Was Augustine a Filioquist in the sense that the Council of Florence defines Pneumatology? Some say “yes,” but they are depending upon a surface level understanding of some hard-to-interpret words of Augustine’s. Ironically, Augustine anticipated his words would be misused:

I expect, indeed, that some, who are more dull of understanding, will imagine that in some parts of my books I have held sentiments which I have not held, or have not held those which I have. But their error, as none can be ignorant, ought not to be attributed to me, if they have deviated into false doctrine through following my steps without apprehending me (Book 1, Par 6).

To thoroughly answer the question of whether Augustine’s Pneumatology was Orthodox, it is absolutely necessary to unpack all 15 books of On the Trinity. By understanding these books’ illustrations and consistent arguments, it is possible to get a firm handle on Augustine’s Pneumatology.

In this article we cover Book 1.

Book 1 begins with how God always “is” and that He is not self-generated. In this discussion, Augustine begins his speculations about the Trinity. Some of these speculations I find interesting, because of their insight into later theological questions.


…not by that divine virtue wherein He is equal to the Father, but by that human infirmity whereby He was crucified. (Par 3)

…yet the Lord of glory was crucified, because even God is rightly said to have been crucified, not after the power of the divinity, but after the weakness of the flesh. (Par 28)

Implicit energy-essence distinction: 

For we, too, are made partakers of this eternal life, and become, in our own measure, immortal. But the eternal life itself, of which we are made partakers, is one thing; we ourselves, who, by partaking of it, shall live eternally, are another. (Par 10)

Latria-dulia distinction: 

[W]e are commanded to serve one another by love, which is in Greek δουλεύειν, but in that in which God alone is served, which is in Greek λατρεύειν . From whence they are called idolaters who tender that service to images which is due to God. For it is this service concerning which it is said, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. For this is found also more distinctly in the Greek Scriptures, which have λατρεύσεις . Now if we are forbidden to serve the creature with such a service, seeing that it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve, (and hence, too, the apostle repudiates those who worship and serve the creature more than the Creator), then assuredly the Holy Spirit is not a creature, to whom such a service is paid by all the saints; as says the apostle, For we are the circumcision, which serve the Spirit of God, (Phil 3:3) which is in the Greek λατρεύοντες . (Par 13)

As it pertains to Trinitarian doctrine, we should take note that Augustine identifies the difference between the Persons by their relationships. For example:

“For of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever.” Amen. [Rom 11:36] For if of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so as to assign each clause severally to each person: of Him, that is to say, of the Father; through Him, that is to say, through the Son; in Him, that is to say, in the Holy Spirit — it is manifest that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one God, inasmuch as the words continue in the singular number, “To whom be glory forever.” (Par 12)

In short, everything is OF the Father, THROUGH the Son, and IN the Holy Spirit. This is important to keep in the back of our minds, because the way God works in creation, and in His own lonesome, is dictated by one Person having everything OF Him, the other having everything THROUGH Him, and the other having everything IN Him. We have to think of what the word “of” means in the given context and not get caught up in translation. 

When we speak of “all things” being “of” the Father, we are saying, in some sense, they are FROM the Father—something that Augustine explicitly states in The Nature of the Good:

But “from Him” does not mean the same as “of Him.” For what is of Him may be said to be from Him; but not everything that is from Him is rightly said to be of Him…As in the case of a man who begets a son and makes a house, from himself is the son, from himself is the house, but the son is of him, the house is of earth and wood. (Chap 27) 

When we speak of “all things” being “through” the Son, we are speaking that they come into being THROUGH Him in some sense. The sense we can gather, from Augustine’s Tractate 1 of John, is that it is through the Son’s design for creation that all things come into being:

But there is a word in the man himself which remains within [i.e. the Word is within the Father in the same way]; for the sound proceeds from the mouth. There is a word which is spoken in a truly spiritual manner, that which you understand from the sound, not the sound itself (Par 8).

If, then, on account of some great building a human design receives praise, do you wish to see what a design of God is the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Word of God?…by that Word were made all things. Hence, judge what a Word this is. (Par 9)

So, dearly beloved brethren, because the Wisdom of God, by which all things have been made, contains everything according to design before it is made, therefore those things which are made through this design itself are not immediately life, but whatever has been made is life in Him. (Par 17)

Logos literally means “reason” or “plan.” So, all things come FROM the Father THROUGH His “design”—the Logos/Son.

When “all things” are “in” the Spirit, it means that they are simultaneously joined to/connected to God but at the same time remain separate. In creation this pertains to God’s simultaneous transcendence and imminence:

[T]hough all things that He established are in Him, those who sin do not defile Him, of whose Wisdom it is said: “She touches all things by reason of her purity, and nothing defiled assails her.” Wisdom 7:24-25 For it behooves us to believe that as God is incorruptible and unchangeable, so also is He consequently undefilable. (The Nature of the Good, Chap 29)

Augustine does not yet tell us how this pertains to Pneumatological questions, but as we shall see, in all of Augustine’s illustrations of eternal origins the Spirit plays the role of “bridge” between the Persons so that they share the same essence. 

In other words, the Spirit is the “Harmony” of the Persons’ relations, the “Love” of the Lover and the Beloved, the “Will that unites both,” the Mind and its Vision, etcetera. In other words, it is like the Intent/Desire that a Designer has to create/manifest His Design. 

In On Christian Doctrine, Book I Augustine explains the Threeness yet Oneness in similar terms, noting how the different Persons are relationally different in what they provide to the Godhead as a whole:

The Trinity, one God, of whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things. Romans 11:36 Thus the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each of these by Himself, is God, and at the same time they are all one God; and each of them by Himself is a complete substance, and yet they are all one substance. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son: but the Father is only Father, the Son is only Son, and the Holy Spirit is only Holy Spirit. To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power. In the Father is unity, in the Son equality, in the Holy Spirit the harmony of unity and equality; and these three attributes are all one because of the Father, all equal because of the Son, and all harmonious because of the Holy Spirit (Chap 5).

Hence, to envisage “the bridge” as a picture of transcendence (the Persons are infinitely separate Persons, they cannot be conflated) coinciding with imminence (they are one God and share their very essence) is understandable. Of course, it misses the mark, as we are comparing the infinite to finite creation, but it gives us an idea of Augustine’s thought either way.

I do not want to go too far and anticipate arguments found later in On the Trinity, but we can see in Augustine’s statement in On Christian Doctrine an idea which is at odds with the double procession of the Spirit. If all “three attributes [unity, equality, and unity/equality of specifically eternity, unchangeableness, majesty, and power] are all one because of the Father,” this means that the point of origin, from which the Son and Spirit possess these attributes, is the Father. In other words, the hypostatic origin of each Person is the Father. Their attributes are all one and are found principally in the Father. Therefore, the Spirit then can only derive His essence from the Father. 

The Son’s role in this, implicitly, must not pertain to the origin of the Spirit in the Augustinian system. So, what is the Son’s role in the procession of the Spirit? It will be a long while before we get there.

Lastly, let me end my comments with the observation that Augustine is not very careful with his usage of the words “of,” “from,” “through,” and “in.” Though some issues with the words’ usage may be because of the translator, when I look into the Latin, it appears Augustine often uses them interchangeably (or scribes made small mistakes along the way). He did not view these terms as highly technical (presuming the best from our scribes). So, for my detractors, simply quoting Augustine using a word in an inconsistent sense is not going to disprove what I am contending here. Rather, the idea that Augustine is getting at is more important, and I submit, that this idea is clearly illustrated as we get further into On the Trinity.

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