Proceeding From: Dividing Lines

Continuing my reading on the Trinity, the filioque controversy has, again, piqued my interest. One of the finest, smartest treatments is from Bill Vallicella, a recovering academician, of the Maverick Philosopher.

East and West agree that there is exactly one God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They also agree that the Father is neither born of anything nor proceeds from anything, that the Son is born of the Father but does not proceed from the Father, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds but is not born. Bear in mind that ‘born’ and ‘proceeds’ in this context refer to relations that are internal to the triune Godhead, and are therefore eternal relations. I hope it is also clear that neither of these relations is one of creation. Each of the persons is eternal and uncreated.

The main difference between East and West concerns that from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. The West says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque), whereas the East says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. One can of course question whether this dispute has any clear sense, but let’s assume that it does for the space of this post. I don’t reckon there are any Stovian or other positivists hanging around this site. (If there are, I pronounce my anathema upon them.)

The question is whether there is any reason to prefer the one view over the other. Ware naturally thinks the Orthodox view superior (pp. 219-222). He thinks it is superior because it is able to account for the unity of the three persons without making of this unity something impersonal. His reasoning is as follows. The tripersonal God is one God, not three Gods. So the question arises as to the unity of the Godhead. What is the ground of God’s unity? There is one God because there is one Father, the Father being the ’cause’ or ‘source’ of Godhead, the principle (arche) of unity among the three. The Orthodox speak of the “monarchy of the Father.” The other two persons originate from the Father. Because the principle of unity is the Father, and the Father is one of the divine persons, the principle of unity is personal in nature. So although there are three persons in one God, the unity of these three persons is itself a person, namely, the Father.

Read the whole thing at East Versus West on the Trinity: The Filioque Controversy

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