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The Filioque

In the light of the Orthodox Teaching of St.Gregory Palamas

More on the Filioque

History of the Filioque

Works of Greek Orthodox Theologians on the Web
Fr John Romanides:The Filioque
- The Filioque in the Dublin Agreed Statement(1984) offsite

Jaroslav Peliakan: The Filioque

Fr John Meyendorff: The Filioque

Metropolitan John of Pergamon replying to a
Papal Clarification of the Filioque

Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia
God as Trinity: Personal Characteristics

[Note: Much of this article is based on the work of Dr. Ch. Sotiropoulos, Professor of the University of Athens. I have made further additions, clarifications, and changes - however the piece is still heavily dependant on his work and I feel obliged to mention it here]

Historical Background
Also see
Meyendorff: and Romanides

The Filioque, i.e. the belief that the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son is a theological position put forward by the Roman Catholic Church. This is a novel addition to the ancient creed of the Church, which creed was formulated within the first two Ecumenical Councils (Nicea 325, Constantinople 381). The Nicene Creed states the "Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father". However centuries later the Church in the West tampered with the creed. Although it was first added in Toledo in the Sixth Century, it was not widely accepted in the West until the 11th Century, when the Franks took over the Papacy. It is to be noted that before then Popes of Rome did not accept this interpolation . Pope Leo III even went so far as to have a silver engraved plaque of the Creed made and mounted in Rome with the Filioque conspicuously absent.

The Orthodox position is that the Spirit proceeds only from the Father.
St. Photius clearly showed that this was a common belief of the Fathers and the Ecumenical councils when he wrote "It was openly preached as doctrine by the Seven Holy Councils - the Second, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, to be followed by the Third, confirmed by the Fourth, also agreed on by the Fifth, also preached by the Sixth, and was sealed with the bright struggle of the Seventh" [PG 102, 285AB]
The decisions of all these Councils were accepted by the Pope of Rome who either took part himself, or by representation. All Seven Ecumenical Councils held the common belief that the Son is begotten eternally from the Father, whereas the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father.
Particular note may be made of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon where the representatives of Pope Leo I chaired the proceedings. All its decisions were accepted by the Pope of Rome.

We can see forerunners of the Filioque in the writings of Tertullian and Origen. Although their works are often admirable both have been condemned as heretics by the Church. Origen called the Holy Spirit the "most honourable creation of God" whereas in other places he seems to contradict this and says that the Holy Spirit is not a creature.
We can also find the expression "et filio" in St. Ambrose. However, it is quite evident that St. Ambrose is not talking about eternal procession of the Spirit, but rather Its mission in time. This is a clear distinction that has to be made.

The real champion of the Filoque must be Augustine. However, even he makes a distinction by saying that he did not want to accept two principles, but only one. This creates more problems than it solves. Either the Son is or is not the principle or source of origin of the Holy Spirit. Augustine's acceptance of the term Filioque leads to some illogical reasoning. If we accept that the Spirit proceeds both from the Father and from the Son as from one principle, then we change the Persons of "God the Father" and "God the Son" into a nonsensical Unity and the characteristic of an independent Person is taken away from the Holy Spirit, who would no longer move freely within the Church in complete agreement with the Father and the Son.

The basis for Augusstine's arguments seem to be some biblical passageswhere the Spirit is sometimes called "The Spirit of the Father" and other times the "Spirit of the Son". These passages should be interpreted with the common essence of the Trinity in mind. This, at least, is the view given by Hieronymus and by Theodore Cyrrhus who says, "The Holy Spirit does not gain its existence from the Son or through the Son, but by procession from the Father, we say that It is of the Son since it is co-essential (homousios)." [PG 83, 1484C]

Augustine falls into the mistaken use of the Filioque since he could not distinguish between the terms procession <ekporeusis> and manifestation <fanerwsis>. If we are to follow the Fathers we can say that the Holy Spirit is manifested through the Son; however, we cannot say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, with the meaning of hypostatic or existential attributes. St. John of Damascus says, "The Holy Spirit is of God the Father, since It proceeds from Him. It is also called 'of the Son' as it is manifested through Him and takes part in creation, but It does not gain it existence from Him." [PG96, 605B]

Fortunately the Church does not base its theology on Augustine but on the whole of Tradition as expressed in the Holy Scripture, the Holy Ecumenical Councils and the consensus of the Fathers. Indeed, St. Photius was to argue that the addition of the Filioque was in direct opposition to the words of Christ Who said, "the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father" [John 15: 26]

It is interesting to note that for centuries most western theologians refused to use the Filioque. It was not generally accepted until the time Anselm(+1109) and Aquinas(+1274)who taught that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. They made various arguments and calculations in order to avoid a dual principle or source of being within the Trinity they insisted on the procession from one principle or source.

A great many Popes, before the Franks took over the Papacy, did not accept the addition to the Creed. Popes Leo I, Virgil and Agathon make no mention at all of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son. Pope Zacharias clearly states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father yet remains in the Son. Indeed, during the Seventh Ecumenical Council Pope Hadrian I wrote to Tarasius, the Patriarch of Constantinople emphasizing that the Spirit proceeded from the Father alone. {PG 102 373d-375] Pope Leo III, as already mentioned, opposed the addition. St. Photius also tells us how the representatives of Pope John IX at the Council of 879 accepted the unchanged creed, and how Pope Hadrian III had written to him saying that "the Spirit proceeds from the Father"



In short, the change (by the West) to "from the Father and the Son" was :
a) contrary to Christ's own words on the matter .
b) contrary to the determination of the Second Ecumenical Council.
c) undertaken unilaterally rather than conciliarly
d) undertaken contrary to the Council of Constantinople in 879 which was attended by legates of Pope John VII all the other Patriarchs and 400+ other bishops, which condemned such an alteration to the Creed.
e) performed contrary to over 4 centuries worth of Western Popes (much less theEast) who had resisted such an innovation
f) leads to subordination of the Spirit, for by it the Holy Spirit is inevitably made less than the Father and the Son