Athanasian Creed and consequence of denying filioque

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Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
One thing I don't understand about the Athanasian creed is why it makes the filioque (or eternal generation, for that matter) something necessary to believe for salvation. I know that the more I understand about the Trinity, the more I realize how important each Confessional statement concerning the Trinity is, but I still don't realize or understand why denial of the filioque is considered a damnable offense.

Could someone explain to me why? And then what should we say about the EO who do deny the filioque or those who modify the filioque to "proceeds from the Father through the Son" (or something similar)?

Also, I know that we oftentimes measure the danger of doctrines by their logical consequences, so what are the logical consequences in doctrine of denying the filioque? (I have heard of a couple through searching the forums, but I haven't seen the logic leading to the consequences)

And since doctrine is supposed to be practical, what are the practical implications of the filioque? (There was a thread on this earlier, but it didn't get any answers)

Or maybe I'm on the wrong track and the Athanasian statements are about ecclesiology? (and so it is not so much someone is damned for denying the statements as they are put out of the visible church?)


I ask these about the filioque--though I'm curious about the same things concerning eternal generation--because I have a feeling the reasoning and consequences are similar in each case.


Thanks to any who help!

And the Athanasian Creed for reference:
The Athanasian Creed - The PuritanBoard

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

2. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

3. Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance

4. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.

5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.

6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.

7. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.

8. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

9. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

10. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.

11. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

12. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;

13. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

14. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

15. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

16. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

17. And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.

18. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;

19. so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.

20. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

21. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

22. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

23. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

24. And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.

25. But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.

26. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

27. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

28. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

29. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

30. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.

31. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

32. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

33. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

34. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.

35. One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

36. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

37. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

38. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;

39. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

40. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

41. And shall give account of their own works.

42. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

43. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.
 
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steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The filioque is not speaking of eternal generation (of the Son), but the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. From my understanding, it is important for all 3 persons of the Trinity to relate with each other, in the appropriate order. The Father is ungenerated, the Son is eternally generated from the Father, and the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. To say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone implicitly denies the relationship the Father has with the Son as prior to the Spirit's procession. The Spirit becomes some other deity proceeding in some fashion unrelated with the Son, which is incorrect. It undermines the complete involvement of the Son in the Father's business, as it were.

I'm not sure why it's damnable. Hopefully someone else can help with that.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
It's not damnable. Just because the Athanasian Creed says it doesn't make it so. The AC isn't an ecumenical creed. The original Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed doesn't have the filioque clause, and I'd pick Nicaea any day. BTW, the RCO and the EOC have pretty much patched things up on this issue. It's the papacy more than anything else dividing them these days.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Charlie, are you saying you would "pick" the Nicene creed (without filioque), over the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed, which has it?
WCF chapter II.
III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
steadfast7 said:
It undermines the complete involvement of the Son in the Father's business, as it were.
Hmm, that does seem to be part of it, though I'm not able to follow through the logical consequences of denying that (or possibly one of its modifications like "through the Son"). Thanks for your post!

CharlieJ said:
It's not damnable. Just because the Athanasian Creed says it doesn't make it so. The AC isn't an ecumenical creed.
Whether the AC (Or the filioque Nicene Creed) is right or wrong, the board rules say:
rules said:
c. Historic Creeds: All members of this board hold to the basic creeds of the church: The Apostles' Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, and the Definitions of Chalcedon.
...because I do not know why the board owners would make members hold to the Athanasian Creed concerning this issue, I decided to ask, because I'm sure there must be some good reasons for making all members hold to it.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
If I had to, yes. But I believe in the filioque. I just don't think it rises to the same level as, say, Arianism. The confession of Jesus as Lord is directly challenged by Arianism and certain forms of subordinationism. I don't think the filioque rises to the same level as Macedonians/Pneumatochoi, who subordinated the Holy Spirit. Someone who does not believe in the filioque can still confess one God in three persons, equal in being, power, and glory. He just has a slightly different picture of the intra-trinitarian life.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
steadfast7 said:
It undermines the complete involvement of the Son in the Father's business, as it were.
Hmm, that does seem to be part of it, though I'm not able to follow through the logical consequences of denying that (or possibly one of its modifications like "through the Son"). Thanks for your post!
Who's modifying it to "through the Son", and why would they prefer it over "and the Son"? I think the western church recognized that they had left the Son out of the Spirit's procession, or it seemed this way in the creed, when it's important to stress that the Spirit proceeds from a logically prior relationship.

