Double Procession of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the W. Church acc. to which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Support for it is found in several NT passages, notably Jn. 16:13–15, where Christ says of the Holy Spirit ‘He shall take (λήψεται) of Mine and shall shew it unto you’. It is urged that in the Inner-Trinitarian relations one Person cannot ‘take’ or ‘receive’ (λήψεται) anything from either of the others except by way of Procession. Among other texts adduced for the doctrine are Gal. 4:6, where the Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of the Son’, Rom. 8:9 ‘the Spirit of Christ’, Phil. 1:19 ‘the Spirit of Jesus Christ’, and the Johannine texts on the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus (14:16, 15:26, 16:7).
Among the Greek Fathers St *Cyril of Alexandria is usually considered one of the most important witnesses to the doctrine. He develops it in his struggle against *Nestorianism, speaking of the Holy Spirit as belonging to the Son, τὸ ἴδιον τοῦ Υἱοῦ. He also uses several times the characteristic Latin formula ‘and the Son’ side by side with the Greek phrase ‘through the Son’, the former indicating the equality of principle, the latter the order of origin. The doctrine was expressly denied, on the other hand, by *Theodore of Mopsuestia and *Theodoret. Among the Latin Fathers, St *Jerome, St *Ambrose, and esp. St *Augustine are representatives of the teaching summed up in the ‘*Filioque’ (q.v.). But the doctrine did not become a matter of controversy until the time of *Photius (864), who asserted it to be contrary to the teaching of the Fathers and even suspected the relevant passages as interpolations. At the Council of *Florence (1439), Mark of Ephesus repeated this theory; but today most theologians of the E. Church recognize that St Augustine and other Latin Fathers taught the Double Procession, but only as a private opinion. The objection urged by E. theologians against the doctrine is that there must be a single Fount of Divinity (πηγὴ θεότητος) in the Godhead. The consideration urged by W. theologians in its support is that, as both Latins and Greeks attribute everything as common to the Father and the Son except the relation of Paternity and Filiation, the Spiration of the Holy Spirit, in which this relation is not involved, must also be common to both.
H. B. *Swete, On the History of the Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Apostolic Age to the Death of Charlemagne (1876). Preface to P. E. *Pusey’s Eng. tr. of Cyril’s Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John (LF 43; 1874), pp. ix-lx. M. Jugie, AA, Theologia Dogmatica Christianorum Orientalium ab Ecclesia Catholica Dissentium, 1 (Paris, 1926), esp. pp. 286–311, and 2 (1933) pp. 296–535. Id., De Processione Spiritus Sancti ex Fontibus Revelationis et secundum Orientales Dissidentes (Lateranum, NS 2, nos. 3–4; 1936), with refs. Eng. tr. of V. *Lossky, ‘The Procession of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Triadology’, Eastern Churches Quarterly, 7 (1948), suppl. issue, 2, pp. 31–53. R. Haugh, Photius and the Carolingians: The Trinitarian Controversy (Belmont, Mass., 1975). H. J. Marx, SVD, Filioque und verbot eines anderen Glaubens auf dem Florentinum (Veröffentlichungen des Missionspriesterseminars St Augustin bei Bonn, 26; 1977). J.-M. Garrigues, L’Esprit qui dit ‘Père!’: L’Esprit-Saint dans la vie trinitaire et le problème du Filioque . See also bibl. s.v. filioque.
—Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd edition) s.v. “Double Procession”
5. The Filioque
Curiously intertwined with the series of incidents by which the creed worked its way into the Eucharist is the problem of the fateful interpolation in the third article which, ever since the eighth century, has been one of the most explosive topics of debate between the churches of East and West. For many hundreds of years the text of C accepted in the Latin church and its daughter communions has contained the clause proceeding from the father and the son (filioque) of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox churches of the East have remained fiercely, even fanatically, attached to the more primitive proceeding from the father. A full discussion of the portentous addition in all its implications would necessitate an examination of at least three questions—the theology of the double procession, the history of the insertion of the filioque, and the history of the long-standing quarrel between East and West over it. Here we shall be mainly concerned with the second, although a few remarks about the first must be set down by way of preface. The third belongs by rights to the field of church history proper rather than the study of creeds.
