Directing the Course: The “of” equals “from” argument of the filioque revisited.

Mike Liccione has offered some answers to some of my questions over at Sacramentum Vitae on the filioque: The filioque issue narrowed.

I think he is getting much closer in understanding Orthodox triadology and in finding ways that are harmonious, but I still have a few criticisms that I think should be addressed to avoid problems and reductios to what he is proposing.

Mike states: 

“The generation of the Son and the spiration of the Holy Spirit by the Father, which are the primordial instances of ekporeusis…”

I recognize that the Father is the sole source and origin for both, but I’m uncertain when you say that the Son and Spirit are the primordial instances of ekporeusis. Are you suggesting that genesis is an instance of ekporeusis? In our view, genesis and ekporeusis refer to completely different relations of origin which we do not understand the content of. 

Moving along:

“[A] necessary condition of the breathing forth of the Spirit is that there be a perichoretic, and thus “energetic,” relationship between the Father and the Son…”

I still don’t understand how you can have a perichoretic relationship between the Father and Son and not also include the Holy Spirit. Is perichoresis a property of the nature or isn’t it? If so, then there cannot be an interposition of perichoresis as a logical priority between Father – Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would have to be included, as person, in that perichoretic relationship.

The purpose of the Taxis order, which I don’t think is the reason for the Person’s relation of origin to the Father, is to illustrates the Person’s “logical” priority from the Father. If this is what it means for the Spirit to be the Spirit of the Father and Spirit of the Son, in a way that the Son is not Son of the Father and Son, I have no issue, but I think you might mean more.

I think you imply the “of” equals “from” scenario. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of wisdom, of truth and so on. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit proceeds from these attributes too as a “relation of origin?” Now we can begin to see where we can plug in my criticism as a reductio: If there is a perichoretic relationship that [only] the Father and the Son share in such that it is considered a necessary condition to spirate the Spirit, could we not also consider the Holy Spirit the Spirit of perichoresis? To take this a step further, the Spirit is also called Spirit of Christ and Christ is the Annointed One. The Spirit anoints the Person of the Son according to His human nature. Here we start to see the “of” equals “from” argument break-down. If the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and Christ is the anointed one, either the Holy Spirit proceeds from Christ according to His humanity and He is a creature, or the Holy Spirit proceeds from Christ according to His humanity and humanity is in fact “eternal” because the Holy Spirit is “eternal.” 

Does the “of” equals “from” argument reproduce the Origenist dialectic at this point?

“And so He must proceed from Christ… not from Christ’s Deiety, but from that which he took from us and commingled with Himself.  If therefore the Spirit, as God, proceeds from the Son, from Christ, according to the humanity which Christ commingled with us, then the human nature must be concluded as being consubstantial with the Son and indeed may be spoken of as ‘of Christ’.  For you would make Him proceed both before and during His Incarnation, and not cast off His consubstantiality with either.” – Mystagogia 92

Hat tip to JPF for teaching me what this text meant.

61 Responses to Directing the Course: The “of” equals “from” argument of the filioque revisited.

  1. Photios,

    That’s an interesting interpretation, and one I did not see myself, because I took the verse from Revelation as referring to the person of the Spirit in relation to the Father (i.e., the throne of God), while also revealing the Spirit’s relationship to the Lamb within the consubstantial communion (i.e., eternal energetic manifestation) of the Tri-hypostatic Godhead. In other words, I saw the verse from Revelation as speaking about two distinct realities, much as John 15 does, because in that the Gospel pericope there is a clear distinction made between the Spirit’s origin as person from the Father alone, while the Gospel text simultaneously reveals the Spirit’s connection to the Son as sent by Him from the Father into those who become sons of God in the only-begotten Son.

    I will have to give more thought to what you have said in your post.

    God bless,

  2. Ed,

    Why isn’t there a relation of origin with respect to energies like “life” and the Persons of the Trinity? All the powers of God are grounded and related to each Person of the Trinity as their source, and primarily the Father since the other two Persons are grounded in Him.

    I don’t see how that verse is supposed to cut against the use in John chapter 15, one speaks of a relation of origin of Person (i.e. John 15), the other verse in Revelation of the relation of origin of energy.


  3. Ed,

    I understand that to mean that the Holy Spirit flows forth from the Father (i.e., from the throne of God) as the “water of Life,” for the Father is the sole source of divinity, while the Spirit is also of the Son (i.e., the Lamb). I would refer you to St. John Damascene’s first book of the “De Fide Orthodoxa,” where he speaks of this reality (i.e., the fact that the Spirit is of the Son), while he simultaneously denies that the Holy Spirit is “from the Son.” The later Western theory that posits an existential double procession of the Holy Spirit involves a clear break with the Biblical and Patristical Tradition of the first millennium, and is — to put it simply — a theological innovation.

    God bless,

  4. Edward De Vita says:

    If the Greek word (ekporeuetai) means the going forth from or departure of something from its source or cause, then what do you make of what St. John the Apostle states in Rev. 22:1:
    “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The Greek text of this verse reads as follows: “Kai edoxen moi potamou hudatos zoes lampron hos krustallon, ekporeuomenon ek tou thronou tou theou kai tou arniou.” Note here the use of the same word as in John 15:26, “ekporeuomenon.” Here St. John speaks of the river of the water of life (which in his gospel he declares to be the Holy Spirit, see John 7:38-39) proceeding from the throne of God(i.e., the Father) and of the Lamb (i.e., the Son). Here we have a clear statement of a filioque of some sort. Are we to take this verse as speaking of a “departure of something from its source or cause”; or , is it simply a statement of the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit? If the latter, why then must John 15:26 be interpreted as speaking of the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit?


