(Originally Presented at the 2014 Meeting of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Society)
A full discussion of my systematic objections would also involve an exposition of my Triadological commitments. As such, I shall be brief as many of my objections shall be illucidated, and I think resolved, in my constructive argument. However, there are two systematic objections that I wish to highlight at this time.
First and foremost, I believe that the double procession of the Holy Spirit that is represented in the Filioque Clause and rooted in Augustine’s Vinculum Amoris view of the Holy Spirit presents a substantial imbalance in the Trinity. In Trinitarian discourse we often utilize a distinction between the Natural Attributes and the Personal Properties. Natural attributes are those attributes that are required to properly describe something as God and flow from the divine ousia. A hypostatic entity that does not possess or exhibit a given attribute cannot properly be described as a subsistence of that ousia. For example, if an hypostasis does not bear the attribute “created” we cannot properly describe it as an human hypostasis. Similarly, if the Son or Spirit did not bear the attribute “omniscient” we could not properly describe them as a divine hypostasis. Personal properties, however, are attributes that individual hypostases may bear or lack that are unique to individual hypostases that makes them unique. In humans, for example, we may consider variable attributes (e.g. height, weight, hair color, gender) to be properties. A person may be extroverted or introverted, but the distinction does not cause one to be or not be human. When we look at the hypostases of the Trinity, it is important to note that personal properties are what allows us to distinguish between the three divine Persons. The Father is “unoriginated/unbegotten”, while the Son is “begotten” and the Spirit is “spirated/processes.” These personal properties will come into play more distinctly in my constructive argument, but it is vital to understand that if we confuse these two categories in the Trinity we end up with a very difficult and convoluted theology. In the context of our current discussion, what we see is that the double procession does just that. Each personal property I listed above, has a corollary in another Person. So when we recognize that the Son is “begotten” we are also recognizing that there is a person bearing the property “begets the Son” and immediately assign that property to the Father. The same can be said of the Spirit’s procession. If the Spirit “processes” then there must be a person who bears the property “Spirit proceeds from.” With the double procession of the Spirit, there are two persons who bear this property. This, in my view, blurs the line between personal property and natural attribute. This objection bears strong historical precedent, as it was also the fundamental objection upon which Photius originally objected. “Since the Father is the principle and source, not because of the nature of the divinity, but because of property of the hypostasis […] the Son cannot be a principle or source.” And again “By teaching of the procession from the Son also, the Father and the Son end up being closer to each other than the Father and the Spirit, since the Son possesses not only the Father’s nature but also the property of His Person.” One solution that has been proposed is that the ability to spirate a person is properly an attribute of the divine nature, but that the Spirit cannot spirate Himself. However, this also is unsatisfactory. As a contemporary of Photius points out “Is the Spirit the sender-forth of itself? Or is the Spirit the sender-forth of some other person, which would then render the Trinity a Quaternity?” The argument Byzantinos is making is that if the natural attribute of “sender-fourth” is posessed by the Spirit, then it must be expressed by the Spirit. Since it is absurd to think that the Spirit sends forth himself, then the Spirit would necessarily send forth another Person. “This person would produce a fifth and so on.”
My second systematic objection will likely be more controversial, however it is just as substantial. A common critique of the Augustinian model is that it collapses into Seballianism. We must not treat the divine nature of God as though it were a person. “God is thus conceived of not in terms of a single self but rather as a community or society of three persons.” This modalistic tendency is perhaps no more explicit than in the Triadology of Karl Barth. He writes “We are speaking not of three divine I’s, but thrice of the one divine I.” This culminates in a down right heretical statement that completely collapses the persons of the Trinity into a single divine self.
As God is in himself Father from all eternity, he begets himself as the Son from all eternity. As he is the Son from all eternity, he is begotten of himself as the Father from all eternity. In this eternal begetting of himself and being begotten of himself, he posits himself a third time as the Holy Spirit, i.e., as the love which unites him in himself.
The difficulty comes forward on systematic grounds when we recognize that the Filioque Clause results from a theological position which stems from this commitment. This view, which at its core sees the Persons of the Trinity to be relations within God rather than distinct Persons who are God, reduces the Holy Spirit even further to the status of an impersonal bond between two divine persons. While the Father is still the Father, and the Son is still the Son, the Spirit now becomes the loving connection between the two. I love my wife more than any human person there is, but the love I have for my wife and my wife for me is not a person. “Only a person can be personal; and a relation is not a person.” The reason that this blatant reduction in status of the Holy Spirit from person to impersonal bond is not seen for the problem that it clearly is, is because the personal status of the Trinitarian hypostases in this semi-Seballian view is already diminished from the onset of the system.
 As a side note, this is why so-called kenotic or kenosis Christology is potentially dangerous and must be carefully navigated, if not all together avoided.
 Confusion between natural and personal properties is often the cause of prejudicial and discriminatory practices. An example in the Early Church might have been the fact that “stands upright” was seen as a natural attribute of the human nature and as an integral part of the imago Dei. As a paraplegic colleague of mine once pointed out, this is highly offensive and discriminatory to those who are not capable of standing upright for whatever reason.
 Michael Horton, The Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 292.
 Siecienski, The Filioque, 2010, 101.
 Photius I, On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 1983, 51.
 Ibid, 51.
 Niketas Byzantinos, “Syllogistic Chapters,” in Inventing Latin Heretics, trans. Tia M. Kolbaba (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2008), 130.
 Siecienski, The Filioque, 2010, 102.
 Horton, The Christian Faith, 2011, 288.
 Ivan Satyavrata, The Holy Spirit, Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 91.
 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed. Thomas F. Torrance, vol. I.1 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 351.
 While I believe that this statement is heretical, I do not hold Karl Barth to be a heretic and rather would view this statement as an unfortunate error which is made by many in the Augustinian tradition, although not usually as explicit. It should also be noted that I do not use the term heretical loosely, but only in instances where if the statement were true, salvation as the Bible describes it would not be possible.
 Barth, Church Dogmatics, 2010, 483.
Horton, The Christian Faith, 2011, 288.
 Colin Edward Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991), 94.
 Horton, The Christian Faith, 2011, 292.
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.