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 5.
As referred to previously, the way that Augustine (and centuries later, Aquinas) differentiates between the Persons of the Trinity, who are one God and of the same single essence, is by observing interpersonal relationships.
Augustine begins fleshing this out in Book V:
For it is said in relation to something, as the Father in relation to the Son and the Son in relation to the Father, which is not accident; because both the one is always Father, and the other is always Son: yet not always, meaning from the time when the Son was born [natus], so that the Father ceases not to be the Father because the Son never ceases to be the Son, but because the Son was always born, and never began to be the Son. But if He had begun to be at any time, or were at any time to cease to be, the Son, then He would be called Son according to accident [and not nature]. (Par 6)
As we can see, the relational distinctions tell us the nature of the Person’s name. Obviously, this is an argument we can apply to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always Holy, so we can always call Him “Holy Spirit.” He is always the Spirit of and from the Father, so we can call Him Spirit of the Father. He is always of the Son because He shares the same essence, so we can call Him Spirit of the Son. We can easily carry this logic out to syllogize that the Spirit is NOT from the Son causally, so He is never called Spirit from the Son. However, let’s focus on Augustine and not our own syllogisms.
Therefore, since the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, and certainly God is holy, and God is a spirit, the Trinity can be called also the Holy Spirit. But yet that Holy Spirit, who is not the Trinity, but is understood as in the Trinity, is spoken of in His proper name of the Holy Spirit relatively, since He is referred both to the Father and to the Son, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son. (Par 12)
We can see the preceding logic borne out and the term “relatively” being used to mean that it is through relationship we can perceive distinctions in the Persons. Without reference being made to a relative difference, one can call any of the Persons “Spirit” because “God is Spirit.” (John 4:24)
But the relation is not itself [readily] apparent in that name, but it is apparent when He is called the gift of God; for He is the gift of the Father and of the Son, because “He proceeds from the Father,” (John 15:26) as the Lord says; and because that which the apostle says, “Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His,”(Rom 8:9) he says certainly of the Holy Spirit Himself. (Par 12)
In the above illustration, the relation between the Father and Son is said to be different. The Spirit is “the gift of the Father and the Son” in two different ways, otherwise we could not perceive how He is the gift of one in way and the gift of the other in the other way. If He was the gift of both in exactly the same way, then the relative differences between the Father and Son evaporates and Augustine’s whole scheme fails.
However, Augustine was not this callous of a logician. The Spirit is the Gift of the Father because of John 15:26, which Augustine in Book 4 Par 29 tells us means that “the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity.” In other words, He is the Father’s Gift because the Gift originates from the Father. He is the Gift of the Son because of Rom 8:9, which contextually pertains to temporal procession. The Son sends the Spirit to us after the resurrection. There is no indication that the Spirit of Christ is a Gift to us because the Son is (part of) the Spirit’s eternal cause. Augustine simply does not state this, so we cannot infer this.
Later in the same paragraph Augustine states:
When we say, therefore, the gift of the giver, and the giver of the gift, we speak in both cases relatively in reciprocal reference. Therefore the Holy Spirit is a certain unutterable communion of the Father and the Son.
This, at first glance, is a most unsatisfying explanation to the preceding. It does not seem relevant. However, it refers to the “harmony” idea mentioned in On Christian Doctrine:
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 (Book I, Chap 5).
Essentially, Augustine is saying that though the way the Spirit is sent/processes to the saved is different between the Father and Son, that does not make the Persons’ attributes not “one.” Relational differences alone account for any differentiations, as all Persons share the divine essence. Further, in these differences there is “unutterable communion,” i.e. harmony. This validates Augustine’s relational Trinitarian scheme. It is precisely this sort of scheme that he will continually illustrate in the upcoming books. For now, Augustine continues in the same vein:
…on that account, perhaps, He [the Spirit] is so called [Spirit of the Father and Spirit of the Son], because the same name is suitable to both the Father and the Son. For He Himself is called specially that which they are called in common; because both the Father is a spirit and the Son a spirit, both the Father is holy and the Son holy. In order, therefore, that the communion of both may be signified from a name which is suitable to both, the Holy Spirit is called the gift of both. (Par 12)
…we speak of the Holy Spirit of the Father; but, on the other hand, we do not speak of the Father of the Holy Spirit, lest the Holy Spirit should be understood to be His Son. So also we speak of the Holy Spirit of the Son; but we do not speak of the Son of the Holy Spirit, lest the Holy Spirit be understood to be His Father (Par 13).
