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 finish our treatment of On the Trinity. Let’s pick up where we left off, reviewing the rest of paragraph 29:

I have added the word principally, because we find that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also. But the Father gave Him this too, not as to one [the Son] already existing, and not yet having it [the Spirit]; but whatever He gave to the only-begotten Word, He gave by begetting Him (Par 29).

People misinterpret the above because they:

  1. Get caught with the words “from the Son also,” and 
  2. Do not properly interpret Who the “one” and the “it” are. 

The meaning of the above, granting what I have inferred what in the above brackets, is that the Son being begotten does not causally precede the Spirit’s procession. In Augustine’s words, the Son did not already exist before having the Spirit. Hence, the procession from the Son also cannot mean that the Son is principally with the Father the cause of the Spirit’s existence. The Father alone is principally the cause of the Spirit.

He so begot Him as that the common Gift should proceed from Him also, and the Holy Spirit should be the Spirit of both. (Par 29)

The preceding is about the temporal procession. How do we know? To properly interpret the preceding, we must rewind to a different Par 29, this time in Book IV:

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. 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… That then which the Lord says —Whom I will send unto you from the Father, — shows the Spirit to be both of the Father and of the Son; 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).

The Gift analogy in this book makes clear that the Father is the “principium” or cause of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is the Son’s gift because of the temporal procession (i.e. the Son goes to the right hand of the Father after the ascension and sends the Spirit to the Apostles). The fact that Augustine immediately makes a reference to the temporal procession of the Spirit shows that “and the Son” in this specific context is a reference to the temporal procession and not eternal causation. Paragraphs 31 through 34 of Book XV likewise list several different examples of the temporal procession, which strengthens the interpretation just given.

What follows later in Book XV are perhaps the most seriously misapprehended passages of Augustine’s books. If we apply what he have learned from the previous 14 books, they should not pose us any challenges.

Let’s read a couple “Filioquist” passages:

[I]n that Highest Trinity which is God, there are no intervals of time, by which it could be shown, or at least inquired, whether the Son was born of the Father first and then afterwards the Holy Spirit proceeded from both; since Holy Scripture calls Him the Spirit of both. For it is He of whom the apostle says, “But because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts”: and it is He of whom the same Son says, “For it is not ye who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” And it is proved by many other testimonies of the Divine Word, that the Spirit, who is specially called in the Trinity the Holy Spirit, is of the Father and of the Son of whom likewise the Son Himself says [Note: Discussion of temporal procession follows], “Whom I will send unto you from the Father; and in another place, Whom the Father will send in my name.” And we are so taught that He proceeds from both, because the Son Himself says, He proceeds from the Father. And when He had risen from the dead, and had appeared to His disciples, “He breathed upon them, and said, Receive the Holy Ghost,” so as to show that He proceeded also from Himself. (Par 45) 

But the reason why, after His resurrection, He both gave the Holy Spirit, first on earth, and afterwards sent Him from heaven, is in my judgment this: “that love is shed abroad in our hearts,” by that Gift itself, whereby we love God and our neighbors…How, therefore, is He not God, who gives the Holy Spirit? (Par 46)

As we can see, every example used by Augustine in the preceding “proving” the Spirit proceeds from the Son  pertains to the temporal procession. Augustine’s point is that we know the Spirit proceeds from the Father eternally, because the Son says so. We know He proceeds “also” from the Son as evidenced by temporal processions. This, as we can see, is simply a continuance of the same ideas from Par 29-34. Yet, from the first sentence, we do have an indication that Augustine is trying to glimpse into the origins of the Spirit from these temporal observations. Hence, Augustine speculates further:

Are we therefore able to ask whether the Holy Spirit had already proceeded from the Father when the Son was born, or had not yet proceeded and when He was born, proceeded from both wherein there is no such thing as distinct times: just as we have been able to ask, in a case where we do find times, that the Will proceeds from the human Mind first, in order that that may be sought which, when found, may be called offspring; which offspring being already brought forth or born, that will is made perfect, resting in this end, so that what had been its desire when seeking, is its love when enjoying; which love now proceeds from bothi.e. from the mind that begets, and from the notion that is begotten, as if from parent and [to the] offspring? These things it is absolutely impossible to ask in this case. (Par 47)

Augustine when trying to speculate about the Spirit’s origins, calls the task “absolutely impossible.” He makes one telling speculation in passing, which is the “Will proceeds from the human Mind first.” This can be nothing other than a reference to Book XI:

this attention is the act of the mind alone [solius];… (Par 2)

In other words, the Will, which is beyond any doubt a reference to the Spirit in Par 47, proceeds first and alone from the Mind. This is the Doctrine of Maximus the Confessor. This is the doctrine of Damascene. This is the doctrine of Blachernae. How could one doubt that this is not also the doctrine of Augustine? How does this not disprove Florence? 

