Game, Set, Match.

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The arguments for and against the filioque can be long and difficult to wade through. Biblical arguments, historical arguments, philosophical arguments, etc. I obviously believe that at the end of the day, Orthodoxy wins on all points, but this isn’t always super easy to figure this out. However, I believe that there is an argument that pretty much closes the issue; at least it does so for me. The argument I’m referring to can be found in various forms throught St. Photius’ “Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit,” which I have been wading through recently.

Here goes: P1: There are only two types of properties in the Godhead: Personal and
natural. (By personal I mean those properties which are unique to
the persons. ie: only the Father causes, only the Son is begotten,
and only the Spitit proceeds from the Father to rest on the Son.
Also, I use the term “natural” loosely because I do not think that
any property can be applied to God’s essence since it is not being.
Rather, I apply these properties to God’s energies which all the
Persons share in, thus showing that they are of one essence.)

P2: Catholics and most Protestants beleive that the Father and the Son
share in a certain property that the Holy Spirit does not share in;
namely, the property of generating the Spirit.

Now here’s the question: What kind of property is this property of
generating the Holy Spirit?

CP3: This property must either be a personal or a natural property.

P4: If it’s a personal property, than the Father and the Son share a
unique personal property.

CP5: If they share a UNIQUE personal property than they are the same
Person.

P6: If the property is a natural property, than the Father and the Son
have a natural property in common that the Spirit does not share in.

CP7: If the Father and the Son have a natural property that the Spirit
does not share in, than they cannot be said to share the same
nature.

C: Because both options are clearly heretical, the filioque is heresy
and must be rejected as such.

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14 Responses to “Game, Set, Match.”

  1. Ben Says:

    I don’t know about P4 — why, if it’s a personal property, is it necessarily unique? If the father generates the son, and the son the spirit, then “generation of a person of the godhead” is not necessarily the property in question, but you could have two distinct properties, “generation of the son” and “generation of the spirit”. Perhaps if there is a logical requirement that “generation of a member of the godhead” be a single and unique property you could add that to the proof, or clarify that point.

  2. MG Says:

    Ben–Thanks for taking the time to interact with us and comment here. Patristic definitions of person and nature would say that part of the meaning of “natural” is “what is common” and part of the meaning of “personal” is “what is particular, unique, unrepeatable”. This is fairly explicit in at least the thought of St. Maximus (see Demetrios Batrellos’ book “The Byzantine Christ”, or just Maximus’ own definitions–if you want I can give cites), St. John of Damascus (I think that Louth’s book on St. John of Damascus says this), and is implicit in other fathers. Granted this is an appeal to authority; but we should be willing, if we are going to say we believe in the Trinity and Incarnation, to either accept what seems to be the metaphysics behind these doctrines, or say that we believe in these doctrines in a qualified way. If these definition are right, then the dilemma goes through: if a person B and a person C both have a property P, then either (1) P is a natural property (because it is shared by two distinct things) or (2) B and C are the same person (because there can only be one unique personal possessor of such a property).Does that answer your question?

  3. Mark Krause Says:

    Ben, You can find the justification for this requirement for personhood in the Cappedocians as well. It’s fundamental to St. Gregory’s the Theologian’s whole Trinitarian project in “The Five Theologial Orations,” which are basically the most fundamental texts on Trinitarian doctrine. In regards to the Son and the Spirit having being generated in common, that isn’t exactly true because the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. These are unique properties. This is how St. Gregory the Theologian distinguishes between the two Persons. Now, we cannot say exactly what the difference is between being begotten and proceeding, but we know that they are different. This is why in the Nicene Creed, it is not said that the Son is generated from the Father and the Spirit is generated from the Father. Rather, it says that the Son is begotten by the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father.

  4. Ben Says:

    Very interesting, thanks. At some point I should probably hunker down and do some in-depth studies of the Fathers, I have only a vague knowledge of them. I certainly accept the premise of P4 — that is, that a personal (unique) property cannot be shared by two persons. Makes perfect sense. My question was aimed more at the idea that Mark was illustrating with “begetting” and “proceeding” — that is, could there be a distinction between the generation of the Son and that of the Spirit such that they form two distinct personal properties. It seems to me that P4 is invalidated if they are two distinct personal properties rather than a single personal property of “generation”.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Suppose we simply nuanced the properties further? I believe the Orthodox hold to a “monarchial” view of the Trinity (or something similar), so it seems reasonable to speak of thier personal properties as follows:The Father begets the son and sends the Spirit, so, for lack of more elegant language, let’s call that the property of “begets-and-sends.”The Son is begotten by the Father and (assuming the filioque here) also sends the Spirit. So let’s call that the property of “is-begotten-and-sends.”The Holy Spirit, then, would have the property of “is-sent.”This is just one way of attempting (totally off the top of my head, mind you) to fit the typical evangelical way of thinking about the trinitarian relationship into the mold you’ve provided in your post. Thoughts?

