Filioque Controversy

Filioque Controversy a historical question as to the introduction of the words reading καὶ ἐκ τοῦ υίοῦ (filoque and from the Son) into the Nicene Creed, to denote the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as from the Father. The Western churches admit the filoque; the Eastern deny it; and this is the chief doctrinal point of division between the Greek and Latin churches.

1. The original Nicene Creed (A.D. 325), it is admitted on all hands, does not contain the filioque. The simple statement there made is, "We believe also in the Holy Ghost" (καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἄγιον). SEE CREED, The Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed (A.D. 381) adds the phrase τὸ ἑκ τὃν πατρὸς ἐκπορενόμενον, who proceded from the Father; but says nothing about "the Son". The Council, of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) made certain modifications of the language of the creed SEE CHALCEDON, but left the passage relating to the Holy Ghost unchanged. Nor has any change on this point ever been authorized by any general council recognised, as such either by the Eastern or Western churches. To this day the creed is recited and used throughout the East in the original form But the Roman Church, and also the Reformed church used it with the words " and from the Son." The historical question is, When and how did this interpolation take place ?

2. It was said under CREED SEE CREED that this addition of filoque first appeared in the acts of a synod at Braga, in Spain, A.D. 412 (A.D. 411; Bingham, Orig. Ecet. 10:4, 16), but the records of that synod are now acknowledged, even by the Latins, to be spurious (Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, ii, 91). In 446, Turibius bishop of Astorga, addressed a letter to Leo the Great complaining of the Priscillianist heresy in Spain. Leo ordered a council of all Spain, but the troubles of the time (the Goths controlling much of the country) made this impossible; and two synods were held, one in Toledo, the other in Gallicia (A.D. 447; Mansi, 6:491). At Toledo, nineteen bishops were present; and here, and by these nineteen Spanish bishops, the words filoque were first used- of the procession of the Holy Ghost in a creed (Hefele, Concilmengeschichte, ii, 289). But the records were not added here to the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed. This was first done at the third Council of Toledo (A.D. 589), held by order of king Reccaredus, on the occasion of his abjuring Arianism (Hefele, iii, 44). At this council, and by order of Reccaredus, an anathema was declared against all who should deny the procession from "the Son also" (filoque). It is doubtful, however, whether the reverend fathers really knew what was the original form of the creed, as they issued a canon at the same time ordering the creed to be recited " according to the form of the Oriental churches." But the General Council of Constantinople (A.D. 681) paid no attention to this obscure Spanish innovation, and promulgated the creed in its original form, as also did the seventh General Council at Nicaea, A.D. 787. But the habit of using the creed with the filioque had now grown up in the West, and was favored by Charlemagne. In 809 two Western monks from the court of Charlemagne were at Mount Olivet, and there used this new Western form, for which they were accused of heresy by the Easterns. Charlemagne hated the East heartily, drew up a refutation of the Eastern doctrine, and summoned a council at Aix-la-Chapelle (809), which sanctioned the filoque, and sent deputies to Leo III to obtain his confirmation of their decision. Leo refused to add the filoque to the creed, and even had the creed, itself, in its original form, engraved on two silver shields (in Greek and Latin), which he hung up in St.: Paul's Church as a testimony to his unwillingness to break his oath of allegiance to the general councils by adding to the creed. At the same time, he gave his sanction to the doctrine of the filoque as scriptural and sound. In the latter part of the century the troubles with Photius (q.v.) renewed the controversy between East and West; and the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 879), which was attended by 380 bishops, anathematized all who add the filoque. No pope had as yet formally authorized the addition, and yet it was coming into general use in the West, under the authority, especially, of pope Nicholas I (Neale, .Eastern Church; p. 1155 sq.; Mansi, 15:255). Finally, Rome did add the filoque to the creed, but in no public or open way; " no decretal, encyclical or synodical, announcing her adhesion. The thing was done in a corner, and, but for a curious liturgical writer of the Western empire, who went to see his sovereign, Henry II, crowned at Rome, A.D. 1014, by pope Benedict VIII, nobody could have guessed when it occurred. Berno therefore records what he witnessed with his own eyes and ears; and being engaged himself in a work on the Mass, he would naturally be very particular in his inquiries when he came to Rome, of all places, how things were done there. Now his account is that up to that time the Romans, that is, the Church of Rome generally, had in no wise chanted the creed after the gospel; but that the lord emperor Henry would not desist till, with the approval of all, he had persuaded the apostolic lord Benedict to let it be chanted at high mass. Thus Reccard inaugurated the addition, Charlemagne patronized it, and Henry II got it adopted by the popes themselves. When this had been done, the pontifical oath was changed. Later popes, of course, shrank from imprecating a judgment-upon themselves, according to the terms of their oath, in case they failed to keep the decrees of the general councils enumerated in it, 'usque ad unum npicem,' when they felt they had notoriously failed to do so by the creed. That clause was accordingly struck out. For the last 1000 years the Roman communion has been committed to the use of a creed which is not that of the Church, but of the Crown! I do not say, therefore, to the use of a creed which is heterodox. On the theological question involved in it I would wish to speak with becoming reverence; but thus much is certain, that the addition which forms its distinguishing feature was made and had been in use many centuries before any pope judged it allowable, much less necessary; many centuries before theologians in the West had agreed among themselves whether the terms 'mission' and 'procession' were distinguishable. Doubtless it has since found able defenders; but among them there are scarce two who give the same account of it, historically or doctrinally, and some of them are neither consistent with each other nor with themselves. Others, in arguing for it against the Easterns, have grievously misstated facts, and numberless passages have been adduced in support of it from the fathers, either wholly spurious or interpolated. I know of no parallel to it in this respect in any religious controversy before or since. If the Athanasian Creed was not expressly coined for this controversy, it was employed in this controversy first as a polemical weapon" (Ffoulkes, Letter to Archbishop Manning, London, 1868).

