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Filioque

Filioque
Boulbon Altarpiece 1450

“Filioque” refers to the Latin, “and the Son”, added to the ecumenically agreed creed unilaterally in the West.

Whatever your opinion about the inner workings of the Trinity – I see no reason to add words to the creed when reciting it. [Note this is not a discussion about Jesus giving us the Holy Spirit from the Father, the Holy Spirit being given to us through Jesus].

1978 Lambeth Conference Resolution 35
3. requests that all member Churches of the Anglican Communion should consider omitting the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, and that the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission through the Anglican Consultative Council should assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate synodical bodies and should be responsible for any necessary consultation with other Churches of the Western tradition.

1988 Lambeth Conference Resolution 6
5. Asks that further thought be given to the Filioque clause, recognising it to be a major point of disagreement, (a) recalling Resolution 35.3 of the Lambeth Conference 1978 and the varied, and on the whole positive, response from those provinces which responded to ACC-4’s request to consider the removal of this clause from liturgical texts, (b) noting that the Report of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC “Ecumenical Explication of the Apostolic Faith as expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan (381) Creed” bases itself on the original text, (c) believing that it may be possible to achieve unity of action on the part of all the ‘Western Churches’ to adopt the original form of the Creed without any betrayal of their theological heritage, (d) recommending to the provinces of the Anglican Communion that in future liturgical revisions the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed be printed without the Filioque clause.

[Unfortunately the NZ Prayer Book, published 1989, made no concession, and put the Filioque (“and the son”) into its text. We actually use a translation used by no one else (how internationally ecumenical is that!) – Commission members I spoke to at the meeting of General Synod at the time thought that the draft/trial translation in the text would be replaced by the final agreed ecumenical English translation. I did not think that was possible. Unfortunately, I was correct. But that is another story.]

Pope Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I recite the Creed in Greek. Note – without “filioque”:

Καί είς τό Πνεύμα τό ¨Αγιον, τό Κύριον, τό ζωοποιόν, τό εκ τού Πατρός εκπορευόμενον, τό σύν Πατρί καί Υιώ συμπροσκυνούμενον καί συνδοξαζόμενον, τό λαλήσαν διά τών Προφητών.

A church recently grappling with this issue, the Anglican Church of North America (a church committed to the 39 Articles in which Article V states, “The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.”) has decided on:

Holy Eucharist

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
​who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],

The notes at the end of the rite state:

College of Bishops Resolution Concerning the Nicene Creed (Epiphany, 2013, adopted unanimously)
Resolved,
The normative form of the Nicene Creed for the Anglican Church in North America is the original text as adopted by the Councils of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.). This form shall be rendered in English in the best and most accurate translation achievable.
Resolved,
The Anglican Church in North America acknowledges that the form of the Nicene Creed customary in the West is that of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, including the words “and the Son” (filioque), which form may be used in worship and for elucidation of doctrine.

Such changes, of course, upset 39-Article-rigourists.

*****

This is the twenty-third post in a series on the Creed.

The first is Apostles’ Creed.
The second is I believe in God.
The third is a source of the Apostles’ Creed.
The fourth is I believe in the Father.
The fifth is Handing over the Creed.
The sixth is I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
The seventh is Don’t use the creed in worship
They eighth is Truly God truly human
The ninth is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
The tenth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 2)
The eleventh is Born of the Virgin Mary
The twelfth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 3)
The thirteenth is Crucified under Pontius Pilate
The fourteenth is crucified
The fifteenth is Holy Saturday
This sixteenth is He descended to the dead
The seventeenth is on the third day he rose again
The eighteenth is Seated at the right hand of the Father
The nineteenth is Judge the living and the dead
The twentieth is I believe in the Holy Spirit
The twenty-first is But Wait, There’s More!
The twenty-second is And the Son

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23 Responses to Filioque

  1. It doesn’t get more “inside baseball” than this, does it? Unless you work at a seminary, show this to the next 5 people you meet and they will answer, in response to the question: “what is your opinion about the inner working of the Trinity?” that they haven’t got an opinion–and can’t imagine why they should.

  2. I think the ACNA solution has merit. When in Rome one says the bracketed words and when in Constantiniple one does not. In Canterbury, Pittsburgh, Nairobi or the cardboard cathedral, one can say whichever option one feels like.

    PS The Jerusalem Declaration kind of requires the omission of the filioque, doesn’t it? I recall it was added by a council which on any numbering was later than the fourth!!

