Formatting notes: This is the format for quotations.Endnotes/footnotes appear in this format.More information.

Note: Your browser must have access to a Unicode font for the polytonic (non-Demotic) Greek to be rendered properly.

Theodore Stylianopoulos

The Filioque: Dogma, Theologoumenon or Error?

Originally appeared in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Volume 31, No. 3-4, 1986. pp. 255-288.

The theological demands of the ecumenical movement are currently leading ecclesial-minded theologians to a fresh examination of the filioque, one of the long-standing doctrinal controversies dividing the Eastern and Western churches. The publication of Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Edited by Lukas Vischer (London and Geneva, 1981). featuring a substantial memorandum of two consultations held at Schloss Klingenthal, France (1978 and 1979) and also excellent papers presented at those consultations by Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic theologians is a preeminent ecumenical expression of the new interest in the filioque, the Nicene Creed and related topics. Some of the key questions in the filioque discussion are the following: Is the filioque a dogma binding upon all Christians who seek unity on the basis of the one, catholic and apostolic faith? Is it a theologoumenon, that is, a valid but optional interpretation of Christian dogma? Or is it a doctrinal error that should be corrected? Moveover, how is the filioque related to the faith of the New Testament and to Christian life? In this paper I would like briefly to address some of these questions as pursued by the contributors to the above publication in the following three sections: (1) historical and theological presuppositions, (2) evaluating the filioque, and (3) the relevance of the filioque question.

Historical and Theological Presuppositions

Any serious discussion of the filioque immediately raises a number of related broader issues of considerable complexity. First, there is the whole question of the development of Christian doctrine For clarity's sake I may indicate that by "development of doctrine" I mean neither that the reality of the Holy Spirit changes from generation to generation nor that the experience of the Spirit is necessarily richer among later generations. Rather I mean that the conceptual formulations about the truth of the Spirit are modified and the relevant terminology is refined in the light of various factors, questions, and controversies over centuries. and the need to be extremely sensitive to context. If one is to appreciate the significance of the filioque question and not merely dismiss it as an exercise in sterile theologizing, as Dietrich Ritschl observes, "one must let one's thought sink into the classical trinitarian modes of argumentation," "Historical Development and the Implications of the Filioque Controversy," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 46. or, in the words of the Klingenthal Memorandum, "we should retrace and follow through the cognitive process of the early Church" Memorandum, "The Filioque Clause in Ecumenical Perspective," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 7. (meaning the ancient catholic Church and not only the early New Testament Church). In the instance of the filioque one must distinguish but not separate the following: (a) the history of the actual controversy beginning in the seventh century with Maximos the Confessor's attempt to provide, for Easterners, an acceptable interpretation of the filioque in the face of obvious anxieties about it (a dating ealier than that of Ritschl who points to the later refutations of the filioque by John of Damascus and Photios as the beginnings of the controversy); (b) the explicit teaching of the filioque developed by Augustine who is the intellectual father of the filioque and whether this teaching is consistent or inconsistent with the trinitarian dogma of the First and Second Ecumenical Synods, and (c) the earlier Christian teaching about the Holy Spirit not yet nuanced by the theological questions generated by the Arian heresy.

Because the filioque involves both historical and systematic aspects, See Ritschl, p. 48. only the most careful attention to the intentionality, nuances, and terminology of various historical and theological contexts can assure proper sailing through these deep waters. Extreme care is needed to pursue analysis and synthesis, to trace continuity and discontinuity, and above all to discern consistency or inconsistency in the development of doctrine pertaining to the Holy Spirit during many centuries of Christian theologizing. Ritschl importantly cautions that adequate grounding of the filioque could never rely on isolated passages in a few Greek Fathers but must be based on a wide examination of the trinitarian theologies of the Latin and Greek traditions. Ibid., pp. 53-54. Furthermore, if Ritschl is right that Tertullian is not, as is often supposed by Western theologians, a "crown witness" for later filioquism in its proper meaning, and that the originator of the filioque teaching is Augustine, whose more distinctly philosophical questions led him by necessity to develop the filioque, Ibid., pp. 59-61. then Augustine would seem to stand in isolated and questionable light as an interpreter of the Second Synod's article on the Holy Spirit, a point that John Romanides has been making for years. See, for example, his article "The Filioque," Kleronomia, 7 (1975), especially pp. 295ff. John Romanides is an Orthodox member of the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission.

On the other hand, Jean-Miguel Garrigues' attempt to dissociate the filioque formula from its Augustinian or other later Western contexts in order to propose that only the dogmatic formula affirmed by the magisterium requires acceptance, not the interpretations, since interpretations can be further both clarified and modified until sufficient agreement is reached, "A Roman Catholic View of the Position now Reached in the Question of the Filioque," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, pp. 148-53. seems to be a superficial attempt at a resolution of the controversy. While doxological expressions of faith can and often do seek adequate interpretations, officially either to promulgate or to hold to a dogmatic formula which has no identifiable meaning received by the community of faith would be literally meaningless. The filioque can no more be divorced from its classic interpretations than the Nicene Creed can be divorced from the theology of the Greek Fathers, chiefly Athanasios and the Cappadocians, presupposed by the First and Second Ecumenical Synods. If the case were otherwise, the community of faith would have no criteria by which to receive dogmatic formulae except blind obedience to council or magisterium claiming inspiration without explanation.

No doubt the most crucial question is the systematic one, the is, the question pertaining to theological truth. Is the filioque consistent with the early Church's teaching about the Holy Spirit and consistent with the meaning of the Nicene Creed? Quite curious to this writer is Ritschl's comment that the, filioque "controversy itself is more of church-historical than of theological significance," Ritschl, p. 61. a comment which seems to run counter to the spirit of his whole essay concerned as it is with theological truth. Did not Photios' emphasis that the Spirit proceeds "from the Father alone" intend to preclude the Western position that the Son is also somehow a cause in the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father? And did not the filioque controversy center on the question of the correct theological interpretation of the earlier patristic tradition and above all of the Nicene Creed? Similarly the Anglican consideration to remove the filioque from the Creed but at the same time to continue to affirm its theological value as a complementary Western understanding of the Holy Trinity, Donald M. Allchin, "The Filioque Clause: An Anglican Approach," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, pp. 85-87. Allchin reports the official proposal to the Anglican Church by the Anglican membership of the Anglican-Orthodox Doctrinal Commission. He himself seems critical of the implications of the filioque. See pp. 95-96. while welcome, essentially depends on whether or not the filioque is at least consistent with dogmatic truth as officially promulgated by the ecumenical synods. Neither the filioque formula nor the interpretations in support of it or against it can be regarded as theologoumena, as some would have it, unless they can be clearly shown at least not to be opposed to early Christian doctrine and the Nicene Creed. Theologoumena cannot contradict promulgated dogmatic truth for otherwise, as Dumitru Staniloae pointedly observes, "it would be impossible to tell the difference between a theologoumenon and an error." "The Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and His Relation to the Son, as the Basis of our Deification and Adoption," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 175.

Another broad issue presupposed by the filioque discussion is that of the nature of Christian theology and its relationship both to biblical revelation and to the experience of salvation. The Klingenthal Memorandum, following accents by contributors to Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, especially by Ritschl, Ritschl, pp. 64-65. stresses that early Christian theology is doxological rather than speculative; it is based on historical revelation rather than abstract definitions. Memorandum, pp. 6-10. According to this Memorandum ancient Christian thought concerning the Trinity does not derive from a preconceived trinitarian concept but reflects "the biblical and historical roots of Christian faith in the living God," Ibid., p. 7. personally revealed as Father and Creator, as unique Son and eternal Logos, and as sanctifying and renewing Spirit. If this presupposition regarding the nature of early Christian theology applies fundamentally to all trinitarian theology and is to be held consciously, as many would concur, then our efforts toward resolving the filioque controversy would have a far greater chance to bear fruit if they are concentrated on careful interpretation of the intentionalities of the biblical and patristic witness, and also on rigorous linking of our theologizing to Christian life, rather than seeking to provide additional speculative solutions to the filioque problem as if theologians had direct epistemological access to the ontology of the triune God. A brilliant suggestion and an example of this kind of speculative solution, it seems to me, is Jürgen Moltmann's proposal that "the Holy Spirit receives from the Father his own perfect divine existence (hypostasis, hyparxis), and obtains from the Son his relational form (eidos, prosõpon)," "Theological Proposals Toward the Resolution of the Filioque Controversy," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 169.