For the renewal of the question, with a view to union between the Greeks and Latins at the Council of Florence, SEE FLORENCE. The great English divines, Pearson and Waterland, while adhering to the doctrine of the West, condemn the interpolation of the creed. So Pearson remarks: "Thus did the Oriental Church accuse the Occidental for adding filoque to the creed, contrary to a general council, which had prohibited all additions, and that without the least pretence of the authority of another council; and so the schism between the Latin and the Greek Church began and was continued, never to be ended until those words, καὶ ἐκ τὃν νἱοῦ, are taken out of the creed" (Exposition of the Creed, art. 8:Oxford, 1820, ii, 394).

The commissioners for a review of the English Prayer-book, 1689, expressed in a note their opinion that something should be done to satisfy the Greek Church. At a later period the non-juring prelates made proposals to the Greeks, stating that in the clause filoque nothing more is meant than "from the Father by the Son;" to which the Greek patriarch and Synod of Constantinople replied (April 12, 1718): "We receive no other rule or creed than that which was set forth by the first and second holy General Council, in which it was decreed that the Holy Ghost proceeds 'from the Father.' Therefore we receive none who add the least syllable (and the most perfect word would fall far short), either by way of insertion, commentary, or explication to this holy creed, or who take anything from it. For the holy fathers at that time anathematize all such as shall either take from or add to it any word or syllable. If any one has formerly inserted any word, let it be struck out, and let the creed be unaltered as it was at first written, and is to this day, after so many years, read and believed by us. Now, concerning this point, we thus believe that there is a twofold procession of the Holy Spirit: the one natural, eternal, and before time, according to which the Holy Spirit proceeds front the Father alone; and of which it is both written in the creed, and the Lord has said, the Comforter, whom I will SEND unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which PROCEEDETH FROM THE FATHER' (Joh 15:26). The other procession is temporal and deputative, according to which the Holy Spirit is externally sent forth, derived, proceeds, and flows from both the Father and the Son for the sanctification of the creature. As to his temporal and outward procession, we agree that he proceeds, comes, or is sent by the Son, or through the Son's mediation, and from the Son, in this sense of an outward procession, for the sanctification of the creature. But this πρόεσις, or mission, we do not call procession, lest we should be as unhappy as the Papists, who, because of the limited dialect of the -Latin language, which is unable to express the πρόεσις, or mission, by one word, and the ἐκπόρενσις, or procession, by another, have called them both processions, which afterwards grew into error, and made them: take the eternal procession for that πρόεσις which was in time" (Amer. Quart. Church Rev. April, 1868, p. 93).

The historical question is very thoroughly discussed by the Rev. E. S. Ffoulkes (a convert from the Anglican to-the Roman Church) in several recent works of his, especially in A Historical Account of the Addition of the Words Filioque to the Creed (Lond. 1867). Mr. Ffoulkes states that he has no objection to the doctrine of the double procession in the abstract, but he objects to its "embodiment in the creed in a word of four syllables, foisted in without authority, retained there without authority, in a place that was never designed for it, in. a proposition set apart for the declaration of another truth" (p. 31). Moreover, he objects to the clause because it binds to the acceptance of a proposition which has two meanings; "the sense in which the Holy Ghost is said to proceed from the Son not being in every way coextensive with the sense in which he is said to proceed from the Father." And he expresses his conviction that this clause has a good deal to do with the Socinianism and Unitarianism so long rife in the West. Mr. Ffoulkes notices that in the East, where the filoque is not adopted," there is positively no such thing known as Unitarianism among baptized Christians "and it happened to himself once to meet with this reply from a literary' friend with whom he had been discussing the clause-" I find my escape from it in Unitarianism."

