The Humanistic basis of the filioque and the seeds of Secularism

“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.” –Ratramnus of Corbie, Contra Graecorum Opposita Romanam Ecclesiam Inflamantium, PL 121, 247

“In general, according to these new sophists, who appropriate the possession of truth to themselves, each Person is Lord over each of the Personal Characteristics.  Thus, to them it seems as if the converse proposition, namely, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, is contrary to the dignity of each Person. In a word, however, it is ultimately we men who determine the processions of the essence, and therefore, it is we men who determine which Persons will not submit themselves to share in the characteristics of the other Persons.” – St. Photios the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 18

9 Responses to The Humanistic basis of the filioque and the seeds of Secularism

  1. If you want to read a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this article for 4/5. Detailed info, but I just have to go to that damn yahoo to find the missed parts. Thank you, anyway!
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  2. Jcw,

    I think the argument put forward by Photios is somewhat different. he is not advocating a bottom up approach. Rather he is making an argument to the effect that if reason is the guide in Trinitarian theology, then this leads to the absurd result that men are the determiners of God. He has in mind arguments like the one given that we need a distinction beyond procession and begotten to distinguish the Son from the Spirit. If not, the worry is that we end up in modalism. So we posit something true of two that is not true of all three. THe causal cascade follows essentially the same flow and reasoning as found in Plotinus.

    The One causes Nous, and the One and Nous cause Psuche. So There is one that is all cause and no effect, one that is both caused and and an effect and one that is all effect and no cause at all. Hence the Father and the Spirit form ends of a dialectical spectrum where they are most unlike and most alike.

  3. photios says:

    Once you’ve capitulated to the Neoplatonic worldview and surrendered the Church’s culture and faith to it, how are you going to come up with an acceptance of the Trinity? If I am a Moses Maimonides or Avicenna, I would be satisfied stopping right with the Neoplatonic philosophical simplicity. Why go on further? Reason gives *no reason* to do so. Worse (to put this even more bluntly), if I am Plotinus, and you have captiulated to me your Church’s doctrine, show me your trinity and I’ll show your gnosticism and take your trinity to the dialectical chopping block.

    St. Photios is answering the Carolingian view on its own terms. The German doctrine is indeed a “bottom-up” theology. The processions are not handed to us by the Logos Incarnate, but rather determined and defined by man and his reason.


  4. jcw says:

    St. Photios’ statement seems to be a ‘bottom-up’ theology, characteristic of contemporary ‘liberation theology’. Am I mis-reading his statement? As gael said, ‘pray correct and criticize’. Thank you.

  5. gael says:

    Sorry, i meant incontrovertibly. Further, Aquinas with his display and twisting of Patristic quotations overshadowed by Aristotelician philosophy- why not content himself with Saint John Damascus? Even his adversary, Bonaventura said it was not good to mix the wine of theology with the water of philosophy. Theology is experience of the Right Faith more than rationality after all…

  6. gael says:

    In my opinion, the big problem with the West ever since its widespread acceptance of the Filioque was that the endeavour to raise human reason to the sublimities of the Faith in fact soured into the dry, lifeless scholastic method. As there was no strong testimony to the Filioque in Holy Tradition, the western schoolmen had recourse to reason in order to remedy to what they perceived as Greek error in being content in believing in the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father alone. The Western schoolmen wanted to go beyond Saint John Damascus. They were not satisfied that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father through the Son. Where saint John contemplated the mystery of the Holy Trinity with awe and due piety, the Schoolmen thought it worthy to extend their rational inquiry into the very nature of the Holy Trinity, forgetting the warning of Saint Gregory the Theologian against the same. Thus, we had Anselm and Richard of Saint-Victor, approaching the Great Mystery from the lowly vantage point of reason and straining it to breaking point to explain the Mystery. Thus the Holy Spirit became the object of such a concept as “condilection” which is absent in Holy Tradition and somewhat reduced to the bridge of love between the Father and the Son. This in itself contradicts the Hypostatical nature of the Spirit, making it subordinate to the relationship between the Archetype and its Image, to borrow from saint Basil.This verges on the errors of Macedonius. And the Faith is this, that Divinity is the only “thing” shared by and common to all Hypostases, Divinity being their common substance(ousia), and the very fact that there be 3 Hypostases means that 3 properties and characteristics are not shared but proper to each Hypostasis. But our human language incontroversibly falls mute before such a Mystery. Here are my thoughts. Pray correct and criticise. Thank you.

  7. Nick says:

    Hello Photius,
    As someone who has by and large accepted your thesis, that theology proper is done within the domain of the church and its self understanding of revelation (in the context of the liturgy and ascetical practice as directed by the saints and not academics) I can’t get past the thought that there is at least a moment and a context for the kind of theologizing (maybe its a species of apologetics) done within the carolingian tradition, namely moveing one from certain cultural assumptions –> towards an acceptance of theology proper. For instance, one might move from an Augustinian undertsnading of the philioque because it would be where you might end up if you accepted something like the noeplotonic world view to start, moving toward an acceptance of the trinity. But you would then have moved closer to a right understanding of the Trinity (from a neoplatonic metaphysic) you would then at this point delve into and be more willing to accept the churches more complete (proper) understanding of the trinity. If this has occured the improper theologizing would still have served a purpose (this may be what occured in my case). Any thoughts?

  8. photios says:

    There are several stages between the Carolingian doctrine and relativism. What we have here though is the surrendering of the Church’s cultural autonomy in the face of man’s reason. In a word, as Photios says of the Carolingians, it is we men who determine what the processions are, instead of what God’s revelation to man of what those are. So, Ratramnus’ objection is just a complete non-starter.

  9. Niko says:

    The beginnings of relativism?

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