So far as theology is concerned, the doctrine that the third Person derives His being equally and coordinately from the first and the second was characteristic, in its fully developed form, of Western Trinitarianism and, in particular, of St Augustine’s presentation of it. From the days of Tertullian the typical formula had been, “From the Father through the Son.” In the fourth century, however, the deeper implication was extracted from this that the Son, conjointly with the Father, was actually productive of the Holy Spirit. The text to which appeal was regularly made was the Lord’s statement in Jn. 16:14, “He (i.e. the Spirit) will receive of mine.” Here the pioneers were St Hilary (cf. his Patre et Filio auctoribus) and Marius Victorinus3 (not St Ambrose, whose texts refer to the Spirit’s external mission), but both these avoid speaking directly of His procession from the Son. St Augustine felt no need for reserve. His Trinitarianism did not start with the Father as the source of the other two Persons, but with the idea of the one, simple Godhead Which in Its essence is Trinity. The logical development of his thought involved the belief that the Holy Spirit proceeded as truly from the Son as from the Father, and he did not scruple to expound it with frankness and precision on numerous occasions. He admitted that, in a primordial sense (principaliter), the Spirit proceeded from the Father, because it was the Father Who endowed the Son with the capacity to produce the Holy Spirit. But it was a cardinal premiss of his theology that whatever could be predicated of one of the Persons could be predicated of the others. So it was inevitable that he should regard the denial of the double procession as violating the unity and simplicity of the Godhead.
This way of thinking became universally accepted in the West in the fifth and sixth centuries: there could be no more illuminating instance of the hold the great African had on Latin Christianity. Greek theology, however, was by no means prepared to take the bold step which seemed so easy and natural to St Augustine. Many passages can be cited from the Eastern fathers, and have been cited in the course of the long, embittered controversy, which appear to approximate to the doctrine of the double procession. One or two writers, like St Epiphanius, may even have succumbed to the influence of their Latin associates so far as to echo their language. Generally speaking, however, they never lost sight of the idea, which St Gregory of Nyssa brought out forcibly at the close of his Quod non sunt tres dii, that what accounted for the distinctions in the Trinity was the fact that one of the Persons stood in the relation of cause (τὸ αἴτιον) to the other two. Thus they found no difficulty in saying that the Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son, the Son being considered the Father’s instrument or agent. But they treated it as axiomatic that the Father alone was the source or fountain-head of Deity, and that both the Son and the Spirit derived, in the only legitimate sense of the word, from Him, the one by generation and the other by procession. Their steadfast refusal to fall into line with the Latins was not the fruit of mere obstinacy, but sprang from an instinctive sense of the deep principle involved. What really divided East and West in their acrimonious and often unsavoury quarrel over the filioque was a fundamental difference of approach to the problem of the mystery of the triune Godhead.
Naturally the leaders of Western Christianity, while fully accepting and teaching the doctrine of the double procession, were far too cautious and diplomatic to flaunt it as an official dogma in the face of Eastern theologians. Gatherings held far from the centre, like the third council of Toledo (589) and the English synod of Hatfield (680), might proclaim the doctrine and anathematize its deniers, but the papacy deliberately resisted the temptation to commit itself. To take but one example, the procession of the Spirit from the Son as well as from the Father was expressly taught by St Gregory the Great (590–604), but the formula expressing it was carefully omitted from the profession of faith put out almost a century later (680) by Pope Agathon in the name of a synod held at Rome. So far as creeds are concerned, the double procession made its first appearance, it would seem, in Spain, in a series of local formulae directed against the Priscillianist heresy. One of the most ancient of these is the so-called creed of Damasus, in its original form ascribed to St Jerome, which A. E. Burn identified as the Pope’s reply to the treatise addressed to him by Priscillian of Avila in 380. K. Künstle hazarded the guess that its actual compilation was the work of the synod of Saragossa, which condemned the heretic in the same year, and which may have sent it to Damasus for his approval. Markedly anti-Priscillianist in tone, it contains the statement: “We believe … in the Holy Spirit, not begotten nor unbegotten, not created nor made, but proceeding from the Father and the Son.” Another example is the creed with twelve anathemas which has often been fathered on the first council of Toledo (400), but which Dom Morin suggested2 might be the long-lost Libellus in modum symboli of Pastor, bishop of Gallicia in 433. Here, too, belief is expressed in “the Spirit, the Paraclete, Who is neither the Father Himself nor the Son, but proceeds from the Father and the Son”. Many other similar texts might be quoted, and the student might be tempted to infer that there was something particularly deadly to Priscillianism in the filioque. The true explanation, however, is that Priscillianism was marked with a deep strain of Sabellianism, and the refutation of it demanded a detailed exposition of Trinitarian teaching. The presence of the filioque in Spanish creeds of this period merely testifies to the popularity of the doctrine in this section of the Western church.
