Mike Liccione’s filioque doctrine…Orthodox?

Mike Liccione has posted his latest installment of our on going dialogue on the filioque doctrine. You can find it here. Mike has, what is in my opinion a very unique understanding of the filioque. Well, laying aside the problems that Orthodoxy has with natural theology, divine simplicity (which is based on natural theology), and theological method (ordo theologiae), I think he comes the closest to an Orthodox standing on the procession of the Holy Spirit. Why is it unique? I believe Mike has such a commitment to the Monarchy of the Father that I find him transcending both the Carolingian and Scholastic understanding. Carolingian doctrine saw the procession of the Spirit moving in a straight line like the following:

 Father —–> Son ——> Holy Spirit

The taxical order of the persons seems hardened in this view. That is, the Father is the principle without principle (or Uncaused Cause) and the Son as the principle with principle (a Mediated or Caused-Cause). The Monarchy  is viewed as a straight line Monarchy. Thomas Aquinas, though holding to the “one principle” doctrine, affirms this too when he states:

“But if we consider the persons themselves spirating, then, as the Holy Ghost proceeds both from the Father and from the Son, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father immediately, as from Him, and mediately, as from the Son” ST Ia Q.36A.3

St. Photios the Great’s criticism of this view is that the Holy Spirit lacks a property that is common to the Father and Son, thus, either the Spirit is also the cause of Himself or He must Cause another divine person ad infinitum. The former he called Semi-Sebellianism and the latter He expressed as polytheism. The Latins on this question later at Lyon and Florence confessed that the Spirit does not come forth from two principles but in fact One principle and spiration when the document states:

“In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this holy universal council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it: that the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration. We declare that when holy doctors and fathers say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, this bears the sense that thereby also the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father.”

The biggest problem that the Orthodox see with this decree is nailing down exactly what the Latins mean by “one principle.” Following Christology, the Orthodox only see two categories that this could fall into: Person or Nature. Either the Father and Son both share and divide this principle in their own respective hypostasis (double procession), or it is the Principle of only one person, or the one principle is of the nature. The first the Latins clearly deny and implicity recognize Photios’ dialectical arguments against such a view. The Second would seem to rule out the Son clearly as ekpourevsis. Mike and the Vatican 1995 Statement both affirm this. Though Roman Catholicism has been wont to affirm this, it has been the this third idea that has been a real basis of criticism coming from the Orthodox, that it is the divine essence that is actually the “one principle.” Indeed, Thomas Aquinas states that

[A]s the Father and the Son are one God, by reason of the unity of the form that is signified by this word “God”; so they are one principle of the Holy Ghost by reason of the unity of the property that is signified in this word “principle.” ST Ia Q.36 A.4


“If we consider the spirative power, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son as they are one in the spirative power, which in a certain way signifies the nature with the property.” Ibid.


“[C]ommon spiration is the same as the person of the Father, and the person of the Son; not that it is one self-subsisting person; but that as there is one essence in the two persons, so also there is one property in the two persons.

The Vatican white paper also states:

“The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Filioque).”

These texts are highly problematical from an Orthodoxy stand-point. How can one consider the “consubstantial communion” between Father and Son in the context of the origination of the Spirit and not also include the Spirit as a Person of this “consubstantial communion”? It seems the argument is folding back in on itself. On the one hand, the Latins tell us this in the 4th Lateran Council that

“The substance does not generate, is not begotten, does not proceed; but it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”

If we were to stop there, this statement of itself is fully Orthodox, but on the other hand, it seems they either imply or deduce that it is the substance. But how do the Latins reconcile this with the above? Mike asked for clarification of what I meant of how the Holy Spirit could “not also” be included as the “one principle” along with the other Two persons. Hence, it is really and logically the divine essence as the “one principle.” This problem was questioned by St. Mark Eugenikos and dubbed Illogical when John Montanero stated:

“When said in the preceding debate that for the divine substance their is neither begetting nor spirating. So it follows that the cause of the Spirit Himself is the hypostasis and not the substance. But since the hypostasis of the Father which generates the Son gives a part to the Son, the cause is the same through which the teachers say that the Son is from the Substance of the Father and the Holy Spirit from the substance of the Father and the Son.”

