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A Moderate View on the Filioque Controversy

by Carson T. Clark on February 16, 2012

Having been largely responsible for the tragic Great Schism of 1054 between the Latin West and the Greek East, the Filioque clause is behind what is probably the most controversial debate in church history. While it would be irresponsible to downplay their theological significance, the truth is that three plain words from the Nicene Creed have now kept the Body of Christ divided for nearly a millennium: “and the Son.” The critical issue at stake is the economy of the Trinity. As I understand it, what happened is that the Western Church added the phrase to the creed long after it had been finalized at the First Council of Constantinople.11.Apparently they felt this was OK because of their view regarding the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, which the East never affirmed in the same way. It would seem that their motives were pure. They simply wanted to be more theologically accurate to the teachings of Scripture and their tradition. The Eastern Church, however, disagreed with that biblical interpretation, held no such tradition, and was emphatic that, because two ecumenical councils had together formulated the creed’s precise wording, only an ecumenical council should be permitted to alter it. So here we are today, wrestling over these same words some 14 centuries after the controversy erupted. Naturally, I hold to a moderate view on the Filioque controversy that both sides will (probably) simultaneously love and hate.

In my humble opinion, each side a valid points in this long-standing feud.22.Please keep in mind that this is a short blog post, not an academic paper. I’m not offering an extensive exegetical interpretation of the relevant biblical passages nor am I considering the textual contributions made through the Patristic Era. Look at the biblical evidence:

  • “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” – John 14:16
  • “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” – John 15:26
  • “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” – John 16:7
  • “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” – John 16: 13-15
  • ‘So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” – John 20:21-22
  • “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Roman 8:9
  • “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ “Galatians 4:6
  • “for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” – Philippians 1:19

Allow me to point out two facts that are, to my mind, indisputable followed by commentary on each. First, from John 15:26 alone we see that Jesus is, in some way, involved in the sending of the Spirit. Roman Catholics are theologically onto something here. Yet I think gone they’ve beyond the biblical evidence in affirming that the Spirit proceeds from Jesus. The Spirit may derive solely from the Father in some sort of ontological sense, but Jesus is unquestionably somehow a part of the Spirit being sent. To parse delicately, it’s almost like the Son is commissioning the Spirit, which then goes forth from the Father. For lack of a better way to put it, Jesus seems to be the general giving the order while the Father is the military base that actually implements it.33.Forgive me. That analogy is wrought with Trinitarian problems. It’s the best I could come up with. Second, equally clear from the same verse is that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Eastern Orthodox are right to be sticklers on this, for Scripture never says that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. Could it be implied? Sure, I suppose. But that’s speculative.44.Moreover, they’re absolutely right that ecclesiastically his shouldn’t be in the Nicene Creed even if it is doctrinally true. Dear Roman popes: Only the undivided Church can make that call.

I see neither side of this historic divide adequately taking into account those two facts, let alone the full breadth of Scripture’s teachings. That’s why this issue continually causes me to facepalm myself whenever I think about it. Catholics have a logically derived position. Unfortunately, their systematic position goes too far–as is the tendency of that theological sub-discipline. Meanwhile the Orthodox have a literalist interpretation of the Nicene Creed that doesn’t deal with the obvious biblical complexities. Quite honestly, this is why I get annoyed when people want a simplistic answer to the question, “Which side are you on in the Filioque debate?” I’m certain this will be a controversial comment, but whenever I hear (or read) people give simple answers to that I have to assume they a) haven’t seriously considered the biblical evidence, b) are hopelessly brainwashed by their tradition, c) have framed their understanding of this issue upon a logical fallacy,55.See: False Dichotomy or, most alarming of all, d) All the above. Could be wrong, but these are truly the only options I see.66. Thankfully, as an Anglican I have a little more wiggle room to think for myself.

The best way to understand my explain my moderate view is probably in visual contrast to others, so to the right is a diagram for each of the three.77.I’ve made a real effort to accurately represent both the Greek and Latin views on this, but if I’ve skewed their views I would ask for correction and clarification. The first is the view of the Eastern Orthodox Church. They believe that the Father begets the Son and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. “The Orthodox interpretation of the Trinity is that the Holy Spirit originates, has his cause for existence or being (manner of existence) from the Father alone as ‘One God, One Father’. That the Filioque confuses the theology as it was defined at the councils at both Nicene and Constantinople.”88.Yes, I just quoted wikipedia. The second is the view of the Roman Catholic Church. They believe that the Father begets the Son, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the Son.” Catholics are quick to refute the Orthodox charge that this formulation creates confusion in suggesting that the Holy Spirit has two origins. The third diagram represents my view. I believe that the Father begets the Son, and the Holy Spirit (having been sent by the Son) proceeds from the Father.99.Please note the color choice. Blue + red = Purple. Not only does this formulation allow me to in good conscience stand beside my Orthodox brothers and sisters in reciting the Nicene Creed in its original form, but it imbues within it the biblical elements of the Son sending the Spirit contained within Catholic theology.

