Credo: Passus

Not a word of the creeds is superfluous. Whatever the creeds say was thought by the Fathers of the Church to be crucially important, and essential to the Faith. Whatever the creeds say, they say emphatically.

Why does the Nicene Creed emphasize that Jesus suffered death? Whatever the reason, how are we to reconcile the fact of his suffering with his eternity, which entails his impassibility?

The first question may be answered without undue difficulty, albeit not without touching upon mystery. Jesus had to die because the only fit and sufficient ontological compensation for the sins of the whole world, which had opened an infinite abyss of alienation between God and each creature of our world, was an infinite sacrifice.

Excursus: the sins of the whole world, NB, ruined *the entire cosmos.* The whole shooting match was wrecked, and stood in need of radical repair. One bad apple ruins the whole barrel; one sin corrupts and deforms the entire causal system of which it is an inextricable element.

The straightforward bit of that explanation is that of the infinite ontological capacity of God alone sufficing to fill the infinite chasm that creaturely sin had cleaved between creatures and their God. No merely finite sacrifice might have done the trick. Throw any finite amount of value into an infinite deficit of value, and you end up with … an infinite deficit of value. To cure an infinite deficit of value, you need infinite value. So only an infinite sacrifice might have done the trick.

Man *cannot* save himself – logically cannot save himself – by any means. Nor might any other creature whatever save man; for, creatures are all by definition finite, and thus insufficient to the task. Only God can save man. So all those other sacrifices – all those other human acts whatsoever – were utterly vain to procure salvation. What’s worse, they were a complete waste; as if you were trying to get to the top of the mountain, and traveled for days instead *away* from it.

Excursus: this is why idolatry and Pelagianism are so stupid, and so pernicious. Gnosticism, likewise. They are a waste of time. They take a lot of work, but they don’t work. God is not jealous because he is insecure, but because he loves us and doesn’t want us to go to Hell because we’ve been doing religion wrong; and, so, doing everything else wrong, too; for, if your axioms of action are defective, so will all your acts go awry. Thus the very first Commandment, upon which all the others hang, is to worship God alone, who is alone the only proper object of worship – and not to worship any other thing whatever. In the First Commandment, God is saying to us, “Don’t be stupid! Don’t make the ultimate category error, that will ruin everything else for you.”

The mysterious bit of that explanation is the sacrifice. Why sacrifice? What is the logic of sacrifice, anyway? It seems stupid, prima facie: as two wrongs can’t make a right, so the destruction wrought by a sinful act can’t be repaired by destroying something else. If you’ve spilt some milk, you can’t clean it up – let alone get your milk back, which is what stands in this analogy for salvation – by spilling some honey, too. That just compounds the problem. Right? What is it with all this sacrifice all over the place? I mean, it’s everywhere in human culture. Why? How can it even make sense, let alone work?

There are answers to those questions, but it would take a fair deal of metaphysical preparation before I might provide them, and I don’t have time for that right now, because I want to get on to the problem of divine suffering. I’ll try to address them later, in subsequent posts.

All right then: how do we reconcile the suffering of Jesus – of God – with the impassibility that necessarily characterizes the Eternal One, God?

Here again, the answer is rather simple – albeit, not easy.

The question is a type of the apparent difficulty of reconciling divine omniscience and creaturely freedom: if God knows what we shall do from all eternity, how might we be free, properly speaking, to do anything else? If we can do only what God sees eternally that we shall do, how can it be accurate to say that we are free?

These two questions are in turn types of the general question of how to reconcile change – time – with eternity.

These sorts of difficulties arise when we try to understand eternity under the terms of time. It can’t be done. When we try, we instantly find ourselves vexed by paradox and contradiction.

The only way to understand eternity is under the terms of eternity.

Excursus: it turns out furthermore that the only way to understand time, too, is under the terms of eternity. That, again, is perhaps a subject for a future post.

Eternity is not an infinite stretch of time; is not an infinite sequence of moments or events. It is a single moment, a single event. It has no temporal address. Thus, it has every temporal address. It is happening simultaneously with all events that do have temporal addresses, in all the causal systems that are or ever shall be.

Excursus: Divine ubiquity works the same way. There is no particular place where God is located; so there is no particular place where he is not located. He is located everywhere.

So, God does not know what happens within causal systems before it happens. For God, there is no before. He knows what happens within causal systems *as* it happens.