A vivid illustration of the hold the double procession had on Spanish Christianity is provided by the record of events at Reccared’s council at Toledo in 589. At the opening session the king addressed the assembled bishops and notables, dwelling at length on his own conversion and his earnest desire to do what he could to set forth the true faith. Thereupon he proceeded to recite an exposition of it, in the course of which the following statement occurred:
In equal degree must the Holy Spirit be confessed by us, and we must preach that He proceeds from the Father and the Son and is of one substance with the Father and the Son: moreover, that the Person of the Holy Spirit is the third in the Trinity, but that He nevertheless shares fully in the divine essence with the Father and the Son.
Evidently the doctrine was regarded as clinching the case against Arianism. It implied that the Son, as the source equally of the Spirit, was in no sense inferior to the Father, and that all three Persons were completely coordinate and participated equally in the divine essence. The council followed Reccared’s lead enthusiastically, and drafted the third of its anathemas in the form: “Whoever does not believe in the Holy Spirit, or does not believe that He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and denies that He is coeternal and coequal with the Father and the Son, let him be anathema.” The suggestion of this language is that, while the doctrine was considered indispensable, it did not strike the council as revolutionary, but rather as an accepted article of orthodoxy.
It has often been held that the interpolation of the word filioque into the actual text of the creed must date from this occasion. King Reccared formally recited the Nicene creed, with its anathemas, and the Constantinopolitan Creed as embodying the faith of the first four general councils. It has seemed incredible that, after his own forceful language on the subject of the double procession and the enthusiasm with which the council took it up, the term symbolizing the doctrine should not have been incorporated in the creed. The evidence of the MSS, however, is not free from ambiguity on the point. Many years ago A. E. Burn drew attention to the fact that several important MSS containing the acts of the council either lack the crucial word or exhibit it inserted by a later hand. The matter still requires investigation, but the conclusion seems inescapable that, as originally recited at the council of Toledo, the text of C was the pure one without filioque. Nevertheless it was inevitable that, with the growing stress laid on the doctrine, the word should speedily creep into the creed. Spanish MSS of the subsequent centuries give abundant illustrations of the process at work.
The rest of the story is familiar enough. The use of the filioque spread from Spain to Gaul, where, even before it installed itself in the creed, it found a niche in some rites in the Preface of the mass. At first the West seems to have been genuinely unaware that the doctrine of the double procession represented a definite advance on, or certainly clarification of, the teaching of earlier centuries. Thus the synod of Hatfield, summoned to stabilize the Church against the presumed Eutychian tendencies of Monotheletism, expressed its loyal adherence to the decisions of the first five ecumenical councils and of the Lateran synod held in 649 under Pope Martin I. But the profession of faith which it published ran as follows:
We acknowledge and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ as they (i.e. the fathers of the general councils) glorified Him, neither adding nor subtracting anything, and we anathematize with heart and voice those whom they anathematized, and we acknowledge those whom they acknowledged, glorifying God the Father without beginning, and His only-begotten Son, begotten of the Father before all ages, and the Holy Spirit proceeding in an inexpressible manner from the Father and the Son, as those holy apostles and prophets and doctors taught whom we have mentioned.
Language like this reads all the more strangely when it is remembered that archbishop Theodore, who presided at the synod, had once been a monk at Tarsus and so presumably was familiar with the true text of the creed. Sooner or later, however, a clash between East and West was bound to come. The first round seems to have been fought at the council of Gentilly, at Easter 767. The immediate subjects under discussion were the worship of images and the return of territories in Italy, to which Constantinople felt it had a claim, but it is reported that “the question about the Trinity was ventilated between the Greeks and the Romans, and whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son in the same way as He proceeds from the Father”. Apparently what happened was that the Western delegates accused the ambassadors of the emperor Constantine V (Copronymus) of neglect in the matter of the worship of images, and they retorted with a reproach about the impropriety of inserting filioque into the creed.
