I was browsing EBSCO host today and came across an article in the Westminster Theological Journal. It is titled “How Important is the Filioque for Reformed Orthodoxy?” by Mark Pugliese. I have my initial response to it, which I will outline below, but I want to do a fuller response later.
There really isn’t much new in this essay. He repeats a lot of the standard Western arguments (e.g., the immanent trinity is identical to the ontological trinity in every way, and even beyond that). He assumes that Jesus’ breathing on the disciples proves Christ ontologically originating the Holy Spirit in eternity. He does not argue this point but merely asserts it. He spends about four pages demonstrating that the Reformed confessions adhere to the Filioque. (I assumed this was a given). About the only strong line of evidence he gives is a list of quotes from the Fathers that seem to profess something like the Filioque (of course, he is using a very crass version of the “word = concept” fallacy, but there are a few quotes to make one pause. Ironically, the author believes Scripture is the ultimate–and practically only real–authority is Scripture, not the Fathers). My ultimate beef is that the arguments in the paper do not live up to the title: I want to see how Reformed theology depends on the Filioque, which is what the title suggest but does not deliver.
I’m fairly certain that only a handful of readers of WTJ recognized this, but Pugliese made very clear the connection between absolute divine simplicity and the filioque. Of course, he didn’t spell this out in those specific words, but he did say that without the Filioque you could not tell the difference between the Son and the Holy Spirit. I disagree, but I am glad he makes the connection (since the two depend on one another; this is an important point because all of the Eastern Fathers he thinks supported the Filioque also rejected absolute divine simplicity).
I used to think wordpress was cool. But I can’t get my “tags” to show up on the side. In this sense blogger is better, but my blogger account connected with my email acct was hacked last year by Muslims and NATO agents, so I will keep this for now until I set up a new email address.
Back to theosis,
“Nevertheless,” I replied, “I do not understand how I can be certain that I am in the Spirit of God. How can I discern for myself His true manifestation in me?”
Father Seraphim replied: “I have already told you, your Godliness, that it is very simple and I have related in detail how people come to be in the Spirit of God and how we can recognize His presence in us. So what do you want, my son?”
“I want to understand it well,” I said.
Then Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: “We are both in the Spirit of God now, my son. Why don’t you look at me?”
I replied: “I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache with pain.”
Father Seraphim said: “Don’t be alarmed, your Godliness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am.”
Then, bending his head towards me, he whispered softly in my ear: “Thank the Lord God for His unutterable mercy to us! You saw that I did not even cross myself; and only in my heart I prayed mentally to the Lord God and said within myself: ‘Lord, grant him to see clearly with his bodily eyes that descent of Thy Spirit which Thou grantest to Thy servants when Thou art pleased to appear in the light of Thy magnificent glory.’ And you see, my son, the Lord instantly fulfilled the humble prayer of poor Seraphim. How then shall we not thank Him for this unspeakable gift to us both? Even to the greatest hermits, my son, the Lord God does not always show His mercy in this way. This grace of God, like a loving mother, has been pleased to comfort your contrite heart at the intercession of the Mother of God herself. But why, my son, do you not look me in the eyes? Just look, and don’t be afraid! The Lord is with us!”
After these words I glanced at his face and there came over me an even greater reverent awe. Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, the face of a man talking to you. You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders; yet you do not see his hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its glaring sheen both the snow-blanket which covered the forest glade and the snow-flakes which besprinkled me and the great Elder. You can imagine the state I was in!
“How do you feel now?” Father Seraphim asked me.
“Extraordinarily well,” I said.
“But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?”
I answered: “I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it.”
Two books I am reading right now: HuvB’s Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor and Bulgakov’s The Lam of God. An underlying problem in both books (and in Christology in general) is how to solve “3rd term aporias.” In other words, how do find a middle ground between the two natures of Christ (or between God and creation or between the persons of the Trinity) that prevents “autonomy” on one hand and introducing yet a new term on the other. And Balthasar often uses “Sophia-like” language to solve the problem–and I am in full agreement with him.
Bulgakov became famous (infamous?) for his Sophiology. Many thought he went pagan. (While I disaprove of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ heterodoxy, his comment on the condemnations of Bulgakov are telling: “They responded to Sophia the way the Greeks responded to Paul’s preaching on Anastasis–he is preaching a new goddess!).
At one point in Cosmic Liturgy Balthasar devotes several pages to attacking Bulgakov and Russia with all his might. It’s weird, actually. It’s obvious that his knowledge of Bulgakov is from 2nd hand sources. I think he would agree with most of it. And then he goes on a weird rant on how eastern and Russian mysticism (exemplified by Bulgakov) led to Soviet terror. I mean, I really don’t have a response to this except to, likewise, hit below belt back at him: Balthasar is German-ish and wrote in the 1930s and 1940s and he liked Hegel; therefore, Balthasar’s writing led to Hitler! Two can play at this game.
But to be more fair to Balthasar than he is to Bulgakov, Balthasar’s discussion of “natures” and “Hypostasis” scores big time.
I found this gem in Emile Brehier’s book on the Middle Ages.
Metaphysical discussion in the early Middle Ages centered around preparing men for service to God. While seemingly dull, this trained the minds to recognize and work with different levels of authoritarian texts–and how to apply those texts in concrete ways. It goes something like this, “Authority is not something simple; even the heretics based their arguments on authority (Scripture)…[St Vincent laid bare the thought of the Middle Ages for identifying authority: one should show preference for the opinion of the majority and look with distrust on private matters. If heresy threatens to spread, however, one should cling to the opinions of the ancients, one should follow the decisions of an ecumenical council or, if no council has been held, question and compare Orthodox teachers and hold to the positions common to all” (11).