In particular, he feels the suffering of the body of his son Jesus as it happens.

This feeling and knowledge on God’s part does not change him, because his one moment knows all other moments. What happens does not change him because he is always happening right now, and at every now; and that happening that is him happening at every now is the only happening there is in him.

That’s it, really. Simple, but not easy.

There is one other aspect to this that deserves mention. The agony of Jesus is real, and it hurts the body of Jesus terrifically, but it does not hurt God. God feels the pain of Jesus – as he does your own – but it does not hurt him, the way that it would hurt a finite being. As infinite, God can feel an infinite amount of pain without hurting. Take all the pain of all the finite kosmoi – a finite quantity of pain – and subtract that finite quantity from an infinite quantity of bliss: the remainder is infinite bliss.

Excursus: This is foreshadowed for us in the difference between the way a grown man hurts when he suffers a minor injury that draws some blood and needs a bandage, and the way that a toddler hurts at suffering exactly the same injury. The toddler hurts far, far more, and far more intensely, than the grown man.

Now here’s the juicy part, which shall serve for my coda. Easter means that our whole cosmos has been saved. With the Resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of our whole world has already begun. This very spring then, right now – indeed, every spring, even every now – is a local salient of the spring eternal. And what that means for us is that in and by Easter, God has opened the way for us to participate that spring and to join it; to return home to his house, and so to share in his infinite bliss. We get as much of it as we want; as much as we can handle. All we have to do is turn and walk with him; he’ll explain how it all works as we sojourn toward that great lunch that waits for us in the humble diner at Emmaus.

Pay for it, and take it, my friends. Pay for it: leave off your travels along any other path. Take it: travel instead with Jesus. Christ is Risen. Our long, long fast is over! Hallelujah! Onward!

And: enjoy your Easter Dinner!

17 thoughts on “Credo: Passus

  1. Pingback: Credo: Passus | Reaction Times

  2. I’m sometimes inclined to think of sacrifice as a brute fact established by God because there had to be some means of reconciliation. Call it a cosmic convention, like shaking hands. The meaning we express by shaking hands could be expressed in another way (e.g. a “high five), but the gesture by its very nature requires “establishment.” Merely human sacrifice (I mean by, not of humans) is rather like the birthday present a child buys for his father with money his father has given him for that purpose. Dad is no richer, but the child may grow morally–for instance by resisting the temptation to peculate the birthday fund.

    • Yes. Your analogy is exact: whatever we might sacrifice to God was first given us by him. This is yet another reason why Pelagian work is otiose.

      It is in economic terms that sacrifice as such is such a perplexity. But this is so only if we take the economy of our cosmos as exhaustive of the actual economy. If this world is the only thing there is, then sacrifice seems to make zero sense. If this world is a department of and participant in a much larger world, or even a stack of such worlds, and is therefore suffused with participation by denizens of those other worlds, and in turn itself participates those worlds – quite a common notion in traditional cultures – why then the economics of sacrifice are much easier to parse. Sacrifice turns out to be, not just the simple destruction of goods (although in some depraved cultures it devolved to just that), but the consecration of a communal meal, in which the gods participated; their portion of the victim was their food, the rest of the victim was for their people.

      As consecrated to the god, and eaten by him in Heaven, the whole body of the victim became consubstantial with the body of the god. And this consubstantiation was commutative: when the people ate that theotic victim, so were they rendered consubstantial with the god. Thus they too became members of the body of the god, and shared in his mana. The victim was compensated for his death by resurrection as a godling: a star or angel.

      The sacrificial procedure reconciled the wayward people to their god, and reinforced both their mutual loyalty and their obedience to the moral law enjoined upon them by the god. So doing, it healed the rupture in the created order inflicted by their previous sins. This was its soteriological effect.

      It is interesting that, even though the sacrifice of Jesus was all-sufficient, Christians are nevertheless enjoined to sacrifice *everything* on the altar. Such a total holocaust is of course merely the implementation of an utter and complete turn from all idolatry, so it makes good practical sense vis-à-vis spiritual health. The point of our continued sacrifice is of course to *participate* the sacrifice of Jesus. His Body must suffer death in order to be resurrected. We as members of that Body, likewise; or else, we are not quite true members of that Body, and risk missing out on resurrection.

      Either we follow our Head through the Gate he has opened for us, or not.