The dispute which had thus flared up almost accidentally was not long in developing into a steady blaze. Pippin, king of France, who had been present at the council of Gentilly, died in 768, and his son and successor, Charlemagne, took up the filioque with something like fervour, using every opportunity to parade it before the horrified East and trying his best to induce the papacy to lend him its moral and practical support. A good example was the remonstrance he addressed to Pope Hadrian I in 794. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Tarasius, had circulated a letter to the clergy of Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople giving a creed expressing belief in the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone, and it appeared that Hadrian had given his assent to this confession at the seventh general council held at Nicaea in 787. Charlemagne rebuked the Pope for admitting such erroneous doctrines as those of Tarasius, “who professes that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father and the Son, according to the faith of the Nicene symbol, but from the Father through the Son”. The Pope in his reply, written also in 794, defended the Patriarch, arguing that his theology was not his own, but was consonant with the teaching of many ancient fathers and with the practice of the Roman church.
In the same year the filioque received great publicity at the synod of Frankfurt-on-Main, which met to condemn the Adoptionist heresy and its chief supporters, Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgel. Charlemagne was present in person, and the Pope was represented by legates. Among the documents read out was the Libellus of the Italian bishops against Elipandus, which was probably the work of St Paulinus of Aquileia. Here the doctrine of the double procession was vigorously asserted. Later in the proceedings a letter of Charlemagne’s to Elipandus and the other Spanish bishops was read out, and appended to this was a form of creed in which he, too, proclaimed belief in the double procession. Two years later, in 796 or 797, at the synod of Cividale which St Paulinus summoned, the symbol set forth was C with the filioque in the third article. In his inaugural address St Paulinus skilfully justified its insertion: it no more violated the principle that new creeds must not be framed than did the alterations which the fathers of 381 had felt obliged to make in N. It had become necessary to interpolate and from the son “on account of those heretics who whisper that the Holy Spirit is of the Father alone”. We need not doubt that the form in which the creed was sung in the royal chapel at Aachen, and in the Frankish dominions generally after 798, also contained the disputed clause.
Nevertheless the papacy had not been won over to accept it, and Charlemagne, who saw the filioque as a trump-card against the Eastern empire, could not rest until he had persuaded Rome to fall into line with his policy. He made a strong attempt to do so on the occasion of the troublesome incident which took place at Jerusalem in 808. There was a convent of Latin monks settled on Mount Olivet, and these were treated as heretics and threatened with expulsion by their Orthodox neighbours because they chanted the Constantinopolitan Creed at mass with the addition of and from the son. Naturally they resisted, protested their rights in the matter, and addressed a letter to Leo III complaining and inquiring what they should do. They requested him to inform Charlemagne, for it was in his chapel that they had heard the creed sung with the filioque. The Pope, it appears, first of all sent them a profession of faith aimed at the Eastern churches and affirming the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. Then he informed the emperor of the affair. It was as a result of these happenings that Charlemagne, who assumed the role of protector of Christians in the Holy Land, commissioned Theodulphus of Orleans to write his treatise De Spiritu sancto3 and assembled a council at Aachen in 809–10. The delegates present approved and endorsed Theodulphus’s book, pronounced in favour of the filioque, and possibly even enjoined its addition to the creed. It was as a consequence of this gathering that Charlemagne sent that embassy to Leo III of which abbot Smaragdus preserved an account. As his report of the conversation still shows, the envoys used all their arts on the Pope without avail. With Roman conservatism, and a shrewd sense that if he yielded he would put himself in an awkward position vis-à-vis the East, he parried their ingenious arguments. The doctrinal truth conveyed by the filioque, he freely admitted, was essential to orthodoxy, but not all essential truths were enshrined in the creed. He admitted, too, that he had sanctioned the singing of the creed in the Frankish territories, but his permission had not been intended to cover an amended form of it. He went on to say that, if they wanted his candid opinion, all this trouble would have been avoided if they had adhered to the custom of the Roman church, where the creed was not sung at mass but only used for instructional purposes. His advice therefore was to drop the creed from the Eucharist altogether by gradual stages, making a start with the royal chapel.
Leo III thus emerged victorious from the encounter. He seems to have desired, however, to make a more public and permanent record of his determination to cleave steadfastly to the primitive version of the creed. The chronicler Anastasius tells the story of how he caused two silver shields inscribed with the creed, one in Greek and the other in Latin, to be fixed up in the basilica of St Peter’s. In the eleventh century St Peter Damian and others noticed the striking monument and reproduced part of the inscription. Their report makes it clear that the third article read proceeding from the father.