As we can see, the way the Holy Spirit is named is important. If we were to call Him the Spirit from Christ, then this misconstrues His relationship relative to the Father and relative to the Son. Inverting and swapping words, such as Father from the Spirit as opposed to Spirit from the Father, turns the Spirit into Father of the Son or some other absurdity. Hence, in order to rightly name the Spirit, one must know what His relationships to the other Persons are.
Augustine then follows this up with a difficult passage that requires unpacking:
Therefore, the Spirit is both the Spirit of God who gave Him, and ours who have received Him…If, therefore, that also which is given has him for a beginning by whom it is given, since it has received from no other source that which proceeds from him; it must be admitted that the Father and the Son are a Beginning of the Holy Spirit, not two Beginnings; but as the Father and Son are one God, and one Creator, and one Lord relatively to the creature, so are they one Beginning relatively to the Holy Spirit. But the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one Beginning in respect to the creature, as also one Creator and one God (Par 15).
We need to understand how “relatively” is being used. As discussed before, “relative” is a reference to how relationships between Persons differentiate Them as separate. So, at first glance we may think we are seeing the teaching of Florence and Aquinas: that the double procession from both the Father and Son is in fact one principle.
However, this is not what Augustine is really saying. Let’s take a look at the first half of Par 14:
The Father is called so [Gift of the Father, see Par 12-13], therefore, relatively…
In other words, the Father is the cause of the Gift of the Spirit (to man) in a relatively different way than the Son. The Son sends the Gift to man (temporal procession). The Father is the eternal origin of the Spirit, which makes the whole scheme possible.
“Relatively” is always a reference to relational differences between Persons in the Godhead.
I think interpreters do not critically think about what “relatively” usually means and so misapprehend Augustine’s point. We use the term relative, when it’s not about family, in sentences such as “reading Augustine is easy relative to how difficult Palamas is.” By making such a statement, we are not actually saying Augustine is easy to read. We are saying he feels easy to read when we compare our own reading of him to the difficulties we have in reading Palamas. In short, we often think “relatively” means “comparatively.”
“Relatively,” the Spirit is the Gift of the Father, because the Father is the Spirit’s cause. The Spirit is not the Gift of the Son in the same way He is the Gift of the Father, otherwise using the term “relatively” would make no sense given the whole point of the sentence, which says the Father’s relation to the Spirit is specifically He is His cause. The Son, relative to the creature, is the cause of the Spirit being a Gift given from God to man, because He is the temporal sender of the Gift which proceeds from the Father. I believe the preceding explanation is justified because Augustine cites the eternal procession as belonging to the Father and the temporal belonging to the Son earlier in Par 12.
Let me sum up these comments and say that “everything is relative,” or in other words, “relational” within the Godhead. Augustine continues in Par 14:
He [the Father] is also relatively said to be the Beginning, and whatever else there may be of the kind…
The Father is by relationship the cause of the Spirit (“the Beginning”) and “whatever else” pertaining to origin.
He is called the Father in relation to the Son, the Beginning in relation to all things, which are from Him.
Augustine now states that this principle of relational difference also applies between the Father and the Son, being the Beginning of the Son, who is Himself (the Son in His own relational way) the Beginning “in relation to all [created] things.”
So the Son is relatively so called; He is called also relatively the Word and the Image. And in all these appellations He is referred to the Father, but the Father is called by none of them.