The Filioquists also skip over the Orthodox statement that the “will is made perfect, resting in this end.” This statement literally teaches the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and rests in the Son. Later in the paragraph, we have the statement that “love now proceeds from both” and compares the relationship to “from parent and offspring,” clearly a reference to par 5 of the same book: “ to discern the Trinity, to wit, one that loves, and that which is loved, and love.” Hence, the comparison Augustine is drawing is love from a parent to that which is loved, the offspring.

It is obvious that Augustine is being interpreted eisegetically by Filioquists and not according to what Augustine himself actually says.

Par 47 continues:

Wherefore let him who can understand the generation of the Son from the Father without time, understand also the procession of the Holy Spirit from both without time. And let him who can understand, in that which the Son says, “As the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself,” [John 5:26] not that the Father gave life to the Son already existing without life, but that He so begot Him apart from time, that the life which the Father gave to the Son by begetting Him is co-eternal with the life of the Father who gave it: let him, I say, understand, that as the Father has in Himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from Him, so has He given to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed from Him, and be both apart from time…

The reference to John 5:26 is extremely important. Augustine’s point is that the Father gave the Son everything–the whole divine life—the fullness of deity. The Son has no diminution in essence. So, if the Father can proceed the Spirit as a matter of His essence, then Christ (in some sense) can as well because He shares the same essence. 

We must interpret Augustine according to what Augustine himself tell us. We know what the preceding sounds like, but what is he trying to say? In short, as a matter of divine essence there is nothing that the Son is lacking. Therefore, He takes part in procession communitively (i.e communitive pertains to what is shared from the Father to the Son, this “communication” from the Father when actualized is the Holy Spirit “resting” in the Son). Hence, communitive procession is not causal, as this would imply the Father is causing the Spirit “co-incidently” with the generation of the Son. 

Let’s allow Augustine to explains what communitive procession is:

…and that the Holy Spirit is so said to proceed from the Father as that it be understood that His proceeding also from the Son, is a property derived by the Son from the Father. For if the Son has of the Father whatever He has, then certainly He has of the Father, that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him…just as generation from the Father, without any changeableness of nature, gives to the Son essence, without beginning of time; so procession from both, without any changeableness of nature, gives to the Holy Spirit essence without beginning of time…the Son is born of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally, the Father giving the procession without any interval of time, yet in common [communitively, lit. communiter] from both [Father and Son]. But He would be called the Son of the Father and of the Son, if — a thing abhorrent to the feeling of all sound minds — both had begotten Him. Therefore the Spirit of both is not begotten of both, but proceeds from both. (Par 47)

Born out in this paragraph is precisely the interpretation we have been giving up to this point. The Spirit proceeds from the Father principally/causally. We know this pertains to causation, because Augustine is careful to point out this is not a chronological sequence. The next clause is “communitively from both.” So, what Augustine is saying is that the Spirit proceeds causally from the Father, communitively from both. Yet, as we showed before, this is not double procession. This is the Orthodox doctrine. This is merely stating in words what the illustrations were showing us—the Spirit is what is shared (hence the term “communitive”) from the Father to the Son. 

What serious thinker would say Augustine took 14 books explaining one concept pertaining to the communitive procession, only here to have a different meaning? Clearly, these words are meant to portray the illustrations and not contradict them.

So, what is Par 47 talking about? Augustine in the passage is identifying how the shared essence of God operates relatively between the Persons. According to essence, everything the Father has, the Son has. In mere words, we can speak of the Spirit proceeding from both due to the shared essence between the Father and Son, and there is no relational contradiction—unlike saying the Son begot the Father, which is a relational contradiction. The same applies to the Spirit, who relationally cannot proceed from Himself nor be begotten, as the Son is the “Only-begotten.” Hence, Augustine is arguing we can speak of the Spirit proceeding from the Father and Son nominally, but according to the categories of principal and communitive procession, the latter disallowing for the Son to be a principle for causation. 

