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Tuesday
Aug302011

Theological Term of the Week

filioque
“Latin for “and from the Son, ” a term  referring to a clause inserted into the Nicence Creed to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father only but also from the Son. The controversy that arose over this doctrinal point contributed to the split between the Eastern and Western churches in A. D. 1054.”1

  • Text of the Nicene Creed with the filioque clause in italics: 

    We believe in one God,
          the Father almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth,
          of all things visible and invisible.

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
          the only Son of God,
          begotten from the Father before all ages,
               God from God,
               Light from Light,
               true God from true God,
          begotten, not made;
          of the same essence as the Father.
          Through him all things were made.
          For us and for our salvation
               he came down from heaven;
               he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
               and was made human.
               He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
               he suffered and was buried.
               The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
               He ascended to heaven
               and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
               He will come again with glory
               to judge the living and the dead.
               His kingdom will never end.

    And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the Lord, the giver of life.
          He proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
          and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
          He spoke through the prophets.
          We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
          We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
          We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
          and to life in the world to come. Amen.

  • Scriptural evidence for the filioque clause:
  • Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7 ESV)

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:
  • In the light of John 15:26 and 16:7, where Jesus said that he would send the Holy Spirit into the world, it seems there could be no objection to such a statement if it referred to the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son at a point in time (particularly at Pentecost). But this was a statement about the nature of the Trinity, and the phrase was understood to speak of the eternal relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Son, something Scripture never explicitly discusses.

    …Is there a correct position on this question? The weight of evidence (slim though it is) seems clearly to favor the western church. In spite of the fact that John 15:26 says that the Spirit of truth “proceeds from the Father,” this does not deny that he proceeds also from the Son (just as John 14:26 says that the Fahter will send the Holy Spirit, but John 16:7 says that the Son will send the Holy Spirit). In fact, in the same sentence in John 15:26 Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as one “whom I shall send to you from the Father.” And if the Son together with the Father sends the Spirit into the world, by analogy it would seem appropriate to say that this reflects eternal ordering of their relationships. This is not something that we can clearly insist on based on any specific verse, but much of our understanding of the eternal relationships among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit comes by analogy from what Scripture tells us about the way they relate to the creation in time.

Learn more:
  1. GotQuestions.org: What is the filioque clause / controversy?
  2. BELIEVE Religious Information Source: Filioque Controversy
  3. James E. Kiefer: The Filioque Clause
  4. John Starke: A Pastoral Case for the Filioque Clause
  5. John S. Romanides: The Filioque
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

1From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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