---------- Post added at 02:02 AM ---------- Previous post was at 02:00 AM ----------

If I had to, yes. But I believe in the filioque. I just don't think it rises to the same level as, say, Arianism. The confession of Jesus as Lord is directly challenged by Arianism and certain forms of subordinationism. I don't think the filioque rises to the same level as Macedonians/Pneumatochoi, who subordinated the Holy Spirit. Someone who does not believe in the filioque can still confess one God in three persons, equal in being, power, and glory. He just has a slightly different picture of the intra-trinitarian life.
Agreed. I don't believe all EO are damned, and if so, not because of they leave out the filioque, but perhaps for other reasons, like leaving out the gospel!
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
steadfast7 said:
Who's modifying it to "through the Son", and why would they prefer it over "and the Son"? I think the western church recognized that they had left the Son out of the Spirit's procession, or it seemed this way in the creed, when it's important to stress that the Spirit proceeds from a logically prior relationship.
I've seen some, in explaining the Trinity, say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. I've also seen "proceeds from the Father and sent by the Son." I'm not sure whether that has any bearing on the matter, but I mentioned it in my last reply because "through the Son" or "and sent by the Son" seems to have the same effect as "and the Son," as far as keeping the Spirit related to the Son and the Son related to the Father through the Spirit goes (and it also seems to keep the Spirit proceeding from a logically prior relationship too?). I could be (and probably am) very wrong though.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
steadfast7 said:
It undermines the complete involvement of the Son in the Father's business, as it were.
Hmm, that does seem to be part of it, though I'm not able to follow through the logical consequences of denying that (or possibly one of its modifications like "through the Son"). Thanks for your post!

CharlieJ said:
It's not damnable. Just because the Athanasian Creed says it doesn't make it so. The AC isn't an ecumenical creed.
Whether the AC (Or the filioque Nicene Creed) is right or wrong, the board rules say:
rules said:
c. Historic Creeds: All members of this board hold to the basic creeds of the church: The Apostles' Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, and the Definitions of Chalcedon.
...because I do not know why the board owners would make members hold to the Athanasian Creed concerning this issue, I decided to ask, because I'm sure there must be some good reasons for making all members hold to it.
In any case, the Larger Catechism also affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (question 10), so it would be board status quo anyway. I assume the reason the Athanasian Creed is required is because of its detailed explanation of the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
In any case, the Larger Catechism also affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (question 10), so it would be board status quo anyway. I assume the reason the Athanasian Creed is required is because of its detailed explanation of the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.
Also, subscribing the Belgic Confession necessarily entails a subscription of the Athanasian Creed,

...we do willingly receive the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nice, and of Athanasius: likewise that, which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers.
(Belgic Confession, Article 9)
Furthermore, the Belgic Confession itself includes the filioque,
We believe and confess also, that the Holy Ghost, from eternity, proceeds from the Father and Son; and therefore neither is made, created, nor begotten, but only proceedeth from both; who in order is the third person of the Holy Trinity; of one and the same essence, majesty and glory with the Father, and the Son; and therefore, is the true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.
(Belgic Confession, Article 11)


---------- Post added at 08:00 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:48 PM ----------

In addition to the work I mentioned above, here is another excellent example of the consequences of denying the filioque:

