(Originally Presented at the 2014 Meeting of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Society)
Opening Remarks and Thesis
The goal of this paper is threefold. First, I will provide an overview of the historical development of the Filioque Clause and the ensuing controversy for the purpose of rooting today’s discussion within the historical context of the theological development rather than the modern state of the controversy. Second, I will demonstrate that there are significant theological problems that are a logical consequence of the use of the Filioque Clause, as well as the strict denial that is present in much of historic Eastern Orthodoxy. Finally, I will present an alternate proposal that is supported by exegetical analysis, systematic rigor, and historical precedent. After I have established these points I will provide some brief reflection on the benefits in application that my proposal may bring about.
The Filioque – Its Origin and Development
The 4th century was fertile soil for controversy. Various theological developments split from the growing body of consensus surrounding the ontological status of Jesus and the enigmatic Holy Spirit. Groups led by figures like Arius and Apollinaris sought to render the Son and Spirit as fundamentally different from the Father, and these threats were met with fierce opposition from the orthodox camp. In the year 325 the Emperor Constantine convened a council in Asia Minor in an attempt to bring about unity in the Church, and therefore bring about unity in his Empire. Out of this council came the Creed of Nicaea. This creed, focused primarily on rejecting the errant views of Arius, found as its major doctrinal emphasis the utter sameness of nature that the Son and Father shared. As one might expect, doctrines that were not a significant contribution to the initial controversy are underrepresented in the text of the creed, and as a result the third Person of the Trinity gets a single clause: “And in the Holy Spirit”
Over the next 50 years, the debate and conflict over nature of the relationship between the Father and Son continued. Drawing largely on an equivocation in the Greek terms hypostasis and ousia, some believed that the Creed allowed for a collapsing of the Son and Father into one Person. Others believed that the creed did not sufficiently provide a guard against various gnostic heresies. Out of this controversy and, the argument has been made, parallel to it comes a group known as the Macedonians. More colloquially, this group was known as the Pneumatomachians. A portmanteau of the Greek words for “Spirit” and “Fight,” this group not only held some of the Christological errors of Arius and the Anti-Nicene contingency, but also denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Following in the Arian tradition they argued that the Son was a unique creation of the Father through which all other things were created, however they also extended this argument to include the Holy Spirit as a created entity. The Holy Spirit was a creation of the Son, just as the Son was a creation of the Father.
This disagreement led to the second ecumenical council convened in 381 in the city of Constantinople. The result of this council was a ratification of the creed promulgated at Nicaeam which adopted the formalized the terms hypostasis to refer to the individual persons of the Trinity and the term ousia to refer to the divine nature. Another way to conceptualize this is to recognize that ousia refers to the way that the persons are the same, while hypostasis refers to the way that the persons are different. In addition to Christological clarification, the council also promulgated an expanded doctrinal statement regarding the Holy Spirit. The creed produced by this council was viewed as a clarification of the original creed that resulted from Nicaea, and thus retained the name by which we know it now: the Nicene Creed. This creed, possibly as a response to the Pneumatomachian position that the Holy Spirit originated in the creative work of the Son, expressly placed the personal origin of the Spirit in the Father.
The Greek speaking East, developing its Triadology primarily by beginning with the person of the Father and reasoning forward to the persons of the Son and Spirit, was content to see the origin of the Spirit as exclusive to the Father. However, in the Latin West we see that the Triadological development often started with discussion of the divine nature and how the three divine persons related to it. Most prominent, and pertinent, is Augustine. As Augustine began to develop his own Trinitarian theology, his emphasis on the unity of God in the single divine ousia lead ultimately to the “Psychological Model of the Trinity.” In this model Augustine, by way of analogy, seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to affirm both distinct existence and radical unity. Drawing on the language of Marcus Victorinus, Augustine conceptualized the persons of the Trinity as different faculties within a single mind. Arguing that just as within the human mind the memory, understanding, and will are distinct yet do not represent separate minds, the persons of the Trinity are distinct yet do not represent separate gods. Perhaps seeing the somewhat Seballian pitfalls that this model is susceptible to, Augustine employed another analogy, which better emphasizes the distinctness and interpersonal relatedness of the Trinitarian Persons. This model argues that the Godhead is a perfect community of love, with the Father being identified with the “lover,” the Son being identified with the “beloved,” and finally the Spirit as the “love” shared between the two. Now, from this model Augustine reasoned that since mutual love cannot originate in a single person, that the loving bond between the Father and Son must proceed from both, rather than from the Father alone. In addition to the strength of this analogy and its logical conclusions, this also solved for Augustine the biblical paradox that the Spirit was both the Spirit of God (the Father) and the Spirit of Christ.
