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§ 128. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.


The decision of Nicaea related primarily only to the essential deity of Christ. But in the wider range of the Arian controversies the deity of the Holy Ghost, which stands and falls with the deity of the Son, was indirectly involved. The church always, indeed, connected faith in the Holy Spirit with faith in the Father and Son, but considered the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit as only an appendix to the doctrine concerning the Father and the Son, until the logical progress brought it to lay equal emphasis on the deity and personality of the Holy Ghost, and to place him with the Father and Son as an element of equal claim in the Trinity.

The Arians made the Holy Ghost the first creature of the Son, and as subordinate to the Son as the Son to the Father. The Arian trinity was therefore not a trinity immanent and eternal, but arising in time and in descending grades, consisting of the uncreated God and two created demi-gods. The Semi-Arians here, as elsewhere, approached the orthodox doctrine, but rejected the consubstantiality, and asserted the creation, of the Spirit. Thus especially Macedonius, a moderate Semi-Arian, whom the Arian court-party had driven from the episcopal chair of Constantinople. From him the adherents of the false doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, were, after 362, called Macedonians;14141414   Μακεδονιανοί. also Pneumatomachi,14151415   Πνευματόμαχοι. and Tropici.14161416   Τροπικοί. This name comes probably from their explaining as mere tropes (figurative expressions) or metaphors the passages of Scripture from which the orthodox derived the deity of the Holy Spirit. Comp. Athanas., Ad Serap. Ep. i. c. 2 (tom. i. Pars ii. p. 649).

Even among the adherents of the Nicene orthodoxy an uncertainty still for a time prevailed respecting the doctrine of the third person of the Holy Trinity. Some held the Spirit to be an impersonal power or attribute of God; others, at farthest, would not go beyond the expressions of the Scriptures. Gregory Nazianzen, who for his own part believed and taught the consubstantiality of the Holy Ghost with the Father and the Son, so late as 380 made the remarkable concession:14171417   Orat. xxxi. De Spiritu sancto, cap. 5 (Op. tom. i. p. 559, and in Thilo’s Bibliotheca P. Gr. dogm. vol. ii. p. 503). “Of the wise among us, some consider the Holy Ghost an influence, others a creature, others God himself,14181418   τῶν καθ ̓ ἡμᾶς σοφῶν οἱ μὲν ἐνέργειαν τοῦτο [τὸ πνεῦμα ἅγιον] ὑπέλαβον, οἱ δὲ κτίσμα, οἱ δὲ Θεόν. and again others know not which way to decide, from reverence, as they say, for the Holy Scripture, which declares nothing exact in the case. For this reason they waver between worshipping and not worshipping the Holy Ghost,14191419   Ou̓́τε σέβουσιν, οὔτε ἀτιμάζουσι. and strike a middle course, which is in fact, however, a bad one.” Basil, in 370, still carefully avoided calling the Holy Ghost God, though with the view of gaining the weak. Hilary of Poictiers believed that the Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, must be divine, but could find no Scripture passage in which he is called God, and thought that he must be content with the existence of the Holy Ghost, which the Scripture teaches and the heart attests.14201420   De trinitate, ii. 29; and xii. 55.

But the church could not possibly satisfy itself with only two in one. The baptismal formula and the apostolic benediction, as well as the traditional trinitarian doxologies, put the Holy Ghost on an equality with the Father and the Son, and require a divine tri-personality resting upon a unity of essence. The divine triad tolerates in itself no inequality of essence, no mixture of Creator and creature. Athanasius well perceived this, and advocated with decision the consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit against the Pneumatomachi or Tropici.14211421   In the four Epistles to Serapion, bishop of Tmuis, written in 362 (Ep. ad Serapionem Thmuitanum episcopum contra illos qui blasphemant et dicunt Spiritum S. rem creatam esse), in his Opera, ed. Bened. tom. i. Pars ii. pp. 647-714; also in Thilo’s Biblioth. Patr. Graec. dogmatica, vol. i. pp. 666-819. Basil did the same,14221422   De Spiritu Sancto ad S. Amphilochium Iconii episcopum (Opera, ed. Bened. tom. iii. and in Thilo’s Bibl. vol. ii. pp. 182-343). and Gregory of Nazianzum,14231423   Orat. xxxi. De Spiritu Sancto (Opera, tom. i. p. 556 sqq. and in Thilo’s Bibl. vol. ii. pp. 497-537). Gregory of Nyssa,14241424   Orat. catech. c. 2. Comp. Rupp, Gregor v. Nyasa, p. 169 sq. Didymus,14251425   De Spiritu S., translated by Jerome. and Ambrose.14261426   De Spiritu S. libri 3.

