A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

Drop The Filioque .Com

September 1st marks the launch of a new site: Dropthefilioque.com.  This web site was created by a group of Orthodox Christians who want to respond to overtures by Roman Catholics seeking the reunification of Roman Catholicism with Eastern Orthodoxy.

One major impediment to reunification is the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed.  The original version of the Nicene Creed confessed:

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of Life,

Who proceeds from the Father . . . .


The Church of Rome unfortunately added the Filioque clause (and the Son), changing the sentence from “Who proceeds from the Father” to “Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”


The Site’s Petition

The site is primarily for Roman Catholics who seek to end the schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  It is basically an online petition in which the petitioner makes the following request of the church’s hierarchy:

As a Roman Catholic Christian committed to future Christian unity between both east and west, I urge that the Filioque clause (“and the Son”) be removed from the Nicene Creed as used in both liturgical services and texts.

There is also an online petition that Protestants can sign.


Tradition and Creed

Many people ask: “What’s the big deal about the Filioque?  Can’t we all just get along?”  One thing I’ve noticed about Western Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, is that they try to show how the Filioque is a reasonable doctrine.  But there is a hidden assumption at work here.  It is that if a doctrine can be shown to be reasonable then it is permissible for us to alter the Nicene Creed.  But do we have the authority to revise the Creed?  The Orthodox answer is that only an Ecumenical Council has that authority.

Modern theology is reason driven.  Theologians will put forward theological propositions and debate the matter attempting to show that their propositions or theological systems possess a superior logic to the others.  The sources for theological propositions vary according to theological traditions.  They can be Scripture, early church fathers, papal decrees, modern science, modern theological scholarship, etc.  Creeds are viewed as expressions of our beliefs, the end result of theologizing.

Classical Christian theology assumes an Apostolic Tradition that is passed on from one generation to the next.  Theology debates are attempts to explore the implications of Tradition.  Tradition is the foundation for theology, not the other way around.  In this context the Nicene Creed expresses Apostolic Tradition.  Within the oral Tradition received from the Apostles was an implicit sense of what the Scriptures taught regarding Christ.  When this implicit understanding of Jesus as the Son of God came under attack by heresy the Church was forced to define this teaching explicitly and formally.

In the early fourth century the Christian Church was faced with the deadly heresy of Arianism which denied the divinity of Christ.  The bishops assembled at Nicea in 325 examined Scripture in light of the Tradition they received.  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they repudiated the Arian heresy and issued the Nicene Creed.  That was the First Ecumenical Council.  In 381 the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople I) expanded the section pertaining to the Holy Spirit.  Then in 431 the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus) ruled that no further alteration to the Nicene Creed was allowed.

The significance of an ecumenical council is that it states the consensus of the Church Catholic guided by the Holy Spirit on a particular matter.  It is not so much an option or an opinion as it is an authoritative teaching binding on all Christians.


Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Orthodoxy understands the Nicene Creed to be prescriptive.  It does not so much describe what all Christians might believe about God as it states authoritatively what Christians must believe about God, Christ, and the Church.  One could say that the Nicene Creed has an authority similar to that of a Supreme Court ruling on the US Constitution.  For Orthodox Christians the Church through her bishops has the authority to teach and define doctrine.  The teaching authority of the bishops trace back to Christ’s sending the Apostles to teach all the world (Matthew 28:19-20).  The Church relied historically more on the bishops, the successors to the Apostles, than on theologians with academic degrees.

For Protestants the Nicene Creed is primarily descriptive.  They believe that the Nicene Creed does not have authority in itself but is derived from the Bible.  In other words, the authority of the Creed is derivative, not substantive.  So long as the Nicene Creed is in agreement with Scripture then it is to be accepted.  This is consistent with sola Scriptura.  However, if a better interpretation of Scripture emerges then it is allowable to amend the Nicene Creed or make an altogether new creedal formula, hence Anglicanism’s 39 Articles, Lutheranism’s Augsburg Confession, the Reformed tradition’s Westminster Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.

For Roman Catholics the Nicene Creed is under the Pope, not over the Pope.  When the Pope inserted the Filioque into the Nicene Creed a major realignment of ecclesial authority took place.  The Pope without the assent of the other historic patriarchates: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and without convening an ecumenical council of bishops, unilaterally altered the Nicene Creed.  This was done even though the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus 431, Canon VII) forbade the creation of a new creed.  In essence, the Bishop of Rome was claiming a magisterium (teaching authority) equal to or superior to the Ecumenical Councils.  In exerting authority over the first three Ecumenical Councils the Pope was claiming authority over all Seven Ecumenical Councils.  Simply put, the Bishop of Rome, once first among equals, now claimed supremacy over all Christians, a startling departure from Tradition.  The emergence of a papal model of authority would in time clash with Orthodoxy’s conciliar model of authority.  Here we see how the Filioque lies at the root of the West-East Schism.

A First Step to Reunification

The online petition is to be viewed as a first step to reunification.  Unless the Filioque is officially dropped by the Roman Catholic Church any talk about reuniting with Eastern Orthodoxy will be premature.  We urge the Church of Rome and other Western Christians to return to the Creed confessed by the Church of the first one thousand years of church history.

We recognize that there are other important issues that need to be addressed, e.g., papal infallibility, the Marian dogmas, the Novus Ordo Mass, the Uniate churches, etc.  But let the restoration of the original authoritative version of the Nicene Creed be considered a sign that a new period of dialogue between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy is around the corner.

 Robert Arakaki
Disclosure:  OrthodoxBridge is one of the sponsoring sites.


  1. Prometheus

    Great Idea, this website.

  2. Burckhardtfan

    Excellent article, Robert! Funnily enough I have been reading up on the issue of the relationship between pope and council in the early church; I might be able to get the discussion rolling. The most interesting thing about the filioque debate is that none of the arguments have changed in the last thousand years; East and West have repeated themselves and made no progress. To this day the West tries to justify the filioque on the same grounds, arguing 1.) its theological soundness; and 2.) that the Nicene creed had been expanded before (i.e. at the Council of Constantinople). If the fathers of the past could expand the creed, they argued, what was wrong with their efforts? The East make the same counter-arguments, based upon theology but also on authority; Nicetas of Nicomedia (12th century), for example, said the ‘scandal’ of adding the filioque could only be put right if a general council of Eastern and Western churches authorised the addition (Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, p. 192).

    In my opinion, it all boils down to a matter of authority. Did the Pope have the right to insert the filioque without consulting an ecumenical council? It all depends on what powers you believe the pope has a right to. Here Clement Olivier (an Orthodox theologian who took up Pope John Paul II’s invitation to discuss the basis for exploring possible reunion) makes some interesting points. He points out that at the fifth ecumenical council the pope, Vigilius, refused to condemn a list of heretical texts known as “The Three Chapters”. Thereupon the council declared him excluded from catholic communion. Only after he relented did they restore him to full communion (You Are Peter, p. 47). The whole council, composed of East and West, set the precedent that questions of faith could only be resolved collegially, and not by a single council, party, or pope. If anyone opposed the whole consensus of the church – whether pope or council – he would be excommunicated (councils too could be viewed as void if they violated the consensus of the church, e.g. the Eastern councils which upheld iconoclasm). But what did the popes themselves think? Well, it seems they too accepted the precedent. Vigilius’ successors upheld the provision of the fifth council, and Gregory the Great even went so far as to threaten anathema on anyone who refused the accept the council’s condemnations (ibid, p. 47)! Indeed, a council of union (879-880) representing the Pentarchy – with the aim of healing the divisions caused by the synod of disunion in 869-870 – proclaimed the creed without the filioque. The precedent of Vigilius was upheld by the last council of union between East and West (ibid, p. 39)

    Personally, I have no problem if someone believes in the correctness of the filioque – provided they hold it as a private opinion and do not change the creed. And I have no problem with potentially adding the filioque to the creed – provided an ecumenical council legislated the addition. As Kallistos Ware said, the creed is the common property of the church (The Orthodox Church, p. 51), and must have an ecumenical council to represent its interests. To add the creed without consulting the whole church was bound to break the unity of church – and it has, with tragic consequences.

