The Cappadocians and Augustine on the Trinity

Recently there has been a large proportion of Western Christians who are abandoning the traditional representation of the Trinity as by Augustine and Aquinas (cf. N. Omerod’s book on rediscovering the Western Tradition of the Trinity).

A siginificant amount of this has been placed at the Cappadocian’s feet, for their explanations, rejecting the word person (prosopon) and replacing it with a coined hypostasis and remaining with one essence (ousia).

how does this forum feel about one or either of the presentations of the Trinity by these great (but differing) ancient theologians?

I recommend reading the third letter of St. Cyril to Nestorius.

Cyril insists that the sayings of the Gospels must be referred to a single prosopon, the hypostasis of the Word incarnate. Nestorius spoke of two prosopa (roles), whereas Cyril spoke of one prosopon, meaning hypostatis.

The problem is that the definitions of these words were somewhat fluid during antiquity. Different people used them different ways, which led to a whole lot of confusion. As time went on more standard meanings emerged.

For example, did Nestorius really mean “prosopon” the way we would mean “person” or did he mean something more along the line of roles or legal persons or something like that? I believe the root meaning of the Greek word is “mask”, which is very open to interpretation.

I would question what is really underlying this idea of moving away from Augustine and Aquinas, and whether the Cappadocian Fathers may be being posthumously co-opted into something they would not have supported, just because they used slightly different language.

I’d like to ask the OP exactly what theological conclusions he’s hinting at here. Standard Western theology recognizes three hypostases and one essence, so that’s not an issue. But is that being redefined in a Modalist way, or what?

You must mean this book:

Trinity, retrieving the western tradition, Marquette University Press, 2005. Neil Ormerod.

not

*Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology, *Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004. Stanley J. Grenz

Ormerod argues for a retrieval of the analogy of Augustine and Aquinas, thinking that many contemporary theologians do not grasp the nature of the psychological analogy.

Thanks for responding.

I agree that all Trinitarian theologians are attempting to describe the same thing. The Trinity.

I have read in yet another book, on the theology of David Coffee, that Eastern and a completely new theology of the trinity is trying to be “worked out” which ends up as a kind of logos pneumatology. (so close to adoptionism the author has to deny it).

It labels Omerod, along with Ratzinger as minority conservative theologians and that their real “mistake” was not to appreciate the Cappadocians.

hence my post, what possible differences could be “left out” of Augustine that the Caps have?

Would you go against St. Augustine who was declared by an Ecumenical Council as a Holy Father and Doctor of the Church? Would you listen to these new people claiming to have better understanding than St. Augustine, A Holy Man, A bishop with Authority, who himself seen a miracle regarding the Trinity?

Photius of Constantinople was afraid to condemn St. Augustine when he read that St. Augustine’s approved the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.

I would consider myself wrong than to argue against a church father.

I think you’re misunderstanding the problem. The problem being presented is that St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian (two of the Cappadocian Fathers) are also Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church, and their triadology is very different from St. Augustine’s triadology. The question then, is how differences between the triadology of the Cappadocian Fathers, based on the monarchy of the Father, and the triadology of St. Augustine can be reconciled.

Well that is an issue for Catholic and Orthodox for the last 1000 years, but that was never a problem in the Roman Catholic church, you cannot use the triadology of the Greek Fathers, using Greek language and Greek tradition and Greek theology in the Tradition, Language and Theology of the the Latin Church, and Vice Versa. That is what St. Maximus is telling the Greeks regarding the Latin church. All you have to do is make sure that the arguments and sources of these Traditions came directly from the teachings of the Apostles and Church Fathers. This is how the Orthodox and Catholics settled their argument at the Council of Florence in which the Latins used the Greek manuscript to support their argument, unfortunately the Greeks responded that the manuscript was forged, however, the Latins argued that the manuscript came directly from Legitimate sources. Whereas the Greeks is unfamiliar with the Latin Fathers due to this they are ignorant of the Latin Tradition.

Now to reconcile these two traditions you must be an expert historian, canonist and theologian of both traditions, even though you are, You need a miracle so that both sides would hear you.

But if you are not, never think that a Doctor of the Church is wrong especially St. Augustine in which the Church Fathers of the 5th Ecumenical Council used his Authority to persuade the Pope to condemn the three chapters.

St Augustine was hardly a great defender of the Filioque - frankly, he cannot compare to the minds of the Cappadocian Fathers, great saint and doctor that he was (in his own “rite”).

As for Florence, at issue was not only the Greek sources produced by the Latin fathers, but also their interpretation of those sources.

The Latin and Greek Triadologies are different, but there should be one single confession of the Faith held by both sides. Both sides did hold to that confession in the Nicene Creed of the fourth century, a Creed that was intended for the universal Church and was approved in its original form by the universal Church.

The Filioque has no place in the Nicene Creed and should be, in my view, removed by the Latin Church. The Filioque itself is a legitimate affirmation by the Latin Church - but it does not belong in a Creed intended for universal use. To place the Filioque in that Creed is to turn it into a Latin creedal expression only. The Latin Church held to the original creed for centuries before the Filioque became normative.