I suspect the only way the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Christians will ever tangibly reunify is if they hold an eighth ecumenical council and adapt the Nicene Creed. It would have to say something agreeable to all parties. I imagine something like, “And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who [is sent by the Son and] proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.”1010.Maybe I’m wrong, but I really don’t see this as being theologically incompatible with either side. Personally, I doubt that will ever happen and almost certainly not in my lifetime. Sadly, that sort of extreme ecumenism would probably require nothing short of global persecution of all Christians. In the meantime, I’ll keep on reciting the Nicene Creed as it was agreed upon by the undivided Church while being thankful in my heart that the Son sent the Spirit as well as praying that’s Jesus’ will of a united Church will once more be a physical and spiritual reality.

  • http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/ Robert Martin

    Man, now. That is some good stuff…got a couple of Orthodox FB friends that, after I share this, may jump all over it…

    Personally, theological interpretations aside, I think the whole thing is silly…to maintain a church split for 14 centuries? Seriously?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ReformedArsenal Tony Arsenal

      It’s no small issue Martin. For them it is tantamount to defining the Son in a way where he is somehow not part of the Trinity or is less than consubstantial with the Father and Spirit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Indeed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Don’t have enough Catholic and Orthodox Christians in my life right now, but I do hope those I know will chime in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ReformedArsenal Tony Arsenal

    I think you need to trim up your terminology a little. It’s not entierly accurate to the theological framework to say that the Spirit does or does not proceed from Jesus, when the discussion really is about the Son. I know that Jesus is the Son, but when we are talking about the procession of the Spirit we are talking about an eternal procession, not just the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, and to use the name Jesus as a potential source obscures that fact. Beyond that, the Patristic witness consistently uses “Son” when talking about the Pre-incarnate Word, and Jesus or Christ when talking about the Post-incarnate Christ.

    Other than that, I like where your head is at. I think that maybe you under emphasized the Catholic position in some senses which sees the Spirit as being “caused” by the overflow of love that the Father and Son have for each other. If this is true in any meaninful sense, then to say that the Spirit proceeds only from the Father is to say that it is only the Father’s love for the Son that “causes” the Spirit, which seems problematic for the idea of recipricol Trinitarian love.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Tony,

      I was using “Jesus” rather than “the Son” so as not to be repetitious, but your point is well taken. I’ve edited the post to say “the Son” everywhere where I thought that more appropriate, for the reason you said. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Shel

    shh don’t tell anyone – but we use the Nicene creed WITH OUT the Filioque at Mercy Church – and have since our founding.

    Also there is a lot more going on in terms of division between Rome and The East in terms of overcoming division since 1054. E.g. Marian inventions, papal infallibility, no creation of new sees…just few hiccups. Hahahaha

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      “Also there is a lot more going on in terms of division between Rome and The East in terms of overcoming division since 1054.”

      Yeah, for sure. The cultural, linguistic, geographical, political, economic, theological… differences had been building for centuries. The Filioque controversy is simply the spark that lit the power keg, or something like that. Yet it remains a real symbol and powerful doctrine difference between the two ancient traditions.

  • Iansansot

    I think I would have appreciated a primer on the Filioque controversy. It’s been too long since my last theology class. You’re just forcing me to do Wikipedia research myself, jerk.

    • Iansansot

      And then I actually read the rest of your post. Nevermind. You’re still a jerk, though. But this time, for no reason.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Ah. Very good.

