Roman Catholic Sophistry

“All that the Father has which is not Paternity he gives to the Son. This includes the act of spiration, which cannot be identical to the divine essence, since the Spirit Himself does not spirate.

“That the principle in question–that whatever is not shared by all three persons is a personal property–is false may be proved by the fact that the Son and the Spirit have in common originating from the Father, while the Father alone is unoriginate.”

Michael Sullivan posted this piece over at their blog to try and disprove the Basilian principle that “what is said about more than one hypostasis is of the nature, what is said about only one is personal.” Let’s start with the first part:

“All that the Father has which is not Paternity he gives to the Son.”

This much is true. The personal properties of the persons are not communicated, but all that is natural to the Father is natural to the Son. The personal feature of the Father is Ingenerate, Source, and Cause. These properties are not shared amongst persons according to Nicene Orthodoxy 101.

“This includes the act of spiration, which cannot be identical to the divine essence, since the Spirit Himself does not spirate.”

The act of spiration is common to the Father and Son, yet it is not identical to the divine essence. So is this a personal property resulting in the semi-Sabellian monster? Or is this a natural property? Or is it some new non-Trinitarian property that we are not even told that must be accounted for?

“That the principle in question–that whatever is not shared by all three persons is a personal property–is false may be proved by the fact that the Son and the Spirit have in common originating from the Father, while the Father alone is unoriginate.”

Here we see the hypocritical thinking in Roman Catholic theology, first we are told that the Father gives everything to the Son except his Paternity. Well is Paternity a personal property of the Father? Is it shared amongst persons? So, what is personal cannot be shared, and what is not shared is the personal properties.

Finally, to show the real problem with this critigue, does Mr. Sullivan give a reductio using Orthodox principles as they understand them? Does he give a true internal critigue? No he does not. There is no “common originating from the Father” property! No such thing exists in reality. Compare Mr. Sullivan here with Ratramnus of Corbie:

“The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father because he flows from his substance…and just as the Son received his substance from the Father by being begotten, so also he received from the Father the ability to send the Spirit of Truth from himself through proceeding…For just as the Father and the Son are of one substance, so too by procession from both did the Holy Spirit receive his consubstantial existence.”

 

–Ratramnus of Corbie, Contra Graecorum Opposita Romanam Ecclesiam Inflamantium, PL 121, 229

 

And,

 

“Therefore if the Son proceeds from God the Father and the Holy Spirit also proceeds, what will keep the Arians silent, not blaspheming that the Holy Spirit is also the Son of the Father.”

 

Ibid., PL 121, 247

Ratramnus’ Arian presuppositions not withstanding, what is the problem with this critigue? It is none other than a commitment to “God-in-General” theology. Generation and procession ends up being the same thing as some “common property of coming forth from the Father,” as Mr. Sullivan affirms, and to distinguish the Son and Spirit, the latter must come from not one but two. This is why Thomas Aquinas in Summa Contra Gentiles can say that the Son proceeds from the Father or that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, they are both the same thing (divine simplicity at work). They are both just general ideas for “coming forth from the Father.”

Listen to John of Damascus, the other two Persons do not have some “common property of coming forth” (that doesn’t exist) but rather a very unique coming forth that is wholly and incomprehensibly unique:

“The Son is derived from the Father after the manner of generation, and the Holy Spirit likewise is derived from the Father, yet not after the manner of generation, but after that of procession. And we have learned that there is a difference between generation and procession, but the nature of that difference we in no wise understand.” -Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, C. VIII

Would any Orthodox affirm that generation and procession can be considered under a more broader heading of “coming forth from the Father” ? Surely not if we are being careful and following proper theological method.

Photios

15 Responses to Roman Catholic Sophistry

  1. Fr. J,

    That isn’t the point of the blog. Second, our blog is no more so in tone than Catholic blogs are of Orthodoxy, including yours. Third, of course we think the Catholic church is wrong, othertwise we’d be Catholic. Our claims here are no different in kind or severity than the Catholic church’s claims about Orthodoxy, that it is schismatic, holds erroneous teachings, is not the true church, etc. That’s just the way the world is and I don’t see it changing any time soon. Certainly your church isn’t disposed to relinguishing its distinctive claims.