  5. I’m neither Perry nor Photius, but my thoughts regarding the ‘Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation’ regarding the Filioque can be found at — I would summarise by saying it is an agreement to disagree.

    For a more critical reaction from the Greek Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Poimen, see


  6. Michael says:

    Dear Perry and Photios,

    What are your thoughts on the Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, concerning Filioque? Here is the link:

    I am not learned in the philosophy involved, but as a simple Christian am grateful for the attempt at mutual understanding on this topic.

  7. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    Edward, I think that Steven has satisfactorily answered your question.

    I think that it helps to read St John Chrysostom’s interpretation of St John 8:14.

    “Though I bear record of Myself, My record is true; for I know
    whence I come, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come.”
    What He had before said, these men bring forward as if it had been
    specially asserted. What then doth Christ? To refute this, and to show
    that He used those expressions as suitable to them and to their suspicions,
    who supposed Him to be a mere man, He saith, “Though I bear record of
    Myself, My record is true, for I know whence I come.” What is this? “I
    am of God, am God, the Son of God, and God Himself is a faithful witness
    unto Himself, but ye know Him not; ye willingly err, knowing ye pretend
    not to know, but say all that ye say according to mere human imagination,
    choosing to understand nothing beyond what is seen.”

    St John Chrysostom says that Christ’s comment “I know whence come and whither
    go” was a declaration that He is God, so it is clear that in making the parallel that he understood the words “proceedth from the Father” as proving the Spirit is God by showing His cause, as Steven said. It is exactly the eternal origin of the Spirit that St John Chrysostom interprets Christ as saying because it is only this origin that proves the Spirit is God. The referent may be as you say but even though, “also who sendeth” applies to sending rather than procession, I believe it is rather to say that even though the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, it is not He alone that sends the Spirit but the Son also. It is to counter the logic of if He proceeds from Him then He must be sent by Him rather than equating proceeding with sending.

  8. Ed,

    I think that the Eastern Orthodox (and many Eastern Catholics) differentiate between “sending” and “proceeding”, because “sending” (based on the Greek word used in the text) does not concern the Spirit’s existential origin, but rather the giving of the Spirit as already existent. In other words, the term “sending” concerns the giving of something already in existence, and which is then “carried to” or “thrust into” another, while the word “proceeds” (in the Greek) involves the “going forth from” or “departure from” something that is its source, i.e., its cause.

    Thus, in Byzantine Triadology the Spirit “proceeds” only from the Father, since the Father is the sole existential cause of the Spirit as person, but — in addition to the procession of origin — the Spirit is “sent” by the Father and the Son, or better, He is “sent” from the Father through the Son, into the world, and this “sending” concerns His manifestation as energy.

    God bless,

  9. Edward De Vita says:

    Dear Fr. Patrick,
    Just a question. When St. John Chrysostom states: “Behold, it is no longer the Father alone, but the Son also who sendeth.”, what do you take to be the referent of the phrase, “no longer the Father alone (sendeth)”? I take it to be the words “proceedeth from the Father.” In other words, St. John is saying that this latter phrase refers to the sending of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone (this ensures that the Holy Spirit knows what the Father knows, just as the Son, who is sent by the Father and goes to Him, also knows what the Father knows), while the phrase, “whom I will send you from the Father” shows that the Son also sends the Holy Spirit. Chrysostom does not, in my opinion, say anything about the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit in the above passage.

    Here’s my paraphrase of what I understand St. John Chrysostom to be saying:

    “…….. But the, “proceedeth from the Father,” (i.e., “sent forth from the Father”) shows that the Holy Spirit knows all things exactly that the Father knows. In the same way, Christ also knows the Father because He comes from Him and goes back to Him. And when he says “Whom I will send…”, he makes clear that the Holy Spirit is not sent by the Father alone as would seem to be implied by the statement that he proceeds from the Father, but also by the Son.


  10. Edward,

    I disagree that John 15:26 only refers to the temporal mission. When Christ mentions that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, in the context of the Spirit’s coming in temporal mission, He is deliberately refering to the eternal procession to testify to the Divinity of the Spirit, that He knows all things exactly and can be trusted. This relates to the use of “Spirit of Truth” rather than “Holy Spirit.” The comment “whom I will send unto you from the Father” establishes the temporal sending and the next comment regarding the procession is to establish Who it is that Christ is sending, i.e. the Divine Spirit who is one of the Trinity by procession from the Father. The lack of mention of Son in this latter statement and Christ saying that He “sends from the Father”, not from Himself, establishes that the Spirit is from the Father alone eternally. Christ sends only in the temporal mission but He sends the eternal and Divine Spirit. I believe this is a fair reading of the text and in support I provide the interpretation of St John Chrysostom:

    “He shall be worthy of belief, for He is the Spirit of Truth.” On this
    account He called It not “Holy Spirit,” but “Spirit of Truth.” But the,
    “proceedeth from the Father,” showeth that He knoweth all things exactly,
    as Christ also saith of Himself, that “I know whence come and whither
    go” (c. 8:14), speaking in that place also concerning truth. “Whom will
    send.” Behold, it is no longer the Father alone, but the Son also who