    • Iansansot

      In all sincerity, this was issue I never understood why people got up in arms about. It’s so technical. Personally, I see no practical ramifications of either side. But I guess that’s what makes me an ENTJ and not an INTP.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Imagine that there were Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Bible churches, non-denomational churches, Pentecostals, Anabaptists, Emerging churches, etc. There are no separate denominations. There is no distinction between between catholic and Catholic, orthodox and Orthodox. Every local body is part of the catholic, orthodox Church. All the churches you see around are in full communion with one another through apostolic succession, episcopal oversight, ecumenical councils, and creeds. Then have one half of those churches in isolation change the content of the creed affirmed by all. Not only that, but the seemingly small issue they tweaked is related to the Trinity, which it took the undivided Church centuries of blood, sweat, and tears to figure out. Finally there is consensus… and then they change it. You start to see why this is important. In my humble opinion, we look at this issue through far too much of a modern, American church lens where ecclesiastical unity and doctrinal agreement is foreign, then we wonder why these ancient Christians put up such a fuss about this disagreement.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Can we agree right now that “Wikipedia” and “research” cannot be one in the same?

  • Charles

    Too many issues; too little time.

    1. One way to handle the matter is to affirm the Creed as formulated at Constantinople 381 and then regard the filioque as a theologoumenon (theological opinion) that one can hold privately without inserting it into the Creed. The Creed does not explicitly deny “of the Son”; it simply doesn’t affirm it.

    2. Another way is to do what the Cappadocians (who predate the controversy) did and speak of the Spirit as proceeding FROM the Father and THROUGH the Son, without trying to specify what these terms mean precisely. Basil and his “team” never quite knew what to do with “procession” anyway beyond saying that that’s the way Scripture talks and that processing must somehow be different from “being begotten.”

    3. A third approach is to look carefully at how the Creed actually begins. It starts of with “We [or I] believe in one God, the Father…….” It doesn’t say, “We believe in one God, the Trinity………” The Father is clearly the source of the other two “persons”; he is the monarche’, the monos arche, the single fountainhead. If the Spirit has two “sources,” then the monarche’ of the Father appears to be compromised. The West might have countered that to make the Father the single source is to invite the subordination that we find in Origen: the Son and Spirit come from the Father but are, in effect, junior gods emanating from the one source and are of less power and glory. Here is where the “of one being with the father” (homoousios) comes in to save the day because it establishes the full equality of Father and Son. The equality of the Spirit is not stated but implied in the third and final paragraph where he is said to be “worshipped and glorified” with the other two. So “monarche’ plus homoousios” preserves both the single source and the full equality of all three “persons/hypostaseis.”

    4. An Eastern rationale (clearly stated by Mtpn Kallistos [Ware] and others) for closing the door to the Filioque is that it has unwanted implications for ecclesiology. If the Bishop of Rome can unilaterally alter the Creed, the fellowship of brothers is broken. No more is dogma set forth by a consensus of bishops in an “ecumenical” council, a council in which the Pope is esteemed as “primus inter pares” (first among equals). This not only involves a power struggle but also an unprecedented(?) shift in the way the church has done major business (going back perhaps to Acts 15 and the Council of Jerusalem).

    5. Another question mark to place next to the Filioque is whether it reduces the Spirit to something less than a person/hypostasis, especially if one adopts Augustine’s understanding of the Spirit as the “bond of love” uniting Father and Son. I love my wife and vice versa, but the bond that unites us isn’t our daughter and son (they are its issue) but a certain “something” called love, which is indeed real without being personal. True, for Augustine the “bond” notion is a metaphor which needs supplementing with other images; it’s not a stand-alone concept that accounts fully for the mystery of the Trinity. But does it, like Augustine’s other famous image of the three-fold character of the human mind (being, knowing, willing), move us away from the personhood of the “persons” and toward an abstract view of the personality of God?

    Two great sources for those who want to dig in: Lewis Ayres’s recent AUGUSTINE AND THE TRINITY (CUP) and the very brief but very pregnant words of Kallistos Ware in A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE (edited by Hubert Cunliffe-Jones and Benjamin Drewery), pp. 201-215.

    For those who want to get into really heavy, but incredibly fruitful, contemporary theologizing on this and related issues, I’d recommend writings by John Zizioulas (eg BEING AS COMMUNION, THE ONE AND THE MANY, COMMUNION AND OTHERNESS), Colin Gunton (THE ONE, THE THREE, AND THE MANY; THE PROMISE OF TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY), and Thomas F Torrance (THE TRINITARIAN FAITH; THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF GOD).

    To repeat myself: Too many issues; too little time.

    • Ethan McCarthy

      Torrance!