This doctrine conquered at the councils of Alexandria, a.d. 362, of Rome, 375, and finally of Constantinople, 381, and became an essential constituent of the ecumenical orthodoxy.

Accordingly the Creed of Constantinople supplemented the Nicene with the important addition: “And in the Holy Ghost, who is Lord and Giver of life, who with the Father is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”14271427   Similar additions had already been previously made to the Nicene Creed. Thus Epiphanius in his Ancoratus, c. 120, which was written in 374, gives the Nicene Creed as then already in general use with the following passage on the Holy Spirit: Καὶ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα πιστεύομεν, τὸ λαλῆσαν ἐν νόμῳ, καὶ κηρύξαν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις καὶ καταβὰν ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην, λαλοῦν ἐν ἀποστόλοις , οἰκοῦν ἐν ἁγίοις· οὕτως δὲ πιστεύομεν ἐν αὐτῷ, ὅτι ἐστὶ πνεῦμα ἅγιον, πνεῦμα Θεοῦ, πνεῦμα τέλειον, πνεῦμα παράκλητον, ἄκτιστον, ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ υἱοῦ λαμβανόμενον καὶ πιστευόμενον. His shorter Creed, Anc. c. 119 (in Migne’s ed. tom. iii. 231), even literally agrees with that of Constantinople, but in both he adds the anathema of the original Nicene Creed.

This declares the consubstantiality of the Holy Ghost, not indeed in words, yet in fact, and challenges for him divine dignity and worship.

The exegetical proofs employed by the Nicene fathers for the deity of the Holy Ghost are chiefly the following. The Holy Ghost is nowhere in Scripture reckoned among creatures or angels, but is placed in God himself, co-eternal with God, as that which searches the depths of Godhead (1 Cor. ii. 11, 12). He fills the universe, and is everywhere present (Ps. cxxxix. 7), while creatures, even angels, are in definite places. He was active even in the creation (Gen. i. 3), and filled Moses and the prophets. From him proceeds the divine work of regeneration and sanctification (John iii. 5; Rom. i. 4; viii. 11; 1 Cor. vi. 11; Tit. iii. 5–7; Eph. iii. 16; v. 17, 19, &c). He is the source of all gifts in the church (1 Cor. xii). He dwells in believers, like the Father and the Son, and makes them partakers of the divine life. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is the extreme sin, which cannot be forgiven (Matt. xii. 31). Lying to the Holy Ghost is called lying to God (Acts v. 3, 4). In the formula of baptism (Matt. xxviii. 19), and likewise in the apostolic benediction (2 Cor. xiii. 13), the Holy Ghost is put on a level with the Father and the Son and yet distinguished from both; he must therefore be truly divine, yet at the same time a self-conscious person.14281428   The well-known passage concerning the three witnesses in heaven, I John v. 7, is not cited by the Nicene fathers: a strong evidence that it was wanting in the manuscripts of the Bible at that time. The Holy Ghost is the source of sanctification, and unites us with the divine life, and thus must himself be divine. The divine trinity tolerates in itself nothing created and changeable. As the Son is begotten of the Father from eternity, so the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. (The procession of the Spirit from the Son, on the contrary, is a subsequent inference of the Latin church from the consubstantiality of the Son, and was unknown to the Nicene fathers.)

The distinction between generation and procession is not particularly defined. Augustine calls both ineffable and inexplicable.14291429   “Ego distinguere nescio, non valeo, non sufficio, propterea quia sicut generatio ita processio inenarrabilis est.” The doctrine of the Holy Ghost was not in any respect so accurately developed in this period, as the doctrine concerning Christ, and it shows many gaps.



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