In the context of the fourth-century patristic theology it is fair to say that Augustine's trinitarian thought is more speculative, that is, more permeated by a spirit of philosophical inquiry, than that of Athanasios and the Cappadocians. Of course it is not a question of sharp contrasts, namely, that Augustine is philosophical whereas the Eastern Fathers are biblical, because all hold to Scripture as ultimate authority, employ discursive reason and feature philosophical terms and notions such as essence, hypostasis, immutability, time and eternity. The crucial difference seems to be that, despite his own repeated reservations, Augustine seems to try to explain the Trinity as a metaphysical problem; he thinks that he could possibly explain the matter of the generation of the Son and the manner of the procession of the Spirit in rational terms, and he presents his thought as a kind of tentative personal speculation about the Trinity anchored on the security of the Church's dogma which he unreservedly accepts. On the Trinity 15.2.5, 22-24 and 28. See further Theodore Stylianopoulos, "The Orthodox Position," Conflicts about the Holy Spirit, ed. Hans Küng and Jürgen Moltmann (New York, 1979), pp. 26-27. By appreciable contrast Athanasios and the Cappadocians write about the Trinity in terms of the immediate challenge of various forms of Arianism; they are concerned about defending the uncreated nature of the Son and the Spirit deriving from the very being of God, as they see these truths affirmed by the witness of the Bible and the worship of the Church, and they argue for both the unity and distinctiveness of the persons of the triune God on the basis of Scripture and liturgical tradition, while remaining extremely sensitive to the inability of reason to probe divine ontology. Gregory the Theologian, for example, radicalizes Plato's famous dictum about the difficulty of knowing God (Timaeus 28E) by saying: "But in my opinion it is impossible to express him [God], and yet more impossible to conceive him" (Theological Orations 2.4). Gregory also writes that "the divine nature cannot be apprehended by human reason" (Theological Orations 2.11) and that "it is one thing to be persuaded of the existence of a thing, and quite another to know what it is" (Theological Orations 2.5). As far as seeking to explain the nature of the hypostatic attributes of unbegottenness, generation, and procession, Gregory comments this would be a matter of frenzy (Theological Orations 5.8). These differences in theological approach signal, at least for many Orthodox theologians, tremendous implications regarding the way of Western theology and the way of Eastern theology, implications which are deeply involved in both the origins of the filioque in Augustine as well as the filioque controversy during subsequent centuries.

Through a short study of the article on the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed a few years ago this writer was amazed to confirm for himself the closeness between the biblical and Greek patristic witness regarding the Holy Spirit and his relationship to the Father and the Son. Theodore Stylianopoulos, "The Biblical Background of the Article on the Holy Spirit in the Constantinopolitan Creed," Etudes théologiques 2: Le IIe Concile oecuménique (Chambésy-Geneve: Centre orthodoxe du Patriarcat oecuménique, 1982), pp. 155-73. In the writings of Athanasios, Basil, and Gregory the Theologian, not only the terminology but also the deep soteriological interests seeking to show that the Spirit is what he does See Gregory the Theologian, Theological Orations 5.29. are thoroughly biblical. Once the authority of the biblical witness regarding the Trinity is accepted on a descriptive level, as presupposed by these Fathers (and not as that witness might be evaluated by biblical scholars today), then one could hardly ask for a more biblically cogent defense of the "evangelical faith." To use the telling expression of the Synodal Letter of 382 which states that the Fathers of the Second Synod (381) endured persecutions, afflictions, and other pressures by heretics and kings for the sake of "the evangelical faith." Readers will suffer a citation from the conclusion of the above study:

In the trinitarian debates at stake was not an abstract question but the truth of Christian salvation: the fundamental understanding of the living God in his relationship to creation, historical revelation, ecclesial life and daily Christian existence. The decisive criteria were biblical: (1) the radical difference between Creator and creatures and (2) the principle that God creates, redeems, and renews his creatures by his personal presence and action. The doctrine of the Trinity was formulated on soteriological rather than philosophical grounds. Stylianopoulos, "Biblical Background of the Article on the Holy Spirit," p. 171.

Thus, when Western theologians continue to talk in various ways and nuances about how biblical thought is "functional" and "developmental," whereas Greek patristic thought is "philosophical" and "substantialist," that the trinitarian and christological teaching of the great synods is determined by Greek philosophy rather than the Bible, and that therefore Greek patristic thought and the Nicene Creed can today more or less be dismissed as outdated, See, for example, the opinions both reviewed and expressed by Warren A. Quanbeck, "Developmental Perspective and the Doctrine of the Spirit," The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church, ed. Paul D. Opsahl (Minneapolis, 1978), pp. 158-71 and also Olaf Hansen, "Spirit Christology: A Way out of Our Dilemma?" in the same volume, pp. 172-203. they sound, at least to this writer, as tiresome as they are unconvincing. Would such theologians also dismiss the authority of the biblical witness? What theology was for the Greek Fathers, the ecumenical synods, and the way of Eastern Christianity is expressed by Jaroslav Pelikan's ringing statement: "Theology was not a science of divine ontology but of divine revelation." Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (Chicago, 1974), p. 33. See, also, more recently, the emphases on John Zizioulas, "The Teaching of the Second Ecumenical Council on the Holy Spirit in Historical and Ecumenical Perspective," Credo in Spiritum Sanctum: atti del Congresso teologico internazionale di pneumatologia, Roma, 22-26 marzo 1982 (Vatican, 1983), who writes that "the use of homoousios by Athanasios and Nicea was not intended to create a speculative or metaphysical theology," p. 32, and that the personal and relational understanding of the Trinity as persons by the Cappadocians was a "revolution" in Greek ontology, p. 36. It should be noted that the contributors to Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, as specialists, show great sensitivity to these matters. All would agree that the filioque and patristic trinitarian theology confront us not with the challenge of philosophical inquiry but rather, as Lukas Vischer puts it, with the crucial question of "how we are to speak of God on the basis of the revelation in Christ." Preface, Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. vi.

The concern about continuity and discontinuity, consistency and inconsistency, pertaining to theological truth in the history of doctrine has already been mentioned. The thesis has also been asserted that Athanasios and the Cappadocians show intimate affinities with the biblical witness regarding the understanding of the Spirit and the Spirit's relationship to the Father and the Son. But now I must, as well, firmly state that in at least two important ways these Greek Fathers differ from the biblical witness by reason of the new historical and theological context generated by Arianism: (1) they show a far more pronounced ontological interest pertaining to the nature of God because they had directly to face the ontological question of uncreated and created being sharply raised by Arianism, and (2) they developed the clear position that the Spirit is a distinct uncreated divine being, and not only the uncreated divine power or energy of God, with supportive but not conclusive evidence from the New Testament. Regarding the first difference I assume that the New Testament, especially the witness of John and Paul, surely testify to ontological interests respecting the Father and the Son, and I assume also that, as a matter of theological principle, an ontological question is not illegitimate simply because it is ontological,whatever the possibilities of dealing with such a question. Regarding the second difference I can only here say that this represents my own exegetical judgment in good faith and I can also cite the good company of Gregory the Theologian who honestly recognized that the eternal subsistence of the Spirit as a distinct divine being cannot, strictly speaking, be demonstrated by means of grammatical exegesis of the biblical texts. See, further, Stylianopoulos, "Biblical Background," pp. 164.69, and also William G. Rusch, "The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Patristic and Medieval Church," in The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church, p. 77, who notes Gregory's "embarassment" by the lack of clarity of Scripture on this question and his consequent theory of progression in the revelation of the Father (OT), the Son (NT), and Spirit (Church).

If there are, then, important differences between the biblical and patristic witness on such central matters, what authority is finally to judge whether these differences are legitimate or not in the development of doctrine, whether or not they are consistent with the biblical witness, and therefore whether a new position is true or false? Gregory the Theologian writes that in his days:

of the wise men among ourselves, some have conceived of him [the Spirit] as an activity, some as a creature, some as God; and some have been uncertain which to call him, out of reverence of Scripture, they say, as though it did not make the matter clear either way. Theological Orations 5.5.