In addition, the sentences of the Nicene Creed were all taken directly from scripture and this makes the Fiioque stick out like a sore thumb, especially since the words “Who proceeds from the Father” are directly from Christ Himself.

I know you will disagree strenuously with all of this.

Alex

The ignorance went (and goes) both ways. To believe that the Latins at Florence understood the Greek texts better than the Eastern churchmen is preposterous. If the Latins had that sort of understanding (you understand things your way, and we’ll understand things our way), they would not have forced the Easterners to recite the creed with the filioque at the Second Council of Lyons.

St. Maximos definitely did not understand the Filioque as the medieval Roman Catholics did. He himself asserts (in the same passage which is often used to support the Filioque) that while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, only the Father is the principle and source of the Holy Spirit, which runs contrary to medieval the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as if from one principle.

The procession concept, expressed by Photius, is an external procession, not an internal procession. Photius drew on the teachings of St. John of Damscus. From the Latin Church, the two internal processions are (1- the begetting of the Son from the Father, and 2- the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son) and have been historically called the “dual procession” which has been said to be a misleading term, because the Father has always been maintained at the originating principal, east and west. There are not scriptural references to an internal procession, they are all mission. It is the Symbol of Faith that is the reference for the internal procession of the Latin Church.

St. Thomas identifies four real relations in God: paternity, filiation, (active) spiration, and procession (passive spiration), he says these

“real relations in God can be understood only in regard to those actions according to which there are internal, and not external, processions in God… the action of the intellect, the procession of the Word; and the other from the action of the will, the procession of love.”

I hasve read that one sticking point at the Council was the use of the term for substance, which was a philosophical rather than a Biblical term. The Council used it in a new way, to make sure that the position of the council rejected the views of Arius. This allowed a third opinion to emerge after the Council, the “semi-arian” view, which was adopted by the Emperor and many, perhaps the majority of the Bishops. Then events led to the victory of the Athanasian faction, but no resolution of the matter until Chalcedon. The formulations of the Councils seem always to aim first of all to deny certain heretical assrtions: Arianism, modalism, etc.

I honestly don’t think, as esteemed of a churchman he was, that St. Photios’ trinitarian theology is the best representative of the Eastern tradition and its interpretation of what “proceeds from the Father through the Son” means. St. Photios was largely on the defensive, reacting against what he perceived to be heresy. To better understand the issue, I think we should go back to the one Father who understood both sides of the issue, St. Maximos the Confessor.

Here is what St. Maximos the Confessor himself says of the Filioque:

From this [the Romans] showed that they themselves do not make the Son the cause of the Spirit for they know that the Father is the one cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession, but they show the progression [here he uses the Greek verb προϊέναι] through Him [the Son] and thus the unity of the essence.

So long as the Filioque clause does not confuse the manifestation and progression of the Holy Spirit through the Son with the causal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father, but properly places the Father as the sole cause and principle of the Holy Spirit, then the Filioque can be regarded as orthodox in belief, according to the Eastern Orthodox.

The problem here is that the CCC says:

The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)”. The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration. . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

This language is problematic, as saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle and through one spiration implies that the Son is a partial cause of the Holy Spirit. This conflicts with the traditional triadology of the Eastern tradition (in which St. Maximos the Confessor was brought up), which states that causality is a hypostatic property of the Father and the Father alone; to confuse causality as being a property of both the Father and the Son would be sabellianism, from the Eastern point of view.

St. Maximos did not say that only the Father was the principle of the Holy Spirit (the word wasn’t even used in the text, and I’m not sure it has an exact Greek translation). By saying that the Holy Spirit is “through the Son” he was saying exactly that the Father and Son are one principle. You can’t have “through” and have two principles, and neither can you exclude the Son from the principle if He participates in any way in the Procession.

Perhaps there is a continued misunderstanding going on of what “principle” actually means, and confusing it with “principal”. :confused:

Peace and God bless!

Photius used this logic: if God’s common attributes belong only to His ousia, then spirating, common to Father and Son, must belong to ousia. But since the Spirit spirates no one, the Spirit has a different ousia and is not God. (Photius, Mystagogy 34).

Consubstantiality is the source of the Catholic teaching (from the Symbol of Faith). The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, all participate in the spiration.

St. Augustine: “As the Father has it in himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from him, so has he given it to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed from him, without reference to time in the two cases. And it is said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, in such a way that it may be understood that, if he proceeds also from the Son, this is something the Son possesses from the Father. In fact, whatever the Son has, he has from the Father; he has from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceed from him…. The Son is born of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally (principaliter) and, by the intemporal gift of this to the Son, from the Father and the Son, in communion (communiter).

From: De Trinitate, liber XV, cap. 25.47, PL 42, 1094-1095

Lyons II (1274):

“We believe also that the Holy Spirit is complete and perfect and true God, proceeding from the Father and the Son, coequal and consubstantial, co-omnipotent, and coeternal through all things with the Father and the Son. We believe that this Holy Trinity is not three Gods but one God, omnipotent, eternal, invisible, and unchangeable.” … “condemn and reject who presume to deny that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son; as well as who with rash boldness presume to declare that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from two beginnings, and not as from one.”

