(Originally Presented at the 2014 Meeting of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Society)
As I have established in my previous exegetical analysis. The mediatorial work of the Son is not exclusively a matter of salvation. However we see this development is not novel to my own interpretation. Calvin argues along similar lines. Paul Helm points out that in at least one section of the Institutes, Calvin refers to the mediatorial role of the preincarnate Son. Although admitting that it is speculative, Calvin remarks that the Son had a similar relationship of sustenance and headship over the Angels, “though not endued with human flesh,” temporally prior to the incarnation. Although the mediator of the man, that is the incarnate Christ, is contingent upon sin and is for the purpose of redemption, Calvin argued that there was a mediatorship that the Son held that exists logically prior to sin and concretely existed temporally prior to sin as well.
As I noted earlier, much of the discussion of the procession of the Spirit and the intra-Trinitarian relations are based on the assumption that the economic Trinity reveals something genuine about the ontological Trinity. Using that axiom as a starting point, I think that we are lead to some strong conclusions by way of the role of the Son as cosmic mediator. If all things that come from the Father are mediated through the Son, and applied by the Spirit then it seems to me reasonable to say that the Spirit himself is also mediated through the Son. If the Father’s work is applied to us by the Spirit and the Spirit is not mediated through the Son, then in what way can we properly say that the Father’s work is actually mediated through the Son. This goes back to the Reformed distinction I noted earlier. I believe that this three-fold distinction gives us new personal properties with which to distinguish the Persons of the Trinity. These new properties are “Source,” “Mediator,” and “That Which is Mediated.” We see this distinction play out in the economy of creation, (i.e. the Father creates, through the Son, by the Spirit), election (i.e. the Father elects, election is mediated through the Son, and the benefits of election are applied by the Spirit), or any other number of Trinitarian actions. If the external actions of the Trinity reveal to us genuine facts about the ontological nature of the Trinity, then it seems clear to me that the Spirit’s procession is from the Father, through the Son.
Beyond this, this position seems to solve several exegetical problems that give pause to the careful interpreter of God’s word. For example, the Advocate is said to be sent by the Father in the Son’s name at the request of the Son in John 14:16 and 26, however in John 15:26 the Advocate is said to be sent by the Son from the Father. Are we to believe that the omniscient Son of God somehow forgot that just a few minutes earlier that it is the Father who sent the Spirit rather than the Son? The Filioque proponent seeks to resolve this by saying that the Father and the Son send the Spirit together, however as I have demonstrated, this dual sending causes serious problems. However, if the Spirit proceeds from the Father, through the Son, then this objection is unnecessary. Jesus indicates in verse 16 that he will ask the Father to send the Spirit in his name, in verse 26 that the Father will grant this request. If the Spirit then processes from the Father, through the Son, then the Son also can properly be said to send the Spirit from the Father. A useful analogy might be that of a postal letter. If I mail a letter to my mother in Minnesota, she received the letter from the postal service, but she also received it from me. However, it would seem to strain reality to say that this letter somehow originated in both of us. However, if we view the postal service as a mediator through which the letter, which originated in me, arrives at my mother’s home the problem is resolved. A similar dynamic is at play with the Romans 8 use of “Spirit of Christ” and “Spirit of God.” This also seems to resolve the objection of an imbalanced Trinity which obtains from the confusion of personal properties inherent in the double procession view. No longer do the Father and Son share the property/attribute “Spirit proceeds from/originates in”, rather the Father has the property “Spirit proceeds from/originates in” and the Son has the property “Spirit proceeds through/is mediated by.” While the fact that a proposal makes an objection moot does not necessarily indicate that the proposal is correct, it certainly adds to the cumulative case.
As a Protestant theologian, I do not believe that the presence of a historical precedent is necessary for the postulation of a theological position. It is possible, however unlikely, that some theological truth has been missed by the last 20 centuries of theological reflection. However, the presence of a historical precedent for a given theological claim is helpful for establishing the validity of a given theory. In addition, the absence of a historical precedent is sometimes grounds for concern. As such, I wish to close my paper with a brief exploration of some of the historic precedent for my per fillium view.
