Tuesday, March 01, 2005

To 'Filioque' or not to 'Filioque'

‘Filioque’ is a Latin phrase meaning “and the Son”. It was added to the Creed of Nicaea by Charlemagne so that the creed now states that the Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son.” This is how Protestant churches, and the Roman Catholic Church both confess the relationship within the Trinity. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the only one that refuses to claim the Jesus Christ can send the Spirit as well. Thus, for the Eastern Orthodox the Spirit proceeds only from the Father.

Sadly, one does not have to look very far in the Reformed world to see those who would desire to return to the Eastern view of the Trinity. It is an idea held forth by many within the Federal Vision movement, although I would stop short of saying that it is a characteristic of that movement. Andrew Sandlin holds forth this idea of revoking the Filioque clause.

If the Eastern form of Trinitarian dogma (which is where orthodox Trinitarianism developed) cannot be improved on within the Reformed tradition (and we don’t believe it can!), we have no problem championing the Eastern view; in other words, we do not feel it necessary to create a “Reformed version” of every doctrine (which may easily lead to heresy).

It have seen it on several other blogs telling us that this idea has taken root. The removal of the Spirit proceeding from Christ is not a minor thing. It opens the door again to Arianism, which is why the clause was first adopted in Spain, and then inserted by Charlemagne. The Arians claimed the if the Spirit only proceeded from the Father, then Christ was lesser than the Father. But more importantly, the Bible teaches us pretty clearly that the Son sends the Spirit too. John 15:26 Christ says, “I will send” the Spirit. John 20:22 states, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” This fairly clearly shows that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well. The Bible seems to say the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Why the sudden interest in rejecting this? I confess, I don’t know. It seems that there is a great need to undo things agreed upon, or go to the least common denominator in all arguments, but the motive is still unclear. However, one thing is clear, the church appears on the verge of having to re-fight a great many battles that we should have already settled.


Anonymous said...

Do you think the motive for undoing these doctrinal formulations could relate to the greater desire for organic unity in the church by these men?

A side note: although I'm not a great fan of R.J. Rushdoony, his book, THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL ORDER, has a unique chapter dealing with the implications of rejecting the Filioque, especially in the development of federalism.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you have just *proven* that FV is nothing more than a resurgence of Arianism. Good show.

Anonymous said...


I'd like to know who among the FV are proposing removing the Filioque clause.

Wilson? Jordon? Leithhart? Barach? Who?


Lee said...


I don’t think all in the movement want to remove it, as I said in the original post. However, clearly Andrew Sandlin is one who does believe the Eastern, non-filioque, is better. And Yes, I count Sandlin as a part of the Federal Vision movement, although he says he has differences with them. Substantially he agrees, and should be seen as part of the movement. One can see other bloggers rather than leaders on the web following suit. Barb a widely read blogger, recently stated her concerns and belief that it is not explicitly biblical. Others on Reformed Catholicism have done the same.

Other leaders are showing a propensity and/or willingness to change traditional language on the Trinity. The Mississippi Valley Presbytery Report records Steve Wilkins saying we are a part of “the very same covenant which has always existed within the Godhead for eternity.” It also quotes Ralph Smith and Peter Leithart are uncomfortable with ‘essense’ and ‘substance’ and other traditional means of expressing the Trinity. While, I have not read their books to see if Filioque is specifically attacked, it is this sort of rethinking of the Trinity that has lead many Federal Vision to begin to re-work the Trinity.

So, I guess my short answer would be Andrew Sandlin is the only major figure one can point a finger to and say he openly seems to be against it. Yet, as the MVP Report points out, many are rejecting the traditional formulations and beginning to work our their own. I am simply pointing out that I believe many will end up falling in the category of rejecting the Filioque clause.

Oh and to answer the first comment, I think it is greatly motivated by the desire for organic unity, at least I think that is what is driving Sandlin.

Andrew McIntyre said...

I think the Filioque clause is one of the glories of the Western Church. Perhaps it should have been instituted in an ecumenical council in ancient times instead of coming in the back door, but those days are long dead. In the modern, splintered church situation, which is, by the way, irreversible, truth should prevail over ecumenicism,

Peace to you,


Barb said...

Lee, sorry to be late to this discussion, but I want to clear something up. First: I believe the filioque is fine. Like I said on my blog, I say the filioque and I believe it. Second, I think you're wrong to attach this to the the so called "FV." Sandlin aside, you've got some substantiating to do if you want your assertion to stand. I DO NOT ever represent the so called "FV" and in particularly not when I question whether the filioque is essential to orthodoxy. I first heard my pastor cite reasons why this may be so in a study on the Nicene Creed. He is decidedly NOT involved in the "FV."

Please retract this accusation unless you can substantiate it. If you can fine. I just haven't heard any of the primary speakers associated with the FV question the filioque.

Who ever called the FV "arian," I have one suggestion: shaddup. ;)

Lee said...


I think I was clear that this is not everyone involved with the Federal Vision. I tried to put that in my first post. But, I do think that some are heading in this direction. If you want me to amend the statement to say that I think a minority of people in the current controversy, then I will do so.
As for substantiating my argument, I did provide proof in the article itself. First, Andrew Sandlin is not to be brushed aside lightly. He has a very large following. The man has to be classified as a big name and a leader in this movement. Second, you yourself have admitted that you think it not necessary and stated doubts about its biblical origins. This is not a ringing endorsement of Filioque. But, you do say it and believe in it, so you do appear to be a step short of Sandlin, who seems to be endorsing the Eastern Orthodox belief.
Which brings me to our main area of disagreement. How we define the Federal Vision movement as a whole. I am using the term broadly to include all those who appear to be moving to a redefinition of Reformed orthodoxy and beliefs. This includes many more than the 4 to 8 men who have spoken in or written for things titled, Federal Vision. Sandlin is a major part of this movement as a whole. He may not be an author in Federal Vision book, and he may not even be supported in this stance by those men. I hope not. But, he is a major influence, and that particular article is influential as well. It should also be noted that this article is posted by him on the organization he runs, without complaint by others in his group. I shall continue to search for more substantiation for you, but I don’t think that more is needed to back up a claim that some in the movement are questioning the importance of the Filioque clause.

Albert said...

I have just come across your site so I apologize for the rather late comments added to this post, but there appears to be a misconception as to what the argument is about.

The idea of procession has nothing at all to do with who gets to send the Holy Spirit to the Church. It is a metaphysical concept dealing with the eternal order of the Yrinity. The decisions of the Ecumenical Councils accepted by both East and West determined from their understanding of God's Word that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit eternally procedes from the Father.

It is not a matter of who is sending the Holy Spirit but of the eternal hierarchy within the Trinity. For the matter of the procession of the Holy Spirit, the Council Fathers of Constantinople cited John 15:26 where Jesus states He will send the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father - hence the distinction between the temporal sending and the eternal procession noted above.

It is true that the West added the filioque clause but clearly (from the way it was described later) misunderstood the scope of the original definition. The West would use the argument similar to yours in the post while the East pointed to the original context of the Council and rightly stated a double procession borders on polytheism. When you start messing with the Creed you always end up in a mess.