Council of Florence (1429):

“And since all that the Father has, the Father Himself, in begetting, has given to His Only-Begotten Son, with the exception of Fatherhood, the very fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, the Son Himself has from the Father eternally, by Whom He was begotten also eternally.”

Pope Gregory XIII (1575):

“All things, however, which are of the Father, the Father Himself has given to His Only-Begotten Son in generation, outside of being the Father; the very fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, the Son Himself eternally has from the Father, by Whom He has also been eternally begotten.”

I’ve seen prosopon used by at least one Orthodox bishop to mean person, in the orthodox sense. As I understand the matter, the Nestorians were the ones who misused prosopon and denied the hypostatic union, opting instead for a prosoponic union, which the orthodox criticized as denying true union of the two natures, human and divine.

I’ve since seen significant criticism of the author who used this interpretation of the Cappadocians.

John Zizoulas in his propogation of his own social trinitarianism misread the Cappadocians.

Apparently in Gregory of Nyssa’s Ad Grecos, he uses prosopon 2:1 to hypostasis and has been slammed by patristic scholars from Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox patristic scholars.

He is currently under investigation by the Orthodox church.

St. Maximos speaks of the Father being the sole cause of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, but the Father alone is the cause of the person of the Holy Spirit and the person of the Son). If principle does not imply causation, then the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as if from one principle would not be problematic, but the Orthodox typically associate being a principle with causation, hence their inability to accept the current language used to describe the procession of the Holy Spirit in the Roman Catholic Church.

The bigger concern for the Orthodox is not really St. Photios’ objections to the Filioque, as I pointed out earlier, but whether or not causation becomes a property of the Son. For example look at the quotation from St. Augustine that you provided:

[quote=St. Augustine] As the Father has it in himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from him, so has he given it to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed from him, without reference to time in the two cases. And it is said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, in such a way that it may be understood that, if he proceeds also from the Son, this is something the Son possesses from the Father. In fact, whatever the Son has, he has from the Father; he has from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceed from him…. The Son is born of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally (principaliter) and, by the intemporal gift of this to the Son, from the Father and the Son, in communion (communiter).
[/quote]

St. Augustine’s understanding of the Filioque is that the Father retains his unique property as the cause of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds prinicpally from the Father, and because of their shared communion eternally proceeds (or more technically progresses) from the Father and the Son. This is in line with St. Maximos the Confessor’s understanding that the Father is cause of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that, because of their shared essence, the Holy Spirit progresses from the Father through the Son. Problematically, the quotes from Florence and Pope Gregory XIII seem have a different understanding:

Council of Florence (1429):

“And since all that the Father has, the Father Himself, in begetting, has given to His Only-Begotten Son, with the exception of Fatherhood, the very fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, the Son Himself has from the Father eternally, by Whom He was begotten also eternally.”

Pope Gregory XIII (1575):

“All things, however, which are of the Father, the Father Himself has given to His Only-Begotten Son in generation, outside of being the Father; the very fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, the Son Himself eternally has from the Father, by Whom He has also been eternally begotten.”

The idea that all that the Father has belongs to the Son, except for Fatherhood is simply too vague. It makes no attempt at all to uphold the unique property of the Father which is causality. If there is no disclaimer that the procession of the Holy Spirit works in such a manner that the causality of the person of the Holy Spirit is not shared between the Father and the Son, but belongs only to the Father, then the above statements cannot really be considered correct from the Orthodox point of view.

Principle doesn’t have any definition that means “cause”, so I don’t really understand this objection. Perhaps it simply wasn’t translated correctly into Greek, or perhaps there is no proper translation, just as there is no translation for ekporousis.

The other problem is that “cause” (aitia) is used very narrowly by the Eastern Orthodox with regards to the Trinity, but not as narrowly by the Latins. Just as in English we can use “cause” for a variety of nuances, for example you causing me to write this post even though you are not the source nor origin of my writing this post, the Latins use “cause” in a variety of ways when discussing the Trinity. As with principle, if the Son participates in any way in the Procession of the Holy Spirit, then He is in some sense a “cause” of the Holy Spirit by definition.

In fact, the word “through” in Latin (per) is very frequently used to indicate “cause”, for example in the English phrase “per our discussion on the Filioque”, or in the Latin version of the Creed “Per quem ómnia facta sunt”, which in English is “by whom all things are made”. Ironically, this is why saying “per Filio” in the Creed is more ambiguous (and subject to heretical interpretation) than “Filio que”.

This is why St. Maximos warned against trying to translate the peculiarities of one language into another. Just as the Greek Nicene Creed can’t be properly translated into Latin or English (ekporousis does not mean proceeds, it means “out of the source”, but there’s no equivalent term in either Latin or English), the Latin Nicene Creed can’t be properly translated into Greek. We just have to accept each language on its own terms. :slight_smile:

Peace and God bless!

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