Dr. Farrell’s Introduction to his translation of Saint Photios, The
Mystagogy of The Holy Spirit, Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox
Press, 1987, 17-56.
September 9, 2009
Introduction to the Mystagogy of Saint Photios
Joseph P. Farrell, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
The theological analysis
of the filioque contro-versy, an issue of great complexity which
has re-curred throughout Christian history since the ninth century, has
brought forth many different assess-ments. These assessments have
ranged the whole spectrum: from an almost overwhelming indifference to
the more sobering response proffered by Saint Photios in his
Mystagogy. For some Western theologians, the statements of Alan
Richardson may be used as a paradigm:
In the West it became customary to
say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, because
it was felt that the Spirit, though proceeding from the Father as the
source of all being, was given to the world by Jesus Christ, and because
the New Testament itself speaks of Him as the Spirit of Jesus as well as
the Spirit of the Father. But the Eastern Church never accepted this
usage, although it was mainly a matter of words and termino-logy, no
vital theological issue being involved.1
Father Richardson ignores the reasons which underlie the Eastern
Church’s rejection of the filioque because they are for him
merely “verbal trifles.”2
But such was not at all
the response of Saint Photios, the first major Eastern theologian to
confront the doctrine. His response was no less than a sweeping
indictment of the filioque. The doctrine of the double
procession was for Saint Photios a sort of summation of all theological
error; it said “all the rash impudence that there is to say.”3
Saint Photios saw in the filioque nothing less than a
comprehensive restatement of all the ancient trinitarian problems:
modalism, Arianism, Macedonianism, and even polytheism. All these
things, according to Photios, are implications of the filioque
doctrine.4 In the current age it is customary to dismiss or
devalue dogmatic statements; but these charges are too serious to be
dismissed so lightly. The very fact of their mention or implication in
the Mystagogy indicates that the treatise itself is an
historically informed response.
Well aware of these
historical parallels of the filioque, Photios likewise based his
reply to the double procession on earlier precedents, among them the
writings of Saints Athanasios, Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. His
treatise, the Mystagogia, seen in this broad historical and
dogmatic context, thus assumes the same significance vis-à-vis
the filioque as the other great Patristic classics on trinitarian
issues. The Mystagogy was essentially the first reasoned
response to Augustine and Augustinism from an Eastern “Cappadocian”
point of view,5 and is thus of premier significance in all
subsequent East-West relations, indebted as the West is to Augustine on
this and other positions. It would not be going too far to say that the
Mystagogy must form the theological and historical point of
departure for any Orthodox examination of Augustinism.
Our concern in this
theological introduction to the Mystagogy will thus be synoptic.
We shall seek to place the Mystagogy within a broad historical
context that begins with Plotinos and ends with Aquinas, a period of
roughly one thousand years. As we shall see, the work of Saint Photios
was to exert a tremendous influence, not only on subsequent Ortho-dox
theology, but to some extent on subsequent Western formulations. As a
consequence of our synoptic view of the filioque problem, we
shall not be able to examine every text related to the subject, but will
only be able to portray in very broad strokes the progress of
Neoplatonic simplicity and its accompanying dialectic through the
history of Western trinitarian thought.
In so doing, a
particular interpretation of the history of Augustinism emerges as a
consequence of our theological examination. It is thus hoped that the
reader will be able to see the uncanny logical accuracy of Saint Photios,
at times predicting some conclusions which the West would only arrive at
or respond to centuries later. It is also hoped that one will be able
to see the historical basis of Saint Photios’ response to the
filioque, and in so seeing, realize that the strong reaction of
Orthodoxy to the double procession is not a “a matter of words and
terminology,” or a case of mere recalcitrance against an “inevitable
dogmatic evolution,” but a response based upon a real and genuine care
for the fundamentals of the Faith. This introduction thus attempts to
vindicate the sweeping indictment of Saint Photios concerning the dual
procession by demonstrating that the filioque shares common
philosophical structures, commitments and ancestry with the great
Christological and trinitarian here-sies. That shared philosophy is
Neoplatonism and The Divine Simplicity
Neoplatonism is a
relatively easy philosophy to explain and a rather difficult one to
evaluate. The whole development of Greek philosophy was from first to
last a rational quest; it sought to explain reality through
reason. The painter Raphael perfectly epitomized the history of this
development in his painting “The School of Athens.” There Plato points
upward, toward the ideas, the immaterial universals, and
Aristotle points downward toward the material particulars. This
perfectly portrays the necessary tool for the classical philosophical
mind, the dialectic of oppositions; something could be known only by
some contrast to its opposite. Reality was treated in a very modern
fashion, as if it were a gigantic binary system. The focus was always
on either the heavenly and ideal or the material and the particular.
Even infinity could only be infinity by opposition to the finite.
Though philosophers before Plotinos considered the infinite to be
beyond the powers of reasoned inquiry, strictly speaking there was no
formal reason, given their presuppositions, why such a rational
investigation of the infinite could not be undertaken. But for hundreds
of years the Greek philosophers were content with exploring the problems
associated with the finite side of the dialectical tension of the
infinite and the finite.
Why this is so is
readily apparent. For the earlier Greeks, “perfect Being” meant
precisely a finite and limited being, for only such a being could
be defined.6 Even Plato had not gone beyond a
plurality of finite universals to posit one, all encompassing universal,
a “Universal” universal. Nor had Aristotle posited an absolute genus in
which all particulars could be comprehended. Plotinos does both. He
posits the “Universal” universal, the absolute genus, the infinite One,
and defines this infinite One as “simplicity.” Thus, with Plotinos and
the advent of Neoplatonism, a monumental change in philosophy took
place. In his thought, philosophy had its first real impetus to explore
the infinite in the context of a rational philosophical system.
This infinite One was
simply “the not-this.”7 Quintessentially speaking, it was
not any “particular finite thing.”8 It was beyond the
plurality of finite beings9 as a being that was infinite,
indefinite, transcendent, and utterly “simple,” having no composition.
This simplicity was described by Paul Tillich as “the abyss of
everything specific.”10 This abyss, notes Tillich, is not
simply “something negative; it is the most positive of all because It
contains everything that is.’’11 The One is thus that being
in which, by virtue of Its simplicity, being, existence, nature,
activity and will are all identical.12 In other words, what
It wills—Its will, what It is—Its nature, and what It does—Its activity,
are all by definition “wholly indistinguishable.”13
At this stage it is
necessary to make some observations. The fact that the One is no
particular finite thing means also that it is defined by opposition to
those very finite things,14 and thus from a purely logical
point of view, the One must always have finite things standing over
against it in order to be so defined. It must always stand in some
dialectical tension to something particular and finite. It is only One
by its opposition to the many, simple and universal only by its
opposition to the composite and particular, and infinite and
absolute only by its opposition to the finite and relative.
Paradoxically, and almost ironically, Plotinos elevated the finite,
relative and composite to the same logical status of the infinite, the
very opposite (!) of what he wished to do. In other words, the
dialectic of contrasts is very flexible, and will not always do what it
was intended to do.
A second observation
must be made. Because the simplicity of the One is such that it
includes rather than excludes all particulars, then it follows as a
logical requirement of the system that all parti-culars exist only by
the action of the One. However, this by no means affirms a creation of
particulars in the Christian sense. The One can have no control over
the “creation” of finite being15 simply because such creation
is imposed upon the One by its own previously defined simplicity!16
The One must always have created, be creating, and continue to
create if it is to be What It is. In a very modern phrase, the One
was the ground of all existence, even of its own existence. In
practical terms, the assumption of the divine simplicity makes
impossible the Christian view of a free and spontaneous creation by a
God Who was not compelled to create from any internal necessity of
nature or external necessity of logic. Creation was for
Neoplatonists an absolute necessity; for Christians it was, rather,
characterized as a divinely free act.
