Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Filioque Controversy, Part 3

Another warning: This stuff will be a huge bore to you unless you are interested in theology and apologetics in particular.

In the previous part of this series, we examined two broad categories into which the Orthodox objections to the Filioque fall. Here are the remaining two.

3.) The Filioque insults at least one and potentially all three divine Persons.

For “what does the Spirit gain which He did not already possess in His procession from the Father?” If He gained anything from the alleged procession from the Son, then the procession from the Father was imperfect! To assert that the Father does anything imperfectly insults Him.

If we say the Holy Spirit was in need of something from the Son, we are saying the Holy Spirit would have been imperfect without receiving it. He was imperfect by receiving it, as well, because whatever “extra” the Holy Spirit gained from the Son would again violate the principle of divine simplicity. It would also render the Spirit imperfect by making Him subordinate to the Son. Thus the Filioque insults the Holy Spirit either way.

“But if the Spirit received no increment, what is the purpose of the procession [from the Son] which is unable to add anything?” It insults the Son to suppose Him involved in some meaningless and sterile activity.

4.) The Filioque confuses the Hypostases with each other and/or with the divine Essence and/or with the divine attributes, blurring or destroying the distinctions among them.

This is the most basic objection, to which the others can also be reduced.

An Hypostasis (each with His own specific character) is by definition the only thing not shared by the whole Trinity. The Hypostases are the only differentiation within the Holy Trinity. In direct proportion as we begin to blur the distinctions between them, we blur or remove the Threeness; that is, the Trinity itself. There are several ways in which the Filioque causes this to happen.

• The Filioque at least partially transfers to the Son the Father’s sole distinction: being the Origin or Cause. The result is, “that either the Son takes over the Father's role and title or the Father's Hypostasis is imperfect, lacking completion, and that the Son supplements the Hypostasis of the Father. Since [in either case] the Son is made a part of the Father, this truncates the awesome mystery of the Trinity to a mere dyad.” (16)

• The Father causes the procession of the Holy Spirit; that is to say, the First Hypostasis causes it. But if you assert that the procession comes from His Essence instead, then the procession of the Holy Spirit cannot be attributed to either the Father or the Son. They are not essences. They are Hypostases. Worse, if causation is a property of the divine Essence and if the divine Essence is something each possesses, then all Three, to be God, must cause other hypostases (or they wouldn't be God), and these further hypostases must in turn cause more, and so forth.

• The consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity is due to the Father’s being the Sole Cause and conferring His Substance (Essence) upon the Whole. To attribute cause to the Son implies a compromise of the consubstantiality. In other words, it implies the Holy Spirit is receiving two essences, since to receive only one essence from both Father and Son would be superfluous.

• In place of the proper distinctions of the Hypostases, namely Their relations of origin, we are now offered relations of opposition: In this corner, the Father; in that corner, the Son; and connecting the two, the Synthesis, the Holy Spirit. This was St. Augustine’s model when he proposed the Father as Lover, the Son as Beloved, and the Holy Spirit as their mutual gift of love to each other. If we accept this model, then the Holy Spirit becomes the new principle of unity in the Trinity, instead of the Father (which is correct) or the Essence (which isn't).

• Even worse (if that were possible), this Filioque model sees the Holy Spirit as an attribute the Father and the Son have in common. But the Holy Spirit is not an attribute. He is a Person or an Hypostasis, and Hypostasis is precisely the only thing Father, Son, and Spirit do not have in common. Thus, the Filioque confuses Essence, hypostases, and attributes, and the distinction between them all has entirely broken down.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? Yes, that's the point.

In the final part of this series, we shall have a look at the most common defenses proposed for the Filioque, and why they will not work.


Anam Cara said...

"Another warning: This stuff will be a huge bore to you unless you are interested in theology and apologetics in particular."

On the other hand, it is your wonderful insights and explanations like this that make me want to read your blog!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Ah, well, for that you must thank our father among the saints, Photios the Great.


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