  11. Michael, the interpretation of John 16:13-15 by St John Chyrsostom; I hope it helps to answer your question.

    For since He had told them, that “‘He shall teach you, and bring to your
    remembrance (c. 14:26), and shall comfort you in your afflictions,” (which
    He Himself did not,) and that “it is expedient for you that I should depart”
    (verse 7), and that He should come, and, “‘now ye are not able to bear’
    (verse 12), but then ye shall be able,” and, that “He shall lead you into all
    truth” (verse 13); lest hearing these things they should suppose the Spirit
    to be the greater, and so fall into an extreme opinion of impiety, therefore
    He saith, “He shall receive of Mine,” that is, “whatsoever things I have
    told you, He shall also tell you.” When He saith, “He shall speak nothing
    of Himself,” He meaneth, “nothing contrary, nothing of His own opposed
    to My words.” As then in saying respecting Himself, “I speak not of
    Myself” (c. 14:10), He meaneth that He speaketh nothing beside what the
    Father saith, nothing of His own against Him, or differing from Him, so
    also with respect to the Spirit. But the, “of Mine,” meaneth, “of what I
    know,” “of My own knowledge”; “for the knowledge of Me and of the
    Spirit is one.”
    “And He will tell you things to come.” He excited their minds, for the race
    of man is for nothing so greedy, as for learning the future. This, for
    instance, they continually asked Him, “Whither goest Thou?” “Which is
    the way?” To free them therefore from this anxiety, He saith, “He shall
    foretell you all things, so that ye shall not meet with them without
    “He shall glorify Me.” How? “In My name He shall grant His inward
    workings.” For since at the coming of the Spirit they were about to do
    greater miracles, therefore, again introducing the Equality of Honor, He
    saith, “He shall glorify Me.”
    What meaneth He by, “all truth”? for this also He testifieth of Him, that
    “He shall guide us into all truth.” (Verse 13) Because He was clothed with
    the flesh, and because He would not seem to speak concerning Himself,
    and because they did not yet know clearly concerning the Resurrection,
    and were too imperfect, and also because of the Jews, that they might not
    think they were punishing Him as a transgressor; therefore He spake no
    great thing continually, nor plainly drew them away from the Law. But
    when the disciples were cut off from them, and were for the future
    without; and when many were about to believe, and to be released from
    their sins; and when there were others who spake of Him, He with good
    reason spake not great things concerning Himself. “So that it proceeded
    not from ignorance of Mine,” He saith, “that I told you not what I should
    have told you, but from the infirmity of the hearers.” On this account
    having said, “He shall lead you into all truth,” He added, “He shall not
    speak of Himself.” For to show that the Spirit needeth not teaching, hear
    Paul saying, “So also the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of
    God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) “As then the spirit of man, not learning from
    another, knoweth; so also the Holy Spirit ‘shall receive of Mine,’” that is,
    “shall speak in unison with what is Mine.”
    “All things that the Father hath are Mine.” “Since then those things are
    Mine, and He shall speak from the things of the Father, He shall speak
    from Mine.”

  12. Michael says:

    Help! Please answer! John 16:13-14?

  13. acolyte says:


    In part to answer your question, we could only legitimately reason from the economia to the theologia if the doctrine of absolute divine simplicity were true. But it is false and Orthodoxy rejects it. Secondly, the options aren’t essential or temporal, there is a third, energetic and hence the name of this blog. Since God is known in his energies, an eternal procession of the Spirit is a possible object of knowledge. And since Jesus indicates that the Spirit proceeds from the Father this too is knowable qua hypostasis just so long as we don’t pour into it any positive content. We simply don’t know what it means to procede from the Father hypostatically because there is no being between the Father and the Son and the Spirit. Homoousia rules this out, which is why positing the persons as subsisting relations is a cognitive mistake. The category of relation simply doesn’t apply.

    There is nothing in the Eastern position that says that God cannot reveal the Trinitarian hypostasis, only that such a revelation of the three is only that and nothing more.

  14. Edward De Vita says:

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. No, I do not believe in Sola Scriptura. I accept the common Tradition of both East and West that bases its belief in the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father on the text of John 15:26. Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that the context of this passage relates to the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit. So, apart from a belief that the temporal missions of the Persons reveal their eternal origins, how does one argue from this text that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father? One can, of course, simply accept the teaching of the Fathers on this point. But, it seems to me, that one ought to also try to understand why they taught so.


  15. Lucian says:

    Excuse my little curiosity, Ed, but are You by any chance considering Sola Scriptura, or am I missing something?

  16. Edward De Vita says:

    This may be somewhat off-topic, though it does have to do with the filioque. I have a question relating to the Scriptural support for the monpatrist position, i.e., John 15:26. It seems rather evident to me from the context of this passage that our Lord is speaking of the sending of the Holy Spirit. Hence, when He states that He will send the Holy Spirit “Who proceeds(ekporeuetai) from the Father”, He is referring, not to the eternal but to the temporal relations of the Trinity. Hence, unless we are allowed to infer the eternal from the temporal, it would seem that there is no basis in Sacred Scripture for the notion of an eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father. Now I don’t believe that this is a major problem for the West, since the West generally holds that the temporal missions reveal the eternal relations. But it does seem to be a problem for the East, unless, of course, I’m missing something (which is quite possible).