Because the One was
simple, any act of the One in willing to create finite particulars was
also an act of Its essence, since essence, will and activity are all
“wholly indistinguishable.” Creation is but the “overflowing of the
divine essence into creation.”17 There was, in theological
terms, no distinction between the essence and the energies of the One,
or between theology and economy. This is an important point to remember
in the ensuing discussion.
There are two finite
particulars which the One creates in Plotinos’ system: the Nous
(mind) and the World-soul. The One, without any activity on its part,
naturally produces the Nous. This Nous in turn produces
the World-soul in company with the agency of the One. The Neoplatonic
universe thus takes on a definitive, three-storied structural
subordination. At the pinnacle is the One, acting as the Uncaused Cause
of all. In an intermediary position comes the Nous (mind),
caused by the One and, along with the One, causing the World-soul. In
the last position comes the World soul, emanating from both the Uncaused
Cause and the Caused Cause. As a study of Aristotelian logic and
physics, this subordination is classic: the One has absolutely no
distinctions; the Nous has one distinction, that of being caused
by the One, and the World-soul, has two distinctions, those of being
caused by two different types of causes.
At this point it may be
asked why the One stopped creating with the Nous and the
World-soul, or why the World soul in turn did not cause something
subordinated to it. And the answer is of course that there are no
reasons, given the presuppositions and structure of Neoplatonism, why
these suggestions could not be carried out. Indeed, the subsequent
history of Neoplatonism shows exactly this tendency to multiply the
structural components of the system. Within the Nous, one of
Plotinos’ disciples would distinguish three new beings.18 Iamblichos
would carry the tendency much further, not only multiplying the number
of beings subordinate to the One, but even making the One of Plotinos an
intermediary being, and positing a further One above It.19
How are we to evaluate
Neoplatonism? Clearly the structure and dialectic underlying it are
quite basic and simple. The priority of unity over diversity, of
simplicity over composition, may be unreservedly called the basic thrust
of the system.20 But we may also say that there is an
inherent ambiguity to the system, deriving ultimately from the
definition of simplicity and the flexibility of its underlying
dialectic. This flexibility presents itself in two basic ways. If,
because of its simplicity, all acts of the One are acts of Its essence,
then how are we to distinguish between Its all-encompassing simplicity
and the very particulars which, by logical contrast to it, define it?
In other words, there is nothing to keep one from pantheism if the
definition of simplicity is accepted as a definition of divine essence;
for once any particular is asserted, it immediately collapses back into
an indistinguishable unity with the One, its creator. On the other
hand, once being, causal activity, and will have been identified,
because of that very simplicity, then what is to keep one from affirming
the eternity of particulars and multiplying these particulars to any
number of beings, each causing, with the One, the being immediately
subordinate to it? Once simplicity is asserted, It must, if It is to
remain what It is, collapse into potentially infinite series of Ones, as
in the system of Iamblichos.
straightforward system of Neopla-tonism is only a deceptive appearance.
As its subse-quent history shows, it could unfold into a variety of
positions, each claiming to derive logically from its presuppositions
and method. This inherent ambigu-ity is further confounded when that
definition itself is made to serve as the basis of trinitarian doctrine
in the theology of Saint Augustine.
The Filioque and Its Context in Augustinian Theology
doctrine is ultimately derived from the philosophical definition and
logical dynamics of the system that has just been surveyed. Each of
the problems that attended that system—the identity of being and will;
its consequence on an eternal divine creation; the flexibility of the
logic; the definition of simplicity in collapsing into an infinite
series of beings, or the tendency to erase all distinctions between
particular beings; and the structural subordination of the system—all
are to some extent involved in the controversy between the Carolingian
West and Saint Photios over the double procession of the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, the filioque itself, through the formidable mind of
Saint Augustine, combines these features of Neoplatonism in to a single
and concise expression.
The doctrine of the dual
procession cannot be properly understood without a correct evaluation of
the impact of Saint (the Blessed) Augustine, nor can it be properly
understood divorced from its context in the Augustinian program of
theodicy. It is not difficult to multiply quotations regarding the
signifi-cance of Saint Augustine. Paul Tillich wrote in no uncertain
terms that “he is the foundation of every-thing the West has to say.”21
The Roman Catholic scholar, Eugene Portalie, said that “Augustine’s
teaching marks a distinct epoch in the history of Christian thought, and
opens a new phase in the development of the Church.”22 From
Saint Augustine proceeds the entire dogmatic and ecclesiastical practice
of the West: “each new crisis and each orientation of thought in the
West can be traced back (to him).”23 This does not mean, of
course, that Saint Augustine actually said what later Western
theologians would actually say in each and every instance, but rather
that he determined the questions and manner of their thought. Broadly
speaking, Augustinism is a certain way of looking at theology; it is the
result of Saint Augustine’s attempt to work out a synthesis of the
Orthodox faith and Neoplatonism. As such, Augustinism is but a
particular method of handling the pivotal ideas of faith and reason.24
This method stemmed from the same desire which inspired the apologists:
the desire to defend the rationality of the Christian faith by seeking
one common ground between the philosophers and Christianity. Thus Saint
seeking as he did
. . .
the common ground between the two doctrines (Christianity and
. . .
could come to believe, without basis for it, that he found Christianity
in Plato or Plato in the Gospels.25
In effect, Saint Augustine was trying to state the Christian faith in
terms of Neoplatonic philosophy.26 But as a consequence of
his uncritical acceptance of Neoplatonism, the philosophical and
theological elements of his thought often became so intimately wedded
that they could not be divorced.27 By intensifying the
already inherent ambiguity and flexibility of Neoplatonism, this
ambiguous synthesis was to dominate the entire history of western
Christianity. Thus, Augustinism is such a crucial watershed in the
history of doctrine that one either is, or is not, an
Augustinian.28 As a summary of Augustinism, it could be said
that the net effect of Saint Augustine’s rapprochement with Neoplatonism
was to make revelation a philosophy, and philosophy a revelation.29
Saint Augustine assumed
that if there could be common ground between theology and philosophy,
that there could also be common definitions. He found this common
definition in the Neoplatonic simplicity of the One.30
Appropriating this definition as an understanding of the divine essence
of the Christian Trinity, of the unity of the Christian God, he made it
the ultimate basis of his attempted synthesis.31 Thus it is
the Augustinian doctrine of God that the point of contact between
revelation and philosophy, between faith and reason, occurs, and it is
through its doctrine of God that Augustinism must be approached.
Saint Augustine had, in
fact, made his “philosophical first principle one
. . .
with his religious first principle”32
to such an extent that, as one French Roman Catholic scholar observed,
even his notion of divine being remained Greek, that is, ultimately
pagan.33 It is at this point that the divine essence began
to be abstracted from the Trinity of persons as a prolegomenon to
The Divine Essence
Having assumed the
simplicity of the divine essence, Augustine, and after him Augustinism,
singled out the divine essence—as unity and simplicity—from all the
divine “pluralities,” that is, the attributes and the persons. The
dialectic of oppositions is already in evidence in this step. Two
things occur because of it. First, the unity of God begins to be seen
in impersonal, abstract, and philosophical terms, and does not find an
ultimate referent in the monarchy of the Father. But more critical is
the fact that the persons and the attributes, as pluralities opposed to
the essence, are accorded the same logical status. Speaking of the
Father, Saint Augustine says that
He is called in respect to Himself
both God, and great, and good, and just, and anything else of the kind;
and just as to Him to be is the same as to be God, or as to be great, or
as to be good, so it is the same thing to Him to be as to be a person.34
Underlying these mutual identities is the simplicity and, consequently,
it is hard to avoid the conclusion that either the persons have been
made attributes or the attributes have been made persons.35
The Divine Attributes
As in Neoplatonism,
where the being, will and activity of the One were “wholly
indistinguishable,” so it is in Saint Augustine when he considers what
the definition of simplicity implies for the attributes. The essence
and attributes of God are identified: “The Godhead,” he writes, “is
absolutely simple essence, and therefore to be is then the same as to be
wise.”36 But Saint Augustine carries the logic beyond this
to insist also on the identity of the attributes amongst themselves. As
Portalie notes, the later scholastic theologians who followed in the
footsteps of Saint Augustine urged that “our ideas of the divine
attributes are not formally distinct, but mutually compenetrate each
other.”37 Saint Augustine is even less hesitant and
expresses himself in a compact syllogism: “In regard to the essence of
truth, to be true is the same as to be and to be is the same as to be
. . .