At the beginning of the ninth century, therefore, although the doctrine of the double procession was taught everywhere in the Western Church and the clause filioque was ensconced in the creed in Spain, France, Germany, and at any rate North Italy, Rome herself declined to tamper with the authorized text. No doubt sturdy traditionalism was one motive: reluctance to follow in the footsteps of provincial churches may have been another, although the period of Roman borrowing from the Gallican liturgy was beginning. There must also have been a very understandable determination on the part of the papacy not to put itself and the Western Church irretrievably in the wrong in the eyes of Constantinople. It was one thing for churches on the fringe to naturalize the controversial clause in their creeds: for the Holy See it involved far more to take the irrevocable step. It seems that the popes maintained this attitude for two full centuries more. Even during the Photian controversy, in the middle of the ninth century, when the patriarch of Constantinople was hurling violent accusations of heresy against the whole Western Church and, in particular, charging it with admitting the double procession, there is nothing to show that the creed at Rome had been altered. At what precise date and in what circumstances Rome received the filioque into the creed remains a mystery. The theory which has been widely accepted is that the decisive occasion was the day when, overborne by the persuasions of the emperor Henry II, Benedict VIII consented to have the Constantinopolitan Creed sung at the Holy Eucharist. The guess is plausible: it is hard to believe that the Pope could have been so tactless as to flourish in the emperor’s face a text of the symbol which lacked the phrase to which the church of Charlemagne and his successors attached so much importance.
— J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, pp. 358-68:
2. The demonstration of the filioque: “double procession.” The traditionally Western trinitarian concept of the double procession of the Holy Spirit was consistently upheld by the Reformers and argued with some vigor against the Greek Orthodox view. The Reformed exegetes, moreover, understood the issue to be one of exegesis, not merely an issue of the form of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, and found the biblical text to be entirely of one accord in favor of double procession. Vermigli writes, with reference to John 15:26,
Seeing the Son saith, that he will send the Spirit, and (as we said before) affirmeth him to receive of his; no man doubteth, but that he proceedeth from the Son. And now he expressly addeth; Who proceedeth from the Father.
Calvin took the point with equal seriousness, noting in his commentary on the same text,
When he says that he will send him from the Father, and, again, that he proceedeth from the Father, he does so in order to increase the weight of his authority; for the testimony of the Spirit would not be sufficient against attacks so powerful, and against efforts so numerous and fierce, if we were not convinced that he proceedeth from God. So then it is Christ who sends the Spirit, but it is from the heavenly glory, that we may know that it is not a gift of men, but a sure pledge of Divine grace. Hence it appears how idle was the subtlety of the Greeks, when they argued, on the ground of these words, that the Spirit does not proceed from the Son; for here Christ, according to his custom, mentions the Father in order to raise our eyes to the contemplation of his Divinity.
As in Vermigli’s comment, Calvin’s analysis of the text assumes the sending of the Spirit by Christ and therefore the procession of the Spirit from the Son and views the further statement of the Gospel that the Spirit proceeds from the Father not restrictively but as an expansion of the meaning to include the Father.
Calvin rather emphatically takes the words “he proceeds from the Father” as an indication of the authority of the Spirit, not of the sole origin of his eternal procession: Christ here sends the Spirit, but manifests the Spirit as a “sure pledge of divine grace.” It is, he concludes, an “idle subtlety of the Greeks” to claim this text as warrant for their denial of double procession. Calvin points out in his comment on Romans 8:9,
But let readers observe here, that the Spirit is, without any distinction, called sometimes the Spirit of God the Father, and sometimes the Spirit of Christ; and thus called, not only because his whole fulness was poured on Christ as our Mediator and head, so that from him a portion might descend on each of us, but also because he is equally the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, who have one essence, and the same eternal divinity.
The orthodox follow the Reformers in upholding the Western doctrine of the filioque. The orthodox Reformed writers not only argue the Augustinian doctrine of double procession they insist on it as a biblical point held over against the teachings of the Greek Orthodox:
The property of the Son in respect of the Holy Ghost is to send him out, John 15:26. Hence arose the Schism between the Western and the Eastern Churches, they affirming the procession from the Father and the Son, these from the Father alone.