      • Roman, Apostles, Nicene, Chalcedonian, Athanasian….

        As for the filioque: it is not necessary – only the Apostles Creed is that – but it is not superfluous. But then, I am perhaps a rarity among controversialists upon the question of the filioque, thinking as I do that it does not amount to much of a much, as between East and West.

      • The Roman and Apostles’ Creeds are fine as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough; which was why the Fathers found it necessary to produce the Nicene (or Niceno-Constantinopolitan) Creed. Again, the Definition of Chalcedon was necessary to chart a path between Christological extremes.
        But on the Filioque, I note with interest the following claim in “Dominus Iesus”, a Declaration of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (issued under the auspices of Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger and ratified and confirmed by Pope John Paul II on 16th June 2000) that:
        ‘ The fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian faith are expressed thus: “I believe in one God, the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”.’

        Note that there is no Filioque, no “and the Son” contained therein. Similarly, if we turn to the Latin version of “Dominus Iesus” on the same Vatican website, we find the procession of the Holy Spirit described thus: “…qui ex Patre procedit [sans “filioque”]”.

        So, there we have two Popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) who agree that the Filioque is no necessary part of the “fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian faith” (“capita fundamentalia quae in professione fidei christianae”). Therefore it must be superfluous; in which case it need not be there.

        Unless of course, as St Photios the Great argued at great length in the “Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit”, it is wrong.

        In this case, it should not be there; on which point, I am with St Photios.

      • So Ratzinger and JPII agree that the filioque is not much of a much. But their creed in Dominus Jesus joins a long list of Magisterial creeds, some of which have included the filioque or otherwise expressed the doctrine denoted thereby, some of which have not. Councils that included it in their creeds obviously felt it was not superfluous to their purposes; those that did not include it did not. Usually it seems to have been deployed by councils as a weapon against monothelitism. Other councils had other concerns.

      • Apologies for the weblink in the middle of the Creed – which is superfluous and therefore need not be there… 🙂

      • The Filioque was not part of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed as agreed by the first two Ecumenical Councils. It began to be used in Spain to argue against the Arians, but was never accepted by the Orthodox East. The problem is that there is more than one doctrine (orthodox and heterodox) which can claim to be legitimised by it and it was never clarified by an Ecumenical Council; for which reasons the Orthodox never accepted it as a legitimate addition to the Creed. Indeed, it was not even accepted in the Roman rite until 1014. Forty years later, it was one of the contributing factors to the schism of 1054 and has remained a bone of contention ever since.
        By removing it from their cited “fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian faith” (“capita fundamentalia quae in professione fidei christianae”), John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) appear to subscribe to the opinion that it has no business in that Creed. Hence it would seem to be either superfluous or wrong. I favour the latter opinion.

      • Sure; like I said, I’m not that worked up about it one way or the other. With Saint Maximus the Confessor, I think that the disagreement between East and West on the topic boils down really to a problem of language: of terms and their translations. That, and church politics.

        The interesting bit for me is this: if filioque is simply false, then, given divine simplicity, in what sense is the Second Person second, and the Third Person third? If, i.e., filioque is simply false, then since on simplicity the Son and Spirit arrive in act together with the Father as a package deal, it doesn’t really make sense to call the Son second and the Spirit third; there is rather, in that case, only the First, and the Others.

        But if the Second Person is truly second, then the Third *cannot* proceed at all qua Third except in the context of the prior filiation of the Second. The logical forecondition of the procession of the Third Person, then, would seem to be the prior filiation of the Second. No First → no Second; &, no Second → no Third. Meaning that the procession of the Spirit is from the logical ground of the filiation of the Son from the Father.

        Then there is the problem of calling the First Person “Father,” and asserting that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone – which would have to be the way it happens if filioque is simply false. By definition, the Father can’t be a father, strictly speaking, if he has no progeny. So the Spirit proceeds from a Person whose character qua Father is logically conditioned by the prior fact of his Son.

        All such priority being of course logical rather than temporal.

        Thus it would appear that filioque is implicit in the Scriptural, Patristic and creedal characterizations of the Father as First and as Father, the Son as Second and as Son, and the Spirit as Third.

        But then, perichoresis and simplicity together render the whole question moot, it seems to me.