    • Canadian

      Thanks for your comments.
      The two occasions you cite are why I went to Orthodoxy rather than Rome. What is ironic, is that Vigilius wrote with the authority of the Apostolic see his Constitutum, forbidding the Council to condemn the 3 Chapters. They refused and proceeded with an infallible Council without him.

      Also, Pope John VIII annulled the 869 Council (which Rome now calls her 8th Ecumenical) with papal authority at the 879 Council.
      Thank God for Orthodoxy.

    • robertar

      Dear Burckhardtfan,

      I agree with what you wrote in the last paragraph. Thanks.


  3. Scott Robert Harrington

    Dear Friends: I have been hoping for a long while that someone would discuss the Filioque online from the Orthodox perspective. More than just discussing this and saying the Filioque is wrong, I would state I also hope that someone will post the teachings of “The Synodicon of Orthdoxy” found in: Saint Photios. (1983). On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, trans. Boston, MA: Studion Publishers. And also, besides discussing St. Photios’s Mystagogy in this English translation, also discuss the same work in another, easier-to-read English translation, the one: St. Photios. (1987). The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. Joseph P. Farrell, Ph.D., trans. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Kyrie eleison. All of you, may Christ remember in His Kingdom. Amen. God bless us everyone! Amen. In Erie PA USA Scott Robert Harrington Monday, September 2, 2013 AD (new calendar date).

    • robertar


      Welcome! And thanks for bringing to my attention Saint Photios’ “On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit.”


  4. Fr. John W. Morris

    As a veteran of this same discussion as an Orthodox participant in the North American Orthodox Lutheran Ecumenical Dialogue, I though that my comments would add to the discussion.
    There are several reasons why the Orthodox object to the “filioque” clause. The first is that it was unilaterally added to he Creed by the Pope. To put it simply, the Bishop of Rome does not have the authority to change the Creed approved by the Ecumenical Councils. I would think that argument alone would be enough to convince Anglicans to drop the “filioque.” It is very simple and straight forward. Clearly stated the Bishop of Rome is under the authority of the Ecumenical Councils, not above them as Rome claims. Since the Creed as approved by the Ecumenical Councils does not include the “filioque” it is only logical that an Anglican would favor dropping it and returning to the Creed as approved by the Ecumenical Councils. Remember, the goal of the English Reformation was to return to the Faith of the ancient Church. That Faith is expressed in the dogmatic decisions of the 7 Ecumenical Councils which approved the Creed without the ‘filioque.” Although Western Rite Orthodox use them, the Apostles and Athanasian Creeds are not really ecumenical because neither was approved by an Ecumenical Council. That is why it is such an important matter for Orthodox. According to our beliefs the Ecumenical Councils are the ultimate authority on how we interpret the Holy Scriptures and express our Faith. Rome has given this authority to the Pope, something that neither Anglicans nor Orthodox can accept.
    The theological issues are more complex, because it all depends on what one means by the statement that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The only actual Biblical text that speaks of the Procession of the Holy Spirit is St. John 15:26 “But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” Therefore on Biblical grounds taken as an explanation of the source of the Holy Spirit, the “filioque” is un-Biblical. That is in is eternal or ontological existence, the Father is the source of the other two persons of the Trinity. We call this the monarchy of the Father. He Son is eternally begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father. However, there is also the economic Trinity, that is how the Trinity saves us. Here the Holy Scriptures teach that the Son sends the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if one means by “and the Son” or “through the Son” that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Son, “filioque” is Biblically sound. However, it still does not belong in the Creed, because the Creed should be recited using the text officially approved by the Ecumenical Councils. However, understood as describing the economic Trinity, the Article in the 39 Articles does not conflict with the Creed, because the Creed is a discussion of the ontological Trinity.
    I might add that having studied English history, I know that historically the Anglican Church has allowed a great deal of latitude when interpreting the 39 Articles. That is why Anglicanism can embrace both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.

    The Very Rev. John W. Morris, Ph.D.

    • robertar

      Dear Father John,

      It’s good to have someone with your expertise and experience. We need a site where there can be a full on discussion about the Filioque. My understanding is that Dropthefilioque.com is primarily a petition site where people can go on record requesting that the Filioque be dropped from the Nicene Creed. There’s a saying by Mark Twain: “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” We need something concrete to move the conversation forward between Catholics and Orthodox.


  5. Vince

    Interesting argument, but:
    1) We can Romantacize history all we’d like, but The English Reformation was about Henry VIII being able to Divorce the woman he had to get a dispensation to marry in the first place, so that he could re-marry in the Church. You may not agree with the Universal jurisdiction of the Papacy, but where is the biblical basis for the king being the head of the Church? The Church that existed under Henry was not much different that the one he headed. The Protestant theology that ensued in the next couple of hundred years looked nothing like the “Ancient Faith,” nor Orthdoxy.
    2) How can one over look Jesus’ statement that He is sending the Spirit. You quote the scriptural passage, but don’t seem to recognize that Biblically speaking, one can argue that the theology of the Filioque is consistent with the Bible.
    3) The Filioque was originally adopted by a Spanish Council to combat Arianism. A teaching declared heretical. However, going into the council, almost 3/4 of the Bishops of the church could have been considered in heresy, as they thought Arius had a point. It was Athansius’ persistence that won them over. If it had to be added, then Arianism was obviously still a problem.
    4) The Letter to the Hebrews barely met the criteria for the Canon. However, it was widely used in the Eastern Church; therefore, it was left in the canon. I use this as an example of how half of the church can be used as a criteria to apply something to the rest of the Church. Many of the early councils before the Muslim conquests where heavily Eastern, yet the statues issued applied in the West also.
    5) From what I gather, the reason Anglicanism embraces both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals is b/c they refuse to address the issues that obviously arise from such different theological traditions.

    I hope I don’t sound combative. I’m just trying to commit some thoughts that popped into my head as I read the article and Fr. John’s comments.

    • robertar


      Welcome to the conversation!

      The Filioque clause is about the Holy Spirit’s eternal relationship with the Father and the Son. In the first half of John 15:26 when Jesus spoke about his sending the Holy Spirit to the disciples–that was in history, that part part does not relate to the internal relations among the Persons of the Trinity. In the second half of the verse Jesus simply states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. I think you are confusing the Holy Spirit’s work in history with the Holy Spirit’s eternal relation with the Father and the Son. Technically, ‘theology’ has to do with God in himself and ‘economy’ with God’s relationship with creation. So, the Orthodox position is based on a straightforward reading of John 15:26. Hope this helps.

      As for your other comments, I’ll let Fr. John answer them.


    • Andrew Paul

      The “Eastern” dogmatic influence upon the “West” occurred with the consent of the West , the East did not unilaterally impose the book of Hebrews into the “West’s” Bibles , nor did the Eastern dominated councils unilaterally impose their positions on the West , the West always contributed , even if in the minority, to the direction of the councils , even if they as one bloc thoroughly disagreed with homogeneously Eastern positions, and the West assented to authority of these respective councils, and their decisions etc. However, the pope added the filioque clause with no contribution or by any authority granted by the East – he acted unilaterally and without the consent of the East. Moreover , to for the Son to confess that He “sends” the Spirit “from the Father” , and that the Spirit “proceeds” from the Father He implicitly denies that the the Spirit proceeds from Himself – but in any event, the only scriptural passage speaking directly of the procession of the Spirit , and directly from the Son Himself, states unambiguously , that the Spirit proceeds from the Father , and that in time the Son sends the Spirit which proceeds from the Father to those born into the kingdom of God. No scripture claims a procession of the Spirit from the Son even historically , let alone eternally.

