The Filioque Dispute

filioqueThe filioque clause is one area of theological disagreement between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. The Orthodox communities recite the Nicene creed by stating “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.”  The Catholic Church recites, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.” The essence of the Holy Spirit as the third person in the Holy Trinity is the same for both faith traditions. However, the Orthodox Church does not confess the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son. According to the Orthodox position, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.

The formulation for the recitation of the various creeds stating that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son does matter. Without the Son sending the Holy Spirit to humankind, and humanity reflecting this love back to the Father, the theology of deification is confused and even aborted. If the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, then we have a Father who is sending down His spirit to humanity; but, there is no opportunity for reciprocity or relationship if the Holy Spirit does not proceed back to the Father from the Son. To profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone is to remain a child who only receives. St. Paul writes of this level of faith to his disciples in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 stating, “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.”

The common ground between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church revolves around the shared theology of deification and the communion of saints. The filioque is not a hindrance to unity between the two Churches when the greater concept of deification is thoroughly clarified.

The Holy Spirit is a gift to humankind to bring about holiness. The Holy Spirit does not have its source in the human person. Therefore, like Jesus, who in his humanity did not claim equality with God; we too cannot claim equality with God because the Holy Spirit does not have its source in us. However, because Jesus Christ was also fully divine, the Holy Spirit proceeds from his divinity, not his humanity.

To deny the fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son is to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. To deny the divinity of Jesus Christ is to deny the possibility of deification for human beings. To deny the possibility of deification for human beings is to deny the communion of saints. To deny the communion of saints is to deny the Catholic and Orthodox theology which states we are called to cooperate with the gift of God’s grace. Therefore, the Orthodox Church proclaiming that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone finds itself aligned with the Protestant communities who claim salvation through faith and grace alone.

Personally, I like to believe that I have a choice in my salvation. Therefore, I remain Catholic.


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