Unquestionably Gregory himself, along with Athanasios, Basil, and others, took a definite position on this theological issue based on what they considered the most cogent exegetical, soteriological, and ontological arguments and this position was upheld by the Second Synod as an authoritative expression of ecclesial experience of the Spirit. In other words, the hermeneutical issue unsolved in the debates of theologians about the nature and activities of the Spirit found official settlement by conciliar authority. This is to say that the new creative step taken by the Greek Fathers in opposition to Arianism, and approved by the Second Synod, represents no less than a new hermeneutical commitment by the historic Church regarding the Holy Spirit as a distinct untreated being, the implications of which are of considerable magnitude. Thus the significance of the Nicene Creed lies not only in that it is a historic summary of the faith of the Bible but also in that it is an authoritative interpretation of the biblical witness by the universal Church.

With respect to the filioque clause the implications of the above paragraphs lead to two related affirmations. First, Eastern objections to the filioque which are based on the trinitarian dogma of the First and Second Synods, and the theology which is presupposed by them, cannot be conclusively answered by reference to the biblical witness because the biblical witness is not sufficiently nuanced to provide such answers. To be sure, Orthodox theologians would fully agree that the New Testament testifies to the intimate mutuality and reciprocity between Father, Son, and Spirit, and also that Christ is equally the bearer and the sender of the Spirit. Although agreement on these truths is of basic significance, the specific meaning of terminology such as "temporal mission," "eternal procession," "hypostatic properties," and "immanent" and "economic" Trinity cannot be fully elucidated, much less conclusively evaluated as the Klingenthal Memorandum seems somewhat to suppose, Memorandum, pp. 8-9. by reference to the biblical witness. Thus, perhaps by an irony of history, while to Western theologians the filioque may well reflect biblical teaching about the intimacy of the Son and the Spirit, and also about the Son's prerogative both to possess and to send forth the Spirit — truths which Orthodox theologians themselves advocate — nevertheless the filioque as a doctrinal formula, from an Eastern perspective, runs counter to the nuances of fourth-century conciliar theology.

Secondly, the filioque clause, whatever its Western history and interpretations, if it is to be acceptable to Orthodox, must be modified or at least authoritatively interpreted in terms that are not in conflict with the intentionality of the Nicene Creed. Because the filioque was added to the Nicene Creed we must ask whether or not it sits well within it, whether or not its meaning is consistent with that of the Nicene Creed. But the meaning of the Nicene Creed itself cannot be ascertained apart from the trinitarian controversy of the fourth century and especially apart from the chief theological witnesses which stand behind it, namely, Athanasios, Basil, and Gregory the Theologian. We lack other decisive criteria by which to evaluate the Nicene Creed and, consequently, the filioque as an addition to that Creed. The Memorandum asks a rhetorical question which is incisive:

Is it possible that the filioque, or certain understanding of it, may have been understandable and indeed helpful in their essential intention in the context of particular theological debates [in the West], and yet inadequate as articulations of a full or balanced doctrine of the Trinity? lbid., p. 10.

An Orthodox might easily answer yes if by "a full or balanced doctrine of the Trinity" is meant a doctrine anchored on the trinitarian commitments of the historic Church through its ecumenical synods. Thus the ecclesial authority of the ecumenical synods as well as the ecclesial authority of conciliar theology reflected in the writings of Athanasios and the Cappadocians are at the forefront of the filioque discussion.

Evaluating the Filioque

The fourth and most substantive section of the Klingenthal Memorandum, entitled "Theological aspects of the filioque," evaluates in a fair and insightful manner the intrinsic issues involved in the filioque question. On the one hand it affirms the positive intent of the filioque, as interpreted by Western theologians, namely, to uphold the consubstantiality of the Trinity and to express the biblical teaching that the Spirit is also the Spirit of the Son. The Memorandum powerfully insists on the closest possible relations between Son and Spirit, and so between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, on the unassailable grounds that the Holy Spirit "only proceeds from the Father as the Father is also Father of the Son" (emphasis is the Memorandum's). Ibid., p. 13.

On the other hand the Memorandum equally affirms "the uniqueness of the Father, as the sole principle (ἀρχή), source (πηγή), and cause (αἰτία) of divinity," Ibid., p. 11. a trinitarian truth of decisive importance for the Eastern tradition. It perceptively points out that Photios' famous formula, "the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone," intends not to deny the intimate relations between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, but only to make utterly explicit that the Father alone causes the existence of both the Son and the Spirit, conferring upon them all his being, attributes, and powers, except his hypostatic property, i.e., that he is the Father, the unbegotten, the source, origin, and cause of divinity. The Memorandum recognizes that the persons of the triune God who is both unity and threefoldness must not be confused in a modalistic fashion. With regard to the origin of the Spirit the Memorandum therefore states: "The Spirit who is not a 'second Son,' proceeds in his own unique and absolutely originated way from the Father who, as Father, is in relation to the Son." Ibid., p. 13.

On the basis of the above main points, then, the Memorandum sets down a truly revolutionary ecumenical proposal containing two parts, one negative and one positive:

First, it should not be said that the Spirit proceeds "from the Father and the Son," for this would efface the difference in his relationship to the Father and to the Son. Second, it should be said that the procession of the Spirit from the Father presupposes the relationship existing within the Trinity between the Father and the Son, for the Son is eternally in and with the Father, and the Father is never without the Son (emphases are the Memorandum's). Ibid., p. 15.

Having thus proposed the setting aside of the filioque ("it should not be said that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son"), just as in the end it clearly recommends the setting aside of the filioque clause by the churches, the Memorandum then completes its proposal by offering a choice of the following formulae in the place of the filioque, a list which is not necessarily closed:

— the Spirit proceeds from the Father of the Son;
— the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son;
— the Spirit proceeds from the Father and receives from the Son;
— the Spirit proceeds from the Father and rests on the Son;
— the Spirit proceeds from the Father and shines out through the Son. Ibid., p. 16.

The amazing degree to which Orthodox theologians can accept the above proposal, as well as virtually all of the above alternate formulae, may be verified by Dumitru Staniloae's valuable contribution to Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ. "The Procession of the Holy Spirit," pp. 174-86. Engaging mainly Garrigues' conciliatory article in the same volume, Staniloae, who is one of the eminent Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century, not only accepts the correctness of Garrigues' own proposed formula of conciliation ("I believe in the Holy Spirit who goes forth from the one only Father insofar as he begets the only Son") Garrigues, p. 153. However, it should be noted that Garrigues does not ask for the removal of the filioque from the Creed. but also states that "the Father causes the Spirit to proceed from himself in order to communicate him to his Son, in order to be more united with the Son by the Spirit." Staniloae, p. 176. Here Staniloae also points to a statement by Gregory Palamas which is strikingly similar to that of Garrigues quoted above. According to Palamas "the Spirit has his existence from the Father of the Son, because he who causes the Spirit to proceed is also the Father." As if to relieve Western fears that Eastern triadology neglects the mutuality and reciprocity of the Son and the Spirit — including the sharing and participation of the Son in the eternal spiration of the Spirit from the Father — Staniloae speaks of "the active repose of the Holy Spirit in the Son" and an intimate "eternal relation of the Son to the Spirit [which] is the basis of the sending of the Spirit to us by the Son." Ibid., pp. 180 and 182. According to Staniloae, Eastern trinitarian theology as articulated by Gregory the Cypriot goes so far as to posit an active eternal projection or shining forth or manifestation of the Spirit through the Son, a manifestaton which applies to the Spirit's eternal existence (ὑπόστασις) as well as to the temporal mission (οἰκονομία), a manifestation for which the presupposition "from" (ἐκ) as well as "through" (διά) may be used! Ibid., pp. 182-84. But Garrigues speaks about "a dominant trend in the Eastern tradition to regard the mediation of the Son merely as a passive and quite non-causal condition of the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone" (p. 153). Obviously for Garrigues "passive" and "non-causal" are identical, whereas Staniloae shows that the Eastern tradition holds to an active, yet non-causal, participation of the Son in the Spirit's procession from the Father.

The positions of Staniloae and the Klingenthal Memorandum mark an unprecedented and astounding ecumenical convergence holding a startling promise for the resolution of the filioque controversy. It may be asked: what, then, is the burning objection to the filioque from an Eastern viewpoint? It is not that the filioque implies two sources in the Godhead because already Augustine himself taught that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from a single source or principle. On the Trinity 5.14; 15.27. Nor is it that the filioque subordinates the Spirit to the Son because the doctrine of consubstantiality clearly implies the full unity and equality of the three persons of the Trinity. Rather it is the objection that the filioque as a doctrinal formula and as articulated by Augustine and all his later interpreters posits that not only the Father but also the Son is a source or origin or cause of the Spirit. In view of Staniloae's position this objection may be refined in a crucial way as follows. It can be said that the Son even causes the eternal manifestation of the existence of the Spirit, but it cannot be said that the Son causes the Spirit's coming into existence or hypostasis itself. The Father fully gives the Spirit to the Son so that, according to a striking patristic image, the Spirit is the treasure while the Son is the treasurer. In other words, the Son in every way receives and manifests the Spirit but does not cause its existence as such because only the Father is the source or origin or cause of both the Son and the Spirit through ineffably different but united acts (i.e., generation and procession).

