More St. Photius on the Filioque


Here comes more from St. Photius the Great against the Filioque. This argument is less convincing than the first, but I think that once the first argument has been given, it is helpful to note that it is not the only conceptual problem for the Filioque.

This sort of arugment can be found throughout book three of Photius’s “Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit.” If the Holy Spirit comes from two causes, His perfection will be destroyed because He will either be two, or He will be a composite (Photius uses the image of a centaur). This is because either the Father’s causation will be incomplete, and will thus require the Son’s work to complete (thus composite) or both causes will be complete (thus the Holy Spirit will be two). It’s a failry simple problem, but one that seems (at least to me right now) unsolvable.


20 Responses to “More St. Photius on the Filioque”

  1. Alexander R Pruss Says:

    1. I think this argument suffers from the same problem as the previous: it assumes that the relation of the Father to the Spirit on the Catholic view is the same as that of the Son to the Spirit. But the Catholic must reject this assumption, since the Catholic needs to hold that an acceptable way of expressing the filioque is to say that “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through Son”, language that clearly implies that the relation of the Father to the Spirit is different from that of the Son to the Spirit.2. To this, the argument adds the problem of treating Trinitarian dependency relations as causal relations.3. An analogy (perhaps more than an analogy) that provides a counterexample to the argument is this. A loves B. There are three items: A, B and A’s love for B. Where does the third item come from? Well, if it weren’t for A, there wouldn’t be that love. But if it weren’t for B, A wouldn’t love B. The love of A for B comes from both A and B, in different senses of “comes from”. But the love of A for B is not therefore composite, as if one could absurdly separate A’s loving from B’s being loved or something like that.

  2. bríde Says:

    I will leave your first two arguments appearing here, and those on the previous post, to those who are better prepared to understand them than I. For now, let me take a look at # 3. You say:An analogy (perhaps more than an analogy) that provides a counterexample to the argument is this. A loves B. There are three items: A, B and A’s love for B. Where does the third item come from? Well, if it weren’t for A, there wouldn’t be that love. But if it weren’t for B, A wouldn’t love B. The love of A for B comes from both A and B, in different senses of “comes from”. But the love of A for B is not therefore composite, as if one could absurdly separate A’s loving from B’s being loved or something like that.I think you are right to point out that it is more than an analogy. In fact, this sounds a good deal like the Catholic teaching I remember, and which I just found in the article about the Holy Ghost in New Advent’s edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia.He is so often called par excellence, in the writings of the Fathers, Love and Charity. The Father and the Son love one another from all eternity, with a perfect ineffable love; the term of this infinite fruitful mutual love is Their Spirit Who is co-eternal and con-substantial with Them. Only, the Holy Ghost is not indebted to the manner of His Procession precisely for this perfect resemblance to His principle, in other words for His consubstantiality; for to will or love an object does not formally imply the production of its immanent image in the soul that loves, but rather a tendency, a movement of the will towards the thing loved, to be united to it and enjoy it.Anyway… to your “analogy”.To me, it seems that you are suggesting that saying “if it weren’t for B, A wouldn’t love B” implies a procession “from the Father through the Son”. Yet, I find that jump hard to follow. Having an object to love (B) makes it possible for A to love, but it does not seem to imply that B is causally/spirationally/generationally (or however you think it best worded) responsible for the love in any sense of “comes from”. Providing the possibility for action does not provide the action itself.

  3. Alexander R Pruss Says:

    Love is a reaction to the beloved. It is solicited in the lover by the beloved’s lovability. So, yes, there is a procession there. In ordinary earthly cases there is causation. John sees Mary. Mary is beautiful. John falls in love with Mary. Mary is a cause of John’s love.