      • robertar


        Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I appreciate your insights.


  6. Dana Ames

    I think this move is a good first step. It seems to me that this issue and the other ones Robert articulated above are “symptomatic”. One has to go back “behind the Pope” to the Catholic view of the church and compare it to the Orthodox view. I think no one has done this better than the late Philip Sherrard in “Church, Papacy and Schism” (third ed. 2009)

    Robert, if you haven’t read this one yet, it would be a very good addition to your library.


    • robertar


      Thanks for the recommendation! It looks like a good book to get.


  7. Fr. John W. Morris

    Robert is right the “filioque” confuses the ontological Trinity with the economic Trinity. If one applies the “filioque” to the ontological Trinity the result is that the Holy Spirit is treated as inferior to the Father and the Son and becomes a lesser Person of the Holy Trinity. Augustine implies this because he defines the Holy Spirit as the love between the Father and the Son. This is ironic because the clause concerning the Holy Spirit was added to the Creed by the I Council of Constantinople, the 2nd Ecumenical Council in 381, to condemn the Macedonian heresy that denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
    For our salvation, the Son sends the Holy Spirit. This is the economic Trinity. That the Son sent the Holy Spirit does not mean that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, for the origin of the Holy Spirit is its eternal procession from the Father. If you mean that the Son sends the Holy Spirit by interpenetrating the “filioque” as meaning the same as “through the Son” or “sent by the Son” the “filioque” is Biblical. However, it is still an illegal addition to the Creed, because only an Ecumenical Council, has the authority to change the Creed, not a local council in Spain and certainly not the Pope. The 4th Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon, forbade any additions or changes to the Creed.
    The West agreed not to change the Creed by inserting the “filioque” clause at the Council of Constantinople in 879. Unfortunately, the West did not keep its word and added the “filioque” to the Creed.
    Henry VIII was not really the founder of Anglicanism. His desire for a divorce was the cause for the schism, but he wanted a national Catholic Church free of papal domination, or what we Orthodox would call an autocephalous Church. Louis XIV, and Joseph II unsuccessfully tried to do the same thing later in France and Austria. Remember this was before Vatican I and the declaration of papal infallibility. The theologians, like Hooker, Andrewes and others who were responsible for the development of Anglican theology stated that their goal was a return to the Faith of the ancient Church. Under Elizabeth I, a canon was issued that stated that nothing should be taught that did not conform to the teachings of the ancient Catholic Church. However, others like Cranmer fell under heavy Calvinist influence. This is seen in the radical revisions of the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1551. This influence is also reflected in the 39 Articles, which, however, stopped short of endorsing Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination. Significantly Archbishop Whitgift’s attempt to make Anglicanism fully Calvinistic under Elizabeth I through the Lambeth Articles was rejected. Thus there is an historic tension within Anglicanism between the Calvinists who formed the base for the Evangelical Movement especially after the Arminian Evangelicals followed Wesley left Anglicanism to form the Methodist Church, and the more Catholic or High Church Anglicans who laid the basis for the Oxford Movement and the development of Anglo-Catholicism. Anglicanism is based on the Elizabethan Settlement which was meant to be a compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism to avoid the religious conflicts that were raging in Europe. Thus, Anglicanism has always lacked doctrinal uniformity, and tended towards vague doctrinal statements designed to include as many different opinions as possible within the official Church of England. The three historical parties are High Church which leans towards a more Catholic and Sacramental view of the Church, the Low Church, which leans towards a more Protestant and Calvinistic view of the Church, and Broad Church which is somewhere between the two. Even the 39 Articles can be interpreted different ways as Newman’s Tract 90 shows. In 1888 the gathering of the world’s Anglican Bishops at Lambeth declared that acceptance of the 39 Articles are not binding on Anglicans. The lack of specific doctrinal formulas allowed radical liberals to take over the Episcopal Church. The current Presiding Bishop has broken with Anglican tradition by attempting to impose doctrinal conformity on the Episcopal Church through acceptance of her radical feminist and pro-gay views.
    The Council of Toledo in 589 which introduced the “filioque” was a local council that was not recognized by the canons of the Council in Trullo which listed which local and Patristric canons which have ecumenical authority. The 7th Ecumenical Council, Nicea II in 787, recognized the Council in Trullo as a continuation of the 5th and 6th Ecumenical Councils. Therefore the Council of Trullo and the local councils and Patristric canons recognized by Trullo have ecumenical authority. Toledo has no ecumenical authority. An unrecognized local council has no authority to revise the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.
    Trullo also recognized the Book of Hebrews as part of the canon of the New Testament. Which had before been recognized by the universal acceptance of the canon of the New Testament listed by St. Athanasius in his 39 Festal Letter in 367. St. Athanasius’ list of canonical Books was accepted by the Council of Carthage of 419, and ratified by the Council in Trullo, which, as I have mentioned, was accepted as a continuation of the 6th Ecumenical Council by the 7th Ecumenical Council. Thus Hebrews is canonical because it was recognized as canonical by an Ecumenical Council. However, the “filioque” is not ecumenical because it was never recognized by an Ecumenical Council. Instead, the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon forbade any additions or changes to the Creed.

  8. David

    Well said Fr John

  9. David

    Who would want to say “The Son is eternally begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit”? (nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was obviously present at the Incarnation, in time/history, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.)

    • Archpriest John W. Morris

      The Son existed before the Incarnation because the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. Therefore you cannot say that the Son is begotten, but you can say as does the Creed that the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.

  10. John Wells

    We remember that next year marks 1,000 years since Pope Benedict VIII allowed the Filioque to be included in a service in his private chapel for the first time in the year 1014. Was he bowing to pressure from Frankish clergy in allowing this? We may never know for sure.

    BTW: I’ve tried without success to get my own Presbyterian congregation to drop the unauthorized Filioque in our current monthly recitation of the Creed. My alternative? Convert to Orthodoxy–we’re in classes with a local priest now. Blessings!

    • Archpriest John W. Morris

      I did not want to get into it, but it was the Franks who were eventually successful in their efforts to have the “filique” included in the Creed. Part of the problem was political, because the papal claim to crown an Emperor for the West and therefore a rival to the Emperor in Constantinople, greatly alienated the Byzantine Emperors. After the coronation of Charlemagne in 800, the Franks wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from Constantinople and show that they were equal to the Byzantines. That led them to elevate Augustine of Hippo to the level of the most important of the Fathers, whereas he was never really considered a Father of great importance, especially in the East where he was so unimportant that his works were not translated into Greek until the 13th century. Augustine provided the theological basis for the “filioque” by teaching that the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. Originally the Church in Spain inserted the “filioque” into the Creed after the Council of Toledo in 589 as a part of their conflict with Arians. The Franks championed the “filioque” as a part of their effort to show their independence of Constantinople. At first the Popes refused to include the “filioque”in the Creed. In fact, Pope Leo III (795 – 816) had two silver shields hung in St. Peter’s in Rome, one in Greek and one in Latin with the Creed in its original wording with out the “filioque.” However, the power of the Frankish emperors was so great that Benedict VIII inserted in the Creed when he crowned Henry II Emperor in 1014. The Eastern Church naturally objected to the unilateral altering of the Creed as approved by the Ecumenical Councils by the West. However, the Popes who were beginning to claim superiority to Ecumenical Councils took upon themselves the authority to revise the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils which they claim could only advise the Pope, who alone had the authority to make final decisions for the Church. Thus the Eastern Church which still considers an Ecumenical Council the highest authority of the Church objected not only to the addition of the “filioque” but to the claim of the Bishops of Rome to authority above the Ecumenical Councils.