Among the Reformed orthodox theologians, Pictet notes the clear distinction of persons in John 15:26:
Here the Comforter, or Spirit, is plainly distinct from the Father and the Son. Again, they are so distinguished, that some things are said of the Father which cannot be said of the Son, and some things of the Son which are no where said of the Spirit. The Father is said to have begotten the Son … the Spirit is said to proceed from the Father, and to be sent by the Son; but nowhere is the Father said to proceed from nor the Son to be sent by the Spirit. Yet are these persons distinct in such a manner, that they are not three Gods but one God; for the scripture everywhere proves and reason confirms, the unity of the Godhead.
Similar statements are found among the Reformed exegetes of the era. Poole notes that the text has been read variously: some exegetes understand the Spirit’s procession from the Father merely as his coming forth or being poured out at Pentecost, whereas others—“the generality of the best interpreters”—understand the text as a reference to “the Holy Spirit’s eternal proceeding.” Owen, by way of contrast, argues the primary meaning of the text to be that the Spirit “goeth forth or proceedeth” in order to “put into execution” the salvific counsel of God in the application of grace and views the immanent procession of the Spirit as a secondary meaning, a conclusion to be drawn from the text.
As Pictet notes, the Reformed orthodox uniformly follow the Western doctrine:
That the Spirit proceeds from the Son, is proved by those passages in which he is represented as being sent no less by the Son than by the Father; nor is he any less the Spirit of the Son than of the Father: Rom. 8:9, “any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ …; Gal. 4:6, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts”; John 16:7, “If I do not go away, Comforter will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.”
Nor is this a minor point in theology that can be dismissed:
To deny the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, is a grievous error of Divinity, and would have grated the foundation, if the Greek Church had so denied the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, as that they had made an inequality between the Persons. But since their form of speech is, that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father by the Son, and is the Spirit of the Son, without making any difference in the consubstantiality of the Persons it is a true though erroneous Church in this particular; divers learned men think that à Filio & per Filium in the sense of the Greek Church, was but a question in modo loquendi, in manner of speech, and not fundamental.
The problem of the filioque was, therefore, not something that the Reformed orthodox could ignore: they refused to go so far as to claim that the Greek church was a false church, but they still insisted that it ensconced an error in its doctrinal explanations of the creed.
From the Reformed perspective, moreover, the Greek critique of the filioque, that it implied two ultimate principia or archai in the Godhead, did not hold—for there could only be two archai if the Father and the Son separately and equally were the sources of the Spirit’s procession. The orthodox conception of the filioque, however, insisted on the unity of the act of the Father and the Son, so that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Son by “one and the same breathing” and does so from both equally, the Father and the Son acting in communion with one another. Thus, the Holy Ghost, the third person, proceeds from the Father and the Son: “and albeit the Father and the Son are distinct persons, yet they are both but one beginning of the holy Ghost.” At the same time, following the Western pattern, the Reformed orthodox insisted on the begetting of the Son as placing the Son second in order, thus maintaining the Father as ultimate source of the personal distinctions and the Father and the Son together as the source of the Spirit.
Thus, when addressing the question of the procession of the Spirit, Owen indicates that the “fountain” or “source” of the Spirit’s procession is the Father, as indicated by John 15:26. There is, moreover, he adds, a “twofold ekporeusis or ‘procession’ of the Spirit: 1. physike or hypostatike, in respect substance and personality; 2. oikonomike or dispensatory, in respect of the work of grace.” The hypostatic procession, furthermore, must be understood in terms of the filioque: “he is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeding from both eternally, so receiving his substance and personality.” Once stated, however, the point cannot, indeed, may not be elaborated, but rather accepted as “the bare acquiescence of faith in the mystery revealed.” It is only of the economic procession of the Spirit ad extra in the work of grace that Owen feels capable of speaking.
3. Procession and the scholastic tradition: Reformed reservations. The distinction between procession and begetting is also clear, albeit indefinable by finite creatures:
That procession may be distinguished from generation can be demonstrated from the fact that the Holy Spirit is always said to proceed from, and never to have been begotten by, the Father; nor is he ever called the image of God—but we must not curiously inquire into the nature of the difference. Let us guard against the unbridled and unsuccessful boldness of the schoolmen, who attempt to explain it: I certainly do not grasp the distinction between generation and procession, I am not desirous of this, nor am I able.
The usual unwillingness of the Protestant scholastics to enter into a lengthy discussion of the way in which the emanations of the second and third persons of the Trinity differ represents a rather significant example of the difference between medieval and Protestant scholasticism: the Protestants revert to the caveat of Gregory of Nazianzen against excessive inquiry into the mystery and emulate the Reformers in their somewhat reserved acceptance of the tradition without further explanation. The extensive and frequently cogent speculation of the medieval doctors concerning the relation of the emanations to the divine nature, intellect, and will (itself an extension of the Augustinian metaphors) is simply ignored by most of the Reformed orthodox. Keckermann’s early orthodox discussion of the procession of the Spirit as a volitional act of love in the Godhead, framed as part of a logical argument for the Trinity as three modes of existing in the one God, is quite unique in the era of orthodoxy.
A few writers note the problem and reflect on the medieval solutions, some with a high degree of distaste for the Augustinian metaphors and for speculative elaboration of the doctrine. Thus, Turretin, Heidegger, Pictet, and Rijssen indicate that the procession of the Spirit denotes a relation to the other persons of the Godhead different from the relation of the Son to the Father by generation. Both comment that what this difference is remains a mystery—we cannot explain it nor ought we to inquire into it as did the medieval scholastics. Turretin and Rijssen note, without any angry polemic, that the scholastics compared the operations of intellect and will to generation and procession, as if the Son, the Wisdom of God, were generated in an intellective manner (per modum intellectus) and the Spirit, identified with the divine love, proceeded in a volitional manner (per modum voluntatis). These arguments were posed, however, he continues, without the express corroboration of Scripture—and they serve to confuse even as they attempt to explain. Heidegger similarly rejects these distinctions as alogon, having no basis in Scripture or reason: after all, he notes, the correct doctrine of the divine attributes understands them as equally belonging to each of the persons, so that the intellectus Dei cannot pertain differently to the Father and the Son or the voluntas Dei differently by the Father and the Spirit. The relative gentleness of the criticism derives, perhaps, from Rijssen’s, Heidegger’s, and Turretin’s recognition that some of their Reformed predecessors had adopted the medieval solutions on this point.
Still, it is clear that the Spirit is different from the Son, related to the Son in origin, but a distinct person. It is also permissible to note three grounds of this distinction: first, in principio or foundation, for the Son emanates from the Father alone, the Spirit from both the Father and the Son. Thus, the Father alone is the principium of the Son, whereas the Father and the Son together are the principium of the Spirit. Second, in modo, since “the way of generation” terminates not only in the personalitas of the Son but also in a “similitude,” according to which the Son is called “the image of the Father” and according to which “the Son receives the property of communicating the same essence to another person.” In contrast, the Spirit “does not receive the property of communicating that essence to another person,” inasmuch as “the way of spiration” terminates “only in the personalitas” of the Spirit and not in a similitude of the Father. Third, there is a difference in ordine according to “our mode of perception,” insofar as the generation of the Son is somehow prior to the operation or procession of the Spirit, although, of course, the persons are coeternal—the spiration or procession of the Spirit presumes the generation of the Son, given the procession of the Spirit from the Son as well as from the Father.
Whereas most of the orthodox follow this line of argument and define the procession of the Spirit as a “spiration,” which is to say analogically, a “breathing forth,” some of the later writers, perhaps because of the confusion of “spirit” and “thought” in debates over Cartesianism, find the usage less than satisfactory, despite the patristic and medieval precedent: “Some think he is so called, because he proceeds from God in a way of breathing, but this is to explain what is obscure by what is still more obscure,” or, in the words of another later orthodox writer, if “spiration” is a “mere metaphorical expression,” it is unsuitable to the identification of distinct subsistence or personhood. “Since we are much in the dark about this mode of speaking, it would be better to lay it aside, as many modern writers have done.”
Ridgley notes that “some” have “pretended” to define the difference between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit as identified by the power to communicate essence—a power communicated by the Father to the Son, but not communicated by the Father and the Son to the Spirit. The Spirit, therefore, does not have a power “to communicate the divine essence to any other as a fourth Person in the Godhead.” For Ridgley, this is an excessive speculation into an “unsearchable mystery.” All that can be said is that the various biblical texts that refer to the relationship of the Spirit to the Father and the Son “evince the truth” of the “communication of his divine essence or, at least, his personality, and that his being ‛sent by the Son,’ implies that this communication is from him as well as from the Father”—and, in Ridgley’s view, the question remains as to whether the biblical texts refer to an ad intra procession or merely to an ad extra sending.