    PPS I would advise the crossing of fingers behind one’s back, whether saying the filioque clause or omitting it. One never knows what the Trinity him/themself(ves) think about our machinations on earth below 🙂

    • I am recently ordained a clergy person in the ACNA. When I first began to pursue the Anglican Way about 3 years ago via another group that was connected to the Church in Rwanda, the added words to the Creed was something I was very concerned about as I had first seriously considered converting to Orthodoxy before finding the middle way”. The local Bishop in the Rwanda connected group would never give me a straight answer in regards to the information you have cited in regards to Creed from the Orthodox-Anglican dialogues. I was very happy to see the proposed changes in regards to the Creed used in the proposed ACNA Prayer Book. As ACNA is a member Church in GAFCON it will be interesting to see if other GAFCON member Churches who are in the Anglican Communion take a similar tact when they need to make changes to their Prayer Books. That is to say the use of the (and the Son). 🙂

  3. So, is it the case that the 16th C English Reformers didn’t notice this opportunity to “change back” something the Romans had added on to an older creed when the first English Prayer Book was written? Or was this a point of doctrine on which those Reformers agreed with Rome?

    • As I quoted, Julianne, the Articles agree with the Filioque. On many things the Reformers were just poorly informed, and following some of their (good) principles now lead to different conclusions than some of their poorly-informed ones. Blessings.

      • Re the English Reformers and the filioque:
        1. They were Reformers of Western Christianity (as experienced in England) and not of the whole of Christianity. What was not broken they did not fix. It is difficult to see why the filioque clause would have figured in their view of
        ‘broken’ things needing reform.
        2. They were keen on Scripture. My hesitation to ditch the filioque clause is through reading Scripture, in which there is evidence for the Spirit proceeding from Father and Son.

        • Thanks, Peter.

          1) Where is the evidence in the scriptures that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son?
          2) Even if there were such evidence, there is IMO no reason to add that to an ecumenically agreed text. There is evidence in the scriptures that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, yet I would similarly oppose adding “born at Bethlehem” to the agreed Creed.

          Blessings.

          • Hi Bosco
            Acts 2:32-33 is relevant: Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit on believers.
            John 16:7 Jesus will ‘send’ the Advocate to the disciples.
            Once the ecumenical creed was established (without the filioque) could it never be corrected? Ideally it would be corrected by another ecumenical council but that did not happen. Rome persisted with the filioque not only because this was faithful to Scripture but also because this attested to an important Trinitarian truth. (I am not sure that ‘born in Bethlehem’ is in quite the same class!). The Reformers chose not to correct what they believed to be correct.

          • Yes, Peter, Jesus sends us the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father.

            The previous chapter is the context of your quote.
            John 15:26 Ὅταν ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλητος ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ·
            When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds (ἐκπορεύεται) from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
            Note the same word used in the Creed:
            Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζῳοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον

            The Orthodox, and those of us who omit the Filioque, and advocate for its removal are, in fact, faithful to Scripture.
            The Reformers, as in so many things, were mistaken and confused, sometimes ignorant, and in not being faithful to the ecumenically agreed Creed – wrong.
            πέμψω (“send” John 16:7), and ἐξέχεεν (“poured out” Acts 2:33) are different from the Creed’s ἐκπορευόμενον (“proceed”) in meaning.

            Blessings.

  4. Hi Bosco
    I do not think anyone (Eastern, Roman or Christchurchian) is arguing that the creed-without-filioque is not faithful to Scripture (as you linguistically point out: it is, in literal terms).
    The question (to my mind) is whether the Spirit sent by Jesus and poured out by Jesus, the Son who is one with the Father, is also ‘proceeding’ from the Son.
    Perhaps the Reformers were confused (like me) on the matter. Are you saying the whole of the Roman church since Leo has also been confused?

    • Thanks for pointing out if I have been unclear, Peter.

      1) I think if we are proclaiming our agreed Creed, we should proclaim our agreed Creed. Just as I pointed out the Pope does.
      We should not be unilaterally adding things to the Creed we agree on.
      Baptism is mentioned. The Eucharist is not. We should not, as just another example, add the Eucharist into our agreed Creed. Not adding the Eucharist to the Creed says nothing about the Eucharist in the life of Christian faith.

      2) If you and others have insights into the inner workings of the Trinity that go beyond what our agreed Creed says I am very happy for you, but you cannot require those insights, that have not been ecumenically agreed to (including in the ecumenically agreed Scriptures), to be binding on all Christians.
      We have not ecumenically agreed to the mechanism of Christ’s Eucharistic presence (to use yet another example). I am very happy that you come to your understanding of what that mechanism is, but you cannot bind your insight as being required to be believed by the rest of us.
      Argue about Trinitarian procession in theological papers and seminaries and discussion groups. But don’t require us to proclaim and all believe what we haven’t ecumenically agreed to, and in fact are increasingly agreeing we should not do.