  4. Danevicius Says:

    Dr. PrussAs to your second argument concerning the problem of seeing Trinitarian hypostatic relations as in some way causal I quote St. Basil in “On Not Three Gods” “If, however, any one cavils at our argument, on the ground that by not admitting the difference of nature it leads to a mixture and confusion of the Persons, we shall make to such a charge this answer;-that while we confess the invariable character of the nature, we do not deny the difference in respect of cause, and that which is caused, by which alone we apprehend that one Person is distinguished from another”Thus we see that not only is it proper to speak of causation in discussing persons of the trinity but is in fact necessary to distinguish one person from another.That being said, I am curious as to whether you believe that Son is in any way causally related to the Holy Spirit. What I am not asking is whether the Spirit is sent by the Son, proceeds through the Son, or rests on the son, but rather Does the Spirit have the Son as a/the cause of His existence? For the Orthodox would certainly affirm that the Holy Spirit is manifested and imparted to us through the Son but that is wholly different than his existence as hypostasis being directly derivative of the Son. For St. John of Damascus states,“And we speak also of the Spirit of the Son, not as through proceeding from Him, but as proceeding through Him from the Father. For the Father alone is cause.” – An Exposition of the Faith 1.12

  5. Acolyte4236 Says:

    Alexander PrussThe love of A for b comes from both A and B. A loves B and this love comes from A. B is required for A to love b in this second sense, the love of A to b “comes from” b. That is, b is a necessary condition in terms of the necessity of there being an object to love. (this makes b passive and a non-cause) and A is a necessary condition in so far as there needs to be a source or cause of the love to b. But the analogy doesn’t map the filiqoue. Why? Because A and B would have to be the same in terms of cause or source, rather than one being the causal source and the other being the causal, albeit necessary recipient. Why? Because the filioque posits that the Father and the Son generate the Spirit “as from one principle” as defined by Florrence which requires that the Son not be a necessary condition in terms of a receiving object, but rather in terms of being an active cause.Part of the problem of defining the relations between the persons (as opposed to persons as relations) between the Latin view and the Orthodox view is that strictly speaking, there is no intermediating relation between the persons on the Orthodox view per Athanasius. This is in part why it is not possible on the Eastern view to speak of the Persons in negating relationships (Is not the Father, Is not the Son, etc.) The persons are not distinguished by the genera of sameness and otherness, which in part leads to the filioque in the first place. Consequently there is no common property of “being from” that is applicable to the Spirit and the Son on the Orthodox view. Procession and Begotten are not two species of a common genus “being from.” This was actually a late Arian thesis. This is in part why, for the Orthodox Procession and Begotten are sufficient to distinguish the persons, albeit in an apophatic way. This is why the Cappadocians make it quite clear (and they are not alone in doing so) that there is no philosophical content to “procession” or “begotten.” So we do not have two properties bearing the same name. Strictly speaking, since God ad intra and with respect to the hypostatic begetting of the Son and the procession of the Spirit is not being there are no “properties” and if properties do anything, they “be.”The Catholic Church does not, per Florrence, mean what the Orthodox mean when we speak of the Spirit processing “through the Son.” They mean it with reference to the hypostatic procession, whereas we mean it with reference to an eternal energetic procession or the economia or both but not with reference to the hypostasis of the Spirit. John of Damascus, among others, is sufficiently clear that the Son is in no way the cause of the Spirit’s hypostasis. For some of the reasons above then, our view does not imply that there is a common property or two properties under one name with respect to the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Spirit.Moreover, Florrence makes it clear that the Father and the Son generate the Spirit “as from one principle” and not as two, so I can’t see how there can be two properties in mind with respect to the generation of the Spirit from the Father and then from the Son. Saint Photios’ point is that the “one principle” is either essential or hypostatic. If the latter, it blows the Trinity. If essential, the Spirit must be involved in his own hypostatic procession, which is absurd. If the Son is a caused cause and the Father is an uncaused cause, then how they can share the same generating principle of uncaused cause is rather perplexing. The originary spiration and a derivative spiration can’t be identical since originary and derivative seem to be opposites. As Suarez notes for example, distinctions turn on a negation. If there is no negation, then the Son is an uncaused cause, which then is to say that the Son is the Father as Saint Photios argued. If there is a negation, then there are two principles or two Fathers or there is a fourth member of the Trinity or Eunomianism follows.And, Plotinus can say everything the Latins can say regarding the generation of Nous from the One and the joint generation of Soul from both with exactly the same kind of dialectical reasoning, which makes us wonder why revelation is needed at all, indicating that the Filioque isn’t a scriptural doctrine.It is quite right that distinguishing the Spirit and the Son will be impossible if one insists on the Father as the sole source of the Spirit, if distinguishing requires negation or opposition. But of course, God would have to be being for that kind of project to even get off the ground. This is why the Fathers again say that trying to figure out what begotten and proceeding amount to will drive one mad. This is why Aquinas’ argument fails to map the Orthodox view and is stillborn. And, if the relations work in the way you’ve sketched, if the Father and Son require a common principle to be distinct hypostatically over against the Spirit, why isn’t it just as logically necessary to distinguish the Father from the other two persons to posit a common principle between the Son and the Spirit, yielding yet another hypostasis? Or why on the same reasoning, isn’t it necessary to posit a hypostatic generation of the Father and the Son of the Spirit, and hence Spirituque?1. I can’t see per the official definition of the dogma necessary for salvation per Rome, how one can say that Saint Photios’ argument suffers from assuming that the relation of the Father to the Spirit is the same as the Son to the Spirit, since Florrence says that the Spirit is generated from the Father and the Son “as from one principle.” Does this one principle refer to the divine ousia, the persons or something else that is deity? 2. The Father’s and the councils often speak in causal terms regarding the divine persons. To be sure, importing a specific philosophical notion of causation will yield heterodoxy but I am not sure why it is required to do so. Key theological terms are apophatic. 3. Here are some reasons for thinking the analogy is a bad one. 1. Persons aren’t relations. 2. If the love comes from both A and B in difference senses of “comes from” what do the “different senses” amount to in reference to the claim that the Father and the Son generate the hypostasis of the Spirit “as from one principle?” Is the difference in generation aspectival? What makes the love of A to B and B to A one love?