  17. Michael says:

    I hope you notice that last comment of mine, Perry! The thread isn’t quite dead yet!

  18. Michael says:

    So how do you understand John 16:13-14?

  19. acolyte says:

    That would imply that the Spirit is not God. Omniscience is a power had by all three. You either have to make the procession essential, of the essence or deny that the Spirit is God or deny that the hypostasis of the Spirit is of the Son.

  20. Michael says:

    I have heard it claimed on the basis of John 16:13-14 that the Spirit receives omniscience from the Son and must, therefore, proceed from Him. What say you to that argument?

  21. acolyte says:


    Well, how about this? In the interests of fairness and promoting fruitful dialog, I’ll let you provide the semantic content. I asked because I want to get clear on how you understand the generation and spiration of the two dependent persons.

    So i fyou want to distinguish between types of being and say this kind of being is between F and S in such and so way, but not this way. Fine. I just want to get clear on what you mean and how you understand the generation of the Son. I think I know, but I’d prefer a tell-back.

    Sound fair?

  22. Mike L says:


    There you go again. How are you using ‘being’, and why are you asking the question?


  23. Death Bredon says:


    I agree — note that I have noted a certain revisionism in the Vatican’s latest attempt to resolve the crisis. Indeed, the Vatican statement seems to project the perichoresis historically backwards on to the Latin filioque. The mechanism for this is the ambiguity in the Latin term procere or “proceeds.” And, given that the term IS ambiguous, I am inclined not to press the Vatican on this point regarding historical accuracy but rather I would applaud its present theological acumen.

    Indeed, the fact that the Vatican feels the need to clarify the Latin filioque is a positive sign. Indeed, it presently acknowledges the monarchy of the Father, that the Father is the sole “cause” or “eternal origin” of the Son and the Spirit, and that the Greek Creed is THE ecumenical creed. Wonderful!

    IMHO, other than repudiating Aquinas’s dialectical position regarding absolute opposition of origins of the Trinitarian hypostases, and perhaps a complete embracing of Gregory of Cyprus’s proclamations, little else remains for the Vatican to do, save educate the laity that the East is and always has been correct.

  24. acolyte says:


    Sure, but we have been over the filioque before too. I am trying to pump your thinking on the generation of the Son. That seems quite germane to both the philosophical issue and triadology directly.

    Is there any being between the Father and the Son?

  25. Mike L says:


    Without wanting to sound Clintonesque, I have to say that our disagreements in the doctrine of God depend on what the meaning of “is” is. We’ve been over that ground before, but not systematically. So the discussion between you and me is better served by focusing on that philosophical issue than on triadology directly.


  26. acolyte says:


    Oh I am quite aware of the prupose of the term, but I think there is more to it that they miss and I think ML missed it to. So let me try it another way.

    Michael L,

    Do the relations have being? If so, is the being of the relations the same, homo or different, hetero? If different, how can there be any difference in being between the Father and the Son?

  27. Gotcha.

    Basil’s Letter (more likely Gregory of Nyssa’s letter) 38 and Nyssa’s On Not Three Gods is along the lines of my taste for understanding it.


  28. Fr Patrick says:


    Thanks for your questions. My choice of the word Being was more in the manner of thinking of a Person rather than the essence of Being. I wanted to express the idea of a Who. That is God can be properly referred to and wills/acts in the singular yet without denying His triune existence in three hypostases. In a sense, I see God as one person in three persons. I do not see God as a collection of hypostases or the essence but as the Father, without excluding the Son and the Spirit. The Son and the Spirit are in the Father as the Father is in them. They act/will as one Person. For example: “God, He [singular] made the heavens and the earth”, although the act/will is participated in by the Son as Son and Spirit as Spirit making it simultaneously the act of one and the act of three as per comments in “That good ol’ confusion between person and nature”. “I believe in one God, Father, Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth of all things visible and invisible;…”

    I hope that this makes things clearer.

  29. Fr. Patrick,

    Good stuff, but I’m a little fuzzy on one thing. Are you equating the Father with Being? Does the one Being of God grasp a Who?


  30. ML said: “Then there’s the charge of modalism, which seems to me facilitated by reifying the distinction between the essence and the hypostases.”

    As a Byzantine Christian I hold, as a matter of divine faith, that there is a real distinction — without a separation — between essence and hypostasis.

    God bless,

  31. Perry,

    In my opinion, when the Latins use the phrase “principle without principle” for the Father within the inner life of the Trinity, they are trying to allow for a secondary cause, i.e., a “principle with principle” (the Son), in the procession of origin of the Holy Spirit as person. That is why I do not think that the Vatican’s “Clarification on the Filioque” is all that helpful. Sadly, the Latin Church continues to want to make the Son a cause within the inner life of the Trinity, which is contrary to the teaching of the Cappadocians as exemplified by St. Gregory Nazianzen in his “Orations,” because as he explained: “. . . all that the Father has belongs likewise to the Son, except Causality” [St. Gregory Nazianzen, “Oration 34,” no. 10]. Thus, the Father is the sole hypostatic cause within the Godhead, and because causality within the immanent Trinity is proper to the Father’s person, it cannot be shared with the Son or the Spirit without falling into a form of Modalism.

