East and West on Spiration

When discussing the doctrine of the Trinity, something that comes up very quickly is the difference between the Eastern churches and the Western churches on how the Holy Spirit is spirated (or breathed out, or processing). The West added a small modifier to the Nicene Creed (this happened at the third Council of Toledo in 589). The original ran “We believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father.” The Council of Toledo added the phrase “and from the Son,” indicating that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son. This clause is called “the Filioque clause.” The Latin “Filioque” means “and from the Son.” This procession, of course, happens in eternity, not in time, in parallel to the Son’s eternal begottenness from the Father. The East objected to this phrase, since they believed that the Father was the only fount (Latin, fons) of divinity. They equated “fons” with the person of the Father. The West believed that, aside from unbegottenness, everything that the Father has He gave to the Son. If that is true, then the Father also gave the power of spiration to the Son. Attempts have been made recently to try to reconcile the two positions. The usual formulation is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. This does not entirely solve the problem, since it could be interpreted to mean that the Son is a mere conduit through which spiration passes. It seems to me that there is a better way, and that is simply to make a logical distinction (not a distinction of essence, mind you) between the character of the Father’s spiration and that of the Son’s spiration. For it must be acknowledged, even by the most die-hard Westerner, that the Son’s ability to spirate the Spirit comes from the Father. So, why not simply say that the Father’s spiration is original, while the Son’s spiration of the Spirit is derived (eternally, of course, not in time, since we are speaking of a communication of essence)? That would preserve the East’s concern about the Father being the fount of divinity, while preserving the West’s concern that the spiration of the Spirit does not leave the Son “out in the cold,” so to speak. Spiration cannot be an attribute of the personhood of the Father, then, because, it is something that He communicates to His Son. The personal attributes are those that belong only to one of the three Persons. What do you think?

About these ads

18 Comments

  1. Jason Loh said,

    October 24, 2012 at 10:48 am

    The logical distinction between the Father’s spiration and the on’s as between original and derived, respectively is clear, elegantly simple and ingenious. (As a western catholic,) I have strong sympathies for this view.

    That said, I understand that the East’s view is that spiration as” divine causality” is the personal/ hypostatic feature of the Father. IOW, to make divine causality a common attribute between the Father and Son leaves the Holy Spirit “out in the cold.” If divine causation is common, it must also be *essential* since divine attributes (or rather properties) are rooted in the Essence (though not reducible or identical theretofrom) – common to all the Three Persons.

    My understanding is based on Perry Robinson’s insights and Energies of the Trinity (Energetic Procession) website as well as the writings of Joseph P Farrell (Perry’s mentor).

  2. Bryan Cross said,

    October 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Lane,

    The usual formulation is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. This does not entirely solve the problem, since it could be interpreted to mean that the Son is a mere conduit through which spiration passes.

    Just to be clear, that’s not what the Catholic way of understanding “through the Son” means. ‘Conduit’ is spatial language, and we’re talking here about something non-spatial. So it can’t possibly mean merely to pass through.

    It seems to me that there is a better way, and that is simply to make a logical distinction (not a distinction of essence, mind you) between the character of the Father’s spiration and that of the Son’s spiration. For it must be acknowledged, even by the most die-hard Westerner, that the Son’s ability to spirate the Spirit comes from the Father. So, why not simply say that the Father’s spiration is original, while the Son’s spiration of the Spirit is derived (eternally, of course, not in time, since we are speaking of a communication of essence)? That would preserve the East’s concern about the Father being the fount of divinity, while preserving the West’s concern that the spiration of the Spirit does not leave the Son “out in the cold,” so to speak.

    The problem is not that of leaving the Son “out in the cold,” but that “the Father’s spiration,” as a principle distinct from the “Son’s spiration,” would be the Father’s begetting (thus making the Father’s spiration impossible, as something distinct from begetting the Son), because nothing would distinguish “the Father’s spiration” from the Father’s begetting. What distinguishes spiration from generation is precisely that spiration proceeds from both the Father and the Son, whereas generation is only from the Father. Hence there is spiration only from the Father-and-Son (i.e. the Father-as-self-known), not two spirations, one from the Father and one from the Son, each spiration partial (lest there by two Holy Spirits, one from the Father, and one from the Son), and the Holy Spirit a combination of the two partial spirations. The Catholic understanding of Filioque as “and the Son” or “through the Son” does not entail that the Son has the power of spiration, but that spiration comes only from the Father-as-self-known, and thus presupposes generation, and is thus through generation. Generation, by contrast, does not presuppose spiration. In this way as well, spiration is differentiated from generation, for generation is from the Father alone, and spiration is from the Father-as-self-known (i.e. the Father-and-the-Son).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  3. greenbaggins said,

