The infamous "filioque" clause


I cannot, for the life of me understand why the Orthodox are so opposed to it. I was reading through the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and I saw the Creed. I remembered that the Orthodox don’t accept the Filioque.

It seems to me that by not having it within the Nicene Creed, it takes away from the “3 in 1-ness” of the Trinity. Would not the Spirit proceed from both the Father and the Son?

Discussion, comments, opinions are welcomed.

In Pax Christi


Consider that the second person of the trinity also proceeds from the first: the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light. Only the first person of the trinity does not proceed from anything else; so the three-in-one, if it can take that, should be able to handle the third appearing only from one of the others.

Additionally, in John’s gospel we see the second person referred to as Logos – the Word, God’s power, the force through which creation was accomplished. The third person could be said to be God’s love, and not necessarily proceeding from his power.



There are two issues that the Eastern Orthodox are opposed to with the filioque. The first is that it was inserted into the Creed without the approval of an Ecumenical Council. The second is a semantical disagreement over what and the Son means.


How much time you got? :wink:

Two real issues:

  1. Language difficulties made it seem to the easterners as if the Latins were saying that the Holy Spirit had some sort of dual origin. The Latins (with the same language problems) perceived the eastern objection as a sort of denial of the Unity within the Trinity and things quickly got out of hand!

  2. Things got out of hand more because of ill will, ego, power-lust, pride, honest mistakes and politics on BOTH sides that were already a source of conflict before this issue arose.

Far from being THE issue that caused the schism, IMO, it was merely the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.


The main objection, as I understand it, is not one of Theology as much as jurisdiction and necessity. There are many Orthodox theologians who will tell you that there are sound theological arguments to allow the use of the filioque as long as it is correctly explained. What none of them will allow for is a permanent addition to the creed without an Ecumenical Council. Since the creed was defined ecumenically then the only proper way to change it is also ecumenically. The issue probably won’t be settled without an Ecumenical Council. This my take on it.



Given the fact that human language cannot even remotely hope to describe the nature of the Godhead, filioque or no filioque, it just doesn’t matter. Either way it just provides a glimpse.

Claiming that one is more “correct” than the other in an absolute sense is giving human beings a little too much credit. It is a mystery. Even Who proceeds from Whom is a mystery. Surely there are more important concrete things for Christians to spend their time on.


The easterners were more opposed to themselves being called heretics for not accepting the filioque within their tradition as they had a different way of expressing the same thing for different reasons. Whether or not the West had a right to insert the filioque in the Western provinces of the church is another matter – some think the West didn’t have the power to insert it churchwide without an ecumenical council. The filioque wasn’t the reason for the schism – our churches were basically already separated at the time of the insertion of the filioque into the western creed.


The Eastern way does take away from the onenesss of the Trinity. The East believe that the Father was the source, but in reality the source is God and God is three divine persons in one God. All persons are equal. As we can see in the Gospels Christ said everything the Father has is his, and that Christ breathed on them (The Apostles) the Holy Spirit.

The upset is really because the Filioque was added without the notification/approval of all the Churches. Basically people in the Eastern Church were pissed because no one consulted them, and in turn they let their egos/pride get the best of them. After the split for this stupid reason they desided to make up various theological reasons for why they disagree with the filioque, so then their split could look somewhat legitimate even when its not.


I’ll have to look things up on this again, but to be honest the filioque issue is rather arbitrary. Fact is the West used the Filioque in their creeds for about 3 centuries without protest. Also there was a point were both the East and West both encouraged the Filioque as it helped in arguments against a contemporary heresy.

The times in the past where that protests were at their highest against it usually followed a falling out when the Pope. The irony is that the Filioque presents more of a problem for the Orthodox as their insistance on pretending it is a serious issue for them draws attention to the fact they are guilty of exactly what they are accusing Rome of. They have over stepped their Patriarchial authority and are attempting to enforce discipline in jurisdictions outside of their authority.

I have to look up all the names and such again.


IT could take a millenia of book-reading and hashing out polemics to cover and dismantle this issue.

My own opinion and suggestion to support it is this: look at the history of the usage, the history of the schism, and the theology of the filioque and then examine weather this is a CAUSE of the split, or something to fight about.

I don’t think the theology is heterodox. What is more, and I am about to get myself into trouble, for all the protestations made on the part of some parties in EO - we were in communion for three centuries almost with local churches in the west adhearing to this clause - a response and clarification to problems those local churches were struggling with. Try mightily as some may to mine evidence of wide Eastern protestation, or to subsequently develop a theology in tacit rejection of the Filioque, I just don’t see it.

“The big deal” of it all could be debated for a lifetime with scholars who forget more on a wednesdsay afternoon than I will ever learn… But all things being equal, I just can’t subscribe to the notion that this is a “deal breaker” or “heterodoxy”.


Theological issues aside, there are a few things that can be said about the situation:

  1. The west received at least tacit approval from the east regarding temporary use of the filioque.
  2. It is reasonable to expect all the Church to adhere to doctrine as defined in an Ecumenical Council once the need for deviation no longer exists.
  3. The heresy combatted by the addition of the filioque has not been an issue for at least a thousand years.

In my opinion Rome should take the high road here and discontinue use of the filioque until the situation can be rectified by officially adding it to the Creed via Ecumenical Council. If she wants to declare that she is doing so NOT because the East has told her to but rather because it is the right thing to do, is perfectly acceptable. I suspect the East would not utter one more official peep about the filioque after that.

While my communion does not even discourage it’s use, we do not use the filioque in my diocese (like you couldn’t have guessed :D) only because it is not in the Creed. Personally, I think the Creed should state that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son.” But hey, who am I?



I’ve also read that the East was upset with how be baked our bread? I’m not entirely sure what bread has to do with correct belief, but I digress.

In Pax Christi


Leavened versus unleavened is the issue. At another fine example of semantics - on both sides. Hardly a deal breaker or a source of schism, in and of itself.


Hi ~ This actually came up as a topic back when I was Episcopalian. At the time, the Creed for the Episcopalians included the filioque clause. (I don’t know if that has changed since that time, it was a long while ago.)

Having said that, I know there were some Episcopalians of my acquaintance that, when the creed was said, omitted the filioque clause. So, for them, I suppose they were saying that THEIR belief was different from those around them who were uttering the filioque clause during the creed.

Gosh I am so happy to now be somewhere that this is not an issue! Where everyone says the same creed! We are not a community of the faithful if all our faiths are different!

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