      • Jeff

        I would argue that quite a bit, if not all of the issues regarding papal authority stem from the desire of the West to assert authority itself and break from Rome (Constantinople). The ancient western barbarian kings were all seen as usurpers to what actually belonged to the Roman Empire. I believe even Charlemagne declared that he was merely a servant of the Emperor to the East – though that was just words.

        So the West needed to have a new foundation for authority unattached to the Empire and a system that would allow it to hold power. Ultimately vesting the power in the Roman pontiff would lead to this, but it completely turned the theory of church governance on its head and allowed for great innovation.

        The filioque is a central issue, but it is representative of a larger issue. No patriarch is above the mind of the Church as expressed in the Councils. No patriarch can introduce innovations (purgatory, the storehouse of the saints and the indulgences that flow from that, etc). Returning to the Constantinopolitan Nicene Creed is the first step, but Rome would also have to return to being the “first among equals”, honored because of St. Peter and St. Paul’s martyrdom in Rome, as it was at the beginning (coupled with Rome’s authority as the center of the Empire). That means an end to the Vatican I concept of ex cathedra utterances and an end to the Magisterium.

        Orthodoxy is the Apostolic Faith. The only way to return to The Church in the canonical sense is to return to Orthodoxy. Discussion is a worthwhile thing to have – and I am encouraged by how much ecumenical dialogue is happening inside Christianity today. But the reason Orthodoxy cannot adjust to the whims of Catholics and Protestants is because of what it is – the Apostolic Faith. The other Christian groups can change fairly easily (in theory).

        I do pray for the reunion of The Church. What a testimony it would be if much of Christianity returned to Orthodoxy and reclaimed the Apostolic Faith that the Orthodox have preserved and maintained (with God’s help!) for so long.

        • robertar


          There is a slow trickle of people returning to the ancient Faith. You might be interested in my article: “Crossing the Bosphorus.” Let’s keep the conversation going!


  11. Justin

    Were I to have been asked about the filioque some time ago, I think I would have said, “so what?” What does this little bit of wording matter?

    Thanks to folks here and elsewhere, I understand better why it matters, from the whole idea of ECs determining/defining doctrine, to the implications these few words have on Christology and the Trinity. This small clause literally changed the course of history.

    Now, I will no longer say, “so what,” and I agree with the Orthodox church.

    Drop the filioque.



    • Fr. John W. Morris

      I do not think that most Westerners realize that the Roman Empire continued in the East until the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Therefore, it was an assumption of authority that he did not have when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor in 800, a title reserved at that time for the ruler of the Roman Empire. Through this action, the Pope not only gave himself the power to determine who is the Emperor, but also set up a rival to the Roman Empire with its capital in Constantinople. He took this drastic step unilaterally without any consultation with Constantinople. Incidentally, the coronation of Charlemagne was also sexist, because one reason that Leo and Charlemagne used to justify giving the Frankish King the imperial title was that the ruler of the Roman Empire at that time was a woman, Irene of Athens. Leo III and Charlemagne argued that a woman cannot rule the Roman Empire. Therefore they proclaimed that the throne of the Roman Empire was vacant. Only it was not vacant, for Irene ruled the Empire as Empress.

      • Justin

        Thank you for that, Father. I did not know that!

        I’m reading Timothy Ware’s book on the Orthodox Church, and finding that the history that is barely even covered in Western history classes is amazing!

        Not only am I being introduced to the Orthodox church, but I feel like there’s a more than a little bit of history that was glossed over, at least for me. That is natural, of course, but I can’t help but feel robbed that most church history books and lectures that I have taken in gloss over the eastern church as if it were a minor side note.

        It is very unfortunate. Thanks to all here for helping me to fill that gap!

        • robertar


          What you wrote reminds me of the opening sentence to my article on Emperor Constantine: “Tell me the history of Christianity and I can tell you your theology.” Glad you’re learning stuff. We know what you’re going through.


  12. Fr. John W. Morris

    At the risk of sounding arrogant, I recommend my latest book THE HISTORIC CHURCH: AN ORTHODOX VIEW OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY. You can find it listed under Archpriest John Morris on Amazon. It is a more detailed history than Ware’s book. Here is the summary of the book on the Amazon site
    The Historic Church is a survey of Christian history written for Orthodox Christians by an Eastern Orthodox scholar. Although one can find many excellent studies of Christian history in the United States, none of them considers the development of Christianity from an Eastern Orthodox point of view. The work begins by laying a foundation for the study of Christian history by discussing the beliefs and practices of the ancient Church, during the age of the Fathers and the Seven Ecumenical Councils. The author then discusses the development of Roman Catholicism and the theological and cultural reasons for the split between Rome and Orthodoxy, and relations between East and West following the schism. He concludes his work with a discussion the origins and historical development of every major Protestant group and tells how they differ from Orthodoxy.

    • Justin

      Fr. Morris-

      Not arrogant at all! Thank you for the recommendation!


  13. Darlene

    Comparing the Nicene Creed’s authority to a Supreme Court ruling is misleading, in my opinion. The reason being that Supreme Court rulings have been reversed by later rulings of the Supreme Court, examples such as the Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling and Plessy v. Ferguson, now considered dreadful rulings by the Supreme Court. There is a fluidity that exists within the Supreme Court that would be considered egregious if it existed within Orthodoxy.

    This leads me to another point. Why bother saying that the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed can only be changed by another council when the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon stated that no further changes could be made to the creed? The matter was settled and is settled…period! Do we really want fluidity within our faith such that some new council can come along and change what a former council stated could not be changed?

    • robertar


      No analogy is perfect, but I still think the US Supreme Court analogy is a pretty good one. I am aware of the shifts in the Court’s opinion on a number of issues, but keep in mind that it was not the result of an external authority but from within the Court itself.

      I personally think that the possibility a revised Nicene Creed very unlikely. I hesitate to to make an unqualified black-and-white statement; it’s my nature as an academic to be careful in my phrasing. If asked about the possibility my answer would be that I can’t see it happening and that I would be opposed any revision to the Nicene Creed. BTW, according to some Orthodox Christians conditions today are such that the convening of an Ecumenical Council is impossible, e.g., the lack of an emperor. But thanks for raising the question.


      • Fr. John W. Morris

        The Orthodox Church has continued to hold councils since the last Ecumenical Council. We just call them Pan-Orthodox Councils. Examples would be the Council of Constantinople of 1351 that endorsed the theology of St. Gregory Palamas, and the Council of Jerusalem Bethlehem of 1672 that condemned Calvinism are examples of Pan Orthodox Councils. Plans are being made for a Great and Holy Council to address contemporary issues such as how a Church becomes autocephalous and the unity in Orthodoxy in America and other places in the so-called Diaspora. Thus although we reserve the title Ecumenical Council for the 7 Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox Church is quite capable of holding councils to resolve problems.

  14. Fr. John W. Morris

    I do not think that anyone would argue that the U.S. Supreme Court is led by the Holy Spirit. The Ecumenical Councils, on the other hand, were led by the Holy Spirit. The acceptance of the 7 Ecumenical Councils by both East and West show the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    • robertar

      Good point!


  15. Burckhardtfan

    Interestingly enough, Pope John Paul II seemed to be moving in the direction of these same Catholics, being aware of the division the filioque causes. On 29 June 1995 he declared to Patriarch Bartholomew: “The Father, as source of the entire Trinity, is the sole origin of the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Olivier Clement, You Are Peter, p. 81). This is exactly the position of the Orthodox! I’m not sure of the exact context of the exchange, but it is a hopeful sign.