"...the phrase in the creed can lead to a possible misunderstanding. It can threaten our understanding of the Spirit’s universality. It might suggest to the worshiper that Spirit is not the gift of the Father to creation universally but a gift confined to the sphere of the Son and even the sphere of the church. It could give the impression that the Spirit is not present in the whole world but limited to Christian territories. Though it need not, the filioque might threaten the principle of universality- the truth that the Spirit is universally present, implementing the universal salvific will of Father and Son. One could say that the filioque promotes Christomonism."
(Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love:A Theology of the Holy Spirit, p. 196)
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
What is "Trinity?" An unity of three. That is fairly easy to say, but what does it mean? If you begin with one substance you are forced to explain in what sense God is three. If you settle on the word "subsistence" or "person" to describe the threeness of God you face the problem of defining what is a subsistence or person. Once you have determined that a subsistence or person is a mode of subsisting in relation to other subsistences or persons, it becomes clear that the conviction of God's threeness functionally depends on "personal properties." Once one has accepted that point it is not hard to see that the denial of a "personal property" is nothing less than a denial of a mode of subsistence in the substance that is called God. In other words, from the viewpoint that God is essentially one, a denial that the Spirit proceeds from the Son can be interpreted theologically as a denial that the Son is a person of the Godhead. It is anathematised with Arianism because it equates to the same error even though it takes a longer path to reach it.
 
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Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Further illustration from Pinnock's work,

"In my view the phrase diminishes the role of the Spirit and gives the impression that he has no mission of his own. It does not encourage us to contemplate the broad range of his operations in the universe. It tends to restrict Spirit to the churchly domain and deny his presence among people outside. It does not encourage us to view the divine mission as being prior to and geographically larger than the Son's. It could seem to limit Spirit to having a noetic function in relation to Christ, as if the Spirit fostered faith in him and nothing more. It undercuts the idea that Spirit can be active where the Son is not named and supports the restrictive reading of the axiom "Outside the church, no salvation."
(Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love:A Theology of the Holy Spirit, p. 196)

Hopefully it is evident that inclusivism is one fruit of this denial.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
In other words, from the viewpoint that God is essentially one, a denial that the Spirit proceeds from the Son can be interpreted theologically as a denial that the Son in a person of the Godhead. It is anathematised with Arianism because it equates to the same error even though it takes a longer path to reach it.
I don't think so. Would anyone subscribe to this argument? "From the viewpoint that God is essentially one, a denial that the Son is begotten of the Spirit can be interpreted theologically as a denial that the Spirit is a person of the Godhead. It is anathematised with Macedonianism because it equates to the same error even though it takes a longer path to reach it." Actually, Meredith Kline has argued just that, but I don't see it gaining lots of traction.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't think so. Would anyone subscribe to this argument?
It is not a matter of anyone subscribing to the argument. This is the argument as it appears in the history of thought. One might consult Robert Letham's The Holy Trinity, 201-220, to see how it developed. As Letham has stated, "the Holy Spirit's procession from the Father and the Son served in Western eyes to safeguard the identity of substance of the Son and the Father" (205).
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
I'm saying I find it to be an illegitimate argument, since no one would conclude from the lack of the Spirit's role in the Word's eternal generation that the Spirit is not a member of the godhead. I accept the filioque, but not all the arguments used for it or all the supposed consequences of rejecting it.

Bryan, the fact that bad doctrine has been expressed in correlation with a denial of the filioque does not necessarily mean that those bad doctrines are a necessary consequence of that denial. For example, rejecting Roman Catholicism has been the stated premise of many bad doctrines, including some rejections of the Trinity, but it does not follow that those bad doctrines are necessary consequences of rejecting Roman Catholicism.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I'm saying I find it to be an illegitimate argument, since no one would conclude from the lack of the Spirit's role in the Word's eternal generation that the Spirit is not a member of the godhead. I accept the filioque, but not all the arguments used for it or all the supposed consequences of rejecting it.
Again, it is not a matter of legitimate or illegitimate argument. If one begins with unity, it is a matter of course. The same applies with reference to the Deity of the Holy Spirit.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Once it is laid down as dogma, are we not obliged to follow and uphold it's argument and logic? Even if we were to find holes in the way it is argued, what's the point? We are not going to follow our reasoning on it and see where it leads, because it will probably not lead us anywhere productive or safe. It is imperative that we keep in line with the universal logic of the confessing Church.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
That's really the question, though. Is it dogma? It's not in the original N-C Creed. The Athanasian Creed was accepted by the Eastern Church only in a modified form, avoiding that clause. So, how can you say it's "the universal logic of the confessing Church" if the Eastern Church doesn't accept it? Also, I think it does matter that most Christians throughout history believed Athanasius actually wrote the Creed, but that is now universally denied.

