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§ 107. The Controversy on the Procession of the Holy Spirit.


See the Lit. in § 67 p. 304 sq. The arguments for both sides of the question were fully discussed in the Union Synod of Ferrara-Florence, 1438–’39; see Hefele: Conciliengesch. VII. P. II. p. 683 sqq.; 706 sqq.; 712 sqq.


The Filioque-controversy relates to the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit, and is a continuation of the trinitarian controversies of the Nicene age. It marks the chief and almost the only important dogmatic difference between the Greek and Latin churches. It belongs to metaphysical theology, and has far less practical value than the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. But it figures very largely in history, and has occasioned, deepened, and perpetuated the greatest schism in Christendom. The single word Filioque keeps the oldest, largest, and most nearly related churches divided since the ninth century, and still forbids a reunion. The Eastern church regards the doctrine of the single procession as the corner-stone of orthodoxy, and the doctrine of the double procession as the mother of all heresies. She has held most tenaciously to her view since the fourth century, and is not likely ever to give it up. Nor can the Roman church change her doctrine of the double procession without sacrificing the principle of infallibility.

The Protestant Confessions agree with the Latin dogma, while on the much more vital question of the papacy they agree with the Eastern church, though from a different point of view. The church of England has introduced the double procession of the Spirit even into her litany.569569    “O God the Holy Ghost, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, have mercy upon us miserable sinners.” No orthodox Greek or Russian Christian could join an Anglican in this prayer without treason to his church. It is to be understood, however, that some of the leading divines of the church of England condemn the insertion of the Filioque in the Creed. Dr. Neale (Introduction to the History of the Holy Eastern Church, vol. II. p. 1168) concludes that this insertion “in the inviolable Creed was an act utterly unjustifiable, and throws on the Roman church the chief guilt in the horrible schism of 1054. It was done in the teeth of the veto passed in the sixth session of the Council of Ephesus, in the fifth of Chalcedon, in the sixth collation of the second of Constantinople, and in the seventh of the third of Constantinople. It was done against the express command of a most holy Pope, himself a believer in the double Procession, who is now with God. No true union—experience has shown it—can take place—between the churches till the Filioque be omitted from the Creed, even if a truly oecumenical Synod should afterwards proclaim the truth of the doctrine.” Bishop Pearson was of the same opinion as to the insertion, but approved of the Latin doctrine. He says (in his Exposition of the Creed, Art. VIII): “Now although the addition of the words to the formal Creed without the consent, and against the protestation of the Oriental Church, be not justifiable; yet that which was added, is nevertheless certainly a truth, and may be so used in that Creed by them who believe the same to be a truth; so long as they pretend it not to be a definition of that Council, but an addition or explication inserted, and condemn not those who, out of a greater respect to such synodical determinations, will admit of no such insertion, nor speak any other language than the Scriptures and their fathers spake.” It should be remembered, however, that this dogma was not a controverted question in the time of the Reformation, and was received from the mediaeval church without investigation. Protestantism is at perfect liberty to go back to the original form of the Nicene Creed if it should be found to be more in accordance with the Scripture. But the main thing for Christians of all creeds is to produce “the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.”

Let us first glance at the external history of the controversy.

1. The New Testament. The exegetical starting-point and foundation of the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit is the word of our Lord in the farewell address to his disciples: When the Paraclete (the Advocate) is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth (or, goeth forth) from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.”570570    John 15:26: ὃ Παράκλητοςτὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὃ παρα τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται(Vulg.: procedit). The verb ἐκπορεύομαι(med. ), procedo, may in itself describe either proceeding from a source, or proceeding on a mission; but in the former case ἐκ, out of, would be a more suitable preposition than παρά, from the side of. Hence the Nicene Creed and the Greek fathers substitute ἐκfor παράin stating their dogma. The παρά, however, does not exclude the ἐκand the Father is in any case the source of the Spirit. The question is only, whether he is the sole source, or jointly with the Son.

On this passage the Nicene fathers based their doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit,571571    ἐκπόρευσις, a patristic noun, derived from the biblical and classical verb ἐκπορεύομαι, the Latin processio is from procedere. as his personal property or characteristic individuality572572    Called by the Greeks ἰδιονor ἰδιότηςby the Latins proprietas personalis or character hypostaticus. See vol. III. § 130. while the unbegotten Fatherhood573573    ἀγεννησία, paternitas. belongs to the person of the Father, and the eternal generation574574    γεννησία, γέννησις, generation filiatio. to the person of the Son.

