The Thomas Pages homepage
The 'Filioque' Clause
— THE COMMONLY MISREPRESENTED 'PROCESSION' OF THE HOLY SPIRIT —
'Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum, et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque procedit.'
— many words and very little understanding —

The doctrinal conflict over the deity of Jesus in the fourth century had the side-effect of popularizing a hierarchical view of the Trinity of God.
So remember, if Satan sees he cannot succeed in one direction (opposing the deity of Jesus) he joins the other side to push it to an extreme (hierarchical Trinity of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Persons) and Satan succeeded in doing this in the trinitarian controversy.
The attempts
in Christian history to explain God within the constraints of accepted philosophical concepts of a particular time has produced some damaging perversions of understanding regarding the plurality of one God.
Defining the Holy Spirit's eternal relation to the rest of God is one of these.
In 1215
AD, the Fourth Lateran Council of Western Christianity declared the above Latin clause (that the Holy Spirit, as part of the Trinity of God, 'proceeds' from the Father 'and the Son') to be church dogma (authoritative doctrine beyond dispute), thereby requiring all in fellowship with the Roman papacy to conform their understanding to it.
 
Although this addition to the early Christian creed (Nicene-Constantinopolitan) is not accepted by Orthodox Christianity and its offshoots, the various church groups (Protestants) which spun off from Western Christianity as a result of its 16th century Reformation have unfortunately tended to simply continue this 'double procession' doctrine of the Holy Spirit without any real Biblical evaluation.
As an example
of its general continuance in Protestant and Pentecostal/Charismatic churches today, I cite from the Constitution and Bylaws of the 'Volle Evangelie-Kerk van in Suid-Afrika' (the Full Gospel Church of God in South Africa), a local Pentecostal denomination –
PDF of Full Gospel Church
doctrine continuing error.
"The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; as to nature, relationship, co-operation and authority."
A Typical
Example
This unfortunate hierarchical description of the Trinity is not mitigated by the statement of unity.
Afrikaans 
"Dus, is die Vader die verwekker, die Seun die eniggeborene en die Heilige Gees die een wat uit die Vader en die Seun voortgaan"
Translated  Thus, the Father is the generator, the Son the only-begotten and the Holy Spirit the one who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Afrikaans 
"Die Heilige Gees gaan van die Vader en die Seun uit"
Translated  The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son
Afrikaans 
"Die Heilige Gees, die derde Persoon in die Drie-eenheid, gaan vanaf die Vader en die Seun uit en is van dieselfde wese, majesteit en heerlikheid as die Vader en die Seun."
Translated  The Holy Spirit. the third Person in the Trinity, proceeds from the Father and the Son and is of the same essence, majesty and glory as the Father and the Son.
(Article 2, Section 2; C, D, and K, of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Full Gospel Church of God in Southern Africa, as at February 1972.)
This idea of
the Holy Spirit's 'procession', whether 'single' (from the Father alone) or 'double' (from the Father 'and' the Son), are both in error.
 
The term 'procession' was taken from the words of Jesus regarding the coming change of practical leadership among His disciples after His ascension – from Himself to the Holy Spirit. Twice in one sentence Jesus uses the same expression "from the Father", not to indicate the origin but the authority of His successor, just as He Himself had His authority from-the-Father.
 
 
Unfortunately this term has been used contrary to its context to support a false eternal-hierarchy view of the Trinity; that the Father is superior/higher than the Son, and the Father and Son are then superior/higher than the Holy Spirit. This heretical hierarchical-view of the Trinity began in Anthanasius' reaction in combating the heresy of Arianism which denied the deity of the Lord Jesus.
See: GOD
Misunderstanding Scripture did not cause this error, but an adequate understanding of Holy Scripture would have prevented it, specifically John 15:26.
The relevant Bible
phrase is given below in bold in its original language text and in the various translations listed –
 
"
οταν ελθη ο παρακλητος ον εγω πεμψω υμιν παρα του πατρος το πνευμα της αληθειας ο παρα του πατρος εκπορευεται εκεινος μαρτυρησει περι εμου" (Hellenistic Greek, the original language record)
• "
cum autem venerit Paracletus quem ego mittam vobis a Patre Spiritum veritatis qui a Patre procedit ille testimonium perhibebit de me" (Jerome's Latin Vulgate).
• "
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (King James Version/Authorised Version).
• "
And when the Comforter has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me." (Modern King James Version).
• "
When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, He will testify on My behalf." (International Standard Version).
• "
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about Me." (English Standard Version).
John 15:26
Regarding the authority
of Christ's Substitute
as being from the Father
just as
Christ's own authority
was from the Father.
It has nothing
at all to do
with origin, or
with eternal divine
status whatsoever!
Its Last Supper context:  
At His farewell meal, the Lord Jesus made His statement above to explain to the leadership group of His disciples (His foundation apostles) that, after He leaves them, God will send a substitute to lead them; no one less than the Spirit of God Himself, who had led Christ in His own human ministry, and who would also come to them from the Father just as Jesus had come from the Father, that is – with authority.
Mark 1:12; Romans 1:4.
The
words 'testify on My behalf' or 'bear witness of Me', however translated, refer to the continuance of Christ's teaching ministry to His disciples by the Holy Spirit after His departure, concerning whom He had said –
 
  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
John 14:26
And the Lord later followed His procession-statement of the Holy Spirit from the Father, with –  
  "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority,
but whatever He hears
[from the Father] He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come."
John 16:13.
In other
words the leadership and teaching ministry of Jesus to His disciples would continue in them with the same authority as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit to them (as He had come to Jesus at His baptism).
 
Remember,
Jesus had earlier said –
 
  "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing.
For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."
John 5:19.
The Grammar:
The objection has been raised that because the reference to the Spirit's coming is in the future tense and the 'proceeding' is in the present continuous tense, they cannot refer to the same thing and so must be separated in our understanding. So, the present continuous tense as referring to an eternal never-ending state outside of time and therefore it is an ontological statement of the position of the Holy Spirit within the divine Trinity.
 
These
objectors seem unaware that the difference in grammatical tense simply distinguished between an event and a relationship. Sadly, this error helped a deception which robbed Christian understanding (as its spiritual Enemy/Adversary intended), and which continued for most of Christianity's history even in those churches which refused to follow the Western church's lead in amending early creeds.
 
 
This fake theological invention of ontological-procession totally ignored both the background and the immediate context of Christ's statement at His Last Supper with His beloved disciples.
For this reason one Cambridge historian described the Roman Catholic Church as the ghost of the Roman empire sitting upon its grave.
But
worse, it helped blind Christianity to the direct authoritative relationship of the Spirit of God to Christ's people, and so indirectly further facilitated a hierarchical structure of authority within the Christian Church which virtually replicated what Roman society had known in its political experience of empire.
NOTE: The John 15:26 procession-phrase is simply the statement of the authority of Christ's Substitute in His relation to Christ's disciples!
It
is not a description of any internal eternal relationship within the personality of the infinite triune God, and therefore it has no bearing whatsoever on any Christian definition of God in any creed!
 
There is
a natural tendency in church conduct to regard authority as a hierarchical structure because that is its general character in human society, both in politics and in business.
But this is not so in Christianity!
The error!
 
This distinction is demonstrated for us in our New Testament in the commissioning of the first missionary journey of the Apostle Paul. He and Barnabas are freed from local responsibility and set apart to do whatever the Spirit of God had spoken of to them personally.
 
  "While they [the five leaders] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'."
Acts 13:2.
The
nature of that work is not specified because it was not to be imposed via any hierarchical agency of leadership.
So, the other three leaders lay their hands upon them in prayer for their work simply in empathy and support, and not in any transmission of authority.
 
 
The calling and authority to send came from the Holy Spirit Himself and not through any organisational structure.
 
This
direct authority of the Holy Spirit within Christ's Church is demonstrated again for us in forbidding the Apostle Paul to preach the gospel in a certain region.
 
  "And they [Paul and Silas] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them." Acts 16:6-7.
This
does not mean that anyone may therefore claim to be authorised by the Spirit to do, or not to do, without any sense of accountability to others. The Bible makes it plain that even if that person claims to be inspired of God they are subject to peer review.
 
  "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said." 1 Cor.14:29.
The
limit of "two or three" in the context is to prevent any one form of ministry from becoming the sole form of ministry among the various ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Church.
 
 
The precaution or sense of accountability of leaders however is in peer review and not in hierarchical structure of any form, although this is the traditional manner, but this does not mean that full approval from the peer group gives the teaching or direction its authority. The Holy Spirit is God's authority in His Church, and He the Spirit is not circumscribed or contained in His activity by any organisational structure of any kind.
Peer-review is a precaution
but it is not an authorization.
The
ultimate example of peer review correction at its most extreme is the Apostle Paul's public rebuke of the Apostle Peter before the Antioch congregation.
 
  "But when Cephas ['Peter' as originally named by Jesus in Aramaic] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party." Gal.2:11-12.
The
James referred to here is the brother of the Lord Jesus who had become leader of the Jerusalem (Jewish) congregation after the renewed offer (of the Kingdom of God to Israel which had come in Jesus) fell away with their stoning of Stephen (which is why no one replaced James brother of John on his death, as had been done after the death of Judas). So, although there were no longer twelve Foundation Apostles leading the Jerusalem church, its special historical status and the sense of structural authority represented in those who came to Antioch from James which had a powerful influence.
Foundation Apostles
Rev.21:14.
 
Paul had already raised the issue of not requiring circumcision in Christian conversion at a peer-group level with James and his fellow leaders, but the cultural prejudice of the Jerusalem congregation continued to spread its influence.
 
No Hierarchy!
Therefore, without any appeal to James or to any Jerusalem synod, the Apostle Paul correctly corrected Peter at the same level as the error represented in him and those who had come to Antioch from James in which Peter was now participating. There is no sense whatsoever of any structural authority in this correction. Rather, the misleading influence of the natural development of a structural authority within the Christian community is here contradicted.
Gal.2:2.
  "But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all,
"If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the
[Christian] Gentiles to live like Jews?"
Gal.2:14.
This
does not mean that leaders should not lead, but the Lord Jesus had made the character of that leadership clear in His own example.
 
  "My sheep hear [recognise] My voice, and I know them, and [therefore] they follow me [voluntarily]." John 10:27.
This
statement has unfortunately been used in a theological sense in support of unconditional-election ideology, but it was not spoken to theologians. It is a plain statement to ordinary believers that those who follow do so by their voluntary recognition of a leadership relationship. That is, Christ's 'sheep' choose to follow Him; they are not 'driven' by any coercive structure of any shepherding authority over the 'flock'.
 
It was
the partial re-discovery of this truth which helped the initial development of local-church-government Christian denominations, such as the various Baptist associations of churches, as part of a continuing restoration of Christianity.
 
 
The direct relationship of the Spirit of God to every individual 'born-again' believer, referred to by Jesus in His private words to Nicodemus, is the basis of all Christian ministry.
 
  "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [baptism as public submission to Christ] and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
"
John 3:5.
And publicly in the temple:  
  "'Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'
Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive,
for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
John 7:38-39.
The
Lord Jesus said this after His invitation to come and drink from that which flowed out of Him from the Spirit. In other words, the same source of ministry, the Holy Spirit, would be the source of ministry through those who believe in Christ.
John 7:37.
Likewise,
there is no ultimate authority within the Christian Church other than the person of the Spirit of God Himself, who is also in Himself the continuity of authentic Christianity.
 
He the Spirit is 'Christ-with-us', and He constitutes the Christian community as the 'Body of Christ' today, as in its birth on that Day of Pentecost.

The Continuity of Christianity The Structure of Church Ministry The Gifts of the Spirit The Body of Christ
back
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 2010-2014. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included!

FOR A ROUGH TRANSLATION SIMPLY CHOOSE A LANGUAGE