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 6 through 8.

In our last article, we left off saying we will begin covering how the Son is part of a singular principle that pertains to the Spirit’s beginning without being the cause of the Spirit. Before we get there, let’s look at a brief point Augustine makes in Book VI in Par 7: 

Therefore the Holy Spirit, whatever it is, is something common both to the Father and Son. 

There it is—Augustine’s definition of the Holy Spirit. Being that the Persons of the Trinity are of the same essence and can only be differentiated relationally, this definition makes sense within this context. The Spirit is what is in common between the Father and Son.

Both are Holy.

Both are Spirit.

The Spirit belongs to both.

The Spirit has His beginning from both, relatively. (Stay in your chair, we are following Augustine’s logic.)

What we cannot say, because Augustine explicitly denies it in Book IV Par 29, is that the Spirit Himself is from both. This is why we can say “Spirit from the Father” because this is relatively/relationally true, but not “Spirit from the Son.” Origin is not in common between Father and Son, and so the Spirit being what is common both to the Father and Son, cannot be defined as such according to Augustine.

Let’s continue with the paragraph:

But that communion itself is consubstantial and co-eternal; and if it may fitly be called friendship, let it be so called; but it is more aptly called love. And this is also a substance, since God is a substance, and “God is love,” as it is written. But as He is a substance together with the Father and the Son, so that substance is together with them great, and together with them good, and together with them holy, and whatsoever else is said in reference to substance…

The usage of the term “substance” shows that Augustine is referring to a shared essence between the Father and Son–which the Spirit also obviously shares. So, if the substance is Holy, we can call the Spirit the Holy Spirit. If the “substance” includes love between the Father and Son, the Spirit can be called “Love,” for “God is Love.” Though it is hard to imagine holiness as a relationship between both Father and Son (they merely share the quality, they do not exchange it), other monikers such as love, vision, etcetera can be typified by relational exchanges. Vision cannot exist without seeing something. Love cannot exist without something being loved. For lack of a better term, I will call these “contingent commonalities.” Augustine uses these contingent commonalities to draw his illustrations of the divine life simply because one cannot illustrate holiness within the Godhead.

In Book VII the illustrations begin (in Par 6), but not in earnest. We get a small illustration, and due to it not being that fleshed out, it is not that helpful:

The Holy Spirit also, whether we are to call Him that absolute love which joins together Father and Son, and joins us also from beneath, that so that is not unfitly said which is written, “God is love.”

Illustration 1:


The illustration certainly shows us what Augustine said, but if we were to interpret it as pertaining to the Spirit’s cause, we would have a triple procession (with creation being a contributing party)! But, taking creation out, what it looks like is that the Spirit’s relative cause is the Father and Son loving each other. We need the Father to love the Son, and the Son to love the Father, for the Spirit to exist. Hence, both are the cause of the Spirit’s existence, in such a scheme. 

As we shall see, when Augustine fleshes out his illustration on love it will no longer look like this. Why? Because there is an unjustified inference made in the illustration, that being “that absolute love which joins together Father and Son” is reciprocal. However, if this be the case, it is merely a “commonality” and not a “contingent commonality,” which I posit is necessary to understand Augustine’s theory of the Spirit’s origin, that being the Spirit exists because the Father loved the Son first. 

Let’s table this discussion for now and cover highlights from Book VII:

He [the Father] has the Son; so that not only that which is meant by Father (which it is manifest He is not called relatively to Himself but to the Son, and therefore is the Father because He has the Son), but that which He is in respect to His own substance is so called, because He begot His own essence (Par 1).

The Father is relatively a Father, as His relationship is that He begat the Son. To always be the Father, there must have always been a time the Son was. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

[S]ince the Father and Son are one and the same essence; seeing that the Father has His being itself not in respect to Himself, but to the Son, which essence He begot, and by which essence He is whatever He is. Therefore neither [person] is in respect to Himself alone; and both exist relatively the one to the other. Or is the Father alone not called Father of himself, but whatever He is called, is called relatively to the Son, but the Son is predicated of in reference to Himself? (Par 2)

These are radical words. The Father is not hypostatically existent in relation only to Himself, but is contingent upon the Son’s existence because, according to Augustine, that makes Him “whatever He is.” Obviously, Augustine cannot be saying the Son is the cause of the Father. Rather, he is saying that the hypostasis of the Father is differentiated relationally and that for the hypostasis of the Father to exist, that of the Son must also exist. Otherwise, the Father was not always Father and not always a separate Person.

[H]ow is He [the Spirit] not also Himself wisdom, since He is light, because “God is light?” Or whether after any other way the essence of the Holy Spirit is to be singly and properly named; then, too, since He is God, He is certainly light; and since He is light, He is certainly wisdom… Therefore the Father is light, the Son is light, and the Holy Spirit is light; but together not three lights, but one light. And so the Father is wisdom, the Son is wisdom, and the Holy Spirit is wisdom, and together not three wisdoms, but one wisdom: and because in the Trinity to be is the same as to be wise, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one essence. Neither in the Trinity is it one thing to be and another to be God; therefore the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one God.  (Par 6)

The Spirit is what is in common between the Father and Son. This is significant because the commonality reveals a shared and single essence. This is why the Catholic Church in the West added “and the Son” to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in response to the Arians. The speaking of the Spirit proceeding from the Father and Son is, if we infer nothing about eternal causation, a passing statement as to the Persons of the Trinity being of the same essence and one God, because the Persons of Father and Son (relatively) have an attribute in common. Due to the statement being so easily confused and creating more questions than it answered, it was certainly a bad thing that it was added unilaterally to the Creed–but its plain words are not automatically heretical if they are understood in the sense Saint Maximas did.

Onto Book VIII. To paint with a broad brush, I view Book VIII as a recapitulation of concepts from the earlier books. The following I found worth noting:

We have said elsewhere that those things are predicated specially in the Trinity as belonging severally to each person, which are predicated relatively the one to the other, as Father and Son, and the gift of both, the Holy Spirit; for the Father is not the Trinity, nor the Son the Trinity, nor the gift the Trinity: but what whenever each is singly spoken of in respect to themselves, then they are not spoken of as three in the plural number, but one, the Trinity itself. (Par 1)

[Y]ou see the Trinity if you see love. (Par 12)

The former sticks out because it reiterates that the Persons have their names (and may be differentiated by) their relationships between one another. It also defines “Trinity” as what is true of all thee Persons individually (“in respect to themselves”) without reference to Interpersonal relationships. An application of the preceding concept is that we can call the Trinity “God Most High,” as the Father, Son, and Spirit are God Most High without reference to relational differences between the Persons.

The latter sticks out, because Augustine has finally opened the door to his sacramental Trinitarian theology–we can see divine realities in mundane things such as everyday love. 

If we see love, we see the Trinity. If we have a vision, we experience the Trinity. The Trinity permeates His creation. And this being the case, as we stated in our preface, we can only now begin drawing Augustine’s conclusions pertaining to Trinitarian realities by unpacking these mundane things.

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!