If explored more fully in future discussions the above fine distinction may well be the key to an authentic resolution of the filioque controversy because it would seem to completely satisfy the deeper theological concerns of both sides. On the Western side theologians have seen the filioque as affirming the intimate relation between Son and Spirit, that is to say that the Spirit of God is also in every way the Spirit of Christ over against any Arian subordinationist tendencies. In terms of trinitarian theology this would mean affirmation of the truth that the Son participates in both the eternal and the temporal going forth of the Spirit from the Father. Although the Nicene Creed does not explicitly speak about the relation of the Son and the Spirit, a silence which Moltmann Moltmann, pp. 165-66. and others have seen as a weakness in the Creed, this silence in the words of Moltmann himself, "cannot be interpreted as a dogmatic decision of the conciliar Fathers against any participation of the Son in the going forth of the Spirit from the Father." Ibid., p. 166. Zizioulas puts it more strongly: the Creed's phraseology "does not exclude a mediating role of the Son in the procession of the Spirit" (p. 44).

Orthodox theologians would not only fully agree with Moltmann's above words, but they would also point out that the Cappadocian teaching of the περιχώρησις (mutual containing or indwelling) of the three persons of the Trinity, a touchstone in Eastern triadology, is a crowning affirmation of the close relations of the Son and the Spirit as frequently affirmed by both the pre-Nicene and the post-Nicene Fathers. According to Gregory of Nyssa, the Son in some sense even "mediates" in the procession of the Spirit. So Zizioulas, "Interpreting the Greek Fathers," p. 43. Moreover, the Nicene Creed is not totally silent about these matters because its formulation that the Spirit is, in Basilian doxological language, "co-worshiped and co-glorified with the Father and the Son" clearly suggests the teaching of the περιχώρησις. Basil's doxology, "Glory be to the Father with (σύν) the Son, [and] with (σύν) the Holy Spirit," so Gregory the Theologian explains, signifies the co-presence and coexistence of all three persons at once. Ibid., pp. 38 and 40. Finally, according to Staniloae's interpretation of the later patristic tradition, as we have seen, Eastern trinitarian theology explicitly affirms the participation of the Son in the Spirit's eternal procession from the Father not only in terms of an intimate eternal accompaniment (so Gregory Palamas) but also manifested accompaniment, i.e., an active eternal manifestation of the existence or ὑπόστασις of the Spirit "through" and even "from" the existence or ὑπόστασις of the Son (so Gregory of Cyprus)! Thus the deeper theological concerns of those who value the positive intentionality of the filioque would be fully satisfied by Eastern trinitarian teaching.

On the Eastern side, since the days of Maximos the Confessor Eastern theologians have on the basis of conciliar theology expressed strong anxieties about the filioque as compromising the principle of the "monarchy" of the Father and confusing the hypostatic properties of the Father and the Son, as if one could have (perish the blasphemous thought!) a hybrid Father-Son person. According to Cappadocian teaching, faithfully followed by later Eastern interpreters, the Father confers all that he is upon the Son and the Spirit, except for his personal or hypostatic distinctiveness as Father (his eternal Fatherhood or unbegottenness or personal mode of existence as unoriginate and uncaused source within the Trinity) which he passes on neither to the Son nor to the Spirit. So, too, the Son is all that the Father and the Spirit are, except for his personal or hypostatic distinctiveness as Son (his eternal Sonship or begottenness or personal mode of existence by generation from the Father) which he communicates neither to the Father nor to the Spirit. Likewise the Spirit is all that the Father and the Son are, except for his personal or hypostatic distinctiveness as Spirit (his Spirithood or eternal spiration or personal mode of existence by procession from the Father) which he communicates neither to the Father nor to the Son. Thus, all three persons of the Trinity are one God by hypostatic περιχώρησις and consubstantial unity but never to be confused in their personal distinctiveness, as they were by the modalistic heresy, because the Father is forever the Father, the Son is forever the Son, and the Spirit is forever the Spirit — one triune God revealed as the living God of the Bible. Thus, also, according to the Cappadocian doctrine of the Trinity, the "monarchy" of the Father means that, as Moltmann correctly states, "the first person [the Father] must guarantee both the unity of the godhead and the threefoldness of the persons" (emphasis is Moltmann's), Moltmann, p. 172. that is to say, insofar as the Father is the only personal source or origin or cause of both the Son and the Spirit.

But does the filioque teaching intend to diminish the Father's "monarchy"? On this decisive question the Klingenthal Memorandum, interpreting a Western perspective which is sensitive to the Eastern tradition, states:

It may be said that neither the early Latin Fathers, such as Ambrose and Augustine, nor the subsequent medieval tradition ever believed that they were damaging the principle of the Father's "monarchy" by affirming the filioque. The West declared itself to be as much attached to this principle as were the Eastern Fathers (emphasis is the writer's). Memorandum, p. 13.

Similarly Moltmann observes that "the filioque was never directed against the 'monarchy' of the Father" and that the principle of the "monarchy" has "never been contested by the theologians of the Western Church." Moltmann, p. 166. If these statements can be accepted by the Western theologians today in their full import of doing justice to the principle of the Father's "monarchy," which is so important to Eastern triadology, then the theological fears of Easterners about the filioque would seem to be fully relieved. Consequently, Eastern theologians could accept virtually any of the Memorandum's alternate formulae in the place of the filioque on the basis of the above positive evaluation of the filioque which is in harmony with Maximos the Confessor's interpretation of it. As Zizioulas incisively concludes:

The "golden rule" must be Saint Maximos the Confessor's explanation concerning Western pneumatology: by professing the filioque our Western brethren do not wish to introduce another αἴτον in God's being except the Father, and a mediating role of the Son in the origination of the Spirit is not to be limited to the divine Economy, but relates also to the divine οὐσία. If East and West can repeat these two points together in our time, this would provide sufficient basis for a rapprochement between the two traditions. Zizioulas, p. 54.

However, can Western and Eastern theologians repeat these truths together today? Some additional comments will disclose the need of further clarifications toward an integrated theological solution to the controversy. First, Western theologians who perceive Eastern sensitivities cannot continue to state, as does André de Halleux, that the specific difference between East and West pertaining to the filioque is a "peripheral difference." "Toward an Ecumenical Agreement on the Procession of the Holy Spirit and the Addition of the Filioque to the Creed," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 75. Halleux recommends that the filioque be removed from the Creed, but only as a token of reconciliation and without repudiation of any of its undesirable implications. lbid., pp. 81-84. But his solution cannot be accepted by the Orthodox because it avoids the problem. Helleux seems to defend an optional filioque as a theologoumenon on the basis of the Cappadocian teaching of the περιχώρησις and consubstantiality of the Trinity, but he neglects to take full account of the Cappadocian teaching of the "monarchy" (not "monopatrism" as used by Halleux). Neither does he consider that the Synodal Letter of 382, written by Fathers who were at the Second Synod (381) and who interpret this Synod with surprisingly analytical terminology, specifically warns that "neither the hypostaseis are confused, nor the individual properties abolished" by an adequate trinitarian theology. See Stylianopoulos, "Biblical Background," p. 161. This writer could agree with Halleux that the difference over the filioque is not "the nodal point of contradiction between two irreconcilable pneumatologies" Halleux, p. 75. because of what East and West share as a common teaching about the Spirit quite apart from the unacceptable aspects of the filioque. But there are other options in assessing this difference than Halleux's two extremes of either "irreconcilable pneumatologies" or "peripheral difference."