  • http://www.rethinkingfaith.com Rethinking Faith

    To divide over such things is idiocy. To kill and war over it is criminal and blasphemous. What a travesty of history!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      I don’t disagree with you that this is a tragedy, as I said in my post. I wonder, however, if you fully grasp the complexities and importance of the issues for creedal Christians who claim apostolic succession, i.e. Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican.

    • http://www.rethinkingfaith.com Rethinking Faith

      Carson, no disrespect to you, but you are correct that I do not understand when hatred and bloodshed between Christians are rooted in religious justifications. For brothers to turn on brothers in the name of Christ is to betray Christ, to deny him with one’s deeds, and to reveal the sham of “apostolic succession.” Can’t you hear him saying it to them: “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness, I never knew you!”? Such wars, crusades, and inquisitions demonstrate there is nothing catholic about such Catholicism, nothing orthodox about such Orthodoxy, and nothing commendable about Anglican efforts to be counted among such idolators. I am not referring to their adoration of revered objects and images, but to their elevation of such dogmas to a level of “importance” that can only be called idolatry–what else could it be, to take up the sword against other Christians “in the name of” the Prince of Peace? Creedal? Please! Nothing in the creeds invokes hypocrisy or the taking of human lives! Complexity? Nothing could be more complex than errors compounded on error, like one wrong turn after another, one lie justifying the next. Jesus taught that Truth is a Person. He is the Way. And that Way is Life, not death or killing or division. To fight over Him is a contradiction.

      That said, I did like your efforts to resolve the conflict, and I commend you. Interesting thoughts. If the ancients had encouraged dialogue and discussion and exploration as you have, we might have a heritage to be proud of on this point. Istead, we have a shameful example of hypocrsy in our history that unbelievers point to as a way to discredit the witness of the church. Whatever the correct position turns out to be on this matter, it should result in glory that helps us see the beauthy of the Truth, with no place for shame or embarrassment.

      Peace!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Dave,

      Regarding your first paragraph above, it seems to me like you’re replying to a caricature–not to what I actually wrote. You’ll hear no justification nor downplaying from me when it comes to the tragedies in church history. I’m as vocal a critic as anyone when it comes to that. That having been said, you’re painting in awfully broad brush strokes. Such comments are seldom helpful. N.K. Clifford once noted, “The Evangelical Protestant mind has never relished complexity. Indeed its crusading genius, whether in religion or politics, has always tended toward an over-simplification of issues and the substitution of inspiration and zeal for critical analysis and serious reflection.” Please be careful not to fall into that trap.

      Also, keep in mind that I wasn’t born and raised Anglican. I grew up Pentecostal, which as you probably know is the most low church, restorationist, anti-tradition, anti-history, anti-creedal expression of Christianity of them all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Oh, and if you get a chance can I ask you to read a miniblog of mine? Here’s the link:

      “Mini Blog #10: Epilogue”
      http://carsontclark.com/uncategorized/408/mini-blog-10-epilogue

      Gracias.

    • http://www.rethinkingfaith.com Rethinking Faith

      Carson,

      Thanks for the miniblog and the blog above. A couple of thoughts:

      1. I think my knee-jerk reaction to any mention of the Filioque is to react the way I did. So yes, I probably could have engaged your own comments more carefully. I apologize.

      2. I do take issue with your comments about Evangelical Protestants and complexity. Complexity is fine where matters require it. But when simplicity is available and appropriate with integrity, then it is not to be equated simple-mindedness, which is what your comments seem to imply about those branches of Christianity that have taken issue with the streams you admire.

      When I did my masters studies at Wheaton, one of the main professors I studied under was Robert Webber, widely regarded as the father of the Ancient-Future movement. I came to him with respect and admiration because my background at that time was a movement led by men who called themselves the New Covenant Apostolic Order, which later merged with the Eastern Orthodox Church. I did not join them in that merger. I had also been raised a Catholic, though I converted at age 14 to the house church movement allied with the NCAO at that time. While at Wheaton I studied historical theology under Webber as we explored the development of Christian theology and practice from the ancient creeds on up to the documents of Vatican II. At least two of my classmates went on to become Anglican Priests, one here in the U.S. as part of a recent Anglican faction, and one rose to the level of bishop and became quite famous internationally for his role in Uganda.

      Of course I also had other teachers and studied other streams of theology. My master’s thesis was in Reformed apologetics, not a simplistic theology by any means. And I dare say, I’ve never read anything more complex than the works of Tillich and Barth and Brunner, though we indulged in the primary source material of these and many other key theologians of the church. Yet for all their depth and insight neither Tillich, nor Schleiermacher, nor Luther, nor Calvin, nor Armenius, nor Aquinas or Augustine, could ever be commended simply because they were complex.