    October 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Bryan, I only intended my “conduit” comment as a metaphor. The point I was trying to make with it was that if spiration does not come from the Father and the Son, but only from the Father through the Son, such a formulation brings into question whether the Son is part of the origination of spiration. As you say (and I agree), the Son spirates because the Father has generated the son. The Son’s spiration of the Holy Spirit depends on generation.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at with bringing in the distinction between spiration and begetting. I understand the distinction (and agree with it, of course). However, it seems that the distinction is not the reason, or even a reason why spiration has to come from both the Father and the Son. I already said in the post that spiration is not a personal property, since it is not limited to only one of the three Persons. Passive spiration (or being spirated) is the personal property of the Holy Spirit. But active spiration is not a personal property. I suspect we agree on that point. Actually, I’m not sure we’re disagreeing on much of anything here.

    Jason, attributes are logically distinct from personal properties. Personal properties belong only to the individual persons of the Trinity, whereas attributes are the essence, viewed from different angles, like facets on a diamond. Divine causality is a rather vague way of phrasing things. It seems to me that if we are going to talk about properties, we should retain that term, whereas if we are talking about attributes, then we are talking about something logically (though, of course, not essentially) distinct.

  4. Bryan Cross said,

    October 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Lane,

    Right, I think there is no disagreement here. The early Christians, as you know, had to explain how there could be three divine Persons, that is, what differentiated the three Persons from each other. Each divine Person has to have (or lack) something the other two do not, while each being the one God. Otherwise, the theological position reduces to a form of Sabellianism. But it does no good to propose “generation” and “spiration” to explain the differentiation of the three Persons, *if* nothing differentiates “generation” and “spiration.” And because divine procession is total and not partial [e.g. the Son is everything the Father is, except paternity], therefore if both “generation” and “spiration” were from the “Father alone,” nothing would differentiate “spiration” from “generation.” That would entail either (a) that there could be only generation, not spiration, or (b) that spiration was not an internal divine procession, but an external act in which the resulting entity was given as its being something less than the divine essence, and thus that the Holy Spirit is a created being. Option (a) would entail that there could not be *three* divine Persons, only two. It would thus undermine the positing of generation and spiration as explanations of the differentiation of the *three* divine Persons. And option (b) is just the Pneumatomachian heresy condemned by the Second Council. So the Filioque (understood correctly) is a theological safeguard both of the doctrine of the Trinity and of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. And when this doctrine (i.e. the Filioque) is understood correctly, I think the valid concerns and objections raised by the Orthodox can be adequately addressed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  5. greenbaggins said,

    October 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Ah, that is clearer. I see what you’re getting at, and agree.

  6. olivianus said,

    October 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Greenbagghins, per OP:

    “The West believed that, aside from begottenness, everything that the Father has He gave to the Son.”

    >>>Did you mean unbegottenness?

    “while preserving the West’s concern that the spiration of the Spirit does not leave the Son “out in the cold,”

    >>>On the contrary, I agree with Jason Loh’s remark, “IOW, to make divine causality a common attribute between the Father and Son leaves *************the Holy Spirit********** “out in the cold.” ”

  7. John said,

    October 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    One of the problems is that if generation happens from the Father and the Son, then from what “thing” does generation come from? Imagine you draw a flow diagram. You can’t draw the arrow from the Father, nor from the Son alone, so what thing does one put between them from whence the generation happens?

    If you want it so the Father just gives Spiration to the Son, and doesn’t do it himself, then you just gave up one of His distinctives. The only reason the members of the trinity are not just three indistinguishable things is their distinctives. If the Father gives up a distinctive that is specifically given to Hiim in scripture, then its a problem.

    The most common solution is the economic spiration. The Father sends the Spirit to the Church in time and space through the Son. This is something both sides can possibly agree on more easily, except that it redefines spiration as meaning eternal in the context of the creed.