Because it is extremely difficult to distinguish generation from procession in that co-eternal, and co-equal, and incorporeal, and ineffably unchangeable and indivisible Trinity, let it suffice to further allow Augustine to explain himself.  He cites that it was a subject in a sermon he taught, most likely Tractate 99 on the Gospel of John:

If, then, the Holy Spirit proceeds both from the Father and from the Son, why did the Son say, ‘He proceeds from the Father.’ [John 15:26] Why, think you, except as He is wont to refer to Him, that also which is His own, from whom also He Himself is? Whence also is that which He says, ‘My doctrine is not my own, but His that sent me?’ [John 7:16] If, therefore, it is His doctrine that is here understood, which yet He said was not His own, but His that sent Him, how much more is it there to be understood that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Himself [the Son], where He so says, He proceeds from the FatherHe is God of God, He has also, that from Him too proceeds the Holy Spirit; and hence the Holy Spirit has from the Father Himself, that He should proceed from the Son also…not even the son of men proceeds at the same time from both father and mother; but when he proceeds from the father into the mother, he does not at that time proceed from the mother and when he proceeds from the mother into this present light, he does not at that time proceed from the father. But the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father into the Son, and from the Son proceed to sanctify the creature, but proceeds at once from both. (Par 48)

This paragraph likewise can be radically misunderstood as such: The Holy Spirit causally proceeds from both the Father and Son at the same moment. The Son may say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, seemingly alone, but He may legitimately speak of what is properly His as belonging to the Father–without denying it is His (the Son’s) also. The same is true about the “doctrine” of Christ, which is the Father’s according to Christ, but also “My” i.e. Christ’s. So, being that procession belongs to both, He proceeds at once from both.

How do we overturn the completely reasonable interpretation given above? We let Augustine interpret Augustine, which we are compelled to do being that we just spent 14 books reading what sounded like a Trinitarian theory that bears no resemblance to the above.

First, let’s discuss John 15:26. This passage has a specific meaning according to Augustine. In Book II of Responses to Maximinus, a book which Augustine wrote after On the Trinity, he wrote the following concerning John 15:26:

The Son comes from the Father; the Holy Spirit comes from the Father. The former is born; the latter proceeds. Hence, the former is the Son of the Father from whom He is born, but the latter is the Spirit of both because He proceeds from both. When the Son spoke of the Spirit, He said, “He proceeds from the Father,” [John 15:26] because the Father is the author [lit. ‘auctor’ or “originator”] of His procession. The Father begot a Son and, by begetting Him, gave it to Him that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him as well. (Chap 14:1)

The last two sentences in the Latin are literally rendered thus:

Quoniam Pater processionis ejus est auctor, qui talem Filium genuit et gignendo ei dedit ut etiam de ipso procederet Spiritus sanctus. (PL 42 p. 770)

To sum up our interpretation of Par 48 of On the Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son inasmuch as when the Spirit principally proceeds from the Father alone and proceeds from the Son inasmuch that the Spirit is manifest when He rests in the Son. This is precisely what we seen born out in the Latin where Augustine explains himself exactly on this point.

However, let’s take a brief aside and get a little more into the passage from Responses to Maximinus. People tend to understand Augustine strictly by his dogmatic-statements without the wider context of his writings on the issue. The same paragraph gets into content that seems to justify the Florentine Filioquist reading of the passage:

If He [the Holy Spirit] were born, He would not be born from the Father alone [Latin: tantum] or from the Son alone [tantum], but from both of them; He would beyond any doubt be the son of both of them. Because He is in no sense the Son of both of them, it was necessary that he not be born of both….who can explain the difference between being born and proceeding?…I do not know, I cannot, I am unable to distinguish that generation and this procession…the Spirit does not come from Himself but from Him whom He proceeds. Since He proceeds from both of them, He is called the Spirit of the Father…and the Spirit of the Son. (Chap 14:1)

On an Orthodox blog, I could have simply cited 14:1 without continuing into this passage, and no one would have known. I am right now only muddying the waters. However, I wanted to be honest by including it. Further, I want to offer an interpretation that makes sense. 