Our Lord says neither that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, nor that he proceeds from the Father and the Son. But in several other passages of the same farewell addresses he speaks of the Spirit as being sent by the Father and the Son, and promises this as a future event which was to take place after his departure, and which actually did take place on the day of Pentecost and ever since.575575    John 15:26, Christ says of the Spirit: ὃνἐγὼπέμψω. Comp. 16:7; πέμψωαὐτόν, and 14:26: ὃπέμψειὁΠατὴρἐντῷ ὀνόματίμου.

On these passages is based the doctrine of the mission of the Spirit.576576    ἐκπεμψις, missio This is regarded as a temporal or historical act, and must be distinguished from the eternal procession in the Trinity itself. In other words, the procession belongs to the Trinity of essence, and is an intertrinitarian process (like the eternal generation of the Son), but the mission belongs to the Trinity of revelation in the historical execution of the scheme of redemption. In this exegesis the orthodox divines of the Greek and Latin churches are agreed. They differ on the source of the procession, but not on the mission.

Modern exegetes, who adhere closely to the grammatical sense, and are not governed by dogmatic systems, incline mostly to the view that no metaphysical distinction is intended in those passages, and that the procession of the Spirit from the Father, and the mission of the Spirit by the Father and the Son, refer alike to the same historic event and soteriological operation, namely, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and his continued work in the church and in the heart of believers. The Spirit “proceeds” when he “is sent” on his divine mission to glorify the Son and to apply the redemption to men. The Saviour speaks of the office and work of the Spirit rather than of his being and essence. Nevertheless there is a difference which must not be overlooked. In the procession, the Spirit is active: in the mission, he is passive; the procession is spoken of in the present tense (ejkporeuvetai) as a present act, the mission in the future tense (pevmyw) as a future act, so that the former seems to belong to the eternal Trinity of essence, the latter to the historical or economical Trinity of revelation. Now God indeed reveals himself as he actually is, and we may therefore reason back from the divine office of the Spirit to his divine nature, and from his temporal mission to his eternal relation. Yet it may be questioned whether such inference justifies the doctrine of a double procession in the absence of any express Scripture warrant.577577    On the exegetical question, see the commentaries on John 15:26 and the parallel passages by Lange (Am. ed., p. 469), Luthardt, Meyer, Weiss (6th ed. of Meyer), Alford, Westcott, Godet. Lange says: “To the Father doubtless belongs the honor of being the first ἀρχήfrom which the Son himself proceeds; but since the Holy Spirit is at the same time the Spirit of the Son, unto whom it is also given to have life in himself, the διὰτοῦυἱοῦ(ἐκτοῦπατρός) of the Greek theology is not sufficient.” Godet in loc.: ” It is difficult (with Luthardt, Meyer, and most modems) to refer the words: who proceedeth from the Father, to the same fact as the former: whom I will send to you from the Father, as this would be mere tautology. Besides, the future πέμψω. I will send, refers to an historical fact to take place at an undefined period, while the present ἐκπορεύεται, proceedeth, seems to refer to a permanent, divine, and therefore eternal relation. As the historic fact of the incarnation corresponds to the eternal generation of the Son, so the pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit to the eternal procession of the Spirit from God. The divine facts of revelation are based upon the Trinitarian relations, and are, so to speak, their reflections. (Les faits de la révélation reposent sur les relations trinitaires. Ils en sont comme les reflets.) As the incarnation of the Son is related to His eternal generation, so is the mission of the Holy Spirit to His procession with the divine essence.—The Latin Church, starting from the words,I will send, is not wrong in affirming the Filioque, nor the Greek church, starting from the words: from the Father, in maintaining per Filium, and the subordination. To harmonize these two views, we must place ourselves at the christological stand-point of St. John’s Gospel, according to which the homoousia and the subordination are both at the same time true (sont vrais simultanément).” Milligan and Moulton in loc. (in Schaff’s Revision Com. ): ” The words ’which goeth forth from the Father,’ are not intended to express any metaphysical relation between the First and Third Persons of the Trinity, but to lead our thoughts back to the fact that, as it is the distinguishing characteristic of Jesus that He comes from the Father, so One of like Divine power and glory is now to take His place. The same words ’from the Father’ are again added to ’I will send,’ because the Father is the ultimate source from which the Spirit as well as the Son ’goes forth,’ and really the Giver of the Spirit through the Son who asks for Him (comp. 14:16). In the power of this Spirit, therefore, the connection of the disciples with the Father will, in the time to come, be not less close, and their strength from the Father not less efficacious, than it had been while Jesus was Himself beside them.”