    The problem with michael’s position is that there is not a genus called generation of which spiration and generaiton are species. The same holds true with respect to different modes of spiration. Further, we are often told that “from” and “through” mean the same thing, above michael tellsus that “from” and “through” do not mean the same thing. If so, then the entirely Beccian line of argument for the filioque falls flat. Not to mention that if the two spirations are one, they are not one exactly in the respect that from and through are not the same but different, so in some degree Michael admits that there are in fact two spirations. What he seems to be thinking is that there is some general way in which the spirations are identical. But so far as I noticed, he didn’t give an argument that there is such a bird, but only that his theology is inconsistent with Cappadocian theology. But we knew that already, which was exactlythe point. If Michael wishes to argue that his theology is not the teaching of the Fathers but something new, that isn’t something we are going to argue with since it in fact concedes the point.

    As far as there being no way to distinguish between spiration and generation, the rebuttal is easy. Since these matters deal with God ad intra, it isn’t possible to find a principle to distinguish qua philosophical content, since God is beyond act, and this is again explicitlystated by Nicene and Cappadocian Fathers. I don’t see why worshipping something that we do not know is a problem. What Micahel has not yet seemed to grasp is that we can say everything about *acts* of love being reciprocal and reflexive without talking about the divine essence and divine persons ad intra. That won’t get us to the idea to ad intra content without adding controversial assumtpions which we reject, which gets us right back to the starting point, why should the Orthodox accept these philosophical assumptions about essence and being in the first place as applicable to God? So far, I haven’t seen Micahel give anything like an argument for these assumptions and until he does, or someone does, the debate is idle and is an exercise in question begging.

  2. Fr. J. says:

    I am sure glad this blog is here to show how stupid, contemptuous, duplicitous, wicked and hell-damned the Catholic Church is.

    Is there not one glimmer of Christ-like charity or humility among the Orthodox?

  3. trvalentine says:

    From my perspective, St Augustine erred by assuming Divine ‘simplicity’ (a concept nowhere found in Scripture or Holy Tradition) which forced him to assume there could be no difference between begetting and spiration thus meaning there could be no difference between the Son and the Holy Spirit if both came from the Father alone.

    I think St Augustine’s ‘solution’ was brilliant — from a philosophical perspective. By having the Son also spirating the Holy Spirit a distinction was introduced. But it is a philosophical solution to a philosophical problem rooted in a philosophical mindset. To put it another way, it was a philosophical solution to a non-existent (from a Christian perspective) ‘problem’.

    Thomas

  4. Jonathan says:

    Dr. Farrell,

    May I contact you offline? I will not take up much of your time. My e-mail address is theognosis@gmail.com. Thank you, doctor.

  5. Michael,
    There’s nothing left to say. You affirm that they are different spirations in relation to each other, but nevertheless say they are One. Well if its’ one its the same spriration. And whatever the One Principle actually is, who knows? It’s not the Father alone, its not the Son alone, it’s a Father-Son spiration. What kind of Person-Nature property does that fall under?

    Photios

  6. Michael says:

    Thank you for this meaningless response.

  7. “Nevertheless it is one spiration,” says everything I need to say.

    Photios

  8. Michael says:

    “It’s not that I don’t understand what genius western minds will say, it’s that they keep giving over and over the same nonsense just as you are doing here.”

    I’m afraid that despite the glossy veneer of your rhetoric you haven’t shown yourself either sufficiently conversant with Western theology nor able to show a correct understanding of it even when it’s explained to you. Nor do you tend to actually address arguments when presented with them. So . . . there it is. The following is a rare exception to that, at least:

    “If the Father’s spiration is not the Son’s spiration, then it cannot be said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from One Principle, but in fact two principles. You just said that the Father and Son’s spiration isn’t identical. Sorry, try again.”