therefore, to be great is the same
as to be true.”38 Again we recall the words of Paul Tillich,
who said that simplicity is “the abyss of everything specific.”39
Because the essence has been abstracted from the attributes, and
defined as simple, the apparent plurality of attributes is only an
artificial convention of theological language. Each attribute functions
merely as a semantic label, as another alternative definition of the
divine essence,40 and thus each attribute can be identified
with every other attribute.
There were two
significant effects resulting from this identity of attributes amongst
themselves and with the essence. The first was a blurring of the
distinction between theology and economy. The second was the
filioque itself. From the definition of simplicity it was apparent
to Thomas Aquinas, as it was for Plotinos, that “God’s will is not other
than His essence’’41 and that “the principal object of the
divine will is the divine essence.”42 As in Plotinos, this
makes creation not only divine by its nature, but also eternal: a total
obliteration of the distinction between theology and economy. Even the
Augustinian doctrine of predestination must be referred to this identity
of attributes amongst themselves, for “to predestine is the same as to
foreknow.”43 The determinism in Augustinism is thus not
ultimately biblical, as much as it is philosophical and logical, since
it is rooted in a particular dialectical conception of the divine
So strong an influence
is the definition of simplicity for Saint Augustine that he says, “to
God it is not one thing to be, another to be a person, but it is
absolutely the same thing
. . .
It is the same thing to Him to be as to be a person.”44
“God” for Saint Augustine, thus, “did not mean directly” the means to
attempt to distinguish the persons from each other. Having assumed an
absolute simplicity, the persons can no longer be absolute hypostases,
but are merely relative terms to each other, thus occurring on an even
lower plane than the attributes proper. “The terms (Father, Son and
Holy Spirit) are used reciprocally and in relation to each other.”51
There is a subtle but, nevertheless, real play of the dialectic of
oppositions here. One no longer begins with the three persons and then
moves to consider their relations, but begins with their relative
quality, the relation between the persons, itself. In other words,
there is an artificial opposition of one person to the other two. It is
at this point that the flexibility of Augustine’s Neoplatonic commitment
begins to surface in a more acute form.
When Saint Augustine
wrote his On the Trinity, he may have done so in part to combat
the Arian heresy; but he tried to use the Arian logic itself as a tool
in his refutation. The Arians define deity by confusing the hypostatic
feature of the Father, causality, with the divine nature. Having thus
defined deity, the Arians could deny the full deity of Christ because He
did not cause the Father. Augustine replies by arguing, for the full
deity of Christ by making Him the cause of another full divine person!
“As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to
have life in Himself.”52 Augustine goes on to reason that one
understand that as the Father has in
Himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from Him so He has given to
the Son that the same Spirit should proceed from Him (the Son), and both
apart from time. For if the Son has of the Father whatever He (the
Father) has, then certainly He has of the Father that the Holy Spirit
proceeds also from Him.53
Thus came Augustine to
argue for the deity of Christ by means of the filioque; for, if
the Son, acting as a cause along with the Father, causes the Spirit,
then clearly the Son is God. But underlying Augustine’s response to
Arianism is his acceptance of the Arians’ own confusion of person and
nature by the acceptance of the Arian definition of the divine nature in
terms of the causality of the Father.
But there is a new
structural element in this confusion. It is the element of a
subordination of the category of persons to that of attributes. The Son
receives His causality from the Father, not on the basis of a direct
deduction from the definition of simplicity, but by a more indirect
reference to the simplicity on the basis of common interchangeable
attributes. This fact sets up the ordo theologiae in which all
Augustinian theology subsequently proceeds: beginning with the essence,
it moves to the attributes, and only at the end considers the persons.54
On a strictly formal level of structure, there is a subordination of
persons to attributes, which are in turn subordinated to the essence.
Within the final level of discourse, the persons, the Holy Spirit is
seen to proceed from an Uncaused Cause, the Father, and a Caused Cause,
the Son, much as the Neoplatonic World-soul proceeded from both the One
and the Nous.
For we cannot say that the Holy
Spirit is not life, while the Father is life, and the Son is life: and
hence as the Father
. . .
has life in Himself; so He has given to Him that life should proceed
from Him, as it also proceeds from Himself.55
Here not only has the property of causality, the unique personal
distinction of the Father, been exchanged with the Son on the basis of
the common attribute of life, but that attribute which proceeds from the
Father and the Son turns out to be the Holy Spirit. It is precisely the
Holy Spirit Who is the attribute common to both. Thus a person has been
confused with a common attribute of all three persons.56
The whole process seems
to defeat itself at every turn. Having made the Spirit proceed from the
Father and the Son because the Father and the Son share common
attributes, since the essence is simple, the Spirit then becomes an
attribute, He defines the essence and, indeed, is the essence, the unity
of the Trinity:
Because both the Father is a spirit
and the Son is a spirit, and because the Father is Holy and the Son is
Holy, therefore . . . since, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are
one God, and certainly God is Holy, and God is a spirit, the Trinity can
be called also the Holy Spirit.57
That is, since the name Holy Spirit defines attributes “suitable to both
the Father and the Son,”58 He becomes the new principle of
unity in God, the “substantial and consubstantial love of both”59
the Father and the Son. In short, the Holy Spirit is the very essence
from which the whole process began. He does not in turn cause a new
person and so on ad infinitum but, as Thomas Aquinas was to
observe, “the cycle is concluded when
. . .
it returns to the very substance from which the proceeding began.”60
Having begun with a definition—simplicity—the process has ended with the
same definition, after a dazzling display of sublime, if not confusing,
dialectics. It may be useful at this point to anticipate one argument
of Saint Photios. If the Holy Spirit is life, proceeding from the
Father and the Son, then what should stop one from making the Son take
His life from the Spirit, so that the “Son turns out to be the Son, not
of the Father only, but also of the Holy Spirit?”61 But this
is “most absurd,”62 because “being the Father is not common
to them, so that they should be interchangeably Fathers to one another.”63
What makes these remarks so significant is not so much that they are
arguments that Photios employs, but that they came from the lips of
Saint Augustine himself. Seeing the logic of his position, he simply
repudiated it as being absurdly contradictory to the faith. Saint
Augustine, for some reason, sees the obvious implications of his
theology at this point, yet for some reason fails to see it at the point
of the filioque. Had he been aware that the filioque
makes the Spirit stand in the same causal relationship to the Son as the
Son to the Father, he would doubtless have repudiated it as well. But
what was apparent to Saint Augustine at this point was that his
triadology was breaking down at the precise point at which it occurred:
the synthesis of theology with Neoplatonism. He is clearly not
comfortable with the Neoplatonic simplicity or its logical dynamic. In
the words of Gilson, “the platonic frame is, so to speak, bursting under
the internal pressure of its Christian contents.”64
With the dogma of the
filioque we have reached the heart of the tension that is
Augustinism. With this doctrine one is always in the presence of an
unceasing cycle, an anxious and tense dialectic which begins in the
unity of the essence; unfolds into an artificial plurality of
attributes, which then collapses back into the essence, then to unfold
into the persons, thence to collapse back into the Holy Spirit, the
essence, once again. Richard Haugh adequately summarizes the effects of
this approach to the trinitarian dogma:
For Augustine, existence itself is
not personal, for whatever is personal in the divinity is not absolute
but relative. Person is ad se identical to the essence. Person
becomes merely another aspect of existence; for God to exist is the same
as to be person,65
just as it is the same to be good, just, and wise.