The parallel development, and even the addition of the term filioque into the Latin texts of the Nicene Creed in the 5th century, was essentially uncontroversial for the next 300 years. After a conflict between Frankish and Eastern monks in Jerusalem, Pope Leo III ruled that the filioque ought not be added to the text of the creed. However, the liturgical use of the clause continued. Through a sequence of political action and reaction between the Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius I, and the Holy Roman Empire the issue came to a head. Although there had always been figures who wrote against the doctrine of double procession, it was Photius who first explicitly stated that the procession of the Spirit was from the Father alone. Over the next 150 years the debate intensified, and in 1014 the filioque became defined as dogma by Pope Benedict VII. This lead to both theological ecclesiastical disunity between the East and the West. The East not only objected to the filioque, but also rejected the Pope’s authority to unilaterally make alterations to previously defined dogma. From that point forward, “attacks upon the interpolated creeds henceforth became de facto attacks upon the powers of the pope.” 40 years later, a papal delegation would excommunicate the Patriarch of Constantinople, who in turn excommunicated the legates, and thus the Great Schism would proceed. Although the idea that the Western Church excommunicated the Eastern Church is faulty and anachronistic, “whether we like it or not, the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit has been the sole dogmatic grounds for the separation of the East and West,” and the breach in communion between the Roman Pontiff and the Eastern Bishops continues to this day.
 Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, Prince Press ed., vol. 1 (Peabody: Prince Press, 1999), 162.
 Everett Ferguson, Church History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 207.
 A similar debate ensued in the area of Christology following the Council of Ephesus, resolved largely by the Symbol of Reunion, and formally resolved in the Chalcedonian Definition
 Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, vol. I (Peabody: Prince Press, 2003), 164.
 At this point, the relationship of the Spirit and Son in terms of origin was not defined
 The most significant thinkers in this area were the Cappadocian Fathers, whose Triadological terminology was adopted as the formal definitions of the terms hypostasis and ousia.
 It is an oversimplification to restrict this to East and West categories, as there is representative literature in both portions of the Church that demonstrate both models of Triadology. However, for the sake of this paper this bifurcation is helpful in understanding the trajectories. A more helpful distinction may be between Cappadocian Triadology and Augustinian Triadology.
 Although beyond the scope of this essay, the difference between Latin and Greek, both as languages and as ways of thinking, plays into this development significantly. The preferred Latin terms for ousia and hypostasis are substentia and subsistentia respectively
 A. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 3.
 Augustine, The Trinity, trans. Edmund Hill, ed. John E. Rotelle, vol. 5, The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1991), Bk V, Ch 5, S 30.
 This view is often called the Vinculum amoris view
 Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Pneutmatology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 18.
 Siecienski, The Filioque, 2010, 659.
 David Guretzki, Karl Barth on the Filioque, Barth Studies (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), 6.
 Ibid, 7.
 See R G Heath, “Western Schism of the Franks,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 23, no. 2 (April 1972).
 See Photius I, On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, trans. Holy Transfiguration Monastery (New York: Studion Publishers, 1983).
 Siecienski, The Filioque, 113.
 Ibid, 9, nn 16.
 Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God (London: Mowbrays, 1975), 71.
 Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 438.
About Tony Arsenal
Tony Arsenal is a Reformed historian, theologian, and teacher. He came to faith in 1998 as a teenager and studied Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University in Arden Hills MN. He studied at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton MA between the years of 2010 and 2013 where he received the Master of Arts in Church History, and the Master of Arts in Theology and was awarded the Baker Award for Excellence in Theological Studies.