  6. Alexander R Pruss Says:

    danevicius:The St. Basil statement on the face of it cannot be consistently accepted by someone who denies the filioque and who thinks that the Father is the cause of the Son and the Father is the cause of the Holy Spirit. For then the Son and the Holy Spirit are not distinguished by causation.We also have to remember that “cause” has both a narrow and a wider meaning, and in the wider meaning, this is all fine. We sometimes talk of a “cause” as just an explanation–“The cause of this mathematical phenomenon is this mathematical fact.” acolyte4236:In many ordinary human forms of love, the beloved is an active cause of love. The beloved elicits love, and does so causally. For instance, John sees Susan and falls in love with her because of her beauty. Susan is a cause here–she (or more precisely, her body, but that’s a part of her) caused light to bounce off her and into John’s eyes in such a way as made him see her as beautiful. Or Patricia comes to spiritually love Martha because of Martha’s wise conversation–Martha is the cause of the conversation and hence of love. So both are active in typical cases of love. ‘Procession and Begotten are not two species of a common genus “being from.” This was actually a late Arian thesis.’ — Whether two they are species of a common genus or not (strictly speaking, of course not, since there are no genera in God), danevicius has just quoted a Cappadocian father who seems to talk of both spirating and begetting as cases of causation.

  7. Alexander R Pruss Says:

    Question: “And, if the relations work in the way you’ve sketched, if the Father and Son require a common principle to be distinct hypostatically over against the Spirit, why isn’t it just as logically necessary to distinguish the Father from the other two persons to posit a common principle between the Son and the Spirit, yielding yet another hypostasis? Or why on the same reasoning, isn’t it necessary to posit a hypostatic generation of the Father and the Son of the Spirit, and hence Spirituque?”Response: Two relations suffice to distinguish three persons as long as one of the relations is two-to-one. The Father is distinguished from the Son as begetter from begotten. The Father is distinguished from the Spirit as originary spirator from spirated. So the Father is distinguished from the Son and the Spirit. The Spirit is distinguished from the Son as spirated from derivative spirator.I don’t understand your question–it seems all the distinctions are in place.

  8. Acolyte4236 Says:

    Alexander Pruss,Even if the analogy you were drawing were a good one, it would require subscription to the doctrine of the analogia entis, which the Orthodox reject. Second, the analogy is a bad one. The object of love in electing the love is not an efficient cause and hence is still passive. On the doctrine of the filioque, the Son isn’t passive in causing the person of the Spirit. Furthermore, it gets the causal order backwards. The F-S don’t cause the person of the Spirit in terms of the F-S being dependent on the Spirit in the way (not even analogically) that John’s love is dependent on Susan’s beauty. Strictly speaking tis true that there are no genera in God if by genera we mean in a created mode of being. But sameness and otherness certainly do exist in God on the Latin account, otherwise there would be no way to have subsisting and different relations.It is also true that the Cappadocians talk of the two persons being caused. But they also qualify such language. First, the causation is enhypostacized so that it is unique to each person. The person is unique, irreproducible and unrepeatable. This sucks out any meaningful content of what constitutes “cause.” They also say that what constitutes being begotten and proceeding is impossible to know. So when they investigate what “cause” means for the Son and the Spirit, the only options they hold out are ignorance or insanity. I prefer ignorance. They are sufficiently clear that such terms are strictly apophatic. So I think one has to be careful with the Cappadocians. They weren’t crypto-Thomists. In fact, most contemporary Thomistic accounts are quite hostile or dismissive and tend, irnonically enough to think of Eunomius in a better light as anticipating the “superior” scholastic distinctions. Even if two relations are sufficient to distinguish as long as one of the relations is two to one, why stop there? Certinaly if via the economia the Spirit sends the Son (virginal conception) then this must by the same reasoning imply an eternal relation of the F-HS generating the Son. And certaintly the revealing activity of the Son and the Spirit in the economia must reveal the inner nature of God so that the Father is generated from the Spirit and the Son.Why must we have only one two to one relation? It seems rather arbitrary to stop the dialectic there.And I have my doubts that a single two to one relation is sufficient. For while there is something in common other than the divine essence, between the Father and the Son over against the Spirit, how will that fact help us to distinguish the Spirit and the Son from the Father? By the same reasoning it seems the Son and the Spirit must have an active causal principle intermediating between them in common in relation to the Father. If this weren’t so Augustine and not a few major Catholic theologians wouldn’t be toying with the idea of Spirituque, that the Spirit and the Father generate eternally the Son.Traditionally the Father is distinguished by being not begetter, but by being Ingenerate. Begotten and Procession are true of the Son and the Spirit. What constitutes the difference on your view between being a begetter and being a spirator? And are these extrinsic or intrinsic properties relative to the Father?

  9. Brandon Says:

    Dr. PrussI did not mean to imply that the St. Basil statemtent was either for or against the filioque (you have to skip down a few lines in “on not three gods” for that), I was merely using it as illustration that it is proper to speak of dependency relations as causal (in some sense) in the Trinity. However you still have not answered weather the Son is in any way causally related to the Holy Spirit and if so in what way.

  10. Gil Garza Says:

    In May of 1995 His Grace Kallistos Ware said regarding the Filioque controversy: “I now believe, after further study, that the problem is more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrinal differences” (Speech to a symposium on the Trinity; Rose Hill College, Aiken, South Carolina; emphasis added).”He said this after the release of a document entitled: The Father as the Source of the Whole Trinity: The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Greek and Latin Traditions, published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The document was presented to the Patriarchal Delegation and to His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch during the annual pilgrimage to St. Peter’s in Rome for the celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul. The document may be found here:, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation issued an Agreed Statement in 2003 stating: “We offer these recommendations to our Churches in the conviction, based on our own intense study and discussion, that our traditions’ different ways of understanding the procession of the Holy Spirit need no longer divide us.” The Consultation is Chaired by His Beatitude Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburg and is sponsored by the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas.The statement may be found here: so many Orthodox leaders expressing their belief that this issue has been resolved, I wonder why it continues to be argued as if nothing has changed?