In this process, the
process that came to be called the “dialectic of love” in the Middle
Ages, the dynamic of the one and the many, of the one unfolding itself
into two and collapsing back into one, is always present. Once again,
Dr. Haugh is correct:
Although Augustine’s dialectic takes
many forms, there are always four basic elements:
essentia—that about which the dialectic is.
essentia—manifesting itself (the Fathers).
essentia—as manifested (the Son).
essentia—uniting that which manifests itself with that which is
manifested (the Holy Spirit) or the expression of that which is itself
with that which is manifested.66
By the dogma of the filioque, reason and dialectic become the
very essence of the divine essence. It should be stressed that
the essential step in the dynamics of the filioque was to confuse
the persons with the attributes and not directly with the essence, and
then to subordinate a person to those attributes by making a divine
relation dependent upon those same common attributes.
Before considering the
related historical antecedents of the filioque, it will be
helpful to summarize the structural dynamics of the filioque in
1. The Essence.
A. The divine
essence is assumed to be simple.
B. If the divine
essence is simple, then several things follow:
1. The essence is
equivalent to the attributes both severally and individually.
2. The essence is
equivalent to the persons, both severally and individually.
C. Like the
Neoplatonic One, the simplicity of the divine essence transcends the
multiplicity of the divine pluralities (attributes and persons) as unity
transcends multiplicity. Several things follow.
2. The Attributes.
A. The attributes
have the same logical status vis-a-vis the essence, and therefore,
B. As regards
C. The attributes are
all “wholly indistinguish-able.”
3. The Persons.
At the lowest level of discourse,
the persons are subordinated to the attributes because the Spirit’s
procession from the Father has been given to the Son, since the Father
and the Son share common attributes (life, holiness, spirituality).
And within this level of discourse dealing with the persons, an
effective subor-dination of the Holy Spirit to the Son and Father
occurs, the Father having no distinctions, the Son having that of being
caused, and the Holy Spirit having two distinctions, being caused by two
different classes of causes.
B. The Holy Spirit, because He
proceeds from the Father and the Son, becomes the new focus of unity in
1. The name “Holy
Spirit” thus defines the divine essence and
2. is thus
capable of signifying the entire Trinity.
The significance of the
structure outlined above will be entirely lost unless juxtaposed with
parallel structures to be found in the ancient Christological heresies
associated with Arianism, for it is the interposition of a category
between the essence and persons, i.e. the attributes, which bears some
significant structural similarity to the systems of Arios and Euunomios.
We must now survey the progress of Neoplatonism in the East, in
Alexandria, before turning at last to the response of Saint Photios to
Heretical Parallels to the Dynamics of Filioque
It was at the great
school of Alexandria that Neoplatonism made the greatest inroads into
Christian theology. It was restated and transformed in the theological
work of Origen, there to become the philosophical basis for all the
great heresies. Because the Neoplatonic simplicity allowed for no
distinctions in God, all divine activity was at once an act of the
essence and of the will. Likewise, Origen’s theology “also failed to
distinguish between the ontological and cosmological dimensions.”67
As V.V. Bolotov observed, the problem was a specifically trinitarian
problem, because “the logical link between the generation of the Son and
the existence of the world was not yet broken in the speculation of
As with Augustine, the
divine attributes were seen as definitions of the divine essence. Thus
for God to be truly Creator, He must always have been creator,
just as in the same sense He always had to be the Father.69
The thrust of Origen’s theology is consequently to preserve the deity
of the Son, but at the cost of making the creation itself an eternal act
of God. The distinction between the Creator and creation has not been
adequately made and, in this, Origenism is a faithful reflection of the
pantheistic tendencies of its parent philosophy. “As one cannot be a
father apart from a son, nor a lord apart from holding possession of a
slave, so we cannot even call God Almighty it there are none over whom
He can exercise His power.”70 Thus, Origen could even go so
far as to affirm that the Son was begotten of the will of God.71
In an insightful summary of the problem-atic in Origenism, Fr. Georges
Florovsky states that:
In any case, the controversies of
the fourth century can be properly understood only in the perspective of
Origen’s theology and problem-atic. Within the system itself there were
but two opposite options: to reject the eternity of the world or to
contest the eternity of the Logos.72
The later option was that pursued by Arios. Arios defined absolute
deity by the personal feature of the Father, that is, as the unique
source and cause of being. What happens in the dynamics of Arianism, in
other words, is that there is a sort of “Sabellian” confusion of the
person of the Father with the divine essence. Thus,
Two major points were
made: (A) the total dissimilarity between God and all other
realities which “had beginnings,” begin-ning of any kind; (B) the
“beginning” itself. The Son has a “beginning” simply because He was
a son, that is—originated from the
Father, as His arche: only God (the Father) was
anarchos in the strict sense of the word.73
The Son, as caused, thus stands as the highest of creatures, midway
between the Father-Essence and the lower created order. Structurally,
the Son stands in the same relation to the Father as the Nous stood in
relation to the One in Plotinos.
replying to this structure, makes a significant comment which guided the
response of Saint Photios to the filioque. If the Son were to be
truly God in the Arian system, then,
it necessarily holds that as He is
begotten, so He begets, and He too becomes the Father of a son. And
again, he who is begotten from Him, begets in his turn, and so on
without limit; for this is to make the begotten like Him that begat Him.74
Saint Athanasios thus concedes that if deity could be defined as
causality, then God would be a parent like man and that “His Son
should be father of another, and so on in succession one from another
till the series they imagine grows into a multitude of gods.”75
Once again, the Neoplatonic tendency to multiply the structural
components of the system is in evidence. This same definitional logic
is behind Saint Photios’ question, when he asks why the Holy Spirit is
not made a grandson in the dynamics of the filioque.76
The refutation of Saint
Athanasios was to deny the root of the Arian error, the simplicity, and
its implication that God could be defined. The whole tone of his
argument was set by the presupposition of a “basic distinction between
‘essence’ and ‘will,’ which alone could establish the real difference in
kind between ‘generation’ and ‘creation.’’’77 The absolute
distinction of persons, attributes, and essence was maintained
throughout the theology of Saint Athanasios, even though these
categories had not yet crystallized into a set theological vocabulary.
More importantly, the trinitarian being of God was given an ontological
priority over His action and Will78–the precisely opposite
structural order to Augustinian theology, where the attributes and
essence are given a priority to the persons. On the basis of this
distinction between being and will, notes Father Florovsky, Athanasios
replied that it was “an insane and extravagant idea to put ‘will’ and
‘counsel’ between the Father and the Son.”79 In this
structure, the ontological priority of the category of attributes to
persons was precisely the point at issue between Saint Athanasios and
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
faced the same problem when confronted with Eunomianism. Eunomios,
according to Gregory, went on to declare “that a certain energy which
follows upon the first Being (The Father)
. . .
produced the Son of God
. . .