      One thing I’ll always remember Dr. Webber saying is: “All theology is simply human thinking about Truth; and Truth is a Person.”

      So when you tell me I don’t appreciate the complexity or importance of these things I have to laugh. I was reading Calvin’s Institutes when I was 16. I have belonged to churches that were Catholic, Wesleyan, Charismatic, Baptist, Evangelical, and a few in between. I watched the NCAO divide over whether or not Christ’s natures were simply united or interpenetrated. And I’ve been in Baptist and Wesleyan churches that split over the personalities of their leaders. And yet for all the dogmas and distinctives of these churches and denominations, I have yet to find a convincing argument for denying Christ in order to cut off a brother or sister who loves him, and for whom he died. And for me, the Filioque will always symbolize that hypocrisy–not whether it belongs in the creed, and not whether we all see it the same way, but for how sinful men used it to divide Christ’s body and shed each other’s blood. This, I think is its real lesson: That doctrine, however true or important, can become an idol. No doctrine or dogma should ever rise to the level of importance that it negates the importance of the second greatest commandment.

      And the reason this happens, when it does, is because we have substitued doctrine for relationship, and truth for Truth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Dave,

      Interacting with your comments:

      “1. I think my knee-jerk reaction to any mention of the Filioque is to react the way I did. So yes, I probably could have engaged your own comments more carefully. I apologize.”

      Not a problem. If there’s anything to forgive, it certainly is.

      “2. I do take issue with your comments about Evangelical Protestants and complexity. Complexity is fine where matters require it. But when simplicity is available and appropriate with integrity, then it is not to be equated simple-mindedness, which is what your comments seem to imply about those branches of Christianity that have taken issue with the streams you admire.”

      Few thoughts. First, we’re on the same page that that quote wasn’t intended as an accusation, right? It was presented as a tendency to be careful in avoiding. The same is true of any Christian tradition, I think. Second, I love Elton Trueblood’s comment, “One of the best contributions which Christian thought can make to the thought of the world is the repetition that life is complex. It is part of the Christian understanding of reality that all simplistic answers to basic questions are bound to be false. Over and over, the answer is both-and rather than either-or.” Third, I hope you realize that I describe myself as an evangelical. Protestant? Eh, depends on your definition. Evangelical? Certainly.

      “When I did my masters studies at Wheaton, one of the main professors I studied under was Robert Webber, widely regarded as the father of the Ancient-Future movement.”

      Very cool. Can’t stand the man’s writing style, but the content is generally solid.

      “I came to him with respect and admiration because my background at that time was a movement led by men who called themselves the New Covenant Apostolic Order, which later merged with the Eastern Orthodox Church.”

      Intriguing. I’d like to know more about this.

      “I did not join them in that merger.”

      Ya don’t say ;)

      “I had also been raised a Catholic, though I converted at age 14 to the house church movement allied with the NCAO at that time.”

      Interesting.

      “While at Wheaton I studied historical theology under Webber as we explored the development of Christian theology and practice from the ancient creeds on up to the documents of Vatican II.”

      Would love to have had that experience.

      “At least two of my classmates went on to become Anglican Priests, one here in the U.S. as part of a recent Anglican faction, and one rose to the level of bishop and became quite famous internationally for his role in Uganda.”

      Gotcha.

      “Of course I also had other teachers and studied other streams of theology. My master’s thesis was in Reformed apologetics, not a simplistic theology by any means.”

      No comment.

      “And I dare say, I’ve never read anything more complex than the works of Tillich and Barth and Brunner, though we indulged in the primary source material of these and many other key theologians of the church.”

      Having read them, I concur. Tillich and Barth were brilliant, but man those guys sucked as authors… in my opinion. Just painful to read.

      “Yet for all their depth and insight neither Tillich, nor Schleiermacher, nor Luther, nor Calvin, nor Armenius, nor Aquinas or Augustine, could ever be commended simply because they were complex.”

      Sure. I agree with that. FYI – I think we might be speaking past one another a bit…

      “One thing I’ll always remember Dr. Webber saying is: ‘All theology is simply human thinking about Truth; and Truth is a Person.’ ”

      I like it. I like to say that theology, in its best and purest form, is the pursuit of both knowledge of and relationship with God.