Secondly, there is the delicate but crucial question of the Western ascription of "secondary cause" to the Son in the procession of the Spirit. Garrigues' solution fails because, despite all of his erudite explanations, Garrigues nonetheless wants not only to maintain the filioque as a doctrinal formula approved by the magisterium, but finally also to uphold the principle of the double cause of the Spirit's origin: "The Holy Spirit ... proceeds in origin from the two [the Father and the Son]." Garrigues, pp. 162-63. The problem is precisely the que ("and") in the filioque which posits the Son, along with the Father, as the source or cause of the Spirit. Gregory of Nyssa does not say in the quote cited by Garrigues Ibid., p. 156. that the Son "causes" the Spirit. Although Gregory, in the context of his discussion of causality in the final paragraphs of his An Answer to Ablabius refers to the Father as the "first cause," almost begging the question of the Son as "second cause," nevertheless he meticulously avoids this easy inference. He grants a "mediation" of the Son in the Spirit's eternal procession from the Father, but this is a mediation which does not compromise the phrase "from the Father," that is, it "does not allow for the Son to acquire the role of αἴτον ('cause') by being a mediator." So Ziziloulas, pp. 43-44.

The Cappadocians, and most certainly the two Gregories, could never have used the creedal ἐκπορευόμενον with the conjunction καὶ ("and") to describe the Spirit's relation to the Son in the manner of the filioque. Gregory the Theologian himself coined the noun ἐκπόρευσις ("procession") in order to affirm the opposite, to distinguish between the three persons of the Trinity, and in particular to differentiate the Son's generation and the Spirit's procession, both originating from the Father but each in their own ineffably unique ways, so that the Spirit might be confessed not as a "second Son" but in his own personal distinctiveness as Spirit.

Nor will it do to appeal, as Garrigues does, to the etymological meaning of procession. Garrigues correctly gives the different etymological meanings of the parallel verbs used in the Greek and Latin versions of the Creed, the first (ἐκπορεύεσθαι) meaning "to go forth out of" or "to issue from" and the second (procedere) meaning "to go forward" or "to progress forward." It follows that procedere is not exactly equivalent to ἐκπορεύεσθαι but to another Greek verb προχωρεῖν ("to go forward"), just as ἐκπορεύεσθαι may more precisely be rendered with the Latin exportare. Thus the participle ἐκπορευόμενον ("who goes forth out of") used in the Creed for the Spirit's origin from the Father should have been translated in Latin as qui ex Patre se exportat ("who goes forth out of the Father" or "who issues from the Father"), so Garrigues correctly explains, and not qui ex Patre procedit because the pro in procedere gives us the meaning "who goes forward from the Father." But then, in a startling turn of reasoning, Garrigues suggests to English-speaking Orthodox in the West, when they recite the Creed, not to use "proceeds" which can imply a filioque but a more precise alternative for ἐκπορευόμενον! He fails inexplicably to see that the opposite is the case. The Orthodox can accept the use of "proceeds" in its etymological meaning (thus literally, "the Holy Spirit ... who goes forward from the Father and the Son") because such use implies no filioquism, but they cannot by any means accept a precise alternative based on exportare or another such verb because that would heighten filioquism by emphasizing the Spirit's eternal origin from the Father and the Son as from a joint cause. The context of the Creed, in which the Greek ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον ("who proceeds from the Father") parallels the earlier confessional formula ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα ("begotten from the Father"), has clearly in view the Son's and the Spirit's eternal origin from the Father and only the Father. In other words, the acquired technical meaning of procession, accurately based on the ἐκ ("out of") of the creedal term ἐκπορευόμενον ("who proceeds out of"), renders the filioque a doctrinal error because in the context of the Creed the filioque formula inescapably confesses a joint cause (Father "and" Son) in the Spirit's origin. But any ascription of joint cause to the Son in the Spirit's coming into existence or ὑπόστασις as such cannot avoid blurring the persons of the Father and the Son, according to Cappadocian presuppositions, into a single, unthinkable Father-Son person, which was Mark of Ephesos' sharp criticism of the filioque at the Council of Florence. See Markos A. Orphanos, "The Procession of the Holy Spirit according to Certain Later Greek Fathers," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 35. This is the reason why Staniloae, in his response to Garrigues, observes that Garrigues' conciliatory proposal is not exactly the same as the filioque. Staniloae, pp. 174-77. This is also the reason why the Klingenthal Memorandum, if I interpret its intent correctly, mentions but does not support the teaching of the Son as a "secondary cause" and consequently recommends the removal of the filioque formula from the Creed. Memorandum, p. 13.

Thirdly, Moltmann's view of the "monarchy" of the Father needs to be addressed as well. Although he advocates the withdrawal of the filioque as an "interpretative interpolation" into a common creed, and also speaks of a "justified rejection" of an unqualified filioque, Moltmann grounds this rejection not on the principle of the "monarchy" of the Father but rather on a new proposal of his own. See above, note 16. — {A brilliant suggestion and an example of this kind of speculative solution, it seems to me, is Jürgen Moltmann's proposal that "the Holy Spirit receives from the Father his own perfect divine existence (hypostasis, hyparxis), and obtains from the Son his relational form (eidos, prosõpon)," "Theological Proposals Toward the Resolution of the Filioque Controversy," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 169.} I regard this proposal as speculative because I do not know exactly how to relate it to the historico-theological discussion of the filioque. I would only ask, as Photios might have asked, See Orphanos, p. 23. how can the Spirit receive a "perfect" existence from the Father and still need to obtain a "personal" form by relation to the Son? Is not the Spirit's origin from and relation to the Father already both perfect and personal? Nonetheless one can discern that Moltmann's proposal is somewhat related to a significant point that Staniloae, p. 184, makes about Gregory of Cyprus' view of the relation between the Son and the Spirit: "The Son marks a progress (πρόοδος) in the existence which the Spirit receives from the Father, one might say a fulfillment, the achievement of the end of which he came into existence." This Gregorian teaching is described as "very bold" by Staniloae because it obviously suggests that the Spirit receives less than perfect existence from the Father. Yet, cautions Staniloae, according to Gregory, the eternal "shining out of the Spirit from the Son is, in the last analysis, due to the Father" and so Gregory does not relinquish "the patristic teaching about the monarchy of the Father" (ibid).

Despite Moltmann's emphasis on "concrete thinking," i.e. thinking about the Trinity emphatically as concrete, different persons rather than as three abstract homogeneous equivalents, he paradoxically misinterprets the Eastern teaching of "monarchy" of the Father as "monopatrism" ("the concept [sic] of the sole causality of the Father") which allegedly subverts the Cappadocian balance between the unity and the threefoldness of the Trinity. Moltmann, p. 172. But this approach misses the point that, among the Cappadocians and their later Eastern interpreters, terms such as "unbegotten," "unoriginate," "source," and "first cause," which were used to describe the Father's uniqueness, were always intended not as philosophical definitions of the divine being (so Eunomios!) but rather as confessional descriptions of the distinctiveness of the person of the Father. Precisely because of the biblical and Cappadocian identification of God with the Father, i.e., the person of the Father who safeguards both the unity and the threefoldness of the Trinity, we must describe the Father as the only "cause" in the Trinity. So Zizioulas, p. 46. See his relevant statement above in note 24. — {Zizioulas writes that "the use of homoousios by Athanasios and Nicea was not intended to create a speculative or metaphysical theology," p. 32, and that the personal and relational understanding of the Trinity as persons by the Cappadocians was a "revolution" in Greek ontology, p. 36.} To quote Zizioulas: "The ultimate ontological category cannot be other than the Person, the hypostasis of the Father alone, since two hypostases being such an ultimate category would result into two gods" Ibid. (or an impossible double person). This would also completely vindicate Photios whose emphasis on the "alone" was a defense of the Cappadocian balance over against the misguided "and" of the filioque positing a joint cause. Photios neither taught a "monopatrism" in the sense of isolating the Father from the Son and the Spirit (indeed, he well knew the teachings of the περιχώρησις and ὁμοούσιον or consubstantiality of the Trinity) nor did he think of the sole causality of the Father, in Moltmann's erroneous interpretation of "monopatrism," as a "concept." Rather, while upholding the unity of the divine persons in all common things (τὰ κοινά), Photios also differentiated their uncommunicable personal properties (τὰ ἀκοινώνητα), that is to say, he viewed the triune God as concretely different persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, both united and differentiated — and thus strongly objected to the filioque's implication of a joint Son-Father hypostasis (υἱοπατρία), which he regarded as the teaching of Sabbelios or some other half-Sabellian monster. See Orphanos, p. 22.