        Now, here’s how we might agree that filioque is both necessary and superfluous. It is necessary in that it would seem to be implicit in the logic of the characterizations of the Father as First, the Son as Second, the Spirit as Third, and the Father as Father. But because it is logically implicit in these characterizations – which, NB, pick out true relations between the Persons that are explicitly specified in the creeds – it is not strictly necessary to state it explicitly. So, its explicit statement is logically superfluous, in rather the way that once we have stated the necessary truth that 2 + 2 = 4, it is logically superfluous to then say that 4 = 2 + 2.

        NB finally that logical necessity is not the only sort. Sometimes it is necessary to say things for rhetorical, practical, evangelical, aesthetic, pedagogical or catechetical reasons. Consider, e.g., that the threefold and ninefold Kyrie are logically superfluous. Likewise, the reiteration of the Mass is ontologically superfluous, but it confers great soteriological advantages.

      • John Knox was a Son of Scotland. Whisky is the Spirit of Scotland.
        Did Whisky proceed from John Knox, or John Knox from Whisky?
        Logical argument cannot provide the answer to such a question.
        Procreation and distillation are not the same type of process.

        As Tertullian asked: What…has Athens to do with Jerusalem?
        What concord is there between the Academy and the Church?”

        When it comes to the procession of the Holy Spirit, however,
        we are on safer ground as we have these words of the Lord:
        “…when the Comforter is come…even the Spirit of truth,
        which proceedeth from the Father” [Jn 15:26, KJV].

      • Well, rejecting logic and philosophical precision is a nifty way to avoid coping with them, but the problem is that it renders argument as such impossible – not least, the argument that it is OK to jettison logic and philosophical precision.

        To reject philosophical precision is to reject theological precision. It is to forestall theology. It is therefore to forestall doctrine, and prevent orthodoxy. It is then to render the category of heresy vacuous; is to eliminate the category of heresy. And that is to open Pandora’s Box.

        Certainly neither the Eastern nor the Western churches rejected philosophical precision or dove into illogic. This is evident in essentially all magisterial texts, which are famous for their intellectual rigor.

        Paul answered Tertullian – that dour bitter old heretic – on Mars Hill. The Areopagite, too, is adequate rejoinder. So is Philo Judaeorum, who insisted that the Athenians first learnt their chops in the Prophetic Schools of Syria. What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? The NT was written in Greek, to speakers of Greek, who thought in Greek; and it records that Jesus quoted the Greek LXX (and Aeschylus). By 1 AD, the Hebrews had been immersed in Greek culture for centuries. Res ipsa loquitur.

        The analogy you draw is analogous to that of Gaunilo’s Island. Both analogies fail to answer for the same reason: Knox, whiskey, islands and Scotland are categorically different sorts of thing than God and his Persons.

        Nevertheless if whiskey were essential to Scotland, then in the absence of whiskey Scotland would be something different than Scotland, and John Knox would be the son, not of Scotland, but of that other thing. Likewise if John Knox were essential to Scotland, then in the absence of John Knox Scotland would be something different than Scotland, and whiskey would be the spirit, not of Scotland, but of that other thing. But in fact, and despite the distillers and Presbyterians, neither whiskey nor John Knox are essential to Scotland. They are accidental to Scotland. Scotland was itself, may God bless the dear land, before ever there were Scots, or even Picts, or distillation of grains, or agriculture of grains, or a fortiori John Knox.

        Meanwhile the First and Second Persons are indispensable and so essential to the Third; and the Son is indispensable and so essential to the Fatherhood of the Father, and the Father is indispensable and so essential to the Sonship of the Son. None of those relations are accidental. Indeed, they are all essential to the doctrine of the Trinity. Without them, the whole thing falls apart.

        We might therefore argue that, since those relations between the Persons are essential, and logically inherent in each of them, any mention of such relations in the creeds would be superfluous – as redundant as if we were to insist that because 2 + 2 = 4, therefore 4 = 2 + 2. But, evidently, that argument would avail nothing; for, the controversy over the filioque continues, mirabile dictu.

        The Spirit of Truth is evidently the Spirit of the Lógos himself, who has omnisciently and inerrantly identified himself with Truth: John 14:6. The Father will send the Spirit of Truth who is the Spirit of the Son who is Truth; no Son → no such Spirit.

        Let’s face it: without the Son, there is no Trinity. It’s really that straightforward.

        No Trinity → no Persons.