Also, it's not true that I should accept any argument for a doctrine I find to be true, nor should I accept uncritically the supposed consequences of denying it. I was persuaded by Gerald Bray that the filioque is a valuable addition to Western theology, but I find some of the hyperbole surrounding it to be unhelpful. The people who gave us the Nicene faith - Athanasius, the Cappadocians - did not believe in the filioque.

By the way, historically, the Eastern Church rejected the filioque clause because they saw it as a threat to the real personality of the Spirit. Should I simply accept their logic on this point?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
That's really the question, though. Is it dogma? It's not in the original N-C Creed. The Athanasian Creed was accepted by the Eastern Church only in a modified form, avoiding that clause. So, how can you say it's "the universal logic of the confessing Church" if the Eastern Church doesn't accept it? Also, I think it does matter that most Christians throughout history believed Athanasius actually wrote the Creed, but that is now universally denied.

Also, it's not true that I should accept any argument for a doctrine I find to be true, nor should I accept uncritically the supposed consequences of denying it. I was persuaded by Gerald Bray that the filioque is a valuable addition to Western theology, but I find some of the hyperbole surrounding it to be unhelpful. The people who gave us the Nicene faith - Athanasius, the Cappadocians - did not believe in the filioque.

By the way, historically, the Eastern Church rejected the filioque clause because they saw it as a threat to the real personality of the Spirit. Should I simply accept their logic on this point?
I don't know if it's accurate to say that the ante-nicene fathers "did not" believe in the filioque - that debate hadn't arisen yet, did it? The doctrine of the Holy Spirit was largely spearheaded by Gregory Nazianzen who was only born in 330. The question is whether Athanasius et at. would have opposed the teaching? the Eastern Church's rejection comes much much later, and no doubt influenced by their political frustration with Rome.

I believe it is dogma, so far as Reformed Christianity goes because there it is in the confessions and catechisms, but I understand where you're coming from. I'm pretty convinced that the Council of Ephesus was a mess and Cyril's war with Nestorius was filled with misunderstanding. I also think some of the non-Chalecedonian Churches may have a good reason to reformulate Chalcedon when it makes absolutely no sense in their language. Thus, I consider the EO, Assyrian Church, and non-Chalcedonian orthodox churches still within the pale of historic Christianity, but we still need to be dogmatic about our own confession.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Bryan, the fact that bad doctrine has been expressed in correlation with a denial of the filioque does not necessarily mean that those bad doctrines are a necessary consequence of that denial. For example, rejecting Roman Catholicism has been the stated premise of many bad doctrines, including some rejections of the Trinity, but it does not follow that those bad doctrines are necessary consequences of rejecting Roman Catholicism.
While not all inclusivists may deny the filioque and vice versa, there is a necessary connection between the two. If there is a connection between the economic and ontological relations of the Trinity, then one must consider a denial of the Spirit's eternal procession from the Son is connected to a denial of the Son's temporal sending of the Spirit. Inclusivism is much more comfortable with a Spirit who is not eternally the Spirit of the Son.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Bryan, I agree there is a necessary relationship, but the question is the direction of that relationship. "IF no filioque, THEN inclusivism" is cause, on its own ground, to reject "no filioque." However, "IF inclusivism, THEN no filioque" would not necessarily impinge on the filioque's status.

An example:

"IF Baptist church government, THEN no papacy." "IF no papacy, THEN Baptist church government." I imagine you would accept the first and deny the second. So, the order matters.

Or, to rephrase it from a hypothetical to a categorical syllogism, I cannot legitimately move from "SOME persons who deny the filioque embrace universalism" to "ALL persons who deny the filioque embrace universalism." I also cannot legitimately move from "ALL persons who embrace universalism deny the filioque" to "ALL persons who deny the filioque embrace universalism."