Who is a work commensurate with the producing energy.”80 For
Eunomios, as for Arios, there was a further category which, following
upon the initial definition, was “to be conceived of as prior to the
only-begotten,”81 precisely because it was the cause of the
only-begotten. Saint Gregory drives the structure to a reductio ad
absurdum by asking, “Why do we go on talking of the Almighty as the
Father, if it was not He, but an energy which follows Him externally,
that produced the Son, and how can the Son be a Son any longer?”82
In this context, the Eunomian theology of the Holy Spirit is most
significant; Saint Gregory says that Eunomios:
separates off that equality with the
Father and the Son of His (the Holy Spirit’s) proper rank and connection
which our Lord Himself pronounces, and numbers Him with subjects and
declares Him to be a work of both persons, of the Father, as supplying
the cause of His constitution, of the only-begotten, as of the artificer
of His subsistence.83
The Eunomian system, having made the Son a product of an energy of the
Father, then goes on to make the Spirit a work of the Father and the
Son. It would appear that once again the Neoplatonic subordination of
beings occurred. Saint Gregory calls this whole structure “blasphemy
. . .
plain and un-concealed.”84 For Saint Gregory, Eunomios’
system “starts from data that are not granted, and then constructs by
mere logic a blasphemy upon them.”85 What are these data that
“are not granted?” The divine simplicity.86
The point of contention
for Saint Gregory, as for Saint Athanasios, was the structural
subordination imposed upon the divine hypostases by a definition
inherently pagan. And notably, a particularly intense controversy
centers upon the presence of the logical priority of a category of
energies or attributes to any of the divine persons. Such a position
was always perceived as Arianism. The resemblance that this energy in
the structure of Eunomios bears to the attributes in Augustinian
triadology is more than coincidental. Having assumed the definition of
simplicity, both Eunomios and Saint Augustine were bound by that
definition to produce similar theological structures, even if they were
entirely at cross purposes in so doing.
It is worth mentioning
that there was a minor controversy between Theodoretos of Kyros and
Saint Cyril of Alexandria over the procession of the Holy Spirit. Saint
Cyril taught that the Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son.87
In words that could be taken from Augustine, Cyril remarks
“inasmuch as the Son is God and from God, by nature, since He has been
truly generated from God the Father, the Spirit is His own, and He is in
Him and from Him.”88 The tendency of Cyril at times to
confuse the terms “persons” and “nature” is well-known. Perhaps blessed
Theodoretos understood Saint Cyril to have done this by affirming this
understanding of the procession, because his response is swift and
If Cyril means that the Holy Spirit
has his existence from or through the Son, we repudi-ate this as
irreligious blasphemy. We believe that, in the Lord’s own words, the
Spirit proceeds from the Father.89
Though it may be that Saint Cyril did understand the procession of the
Holy Spirit in the filioquist sense, it is more probable that he could
have intended to denote the sending of the Spirit in the economy. This
would seem to correspond better with his remarks in his thirty-ninth
letter to John of Antioch:
The . . . contention of the Latins .
. . was reasonably considered by the Orthodox as leading to the
confusion of the three hypostatic persons with the common attributes of
each person, and to their manifestations and relations with the world.90
However, the significance of this little controversy between Theodoretos
and Cyril should not be dismissed too lightly. It is quite significant
that Cyril, a product of Alexandrian theology, influenced as it was by
Neoplatonism, is unfortunately ambiguous in his choice of words, and it
is not less significant that Theodoretos, an Antiochene, and thus
opposed to Alexandrian theology, reacts so strongly to this point.
This brings the survey
of the background of the Mystagogy to a close. Many topics have
been dis-cussed, and it will be helpful to reiterate them before
examining the reply of Saint Photios to the filioque.
The Neoplatonic definition of simplicity and its dialectic produced a
simple structure, fea-turing a basic subordination and gradation of a
hierarchy of beings.
structure tended to do two things. It either collapsed into an absolute
unity of an almost pantheistic type, or expanded to an ever-increasing
series of beings. This was evident not only in Neoplatonism, but was
also present in the Arian controversy.
The definition of simplicity, tending to obscure all distinctions, made
impossible a real distinction of nature, activity and will. For both
Plotinos and Aquinas, the principal act of the essence of God was also
an act of the will. Creation thus becomes impossible if considered as
creation ex nihilo.
The structural subordination of Neoplatonism was apparent in filioquism
in two forms. In the theological model of Augustine, it occurs by
beginning with the essence, then moving to consider the attributes, and
finally the persons. This structure was opposite to Saint Athanasios,
whose experience of the personal was primary in his theology. But the
subordination also occurs by making the Holy Spirit proceed from two
different classes of causes: from the Father, the Uncaused Cause, and
from the Son, the Caused Cause, much like the Word-soul emanated from
the One and the Nous.
structural subordination of persons to attributes or to the abstract
category of “energy” or “will,” the structure present in Augustinian
arguments for the filioque, also occurred in Arianism and
Eunomianism, the difference being that in the latter two systems it is
the Son and not the Spirit who is so subordinated.
The confusion of nature and persons occurs in Arianism when it defines
deity by the personal feature of the Father. The same also occurs in
the thought of Saint Augustine, though it is also clear that the latter
is uncomfortable with this dynamic when he sees its modalistic
These thoughts must be kept in mind in the examination of Saint Photios’
response to the filioque in the Mystagogy.
The Reply of Saint Photios to the Structure and Logical Dynamics
of the Filioque
The uneasy tension in
Saint Augustine’s own theology between his commitment to the monarch of
the Father, on the one hand,91 and his philosophical
definition of deity, on the other hand, had, by the time of the
Carolingians, given way to an almost exclusive emphasis on the divine
essence alone as the principle of deity. The Carolingians, in so doing
were entirely faithful to the logic of Saint Augustine’s
position. But they totally ignored Saint Augustine’s own discomfort
with the modalist implications of his theology, and were not at all
faithful to his more critical and traditional spirit. This fact
intensifies the conflict between Photios and the Carolingians.
The arguments of Saint
Photios may be grouped into four broad categories. Having ample
precedent in earlier Patristic literature to guide his response, he will
concentrate on either of the two poles of the dialectic of oppositions,
driving the filioque into the multiplication of divine beings,
polytheism, or reducing all beings to an absolute modalistic unity.
These same precedents also serve as precedents against unity. Thus,
there are two other types of arguments that Photios employs, and they
are both concerned with the two types of structural subordin-ationism
occurring in Augustinian theology. The first of these arguments deals
with the ordo theologiae of essence, attributes, and persons.
The second deals strictly with the subordination of the three persons
themselves: with the Christological and pneuma-tological implications of
the subordinationist struc-ture imposed upon theology by the filioque.
As we have seen, the
contrast of the divine essence to the divine pluralities of attributes
and persons did one of two things logically speaking. It either made
the attributes persons, or it made the persons attributes. Responding
to the first alter-native, Photios says that the Spirit should proceed
from each attribute, since He is obviously of each attribute:
Is He not also the Spirit of
. . .
Why do you frown at this? At the gifts, the very things that He
supplies and bestows? Is it because you fight against the procession of
the all-holy Spirit from each of these gifts as well?92
If this is so, says
Photios, then the Latins must make each attribute a person, an
“enhypostatized wisdom and truth,”93 enhypostatized, or
personal-ized, because the attributes are what the persons are—causes,
and as causes, definitions of deity. But if the attributes are thus
logically prior to the persons, then, says Photios (in an almost
verbatim quote of Saint Gregory of Nyssa), “It is not very possible to
call the Son by name in these sayings either.”94 If the
attributes cause the persons, then the Father is no longer Father, and
the Son is no longer Son.
Within the trinitarian
structure of persons, we saw that the dual procession of the Holy Spirit
gave this specifically Christian revelation such a Neoplatonic
structuring that it is hard to imagine that the names Father, Son and
Holy Spirit have not simply replaced the names One, Nous and World-soul.
Saint Photios detects this structure and uses it to question the
definition of simplicity itself:
Is it possible to avoid the
conclusion that the Spirit has been divided into two? On the one hand,
He proceeds from the Father, Who is the First cause and also unoriginate.
