The Filioque Controversy…Who sends the Son?

The first issue to look at comes from Augustine’s doctrine of the double precession of the Holy Spirit.

A. The doctrine of the Trinity: A Historical Overview. The Trinity is in & behind the New Testament. The doctrine is not something argued for in the New Testament it is rather presupposed.

  1. Ignatius of Antioch, A.D. 110 He is a Trinitarian who has alonst a creedal statement about it. This is two centuries before the creeds are actually written.
  2. Modalism: Are the Father and the Son just different names for God?
  3. The Nicene Creed and the Arian Controversy. There are two ways of doing theology after Nicea. The Cappodocians and the Augustinian Way.
  4. Augustine “On the Trinity” starting with the oneness & “vestiges” of the Trinity. Augustine will say that if we are created in the Image of God. Trinity then we have something Trinitarian in us. This is reason, memory and will. (Spirit) (Try to understand something without using your will or memory.)
  5. 2nd Vestige. The relational or social. If God is love and triune and if God is love and eternal then God must love something. Thus God the Father is the lover and the Son is the beloved. The Holy Spirit then is the bond of love between them. Hence, the double precession of the Holy Spirit.


B. The “Nicene Creed” of 381. This had the “And the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life who proceeds from the Father. But then this was tampered with in 589 and the phrase, “and from the Son” (Filioque) at the third council of Toledo (589) The third council of Toledo has embraced the pastoral theology of Augustine right into the Nicene Creed. Even then no one really noticed it until 800 when it began to be used as a part of the public worship. Then Patriarch Photius protested to the Pope in 867…the same year he excommunicated the Pope.

So which is it? Double Procession or Single Procession.


C. The Eastern Church on the “economic” Trinity vs. the “ontological” Trinity.

Ontology::being:: God’s eternal essence  Economy::doing:: Our experience in time. Ontology looks at God’s eternal essence. Does God exist as all three from eternity- it is his essential being?

Economy tends to be reductionistic and people start to think of God as modalist-You have to have both economic and ontological. What God does is different form what God is?

(2) Jesus “sent” the Holy Spirit (In John and Acts) …but the Spirit is eternal, not the Son’s agent. This is an economic/external act- another words it is an event in the world but not an ontological movement of the Spirit. The Spirit is forever.

(3) Eastern Church thinks of the Father as the “center” of the three persons. There was the fear of hierarchy, Gnostic connotations. Hierarchy is avoided with the phrase, “eternally begotten” in the relationship between the Father and the Son.


D. The Western church: Filioque refutes low Christology.

  • What’s said of one person must be said of all.
  • The threat of Spanish adoptionism: I.E. A resurgence of Arianism?


E. The exegetical issue: Who sends whom?

  • Western proof-texts Where Christ sends the Spirit. Where Christ possesses the Spirit. “Spirit of Jesus Christ” Phil. 1:1 “Spirit of the Son Gal. 4:6


F. The theological issue: The unity of the Godhead.

  • Eastern concerns: Unity resides in Father as source or center. Unity threatened by hierarchy and polytheism.
  • Western concerns: Unity resides in the bond of the Father and the Son (Augustine) F-S-H.S. as lover-beloved-bond of love.
  • If Spirit is the bond of love, must be “shared” Spirit is both “of the Father” and “of Christ”