        Fortunately, there is the Son; so there can be his Father and his Spirit. And vice versa.

        But, having said all that, I repeat again that I am not worked up about the filioque. I really do think Maximus was right; I don’t believe that the Western church intends to derogate the Father in the internal economy of the Trinity, or that the Eastern church intends to derogate the Son. It is silly to think otherwise: perichoresis makes such derogations logically impossible for both lungs of the Church.

        So, filioque doesn’t worry me. I’m just interested in it, rather idly. Were my interest more ardent or serious, I would not here have treated of it so shortly or so blithely.

      • Sadly, I must say goodnight for it is 01:00 hrs here,
        and I am just back from imbibing the Spirit of Scotland.
        But I will get back to you…

      • “…rejecting logic and philosophical precision…renders argument as such impossible’.
        Logic tells us how to argue soundly from premises to conclusions.
        Eg: it can confirm the validity but not the truth of: ‘if 1 and 2, then 3’.

        Consider the following invalid argument:
        A1: All men are pigs. A2: Socrates is a pig. A3: Hence Socrates is a man.

        The argument is not valid because A3 does not follow from A1 and A2.
        Nevertheless, A3 is true – even though both A1 and A2 are false.

        Now consider the following valid argument:
        B1: All men are pigs. B2: Socrates is a man. B3: Hence Socrates is a pig.

        Here the conclusion B3 necessarily follows from the premises B1 and B2.
        Yet premise B1 and conclusion B3 are both false. Only premise B2 is true.

        Then let us cast the Spirit procession argument (P) in similar fashion, thus:
        P1: The Son is begotten from the Father.
        P2: The Spirit proceeds from the Father.
        P3: Hence the Spirit proceeds from the Son.

        Here conclusion P3 cannot be validly drawn from premises P1 and P2.
        Therefore the argument is not valid despite both premises being true.
        The truth or falsity of P3 cannot be determined from the premises given
        and no argument from ordinal rankings (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc) can make it so.
        So much for logic.

        “To reject philosophical precision…is to forestall theology”.
        To the Orthodox, theology is what every faithful babushka, every yiayia,
        does in Church when she prays; for true theology is true prayer.

        “To reject philosophical precision is to…prevent orthodoxy.”
        Orthodoxy (right worship) existed in the Church from the beginning,
        long before any philosopher applied ‘philosophical precision’ to its content.

        “To reject philosophical precision is to…eliminate the category of heresy.”
        Heresy is perfectly possible without having a philosopher name it so.

        “Fortunately, there is the Son; so there can be his Father and his Spirit.
        And vice versa. .”
        There is the Father, so there can be the Son and the Spirit.
        The Father is arche. The Son is not arche. Neither is the Spirit.
        The Son derives his being from the Father.
        The Spirit derives his being from the Father.
        The Son does not derive his being from the Spirit.
        The Spirit does not derive his being (or any part of his being) from the Son.

        And this is the problem with the Filioque. It can be (and has been)
        taken to mean that the Spirit, in part at least, derives from the Son
        That would indeed be heresy. And this is why the Filioque clause
        has no place in the Niceno Constantinopolitan Creed.

        I am now out of this thread.

      • Believe me, I understand logical validity, modus ponens, the fallacy of affirming the consequent, etc.

        My little disquisition in defense of logic and philosophical precision was a response to your apparent rejection of them in your penultimate comment. It appears now that you have stepped back from that particular precipice, and are defending logic, even teaching it. Which is great.

        A1: All men are pigs. A2: Socrates is a pig. A3: Hence Socrates is a man.

        That invalid argument commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent. This next one does not:

        P1: The Son is begotten from the Father.
        P2: The Spirit proceeds from the Father.
        P3: Hence the Spirit proceeds from the Son.

        I note first that no Christian (properly so called) has to my puny knowledge ever argued that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, simpliciter. I just don’t see that proposition anywhere seriously entertained, other than to bat it down as absurd. We have not been talking about it here, that’s for sure.

        I note second that P3 has no logical relation whatever to P1 or P2, neither of which mention anything about procession of anything from the Son. It is as if I were to argue that: S1: The sun rises in the East; S2: The East Wind rises in the East; S3: The East Wind rises in the sun. The argument makes no sense. It is not even invalid.