    Unfortunately you’ve failed to read carefully, or else to grasp my point. There are not two spirations, but one spiration. However, the mode of spiration qua ex Patre is not identical to the mode of spiration qua ex Filio. I already stated how. The Father spirates through another but not from another; the Son spirates not through another but from another. Nevertheless it is one spiration, proceeding from the Father through the Son. They are not two principles, but one, because the Son does not spirate from himself, but only by receiving it from the Father.

    “Look face the facts, you didn’t know of the Basilian principle prior to reading this blog”

    Incorrect.

    “and your other compatriot didn’t even know of it until you told him about it today (or was it yesterday).”

    My compatriot has not familiarized himself in these issues, nor taken part in these debates. He is in fact not the same person as myself, and has different interests and a different learning base. So that’s neither here nor there.

  9. Joseph Farrell says:

    Monk Patrick:

    Excellent insights and they echo exactly similar thoughts of St. Photius himself.

  10. Whatever the justifications and arguments that can be set forth in defence of the filioque, it doesn’t remove the problem that it is a distorted understanding of the Trinity. It is a very different Trinity to that where the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.

    The main difficulty, and there are many, that I have is that the double procession implies that the Spirit proceeds to something exterior to both the Father and the Son but there is no exterior and hence no procession. The term becomes meaningless and confused with begetting. Rather the Spirit proceeds from the Father to the Son, and rests in Him. It strengthens the understanding that the Persons of the Trinity are all interior to each other and One. This makes sense of procession and makes clear its distinction from begetting. It also helps to provide a strong base for understanding the Spirits role in salvation and what is meant by the Fathers when there say that the Spirit is only in the Church and if one does not have the Spirit then they are not in Christ. The temporal understanding of a double sending is important in comparison because it helps to understand the Apostles, Bishops/Priests, role in “sending” the Spirit upon others in Chrismation and Ordination. This in no way implies that the Spirit proceeds from them but they share in the Son’s role of sending the Spirit in time. If this is true of men who send the Spirit then there is no necessity that the Spirit proceeds from the Son eternally because He sends Him in time. If so then the Apostles would not have been able to impart the Spirit by the laying on of hands because they would then have to been able to eternally proceed the Spirit, which is impossible for created man. It is important for the Son to both receive and send the Spirit just as the Apostles both receive and send the Spirit in Him. Also, man could have no place in the Trinity if the Son ’causes’ the Spirit. Theosis would be impossible and so would our salvation. We would be condemned to the limits of time and space and separation from God; in fact we could not exist as such eternally.

    I believe many theological problems come down to a poor understanding of the issues of time and space. We struggle as creatures in time and space to break out of these limitations to work in a no time/space reality and all that this means.

  11. Joseph Farrell says:

    Well said Mr. Jones. They never will get it…because this is more than being about scholarship….it is about the content of the the faith. I would never say a pious Roman Catholic isn’t trinitarian in their piety, but their doctrinal formaulation seems to me at every turn to subvert that faith, and divide the mind from the heart….that is a schism in itself, and a great tragedy. We must all pray for each other and love each other. Sounds trite, but that’s the burden of my heart. Best wishes to all.

    Joseph F

  12. The Basilian principles is based on unique and technical categories about person and nature. If you want to give vague assertions that it is a fact that the Son and Spirit come forth from the Father, then you aren’t touching St. Photios’ argument.

    The temporal mission of the Spirit is common to all THREE persons. Who in patristic christianity doesn’t admit that the Spirit in being sent by the Father and Son, doesn’t also send Himself? The temporal mission of the Spirit is an act of WILL, and that act of will is proper to the Spirit! This is the basic argument of the Cappadocians against the Eunomians to show that the acts in the Economy are all co-equal and common amongst the Persons to PROVE their divinity for EACH Person.

    Look face the facts, you didn’t know of the Basilian principle prior to reading this blog and your other compatriot didn’t even know of it until you told him about it today (or was it yesterday). When it comes to Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity you just haven’t become familiar with the problem.