  8. olivianus said,

    October 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Bryan Cross,

    “Hence there is spiration only from the Father-and-Son (i.e. the Father-as-self-known), not two spirations, one from the Father and one from the Son”

    >>>This is making the Son and the Father that Same subject.

    “each spiration partial (lest there by two Holy Spirits, one from the Father, and one from the Son)”

    >>>Photius argued that this created composition in the HS thus denying ADS. The latter is perfect while the Father’s imperfect thus presenting superiority of the Son over the Father.

    “Each divine Person has to have (or lack) something the other two do not, while each being the one God”

    >>>The one God is never referred to as a Being but as a single Person:

    This is Dr. Samuel Clarke’s letter to Mr. R.M. regarding monotheism from Clarke’sWorks, Volume 4, pages 365-368:

    “Isa. 44:6 Besides me, there is no God. Ver. 8 Is there any God, besides Me? yea, there is no God, I know not any. (the Word Me, is personal)

    Isa. 45:5 I am the Lord, and there is None else, there is no God besides me. Ver. 18 I am the Lord, and there is none else. Ver. 22 I am God, and there is none else; (not nullum aliud, no other being only, but, Nullus alius, No other Person; no other whatsoever; no other, absolutely; either of the same, or of any other essence)

    Isa. 40:25 To whome then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. (the Words are all personal)

    Isa. 46:5 To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be like? Ver. 9 I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me. (the Words again are all personal)

    Deut. 32:39 I, even I, am He; and there is no God (He does not say, except it be in the same essence; but absolutely, there is no God) with Me.

    Isa. 43:10 Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be any after Me. (the Words are still always personal).

    2 Kings 19:19 Thou art the Lord God, even Thou only. (Tu solus; not thou and other persons in thy essence; but, Thou only.)

    Nehm. 9:6 Thou, even Thou art Lord alone. (Personal)

    Psalm 83:18 Thou, whose Name alone is Jehovah. (Personal again)

    Psalm 86:10 Thou art Great, Thou (personally) art God alone.

    Isa. 61:4 I am the Lord, the First and with the Last; I am He; (not, illud, that being only; but,ille, that person)

    Isa. 64:6 I am the First, (not, Primum, the first Being only; but, Primus, the First Person) and I am the last; and besides me, (not only, besides my substance or essence; but besides me, personally,) there is no God.

    Joel 2:27 I am the Lord thy God; (not, thy infinite and perfect essence or substance; but, thy Supreme Lord and Governor, the Object of they worship) and None else. (This and the like texts, demonstratively prove the Word God to be a personal and relative Title)

    …. Now, I observe, in every one of these texts, God expressly declares, not, that there is no other BEING only; but also that, absolutely and without exception, there is no OTHER, no other Person, no other whatsoever, either in the same or in any other Substance, to whom His attributes and Worship belong; Just as St. Paul says, I Cor. 8:6, To us there is but one God, even the Father. Consequently, ******if the attributes and Worship of the Father (which worship is always personal) do indeed (as you suppose) belong also to the Son of God; it follows inevitably and demonstratively, that the Son of God can in no sense be a distinct person from the Father****, either in the same or in any other essence; but that he must be merely another Name for the Father himself. He must be, not only of the same substance; but he must be he himself, he must be that very individual person, of whom it is said in all your texts that Him only, (not, his substance only, but his personal only, HIM only) shall thou serve. …”

    Thus, if the Son has everything the Father has in the same way, the words Father and Son are merely names of the same subject. Thus Filioque shows itself to be the logical result of Sabellianism.

    “therefore if both “generation” and “spiration” were from the “Father alone,” nothing would differentiate “spiration” from “generation.”

    >>>This just tells us what the mode and circumstances of spiration are. It does not tell us what Spiration is distinct from eternal generation.

    John of Damascus said, speaking of the difference between procession and eternal generation,

    “We have an analogy in Adam, who was not begotten (for God Himself moulded him), and Seth, who was begotten (for he is Adam’s son), and Eve, who proceeded out of Adam’s rib (for she was not begotten). These do not differ from each other in nature, for they are human beings: but they differ in the mode of coming into existence.”

    Here in our analogy, Adam would represent the Father, Eve, the Spirit and Seth the Son. Unbegotten-ness, Procession and Generation.

    Procession bears nature but not gender. Generation bears nature and gender. However, there is a point to recognize: In Gen 1:27 we read “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created *****them****.”