  11. Acolyte4236 Says:

    With all due respect, Achbp Ware is not the pope of Orthodoxy. Achbp Ware has said some unguarded things about women’s ordination too.The recommendations of the Consultation are just that, recommendations and that of a few, largely ecumenists. They are not normative statements of the church. 2nd it is noteworthy that the usccb statement also denies the definition of the papacy found in Vat 1. (It denies that the divine institution of the papacy is of the apostolic deposit. “The Council (880 A.D.) also spoke of the Roman see in terms of great respect, and allowed the Papal legates the traditional prerogatives of presidency, recognizing their right to begin and to close discussions and to sign documents first. Nevertheless, the documents give no indication that the bishops present formally recognized any priority of jurisdiction for the see of Rome, outside of the framework of the Patristic understanding of the communion of Churches and the sixth-century canonical theory of the Pentarchy. The difficult question of the competing claims of the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople to jurisdiction in Bulgaria was left to be decided by the Emperor.”Or this gem,“A new stage in the history of the controversy was reached in the early eleventh century. During the synod following the coronation of King Henry II as Holy Roman Emperor at Rome in 1014, the Creed, including the Filioque, was sung for the first time at a papal Mass. Because of this action, the liturgical use of the Creed, with the Filioque, now was generally assumed in the Latin Church to have the sanction of the papacy. Its inclusion in the Eucharist, after two centuries of papal resistance of the practice, reflected a new dominance of the German Emperors over the papacy, as well as the papacy’s growing sense of its own authority, under imperial protection, within the entire Church, both western and eastern. “It is therefore strange that Catholics usually cite the material on the filioque but ignore the other parts of the statement. Somehow I don’t think Catholics will be all giddy about those statements.I wouldn’t say that “so many” Orthodox leaders expressing their belief that this issue has been resolved, because it hasn’t. If it has been resolved, where exactly in the statement is the resolution, and where are the episcopal signatories?

  12. Mark Krause Says:

    I’m kind of dissapointed that for the most part the argument expressed in the actual post hasn’t been addressed. I don’t see (contra Pruss) how this argument could fall to the same sort of qualifying about not equivocating the realtionship of the Father and Spirit with the relationship of the Son and the Spirit. The argument is about the fact that there are two sources of the Holy Spirit. Two causes (or two incomplete causes as the case may be). Furthermore, as Perry noted, whatever Pruss means by his elusive differentiation between the relations, this won’t get him far because the Catholic stance of “as of one principle” is dogmatically defined. Thus, I think both of St. Photius’ arguments still work. Gil, Ditto to what Perry said. I don’t have to agree with what any particular Bishop says unless he is supported by an ecumenical council. We’ve had plenty of heretical Bishops and Patriarachs (including at least one Patriarch of Rome that I can think of off the top of my head). We’re not RC’s and Bishop Kallistos (although I like him a lot) isn’t our Pope. My authority on this issue is St. Photius the Great and the eigth Ecumenical Council. Care to interact with any of the arguments of this and the previous post?

  13. Gil Garza Says:

    I see very little arguement taking place, actually. Most of what I see is reposting of ancient positions with some, “He’s right!” and, “Oh, No he isn’t!” thrown in for good measure.My purpose was to gently suggest that the conversation move away from ancient theological positions and toward modern understandings of those positions. The Eastern Orthodox Bishops of the Americas have produced a document about how they understand the Filioque issue and what remains to be resolved. The Vatican has produced a document on the Filioque issue and what remains to be resolved. Instead of argueing what Photius said or meant to say or what Florence said or meant to say, wouldn’t it be a better idea to read what the leadership of our Churches have said to one another and comment on that?Just a thought.

  14. Acolyte4236 Says:

    Gil,I thought Dr. Pruss took himself to be giving a good amount of argumentation, but perhaps you’d like to correct him.And again, you confuse the Orthodox episcopate with the recommendations of a consultation. What leaders have to say today has to deal with what the leaders of the past said and decided. Why give special place to the present leaders unless we wish to reject the entire notion of tradition for development?Secondly, if you could convince Rome to annul every new doctrine from Lyon forward, then we could just focus on what was taught now, but somehow I don’t think Rome is going to do that, not in my lifetime.