    • Fr. John W. Morris

      The Roman Catholics have made the same statement before. Even Augustine recognizes that the Father is the source of the Son and the Holy Spirit. At Florence the Roman Catholics argued that the filioque clause actually meant
      through the Son. They justified the addition as a clarification not a real change since Eastern Fathers have also taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son for our salvation. Thus, it is possible to explain the filioque in a way that is acceptable to Orthodox theology. The problem remains that the West added the filioque to the Creed unilaterally. The Lutherans argued during the North American Orthodox Lutheran Dialogue that it was a part of their Western tradition. Rome, of course, argues that the Pope has superior authority to an Ecumenical Council and therefore has the right to change or clarify the Creed. Orthodox insist that the only authentic version of the Creed is the Creed as accepted by the Ecumenical Councils. We also believe that all Bishops are subject to the authority of the Ecumenical Councils including the Bishop of Rome.

      • robertar

        Dear Fr. John,

        Thank you for your input.

        There has been much discussion about the theology behind the Filioque clause and the reasons why Orthodoxy rejects the Filioque. Right now, what I’m more interested in is how many Roman Catholics have signed the petition. If there is little interest among Catholics in dropping the Filioque then we can infer that the time is not right for us to pursue reunification between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.


        • Fr. John W. Morris

          The time for reunification will only come when we have resolved all the doctrinal differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. The Orthodox position is quite simple. We can reunite on the basis of the Faith of the ancient Church is it was before the schism. That would mean that Rome would hold a primacy of honor as first among equals, but not of jurisdiction and recognize that the pope is subject to the authority of the rest of the Church gathered in Ecumenical Council.

  16. Fr. John Morris

    There is not a Calvinist web site dedicated to defending the filioque Keep the Filioque http://www.keepthefilioque.com/
    The articles are very interesting because they are all based on human reason. quote very little from the Holy Scriptures, take a few Fathers out of context, and show their true allegiance by quoting extensively from Calvin. Their arguments also confirm the statement, that I believe comes from Lossky, “The God of the filioque is the God of the philosophers.” Significantly none of the articles discuss the issue of the authority of the Ecumenical Councils as superior to local councils, the opinion of theologians, as well as the Bishop of Rome. It is somewhat ironic that Protestants would not understand the Orthodox argument that the Bishop of Rome has no authority to change the Creed as written and approved by the Ecumenical Councils.

    • Anastasios

      Well, Protestants don’t believe the Ecumenical Councils have any authority on their own, any more than the Papacy would. They defend the filioque because they believe it’s true, not because the Pope said so.*

      *The vast majority of garden-variety evangelicals have no idea what the filioque even _is_, and are largely illiterate on anything relating to church history. Most liberal Christians are in the same boat. The kind of people who operate that website are a very, very tiny minority within Protestantism, the so called “truly reformed” or “confessional” Protestants. Nowadays there are probably enough of them to fill a phone booth.

      • Bayou Huguenot

        We give them ministerial status, not normata status, but the sentiment is basically correct. I’ll admit I’ve wrestled long and hard on the Filioque. You are right that evangelicals have no clue on the subject (to make matters worse, the only one who truly wrestled with it is Karl Barth!). Liberals, to the degree that they care (which they don’t, usually) often reject the Filioque because they see the rejection as allowing for the Spirit’s work apart from Christ.

        While Joseph Farrell did a good job on exposing the neo-platonic parts of the Filioque, I suspect that both the Filioque and *ek monou patrou* readings both assume a similar substance metaphsycs.

        I hold to Filioque as the Father is the locutionary agent; the Son is the Illocutionary Word, and the Spirit is the perlocutionary effect of the previous two.

  17. Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

    Out of curiosity, how does one gloss the statement by Cyril?

    “For even if the Spirit exists in his own hupostasis, and moreover is considered by himself insofar as he is the Spirit and not the Son, yet he is not therefore alien from the Son, for he is called the Spirit of truth and Christ is the truth, and the Spirit proceeds from him, just as undoubtedly he also proceeds from God the Father.” – St Cyril of Alexandria, Letter 17:17 (Third Letter to Nestorius)

    • Fr. John Morris

      My response is very simple. I looked at the whole document. The letter that you quote introduces his 12 anathemas against Nestorius and was approved by the Council of Ephesus. Significantly the translation of the text contained in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, series II, vol. XIV p. 204 is very different from the translation that you quoted. This translation does not state that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, but that the Holy Spirit “is sent by him….” Which is what the Bible and the Orthodox Church teaches. If you read the whole text, you will see that St. Cyril quotes extensively from the Nicene Costantanopolitan Creed. We all know that the version of the Creed quoted by him did not contain the filioque clause since the Council of Ephesus met in 431 and the filique was not added to the Creed in Rome until 1014.
      St. John 15:26 is the only Biblical text that refers to the procession of the Holy Spirit. The text states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. How can a Protestant criticize us because we base our doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Scriptures, not the speculations of Augustine, who could not even read the original Greek text, but developed his theology on the basis of a Latin translation that was filled with errors? If you are Reformed, I suggest that you read St. Cyril’s whole letter, because you cannot reconcile what he wrote about the Eucharist with the Calvinist doctrine of the Mystery of Holy Communion.
      Even if your translation is correct, it would make no difference because no Father was infallible. Instead, we look to the consensus of the Fathers and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils as an expression of the teachings of the Church. Unfortunately, St.Cyril did make one very serious mistake that helped lay the foundation for the schisms that followed Chalcedon and created the Oriental Orthodox Churches. St. Cyril summarized his Chistology with the statement, “One nature of the Incarnate Logos.” St. Cyril thought that he was quoting St. Athanasius, but he was actually quoting the heretic Appolinarius.

    • Fr. John Morris

      I did some additional research. St. Cyril of Alexandria presided over the Council of Ephesus in 431, the 3 Ecumenical Council which condemned Nestorianism. Canon VII of that Council forbade any changes in the “Faith” of Nicea, which or course meant the Creed. The Council of Chalcedon also forbade any changes in the Creed.

  18. David

    Hey Jacob,

    I think you know the answer to this. There’s no reason to “gloss over”
    it at all since no one comment from a father’s comment establishes
    the doctrines of the Orthodox Church. (You know this too.) In show-
    ing the Spirits’ independent hypostasis from the Son Cyril seems
    anxious to show this doesn’t make Spirit “Alien” from the Son…being
    present in the womb of the Virgin at conception, and is also “sent” by
    the Son in history at Pentecost. Who knows what all was in his head?
    We could all play “let’s all call up confusing quotes from or even embar-
    rassing quotes from the Fathers” (or Reformed me like Calvin/Luther..
    .et all. You really think this sort of thing scores you some Protestant
    points…as IF the Orthodox supposedly embrace every comment of every
    Fathers? You know better than this. So, should we assume you are just
    playing games to confuse the ignorant and less informed? It is beneath
    you Jacob. You’re a better man than this sort of foolishness…and we all
    know it.

    • Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

      It’s not “beneath” me. I was asking a genuine question. Even when I defended a Photian triadology, I could never figure out what Cyril meant by this. Farrell admits as much. I don’t see Cyril saying he was sent from the Son, since the syntax (and probably the vocabulary, but I don’t have the Greek passage in front of me) seem to use the word for “proceed,” not “send.”

      The language seems to preclude any other reading that doesn’t have the Spirit proceeding from the Son in the same way as from the Father.

      • Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

        Addendum: I was simply summarizing the argument of Russian Orthodox theologian Sergii Bulgakov. Photius had said that any time the Fathers speak of the Son proceeding from the hypostasis of the Father, what they really meant was that the Son was sending the Spirit *in time.* Bulgakov shows that is clearly not the case, and uses Cyril (and Athanasius and Epiphanius) as an example.

        • Fr. John Morris

          Bulgakov is not the best source for Orthodox theology. Most Orthodox theologians feel that he drifted into heresy with his teaching on sophiology. Besides, he is just one theologian. Phoius the Great is a Saint of the Orthodox Church and his Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit is considered a correct expression of Orthodox doctrine.

          • Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

            I understand the problems with Bulgakov, but I do not find all his individual arguments wrong.

            And I’ve read most everything by Photius, Joseph Farrell, the entire NPNF Series II editions of the fathers, etc. NOt that it makes me smart or anything (I speak as a fool), but I am as familiar with the documents as any other.

          • William Tighe

            Perhaps one will have to wait until the publication of a forthcoming book on “The Filioque and St. Cyril of Alexandria” (from Oxford Univ. Pr., I think) by Gregory Hillis, to get more illumination on this particular question.

    • G.E. Hoostal

      ‘Gloss’ means just ‘explain’, ‘gloss OVER’ being something different. Jacob did not say ‘over’. Sorry I have no gloss though. (^_^) I think it’s important to remember one statement by one Father does not make a doctrine, but in this case, since it is contrary to all we have established, most especially findings of an ecumenical council. Thus it would seem to be an error. St. Photios says about this error, if any Fathers ‘happened to express some such thing, if they happened to fall into something unbecoming, then I would imitate the good sons of Noe and hide my father’s shame, by using silence and gratitude as a cloak.’ Anyway, the finding of the ecumenical council prohibiting change to the Creed trumps all controversy about the filioque, albeit not about personal belief in dual procession.

      A few ideas about things alluded to in other comments:

      1. If the R.C. Pope were to have authority over the Ecumenical Councils, as if he were allowed to cancel any item he doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with, & if papal infallibility, an attendant doctrine, were true, then all councils would probably be pointless: Question, controversy, possible heresy? Ask the Pope; he has every answer, directly from God Himself, so follow him even blindly. Then even the Council of Jerusalem would be pointless, & Acts 15 could be ripped from the Scriptures, & the Apostles & priests there had had no need to come together to consider a matter because they could have just asked St. Peter for his infallible opinion. (–_^) Of course we’d have to get rid of Mt. 16:22,23, because they show him to be certainly fallible!

      2. Papal infallibility would mean the popes who opposed the filioque were correct, but so were the ones who endorsed it—both cannot be right!

      3. Yes, councils can still be held, but they have to be held to address a heresy or possible heresy—are there any still around in the Orthodox Church? I don’t know. I was looking up ‘pan-Orthodox council’ & found one of the topics might be ‘contribution of Orthodox to affirming peace, brotherhood and freedom’—that sounds too vague to be the addressing of any possible heresy & like it is probably instead part of a political agenda (ecclesiastical engineering?), to shape the Church according to a plan, which would be unsuitably worldly in its foundation. Then if a council were to be held, in what way would any ecumenical nature be determined? Weren’t all the Ecumenical Councils convened by emperors? Maybe convention by emperor is a requirement.

      • robertar

        G.E. Hoostal,

        Thank you for joining the discussion. I would like to note that the Roman Catholic understanding of papal infallibility is both a complex and flexible concept. I recently went to a lecture on papal infallibility and the canonization of saints at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley. Prof. Donald Prudlo stressed that not everything a Pope says is infallible, a certain formula must be adhered to before a statement can be deemed ‘infallible.’ The growing involvement of the papal office in the canonization of saints sheds light on the historical evolution of the Roman papacy.

        With respect to more recent Orthodox councils there was the Jerusalem Council in 1672 which condemned Calvinism. In 1923 there was council held in Constantinople which adopted a new calendar that conformed with the Western Gregorian calendar. Reception of the new calendar have been mixed; the result being old calendar Orthodox and new calendar Orthodox celebrating Christmas on different days but sharing the same Lenten and Easter calendar. The Orthodox Church can convene councils, whether or not they will be considered ‘Ecumenical’ is a matter of time and consensus. The Holy Spirit guides the Church today as it did in the past.


  19. Justin

    Did the original Nicene allow one the freedom of belief here? It looks like the original might have allowed for either view, but obviously there’s no room for single procession under the Filioque.

    I find it interesting to see that Calvin affirmed the authority of the early councils (except the ones Rome rejected). What is the reformed gloss on Calvin’s affirmation of Mary’s perpetual virginity? I believe he said that denying this was blasphemy.

    I think both traditions have fathers with whom there are single points of disagreement.

    • Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

      The Reformed gloss: most magisterial Reformers assented to a perpetual virginity, though for reasons different (which I have described the different ontologies on my blog).

      I’m undecided either way. I cannot in good conscience make an exegetical case for perpetual virginity, since the plain reading says otherwise. I am more interested in the presuppositions behind the virginity debate than any particular conclusion.

      • Karen

        “since the plain reading of the text says otherwise”

        Hi Jacob,

        What Scriptural texts are you thinking of in considering this issue and how is it you understand their “plain reading”?

      • Fr. John Morris

        The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is an ancient Christian doctrine that was held by the ancient undivided Church. Even Luther and Calvin accepted it. Ancient liturgical texts refer to Mary as “ever virgin.” The 5th Ecumenical Council, II Constantinople in 553 accepted the letter of Pope Vigilius which referred to Mary as “ever virgin.” Therefore the teaching of the perpetual virginity of Mary is part of the Faith of the ancient undivided Church.

    • Fr. John Morris

      The 11 Ecumenical Council, I Constantinople 381 simply stated what the Bible states about the procession of the Holy Spirit in the only Biblical text that deal with the procession of the Holy Spirit John 15:26 which states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. Why would anyone want to go beyond the Biblical teaching on this subject? The II Council did not allow freedom of belief on the filioque because it was not an issue in 381. The filioque was introduced by the local Council of Toledo in 589.

      • William Tighe

        I have read, but not verified, that the filioque (or perhaps I should write, the equivalent of the filioque) was in the version of the Nicene Creed adopted by the Persian Church at the Synod of Ctesiphon in 410 AD. Does anyone know anything about this claim?

        • Fr. John Morris

          The Council of The Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410 apparently did approve the “filioque.” However, that council also laid the foundation for the formation of the schism of Nestorian Church of the East, after the Council of Ephesus in 431 by declaring the Church in Persia an independent Church and giving its leader the title Catholicos. Significantly, despite the Council of Seleucia-Ctespion, the Church of the East does not use the “filioque” in its version of the Creed.

    • robertar


      I like your question about the Nicene Creed. It touches on the matter in a way congruent with the Orthodox theological method. For Orthodoxy the Nicene Creed and the Divine Liturgy function as dogma, in that they articulate the fundamental beliefs of the Church. I think you made a very insightful observation. I would agree that IF the Filioque is in the Creed, THEN the Cappadocian Fathers’ understanding of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father alone must be excluded. The unamended version of the Nicene Creed allows room for a range of opinions. The majority opinion among Eastern Orthodox Christians follows that of the Cappadocian Fathers. There are a minority that hold to other views. St. Cyril apparently is one of those minority views, and so is the twentieth century theologian Sergius Bulgakov. Jacob’s questions about St. Cyril and Bulgakov, while interesting, are really red herrings. The main issue for Orthodox Christians is the consensus of the Church as expressed through the Liturgy, the Ecumenical Councils, and the Church Fathers.


      • Justin


        Thanks, though any insightfulness is purely accidental. 😉

        It seems to me that the Filioque “locks things up” in a way the unamended creed did not as far as procession is concerned.

        It seems like Rome did not depart from Scripture as much as it departed from tradition*- as far as I remember, the ECs considered the Nicene creed complete and anathemized any who would add to it. Rome added to it, and held a council to nullify that anathema, as far as I remember.

        *OTOH, drawing a Scripture/tradition distinction sort of begs the whole question in the first place, as this distinction denies that Scripture is part of tradition. At any rate, in addition to defying the ECs and making up its own ear-tickling councils, it went against/further than Scripture as Fr. Morris points out below.

        In the end though, I have to think that the filioque flies completely in the face of Rome’s professed adherence to tradition, and against the Protestant’s professed adherence to sola scriptura.

        That’s just my $.02 though, and I am nothing but a novicce in all of this anyway.


        • Justin

          as Fr. Morris points out below.

          Oops. I meant above. Plus I misspelled “novice,” too. :-/

      • Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

        It wasn’t a red herring. You mention “consensus of the fathers.” I noted where at least one father, a major father, a man whom the councils called “sphragidis ton pateron,” affirmed what looks like the Filioque.

        It could be that Cyril is using it int he sense of mission, but I have my doubts on the accuracy of the Schaff editions.

        • Fr. John Morris

          St. Cyril presided over the Council of Ephesus, the 3rd Ecumenical Council, that specifically forbade any alteration of the Creed in Canon VII. In his other writings, he made it clear that he taught the Biblical doctrine that the Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. Even had St.Cyril taught the doctrine of the filioque, it would not make any difference, because, we do not base our doctrine on one Father, but on the consensus of the Fathers, the highest expression of which are the Ecumenical Councils. There is no doubt that the version of the Creed approved by the Ecumenical Councils did not include the filioque. Even Roman Catholic defenders of the filioque argue that what it really means is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son because as the Holy Scriptures teach the Son sends the Holy Spirit, not the heretical dual origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, as some Protestants do. This misconception leads to treating the Holy Spirit not as an equal person of the Holy Trinity but as inferior to the Father and the Son. Calvin, the source of most Protestant arguments for filioque read the Bible in the incorrect Latin translation and had only limited access to the writings of the Eastern Fathers Besides Calvin held to a Nestorian view of Christology that actually denies the full impact of the Incarnation by rejecting the patristric doctrine of the communication of attributes and the deification of the human nature of Chris. As an heir to Zwingli, Calvin did not accept the sanctification of matter and saw Christianity as an exercise of the mind. We see this in the elevation of the sermon as the center of worship instead of the Communion with Christ through a real reception of the actual Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We also see this in the arrangement of Calvinist churches with the Pulpit where the Altar should be and an table if there is one placed below the Pulpit, showing the superiority of the mental or emotional experience of God above the Sacramental experience of God.

          • Fr. John Morris

            Here is a better proof read version of my last post.
            St. Cyril presided over the Council of Ephesus, the 3rd Ecumenical Council, that specifically forbade any alteration of the Creed in Canon VII. In his other writings, he made it clear that he taught the Biblical doctrine that the Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. Even had St.Cyril taught the doctrine of the filioque, it would not make any difference, because, we do not base our doctrine on one Father, but on the consensus of the Fathers, the highest expression of which are the Ecumenical Councils. There is no doubt that the version of the Creed approved by the Ecumenical Councils did not include the filioque. Even Roman Catholic defenders of the filioque argue that what it really means is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son because as the Holy Scriptures teach the Son sends the Holy Spirit, not the heretical dual origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, as some Protestants do. This misconception leads to treating the Holy Spirit not as an equal person of the Holy Trinity but as inferior to the Father and the Son. Calvin, the source of most Protestant arguments for filioque read the Bible in the incorrect Latin translation and had only limited access to the writings of the Eastern Fathers. Besides, Calvin held to a Nestorian view of Christology that actually denies the full impact of the Incarnation by rejecting the patristric doctrine of the communication of attributes and the deification of the human nature of Christ. One cannot adequately evaluate Calvinism without considering Calvin’s defective Christology. As an heir to Zwingli, Calvin did not accept the sanctification of matter and treated Christianity as an exercise of the mind. We see this in the elevation of the sermon as the center of worship instead of the Communion with Christ through a real reception of the actual Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We also see this in the arrangement of Calvinist churches with the Pulpit where the Altar should be and an communion table, if there is one, placed below the Pulpit, showing the superiority of the mental or emotional experience of God above the Sacramental experience of God.

        • Karen

          Actually, I think Robert’s phrase was the “consensus of the Church.” My understanding is that a “consensus” of the Fathers also does not mean unanimity of the Fathers on every point the Church has identified as orthodox dogma. Don’t know if that helps. Robert can correct me if I am misrepresenting something here.

  20. Prometheus

    “Augustine provided the theological basis for the “filioque” by teaching that the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.”

    This is the first time I’ve understood why this argument is so important. On the other hand, as Fr. Morris has said, the Catholics usually don’t explain things this way, but by saying “filioque” means “through the son.””

    I would like to see Orthodox interaction with the scriptures that talk about the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. How can Christ dwell in our hearts by faith? Is he brought near to us or within us in a manner similar to the way Christ was incarnated through the Holy Spirit? And how can he be the Spirit of Christ if he proceeds from the father alone?

    The “Keep the Filioque” website lists Romans 8:9-10 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (10) And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

    • Fr. John Morris

      The Holy Spirit is of Christ, because Christ sends the Holy Spirit. Remember the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence and undivided.

  21. Prometheus

    Re: Schaff (see Migne, LXXVII, col.105ff.)

    After a long search I’ve found what we were looking for in Greek.
    “For although the Spirit is the same essence, yet we think of him by himself, as he is
    the Spirit and not the Son; but he is not different from him; for he is called the Spirit of truth and Christ is the Truth, and he is sent by him, just as, moreover, he is from God and the Father.”

    εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἔστιν ἐν ὑποστάσει τὸ πνεῦμα ἰδικῆι καὶ δὴ καὶ νοεῖται καθ’ ἑαυτό, καθὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ οὐχ υἱός, ἀλλ’ οὖν ἐστιν οὐκ ἀλλότριον αὐτοῦ. γὰρ ὠνόμασται καὶ ἔστιν Χριστὸς ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ προχεῖται παρ’ αὐτοῦ καθάπερ ἀμέλει καὶ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρός.

    Another website better renders it:
    “For even though the Spirit exists in his own hypostasis and is thought of on his own, as being Spirit and not as Son, even so he is not alien to the Son. He has been called “the Spirit of truth”, and Christ is the truth, and the Spirit was poured forth by the Son, as indeed the Son was poured forth from the God and Father.”

    Schaff’s translation has serious issues, but not for the reasons mentioned by others – he does properly distinguish between the prepositions. He suggests that Cyril is saying that the spirit has the same “essence” as the Son, when what he is saying is that the Spirit has his own unique hypostasis.

    Some important Greek concepts here: Cyril says that the Spirit is not alien to the son. He does not say that the Spirit is not other than him. In addition, he uses different pronouns to describe the relationship of the Spirit to the Son and the Spirit to the Father. The Spirit comes from (παρά) the Son and out of (ἔκ) the Father. This alone wouldn’t completely prove the issue if we didn’t find the Biblical texts (and church Fathers) speaking as carefully using, for instance, διά of the Son and ἐκ of the Father.

    My own rendering would be:
    “For even if the Spirit is in/of his own person (hypostasis) and, in particular, is thought of independently, just as the Spirit is not the Son; yet, therefore, he is not a stranger to him. For he has the name of the Spirit of Truth, and Christ is the Truth, and he pours out (not proceeds) from him (not out of him) just as, surely, he even [pours] out of God the father.”