A final note of clarification is necessary concerning the filioque and its relationship to the Eastern distinction between "immanent" and "economic" Trinity which, according to Ritschl, Ritschl, p. 78. lies behind "the difference between East and West" on the filioque. Ritschl's is an important observation but it has to be qualified in two ways. First, as this paper has stressed, the Eastern tradition teaches a "mediation" of the Son in the "eternal procession" as well as the "temporal mission" of the Spirit. To quote Staniloae: "The eternal relation of the Son to the Spirit is the basis of the sending of the Spirit to us by the Son." Staniloae, p. 182. This teaching is a touchstone for the ecumenical resolution of the filioque problem today. Secondly, although the above distinction properly differentiates between, on the one hand, God's relations to himself and, on the other hand, God's relations to creation, it by no means intends to suggest two Trinities. In speaking about "immanent" and "economic" Trinity we are speaking about one God, united yet differentiated both within the Trinity and over against creation. As many of the contributors to Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, including Ritschl himself, and the Klingenthal Memorandum, emphasize: we must confess one Trinity, "the living God [who] from eternity to eternity was, is, and will be none other ('immanent Trinity') than he has shown himself to be in history ('economic Trinity')." Memorandum, p. 10. The Eastern teaching about the "monarchy" of the Father not only presupposes this biblical principle that the "economic" Trinity is the only basis for all reflection about the "immanent" Trinity, but also affirms the biblical truth that the one, living God, who is the Father, reveals himself in his Son, and through his Son in the power of the Spirit, three uncreated persons who are united but not confused.

Thus Ritschl's above point may more accurately be expressed by saying that the distinction between "immanent" and "economic" Trinity, as well as the parallel distinction between the "essence" and "energies" of God, are additional background differences in the Eastern and Western doctrinal traditions which need systematic attention but which do not necessarily have to be resolved prior to arriving at a solution of the filioque problem. These additional differences are related to the filioque question but did not necessarily produce the filioque. I do not quite agree with Ritschl (p. 61) and Romanides (p. 297) who state that Augustine on account of his own presuppositions had to teach the filioque. According to Romanides, Augustine's whole reasoning about the differentiation of the Trinity may be reduced to this: the Father is from no one, the Son is from One, and the Spirit is from Two (ibid). But Augustine, without violating his own presuppositions, could have speculated, theoretically speaking, that the Spirit "is" from the Father and is "eternally breathed" by the Father "through" the Son, i.e., he could have speculated that the Spirit is from Two not by means of the conjunctive "and" but by the prepositional "through," had he been sensitive to the Cappadocian teaching of the "monarchy" of the Father and the intent of the Second Synod's use of ἐκπορευόμενον. Of course this is not to say that Augustine's philosophico-theological approach, and especially his teaching about created grace, would be acceptable to Eastern theology. The filioque clause by reason of its placement in the Creed has to do with the "immanent" Trinity. Augustine himself was chiefly concerned with explaining the "immanent" Trinity, i.e., the inner trinitarian relations, when he formulated the filioque teaching. Had Augustine converged on the preposition "through," instead of the conjunction "and," to describe the Spirit's relation to the Son, he would have saved Christendom a lot of headaches. For the doctrinal formula "who proceeds from the Father through the Son" expresses correct teaching by Eastern criteria according to the twofold "golden rule" of Maximos the Confessor, i.e., negatively not to introduce another cause or principle or source in the Trinity except the Father and positively to affirm a mediating role of the Son in the Spirit's eternal origin from the Father. The same golden rule, which is the sound theological foundation for an ecumenical resolution of the filioque controversy today as proposed by the Klingenthal Memorandum, is also found in John Damascene who writes: "The Spirit is the Spirit of the Father as proceeding from the Father .... but he is also the Spirit of the Son, not as proceeding from him, but as proceeding through him from the Father, for the Father alone is the cause." "Πνεῦμα τοῦ Πατρὸς ὡς ἐκ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον ... καὶ Υἱοῦ δὲ Πνεῦμα, οὐχ ὡς ἐξ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον· μόνος γὰρ αἴτιος ὁ Πατήρ," Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 1.12 Augustine intended to affirm nearly the same truths, namely, the intimacy between the Son and the Spirit, as well as the Father's primacy in the Trinity. But familiar neither with the Cappadocian presuppositions nor the intentionality of conciliar terminology, Augustine's great mind followed another direction and settled on what proved to be the critical que ("and") of the filioque teaching and he did so in order to stress the unity between Father and Son as a single principle or joint cause. However, he thus committed an unsuspecting but fateful error by Cappadocian criteria, i.e., confusing in a modalistic way the persons of the Father and the Son, an error which stands in its specificity in irreducible conflict with the conciliar principle of the "monarchy" of the Father and therefore should be removed from the Nicene Creed on theological as well as canonical grounds.

The Revelance of the Filioque Question

The Klingenthal Memorandum presents to the churches a remarkable theological opening for the resolution of the filioque controversy which has troubled the Eastern and Western churches for over a millenium. The Klingenthal proposal, to use Staniloae's words about Gregory the Cypriot's teaching, "opens to us a door of understanding" by emphasizing the relation of the Spirit to the Son and yet not abandoning the patristic teaching of the "monarchy" of the Father. Staniloae, p. 184. The solution of the filioque problem would be a profound testimony to the value of the modern ecumenical movement which renounces polemics and fosters deep mutual understanding of different positions in the sincere hope of achieving authentic resolution of conflicts. In addition it would be a dramatic crowning of the "ecumenism of love" with a specific great victory in the realm of the "ecumenism of truth," a tremendous step toward Christian unity especially significant to the Orthodox who value the Nicene Creed to the highest degree and who are not always certain about the seriousness with which Westerners regard classic Christian doctrines.

However, what is the intrinsic value of resolving the filioque problem apart from its contemporary ecumenical significance? What real difference, one way or the other, would settlement of the filioque question signify, and what is the degree of magnitude of that difference? In the process of making decisions and introducing liturgical changes according to the Klingenthal recommendations the churches should by all means seriously consider the intrinsic value of these steps based on the wider relevance of the filioque pertaining to the theology, spirituality, and practical life of the churches. I would like to offer comments on these matters with the view to sketching a wider context for evaluating the importance of the filioque question.

On a doctrinal level the specific impact of the filioque is on the confession of the faith of the universal Church as attested in the Bible and summed up by the Nicene Creed. The reexamination of the filioque question raises the possibility of a universal confession of faith by Christians today and the appropriation of the Nicene Creed as the normative Creed of Christianity. As a confession of faith, forged by momentous debates and expressing the universal Church's affirmation of basic Christian truths pertaining to God and salvation, the Nicene Creed is not merely an "ancient historical" confession, as some would seem to refer to it, but rather a living confession of the universal faith of the Church constantly proclaimed in worship and always offered as a celebration of Christian truth. It is reasonable to expect that such a confession of faith, being the doctrinal anchor of a united Church, should be in every way accurate, consistent with itself, and truly universal. On this doctrinal level the filioque is an "interpretative interpolation" which at minimum stands in doubtful consistency with the theology of the Creed, as we have shown.

But, if we grant that the filioque is a doctrinal error, how serious an error is it? The filioque does not question the trinitarian dogma but only seeks to interpret it. It is not a difference in dogma but in the interpretation of dogma. On the positive side the filioque intends to affirm the closeness of the Son and the Spirit, as well as the unity of the Son and the Father, so that the Spirit may be confessed as the mutual eternal bond of love of the Father and the Son and as their common gift to human beings. See Boris Bobrinskoy, "The Filioque Yesterday and Today," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, pp. 141-42, for a rare case of an Orthodox theologian seeking to discern some "positive values" in the filioque. Augustine himself who provides the classic reasoning behind the filioque in no way doubts the dogma of the Trinity but rather powerfully defends it through philosophico-theological explanations based on Scripture and Christian tradition. On the negative side the theological charge that the filioque implies a subordination and a consequent "depersonalizing" of the Spirit An unfair charge often repeated by Orthodox. The same charge is made by some Western theologians, for example see Alasdair Heron, "The Filioque in Recent Reformed Theology," Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, p. 113, and Herwig Aldenhoren, "The Question of the Procession of the Holy Spirit and its Connection with the Life of the Church," ibid., p. 130. cannot be sustained because the Creed, Augustine, and all later Augustinian interpreters of the dogma of the Trinity firmly uphold the teaching of both the threefoldness and consubstantial unity (ὁμοούσιον) of the Trinity. The only legitimate theological objection to the filioque is that it compromises the "monarchy" of the Father as the only first principle or source or cause within the Trinity, a compromise which was wholly unintended by Augustine and later Western thinkers.