In short, the Son is by relationship the Word of God [the Father] and the Image of God [the Father]. Yet, the Father is not the Word of the Son, etcetera, as this would be misconstruing the relationship between Father and Son.
And the Son is also called the Beginning; for when it was said to Him, “Who are You?” He replied, “Even the Beginning, who also speaks to you.” (John 8:25) But is He, pray, the Beginning of the Father? [No.]…For creator, too, is spoken relatively to creature, as master to servant.
Augustine explains while the Son can likewise be called “Beginning,” this moniker does not pertain to His relationship with the Father, but rather His relationship with creation. From this, we may surmise, the Son is “the Beginning” in a way that is obviously different than the Father. He is not the eternal cause of Persons in the Godhead.
And so when we say, both that the Father is the Beginning, and that the Son is the Beginning, we do not speak of two beginnings of the creature; since both the Father and the Son together is one beginning in respect to the creature, as one Creator, as one God…we cannot deny that the Holy Spirit also is rightly called the Beginning, since we do not separate Him from the appellation of Creator.
This is an important point, because it connects to the Gift of the Father and Gift of the Son issue. The Spirit is the Gift of both, but in different ways dictated by relationship. In the same way, creation is the creation of three Persons, but in different ways as dictated by relationship with each Person—“from” the Father, “through” the Son, and “in” the Holy Spirit—as we covered in our review of Book I.
So, let’s get back to that “difficult” passage in paragraph 15:
…it must be admitted that the Father and the Son are a Beginning of the Holy Spirit, not two Beginnings; but as the Father and Son are one God, and one Creator, and one Lord relatively to the creature, so are they one Beginning relatively to the Holy Spirit. But the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one Beginning in respect to the creature, as also one Creator and one God.
Taking the preceding into account, it is obvious from what we read so far that:
1. The Father and Son are “one Beginning” to the Holy Spirit in relatively different ways, just as the Persons are one beginning but in different ways relative to creation.
2. This cannot mean the Son is the cause of the Spirit, because Augustine already taught that Jesus:
…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. (Book IV, Par 29)
So, we can discount handily the Son with the Father being “one Beginning relatively to the Holy Spirit” as meaning that the hypostasis of the Spirit and the origin of His essence is from the Son.
This being the case, how is the Son part of a singular principle that pertains to the Spirit’s beginning? Again, we need those illustrations! We are not there yet, but be patient, we will have an answer in upcoming articles!
Let’s continue with Book V:
Does the Holy Spirit proceed always, and proceed not in time, but from eternity, but because He so proceeded that He was capable of being given, was already a gift even before there was one to whom He might be given? For there is a difference in meaning between a gift and a thing that has been given. For a gift may exist even before it is given; but it cannot be called a thing that has been given unless it has been given. (Par 16)
Nor let it trouble us that the Holy Spirit, although He is co-eternal with the Father and the Son, yet is called something which exists in time; as, for instance, this very thing which we have called Him, a thing that has been given. For the Spirit is a gift eternally, but a thing that has been given in time. For if a lord also is not so called unless when he begins to have a slave, that appellation likewise is relative and in time to God; for the creature is not from all eternity, of which He is the Lord… Behold! To be the Lord, is not eternal to God; otherwise we should be compelled to say that the creature also is from eternity, since He would not be a lord from all eternity unless the creature also was a servant from all eternity…Therefore that which begins to be spoken of God in time, and which was not spoken of Him before, is manifestly spoken of Him relatively; yet not according to any accident of God, so that anything should have happened to Him, but clearly according to some accident of that, in respect to which God begins to be called something relatively (Par 17).
Augustine is simply stating that having an eternal, originating principle does not make the Spirit into a creation. Nor does a “gift” have to be given for it to become a gift. So, the Spirit is always the Gift even before He was given to man, just like Christmas presents hidden in daddy’s closet are presents before they are placed under the tree.
Herein will end our discussion of Book V. In our next article, we will set the stage as to how, according to Augustine, the Son is part of a singular principle that pertains to the Spirit’s beginning without being the cause of the Spirit.
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