2. The Nicene Creed, in its original form of 325, closes abruptly with the article: “And [we believe] into the Holy Spirit.578578    Καὶ[πιστεύομεν] εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα. In the enlarged form (which is usually traced to the Council of Constantinople, 381, and incorporated in its acts since 451, but is found earlier in Epiphanius, 373, and Cyril of Jerusalem, 362, we have the addition: “the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father,” etc.579579    τὸ κύριον [καὶ] τὸ ζωοποιὸν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς· ἐκπορευόμενον, κ.τ.λ. See my Creeds of Christendom, vol. II, 57, 60. This form was generally adopted in the Eastern churches since the Council of Chalcedon, 451 (at which both forms were recited and confirmed), and prevails there to this day unaltered. It is simply the Scripture phrase without any addition, either of the Greek “alone,” or of the Latin “and from the Son.” The Greek church understood the clause in an exclusive sense, the Latin church, since Augustin and Leo I., in an incomplete sense.580580    The chief passages of Augustin on the double procession are quoted in vol. III. § 131. See on his whole doctrine of the Trinity, Theod. Gangauf, Des heil. Augustinus’ speculative Lehre von Gott dem dreieinigen(Augsb. 1866), and Langen, Die trinitarische Lehrdifferenz, etc. (Bonn, 1876). On the teaching of Leo. I. comp. Perthel, Leo der Grosse, p. 138 sqq.

The Latin church had no right to alter an oecumenical creed without the knowledge and consent of the Greek church which had made it; for in the oecumenical Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople the Western church was scarcely represented, at Nicaea only by one bishop (Hosius of Spain), in the second not at all; and in the Council of Chalcedon the delegates of Pope Leo I. fully agreed to the enlarged Greek form of the Nicene symbol, yet without the Filioque, which was then not thought of, although the doctrine of the double procession was already current in the West. A departure from this common symbolical standard of the most weighty oecumenical councils by a new addition, without consent of the other party, opened the door to endless disputes.


The Enlargement of the Nicene Creed.


The third national Synod of Toledo in Spain, a.d. 589, held after the conversion of King Reccared to the Catholic faith, in its zeal for the deity of Christ against the Arian heresy which lingered longest in that country, and without intending the least disrespect to the Eastern church, first inserted the clause Filioque in the Latin version of the Nicene Creed.581581    Mansi, IX. 981: ”Credimus et in Spiritum S., dominum et vivificatorem, ex Patre et Filioprocedentem,” etc. On the third Synodus Toletana see Hefele, III. 48 sqq. Other Spanish synods of Toledo did the same.582582    The fourth Council of Toledo (633) likewise repeated the Creed with the Filioque, see Hefele III. 79. All the other Councils of Toledo (a.d.638, 646, 655, 675, 681, 683, 684, 688, 694) begin with a confession of faith, several with the unaltered Nicene creed, others with enlarged forms.

From Spain the clause passed into the Frankish church. It was discussed at the Synod of Gentilly near Paris in 767, but we do not know with what result.583583    Hefele, III. 432. The Latin view was advocated by Paulinus of Aquileja (796),584584    At a synod in Forumjulii (Friaul), at that time the seat of the bishops of Aquileja. Hefele, III. 718 sq. by Alcuin (before 804), and by Theodulf of Orleans.585585    Alcuin wrote a book De Processione S. Spiritus (Opera, ed. Migne, II. 63), and Theodulf another, at the request of Charlemagne (Migne, Tom. 105). It was expressed in the so-called Athanasian Creed, which made its appearance in France shortly before or during the age of Charlemagne.586586    Ver. 23: ”Spiritus Sanctus a Patre EtFilio: non factus, nec creatus, nec genitus: sed procedens.” For this reason the Greek church never adopted the Athanasian Creed. Most Greek copies read only ἀποτοῦπατρός, and omit et Filio.” The clause was sung in his chapel. He brought the matter before the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in 809, which decided in favor of the double procession.587587    It is uncertain whether the Synod also sanctioned the insertion of the Filioque in the creed. Pagi denies, Burterim, Hefele (III. 751), and Hergenröther (I. 698) affirm it. The Synod of Arles (813) likewise professed the double procession, Hefele, III. 757. He also sent messengers to Pope Leo III., with the request to sanction the insertion of the clause in the Nicene Creed. The pope decided in favor of the doctrine of the double procession, but protested against the alteration of the creed, and caused the Nicene Creed, in its original Greek text and the Latin version, to be engraved on two tablets and suspended in the Basilica of St. Peter, as a perpetual testimony against the innovation.588588    Mansi, XIV. 18; Baronius, ad arm. 809; Gieseler, II. 75 (Am. ed.); Hefele, III. 754; Hergenröther, Photius, I. 699 sqq. The fact of the silver tablets weighing nearly one hundred pounds, is related by Anastasius (in Vita Leonis III.), and by Photius (Epist. ad Patriarch. Aquilej.), and often appealed to by the Greek controversialists. The imperial commissioners urged that the belief in the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son was necessary for salvation; but the pope replied that other things were necessary for salvation, and yet not mentioned in the creed. He also advised to omit the signing of the clause in the imperial chapel; all other churches in France would follow the example of omission, and thus the offence given would be most easily removed. His predecessor, Hadrian I., had a few years before (between 792 and 795) defended the Greek formula of John of Damascus and patriarch Tarasius, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.589589    In his defence of the second council of Nicaea against the Libri Carolini, which had charged Tarasius with error. See Migne’s Opera Caroli M., II. 1249. But the violent assault of Photius upon the Latin doctrine, as heretical, drove the Latin church into the defensive. Hence, since the ninth century, the, Filioque was gradually introduced into the Nicene Creed all over the West, and the popes themselves, notwithstanding their infallibility, approved what their predecessors had condemned.590590    Pope John VIII., in a letter to Photius, condemned the Filioque; but this letter is disputed, and declared by Roman Catholic historians to be a Greek fabrication. See above, p. 315, and Hefele, IV. 482. It is not quite certain when the Roman church adopted the Filioque in her editions of the Nicene Creed. Some date it from Pope Nicolas, others from Pope Christophorus (903), still others from Sergius III. (904-911), but most writers from Benedict VIII. (1014-1015). See Hergenröther, Photius, I. 706.