      Sorry if I’m still not clear. I thought I had been. Am I clearer now?

      Blessings.

      • Not sure if I am clear about what you are saying here, Bosco!

        1. The requirement that we say the filioque clause is the requirement that we follow the words of our (ACANZP) agreed liturgy. Are you saying that we do not have to say what we have agreed to say?

        2. Certainly, in a free Christian world, we can ask What have we ecumenically agreed to and what have we not, and choose to say only the former and agree to only require the former. But my ministry as yours is in the ACANZP so I am not ministering in a free Christian world.

        3. You place a lot of blame upon the poor benighted Reformers (which, incidentally, is something no Christian happy to wear the label ‘evangelical’ would ever do). But when ACANZP agreed to the 1989 prayer book, including the filioque, was it following the Reformers and only the Reformers, or was it following the general Western tradition? I know of few true followers of the Reformers on the prayer book commission so the commission of catholics and liberals and moderates also went along with Leo!

        4. There is every possibility that the worldwide church, following the lead of the Pope and Anglicans such as yourself, may see the ecumenical light, and revert to the filioque-less creed. But that is not yet our ecumenical position. You could hasten it along by moving in our synod that we drop the filioque, take that to GS etc. However I suspect Rome might struggle to go along: they would have to admit they got it wrong in 1054 etc. Before you know it they will be admitting they were wrong at the time of the Reformation. Then before we know it there will be women priests, gay marriages among the bureaucrats in the Vatican … that little clause ‘and the Son’ holds the key to the whole of future church history 🙂

        • Yes, Peter, on the rare occasion that NZPB requires the use of the Nicene Creed (is it required anywhere other than in the Ordination rite?) it would be wrong to print that and require the community to recite it without the Filioque. It is an interesting discussion you are opening up whether on all other occasions, when the Prayer Book’s Creed is not a requirement (ie most of the time), whether we could use the original Creed. I have already expressed my disappointment in the confusion that led to our not using the ELLC text but rather a draft. I had not thought of your point previously, but my initial thought is that a community in our province can choose, when not ordaining, to use the ELLC text without Filioque if it sought to proclaim the Creed.

          Our own bishop, of course, came from an Anglican Church that used the original Creed, without Filioque, in a church that requires the Nicene Creed be used at least on major festivals, and is required to use the Nicene Creed (without Filioque, of course) or the Apostles’ Creed on Sundays.

          You know I have grave difficulties with the tribalism of such groups that self-identify as, for example, “evangelical”. To assert that they are uncritical of every decision of every Reformer makes them a rather small, narrow group. NT Wright has recently been writing a word or two about where some Reformers went wrong. I would suggest that ACoC, Lambeth, and ACNA would see themselves as standing in the Reformers’ traditions. For me the gift of the Reformers is to continually return ad fontes. It would not surprise me if some of the Reformers were alive today that they would be spearheading the return to the original Creed.

          When it appears that there is sufficient energy to sustain it, yes, I would be happy to spearhead the return to the original Creed in our church. Meanwhile our church is sufficiently occupied in debating the changing of another word or two in our rites.

          Blessings.

          • “a rather small, narrow group”

            Where do I buy the badge?

            Evangelicals disagree with Reformers (e.g. agreeing with Calvin rather than Zwingli, with Luther rather than Calvin, etc) though generally I find English-oriented evangelical Anglicans agree with Cranmer and co rather than disagreeing. (Note re NT Wright noted).

            I do not, however, think I would find an evangelical going beyond ‘mistaken’ and saying as much as you do of the Reformers “The Reformers, as in so many things, were mistaken and confused, sometimes ignorant,”

            As to your case for justifying the use of the filioque-less Nicene creed in the life of our church when it is not strictly required, I wonder if that would open up a can of worms re other change-as-you-go approaches to use of the prayer book.

            Your justification is appeal to a principle of the widest possible ecumenicity. But such appeal is not actually supported in our constitution. You like that principle. What if I like the principle that Sydney or Rome does things in this particular way?

            Wait, that already happens in our church (e.g. at a local church or two where words from the Roman missal are added into the service).

          • Thanks, Peter.

            I am suggesting that Cranmer himself would not have been happy with the 1662 revision. I am not alone in such a suggestion, and am sure that there are self-professed evangelicals who agree with my suggestion.