However, I don't mean to be ungrateful. I really do appreciate the examples you've given. Seeing the connection between recent Protestant inclusivism and a certain conception of the Trinity is instructive. My point is that the connection by itself can't be used as an argument for the filioque. It could be, though, if you went on to prove that a denial of the filioque necessarily causes inclusivism or some other reprehensible doctrine.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
How do groups like the EO deal with Scriptural references to the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Christ"?
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you all for your posts, and thank you Bryan for posting those dangers of denying the filioque.

armourbearer said:
Once one has accepted that point it is not hard to see that the denial of a "personal property" is nothing less than a denial of a mode of subsistence in the substance that is called God. In other words, from the viewpoint that God is essentially one, a denial that the Spirit proceeds from the Son can be interpreted theologically as a denial that the Son in a person of the Godhead. It is anathematised with Arianism because it equates to the same error even though it takes a longer path to reach it.
Thanks! That was quite helpful. However, I have trouble following the logic at this point. I can see that a complete denial of a personal property denies the personhood of a person of the Godhead, but I don't see how a partial denial of a personal property (like denial of the filioque) leads to that conclusion. For example, "proceeding from the Father through the Son" and "proceeding from the Father and sent by the Son" seems to preserve the personal property in the same way as the filioque. Or what if someone who denied the filioque said there was a difference between proceeding and begetting (though they did not say what that difference was) wouldn't the Son and Spirit have different personal properties then?

It seems to me your argument is saying that a denial of the filioque makes the Son and Spirit have the same personal property (namely, "of the Father"), and so the persons become confused. Thus, we must deny the deity of one or the other, and so it can lead to Arianism?

Edit: Another thought of mine. If the personal properties are what distinguishes the persons in the Godhead, then wouldn't a different personal property mean that a person is different? In other words, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and Son is a different "Holy Spirit" proceeding from the Father only, or from the Father through the Son, or some other difference like that. If so, that would certainly make more sense of why denial of the filioque is damnable; the filioque Jesus is a different one from a non-filioque person of the Godhead.


armourbearer said:
Again, it is not a matter of legitimate or illegitimate argument. If one begins with unity, it is a matter of course. The same applies with reference to the Deity of the Holy Spirit.
But if it is only legitimate to begin with unity, doesn't that make it a matter of a legitimate or illegitimate argument? I'm a bit confused about how starting with unity leads to acceptance of the filioque while at the same time not leading to the statment CharlieJ made of the "Son being begotten of the Father and the Spirit." In other words, I'm not sure how starting with unity leads to making denial of the filioque a denial of the Son's Deity without also making denial of the Spirit begetting the Son a denial of the Spirit's Deity (perhaps the reason for the difference is because one can be backed by Scripture and the other can't?). However, I could just be confused because I didn't fully understand your original argument.


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austinww said:
How do groups like the EO deal with Scriptural references to the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Christ"?
I think that some say the "Spirit of Christ" refers to the Holy Spirit's economic role only. Here's one of the threads on the Puritanboard that discusses the filioque.
 
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Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I've found it much easier to refute transubstantiation in favor of Calvinist sacramentology while assuming filioque than not assuming it.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
However, I have trouble following the logic at this point. I can see that a complete denial of a personal property denies the personhood of a person of the Godhead, but I don't see how a partial denial of a personal property (like denial of the filioque) leads to that conclusion. For example, "proceeding from the Father through the Son" and "proceeding from the Father and sent by the Son" seems to preserve the personal property in the same way as the filioque. Or what if someone who denied the filioque said there was a difference between proceeding and begetting (though they did not say what that difference was) wouldn't the Son and Spirit have different personal properties then?
Please allow me to start afresh and attempt to make it plainer (perhaps wishful thinking on a subject of this nature). Think of the phrase, "In the unity of the Godhead." Western theology begins at this point. One God possessing full Godhead. The Father is unbegotten. As such He is the fountain of the divine essence. He communicates this essence to the Son. He with the Son communicates this essence to the Spirit. The first communication is called begetting; the second communication is called procession. Call the communication whatever one pleases, it is the communication itself which is important. When one begins with the unity of God these personal properties are the means by which "Godhead" is understood to belong to a distinct mode of subsistence within the undivided substance. Altering the personal properties so as to deny the filioque serves to create a new "stream" (following through on the analogy of "fountain"). There is now no longer one stream --> Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A second stream has been created --> Father, Son; Father, Holy Spirit. There is no longer an unity of three but two unities of two.