The specific theological difference may be reduced to this: the que ("and") of the filioque does not seem to relinquish the "monarchy" of the Father in the Augustinian context but unintentionally does relinquish it in the Cappadocian context. But does this difference in the interpretation of dogma justify the divisive centrality which the filioque has been given in history by force of human stubbornness and polemics? Probably not. Could one suggest that the filioque's unwitting blurring of the Father and the Son into a single, unthinkable person does actually blur the Father and the Son in their eternal existence? Absolutely not.

The real problem, then, is the uncanonical inclusion of the filioque in the Creed which automatically attributes to it dogmatic authority, an issue of the greatest magnitude on both counts. That an unintended error in the interpretation of dogma should not itself be given dogmatic status is a truth so evident as to need no defense. It is on this canonical and dogmatic level that the filioque became, according to Vladimir Lossky's words, "the one dogmatic reason for the separation between East and West" and "the primordial point" of linkage of all other divergencies "to the extent that they have any doctrinal content." See Brobinskoy, p. 137. In this perspective the filioque is a dogmatic clue or doctrinal pointer to a theology which tilts the Cappadocian balance between the threefoldness and the unity of the Trinity toward the Sabellian side. To quote Moltmann: "The teaching on the Trinity in the Western Church right down to Karl Barth and Karl Rahner has a tendency to modalism." Moltmann, p. 173. See also Heron, p. 113. This is not to say that East and West are locked into "two irrenconciliable pneumatologies" because, quite apart from the specific theological difference on the filioque, and most often in total oblivion of questionable Augustinian presuppositions, Christians of the East and the West have enjoyed a common biblical and liturgical heritage pertaining to both the divine person and "economy" of the Holy Spirit. But it is to say that the raising of the filioque to the level of dogmatic authority not only created a doctrinal crisis in the consciousness of the Church but also gave Augustinian trinitarian theology with which the filioque is associated a role which it would not otherwise have had. Should the filioque be withdrawn from the Creed by the Western churches and consequently deprived of dogmatic significance, then the discussion about theological backgrounds could also be more relaxed.

On a general theological level, then, the relevance of the filioque question involves a fresh appropriation of classic biblical and patristic modes of thought. Discussion of the filioque problem raises many questions about differences in theological approaches and differences in the understanding of the nature of theology itself, especially a theology rooted in the Church as a community of faith. On this level we must be careful not unnecessarily to abstract or absolutize mutually exclusive "Western" and "Eastern" approaches, or mutually exclusive Augustinian and Cappadocian "presuppositions." There are substantial similarities of faith, work, and thought between Eastern and Western Fathers. Broad sources and truths are shared by the Eastern and Western traditions. There are also differences in approaches and teachings within major strands of Christian tradition from New Testament times. Augustine's greatness as an interpreter of the Bible and the Christian tradition cannot be fairly questioned by Orthodox on the grounds that he held certain unconscious presuppositions which were faulty. Let the specific faulty presuppositions be pointed out but not used as a base for a general rejection of a major theological witness. Above all salvation comes to us from Christ and by way of the Gospel and the central Christian truths, not by way of "approaches" and "presuppositions." Variety in approach and teaching is not necessarily divisive, and if it is occasionally conflicting, the conflicts of theological opinions do not necessarily have to be raised to the level of the division of the churches unless they are absolutely and demonstrably damaging to the heart of the Christian life and witness.

Having laid down that caveat, we may indicate certain questions which can analytically be examined in future ecumenical discussions pertaining to the filioque and related background issues. Is Lossky's unrelieved criticism of the filioque as a doctrine which brings an "alien light" of fallen reason into mystical theology really justified? Bobrinskoy, p. 137. What are the features and dimensions of this "alien light" as defined by reasonable scholarly discourse? Allchin finds that the theology which produced the filioque led to an "understanding of the nature of man and his relationship to God" in terms of isolation and opposition, rather than the "theocentric humanism" of the Eastern tradition. Allchin, p. 95. Romanides states that "as a heresy the filioque is as bad as Arianism" because of the questionable Augustinian presuppositions about created grace, the nature of scriptural revelation, and view of God as substance. Romanides, pp. 308-11. Staniloae, too, is concerned about a theology of created grace which would seem to deny the biblical witnes to Spirit-bearing humanity. Staniloae, pp. 178-79.

All these questions seem to revolve around the issue of the distinction of immanent and economic Trinity which the Orthodox view as implied by biblical revelation and explicitly taught as early as Athanasios in the context of his struggle with Arianism. But Western theologians seem to hold a different view on this matter. According to Ritschl "the basic theological-epistemological thesis in Karl Barth's dogmatics" is "the ultimate abolition" of that distinction, which abolition is "dear to Western theology." Ritschl, p. 56. Is the West, then, "substantialist" on account of a deep philosophical view of God and the East "personalist" on account of a deep biblical view of God as the living God who truly reveals himself yet remains transcendent? To quote Zizioulas: "It is in the light of this absence of an ontology of the Person in the West that we must place the entire history of EastWest relations in theology." Zizioulas, p. 48. This writer is not comfortable with the generalizations made or implied by the above comments. Analytic studies on specific problems are in order. Such studies would be on considerable help to future ecumenical discussions on the filioque. They would also provide the groundwork for a more balanced comparison of the methods, nature, and accents of Western and Eastern theology.

The above remarks have addressed the question of the relevance of the filioque to theology in general. But what of the practical life of the Church? The relevance of the filioque question to the concrete life of the Church deserves serious reflection, too. The ancient doctrinal controversies centered on issues of immediate relevance for Christian life. For example, Gregory the Theologian in his Theological Orations reasons that the adoration of the Holy Spirit in Christian worship proves that he is God. "If he is not to be worshiped, how can he deify me in baptism? ... And indeed from the Spirit comes our new birth, and from the new birth our new creation, and from the new creation our deeper knowledge of the dignity of him from whom it is derived." Theological Orations 5.28. Likewise the contemporary ecumenical discussion on the filioque offers to the churches the opportunity of reflecting on the Spirit's presence in the life of the Church and of encouraging a deeper awareness of the renewing action of the Spirit in the personal life of Christians. As Harold Ditmantson writes:

A great deal of the church's weakness and lack of effective leadership in society spring from a failure to invigorate the thought, work, and worship of the Church by recovering a deeper and wider vision of the workings of the Spirit. Harold H. Ditmanson, "The Significance of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit for Contemporary Theology," The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church, p. 208.

In what way does the filioque question impact on similar concerns? It is clear that the dogma of the uncreated nature of the Holy Spirit has direct impact on Christian worship and our confession of faith that we are saved by the Spirit's activity. But how does the filioquist interpretation of this dogma make any clear difference with regard to ecclesial life, spirituality, and witness? This writer must confess his perplexity about answering this question because on this practical level the theological debates on the filioque have all too often seemed to him, in Sergius Bulgakov's words, "a sterile war of words." The following quote from Bulgakov perfectly expresses my thoughts:

For many years, as far as I have been able, I have been looking for the traces of this influence, and I have tried to understand the issues at stake, what was the living significance of this divergence, where and how it was revealed in practice. I confess that I have not succeeded in finding it; rather I should go further and simply deny its existence. This divergence exists at no point in patristic teaching on the activities of the Holy Spirit in the world, on his "mission," his gifts, on the mysteries, on grace . . . we end up with a strange dogma, deprived of dogmatic power. Cited by Bobrinskoy, p. 136. Curiously, Bulgakov later vitiated his statement by linking, as Bobrinskoy points out, "the filioque with the Western Christocentricism which culminates in the dogma of the Pope as Vicar of Christ," ibid.

In view of the complexities and divergent phenomena of history the charges that the filioque doctrine has led to ecclesiasticism, authoritarianism, clericalism, and even the dogma of Pope See Heron, p. 113; Aldenhoven, p. 130; and Bulgakov cited by Bobrinskoy, p. 136. are wholly unconvincing. When strains of clericalism and ecclesiasticism develop in any Christian tradition the work of the Spirit, to be sure, is often restrained and impeded whether in the East or the West. But it does not at all follow that the specific doctrine of the filioque itself has caused such developments in the West. The West offers such a diverse picture of both authoritarian and renewal movements, and yet the whole Western world has presupposed the filioque. Roman Catholicism itself, despite the filioque, testifies to a tradition of rich spirituality and deep renewal currents. Where and how can one begin to connect this plethora of Western phenomena with the flioque and its "presuppositions" of which most people are hardly aware?