    Both the male and female gender are part of the image of God. I think
    it is no accident then that just as Eve, the female, proceeded from
    Adam, the Spirit bears the female characteristics of God. In NT we
    have an emphases on the Holy Spirit’s nurturing and comforting
    qualities. BTW, I am not saying that the Holy Spirit’s comforting qualities are confined to the economia. God’s mercy is not dependent on him being merciful to creatures. Just because the divine persons display certain of their qualities IN the economia does not mean that those qualities are confined to the economia or dependent on a creation. Lastly, the fact that God does not define the difference between the two does not mean there is no difference.

    “And because divine procession is total and not partial [e.g. the Son is everything the Father is, except paternity”

    >>This would mean that the Son is the same numeric being as the Father, and holding all his attributes in the same way (underived), thus precluding any kind of personal distinctions.

    “but an external act in which the resulting entity was given as its being something less than the divine essence”

    >>>That assumes that unbegotteness is not the personal property of the Father but an attribute of essence. This is indicative of your monad. There are no three persons on your view. The word “person” is as meaningful as the word “snark”. God is one being and three snark’s.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    October 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Olivianus, thanks for catching that error. I meant “unbegottenness,” not “begottenness.”

  10. Bob B said,

    October 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    “…while preserving the West’s concern that the spiration of the Spirit does not leave the Son “out in the cold,” so to speak”

    The west may not have left the Son out in the cold, but their spurious additions to the creed left the East out in the cold. That is indeed a steep price.

  11. Jason Loh said,

    October 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Lane, re#3

    “Jason, attributes are logically distinct from personal properties. Personal properties belong only to the individual persons of the Trinity, whereas attributes are the essence, viewed from different angles, like facets on a diamond. Divine causality is a rather vague way of phrasing things. It seems to me that if we are going to talk about properties, we should retain that term, whereas if we are talking about attributes, then we are talking about something logically (though, of course, not essentially) distinct.”

    Yes, you’re right. I prefer the term properties because I’ve bought into the EO understanding of the Person-Essence distinction and ordo theologiae which implies a real and absolute distinction between Essence and Energies/Operations (and hence as Properties).

  12. October 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    As long as the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son is regarded as being economical, not ontological, there is no problem – and, as a bonus, you avoid convoluted discussions like the one occurring here!

  13. Jason Loh said,

    October 26, 2012 at 12:59 am

    “As long as the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son is regarded as being economical, not ontological, there is no problem .”

    Yes, personally I prefer to see the filioque in the economical/ temporal sense.

  14. xpusostomos said,

    October 26, 2012 at 3:41 am

    “Yes, personally I prefer to see the filioque in the economical/ temporal sense.”

    That’s great, but then when people say the creed they will mean completely different things, which defeats the purpose of having a creed.

  15. Jason Loh said,

    October 26, 2012 at 4:47 am

    xpusostomos, re#14,

    True. Which is why the creeds are to be understood in terms of the Gospel. One can confess the “immanent” Trinity ad intra correctly but have a wrong understanding of the Gospel (Trinity ad extra/ economic). But then confessing the former can collapse into “speculation” – either of the philosophical type or the mystical/ experiential type. But particularly the mystical/ experiental type given the EO tradition. Thus, the Church in confessing the creeds understands that ultimately the immanent Trinity can only be *proclaimed* (preached pro te/for you) as the economic Trinity. This is because the Church is the creature of the Gospel (creatura evangelii).

  16. xpusostomos said,

    October 26, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Hmm.. You lost me.

  17. Jason Loh said,

    October 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Basically, whether one confesses the filioque (and I for one don’t), ultimately what really matters is that the creeds are to be understood as talking about the Gospel in every article.

    For example, the Apostles’ Creed confess that God the Father Almighty is the Creator of heaven and earth. God created the world out of nothing, out of sheer goodness. This is justification where the new creature (Christian as New Adam) and new creation is created out of nothing, out of sheer goodness. Thus, we confess God’s creative activity in the Gospel.

  18. Jason Loh said,

    October 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

    IOW, when we confess the Trinity in the creeds, we confess the Gospel; likewise when we confess the articles pertaining to our salvation, we confess the Trinity as the Subjects of the verbs pertaining to our salvation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 300 other followers

%d bloggers like this: