The Filioque: A Response to Critics


St. Augustine of Hippo, The Lateran, 6th century CE

In my previous blog post, I argued that the filioque as initially formulated by Saint Augustine of Hippo was perfectly orthodox. While I expected a great deal of criticism for making this case, I thought most critics would attack both the verbal distinctions I made as well as my lack of Greek knowledge. My lack of Greek, after all, is why I rarely tackle issues that deal with subjects that have their primary sources written in Greek (the Nicene Creed in this case). Nonetheless, I decided to write about the filioque in both a limited fashion and as someone who depends heavily on secondary scholarship for my discussion of the Greek language. Therefore, it was to my surprise that virtually none of the criticisms waged against me were on these fronts. Rather, the criticisms were pertained to Augustine’s exegesis and the scope of my initial post.

The first major criticism that I received was against Augustine’s exegesis of John 16:15, which says, “All things that the Father has are mine.” This critic argues that if this verse is used to argue that the Son must have a causal role in the procession, because such is a property of the Father, then so too the argument runs that the Son must have a role in his own begetting, because that too is a property of the Father. Such a conclusion, however, no Christian would endorse. It is too ridiculous on its face.

What this first critic has failed to realize, as I argued at length, is that Augustine does not understand this verse as pertaining to hypostatic causal origin. Augustine used this verse to justify the claim that there is an eternal relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now Augustine framed this relationship by saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds principally from the Father and communitively from both the Father and the Son. To briefly recapitulate what I explained in much more detail in my previous post (see here), when Augustine says that the Holy Spirit proceeds principally from the Father, he is using the Latin verb for procession (procedere) to denote the ultimate and sole cause of the Holy Spirit – in this case the Father alone. Meanwhile, when he says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son communitively, he is using the Latin verb procedere to denote an eternal sending or manifestation of the Holy Spirit that carries no ultimate causal sense whatsoever. This point becomes evermore clear in another passage of the De Trinitate:

Si enim quidquid habet, de Patre habet Filius; de Patre habet utique ut et de illo procedat Spiritus sanctus…. Pater enim solus non est de alio, ideo solus appellatur ingenitus, non quidem in Scipturis, sed in consuetudine disputantium, et de re tanta sermonem qualem valuerint proferentium. Filius autem de Patre natus est: et Spiritus sanctus de Patre principaliter, et ipso sine ullo temporis intervallo dante, communiter de utroque procedit.

Indeed, if whatever the Son has he has from the Father (John 16:15), then certainly the Son has from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds from he the Son himself…. Indeed, the Father alone is not from another, and therefore He alone is called unbegotten, not indeed in the Scriptures, but in the usage of disputants, who employ such language as they can on so great a subject. And the Son is begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally (principaliter), and without giving any interval of time, the Holy Spirit proceeds from both communitively (communiter).

Note: This translation is borrowed from New Advent and I have slightly modified its translation.

Augustine of Hippo, De Trinitate, Book XV, Chapter 26, Section 47 PL 42: 1094-1095

Here Augustine distinguishes the Father as the sole cause of the Holy Spirit by using the adverb principaliter. The procession from both the Father and the Son is a separate matter because this procession occurs communitively (communiter). One must remember that the Latin verb procedere has a wide variation of meanings, whereas the original Greek verb of ἐκπόρευσις has one specific meaning denoting ultimate causal origin. For this reason, Augustine used the two adverbs – principaliter and communiter – to specify his intended meanings. What Augustine means by this communitive procession is that in a relative perspective, not an absolute causal perspective, the Holy Spirit progresses forth from both. It is this communitive procession that the filioque formula specifically denotes and none other. The filioque does not specifically denote the causal origin of the divine person of the Holy Spirit (see my handy-dandy filioque chart below). To briefly stray from St. Augustine, this distinction, which I ask that my Orthodox readers strain in charity to understand, is all the more clear in the personal commentary of Christian Stavelot on the Gospel of John, in which he says:

A patre procedit, et ego mittam. Unum est, quia procedit a Patre et Filio.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and I will send the Holy Spirit.” (John 15:16) The Holy Spirit is one because the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Christian Stavelot, Expositiuncula in Joannem evangelistam PL 106: 1519A-1519B

Here Christian quotes John 15:16, which details the causal origin (procedere) of the Holy Spirit and then the sending (mittere) of Holy Spirit by Jesus. Now, keep in mind that in Latin, the verb procedere has multiple definitions. It can denote cause (procedere) or it can simply denote a progression or a sending forth (procedere) just like the verb mittere means specifically and only. The point that both Christian and Augustine are trying to highlight is that there is an eternal relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Son, hence a relationship between all three divine persons beyond just their essence, and therefore further highlighting the unity of the Godhead.

With this brief summary and clarification of Augustine’s position in mind, the first critic’s argument does not carry weight. The first critic’s argument relies on the assumption that Augustine is reading John 16:15 as pertaining to the causal origin of the divine persons. But Augustine is not reading it in the causal sense, he is reading it in a relational sense. So the argument – that Augustine is arguing that the Son is a second cause and therefore by such logic the Son must also be a second cause in his own begetting – holds no water whatsoever, because John 16:15 is not speaking about causes. This point is further demonstrated elsewhere in Augustine’s writings, as I detail in my previous post on the matter (see here), where Augustine clearly denotes the Father as the sole cause of the divine persons of the Holy Spirit and the Son. Now I realize that this point is difficult to follow because most people tend to lack basic Latin comprehension and reading skills. It is because of this lack of Latin comprehension on the part of so many, Catholics and Orthodox included, that I firmly believe in using the per Filium formula endorsed by Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople at the Second Council of Nicaea (787) or using the formula endorsed by the Orthodox Synod of Blachernae (1285) under Patriarch Gregory II of Constantinople, which said that the Holy Spirit proceeds (ἐκπόρευσις) from the Father and is eternally manifested through the Son (ἀΐδιον ἔκφανσιν) (Siecienski, 140-143). By using either of these formulas, both the eternal relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is what the filioque was solely denoting in Augustine’s framework (and having nothing to do with cause), and the Father as the ultimate sole cause of the Holy Spirit, which is what the Nicene Creed was denoting originally before the Latin churches modified it, are both clearly articulated without making anymore confusion.

To repeat: What the Son has, according to Augustine, is not the Father’s ability to cause the divine person of the Holy Spirit. That property belongs to the Father alone, hence Augustine uses the adverb principaliter in conjunction with the verb procedere. What the Son actually has, according to John 16:15 is an eternal relationship with the Holy Spirit – a pouring forth if you will, which the Father also has (hence the adverb communiter in conjunction with the verb procedere). To use an analogy, as imperfect as they may be, like a spring with a stream, water can be said to flow forth from both the spring and the stream (communiter). However, water cannot be said to have its cause from both the the spring and the stream. Rather, only the spring can be said to be the cause of the water (principaliter).

As the eminent Orthodox philosopher David Bentley Hart notes, the core idea here is the exact same as that articulated by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote:

… while confessing the immutability of the [divine] nature, we do not deny difference in regard to cause and that which is caused, by which alone we discern the difference of each Person from the other, in that we believe one to be the cause and another to be from the cause; and again we conceive of another difference within that which is from the cause: between the one who, on the one hand, comes directly from the principle and the one who, on the other, comes from the principle through the one who arises directly; thus it unquestionably remains peculiar to the Son to be the Only Begotten, while at the same time it is not to be doubted that the Spirit is of the Father, by virtue of the mediation of the Son that safeguards the Son’s character as Only Begotten, and thus the Spirit is not excluded from his natural relation to the Father.

Note: This excerpt is taken from David Bentley Hart’s article, “The Myth of Schism.”

– Gregory of Nyssa, Ad Ablabium, 55-56

Hart goes on to say, “This is the very argument—made by Augustine in De Trinitate—that scores of Orthodox theologians in recent decades have denounced as entirely alien to Eastern tradition.”  This opinion I entirely agree with.

Now, a second critic has argued that I was remarkably selective with my sources – that is I only really discussed St. Augustine’s articulation of the filioque and not the countless other Latin articulations of it. I believe I addressed this concern in my initial post. To quote what I said:

I am going to be very precise and narrow in my treatment of this issue here, because after all to treat such a massive issue in a single blog post would be too great a task for me and demand too much time – time which I do not have. For those who desire a more expansive overview of the subject with more history than I offer here, I suggest reading Michael Lofton’s blog post on some of the major divisions between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism or A. Edward Siecienski’s The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy. The parameters of this brief address will pertain solely to what Saint Augustine of Hippo said concerning the matter.

This second critic then went on to add the following, saying:

And yet regardless of Augustine or Aquinas, this is the dogma of the Roman Church as per the 6th session of Florence, 6 July 1439 AD: “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. And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

I am not going to comment on the problems I have with the Council of Florence (1439), which are numerous. Why? Because, as I said before, I do not have that much time. But again, I anticipated this general point and wrote: 

Third, there remains the question that even if Augustine’s Trinitarian formula is Orthodox, whether if all of the other Latin theologians and council’s understandings of the filioque are orthodox. To this question, I will not comment any further, other than the fact that I think it is incumbent upon Orthodox to be charitable and presume at first glance that any proclamation of filioque in a Latin author’s work should be read in a precise Augustinian sense. Only when there is language that seems to indicate otherwise, should suspicion begin to arise.

A Quick Handy-Dandy Filioque Formula Chart

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally (principaliter), and without giving any interval of time, the Holy Spirit proceeds from both communitively (communiter). What it denotes: In two separate thoughts, it denotes the causal origin of the Holy Spirit, then it denotes the relationship between the divine persons of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit between one another without referring specifically to cause.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. What it denotes: In a single thought, it denotes both the cause of the Holy Spirit as well as the Holy Spirit’s non-causal relationship with the Son.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. (ie: traditional filioque clause later inserted into the Nicene Creed). What it denotes: In a single thought, it refers to the eternal relationship between the divine persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – specifically showing that there is an eternal relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit. It emphatically does not refer to any cause, because that is not the intention whatsoever of this formula. It carries the same weight and meaning as St. Augustine’s communitive procession (communiter).

Bibliography & Further Reading

David Bentley Hart, “The Myth of Schism,” Clarion Journal, June 13, 2014,

A. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)

About Alura

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15 Responses to The Filioque: A Response to Critics

  1. Adithia Kusno said he had trouble posting the following comment. I hope you are ok with it:

    Alura made a mistake in the following:
    “It should be kept in mind, however, that in the context of this statement that the Son and the Father are one principle (De Trinitate V.15.13), Augustine adds crucially that they are one principle with respect to creation. He isn’t talking about the origins of the divine persons. In short, he is talking about cause/principle in a relative perspective. Whereas elsewhere in De Trinitate (XV.17.29 & XV.26.47) he is speaking about principle in an absolute perspective and not from the viewpoint of being a part of creation.”
    This is incorrect as St Augustine spoke of the Son together with the Father as the one principle of their Holy Spirit. The one principle here is not in relation to creation but to their Holy Spirit.
    How to reconcile this with Blachernae is that only the Father is the Principaliter cause. Principaliter is not first in sequence or honor. But Principaliter as in the Source or Arche. The Son together with the Father is not the one Arche of their Holy Spirit, the Father alone is. Fr. Louis Melahn has defended my monopatrist filioque in St Aquinas. In fact I hope to work on that with Fr Christiaan Kappes if he has time. St Aquinas is not an idiot who cannot distinguish filiation from spiration other than how many persons are involved, one in filiation and two in spiration. This is a bad caricature of St Boethius and St Aquinas. Second Lyons was not based on St Aquinas alone, it is also influenced by St Bonaventura. I highly endorsed Wilfred Royer “The Trinity in the Thought of St. Bonaventure: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective.” In fact let me put it here bluntly that Bonaventura and Aquinas are in one accord on monopatrist filioque.
    The Son is eternally involved in the spiration of the Holy Spirit because the Father begat the Son by having their Spirit spirated inside the Son as the Son is filiated. That is why the Son is eternally involved in the spiration. Also to explain why the Spirit is nowhere mentioned in the filiation as He is spirated within the Son’s filiation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alura says:

      It’s okay. I’ve problems with spam in the past, so I put the settings to where new commenters generally have to have one approved comment first before it goes through auto-approval. I didn’t see any of Kusno’s posts in the approval queue, however. If he could try again in his next comment, that would be great.

      As for my reply, Adithia Kusno is correct that I made a mistake. It was not my intention to warp what Augustine was saying. I completely forgot to consider his De Trinitate V.14.15, when I wrote my reply to Mr. Hamilton in which Augustine said, “It must be confessed that the Father and Son are the principle of the Holy Spirit, not two principles. But just as the Father and the Son are one God and that there is one Creator and one Lord relative to creation, thus [too] there is one principle relative to the Holy Spirit. But with respect to creation, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one principle, just as there is one Creator and one Lord (fatendum est Patrem et Filium principium esse Spiritus sancti, non duo principia: sed sicut Pater et Filius unus Deus, et ad creaturam relative unus creator et unus Dominus, sic relative ad Spiritum sanctum unum principium; ad creaturam vero Pater et Filius et Spiritus sanctus unum principium, sicut unus creator et unus Dominus).” I don’t think that this passage here contradicts the Father as the sole cause. And it looks like we agree on the idea that Augustine isn’t contradicting the monarchy of the Father. Again, my apologies for the error. I don’t think I made this error in either of my blog posts, but if I did, please let me know. I will have to go back and reread them thoroughly and make any needed corrections in regards to this just in case.

      I cannot speak to Thomas Aquinas at all. I but took Thomas Hamilton’s characterization of him at face value, so I will leave any defense of the criticisms launched at Aquinas to Hamilton if he so obliges.

      As for Boethius, I don’t think I mischaracterized him at all. He quite explicitly says the following:

      “Neque accessisse dici potest aliquid Deo, ut Pater fieret; non enim coepit esse unquam Pater, eo quod substantialis quidem ei est productio Filii, relativa vero praedicatio Patris. Ac si meminimus omnium in prioribus de Deo sententiarum, ita cogitemus, processisse quidem ex Deo Patre Filium Deum, et ex utrisque Spiritum sanctum. Hos, quoniam incorporales sint, minime locis distare, quoniam vero Pater Deus et Filius Deus et Spiritus sanctus Deus, Deus vero nullas habet differentias quibus differat a Deo, a nullo eorum differt. Differentiae vero ubi absunt, abest pluralitas; ubi abest pluralitas, adest unitas: nihil autem aliud gigni potuit ex Deo, nisi Deus, et in rebus numerabilibus repetitio unitatum non facit modis omnibus pluralitatem. Trium igitur idonee constituta est unitas.

      “Neither can it be said that anything resembles God so that they (singular) becomes the Father. Indeed, the Father does not begin at any point. Certainly he is the producer of the Son by means of that of his own substance, but the Father’s proclamation is relative. And if we have recalled everything in the prior statements of sentences concerning God, thus we think that God the Son certainly proceeded from God the Father, and that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both. These, because they are incorporeal, stand apart minimally. But because the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, but God has no differences by which he differs from God, by nothing of them does he differ. But when differences are absent, pluralities are absent. When pluralities are absent, unity/oneness is present. However, nothing was able to be born from God except God. And in the numerous things, the repetition does not make unity/oneness a plurality in any way. Therefore, three has suitably been constituted as unity/oneness.”

      – Boethius, De Trinitate Chapter 5 , PL 64: 1254C-1254D

      This is the only time in this work (although a brief work) that Boethius uses the verb procedere. And he uses it to denote both the divine procession of the Holy Spirit and the begottenhood of the Son. Maybe he is using the verb in an extremely loose manner, but it seems to me that he doesn’t think much of the distinction between begottenhood and procession. What matters most to him is the number of persons involved. I find this approach suspicious, although I am certainly open to having such suspicions assuaged. What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. BTW, are you perchance on Facebook? I’d love to have further discussion with you. My work is in biblical theology and the Eastern patristic tradition, though lately I’ve been looking at medieval Latin theologians like Eckhart and Nicolas Cusanus to see if there may be “roads not taken” in the history of the Christian West that could signal a pattern of life in full communion. I’m hoping to get a paper on Cusanus and Palamas published within the year. Your work is very exciting as it is self-consciously Orthodox and doesn’t gloss over dogmatic differences- and also self-consciously rooted in the authentic Western patristic tradition, which is read at a serious level. We need more of this. I’ve heard Larchet does some stuff like this as well but my French isn’t great yet so I can’t check in detail.

    Anyway, thanks for this stuff. Very, very useful. If you don’t have Facebook but would like to chat, shoot me an email at I have a bad memory and might have said this before, but if I did I’ve forgotten.


  3. Stupid question: your synopsis in the end looks legit, but why didn’t St Photius seize upon this? He seemed to ascribe both errors and interpolations to the latin fathers in Mystagogy, unable to contemplate they would use the filioque.


    • Alura says:

      There are a number of reasons I think. First, I don’t think any of St. Augustine’s full works were translated into Greek until the 13th or 14th centuries. Second, it is unlikely that St. Photius had access to any full Latin text of Augustine’s. Instead, he probably was only dealing with a Carolingian florilegium and reports from Greek priests’ encounters with Latin priests. These factors probably inclined Photius to take the Franks at their word as to how they described Augustine’s teachings (and let’s not forget that it is even uncertain that Photius correctly understood what the Carolingians were saying).

      The closest that Photius comes to acknowledging the idea of a non-causal relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit in Mystagogy is in Section 36, where he says (according to Joseph P. Farrell’s translation) “But if the procession from the Son is said not to be causal, then they reinforce their own poison, for does the procession spring forth by function? (For indeed if they were completely persuaded by this ungodly doctrine then they would perfect their hatred of the personal source of the processions).” I must admit that I cannot follow this brief argument of his whatsoever. But it is essentially the only time in the entire work that St. Photius considers the possibility that the Carolingians are not arguing for a causal role of the Son in the coming into being of the Holy Spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Photius appears unyielding in accepting the term on any level.


        • Alura says:

          I think it is worth considering in this case the extraordinary circumstances that St. Photius was placed in at this time. Technically, Pope Nicholas I and Photius’ detractors were correct in arguing that Photius’ rapid elevation went against the canons. The problem with using this argument against Photius is the fact that canonical violations of this sort, as I understand it, had been the norm in Constantinople for multiple generations by this point. That the axe fell on Photius had less to do with Photius himself and more to do with being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Furthermore, Photius was also wrestling with Frankish missionaries in Bulgaria and whose jurisdiction or influence Bulgaria would fall under, Rome by proxy through the Franks or Constantinople through immediate jurisdiction (or what would actually turn out to be via a Bulgarian Patriarchate). The prestige of both sides of the so-called Photian Schism felt the Bulgarian question to be at stake when attacking the other. So Photius’ stringent attitude here is quite understandable, even if one disagrees with it. If Photius could brand any Latin, Roman or Frank, as a heretic, he would carry the day. The same principle can be applied to Nicholas I, who branded Photius a Jew (intended both as a slur and an accusation of his religious legitimacy in this context). This sort of zero-sum game in argument is par for the course during these times, especially with so much at stake.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. On the interpretation of Florence, I think we ought to interpret Florence in terms of the Dominican theology which drove the Council and shot the initially hopeful prospects for union, as Fr. Christiaan Kappes points out in his many excellent comments on this subject. The Dominicans followed Aquinas on the matter of the procession, and Aquinas cannot be reconciled with the great tradition on this subject, despite his obvious brilliance and sanctity as well as my own personal devotion to him as an Orthodox Christian. The reason I say this is because for the tradition- Gregory the Great, Athanasius, Basil, Nyssa, John Damascene, and most importantly, Maximus the Confessor- the Son and Spirit are distinguished by their particular mode of origin from the Father. The Son is produced from the Father’s person by generation. The Spirit is produced from the Father’s person by procession. These qualities are what constitute them as irreducibly themselves, and generation and procession are distinguished only in the manner of their coming-forth. I say Maximus is especially key because of his role as something of a bridge between East and West, an Eastern saint who lived and worked in Rome, who knew the languages of both East and West and was acquainted with both sets of Fathers. The character of this distinction, as they all say, is ineffable. This does not mean that the only relation between Son and Spirit is economic- this makes nonsense of the Fathers. I would say that the Spirit is produced from the Father for the Son in order to manifest and thus actualize the unity of the Father and Son to Father and Son.

    But for Aquinas, this isn’t true. Rather, the difference in the character of procession and generation is in the number of persons involved. In commenting on John Damascene’s discussion of the theology of the Spirit, he simply states that Damascene made a mistake- one of the only times in the Summa that he states a Father of the Church was wrong. It’s important to note that not all Latin theologians agreed with this. The Franciscans had an issue with this, and Bonaventure may provide a more helpful Western way of speaking of the Spirit. But the issue here is that Aquinas’ teaching in this respect appears to be dogma through Florence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alura says:

      What you say concerning Aquinas reminds me a lot about what Boethius wrote in his own De Trinitate. He wrote that God the Son proceeds from God the Father and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both. For him, it seems that there was no distinction between procession and generation. What only mattered was the number of persons involved. This line of thought I find quite troubling, especially since it just casually discards any sort of distinction that procession and generation imply.

      I am not too familiar with the work of Bonaventure. Could you perhaps expand somewhat in brief as to how he conceived of the issue?

      As for Florence, I am a bit rusty on it. However, the wording of the declaration – “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” – seems to imply that the Son has a causal role in the Holy Spirit’s procession. To my mind, that cannot be accepted as Orthodox whatsoever. St. Photius wrote about such an argument as implying that God the Father is neither perfect nor sufficient, which would then entirely gut the Christian notion of God. He further pointed out that such an argument would mean that the Holy Spirit is composite as well.


      • scooter says:

        You actually did great work. I hope more Orthodox people will see this and there will be further admiration for the great St Augustine. You’re correct in your determination that Florence is incompatible with Orthodoxy. This is really the crux of the issue. Most latin and Orthodox theologians, even those ecumenically minded, recognize there are dogmatic differences between our two formulas.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sounds like we’re in agreement. Your view that Augustine’s view is compatible with ours but not with Florence might help elucidate why Palamas saw no issue in drawing on Augustine.

        As to Bonaventure, I can’t give much detail- I only made that note because I know there is some work out there making that argument. Kappes (whose work is, I think, the best on the schism) may have made some useful comments on this somewhere, and there’s a dissertation by Wilfred Royer “The Trinity in the Thought of St. Bonaventure: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective” which should give insight as well, though I haven’t read it.


    • “Gregory the Great…”

      Where does he distinguish the point of origin for the Son and Spirit?


  5. Your argument is something I’d very much like to agree with- as Augustine is a Father of the Church Universal, a theologian of Orthodox Christianity. If it could be shown that Augustine were not teaching what later came to be taught by Rome at the Council of Florence, this would be a major achievement in the ongoing project of constructing a neopatristic synthesis from the whole catholic tradition, respecting both the Eastern and Western articulations of the Orthodox faith. Yet, I’m not sure that such can be done fully with Augustine- while accepting a number of his important insights concerning the person of the Holy Spirit. The identification of the Father as the principal cause of the Spirit seems to imply that while principal, He is not the only cause: the Son participates in the Father’s causal power in producing the Spirit’s person. This is how Aquinas reads filioque because of his way of reading simplicity. Since there can only be one mode of opposition, the distinction between generation and procession must be the participation of the Son in the latter. Scotus and the tradition in which he works reads ADS differently and thus may have a more orthodox interpretation of the procession. I’ve been told that John Scotus Eriugena might light the way here.

    I suppose the question with Augustine would be whether his interpretation of simplicity is largely that of Aquinas. If not, it may be that his read was more like what came at Blachernae. Hart’s argument seems to turn on the translation he quotes which describes the Father as the “First Cause”, naturally implying a subordinate, participatory cause. Here is a well-constructed response to this point:

    I’ve written a paper on the theology of the Trinity in relation to Palamas’ teaching on divine energies, interpreted in accordance with its Aristotelian tradition. You may find it interesting:

    I’m going to post a piece soon comparing some of Palamas’ theology to that of Nicolas Cusanus.


    • Alura says:

      Sorry for not replying to this comment sooner. It was flagged as spam and only now did I see it. I’ll keep my reply brief. While “first cause” is not the best translation, I think in both the case of St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine of Hippo, to read either of them as stating that the Son a lesser but nonetheless causal role in the coming into being of the Holy Spirit would be incorrect. I know that some people have tried to argue this by pointing out that Augustine also wrote in his De Trinitate that both the Son and the Father are one principle (language that was eventually incorporated into Florence no doubt). To Orthodox ears, it sounds like Augustine is trying to have it both ways, saying that the Son has a causal role, but is not a second cause. It should be kept in mind, however, that in the context of this statement that the Son and the Father are one principle (De Trinitate V.15.13), Augustine adds crucially that they are one principle with respect to creation. He isn’t talking about the origins of the divine persons. In short, he is talking about cause/principle in a relative perspective. Whereas elsewhere in De Trinitate (XV.17.29 & XV.26.47) he is speaking about principle in an absolute perspective and not from the viewpoint of being a part of creation. This distinction might be part of the reason why Palamas didn’t see anything wrong with making use of St. Augustine, but I am not familiar enough with Palamas’ work to make that claim with any amount of certainty.

      As for John Scotus Eriugena, I think he would be helpful. He became well-acquainted with both Latin and Greek Fathers. I must say that I do not care too much for his De divina praedestinatione (one of his earlier works) primarily because it was far too Augustinian in my view. His later work, however, Periphyseon, is well worth looking into, although I have not read it to the same extent as his De divina praedestinatione. One thing to keep in mind though is the fact that while Eriugena makes prolific use of the Fathers, he uses and interprets them in ways that they themselves most certainly would not agree with. I don’t say this as a knock against him, but it is well worth pointing out. In any case, he does address the filioque clause in his Periphyseon.


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