The practical implications of Staniloae's magisterial contribution to Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ are also difficult to grasp. He writes that "the filioque is opposed to our adoption as sons by the Spirit of the Son." Staniloae, p. 177. His reasoning is that "if the Spirit also comes [sic] Read "originates" for "comes." Of course the Spirit comes also from the Son! Some problem of translation is probably involved here. from the Son, he would no more be the Spirit of the Son, but would be exclusively the Spirit of the Father" Ibid,. p. 177. and thus "would rather make us fathers." Ibid., p. 176. Does Staniloae intend to say "exclusively the Spirit of the Father" by reason of the Father being the principle cause according to the Augustinian interpretation of the filioque? Why would that be opposed to our adoption as sons by the Spirit of the Son? Is not the Spirit, according to the Augustinian filioquist interpretation, also the Spirit of the Son? Furthermore, does not Staniloae's thinking suggest a qualitative similarity between the hypostatic sonship of the Logos (immanent Trinity) with our adopted sonship by grace (economic Trinity) which is impossible by Eastern criteria since our adopted sonship is a common adoption by the Trinity? Finally, do we not have in Staniloae's exposition a confused use of the terminology of "sons" and "fathers" suggesting that earthly daughters, fathers, and mothers are adopted literally as "sons" and only "sons" by God?

On the practical level it seems impossible to show how such subtle theological interpretations actually impact on the life of a Christian because the Holy Spirit can act or cease to act in a person whether or not he or she is informed about such subtleties. Western Christians have not depended on the filioque to appropriate the gracious actions of the Spirit. Their language and thinking about the Spirit are far more directly dependent on the Bible and also the liturgical traditions based on the language of the Bible. Even if a specific undesirable practical influence could immediately be connected to the filioque, which seems hardly possible, this doctrine certainly has not impacted on the life of Western Christians as widely as some generalizations would have it. Allchin gives an isolated example of Ann Griffiths, a keen theological mind of the eighteenth century, who confessed that she had thought of the Father and the Son as co-equal, and the Spirit "as a functionary subordinate to them," and that this error of her mind struck at the root of Christian life. Allchin, p. 95. But how? Griffith's point is not practically illustrated. Besides, her intellectual error was not an accurate interpretation of the filioque in its context of classic trinitarian doctrine. There may also be a well-meaning Orthodox theologian or two somewhere who intellectually do not exactly maintain the Cappadocian balance but rather tend to think of the Trinity as separate persons. How does such an intellectual error impact on his or her practical life? How would one go about demonstrating it?

An example having to do with the relation of the teaching about the Spirit to personal and corporate Christian life can be offered in the reverse direction. One of the greatest witnesses to the living presence of the Spirit in the Orthodox tradition has been Symeon, the eleventh-century monastic who was later given the honorific title of New Theologian. His writings See, for example, Symeon the New Theologian: Discourses, trans. C. J. de Catanzaro in the series The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York, 1980). See also George A. Maloney, S.J., The Mystic of Fire and Light: St. Symeon the New Theologian (Denville, NJ, 1975). indicate with what holy passion he proclaimed to his contemporaries that the same life that the apostles lived by the power of the Spirit was possible for them in their days, too, and that to think otherwise was a denial of Christ's saving work. Based on his reading of John and Paul, and his own deep experience of renewal, he powerfully called his generation to true repentance and to a new birth "from above" (Jn 3.3). He emphasized a "baptism of the Holy Spirit," juxtaposing but not opposing it to sacramental baptism. For Symeon the Holy Spirit marks the soul's resurrection. The Spirit brings sinful Christians to life "as from the dead" (Rom 6.13). Symeon advocated an uncompromising and wide renewal for all, bishops, monks, and lay people alike, through repentance and through the real (οὐσιωδῶς) and conscious (αἰσθητῶς) presence of the fire of the Spirit in their hearts, for otherwise titles, positions, and theological learning meant, so he declared, nothing for them but divine judgment. Symeon proved to be a prophetic voice in a Christian society inundated by formalism and ecclesiasticism. The incessant response to him was: But that's impossible! No one can live the apostolic life today! Pride is deluding you! Symeon was also persecuted by monks and hierarchs. He was finally driven to exile. I cannot think of a more telling example of a Christian tradition which, despite its rejection of the filioque and its correct teaching about the Holy Spirit, nevertheless was marked by such clericalism and formalism that actual readiness to welcome the presence of the Spirit in the practical life of the Church was the exception rather than the rule.


By way of conclusion it may be helpful to summarize the main points of this paper. Two key factors are crucial to the ecumenical settlement of the filioque question. The first is the recognition that the theological use of the filioque in the West against Arian subordinationism is fully valid according to the theological criteria of the Eastern tradition. In the West the filioque has been used to stress: (1) the consubstantial unity of the Trinity, (2) the divine status of the Son, and (3) the intimacy between the Son and the Spirit. All these points are also integral elements of Eastern trinitarian theology anchored on the Cappadocian teaching of περιχώρησις ("mutual indwelling") of the persons of the Trinity, a teaching reflected by the Nicene Creed which professes an equal worship and glorification of the Holy Trinity. Thus a fundamental and wide agreement exists between Eastern and Western trinitarian doctrine affirming the complete reciprocity and mutuality of the Son and the Spirit in their eternal relations (immanent Trinity) as well as their manifested action in creation, Church and society (economic Trinity). Christ is both the bearer and the sender of the Spirit. The Spirit of God is in every way also the Spirit of the Son.

The second key factor in the resolution of the filioque question is the recognition that biblical and patristic theology commonlly affirm the teaching of the "monarchy" of the Father, i.e., that the Father is "the sole principle (ἀρχή), source (πηγή), and cause (αἰτία) of divinity" (Klingenthal Memorandum). This teaching is of decisive importance to Eastern trinitarian theology and a teaching which the filioque clause in the West, according to contemporary Western interpretations, has never intended to deny. However, the Augustinian interpretation of the filioque, i.e., that the Father and the Son are the common cause of the eternal being of the Spirit, unintentionally compromises the "monarchy" of the Father according to Cappadocian trinitarian theology presupposed and reflected by the Nicene Creed in which the verb "proceeds" (ἐκπορευόμενον) refers to the eternal origin of the Spirit from the Father. Eastern trinitarian thought as expressed by Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Cypriot and Gregory Palamas conceives of the Son as mediating, but not causing, the Spirit's procession from the Father. On this nuanced difference in doctrinal interpretation hangs the whole weight of centuries of controversy between the Eastern and Western churches. The formula "who proceeds from the Father through the Son" is a sound theological resolution of this problem in the conciliatory spirit of Maximos the Confessor laying aside the above specific Augustinian interpretation as an erroneous theological opinion but at the same time affirming the active participation of the Son in the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father.

Finally, the filioque question does not signal a "great divide" between the Eastern and Western churches because these churches commonly confess the dogma of the Holy Trinity and share broad agreement regarding the work ("economy") of the Spirit according to Scripture, tradition, and liturgy. The filioque marks not a decisive difference in dogma but an important difference in the interpretation of dogma due to the differing Cappadocian and Augustinian approaches to the mystery of the Trinity. The theological implications of this difference are a more consistently biblical and personal understanding of the Trinity as concrete persons and careful avoidance of any modalistic tendencies confusing the uniqueness of each of the divine persons. The well-known critique that the filioque subordinates the Spirit to the Son and thereby "depersonalizes" the Spirit seems to express theological polemic rather than theological truth. As far as the practical implications of this difference is concerned, i.e., the often repeated charges that the filioque leads to authoritarianism, institutionalism, clericalism and other similar tendencies, one is hard pressed to demonstrate these historically and theologically because such tendencies, as well as their opposites, have existed in most churches with or without the filioque. More fruitful for further study are the specific implications of the Augustinian and Cappadocian approaches to the Trinity and theology in general, especially the implications for life, spirituality and practice. This kind of direction in ecumenical theology would be welcome because, next to and after a resolution of the specific filioque question, which is a highly nuanced question of trinitarian theology, such a direction would help focus attention on the wider role of the Spirit in the churches, society and creation today.



Validated as Strict HTML 4.01 — before Geocities got hold of it!

Valid HTML 4.01!