      “So when you tell me I don’t appreciate the complexity or importance of these things I have to laugh.”

      I said no such thing. Here’s my quote: “I wonder, however, if you fully grasp the complexities and importance of the issues for creedal Christians who claim apostolic succession…” These words are chosen carefully. That’s an implicit inquiry, not an accusation. As for the N.K. Clifford quote, again, I’m saying that’s a general tendency that needs to be avoided.

      “I was reading Calvin’s Institutes when I was 16.”

      I’m sorry ;)

      “I have belonged to churches that were Catholic, Wesleyan, Charismatic, Baptist, Evangelical, and a few in between.”

      Then we’re both mutts :)

      “I watched the NCAO divide over whether or not Christ’s natures were simply united or interpenetrated.”

      *sigh* I’m sorry… By the way, I never questioned your intelligence.

      “And I’ve been in Baptist and Wesleyan churches that split over the personalities of their leaders.”

      I hate that crap.

      “And yet for all the dogmas and distinctives of these churches and denominations, I have yet to find a convincing argument for denying Christ in order to cut off a brother or sister who loves him, and for whom he died.”

      We agree far more than you may suppose…

      “And for me, the Filioque will always symbolize that hypocrisy–not whether it belongs in the creed, and not whether we all see it the same way, but for how sinful men used it to divide Christ’s body and shed each other’s blood.”

      Nope. Still not disagreeing with you.

      “This, I think is its real lesson: That doctrine, however true or important, can become an idol.”

      AMEN!!

      “No doctrine or dogma should ever rise to the level of importance that it negates the importance of the second greatest commandment.”

      *nods*

      “And the reason this happens, when it does, is because we have substituted doctrine for relationship, and truth for Truth.”

      Only there at the end do we disagree. I see a false dichotomy in that. As I said above, my belief is that theology, in its best and purest form, is the pursuit of BOTH knowledge of and relationship with God.

    • Jbozeman

      Dave,

      Your response is troubling on many levels. You assert that past is “error upon error”, linking it to the Tradition of the past in an inaccurate way. yes, humans continually fail, whether they are Eastern Orthodox or “non-denominational” (whatever that means). It is appalling that Christians, who have the Creed and the holy traditions of the Church to guide them into all truth, still make a mess of things. But before we get to worked up about it, we should remember that this is the reality of our existence.

      Not that sin should triumph over love, patience, holiness and the like, but that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom we all are. We should be sad—not shocked— that humans kill, maim, fight, and destroy things, and even do it in the name of Jesus Christ.

      The witness of the Church in *this* world is that it is constantly invoking our Father in Heaven to see through the dark glass of life lived in a good world caught in the fall. We chip away and remove everything that obscures Truth—that is, Jesus Christ— hoping to leave only the Truth when we are done. Hence, the Creed, the all-to-necessary dogma, icons, crosses, liturgy, hymnody, ecumenical councils, fights, battles, wars, and (eventually) the peace that is to come. We should not excuse the evil that we cause along the way, but we certainly should repent of it. And then move on.

      The “ancients” did encourage dialogue, and this dialogue is ongoing. But we can safely say that we will never have a heritage to be proud of, because we can never be good enough to ever take pride in our actions. We can only boast of Christ in us. Shame on us all when we fail to live in a way that more and more clearly reveals Jesus Christ.

    • http://www.rethinkingfaith.com Rethinking Faith

      Thanks James. I remain neither sad nor shocked but appalled, as I am over my own failures and humanity.

  • Godrilla

    Jesus contained all the fullness of God. That’s the point of the trinity. God created the world, Jesus created the world, The Holy Spirit created the world. Doesn’t it make sense that Jesus need to leave the world so the Spirit could come had nothing to do with who sent the Spirit but that “Hear O Israel the Lord our God is one God” you can’t have two One God’s roaming the earth. Jesus had to leave so the Holy Spirit could come.

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  • Fr James Bozeman

    I think that Charles sums it up pretty well. Not much to add. The Church environment and issues surrounding the schism were pretty complex and convoluted, and not easily boiled down to the Filioque issue alone.

    Here’s a link to a short talk concerning the Creed and the Filioque, delivered by a good friend of mine, Fr John Parker, a former Episcopalian priest, who now pastors Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina. He refers to the Filioque as “diabolical”, describing it by the strict definition of that word. Good, clean fun:

    http://ancientfaith.com/specials/2011_alban_and_sergius/fr._john_parker_the_filioque

    • Ethan McCarthy

      Father Jamey? Congrats!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Yeah, when did that happen? And, yes, congratulations!