    Photios

  13. If the Father’s spiration is not the Son’s spiration, then it cannot be said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from One Principle, but in fact two principles. You just said that the Father and Son’s spiration isn’t identical. Sorry, try again.

    Generation and Procession aren’t acts of “divine love.” Divine love is absolutely in common. Creation is an example of an act of divine love, or the manifestation of the spirit is an act of divine love. You’re just inconsistent with Trinitarianism.

    It’s not that I don’t understand what genius western minds will say, it’s that they keep giving over and over the same nonsense just as you are doing here.

  14. Michael says:

    The thing posted itself before I was done. Sorry.

    Finally, and speaking of hypocrisy, it’s just bizarre that you bring out the “God-in-general” business in order to accuse me of reducing generation and procession to the same thing. (Your incomplete reference to Thomas, by the way, is wildly misleading, since Thomas’ point is obviously not that procession and generation are the same thing but that the Holy Spirit is the same thing, i.e. God, as the Father and the Son.) It’s more clear than clear–your own quote from Damascene illustrates it admirably–that the Orthodox have no way to distinguish procession from generation except by the mere assertion that they are distinct, while Latin triadology has a very very clear way to distinguish between them.

    One last point. Just as “originating from the Father” is *not* a “common personal property” belonging to both the Son and Spirit but a fact about both which is not true of the Father, so Spiration is not a “common personal property” for the Latins. It is neither a personal property, nor is it shared “in common” by the Father and the Son, since the Father’s spiration is not identical with the Son’s, to the extent that the Father’s spiration is from Himself alone and through the Son, while the Son’s spiration is from the Father and not through another.

    The whole point of spiration as, for the Latins, a nexum amoris between the Father and the Son is that acts of Divine love are reciprocal and not merely replicative.

  15. Michael says:

    “Finally, to show the real problem with this critigue, does Mr. Sullivan give a reductio using Orthodox principles as they understand them? Does he give a true internal critigue? No he does not.”

    I’m not trying to give an internal critique, but to deny the Photian argument mentioned on my blog by denying its main principle. I’m rejecting your critique of my theology, not critiquing yours.

    “The act of spiration is common to the Father and Son, yet it is not identical to the divine essence. So is this a personal property resulting in the semi-Sabellian monster? Or is this a natural property? Or is it some new non-Trinitarian property that we are not even told that must be accounted for?”

    Goodness, what nonsense. You claim to have such a mastery of Western tradition as to be able to declare it contradictory and heretical, and you don’t know how Latin theologians answer this? Or are you being disingenuous? Open a book, man.

    “Here we see the hypocritical thinking in Roman Catholic theology, first we are told that the Father gives everything to the Son except his Paternity. Well is Paternity a personal property of the Father? Is it shared amongst persons? So, what is personal cannot be shared, and what is not shared is the personal properties.”

    Where is this “hypocrisy”? I’m not sure that word means what you think it means . . .

    Your conclusion does not follow unless you presume the principle that I reject. This is called petitio principii, you know. You fail, by the way, to take account of the other argument given in my post, namely that the *temporal* mission of the Spirit by both the Father and the Son is admitted by all, and so this is common to two Persons but not three. That the Spirit is “proprium” to both the Son and the Father, that he is the Spirit *of* each but not, obviously, of himself, is admitted by all.

    You attempts to smear me with your typical “God-in-general” complaints are mere diversionary tactics. I said nothing about any of it. I’m not obliged to work within your “ordo” simply to reject a principle of a Photian argument, nor is Ratramnus in the least relevant here. You’re making claims about “properties” wider than I have made. I never claimed that there is “in reality” a “common originating from the Father” property. What I claimed that there was a *fact* common to the Son and the Spirit, namely that each originates from the Father while the Father is unoriginate.

    Finally, and speaking of hypocrisy, it’s just bizarre that you bring out the “God-in-general” business in order to accuse me of reducing generation and procession to the same thing. (Your incomplete reference to Thomas, by the way, is wildly misleading

%d bloggers like this: