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 Books 2 through 4.
In both Tractate 99 and the 15th book of On the Trinity, Augustine is hung up on John 7:16—“My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” He places massive Christological (and Pneumatological) importance on this one verse. So, whenever we see it, we have to pay careful attention.
John 7:16 first gets invoked in Book 2:
He has given doctrine to the Son [John 7:16], it may be rightly understood to mean, He has begotten the Son, who is doctrine so that, when it is said, “My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me,” it is so to be understood as if it were, I am not from myself, but from Him who sent me. (Par 4)
Augustine’s point here in Book 2 is simple—the Son’s origin is not of Himself, but from the Father, much the same as His doctrine. The doctrine properly belongs to Him like His own divinity, but its origin is not with Him but with the Father. The point here is simple and uncontroversial until we later employ the same logic to the eternal causation of the Spirit. When it gets applied to Pneumatology, it becomes crucial in the discussion that we not forget what Augustine means by citing it—that origins are at issue.
We get some glimpse of the preceding in the next paragraph:
[E]xcept He had immediately gone on to say after this, “All things that the Father has are mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you;” (John 16:15) it might, perhaps, have been believed that the Holy Spirit was so born of Christ, as Christ is of the Father. [The preceding may be supposed to be true s]ince He had said of Himself, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me;” but of the Holy Spirit, “For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall He speak;” and, “For He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” But because He has rendered the reason why He said, He shall receive of mine (for He says, “All things that the Father has are mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of mine”); it remains that the Holy Spirit be understood to have of that which is the Father’s, as the Son also has [which is of the Father’s]. And how can this be, unless according to that which we have said above, “But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of me?” He is said, therefore, not to speak of Himself, in that He proceeds from the Father. (Par 5)
How does this work? I will simply state that Augustine perceives that procession properly belongs to the Father, but there needs to be a sense where procession belongs to the Son because He has which is the Father’s. Because Augustine ends the paragraph by saying, “we will discuss [this] in another place,” I will for now not offer an explanation of what this means.
What follows for the rest of the book and the next one are speculations concerning Old Testament Theophanies. Augustine speaks of the topic in the same sense he covers it in the latter section of Book II of his Responses to Maximinus. In short, God cannot be seen in His essence, so Theophanies were in fact angels standing in for God. God was present in some sense within the hearts of those who saw them.
Book III, Par 12-13 implies that demons can work miracles by God’s permission. But nothing here is otherwise crucial to the topic at hand.
Book IV is similar in this respect, devoting much space to numerology. It has an interesting observation about Christ’s temptations in Par 17 which, in short, is relevant inasmuch as it states that Christ experienced external as opposed to internal temptations, due to His sinlessness. But, issues of anthropology are not the subject of this article, so I will cover these elsewhere.
Near the end of the same book, Augustine starts making some passing observations about what it means for the Son to be “sent.” He earlier denies that He was sent in His essence before the incarnation—it is within this context that we see why Augustine spent so much space on the question of Theophanies.
He then speaks as follows concerning the issue of being “sent:”
What wonder, therefore, if He is sent, not because He is unequal with the Father, but because He is “a pure emanation (manatio) issuing from the glory of the Almighty God?” [cf Wis 7:25] For there, that which issues, and that from which it issues, is of one and the same substance… Scripture meets that other thought, whereby that light which issues might seem darker than that from which it issues; and it has removed this surmise by saying, “It is the brightness of that light” [cf Wis 7:26], namely, of eternal light, and so shows it to be equal… Nor ought this to trouble us, that it is called a pure emanation issuing from the glory of the Almighty God, as if itself were not omnipotent, but an emanation from the Omnipotent; for soon after it is said of it, “And being but one, she can do all things.” But who is omnipotent, unless He who can do all things? (Par 27)
As we can see, sending is in reference to eternal origins in some way. The claim in Par 27 is limited. Essentially, if Christ is sent, He must be sent from the Father because that is His origin. He follows up on this line of thinking in Par 29:
For as to be born, in respect to the Son, means to be from the Father; so to be sent, in respect to the Son, means to be known to be from the Father. And as to be the gift of God in respect to the Holy Spirit, means to proceed from the Father; so to be sent, is to be known to proceed from the Father.
As we can see, being that the Spirit is sent as well, we must understand that because sending is necessarily from the Father, the Spirit is therefore sent from the Father.
Neither can we say that the Holy Spirit does not also proceed from the Son, for the same Spirit is not without reason said to be the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son…
Augustine is saying that because the Son has everything the Father has, the Spirit must also be sent from the Son. Take note, the eternal procession is not explicitly invoked.
For the Spirit of God is one, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Holy Spirit, who works all in all… That then which the Lord says —”Whom I will send unto you from the Father,” (John 15:26)— shows the Spirit to be both of the Father and of the Son…
Augustine is stating that the Son shares the quality of sending the Spirit, but the temporal procession/sending is what is cited.
…because, also, when He had said, Whom the Father will send, He added also, in my name. Yet He did not say, Whom the Father will send from me, as He said, “Whom I will send unto you from the Father,”— showing, namely, that the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity. He, therefore, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, is referred back to Him from whom the Son was born (natus). (Par 29)
The preceding passage shatters Roman Catholic (and some Orthodox) conceptions of Augustine as a Florentine Filioquist thinker. In exegeting John 15:26, Augustine explicitly refers to the origins of the Spirit as being from the Father, because the Spirit cannot be from the Son.
Why? “The Father is the beginning,” i.e. the eternal origin of the Spirit. In short, the Spirit may be said to be “of” the Son, but not “from” the Son.
Saint John of Damascus explicitly explains how this works:
Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son…proceeding from the Father and communicated through the Son… we speak likewise of the Holy Spirit as from the Father, and call Him the Spirit of the Father. And we do not speak of the Spirit as from the Son: but yet we call Him the Spirit of the Son. (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Chap 8)
And we speak also of the Spirit of the Son, not as through proceeding from Him, but as proceeding through Him from the Father. For the Father alone is cause. (Ibid., Chap 12)
Since we are talking about the saints’ writings, my first presumption is to reconcile the teaching of saints so that they agree, provided a legitimate argument can be made to the effect and a massive leap of the imagination is not necessary to pull it off. This does not mean all saints can be reconciled on every issue. Saints Pope Stephen I, Cyprian, and Firmilian cannot have their sacramentologies nor ecclesiologies reconciled. Nevertheless, I think it is incumbent upon the Christian to reconcile any doctrinal issue, such as Pneumatology, when possible.
And so, I think it to be perfectly legitimate to interpret Augustine as substantially expressing the same thing as the Damascene. In refusing to state that the Spirit is “from” the Son and rather pointing out the “Father is the beginning of the whole divinity,” a double procession is not being invoked. Rather, “proceeding [i.e. originating via procession] from the Father and communicated [i.e. proceeding communitively (lit. “of the community”) or in Augustine’s words communiter procedit cf Book 15 Par 29)] through the Son” must be understood as expressing the Damascene’s thought, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, my observation is that Augustine is less precise than the Damascene. When I have looked into the original Latin, Augustine sometimes says the Spirit is “from” the Son as well, though he explicitly states that the Spirit is from the Son in a different sense (i.e. Book IV, Par 29; see also Responses to Maximinus, Book II, Par 5). In fact, there is another sense (the incarnation, but as we will see, even in the eternal sense) that the Son is sent by the Spirit.
Augustine in his Responses to Maximinus states:
Let us not think that the Son was sent by the Father in such a way that He was not sent by the Holy Spirit, for His voice speaks through the prophet, “The Lord has now sent Me and His Spirit has also.” (Is 48:16) The preceding text shows that the Son said this. This is how those words are introduced: He says, “Hear me, Jacob, and Israel whom I shall call. I am the First and I last forever. My hand laid the foundation of the Earth…Even from the beginning I have not spoken unclearly and when they were being made, I was there. The Lord has now sent me and His Spirit has also” (Is 48:12-16), What could be clearer? (Book II, Chap 20:4)
This is why, as we continue through On the Trinity, it is especially important that we interpret Augustine’s “categories of thought” in a matter consistent with his illustrations. If we do this, we will not get all hung up when Augustine uses the word “from” or “sent” in a sloppy way.
Help Grow the Orthodox Church in Cambodia!
Has this article blessed you? Please bless the Moscow Patriarchate’s missionary efforts in Cambodia to bring the Gospel to a people who have not heard it!
“Augustine is saying that because the Son has everything the Father has, He must also be sent from the Son. Take note, eternal procession is not explicitly invoked.”
It would be clearer to say “the Spirit” rather than “He” here. It took me a few minutes to puzzle out whether you were saying that either the Father or the Son was sent by the Son, even though the context suggests the Spirit.
I have always found St. Augustine (apart from Confessions) to be tough slogging. Thank you for troubling to exegete him so carefully, demonstrating his loose usage of certain terms (from, proceed, sent, etc.). It’s helping me approach his writings with greater confidence and peace.
Thank you Craig for this series of articles. Are you thinking of also addressing St Firmilian and St Gregory the Great once you have looked over St Augustine’s doctrine? St Firmilian is another saint who explcitly uses the filioque in a strong sense, and St Gregory in particular appears to connect it to hypostatic origination in a very Florentine way.
I have been reading Hilary of Poitiers and I am edging towards (strongly) he was consistent with Aquinas. SO, I want to be open minded. However, Augustine DID NOT agree with Aquinas/Lyons/Florence. I’d be interested in the quotes you cite in your reply.
About St Hilary, Edward Siecienski is inclined toward the interpretation that he solely meant temporal sending and the concept of the Holy Spirit’s procession “from the Father and the Son” as being both explicitly eternal and His particular hypostatic property really does begin with St Augustine.
About St Fulgentius (I have no clue how I managed to misremember his name as “Firmilian”, my bad!), let me quote an excerpt from Siecienski’s book on the Filioque:
> Fulgentius went so far as to describe the Spirit’s procession from the Father and the Son as one of its “hypostatic properties,” so that “it is the property of the Father alone that he was not born but begot; it is the property of the Son that he did not beget but was born; it is the property of the Holy Spirit that he neither begot nor was born but proceeded from the begetter and the begotten. ” [Epistula 14.28] Yet perhaps the clearest exposition of Fulgentius’s teaching on the procession is found in his De Fide ad Petrum, a summary of the faith prepared for pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem . . . Early in the work he spoke of the Spirit “who is eternal and without beginning, because the Holy Spirit proceeds from the nature of the Father and the Son,” [De Fide ad Petrum 4] later enjoining pilgrims to “hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the same Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son. For, the Son says, ‘when the spirit of Truth comes, who has proceeded from the Father,’ where he taught that the Spirit was his since he is the truth.” [De Fide ad Petrum 11.54] For Fulgentius the filioque was not a novelty introduced by Augustine, but rather a doctrine that “the prophetic and apostolic teaching shows us.”
About St Gregory the Great: in his “Homiliarum in Evangelia libri duo”, he seems to explicitly state that just as the Son being sent in time by the Father shows His eternal generation from the Father, the Holy Spirit being sent in time by the Father and the Son shows His eternal procession from the Father and the Son. I had a translation of the full text in French but sadly lost access to it, so I can’t translate it to English for you. All I can provide is Siecienski’s quote from the text, although the full text makes St Gregory’s intention more clear:
> We can also understand his [i.e., the Son’s] being sent in terms of his divine nature. The Son is said to be sent from the Father from the fact that he is begotten of the Father. The Son relates that he sends the Holy Spirit . . . The sending of the Spirit is that procession by which it proceeds from the Father and the Son. Accordingly, as the Spirit is said to be sent because it proceeds, so too it is not inappropriate to say that the Son is sent because he is begotten.
While I can agree that Augustine’s Trinitarian theology can be understood in an “Orthodox” way (St Maximus and St Gregory Palamas essentially solve every issue), St Fulgentius’ doctrine is a bit more troubling as it seems to basically take the doctrine of the Cappadocians and just replace “procession from the Father” by “procession from the Father and the Son”. And St Gregory’s doctrine is very difficult to not understand in a Florentine manner.
Would you mind finding me english translations of the whole documents? I am very distrustful of secondary sources and their analysis. Furthermore, I find that these works have to be read entirely in considerable context to be understood. I am sure Sciencski disagrees with my reading of Augustine, but I believe the reasoning I will unfold will prove compelling.
Siecienski, being Orthodox, seems to agree with you. However he only points out in Fulgentius that by his time the filioque was already thought of as an apostolic doctrine in the west, and he considers that Gregory the Great’s doctrine surrounding the procession of the Holy Spirit is too unclear. I personally find at least St Gregory’s doctrine to be too explicitly “Florentine” for comfort though.
For St Fulgentius:
“it is the property of the Father alone that he was not born but begot; it is the property of the Son that he did not beget but was born; it is the property of the Holy Spirit that he neither begot nor was born but proceeded from the begetter and the begotten” is found in English in his Selected Works, page 427.
“who is eternal and without beginning, because the Holy Spirit proceeds from the nature of the Father and the Son” is found in English in his Selected Works, pages 62-63.
“hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the same Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son. For, the Son says, ‘when the spirit of Truth comes, who has proceeded from the Father,’ where he taught that the Spirit was his since he is the truth” is found in English in his Selected Works, page 93-94.
For St Gregory:
The quote is from the Forty Gospel Homilies (page 202), translated by David Hurst. Although it is not the sole thing he says about the Holy Spirit’s relationship to the Father and the Son, this passage in particular really bothers me.
I would buy these myself and give a personal perspective… if I could understand theology at all and if I had money. So I can only rely on other, smarter Orthodox people, here.
Thanks for these citations…it may take a couple years to get at these, but we shall see.
For now, I want to finish reading Hilarly of Poitiers. I am about a third through and I really disagree with Scienscki and I suspect he misunderstand the suspect passage in Book 2 that uses the Filioque (because it does not at all in the original Latin…the original Latin says something FAR WORSE than the Filioque if taken literally.) I have read Ambrose three books on the Holy Spirit. I want to read all the pre-Chalcedonian mentions in context, which is often lacking. For example, we know that Cyril of Alexandria explicitly repudiated that his words could be interpreted to be concerning the cause of the Spirit. And this is what I suspect nearly across the board if read in context–however, Hilary so far is surprising me.
If a doctrine is not pre-Chalcedonian when there are tons of commentaries on the topic, then that narrows it down a wee bit. However, my goal is always to give saints the benefit of the doubt without resorting to accusing their works from being forged.
I am positively stupid. It is somewhere else that I read St Hilary only meant temporal procession. Or perhaps Siecienski said it but I can’t find where anymore. For the sake of avoiding false claims, I take it back.
To clarify, Siecienski says in his book that…
>Whether Hilary was attempting to communicate the uniqueness of the Spirit’s eternal relation to the Father by ekporeusis, differentiating his procession a Patre from his temporal sending/receiving from the Father through the Son is still open to question . . . Although later Latin theology regarded Hilary, especially in his frequent use of the per filium formula (e.g., “who is from You [i.e., the Father] through the Only-begotten”) as an advocate of the filioque, it remains unclear whether Hilary himself would have accepted the teaching. While it is easy to see how Hilary’s language later lent itself to the development of filioquist thinking, the degree to which the great anti-Arian can be credited (or blamed) for this development is still open to debate.
Either way, since you brought him up, I would be interested in seeing an article about St Hilary’s theology, if you feel you understand him correctly enough of course.
I hope to do something on Hilary, for sure.
“‘Neither can we say that the Holy Spirit does not also proceed from the Son, for the same Spirit is not without reason said to be the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son… ‘
Augustine is saying that because the Son has everything the Father has, the Spirit must also be sent from the Son. Take note, the eternal procession is not explicitly invoked.”
Not explicitly, but to say that the relationship is thus temporal would mean that there was a time when the Son did not have all of what the Father has.
“‘…because, also, when He had said, Whom the Father will send, He added also, in my name. Yet He did not say, Whom the Father will send from me, as He said, “Whom I will send unto you from the Father,”— showing, namely, that the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity. He, therefore, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, is referred back to Him from whom the Son was born (natus).’ (Par 29)
The preceding passage shatters Roman Catholic (and some Orthodox) conceptions of Augustine as a Florentine Filioquist thinker. In exegeting John 15:26, Augustine explicitly refers to the origins of the Spirit as being from the Father, because the Spirit cannot be from the Son.”
You are misunderstanding the Catholic position. The Father is the principle cause of the Holy Spirit, as He originates in Him. Since all that is the Father’s is the Son’s also, the Spirit thus spirates through the Son. Thus the Father is still the monarch, but the Son is the eternal spiration of the Holy Spirit. The difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy seems to be whether the relationship is hypostatic or energetic(as Blachernae describes the manifestation as eternal). I don’t understand why the use of the word temporal, as such a word would imply that there was a time when the Holy Spirit was not manifested in the Son, which again seems contrary to Blachernae). I might be misunderstanding what Blachernae is meaning here, so I apologize in advance if I in some way misinterpreted it. God bless.
Read the first article in the series, i quite painstakenly make the RC case to show I understand it.