  6. Mark Krause Says:

    PS: There are a lot of other arguments against the filioque in the Mystagogy. You should read it. You can get it for free online. THat’s what I did 🙂

  7. MG Says:

    Ben–You wrote:”I certainly accept the premise of P4 — that is, that a personal (unique) property cannot be shared by two persons. Makes perfect sense. My question was aimed more at the idea that Mark was illustrating with “begetting” and “proceeding” — that is, could there be a distinction between the generation of the Son and that of the Spirit such that they form two distinct personal properties. It seems to me that P4 is invalidated if they are two distinct personal properties rather than a single personal property of “generation”.”Ben–Help me try to understand what you’re saying. Are you trying to say that the Father could have a personal property “S” of sending the Spirit, and the Son could have a personal property “Z” that denotes a different kind of sending of the Spirit? So in that case, Son and Father wouldn’t have anything in common with respect to person, but could both be said to “send” (again, in different senses) the Spirit.Is that what you’re saying?

  8. Ben Says:

    Perhaps I misunderstand the filoque … does it designate that both the Father and Son send the spirit? In which case, my question is answered. I guess I just didn’t think it through … of course, if it’s an addition and not a subtraction, it would have to. Ok, P4 is good to go 🙂

  9. bríde Says:

    Dear Anonymous,Thanks for dropping by. Don’t be a stranger, though – let us know who you are!You say:The Father begets the son and sends the Spirit, so, for lack of more elegant language, let’s call that the property of “begets-and-sends.”The Son is begotten by the Father and (assuming the filioque here) also sends the Spirit. So let’s call that the property of “is-begotten-and-sends.”The Holy Spirit, then, would have the property of “is-sent.”I’m not sure how your model helps. After all, the property of “begets” is different to “sends”, and “begotten” is also different to “sends”. As far as I can tell, you have merely taken two properties and combined them into a composite property. Now, if this were really a single property, then you might be able to get around the original argument, but there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to believe it is. Thus, I think your suggestion is dubious, at best.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Bride,You said: “As far as I can tell, you have merely taken two properties and combined them into a composite property.”Yeah, I was thinking that as well. I think I was attempting to suggest something along the lines of what Ben (might have) said, that there may be a difference between the way in which the Father “sends” and the way in which in the Son “sends.” If we beleive there to be sufficient Biblical justification for accepting the filioque, then this seems like a perfectly plausible way of diffusing such philosophical concerns, but that would be an entirely different argument.

  11. Mark Krause Says:

    Ben, I don’t know what “sending” means in this context, but the filioque entails that the Spirit is causally generated (in a procession-type fashion) from the Father and the Son. I’ll probably post a couple more arguments from Photius’ “Mystagogy” in the next week or so.

  12. Alexander R Pruss Says:

    We need to be careful lest what seems like a single property is in fact a disjunction of two properties or some other logical construction. Consider the following apparent property: “Not being the Father”. If we count this as a property, then both the Son and the Holy Spirit have it. The rest of the argument proceeds as before to reduce this to absurdity. But indeed the Son is not the Father and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. So something’s wrong.Ah, but you might say that my first example was a negative property, and the principles here apply only to non-negative properties. Fine, let’s try this property: “Being from the Father.” The Son is from the Father, and the Holy Spirit is from the Father. Again, absurdity ensues.Now, you will say (indeed you pretty much say this): “Ah, but the Son is from the Father in a different way from the way the Holy Spirit is from the Father. The Son is begotten by the Father while the Spirit is spirated by the Father. So in fact we have two properties here with the same name.”But if you say this, then the same option needs to be extended to the Catholic opponent who should be free to say that the Father’s spirating the Holy Spirit and the Son’s spirating the Holy Spirit are two different properties with the same name. Moreover, the Catholic can say what the difference between these two properties is. One way to put the difference is to say that the Father’s spirating the Holy Spirit is spiration-through-the-Son, while the Son’s spirating the Holy Spirit is spiration-by-the-Father-through-one (where “one” refers to the Son). Alternately, one can put the difference by saying that the Father’s spirating is originary spiration while the Son’s is derivative spiration.Interestingly, at this point the tables can be turned (with what effect, I know not). If one insists too strongly on the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father alone without allowing at least the addition of “through the Son”, one has the problem that the properties of being-begotten and being-spirated are hard to distinguish, and the distinction between the Son and the Holy Spirit is endangered. (Aquinas uses an argument like that, maybe exactly this one.) On the other hand if one sees begetting as a one-one relation and spirating as a one-through-one-to-one relation or as a two-one relation, the difficulty in distinguishing the two relations disappears. (By the way, I definitely would not talk of causation within the Trinity.)

  13. David Says:

    I don’t know who Alexander Pruss is, but it seems that “Game, Set, Match” may have been a premature title. 😛

  14. MG Says:

    David–Make sure to read the responses to Pruss in Perry’s comment in the next post. 🙂

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