The Nicene Creed was modified by the Latin Church, adding the word “Filioque” (i.e. and the Son). The Western Church wanted to be clear regarding the third person of the Trinity and His spiration. The Eastern Church, however, never accepted the term, and to this day continues to use the original form of the Nicene Creed. Thus, the controversy of the Spirit's procession
The Latin Church added the term because they thought it best represented the teaching of Scripture: The Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
The difference between the Western and Eastern Churches' understanding may be depicted like this:
You may ask, “What’s the big deal?” The difference is significant. The Eastern and Western churches have developed quite differently over the last 1000 years.
Before we get into more pragmatics, let’s examine the dynamics of filioque. The question comes down to this: How does one relate to the Father? In the Eastern church one is said to have communion with the Father by means of the Spirit only. In the Western church one relates to the Father by means of the Spirit and the Son. On the one hand, you have almost a direct access to the mind of God the Father. The Spirit brings it straight to you. One the other hand, the knowledge you may gain from the Spirit about God the Father includes the Incarnate Son (thus, this knowledge is mediated by means of what the Son reveals about the Father).
In sum, the Western Church will have both an incarnational aspect to it and it will be greatly influenced by the Word of Christ. In the Eastern Church, one does not necessarily have an incarnational aspect and may not need any relation to the Son to gain knowledge of God. For the Eastern Church then, the focus then tends to be on a mystical experience of God.
1. We can see some of the practical outworking of this through the writings of various people associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC). One Eastern writer sums up the Greek Church’s views well this way, “The premise of all mysticism is that experiential knowledge of God takes preference over doctrinal understanding of the character and being of God because of the transcendent nature of God.” (Italics added for emphasis).
Another Eastern writer says, “None of the mysteries of the most secret wisdom of God ought to appear alien or altogether transcendent to us, but in all humility we must apply our spirit to the contemplation of divine things.”
One more quote ought to suffice. This one from a contemporary youth who converted from Protestantism to the EOC, “This is how we worship, to stay concentrated in prayer. We believe that, during the service, God pours himself out. If you get quiet enough in your mind, you can feel, palpably, his presence.”
One can see how this radically differs from Western Christianity, especially Reformed Western Christianity. In the West we know God through the Bible alone and we admit that there are some things God has not chosen to reveal. Thus, for the West, “The secret things belong to the Lord” and we try not to pry curiously into them.
In the East, there are no secret things. All God's truth, even that which is not revealed in Scripture, is fair game because the Spirit grants us free and unhindered access to it.
To put it another way, in the West, we “experience God” by the Spirit’s illuminating our minds to the teaching of Christ in His word. In the East, one experiences God without this word and almost directly (save the mediation of the Spirit).
You might say that some of the Eastern Orthodox mysticism is parallel to some of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches today in that it seeks to have a definite, physical experience of God and gain knowledge of God without the Son. The Pentecostal inclination to seek mystical experiences of God apart from the Son and the truth He gives centers isan implicit denial of the filioque. Though Pentecostals might not openly reject the filioque clause, in practice they do.
2. Another practical expression of the filioque is highlighted by Bojidar Marinov. Marinov says that the Eastern countries do not have an adequate understanding of the “rule of law” as the western countries do. This is because their religious experience was framed by the Spirit’s direct interaction with the Father and had no incarnational aspect. Western Churches have fought tyranny because the word of Christ dealt with our physical, everyday life and not just our spiritual relationship with God. The law of God (i.e. the Bible) impacts both our relation to the world as well as our relation to God.
Eastern churches did not see this incarnational aspect. God only spoke (so it is said) to our spiritual lives. When it came to normal, everyday life another source of truth was needed. It became the state. Government leaders were the ones who gave law to direct the affairs of this world. So man was to be governed by two laws: one which was spiritual (life with the Father, mediated by the Spirit), and one which was physical/temporal (life on earth, mediated by bureaucrat).
3. Another expression of the practical implications of denying the filioque may be seen in the EOC’s focus on deification. The EOC says that the goal of human redemption is to be so united with God that one actually becomes divine.
For many Church Fathers, theosis [i.e. deification] goes beyond simply restoring people to their state before the Fall of Adam and Eve, teaching that because Christ united the human and divine natures in Jesus' person, it is now possible for someone to experience closer fellowship with God than Adam and Eve initially experienced in the Garden of Eden, and that people can become more like God than Adam and Eve were at that time. Some Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Jesus would have become incarnate for this reason alone, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned.
In Western theology this is repudiated. The goal of Western theology is justification and being made right with God. This occurs through the atonement and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us by the Spirit's application. In Eastern theology, there is essentially no need for atonement because union with the Father is not dependent upon the Son's activity.
Something of this is seen in the liberalism of the West. Liberalism says that God can be known apart from Christ, that there are “many roads to God,” and that all people will be saved (universalism). Such views say that the Spirit lives in us all and allows us to know God apart from Christ and the preaching of His word.
The phrase [filioque] in the creed can lead to a possible misunderstanding. It can threaten our understanding of the Spirit’s universality. It might suggest to the worshiper that Spirit is not the gift of the Father to creation universally but a gift confined to the sphere of the Son and even the sphere of the church. It could give the impression that the Spirit is not present in the whole world but limited to Christian territories. Though it need not, the filioque might threaten the principle of universality- the truth that the Spirit is universally present, implementing the universal salvific will of Father and Son. One could say that the filioque promotes Christomonism. -Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love, p. 196. (Underlining added for emphasis)
Pinnock's description is a clear renunciation of the fact that the Spirit is bound to “reveal the Son.” Instead, the Spirit is “universal” and “threatens…the universal salvific will of Father and Son.” In other words, Pinnock says that the way to God does not depend on the Spirit working in and through the word of God (which is the message of the Son, Rom. 10). Rather salvation is the working of the Spirit alone apart from God the Son & His word.
All this radically denies the Bible's plain teaching on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation.
 Understanding this is difficult. To say the least, it is not an ontological merge, where you become one with God physically. However, you are increasingly becoming god-like. The goal is not to become like Adam and Eve, as they were in the garden. But to become more than Adam & Eve were to the point where you are made divine.
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