Who proceeds from the Father and the Son

Happy Pentecost yesterday!  May the Holy Spirit pour out His richest blessings on you.  May the Holy Spirit work in your heart as you hear God’s Word.

Here is a  question about the Holy Spirit that I would like to submit to the collective theological knowledge manifested in the readership of this blog:   In Western Christianity, both among Roman Catholics and creedal Protestants, the Nicene Creed that we confess says that we believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

In Eastern Christianity, on the other hand, the Orthodox rendition of the Nicene Creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.

As I understand it, the Western church changed the wording of the Creed, adding the part about the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son also, without consulting the East.  Thus the Orthodox consider that change to be a high-handed move on the part of the Pope that damaged the unity of Christianity.

Here is my question:  Are there theological implications of this so-called filioque (“and the Son”) controversy other than the procedural and church government issue?  It seems to me that the Pope was acting very presumptuously in changing the Creed, so I sympathize with the Orthodox position.  And yet, it seems Biblical to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the ascended Christ.

Should Protestants, since they reject the authority of the Pope, go back to the original wording?  Or is the newer wording an example of grounding the Creed in the true authority that it articulates; namely, the Word of God?

I suspect, though, that there is another  dimension to this controversy, that the issue reflects the difference between Eastern and Western Christianity.  But I can’t put my finger on what the implications are.  So please help me out with this.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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