  15. Mark Krause Says:

    Gil, No. I don’t mean to sound mean or obnoxious, but I think that the age of Photius’ arguments has nothing to do with whether they are good arguments or not. (And I think they are rather good arguments) Nor can Catholics simply brush aside dogma that has been establshed. There are no magic erasers or do-overs for dogma. If you disagree with Florence on the Filioque, than you believe that your Church has dogmatically taught something false. This would mean that the RCC is not infallible. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter what current hierarchs may say or think on the issue. Even if all my hierarchs abandon the true faith, I am still accountable for keeping it(not that I think this is the current situation). This is basically what happened to my hero St. Maximus the Confessor. Even if both hierarchies came to an agreement and started taking the Eucharist together, if they have not actually resolved the problems and corrected the heresies which split the Church in the first place, then it will be a false unity and a blasphemous Eucharist. So unless the current Catholic understanding is that St. Photius, and the rest of the Eastern tradition was right all along, then I believe we will be at an impasse. And if it does turn out that what the Catholics now mean by filioque, is what we mean when we say through the Son, then the RCC should just repent of ever illegitimately inserting it into the creed. I hope I’ve been able to show you why I disagree with your suggestion without coming off like a total jerk.

  16. Gil Garza Says:

    Dr. Pruss is doing a yeoman’s job defining terms. As a matter for debate, rehashing old arguments is great cannon fodder. Perhaps bombasting is the point, here.While documents that are issued by Vatican Congregations or by SCOBA Consultations do not qualify as official Church teachings, they are issued with Episcopal approval. In the case of SCOBA, the Consultation is an Episcopal ministry that requires the consent of the bishops in the Conference and is led by His Beatitude Maximos (Aghiorgoussis), Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Pittsburg. As such, they should, in my humble view, be received seriously and their statements taken into consideration by concerned laity and theologians. Frankly, when Eastern Orthodox leaders say that because of the statements made by Rome, the Filioque issue should no longer divide our Churches, we should at least pay attention and take seriously their considerations. Your refusal to even read or take into consideration Eastern Orthodox leaders and blithely condemn them as heretics is telling. Perhaps I’m misreading the situation?

  17. Mark Krause Says:

    Gil, yeah, you’re misreading the situation. I never called Bishop Kallistos Ware a heretic. I was simply trying to point out that the statements of certain current members of the clergy don’t necessarily mean that much to us. Current clergy members, be they Catholic or Orthodox, can’t erase dogma. THat’s not to say that I will never look into what’s currently being said on the issue. It’s just that my historical investigations into the issue are more important and necessarily prior to whatever is currently being said about the issue. Furthermore, it is not clear that I’m just rehashing the same ole’ same ole. I don’t find it to be the case that a whole lot of Western Christians are very familiar with St. Photius’ arguments. I sure wasn’t when I was Reformed. I doubt that most Catholics, accept for the very apologetically oriented, are even very familiar with councils like Florence. THus, I think there is more than enough warrant for me to examine the arguments on my blog.

  18. Photios Jones Says:

    I’m very impressed to see that the spirit of St. Photios the Great is live in well. And Perry put forth arguments, whether they have historical traction in other ecclesiastic writers (they do) and are of the past or modern is irrelevent, the arguments went unanswered. And he fully addressed Dr. Pruss’s arguments.

    Also, it is worthy to note that the laity have a far more active role in the formation of dogma and its reception than what is in the Papal church, that seems to surprise papal christians..

    Thank you for posting these arguments Mark.

  19. Photios Jones Says:

    I also find it interesting that after being refuted on the filioque (and I often see this over and over, as it might be a psychological paradigm for those attached to the Franko-Latin filiqoue doctrine), the best that can be proffered over as a means to stave off Orthodox arguments, is to offer ecumenist statements of moderns or point to those that have been amongst the Orthodox lands as proponents of the filioque in the past, John Bekkos for example.

  20. Krause Says:

    Yeah, funny thing isn’t it? Seems like kind of a lame avoidence tactic to me.

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