In answer to your later question concerning the validity of beginning with the unity of God -- the alternative is to begin with three Gods and work towards an explanation of unity. This tended to be the way of eastern orthodoxy and is quite popular in modern evangelicalism. It is contradicted by the self-attesting revelation of the Bible. The Bible begins with the creed, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
armourbearer said:
Please allow me to start afresh and attempt to make it plainer (perhaps wishful thinking on a subject of this nature).
Indeed, this is a difficult topic. Thanks, that was very helpful. But I'm still trying to see the connection to Arianism and thus heresy, which is why I delayed in replying. For my current thoughts on the matter, so you (or anyone) can see where my confusion lies....

If denying the filioque leads to Arianism, it seems that it could also just as easily lead to the denial of the Holy Spirit's deity, because it appears that both would be communicated the divine essence from the Father, though neither the Spirit nor the Son would communicate the divine essence and so both would be less "equal" in a way to the Father. (Of course, having "two unities of two" is indeed a very different thing from "one unity of three," so for that point alone, I can see why denying the filioque is anathematized.) I can see somewhat how acknowleding the filioque protects the Son's deity; if the Son is communicating the divine essence to another Person, then of course He must be divine and co-equal with the Father! Of course, when I go down that route of thinking, I wonder about the Holy Spirit who does not communicate the divine essence (in either scheme), and thus, His deity does not seem to be as protected as the Son's regardless of the acknowledgement of the filioque. Perhaps the Spirit's deity is protected because the entire divine essence is communicated from two Persons instead of just one in the filioque scheme? I'll keep thinking, but perhaps you could help me some more? Thank you very much for your time and patience!


the alternative is to begin with three Gods and work towards an explanation of unity. This tended to be the way of eastern orthodoxy and is quite popular in modern evangelicalism.
Woah! I never knew that until you said it, but now that you've said it, it completely makes sense out of what I have seen in modern evangelicalism, and perhaps that might also be why I'm having trouble grasping your argument, considering that I was raised in it and am still surrounded by it.


Also, I wonder about some of the reformers' attitudes concerning denying the filioque? According to Shedd's Dogmatic Theology, Turretin did not consider the EO heretics for denying the filioque, and according to an earlier thread on the Puritanboard, that was the general attitude of the reformers to them. Naturally, I'm a little confused. Obviously, if the filioque is correct, then those who deny it are as heretical as Arians. Edit: Also, interestingly enough, though I don't know what bearing it has on the subject at hand, the Sum of Saving Knowledge does not include the personal properties of the Persons.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If denying the filioque leads to Arianism, it seems that it could also just as easily lead to the denial of the Holy Spirit's deity, because it appears that both would be communicated the divine essence from the Father, though neither the Spirit nor the Son would communicate the divine essence and so both would be less "equal" in a way to the Father.
I don't think it is a matter of leading to Arianism, but of a longer road which eventually leads to the same error of the Son's inferiority. Let's retrace our steps. The unity of God is maintained in the western theological tradition by what is called the communication of Godhead -- begetting and procession. "Person" or "subsistence" depends on personal properties, i.e., properties which are unique to a person in relation to other persons. In the words of the Larger Catechism, there is something "proper" in these relations, that is, "divinely proper." To detract from any property of the Son in relation to the Holy Spirit is to make Him inferior to the Father.

The objection in relation to the Holy Spirit is removed by a simple acknowledgement that the unique person of the Holy Spirit also consists in a unique property, and that property is to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity. If this were not accepted as His distinct property He would not be the third person of the Blessed Trinity but would be a second second person. This means He would be a second Son. His very name, Spirit, is suggestive of an altogether unique relation in union with Father and Son which nullifies the objection. He is the person upon whom the communication of Godhead finally terminates. In this capacity the Spirit is Himself the bond of union and communion between Father and Son. Likewise, in the ad extra works of the Trinity, this unique relation finds expression in His distinctive function in connection with the creation of, providence over and redemption of, the world; He is the Spirit of life and communion.

Regarding the last point of the creed -- I think it is correct to take the judgment as incorporating the whole system of doctrine rather than any one point of it. Trinitarian faith is like a seed which incorporates all the elements of life within itself but requires a process of development to bring them forth.
 
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