Often in the area of Trinitarian apologetics, one must turn to the Church Fathers in order to establish that the doctrine of the Trinity was not somehow invented at the Council of Nicaea, or instituted by Constantine as a power play. Frequently the words of Tertullian are quoted as he is widely held to have coined the term Trinitas as well as having first used the word persona in relation to the Trinitarian Persons. In his polemic Against Praxeas we see one of the most comprehensive treatments of Trinitarian theology prior to the Council of Nicaea. In it Tertullian defends the idea that the Son and Spirit find their personal origin from the substance of the Father. He writes “Do you really suppose that Those, who are naturally members of the Father’s own substance, pledges of His love, instruments of His might, nay, His power itself and the entire system of His monarchy, are the overthrow and destruction thereof?” It is clear from this statement that if we are following the traditional Augustinian vs. Cappadocian distinction, that Tertullian preemptively falls on the Cappadocian side of the line. For him, the personal distinctions are clearly logically prior to the unity of nature. The unity of nature is not found in some abstracted semi-hypostatic ousia that exists behind or under the persons. Rather, the unity of nature is found in the fact that the Son is begotten of the Father’s substance, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father’s substance. However, Tertullian continues and notes that although the Son and Spirit find their personal origin in the Father, that this does not subordinate them ontologically. He defends this again by reaffirming the origin of the Son as being begotten of the Father, and proceeds to say “The same remark (I wish also to be formally) made by me with respect to the third degree in the Godhead, because I believe the Spirit, to proceed from no other source than from the Father through the Son.” He then proceeds later in the work to argue against a position that is strikingly similar to the representative Barth quotes above, which was held by a group at the time that Tertullian refers to as the “Monarchians.” The point he lands on is that the titles that are revealed to us in Scripture regarding the Trinitarian persons are genuine descriptions of the ontological relations, rather than post hoc economic titles. “He himself, they say, made Himself a Son to Himself. Now a Father makes a Son and a Son makes a Father; and they who thus become reciprocally related out of each other to each other cannot in any way by themselves simply become so related to themselves, that the Father can make Himself a Son to Himself, and the Son render Himself a Father to Himself.” Just as the Augustinian view, represented in Barth above, seems to render the relations internal to a single hypostatic reality, so also does the Monarchian view that Tertullian opposes. It is clear that for Tertullian, the genuine relations of the Trinitarian Persons are external relations between distinct persons.
Another writer, John of Damascus, would argue similarly six centuries later. In Exposition of the Orthodox Faith we see the author defend the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of various challenges. His exposition concerning the divine hypostases is found primarily in book 1, chapter 8. Like Tertullian he argues that the division of the Persons does not compromise the unity found within the shared substance. Although, he does note that this idea “indeed transcends thought.” He then proceeds to summarize the basic tenets of the Nicene Creed, affirming both the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Spirit. And although he notes that the procession and begetting of the Spirit and Son respectively are simultaneous, he also notes that the Spirit is “communicated through the Son, and participated in by all creation.” So not only do we see a historic precedent for the procession of the Spirit per fillium, but we also see historic precedent for this being a function of the mediatorial role of the Son. Finally, just as we saw in the Eastern rejection of the double procession, John of Damascus roots these unique relationships as personal properties which are unique to each hypostasis. “For in these hypostatic or personal properties alone do the three holy subsistences differ from each other, being indivisibly divided not by essence but by the distinguishing mark of their proper and peculiar subsistences.” Similar quotes, lines of thought, and formal arguments can be found in figures like Cyril of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, and others. One author even notes that prior to the writings of Photius that many Eastern churches utilized this language liturgically but “resisted the addition of any terminology whatsoever to the ecumenical Creed.”
 Paul Helm, John Calvin’s Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 340
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), II.12.7.
 Edwin Christian Van Driel, Incarnation Anyway (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 173.
 Tertullian, “Against Praxeus,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical, ed. Alexander Roberts, by James Donaldson, vol. 3, Ante-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), Ch 3.
 Ibid, Ch 4. – Italics in original, bold emphasis mine
 Ibid, Ch 9.
 John of Damascus, “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” trans. S. D F Salmond, inHilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), Bk 1, Ch 8.
 Ibid, Bk 1, Ch 8.
 Ibid, Bk 1, Ch 8.
 See Marie-Odile Boulnois, “The Mystery of the Trinity According to Cyril of Alexandria : The Deployment of the Triad and Its Recapitulation into the Unity of Divinity,” in The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria, ed. Thomas G. Weinandy and Daniel A. Keating (London: T & T Clark, 2003).
 Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” trans. Edward William Watson and Leighton Pullan, ed. W. Sanday, in Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), Bk 12, S 56.
 Guretzki, Karl Barth on the Filioque, 2009, 9, nn 10.
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.