  • Meredith Beck

    Does the Anglican church hold to your view? And which form of the Nicene Creed do they use?

    I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Roman Catholic church has updated their English translation of the Nicene Creed (and certain parts of the mass). When I was attending RCIA classes, we were taught the new Nicene Creed. It’s been a struggle for the life-long Catholics to re-learn the creed, but easier for the converts who never memorized it to begin with.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      Meredith,

      One of the most important things to know about the Anglican tradition is that it’s a big umbrella. I know people who would tell you that Anglicanism is a branch of Protestantism, reformed Catholicism, Western Orthodoxy, or something else altogether. Yet they all fit within the same tradition. As to this issue, I would certainly say that my view falls within the bounds of Anglicanism but I wouldn’t say it’s the “Anglican view,” per se. Also, I know Anglicans who use both versions of the Nicene Creed. The 39 Articles, which a lot of Anglicans basically treat as a confessional statement, contains the Filioque clause yet from what I’ve been hearing just recently the Church of England and other worldview provinces will be dropping it in their next editions of the prayerbook.

      That help?

    • Meredith

      Ah, got it. Thanks for the clarification.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

      I’m not readily finding anything. What’s new in this translation of the Nicene Creed?

  • http://gaudetetheology.wordpress.com/ Victoria Gaile

    You might be interested in a document put out by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation on the filioque – I blogged about it here.

    I’m Roman Catholic, and I have lately felt called to omit the corresponding English phrase from the Creed when I recite it at Mass, as a gesture of ecumenical commitment, and faithfulness to the text that was accepted by the whole church. I’m still thinking this through.

    When I do recite the phrase, I mentally gloss “proceeds from” differently for the two Persons.

  • Gill

    I have recently graduated with an MPhil in theology and mission and my subject was to look at the pre-schismatic teaching on the Trinity as a possible basis for interconfessional mission. It was a very illuminating process as it arose directly out of our 5 years of experience working with the Orthodox church in Romania. You’re right – the filioque still causes huge anger. The real nub of the problem, as I understand it, is that the Orthodox do not accept that the Spirit can ‘proceed’ from the Son, as you say. However, they are quite happy to say ‘the Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Spirit, and the Spirit sends us’ – their basis for mission.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/weis.victor Victor Weis

    Carson, I must say you are very fair and balanced.

    We Orthodox do acknowledge that the Son does indeed *send* the Holy Spirit for his earthly ministry, but we don’t spell this out in the Nicene Creed. Westerners get confused and think that we don’t believe this because we insist that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone; they don’t understand that we are talking about ontological procession.

    Those dovish/ecumenically-minded among us would definitely love to see an Eighth Ecumenical Council were the Creed could be amended to say something like: “And we believe in the Holy Spirit…who ontologically proceeds from the Father, who is sent by the Son…” etc.

    Also, I thought you might find it interesting to learn of an additional fact that made the filioque so controversial. While Arianism pretty much died out in the East by the 5th century, it was still thriving in several places in the West on into the 7th century(1). The primary impetus for the Latin See to add the filioque to the Creed was to emphasize the Son’s co-equality with the Father in an effort to combat Arianism. With all of the linguistic logistic, cultural, and geographical barriers to good communication of the time, when a Western theologian found out that the East rejected the filioque, they naturally assumed that the East had fallen into Arianism. Meanwhile, the East was still combating Sabellianism/modalism during this time, and when Eastern theologians discovered that the West had added the filioque, they naturally assumed that the West was falling into modalism since they were confusing the distinctions between the Son and the Father. To make matters worse, the Greeks expressed the Trinity in terms of three hypostasies who share one divine ousia, while the Catholics expressed the Trinity in terms of one Deum consisting of three distinct but cosubstantial persona. Sounds all well in good until you realize that the word “persona” in Latin had lost its older meaning of “mask” and had by this time come to mean “person”, but the Greek language still used the word “persona” in older sense of “mask.” So when the Greeks heard the Latins talking about “One God who wears three masks [so as to play different roles at different times in the drama of history]” (to their understanding, anyway), they thought for sure that all the Latins were modalists.

    Fortunately, both sides have since overcome this linguistic difficulty. Hopefully we can continue to dialogue.

    (1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism#Remnants_in_the_West.2C_5th-7th_century

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