3. For the theological question involved, SEE HOLY GHOST, PROCESSION. Suffice it here to say, that while the Latins are inexcusable, according to their own canons law, for their addition of the filioque to the creed, they are still correct as to the doctrine. Their deeper anthropological investigations naturally developed the doctrine of the mission of the Holy Ghost by the Son. Palmer (Dissertations on Subjects relating to the Eastern Communion, Lond. 1853, 8vo, p. 103.sq.) gives the following summary of the controversy:


I. That When the expression of the Holy Ghost proceeding also from the Son was first noticed and objected against by the Greeks, the Latins explained it away or dissembled it, instead of openly insisting on it as truth. Again,

II. That when, at length, they had all received it themselves, the Latins attempted to force it into the creed, and to impose it on the Church at large by overbearing violence, not by an ecumenical council.- Again,

III. That in seeking to impose it upon the Easterns, the Latins generally have rested it upon manifestly false grounds, as upon the ground of unbroken and. explicit tradition. Again,

IV. That a vast multitude of. passages, formerly alleged by the Latins, both from Greek and Latin fathers, have been proved either to be interpolations altogether, or to have been corrupted. Lastly,

V. That some of the texts most insisted on by the Latins at the Council of Florence, and shown afterwards, by Zoernikaff, to have been corrupted, have, since Zoernikaff wrote, been surrendered, even by Latin editors; so that the Greek cause, as respects the critical examination of passages, has gained materially in strength since the Council of Florence. But to reject a doctrine not revealed in Scripture, nor handed down by unbroken tradition from the beginning, but dug out' or developed by a part of the Church in later ages, and violently thrust upon the rest on false grounds, can never be heresy. If, indeed, it were confessed to be a novelty and a development, and sufficiently shown to be, notwithstanding, a legitimate and necessary development, there might be a greater responsibility in rejecting it. On the other side, very many of the Greeks assert, not only that the Latin doctrine is false in itself, but also that it is a heresy, and that the Latins are heretics for maintaining it.

But against this view it is fair to object,

I. That those heretical consequences which seem to flow from the assertion of the procession from the Son as well as from the Father, and on account of which the doctrine itself is said to be heresy, are clearly rejected and condemned as heresies by the Latins, no less than by the Greeks; - which would seem to reduce the Latin error, if it be an error, to a mere misconception and misuse of words.

II. That all heresies spring from evil motives; but the motive, which prompted the assertion of this doctrine is commonly admitted, even by the Greeks, to have been good, namely, the desire to maintain against the Arians and other heretics, the coequality of the Son with the Father.

III. That the Greeks have repeatedly and all along offered to unite and communicate with the Latins, winking at all other faults if only the form of the creed were restored, which they could not have done if the doctrine of the procession from the Son had been held to be heresy in itself. IV. That until not only some or many passages, but all those passages in St. Augustine and other Latin fathers which assert the procession from the Son, have been shown to be corrupt or interpolated, or, in sense, to mean no more than they were stated to mean in the explanation given at Rome to Maximus the martyr in the 7th century, the Latins, even if they be in error, cannot be called heretics for adhering to a doctrine seemingly taught and bequeathed to them by great saints, who are venerated as such by the Eastern Church, no less than by their own. 'We conclude, then, that so long as the "Filioque" is not interpolated into the creed without the consent of a council, the question of the doctrine in itself is still open and pending; sand that neither are the Greeks heretics if they deny it, nor the Latins if they assert it, so long as they both desire that the subject may be fairly and religiously decided by an ecumenical council."'

Literature. Besides the works already mentioned, see J. G. Walch, Hist. Cont. Graec. Latinorumque (Jen. 1751, 8vo); J. G. Voss, De Tribus Symbolis, diss. iii.; Neale, Eastern Church, Introduct.; Waterland, Works (Oxford, 1843), iii, 201, 437; Pearson, On the Creed, art. viii; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, § 169; Neander, Church History, Torrey's transl., iii, 234, 553 sq.; Schaff, Hist. of the Christian Church, § 131; Gieseler, Church Hist. § 13, 41; Hist. of the Council of Florence, transl. by Popoff and J. M. Neale (Lond. 1861; 12mo); Neale, Voices from the East (London, 1859), p. 60 sq.; Harvey, History of the Creeds, p. 452 sq.; Hardwick, Middle Age, p. 61, n. 4; Browne, Exposition of the Articles, p. 114 sq.; Procter, On Common Prayers, p. 234; Heurtley, Harmonia Symbolica., p. 121; Christian Remembrancer, July, 1853, p. 69 sq.;

Ffoulkes, Christendom's Divisions, i. 59 sq.; ii, 67, 551 sq.; Westminster Rev. Jan. 1868, p. -111; American Quarterly Church Review, April, 1868, art. v. SEE FLORENCE, COUNCIL OF; SEE GREEK CHURCH; SEE HOLY GHOST; SEE PROCESSION.

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