On the other hand, however, He proceeds from a second cause, and this
cause is not underived.95
“Does it not follow,”
asks Photios, “close upon this conclusion that the Spirit is, therefore,
com-posite?” If the composite Spirit has been made the consubstantial
love of “both the Father and the Son,” then “how then is the Trinity
Saint Photios notes that
the Latins, by maintaining a dual procession, have lapsed into another
early heresy, making the Spirit a lesser deity because the “Spirit, Who
is of equal honor and dignity is deprived of the equal prerogative of an
essential procession from Himself.’’97 This was, of course,
nothing but “Macedonian insanity.”98 If the Spirit were to
be truly God in a system where deity has been defined as cause, then,
Photios says, by the same token, another person should proceed from the
Spirit, and so we should have not three but four persons. And if the
fourth person is possible, then another procession is possible from
that, and so on to an infinite number of processions and persons, until
this doctrine is transformed into Greek polytheism.99
The force of this
argument clearly recalls the Arians’ own logic recorded earlier by Saint
Atha-nasios, and indicates that the structure and presuppositions
underlying the Arian heresy and the filioque are one and the
same: the definition of deity as causality.
It is at this precise
point that the uncanny logical accuracy of Photios posed acute
difficulty for the later Western theology. The force of the previous
argument was too much to ignore and some response had to be made. The
one who made it was Thomas Aquinas, writing four hundred years after
Photios. “Of course,” he says, “[the procession] does not proceed
further within itself, but the cycle is concluded when
. . .
it returns to the very substance from which the proceeding began.”100
But this argument would only serve to make the procession a feature of
the divine essence, and not of the person of the Holy Spirit. Saint
Photios is ready with a response to this aspect before Thomas ever
wrote: If the dual procession were a characteristic of the divine
essence and not a personal property, then all productions from the
Father were features of the essence, and thus the personal procession or
the Spirit from the Son, and even from the Father, was artificial and
superfluous. “If He [the Spirit] is known more fully in another
procession which is proper to the essence,” asks Photios, “then what
precise thing does that fashioning by another person provide?”101
In other words, if one accepts the concept of personal processions which
are somehow also essential, then there can be no Trinity, and the
filioque will indeed be, as Father Richardson pointed out, a matter
If the procession of the
Holy Spirit could be a feature of the essence, then so could the Son’s
begottenness: thus why could not the Son be opposed to the Spirit and
the Father, and the latter two may thus beget the Son? At this point it
is important to recall that Saint Augustine also saw this ramification,
and refused to accept it.102 Indeed, asks Photios, why
should one not simply tear up the Scriptures, so as to allow “the fable
that the Spirit produces the Son, thereby according the same dignity to
each person by allowing each person to produce the other person?”103
The deity is defined as causality, and if each person is fully God, then
each must cause the others, “for reason demands equality for each person
so that each person exchanges the grace of causality inndistin-guishably.”104
With the word, “indistinguishably” the mask comes off the Neoplatonic
simplicity, in which being, existence, will, and activity are all
“wholly indistinguishable.” When Saint Augustine saw this implication
of his trinitarian method, he simply denied it and said that the persons
were “not interchangeably fathers to one another.”105 The
same point is made by Photios:
For if, according to the reasonings
of the ungodly, the specific properties of the persons are opposed and
transferred to one another, then the Father—O depth of impiety!—comes
under the property of being begotten and the Son will beget the Father.106
At this point, it is
abundantly clear that the Neoplatonic structure is not only “bursting
under the strain of its Christian contents,” but that it has altogether
collapsed. The simplicity is an inadequate definition of the Christian
God, for ultimately everything said about Him becomes logically
equivalent to everything else said about Him: by beginning with the
definition of divine essence as simple, the hypostatic feature of the
Father has been distributed to every person and consequently all basis
of real personal distinctions has been lost in the essence.107
In a very striking
sentence, Saint Photios sums up the effects of the new dogma:
On the one hand, you firmly
establish the idea that there is no source—anarchy—in Him, but at the
very same time you reintroduce a source and a cause, and then go on
simultaneously to transfer the distinctions of each person.108
At best, the filioque
made of Western triadology a futile exercise in semantic mysticism, in
gnostic gymnastics, and, at worst, it contains at every step the seeds
of heresy, whether subordinationist, Sabellian, or polytheistic.
At this point, all the
main figures of the controversy converge. On the one side are Saints
Athanasios, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Photios, who, when they see
the absurd implications of this theological structure, eschew it. On
the other side are the Carolingians and the later scholastics, who, when
they see the structure, uncritically accept and endorse it. For the
Fathers, God is what He is apart from logic; for the Carolingians and
Thomas Aquinas, God to some extent is what He is because He is logical.
For Aquinas and the scholastic enterprise as a whole, the Spirit,
because He unites the Father and the Son by His dual procession from
both, becomes the divine example of the analogia entis of the
Father and the Son, the expression of being common to both. The
filioque is thus a necessary component of the scholastic enterprise,
for it interiorizes the whole scholastic effort within the Godhead
itself, making the divine essence rationally accessible through analogy.
The whole embryo of the Graeco-pagan philosophical development has been
transplanted into the doctrine of the Christian God.
This simply reiterates
the tension in the doctrine inherent from the beginning. It repeats the
predicament of Plotinos, for there is a fundamental limitation that the
dialectic of oppositions imposes upon trinitarian relations. It can
deal with only two terms, two polarities at any one time, and is thus
wholly inadequate to deal with the Trinity. The logic must always,
somewhere, compromise the absolute status of the Trinity by compromising
the absolute divinity and person of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand,
it must also compromise the simplicity of the essence, for there is
always an interior dialectic within it. The Trinity of persons is
incomplete, for just at the precise moment when the Spirit proceeds from
the Father and the Son, the whole process, according to Aquinas,
collapses back into the essence “from which the proceeding began.”
There is, thus, in the doctrine of the filioque an ubiquitous,
nascent binitarianism,109 a tendency that Saint Photios does
not hesitate to call “semi-Sabellianism.”110
In the final analysis, the filioquist triadology has no real Trinity,
but only a dyad of Father-Son opposed to Essence-Spirit.111
Implications and Conclusions
The filioque made
it possible to treat, on the basis of reason, trinitarian theology
without the Trinity. “Nothing could prevent [one] from applying the same
method to each of the Christian dogmas.”112 The doctrinal
history of the West subsequent to the Carolingian period is the history
of the application of this principle and of increasing reaction against,
and finally of apathy toward, the theological enterprise. Anselm made it
possible to discuss the Incarnation without Christ113 and
subsequent scholastic theology extended the rational explication of
theology to encompass almost all aspects of Church belief and practice.
But from the broadest possible historical and ecclesiastical
standpoint, it is the Augustinian doctrine of God, in which the
filioque plays a prominent and pivotal role, which triggers this
process. Though “this bold ambition to procure necessary reasons for
revealed dogmas had never entered the mind of Augustine
. . .