The coincidence of the triumph of the Filioque in the West with the founding of the new Roman Empire is significant; for this empire emancipated the pope from the Byzantine rule.

The Greek church, however, took little or no notice of this innovation till about one hundred and fifty years later, when Photius, the learned patriarch of Constantinople, brought it out in its full bearing and force in his controversy with Nicolas I., the pope of old Rome.591591    In his Encyclical letter, 867, and in his Liber de Spiritus Sancti Mystagogia, written after 885, first edited by Hergenröther, Ratisbon, 1857. Also in PhotiiOpera, ed. Migne (Par., 1861), Tom. II. 722-742 and 279-391. Comp. Hergenröther’s Phoitius, vol. III., p. 154 sqq. The title μυσταγωγία(=ἱερολογία, θεολογία, sacra doctrina) promises a treatise on the whole doctrine of the third person of the Trinity, but it confines itself to the controverted doctrine of the procession. The book, says Hergenröther (III. 157), shows “great dialectical dexterity, rare acumen, and a multitude of various sophisms, and has been extensively copied by later champions of the schism.” On the controversy between Photius and Nicolas, see § 70 this vol. He regarded the single procession as the principal part of the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit on which the personality and deity of the Spirit depended, and denounced the denial of it as heresy and blasphemy. After this time no progress was made for the settlement of the difference, although much was written on both sides. The chief defenders of the Greek view, after the controversy with Photius, were Theophylactus, Euthymius Zigabenus, Nicolaus of Methone, Nicetus Choniates, Eustratius, and in modern times, the Russian divines, Prokovitch, Zoernicav, Mouravieff, and Philaret. The chief defenders of the Latin doctrine are Aeneas, bishop of Paris,592592    Liber adv. Graecos, in Acheri Spileg., and in Migne, ”Patrol. Lat.,” vol. 121, fol. 685-762. Insignificant. Ratramnus (or Bertram), a monk of Corbie, in the name of the French clergy in the ninth century,593593    Ratamni contra Graecorum opposita, Romanam ecclesiam infamantia, libri IV., in Acherii Spicil. , and in Migne, l.c., fol. 225-346. This book is much more important than that of Aeneas of Paris. See an extract in Hergenröther’s Photius, I. 675 sqq. Anselm of Canterbury (1098),594594    De Processione Spiritus Sancti. Peter Chrysolanus, archbishop of Milan (1112),595595    He went in the name of Pope Paschalis II. to Constantinople, to defend the Latin doctrine before the court. Anselm of Havelberg (1120),596596    In his Dialogues with the Greeks when he was ambassador of Emperor Lothaire II. at the court of Constantinople. and Thomas Aquinas (1274),597597    Contra errores Graecorum, and in his Summa Theologiae. and in more recent times, Leo Alacci, Michael Le Quien, and Cardinal Hergenröther.598598    Photius, I. p. 684-711.



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