    I do not think that Cyril will be a problem for the Orthodox. In fact, if anything, it is a clear indication that Cyril was in line with the “patristic consensus.”

    • robertar


      I’m impressed that you can access Migne’s Patrologia Graeca. Thanks for bringing depth and wisdom to the discussion!


  22. Serena

    Does it make a difference that the Eastern Rite Catholics recite the Creed without the Filioque, therefore should the filioque still be matter of contention?

    • robertar

      Dear Serena,

      Good question! I don’t think it makes much of a difference because the Pope is still making the rules. He’s still claiming authority over the Ecumenical Councils. Orthodoxy expects that the Bishop of Rome will act in a conciliar manner and submit to the authority of the Ecumenical Councils. It’s tough, but the Pope will have to admit that the insertion of the Filioque was a mistake if he wants to reunite with the Orthodox Churches.


  23. Fr. John Morris

    I would like to point out that there is only one text in the entire Bible that speaks about the Procession of the Holy Spirit, St. John 15:26. This verse reads, ” But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;” Notice that Christ speaks in the future tense. He later would send the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, when He gave them the authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins, and again at Pentecost. Since know that the Holy Spirit existed before Our Lord spoke those words, the belief that since the Son sends the Holy Spirit does not mean that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The text clearly states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. Because of this divinely inspired text, the Ecumenical Councils wrote and ratified the Creed to state that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, not the Father and the Son.

  24. Fr. John Morris

    It is very interesting, modern Roman Catholics express an understanding of the “filioque,” as equivalent to “through the Son” with the Father as the origin of the Holy Spirit. Thus their contemporary understanding of the “filioque” can be reconciled with Orthodox Theology. However, the Calvinists teach the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son in a way that is not reconcilable with Orthodox theology like the rest of their theology. If the website “Keep the Filioque” is produced by the person I think it is, he is a former Orthodox who is rabidly anti-Orthodox and a fanatical Calvinist. If you go to the site http://www.keepthefilioque.com/ and read the article “Understanding the Filioque,” you will find a Roman Catholic view of the filioque that shows that a lot of the problem is linguistic, not theological. However, if you read some of the articles that express the Calvinist or Reformed point of view, it is apparent that their understanding of the filioque is incomparable with Orthodox theology especially since the Calvinist theologians fail to understand the difference between the onthological Trinity and the economic Trinity. Calvin taught the double procession from the Father and the Son, not through the Son or sent by the Son, but from the Son as an equal source of the Holy Spirit. That is clearly heretical from an Eastern Orthodox point of view. I also find it incredible that the Calvinists place such emphasis on the divinity of the Son, because when you analyze Calvin’s Christology it is clearly Nestorian. Calvin denies the patristric doctrine of the communicaton of attributes and the deification of the human nature of Christ. If you put Calvin’s description of the work of Christ alongside St. Cyril’s anathemas against Nestorius, you will see a striking similarity between the teachings of Nestorius condemned by St. Cyril and Calvin’s views on the work of Christ.

    • Prometheus

      Interesting thoughts.
      Could you give citations of Calvin and Cyril on this so that it is easier to find?

      • Fr. John Morris

        Go to the site http://www.keepthefilioque.com/ and read the article Reasons Why the Filioque Should Be Maintained and you will find the quotes from Calvin. One of the basic argument is that the teaching of the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is the only way to preserve the doctrine of the divinity of the Son as equal to the Father. However, what does this do to the doctrine of the divinity of the Holy Spirit as equal to the Father? It also confuses the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles when Christ breathed on them to give them the Holy Spirit and the authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins, in John 20: 22 with the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father.

        • Prometheus

          Fr Morris,

          I am reading through the patristic quotes that the “Keep the Filioque” site has. They are quite impressive and accurate. Interestingly, the passage in John about procession has “proceeds from” with the preposition para in Greek not ek as it is in the Creed. That said, Athanasius does say that the Spirit proceeds from para the father and from para the son with no differentiation in preposition (and agreeing with John). Cyril makes a distinction, but it is unclear if that is important (though it may well be). I’d say that if the other citations end up panning out, the “filioque” people have a lot of support from the Greek side. Probably the most problematic aspect for their position, however, is that in the two councils that ratified the Nicene Creed and the Nicene-Contantinopolitan Creed, they said “proceeds from” ek the father without any idea of a “filioque”. The reason I find this so powerful is that in two councils that were doubtless aware of the wording of these fathers, the entire council approved of the wording making procession from the father. This suggests that the wording was careful and deliberate. On the one hand, I can see how the unilateral insertion of the “filioque” into the creed is unacceptable. On the other hand, my mind is not yet made up as to the truth of the “filioque.” I’ve seen some pretty powerful arguments for the truth of the “filioque” in its strongest sense and meaning. I’ll have to look into it more.

          That said, I think both sides argue poorly when they say that the other’s Trinitarian view leads to heresy. All that means is that the other’s view could be distorted in a way that leads to heresy. The question is not whether a doctrine leads to heresy, but whether it is heresy (and, I suppose, whether it necessarily leads to heresy, or can be made to lead there).

    • Bayou Huguenot

      ***If the website “Keep the Filioque” is produced by the person I think it is, he is a former Orthodox who is rabidly anti-Orthodox and a fanatical Calvinist.***

      I think we have the same person in mind. Are his initials “R.S.?” If so, I don’t think he is a Calvinist.

      • Fr. John Morris

        The person I have in mind goes by the name Embryo Parson. He was once Orthodox, but left the Orthodox Church and joined one of the many continuing Anglican groups. He has a website called The Old Jamestown Church which is rabidly anti Othodox and pro-Calvinistic. Although he claims to be Augustinian, his interpretation of Augustine is pure Calvinism. There is a very dedicated if not down right fanatical Calvinistic movement within continuing Anglicanism.

        • Jacob (formerly Outlaw Covenanter)

          I know who you are talking about now. I don’t know him personally but I have come across his name. I guess the moderator wasn’t who I thought it was at first.

      • Canadian

        Looks like R.S. has left the Orthodox church hoping to find
        “orthodoxy” among assemblies which are not in eucharistic communion. I understand the impulse, but the end is only frustration.
        Yet a Covenanter friend has just converted to Orthodoxy.
        Lord have mercy on all of us, we’re all just sinners groping for you in the darkness. Acts 17:27

  25. Fr Michael Azkoul

    Yes, indeed, drop the filioque, but there is more to the division between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism than this heresy. Fundamentally, the difference is disparate mentalities (phronema). The Western theological tradition is post-patristic. It is rationalist; it knows nothing of “gnosis” or spiritual knowledge; it is a synthesis of Christianity and Greek philosophy; it recognizes doctrine as rational, Orthodox views it as therapeutical and mystical. Orthodoxy is not a branch of the Church, she is the Church. She is not like the early Church, she is the early Church.

    • robertar

      Dear Father Michael,

      I agree with all your points. The point I wanted to make in my article was that Roman Catholics should FIRST drop the Filioque, THEN we can start discussing other differences in doctrine and practice.

      I’ve met Roman Catholics who upon learning that I’m Orthodox are eager to talk about we become one church again. With the new site DroptheFilioque.com I can tell them: “First sign the petition, then we can talk.”


  26. Scott Robert Harrington

    Robert, One of the things which God has called me to do is to defend Monopatrism and to reject Filioque. My blog WordPress, Saint Andrew of Valaam Association, is dedicated to Monopatrism and the Orthodox explanation (rejection) of Filioque (by Saint Photios the Great [820-891 AD]).
    God bless you, Robert and your effort to inform Christians about Filioque and other matters with which we as Orthodox Christians must disagree. Take care. Scott Harrington, Erie, Pennsylvania.

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