotteness implies generation or origin, while “unique” implies type.

So significant are the differences that all these translations no longer use the word “begotten” nor any cognates to translate monogenes:

New American Bible (NAB)
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
New International Version (NIV)
New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
New Revised Standrd Version (NRSV)
Today’s English Version (TEV)
The Living “Bible” (TLB)
New Living Translation (NLT)
New Life Version (NLV)
Bible in Basic English (BBE)
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The Message (MSG)
Weymouth New Testament (WNT)
English Standard Version (ESV)
Worldwide English New Testament (WE)
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
New English Translation (NET)

I was just wondering if this would affect the debate on the filioque.

Michael


#19

[quote=MaggieOH]Fr"When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses because you have been with me from the outset." (John 15:26)

These words of Jesus suggest that you cannot separate the Father from the Son, thus the Advocate is sent to us by both the Father and the Son, not just the Father.

[/quote]

No problem with that! The Orthodox following the Fathers and the Scriptures believe that Christ sent the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, into the world.

This is not the same as claiming that the Paraclete has his eternal origin in the Son… merely that the Son sends Him into the world to accomplish something.

We notice that the Son, speaking in the same breath, also sends His apostles into the world to accomplish something. That does not mean that we can use the verse to prove that the Apostles have an eternal origin in the Son !!!


God is the one loveable who is always rejoicing without end in infinite happiness.
~St.Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, died 395


#20

[quote=Fr Ambrose]No problem with that! The Orthodox following the Fathers and the Scriptures believe that Christ sent the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, into the world.

This is not the same as claiming that the Paraclete has his eternal origin in the Son… merely that the Son sends Him into the world to accomplish something.

We notice that the Son, speaking in the same breath, also sends His apostles into the world to accomplish something. That does not mean that we can use the verse to prove that the Apostles have an eternal origin in the Son !!!


God is the one loveable who is always rejoicing without end in infinite happiness.
~St.Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, died 395
[/quote]

Fr. Ambrose,

thanks for the response. It is good debating with someone who shows so much respect for others. (You would understand if you saw what happened the last time I touched on this subject).

I do see a problem in the way that we are interpreting the Scripture in this instance, and even think we are talking past each other to some extent. In response to my reply you said:

This is not the same as claiming that the Paraclete has his eternal origin in the Son… merely that the Son sends Him into the world to accomplish something.


Yet this is not what I was implying or have ever understood about this passage. The procession of the Holy Spirit from both Father and Son is not the same thing as eternal origin. The correct understanding is that of “spiration”. There is another verse in John’s Gospel that throws further light on the subject:

“after Jesus had taken the vinegar he said ‘it is accomplished’ ; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit” (John 19:30)

This takes me back to the verse that you initially quoted as well as the other words that Jesus gave to the Apostles before His Death on the Cross:

“But when the spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt” (John 16:13)

"when the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness…: (John 15:16)

or from chapter 6:

“As I who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father…” (John 6:57)

“It is the spirit that gives life…” (John 6:63)

and from John chapter 7

“I shall remain with you for only a short time now, then I will go back to the one who sent me…” (John 7:33)

Then after the Resurrection, Jesus appears to the Apostles in the upper room:

"After saying this He breathed on them and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit, for those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” (John 20:22)

In this verse alone, Jesus is telling us that the Spirit proceeds (not generates) from Him.

Maggie


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.