For St. Mark to say that the Holy Spirit is from the substance of the Father and the Son is to say that the Holy Spirit is from His very own substance since the substance of the Father and the Son is the Spirit’s very own Substance.

Divine simplicity not withstanding, Mike seems to be shifting ground and locating procession and generation not in substance but in hypostasis, with his insistence on the Monarchy as the sole cause of the other two persons. The question of the Son being a necessary condition for Spiration and as a final cause or resting object for the Spirit appears to harmonize quite well with St. Gregory of Cyprus II. The problem at this point isn’t so much Mike’s theologizing, which seems quite sound in many ways to me, but whether or not it is continuous with the Traidologies that came forth from the 9th century. I maintain that it is not, but incredibly intuitive on Mike’s part. It would be very interesting to see Mike put his ideas in published article form and address the ambiguity that revolves around “one principle” and its interpretation since the Schism. The reception and/or criticism from his own communion would be fascinating.

As I outlined my four principles of Triadology that I find to be dogmatic:

(1) The Father as sole cause and originator of Son and Spirit *as* relation of origin (one by genesis, the other by ekpoureusis). – St. Photios
(2) The taxical order of the Persons coming forth: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, expressing their consubstantiality – Sts. Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Maximus the Confessor
(3) The Spirit rests in the Son as his object, the Son’s existence from the Father is the Sprits aim for Spiration. – St. Gregory of Cyprus II
(4) The Spirit as bond of love between Father and Son, because it is this bond of love as the energy of the Spirit that is common to all. – St. Gregory Palamas, St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Cyprus II. This is how the Gregory’s interpret Augustine anyway.

I then stated that the Carolingian and Scholastic doctrine of ‘relations of opposition’ was incompatible with this view. I will outline and clarify that argument in my next installment. Stay tuned…

4 Responses to Mike Liccione’s filioque doctrine…Orthodox?

  1. Anthony,

    The point being is that if you consider the consubstantial communion first in your order of thinking in consideration of the procession of the Spirt and as the “one principle” of Father and Son: you’ll conclude that the Spirit is of this consubstantial communion and “one principle” and so He proceeds from Himself, or that He is not of the “one principle” and hence is of a different nature than the “one principle.” That’s the problem that we see it as.

    The way out of the impasse as I see it, is to distinguish between the Unique Causality of the Father as His own personal property in giving the Spirit His existence as Person and the consubstantial procession is an energetic procession, manifestation of the Spirit flowing forth from the Father through the Son (and proper to the Spirit too). This maintains the rigorous persuance of the distinction between Person and Nature, which I tend to think that the Florentine doctrine (“as from one principle”) obscures.


  2. Anthony James Puccetti says:


    Who says that Catholics don’t consider the Spirit as a person in the consubstantial communion? Catholic theology has no problem with the idea that the Spirit is eternally communicated as person from Father to Son and from Son to men.

  3. Apolonio says:

    I too wish Michael will get published some day

  4. Mike L says:


    I appreciate how this discussion is going. Although there are a couple of things I disagree with in your post, it is nonetheless a very good example of constructive reaction.

    I’m not going to say anything more theologically substantive in this combox. What I will say is that, although I would love to make a scholarly book out of the filioque project I’ve been sketching, I simply must get myself into a position to study the best secondary literature on the subject, Orthodox as well as Catholic. For years my life has made it virtually impossible for me to get access to a library that would enable me to do that. So, in the meantime, I’ll just have to chew it over in the blogosphere with guys like you and, of course, others.

    Thanks for maintaining your interest.


%d bloggers like this: