Filioque or Triad?

I am rereading Lossky’s In the Image and Likeness of God.  I read it last year but really didn’t know the issues involved.  I need to really hammer down what I believe about Triadology.  Apostolic succession, Eucharist, liturgy–that’s wonderful but keeping the discussion at that level means that Roman Catholicism is just as viable an option–which it is not.  The Filioque, Triadology, and Absolute Divine Simplicity are the issues upon which the debate hangs.  They are “deal breakers.”  The following is from Lossky’s book. I am going to spend future posts unpacking these two pages.

According to St. Maximus, God is “identically a monad and a triad.”{24} He is not merely one and three; he is 1=3 and 3=1. That is to say, here we are not concerned with number as signifying quantity: absolute diversities cannot be made the subjects of sums of addition; they have not even opposition in common. If, as we have said, a personal God cannot be a monad– if he must be more than a single person– neither can he be a dyad. The dyad is always an opposition of two terms, and, in that sense, it cannot signify an absolute diversity. When we say that God is Trinity we are emerging from the series
of countable or calculable numbers.{25} The procession of the Holy Spirit is an infinite [85] passage beyond the dyad, which consecrates the absolute (as opposed to relative) diversity of the persons. This passage beyond the dyad is not an infinite series of persons but the infinity of the procession of the Third Person: the Triad suffices to denote the Living God of revelation.{26} If God is a monad equal to a triad, there is no place in him for a dyad. Thus the seemingly necessary opposition between the Father and the Son, which gives rise to a dyad, is purely artificial, the result of an illicit abstraction. Where the Trinity is concerned, we are in the presence of the One or of the Three, but never of two.

The procession of the Holy Spirit ab utroque does not signify passage beyond the dyad but rather re-absorption of the dyad in the monad, the return of the monad upon itself. It is a dialectic of the monad opening out into the dyad and closing again into its simplicity.{27} On the other hand, procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone, by emphasizing the monarchy of the Father as the concrete principle of the unity of the Three, passes beyond the dyad without a return to primordial unity, without the necessity of God retiring into the simplicity of the essence. For this reason the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone confronts us with the mystery of the “Tri-Unity.” We have here not a simple, self-enclosed essence, upon which relations of opposition have been superimposed in order to masquerade a god of philosophy as the God of Christian revelation. We say “the simple Trinity,” and this antinomic expression, characteristic of Orthodox hymnography,{28} points out a simplicity which the absolute diversity of the three persons can in no way relativize.


5 Responses to “Filioque or Triad?”

  1. Just the tip of the iceberg…

  2. Hey Perry,
    I admit–your blog posts have really helped me in this area.

  3. Perry,
    What are some good reads on ADS and Filioque?

  4. I am glad the blog has helped you, that is what it is there for.

    There is a mountain of professional articles and one or two books on simplicity in terms of the modern analytic discussion. If you lack a background in contemporary philosophy, these will be very hard to access. Most of these are in professional journals. If you have access to a univ. library, most should have a database called the Philosopher’s Index and you can search it for articles, books, etc.

    The concept in various shades is present in a number of primary sources, particulatly in various middle and late platonists, like Plotinus for example. Wallis’, little book on Neoplatonism is not too inaccessable and talks about it here or there.

    As for the Filioque, Richard Haugh’s book or his dissertation aren’t bad places to start. I think its best to start with the history and then move into theological/philosophical treatments.

  5. Thanks Perry. I am not a genius in philosophy, but I have read a good bit of Wolterstorff, a little Plantinga, a few volumes of Coplestone, etc, etc.

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