    God bless,

  32. Fr Patrick says:

    Forgive my uneducated intrusion into this thread but I want to share a model that I find helpful in understanding the Trinity and, I think, gives a good explanation regarding understanding the filioque issue. Here is the model:

    There is one Being, God, who in knowing Himself (this is my way of putting it but I don’t pretend it is exactly how and why) generates the Word, the distinct, concrete, hypostatic manifestation of this knowledge as the exact Image of Himself. Thus the Being can properly be called Father and the Image, Son. This happens eternally so there is no time that the Father is without the Son and every action and object of will is manifested/acted in the Son, as Son, eternally. as the exact representation of His Being. That it can be known that the Father and Son are united without confusion, which is impossible in a dualistic model of God, the Spirit, of the Being/Father, is revealed as proceeding from the Father and resting in the Son. The Father and Son are united in sharing one Spirit; the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. The Son receives the Spirit from the Father and, perhaps it can be said, is generated in the Spirit. Again this is eternal and the Son cannot be considered Son without the Spirit. The “reason” for the Spirit proceeding is to rest in the Son. The Spirit is another distinct hypostasis of the Trinity. If He is not God and not distinct then there could be no union without confusion in the Trinity. The Divinity reveals that the Son is united with the Father in God and the hypostasis reveals that this is no confusion as above in the dualistic model.

    There can be no filioque in this model because, if the filioque was true, the Father and the Son would be confused and the Spirit separated. It is precisely the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone and resting in the Son that unites without confusion and allows distinction without separation. The filioque solution cannot provide this solution because the unity of Father and Son is founded on shared procession of the Spirit, Who failing to share this must therefore be separated from the Father and Son. The Father and the Son meanwhile somehow share one principle/spiration which is somehow merged across both hypostases hence confusing their distinct and complete hypostases. A spiritoque teaching does not help the situation because it would cause the Son the be separated from the Father and Spirit and confuse the Father and the Spirit. The union of the Trinity cannot be grounded on shared powers of causation that apply to only two of the hypostases. Causation is either from one, the Father, or shared by all but in the matter of generation and procession this is impossible, unless one accepts the Son causes Himself and the Spirit Himself, so leaving the only option as the Father being the only cause of the Son and the Spirit.

    In the economy of our salvation, all relationships of the Father are to the Son in the Spirit and all the relationships of the Son are to the Father in the Spirit. That is, no one knows the Father other than the Son nor the Son other than the Father. Thus creation is only through the Son in the Spirit, although also by the Son and by the Spirit. All creation is brought to life, which is only in the Triune God, Who is Life and all Life, through the Son in the Spirit. The “task” has be given to the Son by the Father. The Son in freely uniting creation to Himself gives His Spirit to creation, principally man, so that man (used also for creation) can share in life, which means sharing the LIfe of the Trinity. This can only be achieved in union with the Son in the Spirit, Who enables Life in God without confusion or separation. The giving of Spirit by the Son is not in regard to the Spirit’s eternal manifestation but in order that mankind can truly become sons of God in union with the Trinity without confusion; by grace in the Energies of God but not having the approachable Essence. Again if the filioque were true then to be truly a son of God would require one to have the Spirit proceeding from oneself. This is impossible without sharing in the Essence of God, which is unobtainable to man. Hence, there could be no salvation for man who cannot truly become sons of God in the Spirit and share in the relationship of the Father as the Son; there being no such relationship apart from the Son as noted above.

    Anyway, that is the model that I work with and it is why I cannot accept the filioque other than in the sense of temporal mission. No amount of arguing about one spiration or one principle can have any meaning to me. For me, the filioque is a heresy like the Christological heresies in denying man perfect and complete union with Christ and hence our salvation.

  33. Lucian says:

    St. Augustine’s views about the Trinity are inexcusably Sabellian. End of story. (This coming from an open-minded OD, who, quite naively dared thinking at one point in his short life [and very much hoped] that poor ol’ St. Augustine can be read through the lens of ODy — and I mean ODy in its much wider sense here, [i.e. not the RC vs. OD thing]). A few redings from his writings quite clearly made that blue cloud vanish into thin air for me, unfortunately.
    Not only that my little light cloud popped with regard to Augustine’s filioque as ever having any chance to having an OD meaning, but it left him with a Sabellian view of the Trinity — something I neither dreamed of, nor expected — I was shocked, to say the least.

    I know Greek as much as I know Chinese, but ‘para’ ain’t quite the same as ‘kai’ [not simply as to its meaning, but also as to the concept]. (With regard to Western pre-schism ‘filioque’, remember the words of St. Maximus the Confessor).

    You continue saying that the Fathers only said “uncaused, generated, proceeded” and that thay said nothing about (for instance) that the Son can’t be cause Himself, but this isn’t so. I’ve searched for this thing in particular [God is in the details], and found that they were quite clear about this as well.


  34. Mike L says:


    It’s not only possible; it’s what I believe as a theologoumenon. See my posts on the filioque, especially the two most recent.


  35. Mike L says:


    Surely you know that I think it means what you think it means: the Father is the ultimate source of the Son and the Spirit but is not himself caused to be by anything.

    Mike, awaiting the Socratic punch line…

  36. acolyte says:


    What does “principle without principle” mean?

  37. William B says:


    Is it *possible* then that the Spirit has “something” to do with the Father’s generation of the Son as the Son does with the procession of the Spirit? Am I following you or am I off track?

  38. Mike L says:


    Apparently you don’t count Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, and above all Augustine as “Fathers,” or at least as relevant Fathers. I can excuse that. But what about Athanasius? In at least three places, he uses the phrase para tou Logou in speaking of the Spirit’s origination from the Father: Contra Arian.. III, 24 (PG 26, 376A); Ad Ser. I, 20 (PG 26, 580A); Idem, III, 5 (PG 26, 632C).

    I do not claim that Athanasius asserted the filioque in quite the sense in which that doctrine was defined by Lyons and Florence. But the notion that spiration has nothing to do with generation is not deducible from some putative consensus of the Fathers. I don’t think textual evidence from the patristic era can settle the filioque issue either way.

    As for the uniqueness of hypostatic properties, you have simply ignored the distinction I’m making. It is true that the trinitarian hypostases are distinguished from each other by relations of origin. The Father is entirely uncaused, the Son and the Spirit are caused, and the way the Son is caused is somewhat different from the way the Spirit is caused. That suffices to make each hypostasis unique with respect to relations of origin. However, IT DOES NOT FOLLOW that the Father’s causation of the Spirit has nothing to do with that of the Son, or vice-versa. Hence it is possible that the uniqueness of the relations of origin is not absolute; and I indicated to STK above that I do not believe it is “absolute.” That’s all I’m saying, and it doesn’t make me either an ignoramus or a heretic.

    Get a grip.


  39. Lucian says:

    Dear ML,

    Please excuse my outburst the other day, I’m really, really sorry for that. But there really aren’t 7,000 ways in which the Fathers spoke of ’cause’; and there really aren’t more ways in which they spoke of ‘ekporeusis’; and there aren’t really more meanings that they’ve attributed to the term ‘birth’.
    They didn’t see any other cause than the Father (some of them make only Him ’cause’, while saying nothing about another cause, … while others speak very clearly of Him as being the only cause, saying explicitely that the Others aren’t).
    For the Fathers, the personal attributes which did not belong to the susbstance (which is common) and were distinctive to each Person were just that: personal attributes that were not common, but dinstinctive to each Person. They are as clear as can be about this, and I haven’t got the chance to read at least one of them saying something in the likes of : “Well, you see, we really shouldn’t take this too literally”.


  40. Mike L says:


    As principle-without-principle, the Father causes bot the Son and the Spirit. But he does not thereby cause either to be, themselves, principles-without-principle. Since each is caused by the Father, then in whatever sense they may also be causes of each other, they are not causes as the Father is cause of each.


  41. Mike L says:


    It seems to me that further conceptual clarification is needed before you can characterize my position well enough to critique it effectively.

    One unclarity is about ’cause’, which is not a univocal term or concept. Even on the purely natural plane, there are many senses of the verb ’cause’ itself, and that even when we agree on what sorts of entities can be said, strictly speaking, to stand in cause-effect relations with each other. Use of ’cause’ in triadology is thus not only analogical but requires extreme care to make the kinds of adjustments required by the terms of the relation(s) in question.

    Obviously I can’t lay all that out here; but clearly we agree that the Father, as principium sine principio, is cause of the Son and the Spirit in a way in which neither of the latter could also be cause of the other. In whatever sense the Son is a cause of the Spirit or the Spirit of the Son, that cannot be the sense in which the Father is cause of either; so if we are going to speak of either Son or Spirit as a cause of the other, that will have to be in a sense different from that of ekporeusis. Let us then say that the Son and the Spirit are additional causes as “explanatory factors”: the Son, both qua hypostasis and qua indweller with the Father, is an explanatory factor in the Father’s breathing forth of the Spirit; the Spirit, both qua hypostasis and qua indweller with the Father, is an explanatory factor in the Father’s generation of the Son.

    Now because the Son is the Person who, for reasons I cannot get into here, became incarnate for us and for our salvation, it is natural for us to assign a certain explanatory priority to the Son over the Spirit in the Trinitarian taxis. This, however, is only an epistemic not an ontic priority; the latter would be subordinationism, which we agree is heretical. But because of the epistemic priority, we just are going to have a harder time explaining what makes the Spirit just as much an explanatory factor in the Son’s eternal generation as the Son is in the Spirit’s eternal coming forth from the Father. If I had the leisure to do so, I might write a book attempting to overcome that difficulty; if done well in a spirit of humility, such a book could conceivably contribute to the development of doctrine. But my hunch is that much of it would necessarily be and remain speculative. Its main purpose would be to defend the Latins from the charge of subordinationism.

    In that vein, I’ve already suggested that the Son could be said to be eternally generated by the Father “in” the Holy Spirit. Here I’d take that a step further. If economy reveals theology, then we could say that, just as the man Jesus was begotten in the Virgin’s womb “by the power” of the Holy Spirit, so there is an analogous sense in which the Son as eternal Word is begotten by the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit as from one principle—just as the Spirit is eternally breathed forth by the Father and the Son as from one principle. I don’t have the time to explore that further now, but I trust that the resources for rebutting the charge of subordinationism are there.

    Then there’s the charge of modalism, which seems to me facilitated by reifying the distinction between the essence and the hypostases. Monotheism requires us to say that each hypostasis or Person is the same God as the others, and thus is fully God; but the persons are fully and necessarily perichoretic; hence, there is no more to being God than there is to being the mutually indwelling Trinity of persons. The divine essence, accordingly, is not something really different from the Persons; it is what is constituted by each of the persons’ being God and thus indwelling with the others; and that’s what explains why the essence is what the persons have in common. God is not only essentially hypostatic, then; God is also hypostatically essentialized. This is why I prefer the Thomistic conception of the divine essence, which I have before contrasted with the Byzantine, to the Byzantine, which strikes me as a mere abstraction. So until we can agree on a common account of the essence to begin with, the charge of modalism is merely polemical.


  42. Death Bredon,

    If perichoresis is what the filioque admits, then is there any other type of relations that should be considered? If not, then there wouldn’t be any real particular uniqueness of Persons: all relations are just natural perichoretic relations. If the filioque is what the West Romans had in mind to state what is in common, we would all agree, but I do not believe this is the extent of their Trinitarianism. Otherwise, Hilary, Ambrose, and Gregory wouldn’t have used qualifiers like “principle” to refer to the Father [only]. I think they adequately, though not quite as robust as the Cappadocians because of the historical contingencies in choosing such a general term as procedere, express what is absolutely unique and what is in common. I believe the filioque of the Carolingians lops this off and/or collapses it into the perichoretic relationship. THEN, dialectics is the tool to attempt to distinguish Them.

    Why was this method so absent and why were the previous Latin Fathers, minus Augustine, so unconcerned in using it in expressing their Triadology?


  43. acolyte says:


    If the Father generates the Spirit as the principle without principle, does he also generate the Son as the principle without principle?

  44. Death Bredon says:

    I thought the Vatican (perhaps with a certain amount of historical revisionism) has said that the Latin filioque is an expression of eternal perichoresis (which includes the spirit, though that is not expressed in the Latin Creed) and not origin, which means that (at least now) the Latin filioque is the same as the Greek filioque (yes Gregory of Cyprus made clear that Byzantine theology includes the eternal manifestastion and thus a filioque and spirituque, though neither are proper subjects for the Creed. Furthermore, the Vatican has acknowledged that the original Creed in Greek is THE Credo of the Church.

    Hence, seemingly, the Vatican need only denounce Thomas’s specious scholastsic “dogma” of trinitarian hypostatic opposition to lay this to rest.

  45. Lucian says:

    … and sorry for being such a little ‘meanie’ 😦


  46. No mo' Mr. Niceguy says:


    The things You said about ekporeusis are simply untrue. You further confess to not knowing what the Fathers meant by this and that (and, among other utterly unimportant things, ekporeusis and the like) — are You really a Catholic? Furthermore, what You said about the distinctive personal attributes not being distinctive personal attributes is simply nonsense. (FOR THE SHEER LOVE OF CHRIST AND GOD, DO YOU EVEN KNOW YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT ??? HAVE YOU EVER READ THE FATHERS ???).
    Jesus Christ Allmighty, Son of God !

    In sheer stupefaction and utter amazement, and on the very verges of shock,
    — Lucian.

    P.S. : “as a Cath., I NEVER have believed the doctrine of the absolute uniqueness of hypostatic properties” ???????????????????????????????????????????????????
    You talk about “the faith of the councils acknowledged by all as ecumenical” — do You at least have the faintest clue as to what these words even mean ?
    I’ve put far to many question-marks … I’m beginning to sound like the Enigma character from Batman.

  47. As I see it, the ‘spirituque’ that you propose is too vague to have the have the effect that you desire, because you still deny causation to the Spirit within the inner life of the Trinity; and so, there is something essential to the being of the Father and the Son that makes them causes, which Spirit ultimately lacks. Now in order to correct this deficiency you should assert that the Spirit is a cause within the Godhead in the same way that the Father and the Son are causes, and as a consequence of this causal power, the generation of the Son would be a common property of the Father and the Spirit acting as “a single principle.” But why not go one step further and say that the Father Himself is caused by the Son and the Spirit acting conjointly as “a single principle”; or better yet, why not simply assert that the divine essence itself gives rise to the three divine persons as the ultimate cause within the Godhead.

  48. Mike L says:


    Thanks for the double blessing. I assume you meant to impart a double dollop of grace. Uncreated, of course. 😉

    As for your remarks on the filioque, I’m sure you’re aware that you, I, and several others who need not be named have been over this ground several times before. As far as I can tell, you uphold the radical monopatrist view with the premise that each hypostatic property is altogether unique to the hypostasis of which it is a property, so that nothing which distinguishes one hypostasis from another qua hypostasis can have anything to do with any third hypostasis. Of course that is incompatible with what I’m trying to do and indeed with the Latin tradition generally. But if I believed that the Latin tradition, as crystallized in the Lyons/Florence dogma, is incompatible with the faith of the councils acknowledged by all as ecumenical, I would not be a Catholic. But I am a Catholic; so, what I’m looking for is a way to harmonize what both sides of this divide are dogmatically committed to affirming. Obviously I do not believe, and as a Catholic never have believed, the doctrine of the absolute uniqueness of hypostatic properties. What distinguishes each hypostasis from the others the relevant relations of origin, to be sure; but it doesn’t follow that no such relation has anything to do with any other.

    You have misunderstood my argument if you construe it as positing two kinds of perichoresis. What I’m saying is that (a) God is essentially tri-hypostatic and (b) that the hypostases themselves are essentially perichoretic. It follows that you necessarily get the Son and the Spirit, the “caused” hypostases, when you get the Father and you can only get either of the “caused” hypostases along with the other and in relation to the other. Hence, the origin of the Spirit and the Son from the Father each have something to do with the other, and necessarily so.

    I agree that filioque without spirituque can make the Spirit seem subordinate. But as I’ve already indicated, I believe the breathing forth of the Spirit by the Father has something to do with the generation of the Son. That something, whatever it may be, is not exactly the same as what the generation of the Son has to do with the breathing forth of the Spirit. But as long as it’s there, subordinationism is avoided.


  49. ML,

    I thought I would be generous today, and bless you twice at the end of my post. You had the never-ending link, and I gave the double blessing.


  50. That is a very large link indeed!

    In my opinion, the Western theory that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as “from one principle” is a major sticking point for Easterners, because in the Byzantine tradition the procession of origin of the Holy Spirit is proper to the Father’s hypostasis, and consequently, the Son cannot participate in it without confounding the persons of the Father and the Son. A distinction must be made between the Spirit’s hypostatic procession, which is from the Father alone, and His manifestation in the divine energy, which involves all three persons of the Trinity. Thus, I do not see the Eastern Orthodox Churches ever accepting a procession of the Spirit from or through the Son that attributes causation to the Son (cf. the Tomus of Blachernae, nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8), because this destroys the monarchy of the Father and leads either to ditheism or Sabellianism.

    God bless,

    God bless,

  51. Mike L says:

    Oops, forgot to close the link.

  52. St. John Damacene held that the Spirit is ‘of’ the Son, but not ‘from’ the Son, at least as far as the Spirit’s existence as person is concerned.

  53. Photios’ comments in connection with ‘ekporeusis’ and ‘proienai’ coincide with the Vatican’s own document on the filioque.

  54. ML said: “Just as it is a necessary condition for the Spirit’s existence that there be perichoresis between Father and Son . . .”

    Perichoresis is common to the divine triad, but this statement seems to me to imply the false notion that the Father and the Son somehow form a single principle in the existential procession (ekporeusis) of origin of the Holy Spirit as person. The Spirit’s existential procession is a property of the Father’s hypostasis, and so it cannot be shared with the Son without confounding their hypostaseis. Thus, it appears to imply two kinds of perichoresis, i.e., a perichoresis that is common to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and a perichoresis between the Father and the Son alone, which in my opinion essentially subordinates the Spirit to the Father and the Son.

    Finally, as far as the term ‘ekporeusis’ is concerned, I do not believe that it can be properly applied to the Son; instead, the Son is generated, and His generation is a mode of origin distinct from that of the Spirit’s procession (ekporeusis). Moreover, I believe that even the Vatican’s own clarification on the ‘filioque’ recognized that the term ‘ekporeusis’ is not a general term, and that is why it distinguished between ‘ekporeusis’ and ‘proienai’ (general procession).

  55. Lucian says:

    Yes, the “of”-argument is extremely annoing and enervating from a purely logical perspective: The Father is “the God and Father OF our Lord Jesus Christ” (according to Paul) — does this mean that He is generated by the Son ??

    In Catholic Theology, the Father & Son are the single Source OF the Holy Spirit — meaning, of course, according to this line of thought, that They Both are, obviously, generated by the Spirit …


  56. […] Photios Jones has offered a response to Dr. Liccione’s post. […]

  57. Oh but the rest of what you say sounds good.

  58. Mike,

    I do not believe the “Greeks” had it in mind to use ekporeusis to denote a general category of relation of origin, but rather a very specific kind. I believe the more generic kind is proienai, which denotes a procession that is in common.

    I think it was Gregory of Nazianzus’s battle with the Eunomians that drove this point home that ekporeusis is a personal property all its own. For Gregory there was no step of “twoness,” and for the Eunomians there was just one way a Being could be “generated,” one following after another.


  59. Mike L says:


    I’m delighted that our discussion is proceeding in its original spirit. That said, allow me to respond to a few of your concerns.

    1. I agree there could be no perichoresis between Father and Son without the Spirit. Just as it is a necessary condition for the Spirit’s existence that there be perichoresis between Father and Son, so the existence of the Spirit is a necessary condition of said perichoresis. Both the existence and the mutual indwelling of the Persons are necessary conditions of each other: i.e., necessarily, God exists iff the three persons mutually indwell in love. (I speak here in terms of revealed not natural theology.) That’s how I explicate the Apostle John’s dictum “God is love.”

    2. That equivalence yields spirituque, in a sense, as well as filioque. The two relations are similar, in that they both indicate ekporeusis from the Father; but they are different inasmuch as something about the Spirit’s proceeding from the Father and the Son involves the Son in a way that the Son’s being begotten by the Father does not involve the Spirit. I think that’s what’s implied by reserving the essentially generic term ekporeusis for the Spirit’s proceeding while using the more specific “generation” for the Son’s coming forth from the Father, even though the latter is also an instance of the type of causation the Greeks called ekporeusis. Even so, Tradition gives us no grounds for saying, dogmatically, what the difference is; we can only say that there is such a difference. And yet the Father begets the Son as the one who breathes forth the Holy Spirit, so that one might say, strictly as theologoumenon, that the Father thus begets the Son “in” the Holy Spirit. That, at any rate, is what I believe accounts for the not-infrequent biblical and patristic use of feminine metaphors, such as that of personified “wisdom” and “mother,” for the Spirit.

    3. In no way do I wish to suggest that “of” yields “from” just by itself. The “of” part is only one premise for getting to “from,” and the “from” must still be explicated in a way that strictly avoids dual-hypostatic procession.


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