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Wednesday, November 16, 2005 

Filioque: A History Lesson

For MorningGlory2. A little history lesson on the Nicene Constantinopole Creed from Rev Todd Wilken, host of Issues Ect. on KFUO radio.
One Little Word; One Big Schism. Here’s a quick history lesson. In the year 325, the Church adopted a creed at the Council of Nicea. Today, we call it the “Nicene Creed.” In 381 the Council of Constantinople expanded the creed a bit. This is why eggheads call it the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. By whatever name, Christians today still recite the Nicene Creed exactly as it was in 381 —well, not exactly. More history: When it came to Holy Spirit, the original Nicene Creed read, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father.” However, in 598, the third council of Toledo added one word to the end of that phrase. The word they added was, “filioque.” It means “and the Son.” They added this word to combat the resurgence of an old heresy that denied the divinity of Jesus. After 598, everyone who recited the Nicene Creed said, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Well, not everyone. The churches in the East never approved of the filioque addition. They kept saying the Nicene Creed without the words, “and the Son.” By 1054, this issue, along with medieval politics, led to a complete split between the Western and Eastern churches.[3] Although filioque is just one little word, it represents a big difference between Western and Eastern theology. Again, Montgomery writes: Why the Eastern resistance to the procession of the Spirit from the Father and from the Son —in spite of the powerful biblical testimony in support of the filioque position? Because the Western doctrine seems to subordinate the “free,” “mysterious” Third Person of the Trinity to the concrete, historically-revealed Second Person...[4] Again, what is Montgomery saying? He’s saying that the difference between Western and Eastern theology is NOT so much about the Third Person of the Trinity as it is about the Second Person of the Trinity. The Orthodox reject the filioque because the filioque anchors the Holy Spirit to Jesus. Acceptance of the filioque would be a tacit admission that Jesus Christ is THE definitive revelation of Who the Triune God is. Remember, Orthodoxy is all about man’s participation in the divine life of God. Man participates in this mysterious divine life through the work of the Holy Spirit. The filioque would limit the Holy Spirit to testifying about Jesus. And Orthodoxy needs the Holy Spirit to do more than just that. The truth is, Orthodoxy wants to move beyond the revelation of God in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, into the mysterious inner life and workings of the Trinity. We usually talk about the person and work of Christ. There’s no disagreement with the Orthodox over the person of Christ. In this respect, Orthodoxy’s Christology is very “orthodox” indeed. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to Orthodoxy’s view of the work of Christ. The question is, “What did Jesus come to do?” Scripture says that Jesus came to save sinners. By “sinners” Scripture means fallen man, dead in trespasses and sins. By “save” Scripture means that, because of Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection, God restores sinners to a perfect relationship with Himself by forgiving their sins and declaring them righteous for Jesus’ sake. The Orthodox would affirm that “Jesus came to save sinners,” but they would define the words very differently.

You neglected to mention the reason for the first Nicean Council in 325: it was called by Constantine specifically to dispute the teachings of Arius, a Christian bishop in Alexandria, who taught that God the Father and the Son were not always contemporary, seeing the pre-incarnate Jesus as a divine being but nonetheless created by (and consequently inferior to) the Father at some point, before which the Son did not exist. In English-language works, it is sometimes said that Arians (not to be confused with ARYANS, who are totally unrelated to this discussion!) believe that Jesus is or was a "creature"; in this context, the word is being used in its original sense of "created being."

Because this belief spread, and conflicted with Constantine's Trinitarian beliefs, he called the Council for the express purpose of "laying down the law".

Constantine exiled Arius and any others who refused to accept the Nicene Creed. He went so far as to confiscate and burn all copies of Arius' teachings.

After Constantine's death, the battle was reopened; it remains unresolved to this day, as your post reflects.

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The idea that rejecting the Filioque somehow on Orthodoxy's part lessens the role of the Son is precisely wrong. What acceptance of the Filioque leads to is subordinationism of the Spirit to the Son, as a second source for the Spirit, and lessens the distinct deity of the Spirit; He does not proceed from a Person, the Father, but from the consubstantial Essence (impersonal) of the Father and the Son together. This is pure Augustine, not pure New Testament, as Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung rightly states it in his book "The Catholic Church: A Short History" NY The Modern Library.
We must reject the Filioque because Jesus Christ says the Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father only; if He had wanted us to believe the Spirit proceeds from Him, the Son, He would have said so here in John 15:26. Christ hides nothing from the NT revelation to His One Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church.
Sincerely, Scott Harrington Erie PA

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