            You, however, would only allow evangelicals to state that Reformers were mistaken; they would be disenfranchised for acknowledging that we now have access to texts and scholarship that were not available to the Reformers, or that Cranmer himself may have disagreed with reforms made in the seventeenth century.

            I suggest that Cranmer himself, if he were here today, would be interested in this discussion, and be the sort of person open to changing his mind. Faithfulness to Cranmer may lie more in What Would Cranmer Do than in what Cranmer did long ago.

            Finally, I am not opening the can of worms you mention; that can, in our province, has been opened so long ago (by our General Synod I might add) that those worms have all left and most have died or been eaten.

            Blessings.

  5. The Filioque is still the GREATEST difference between the East and Rome. I don’t know why some so earnestly are still keeping it. Since the Old Catholic missal of 1905, the Old Catholics have dropped it.

    Why is it so difficult for Anglicans and Lutherans to do likewise?

  6. Greetings, Bosco.

    I am sure evangelicals interested in (say) liturgical scholarship would be open (and should be open) to acknowledging what the Reformers did not know, what Cranmer might have thought of the 1662 BCP etc. I do not think evangelicals would care to call the Reformers ‘ignorant’ or ‘confused’, not least because ‘ignorant’ could imply the Reformers were not learned for their time, and ‘confused’ would bely the clarity with which evangelicals find they wrote.

    Whatever Cranmer may have made of the 1662 BCP, it has become a settled repository for Anglican evangelicals (otherwise not disposed to regret the cessation of greater embrace of Puritanism) as they appreciate the evangelical truths of Anglicanism in a book which assists Anglican evangelicals to articulate what makes them Anglican rather than Reformed or Presbyterian or Anabaptist etc.

    My point about the can of worms is not about when it was opened, how many worms have died and what few are left to analyse. It is about you and I and any others so inclined to not complain when people do not engage in ‘common prayer’ in the life of our church. To engage in ‘common prayer’ we need a common commitment to the prayer of our church. Whether we appeal to one principle or another to justify not praying that common prayer, we are all on the same basis of rebellion against common prayer if we subscribe to a principle (as justification for not praying commonly) not allowed for by General Synod.

    Incidentally, close perusal of the words in our prayer book suggest to me that while we ‘may’ not say a creed (i.e. we may omit it altogether from a service), if we say the Nicene Creed it is ‘as follows’ that is, with the filioque clause and not without it!

    • Thanks, Peter.

      You are reading “ignorant” as “uneducated (for their time). I am writing it as “lacking knowledge”.

      I have just written a post about BCP1662 not being normative for Anglicanism – your definition disenfranchises all TEC from being evangelical.

      I am firmly committed to “engage in ‘common prayer’ in the life of our church” – unfortunately in our church we cannot agree what that common prayer consists of (in spite of much effort and energy expended on my part, and I am preparing another blog post or two about this). What concerns me far more is being at an Anglican Eucharist where we are made to recite a “creed” together which has more in common with kittens and balls of wool than the depths of the Nicene Creed – and all revealed clause by clause on the overhead projector, without giving anyone even time to consider whether they really do believe all this about kittens and wool.

      I think your reading of the rubric (“The Apostles’ Creed (page 461), A Liturgical Affirmation (page 481), or The Nicene Creed as follows, or Te Whakapono o Naihia (page 494) may be said or sung, all standing.“) is a fair one on that page. I also think that allowing something else to go in that position (including a kittens-and-wool creed) is also a fair reading. Hence, I stand by my position that our church allows for the recitation at that point, even on that page, of “The Creed agreed to at the First Council of Constantinople”. Furthermore, while your reading may be fair for the rite “Thanksgiving of the People of God” it is 100% clear that no such reading can be given for “A Form for Ordering the Eucharist” where the filioque-less original Nicene Creed can obviously be used. [In case you start arguing that any creed (anything) cannot contradict the formularies and that the Filioque is in the formularies, omitting the Filioque is not a denial of it.]

      You know that if you want to put more energy into our church becoming clear about common prayer I am fully supportive.

      Blessings.

  7. Hi Bosco
    Thanks for all of above, including the promise of support!

    Quick notes:
    A. TEC is not known for much evangelical Anglicanism (ACNA as an offshoot seems more Anglo-Catholic in orientation than evangelical). So, doubtful that I am disenfranchising many!
    B. Agreed that p. 511 would permit the Nicene without Filioque. But the first thing to go in re-establishing common prayer in our church would be the freedom p. 511 offers!

  8. If folks want to discover why this controversy might be relevant beyond the walls of a seminary and have consequences for Christian living, see A Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy (Oxford, 2010).

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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