12 November 2010

A medlee of bloodsports metaphors

Surely, there are few pleasures more acute, more delightful to savour, or with a more superb after-taste, than that of watching another human impaled, wriggling, writhing, on the horns of a dilemma.

In a recent post I relished the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Council of Hatfield, which promulgated filioque, was presided over by a Syrian monk of Byzantine culture, S Theodore. I wondered how those rather precious 'Orthodox' for whom it really matters to prove that the Saxon Church was "Orthodox" would get around that amusing little quirk of history.

Happily, my fishing hook did not lie upon the water long without making a catch. The suggestion duly appeared that the filioque in Hatfield represents a deliberate Filioquist perversion of the authentic text of Hatfield. Oh frabjous day!

To make that hare run, it will need the attachment of at least four bionic legs. Our account of Hatfield rests upon a text of Bede which is commonly constituted on the basis of four manuscripts all of which are eighth century. And there is, at this point, no variant reading in their texts. Their hypothetically "corrupted" archetype cannot therefore be much later than the time of Bede himself. Whether the alleged filioquist perverter of the text of Hatfield is ipsissimus Baeda or someone very soon after Bede wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica, we would still be left with a very embarrassing piece of evidence for the filioquist enthusiasm of the Anglo-Saxon Church (is S Bede, BTW, regarded as a Saint by "Saxon Orthodoxy"?).

But more. It is a slight simplification to say that Hatfield sanctioned filioque. The text actually reads "et filio". In other words, the Council, using a minutely different lexic for saying precisely the same thing, sanctioned the substance of filioque before the advocates of that formula had even decided to promote it in exactly that verbal form.

Tally Ho! The bloodlust of the hunt! I feel an immense surge of adrenalin! Whom shall I go out and kick next? Yes! You're right! It has to be SWISH! Tomorrow, then, I shall ride out as an avenging knight to vindicate the wounded honour of that most Romanist of all proto-Ordinariate Romanisers, papalist S Wilfrid the Good and the Great.


Fr LR said...

In the spirit of Squire Western, rally the dogs, beat the thicket, breath forth fire and charge to the slaughter!

benedictambrose said...

I like my parson a-huntin': let him remove his maniple to preach, but not his spurs. "Hail Mary, and well met."

Rubricarius said...

Golly, I had always been pro-hunting until now.

The Sibyl said...

I'm gobsmacked! That's one glorious piece of writing Fr Hunwicke. Entertaing, informative amusing and evocative all at once -we need a book! You are definately living patrimony.

B flat said...

I made the suggestion that the word was interpolated. I accept that is not the explanation for St Theodore's endorsement, which I still do not quite understand, but I had no latin text, only a translation. So it was not the amendment of the Creed we love to hate.
Sinner that I am, I feel no horns, on or in me, but I am certainly very glad to learn of the authenticity of the texts we have. Thank you very much Father!

Hunting (and the beating of anyone at all) is forbidden to Orthodox priests who offer the Bloodless Sacrifice.

Acolyte4236 said...

“Pope Agatho (678-81), for his part, avoided using the Filioque in his synodal letter to the Council, perhaps cognizant that Theodore’s earlier inclusion of the term had precipitated such consternation in the imperial capital. In the letter, written on behalf of125 Western bishops who had gathered in Rome, there is simply stated the belief in ‘the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father (ex Patre procedentem).’…While Pope Agatho shunned the interpolation in his correspondence with the East, local gatherings in the West continued to teach the Filioque without compunction…According to Bede, when Pope Vitalian (657-72) appointed Theodore to Canterbury, he sent monk Hadrian with him ‘to prevent Theodore from introducing into the church over which he presided any Greek customs.’…The two questions raised by this confession of faith were how Theodore would have interpreted this teaching, and how long the Filioque had been part of the creed in England. While it is possible that Augustine of Canterbury (d. 609) might have taught the Filioque during his mission to England (given his connection with Pope Gregory I), there is also a chance that it was introduced by Theodore’s ompanion Hadrian, an African by birth whose study of Augustine and Fulgentius would likely have included their teaching on the procession. As for Theodore himself, it is possible that he understood the filioque in accord with the principles Maximus had enunciated years earlier in the Lteer to Marinus, especially if (as if likely) the two knew each other in Rome.” Siecienski, The Filioque: A History of a Doctrinal Controversy, Oxford (2010) 88-89.

Consequently, the remarks my Theodore are insufficient an adherence to the doctrine of the filioque. if he took it as Maximus did, then he didn't hold to the Florentine doctrine since Maxcimus denies hypostatic origination and argues for an eternal energetic procession or a "shinning forth" through the Son. That isn't what Augustine had in mind, nor Anselm, Albert, Bonaventure or Thomas.

I'd suggest readers pick up Siecienski's book.

Albertus said...

To me it seems, that our Lord's words as recorded in the Gospel ''qui ex Patre procedit'', do not exclude procession of the Holy Ghost through or from the Son as well. Latin tradition on this point is not contrary to Greek teaching, but is rather a complementary teaching, a further development, a deeper insight. Frankly, and betraying here my life-long ignorance, I question the whole concept of the Monarchy of the Father. If we truly adore and confess Three Persons co-equal and co-eternal, how can One of the Three be greater than the other Two? How can the Father be the Origin and Source of the Other Two except as St. Thomas explains it, the Son being the Eternal Word within the Trinity, the Ghost being the Eternal Love of the Father and Son for Each Other? Especially problematic seems to me the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father alone: how then is the Holy Ghost different from the Son? How is He the Eternal Love Personified between Father and Son? Either the Three are perfectly equal and the same, except for Relation, or we have a Subordinationist Trinity consisting of Father as Greatest, Son as Greater than Holy Ghost, and Holy Ghost as the Least of the Three. Now, I do understand how in the early centuries orthodox theologians could tend toward Subordinationism, but not after the understanding of the Trinity and trinitarian terminology had been perfected and defined. It seems to me that the Filioque was a step further along the way towards the perfection of our understanding of the Trinity, which will remain essentially a mystery even in the afterlife, but less so, at least for those of us who have the desire and need to deeper knwo this Mystery of Mysteries.

Acolyte4236 said...


The question is not whether the Greek NT excludes the idea that the person of the Spirit is generated from the Father and the Son, but whether it teaches it.
The Orthodox teaching is that the origination of the other two persons is from the Father alone. To include the Son is to be contrary to the Orthodox view.
As for development, if the Orthodox adhered to an idea of doctrinal development as say spelled out in the context of 19th century idealism, the Filioque could be situated as such, but the Orthodox don’t.
If you question the monarchy of the Father, then there is no reason why to designate the Father as such. And such a view runs contrary to both traditions, not to mention the scriptures.
Greater than doesn’t imply better than. Derivation doesn’t necessarily imply inequality. If it did, you’d have to reject the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son too (“true God of true God”)
As for Thomas’ reasoning, not everyone, even in the Latin west agreed with it. Scotus didn’t and argued against it. From the Orthodox side, why think that we need to go further than the biblical language to distinguish the persons? One reason to think so would be if the object of metaphysics was being and such and if God was so. Then the science of metaphysics and all other sciences could only find their end in God in an intentional union (beatific vision). But the Orthodox don’t subscribe to that view following the Cappadocians and Dionysius with God as huperousia or beyond being and this is why there is no intentional union with the divine essence. (See Lossky’s, The Vision of God)

Added to this contrast is the Eastern idea doesn’t gloss the persons under the category of relation and so they are not relations of the essence to itself, albeit in different modes.
Since the Nicene doctrine proffers some form of hypostatic subordination of the other two persons to the Father, it is something all sides (except Protestant) are obligated to adhere to. Further, given that the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds, it doesn’t follow that the Spirit is least of the three or that there is any essential inequality, especially in light of the fact that the divine essence is not being.

Here I am not trying to argue a case so much as lay out the contrasting views.

Albertus said...

thank you for your erudite exposition of the eastern viewpoint. However, your statement ''From the Orthodox side, why think that we need to go further than the biblical language to distinguish the persons?'' puzzles me. For both Orthodox and Catholic theology make use of non-biblical language in all areas, including the Trinity, which is itself a non-biblical term. Our faith is not based on sola scriptura... Another statement you make: ''Greater than doesn’t imply better than'' puzzles me as well. For my problem here is not that ''greater than'' might imply ''better than'', but rather, that ''Greater than'' does imply that the other two Persons are ''not equal''. I shall study your weblog and try to figure this out for myself. Granted, as a Roman Catholic i am bound to the Nicene-constantinopolitan creed. But in classic Latin Theology, we never say that any one of the Three Divine Persons is greater than one or both of the Other Two. As for us, this smacks of heresy. And though the Latin Church officially sbuscribes to a sort of Monarchy within God (i see that the CCC does make a reference to this concept), however, in fact, in classic Latin Theology it is ignored, probably because it is inconveniently and seemingly unreconciliable to the Equality of Persons so dear to us western Trinitarians.

Acolyte4236 said...


Thank you for the amicable exchange.

While it is true that the Orthodox employ terms that go beyond the biblical language, that isn’t the same thing as investigating beyond what the biblical language will warrant. If theology is not a science, then the role of say the councils is quite different. It was the intrusion of philosophy with its view of the world as opposing powers that produced heretical interpretations. So key terms of counciliar decrees are apophatic and are not content rich in the least. Theology has no handmaiden and this is why when the church uses philosophical terms, their dialectical content has to be sucked out. You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins. Given that Protestants and Catholics take theology to be a science, but differ on the scope of material and formal authority, what I wrote doesn’t and couldn’t imply sola scriptura.

What I meant to convey with the contrast of “greater” and “better” was the fact that the latter refers to an inequality of nature whereas the former does not. Here again there is an apophatic usage. The Father is greater than the Son and the Spirit since he is their eternal source without inequality of essence. This is par for the course in Nicene and post-Nicene theology.

In classic Latin Theology I’d wager you do say that the Father is greater since he generates the other two persons. If not, in what does the monarchy of the Father consist? Further, there are plenty of post Nicene Latin patristic sources in explicating the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son that say as much. Here is happily not a fault line between East and West.

Albertus said...

though i personally neither understand nor appreciate the expressions '''source'' and ''origin'' of the other two Persons, referring to the Father, i must admit that Roman Catholicism has inherited these expressions and concepts ands does still subscribe to them, but by no means doesn classical Latin Theology accentuate this concept of Monarchy. I accept these expressions, only in so far as they do not infer any essential inequality or subordination. However I must insist that classic Catholic Theology - as i studied it - does not refer to the Father as greater, considering this concept to be heretical. I mean post-Patres and pre-Vatican II theology by ''classic''. When our Lord, for exmaple, states that His father is greater than He, Catholic theology says taht our Lord was referring only to His human nature. The Father is greater than our Lord's humanity, even the Son's Divinty is greater than His Own humanity. This exact explanation is also given by the Orthodox Study Bible in a gloss on the same Gospel passage! The Orthodox Study Bible also denies that the Father is greater than the person of God the Son.
I could not bring myself to state, that the Father is greater than the Son, it goes against my own Trinitarian theology as I received it. But I suppose that one can still remain orthodox by saying, as you do, that the Persons are essentially equal, even if one of them, the Father , is greater in as far as He is source and origin of the other two. But again, this sounds very strange to me, i have never heard it stated before this way, and no Roman Catholic who was schooled in the classic theology would use such terminology and reasoning. I shall investigate this further, to see just how many contemporary Eastern Orthoodox theologians think of the FATHER as greater than the Son and Holy Ghost. Thank you very much for your own insights. This is an excellent occasion for me to deepen my own knowledge of trinitarian faith, and to enrich it with eastern orthodox insights.