, it was bound to follow from a
merely dialectical treatment of the Christian faith.”114 The
filioque, as an example of this “dialectical treatment of the
Christian faith,” is a vital crux interpretum of Augustinian
theology. Why, for example, could Anselm later attempt his “ontological
proof’ of the existence of God? Because the ontological proof was an
“essentially dialectical deduction of the existence of God, whose
internal necessity is that of the principle of contradiction,” or in
other words, the dialectic of oppositions.115
This is the bottom line:
there are two opposing and mutually contradictory views of God at work
in the controversy. The filioque would have it that God is
perfectly capable of definition, that there is some degree of logical
necessity in Him. Thus,
. . . by the dogma of the
filioque . . . the unknowable essence of God receives positive
qualifications. It becomes the object of natural theology. We get a
God in general, who could be the God of Descartes, or the God of
Leibnitz, or to some extent the God of Voltaire and the de-Christianized
Deists of the eighteenth century.116
But for Saint Photios, representing the tradition of Athanasios, and the
Cappadocians, the Holy Spirit is, in characteristically Dionysian and
apophatic terms, “of the essence-essence” and therefore “beyond the
powers of reason.” 117
triadology built on the foundation that Saint Photios laid, but also
accounted for the legitimate concerns of the filioque, namely,
the concern for a relationship between the Son and the Spirit. Later
Byzantine theologians who followed Photios tried “to show that on the
one hand a relation of origin between the Son and the Holy Spirit was
not necessary, and that on the other hand, there did exist a certain
relationship which distinguished Son and Holy Spirit as persons.”118
Gregory of Cyprus, the Patriarch of Constantinople from 1283-1289,
described the relationship between the Son and the Spirit as one of the
Spirit’s eternal abiding upon the Son.119 In this, Gregory
simply elaborated upon the meaning of the word “procession.” The word
did not signify merely:
a simple going forth of someone from
another, as for example in the case of being born; it means rather a
setting forth from somewhere towards a definite goal; a departure from
one person in order to reach another. When the Spirit proceeds from the
Father he sets out towards the Son; the Son is the goal at which He will
exposed another danger latent not only in the filioque but to
some extent also in the response of Saint Photios to it. In Gregory’s
theology, it was impossible to separate the Son and the Spirit, for
there was an eternal, personal relation between them. If this were not
so, and the Holy Spirit proceeded beyond the Son as from a point of
origin, then important ecclesiological ramifications would result: “in
that case the faithful might possess the Spirit without being in Christ,
or they might possess Christ without being in the Spirit.”121
It is precisely this “abiding of the Spirit upon the Son” which affords
the theological basis in the very life of the Trinity for the fact that
Orthodoxy does not separate Scripture and Tradition as two, isolated,
independent and opposed sources of authority. Rather, it sees them as
implying and complementing each other, both having equal weight because
they are related.
From Gregory of Cyprus,
later Orthodox theology inherited the concept that there was a
relationship between the Son and the Spirit, and that this relationship
would be destroyed if the Spirit were disengaged from the Son by
proceeding beyond Him as in the filioque. Saint Gregory Palamas
could thus affirm that the Spirit did not proceed in “isolation from the
generation of the Son thus remaining alongside the Son, as it were,
without any personal relationship to him.”122 The twentieth
century Orthodox theologian Dumitru Staniloae has found in the
filioque, in addition to certain ecclesiological implications, other
ramifications for the pattern and structure of authority in the
contemporary West. He sees in it the theological basis for confusing
the Spirit with human subjectivity: without that which constitutes the
distinguishing mark of divinity in this system, causality, it becomes
all too easy to equate the movements of the Spirit with the movements of
the human spirit.123
We would certainly be
wrong in trying to estimate Saint Photios’ stature as a saint or a
theologian of the Church through a reading of the Mystagogy
alone; but we would likewise err trying to do so without reading the
Mystagogy. It is chiefly for this contribution that he is
remembered in both East and West. One Roman Catholic scholar writes of
his importance in no uncertain terms:
The Photian case is not merely a
matter of Byzantine interest. It concerns the history of Christianity
and the world, as the appraise-ment of Photios and his work lies at the
core of the controversies that separate Eastern and Western churches.124
Photios, always tolerant
of divergent practices within the Church, nevertheless responds sharply
to the filioque. Yet, this response is not without cause, and
has Patristic support. Sadly, his work fell on largely deaf ears, so
that all the tragic consequences of the filioque did not
disappear, but rather imposed upon theology an order and method
fundamentally divergent from the concerns of the tradition. Thus, his
sweeping indictment of the doctrine is not without justification; if the
filioque can now only be viewed as a dispute about words, this
can only indicate the absence of historical perception, or a modalist
theology, or both. This means that it is not necessary merely to insist
that the filioque must be dropped from Western creeds and
confessions for unity to come about, but that, as Karl Rahner has so
pertinently observed, there is need for the West to return to a
non-Augustinian theology.125 Indeed, this means that the
Augustinian ordo theologiae itself must be shunned as being
ultimately contradictory to the Christian experience of God as primarily
personal and concrete and not impersonal, abstract, and
philosophical. In this most relevant of lights, it is easy to see
why the doctrine was never a mere verbal trifle. It carried
implications affecting the very nature of Christian experience. It was
for Saint Photios then, and remains for us now, an issue of incalculable
ecumenical, theological and spiritual urgency.
1 Alan Richardson,
Creeds in the Making: A Short Introduction to the History of
Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia, 1981), p. 122.
2 Ibid., p. 123.
3 St. Photios,
Mystagogy, p. 16.
4 Ibid., pp.
5 Richard Haugh,
Photius and the Carolingians: The Trinitarian Controversy
(Belmont, 1975), p. 204.
6 J. M. Rist,
Plotinus: The Road to Reality (Cambridge, 1980), p. 24, citing Fr.
8 Vladimir Lossky,
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, 1974), p.
30. Lossky writes: “What is discarded in the negative way of Plotinos
is multiplicity, and we arrive at the perfect unity which is beyond
being—since being is linked to multiplicity and subsequent to the One.
The ecstasy of Dionysios is a going forth from being as such. That of
Plotinos is rather a reduction of being to absolute simplicity.” For an
excellent treatment of the dynamic of oppositions and the definition of
simplicity, see Rist’s survey on pp. 21-37.
9 Rist, p. 25.
10 Paul Tillich,
A History of Christian Thought (New York, 1968), p. 51.
12 Eugene Portalie,
A Guide to the Thought of St. Augustine (Norwood, 1975), p. 99.
13 See Rist, pp.
66, 71, 77 for the absence of this distinction: “we shall not,” he says,
“break Plotinos’ own rules by separating the existence of the One from
its ‘activity.’ Rather we shall regard them as identical.”
pp. 25, 35.
pp. 67, 75.
16 Ibid., p.
76. “The problem of the necessity of emanation from the One must be
reduced to the problem of why the One is what it is.”
in The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, ed. Herald C.
Bauer, p. 591.
Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. 1, Greece and Rome (New
York, 1962), part 2, p. 216.
19 Ibid., p.
20 Dom Placid
Spearitt, “Neoplatonism” in A Dictionary of Christian Thought,
ed. Alan Richardson, p. 227.
21 Tillich, p. 103.
22 Portalie, pp.
23 Ibid., p.
24 Vernon J.
Bourke, The Essential Augustine (Indian-apolis, 1978), p. 19.
25 Portalie, p. 97.
26 Ibid., p.
27 Ibid., p.
28 J. M. Hussey
remarks that “as far as it is possible to assign or discover a
watershed, this is to be found at the end of the fourth century: on the
one side is Augustine, whose writings form the basis of the Latin
tradition; on the other, the Greeks who followed the Cappadocian
school.” Church and Learning in the Byzantine Empire, 867-1185
(Oxford, 1937), p. 203.
29 Justo Gonzalez,
A History of Christian Thought, vol. 2. From Augustine to the
Eve of the Reformation (Nashville, 1971), p. 113, citing John Scotus
Erigena: “Philosophy is true religion and vice versa, true religion is
30 Portalie, pp.
31 Ibid., p.
32 Etienne Gilson,
God and Philosophy (New York, 1962), p. 41.
33 Ibid., p.61.
34 St. Augustine,
On the Trinity, 7.6.11 .
35 St. Augustine
actually carries his logic much further, saying at one point, “since the
three are together one God, why not also one person
. . .
“ (7.4.8.). In another place he
actually uses the phrase “the person of that Trinity” (2.10.18).
Richard Haugh remarks that “it is clear in which direction Augustine is
inclined.” Haugh, p. 199.