        I note third that the argument as you have presented it is not at all cast in the same terms as the first example you gave, which committed the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Remembering that filiation and spiration are both types of procession, this is how it might go if it were:

        P1: Persons of God who are not the Father proceed from the Father.
        P2: The Spirit proceeds from the Father.
        P3: The Spirit is a Person of God who is not the Father.

        All three statements are true, but the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

        … true theology is true prayer.

        So the only thing you need to do in order to get your religious opinions right – say, for example, your opinions about which god one ought to worship and how, what he is like, and what he commands – is to pray? You don’t need to think, or learn anything? You don’t need any catechesis? Creeds and councils, dogmata and doctrine are all pointless? Inquiries into the filioque are otiose?

        If so, then who needs ecclesiastical hierarchy proclaiming and teaching and defending dogma and condemning theological error? Why, it’s every man a priest, a bishop, a pope; no dogmata, no organized religion, no orthodoxy, no heresy; a free for all, yippee!

        You see the problem, I’m sure.

        I get your point, of course. Any competent theologian would agree that the mundane summit and end, fulfillment and transcendence of the practice of theology is theoria (and that its transmundane end is theosis). And the best theologians – Paul, Aquinas, Anselm – have all been mystics who spent many hours taken up with theoria that ascended now and then to apotheosis (it doesn’t run the other way, NB: few mystics are excellent theologians). But defining theology as *nothing but* prayer is a hyperbole too far, which reads again as a rejection of intellectual rigor – and thus doctrinal rigor – in favor of sloppy sentimentality.

        Orthodoxy (right worship) existed in the Church from the beginning, long before any philosopher applied ‘philosophical precision’ to its content.

        Orthodoxy denotes also, and more often, right opinion (right worship is often distinguished from right opinion by calling it orthopraxy). If you reject philosophical precision – a rejection that, NB, involves a refusal to define and use terms carefully – you are not going to be able to tell anyone (including yourself) exactly what your opinion is, nor will you be able to learn theirs. You’ll just be confused.

        Thus doctrinal development has at least since Moses been informed and regulated by terrific intellectual rigor. Much of the Pentateuch and the Prophets can be read as a wonderfully consistent collection of anathemata against wrong opinion and proclamations of right opinion.

        Heresy is perfectly possible without having a philosopher name it so.

        Sure, you can perform heresy without doing philosophy. People can think all sorts of crazy thoughts without doing philosophy. But if you are going to talk about a heresy at all – to preach it, or to refute it, or to anathematize it – you have to do some philosophical work – such as, defining it carefully so that everyone understands exactly what it is that you are talking about.

        The Father is arche. The Son is not arche. Neither is the Spirit.

        Agreed. I don’t recall ever writing – or even thinking – otherwise.

        The Son derives his being from the Father. The Spirit derives his being from the Father. The Son does not derive his being from the Spirit. The Spirit does not derive his being (or any part of his being) from the Son.

        The Persons are not beings. To think so is to be a polytheist. God is a single being, in three Persons.

        [Filioque] can be (and has been) taken to mean that the Spirit, in part at least, derives from the Son. That would indeed be heresy.

        There are no parts of the Spirit, or of God. The Spirit is not a composition of this and that, some of which are derived from here, some from there.

        The Spirit would not be the Spirit of God – he would not be what he is – if he were not the Spirit of the Trinity. And without any of the Three, there is no Trinity; no God. Then all three Persons are necessary to God, and thus to each other. They are all three implicit in each, and each in all. Iff 3 → 1. This is circumincession.

        Almost all doctrinal truths can be used as points of departure for heretical musings. Such departures often begin with terminological confusion or ignorance. E.g., it is a gargantuan misprision to take filioque to mean filio solo.

        I shall close by again reiterating that the filioque is not a topic I have ever found very interesting, urgent or important – or perplexing. This discussion has however been fun, and I have learned some good stuff from the process of composing my responses. I am grateful for your interest in the topic and your attention to the conversation.

        To sum up, it seems to me that we might say that, because filioque is logically implicit in divine simplicity and circumincession, it is logically superfluous to mention it in the creeds (bearing in mind that neither divine simplicity nor circumincession are fully explicated in any of the creeds other than the Athanasian, which is fairly late, and is not so far as we know conciliar); but that it appears in the creeds where it does appear for reasons, not of logical necessity, but of some practical necessity; so that it is superfluous logically, but not practically.


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