36 St. Augustine,
37 Portalie, p.
38 St. Augustine,
39 Tillich, p. 51.
40 This syllogistic
treatment of attributes and essence is the very mark of deity: “Neither
in the Trinity is it one thing to be and another to be God
. . .
“ (7.3.6). This statement is complemented by “it is the same thing for
Him to be God as to be”; 7.4.9.
41 Thomas Aquinas,
Summa contra Gentiles. Book One, God (Notre Dame, 1975),
42 Ibid., p. 244.
The persistence of Neoplatonic concerns is amazing. Rist says, “The act
by which the One is what it is must be allowed to be identical and
indistinguishable in fact from the act by which it does what it does”
(p. 71). “In fact, the will of the One and its essence are identical”
(p. 71). Indeed, one of the main problems which the scholastics had to
account for was the operation of God ad extra, a very difficult
problem if the “principle object of the divine will” is its very own
43 St. Augustine,
Ad Romanum Expositio, 8.29, cited in Gonzalez, p. 31.
44 St. Augustine,
On the Trinity, 7.6.11.
Portalie, pp. 130-31.
48 Vladimir Lossky,
“The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Trinitarian Doctrine,” in
The Image and Likeness of God (Cresttwood, 1974),p. 77.
49 St. Augustine,
50 Jaroslav Pelikan,
The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine,
vol. 3, The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300) (Chicago,
1982), p. 65.
51 St. Augustine,
54 A word of
caution should be said here about the manner in which I am using the
terms ordo theo-logiae. I do not conceive of this as a hard and
fast, rigid scheme to be followed universally, but rather as a general
pattern easily detectable by glancing at various systematic theologies
produced by the West. In Book One of his Summa contra Gentiles,
Thomas Aquinas discusses God in His essence and attributes; only in Book
Four does he consider the persons of the Trinity. Other treatises
intervene in between the overall pattern of essence, attributes and
persons (notably, one of them is the attribute of providence). In the
early twentieth century the American Episco-palian Francis J. Hall does
the same. Volume three of his Dogmatic Theology is entitled “The
Being and Attributes of God,” while volume four deals with “The
Trinity.” So entrenched is this ordo theologiae that it reaches
even into the fundamentalist dispensa-tionalist works of Lewis Sperry
Chafer, founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary.
Volume one of his Systematic Theology is entitled “Prolegomena:
Bibliology, Theology Proper.” Only with volume six does he discuss the
Holy Spirit. What I am suggesting is that this ordo can be
modified, added to or elaborated in various ways, but that it always
remains the same in its overall trinitarian scheme, and that this method
of theology itself should be a matter for closer scrutiny. It goes
almost without saying that in most seminaries rarely, if ever, is a
student taught to reflect upon the implications of the ordo
disciplinae in which he taught theology. Indeed, this may arise
unconsciously out of his philosophical commitments, and be simply taken
for granted. In this, I differ from Bernard Lonergan only in the manner
in which we perceive this ordo. For him the “ordo disciplinae
that Aquinas wanted in theology books for beginners” is illustrated by
the fact that “in the Scriptum super Sententias there is no
separation of the treatment of God as one and of God as Trinity . . . .
But in the Summa contra Gentiles a systematic separation is
effected: the first book deals solely with God as one; Chapters 2 to 26
of the fourth book deal solely with God as Trinity. In the first part
of the Summa theologiae questions 2 and 26 regard God as one,
while questions 27 to 43 regard the Trinity. What in the Contra
Gentiles was treated in very separate books, in the Summa
theologiae is united in a continuous stream.” Lonergan, Method
in Theology (New York, 1979), p. 346. The point is that, regardless
of the refinements and differences between Thomas’ two systematic works,
the overall ordo of Trinitarian theology remains essentially the
same. I suggest that the filioque and this method are intimately
bound up with each other.
55 St. Augustine,
56 John Karmires,
A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church
(Scranton, 1973), p. 18.
57 St. Augustine,
60 Thomas Aquinas,
Summa, Book Four, Salvation, (London, 1975),p.145.
61 St. Augustine,
Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New
York, 1966), p. 23.
Photius, p. 199.
66 Ibid., p.
Florovsky, “St. Athanasios’ Concept of Creation,” Volume 4 of The
Collective Works of Georges Florovsky: Aspects of Church History
(Belmont, 1975), p. 42.
68 Cited in
Florovsky, p. 42.
69 Ibid., p.
70 Cited in
Florovsky, p. 45.
71 Ibid., p.
73 Ibid., p.
74 St. Athanasios,
First Discourse Against the Arians, Nicene and Post·Nicene Fathers
(Grand Rapids, 1978), p. 319.
76 St. Photios,
Mystagogy, p. 60.
77 Florovsky, p.
78 Ibid., p.
79 Ibid., p.
80 St. Gregory of
Nyssa, Against Eunomios, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand
Rapids, 1976), p. 58.
83 Ibid., p.
84 Ibid., p.
85 Ibid. p.
86 Ibid. p.
57. Cf. St. Gregory’s remarks concerning the simplicity on p. 58.
These are the more significant, given the well-known preoccupation of
St. Gregory with other Neoplatonic theses and doctrines.
87 St. Cyril of
Alexandria, “Letter 17 to Nestorios,” in The Later Christian Fathers,
ed. Henry Bettenson (Oxford, 1977), p. 265.
88 Ibid. p.
“Reprehensio (12 Captium seu) anathematissmorum Cyrilli,” in Bettenson,
Karmires, Synopsis, p. 18.
91 St. Augustine,
Trinity, 4.20.29: “The Father is the beginning (principium)
of the whole divinity.”
92 St. Photios,
Mystagogy, p. 56.
93 Ibid. p.
94 Ibid.. p.
96 Ibid. p.
97 Ibid. p.
98 Ibid. p.
99 Ibid. p.
Aquinas, Summa, Volume 4, Salvation, p. 145.
St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 42.
St. Augustine, Trinity, 5.12.13: “We do not speak of the Son of
the Holy Spirit, lest the Holy Spirit be understood to be His Father.”
St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 3.
St. Augustine, Trinity, 7.4.7.
St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 17.
Ibid. p. 18.
Ibid. p. 14.
Ibid. pp. 9,12, 15.
Ibid. p. 9.
In this regard, St. Photios points out that there is no hypostatic
property which is shared by two persons. Anything which can be said to
be common to more than one person is said about the essence. But
anything which cannot be said about all three persons therefore belongs
only to one of the three persons (Mystagogy, p. 63). In this he
echoes St. Basil the Great, “Letter 33 to Gregory,” concerning the
differences of ousia and hypostasis.
Gilson, Reason and Revelation, p. 26.
Anselm, Cur Deus Homo (St. Anselm: Basic Writings), trans.
S. N. Deane (Chicago, 1981), p. 177. Anselm’s own succinct statement on
his methodo-logy cannot be improved upon: “In fine leaving Christ
out of view (as if nothing had ever been known of him), it proves, by
absolute reasons, the impossi-bility that any man should be saved
Gilson, Reason and Revelation, p. 27.
Ibid., p. 25 (emphasis mine).
Lossky, “Procession,” p. 88.
St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 6.
Staniloae, Theology and the Church, p. 15.
Ibid., pp. 20-21.
Ibid., p. 22.
Ibid., p. 26.
Ibid., p. 43.
Francis Dvornik, The Photian Schism (Cambridge, 1970), p. 15.
John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (Crestwood,
1978), p. 213. Cf. Karl Rahner, “Current Problems,” p. 188. But this
evaluation needs to be tempered with the fact that Rahner, in his book
The Trinity, still employs methods and concerns (for example, the
concern for the Latin idea of taxis) more or less peculiar to the
Roman Church. Another important and recent contribution to the growing
awareness of the problems of the filioque in the West is
Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, edited by Lukas Vischer.