In short, Augustine is simply commenting that the Spirit is of the same essence as Father and Son, and if we understand the Spirit’s eternal causation in the terminology of generation, it would be necessary that He would be generated by both Father and Son—because He shares their essence. It should be said that Augustine presumes the Spirit is not born/generated and hence he is not seriously speculating that the Son is part of His cause. Rather, if the Spirit’s cause was the same as the Son’s (being begotten,) then the Spirit would have to be begotten by the Son as well. However, Augustine does not actually believe this, which we covered in our first article about On the Trinity, because it would turn the Father into the Spirit’s grandfather.

A whole series of article can be made on Augustine’s Responses to Maximinus, but anyone who has read them would immediately identify that Augustine continually repeats that begetting brings forth something identical in essence. So, because the Spirit is identical in essence to the Father and Son, if one can use terms such as birth, then “beyond doubt” He would be born from both. 

The use of “Auctor” in reference to John 15:26 means that Augustine specifically understood that verse as a prooftext for the Spirit’s origination from the Father, or in other words, the principal procession. Other verses are invoked, but they discuss either the temporal procession  or the communitive procession—not the principle (i.e. causal) procession.

For example, let’s look at John 7:16. Par 48 invokes the issue of the Son having the Father’s doctrine. To understand this, let’s rewind to Book II of On the Trinity:

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).

From John 7:16, Augustine surmises that Jesus’ origin is from the Father, just as His doctrine originates from the Father. So, if Augustine invokes John 7:16 to pertain to the Spirit’s origin, he must be communicating as follows: The Spirit of Christ is also the Spirit of the Father, and so, the Spirit originates from the Father just as doctrine does. 

Hence, when one says (according to the mind of Augustine) that the Spirit proceeds also from the Son, this merely refers back to the Spirit’s origin from the Father (as we see in the illustrations and in Augustine’s treatment of John 15:26. The Son follows up with a temporal procession to believers, because He shares the Father’s essence and can share what the Father has. 

So, looking at Par 48 in context, it appears Augustine is teaching that the Spirit is from the Father and proceeds temporally from the Son:

Whence also is that which He says, ‘My doctrine is not my own, but His that sent me?’ [John 7:16] If, therefore, it is His doctrine that is here understood, which yet He said was not His own, but His that sent Him, how much more is it there to be understood that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Himself [the Son]the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father into the Son, and from the Son proceed to sanctify the creature, but proceeds at once from both.

As we can see, Augustine rejects that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father to the Son and then to us, but He proceeds from both to us at the same time. Clearly, the Filioque is being exegeted here to refer to temporal procession—not origin. In fact, in both proof texts Augustine uses in Par 48, John 15:26 and John 7:16, he explains that they refer to a Person’s origin from the Father. In fact, there is nothing in this paragraph whatsoever to infer origin from the Son as a shared principle. It is simply not there.

So, Augustine’s exegesis, seemingly raising to a lofty level of speculation, is disappointing. In Par 45-46, it appeared that Augustine was going to give us the “big answer” as to how the Spirit originated. From such speculative heights, Augustine retreats to a simple affirmation of the temporal procession and nothing more. 

The preceding is not disappointing if we presume Augustine to be Orthodox. In fact, such an interpretation should be expected. He simply speculated that the temporal procession portrays to us that the Son has what He does from His relationship with the Father and that what He has comes from the Father. Augustine was trying to answer a difficulty of how the temporal procession can work when, in fact, the Spirit is from the Father. How can the Son temporally send Someone who is not from Him? Having addressed this difficulty, as speculations about double procession would have been anachronistic to Augustine, he ventures no farther.

Let’s finish our treatment of On the Trinity with Augustine’s final paragraph pertaining to his arguments:

For so you will see how the birth of the Word of God differs from the procession of the Gift of God, on account of which the only-begotten Son did not say that the Holy Spirit is begotten of the Father, otherwise He would be His brother, but that He proceeds from Him [i.e. Damascene’s argument that the Son and Spirit have different modes of causation]. Whence, since the Spirit of both is a kind of consubstantial communion of Father and Son, He is not called, far be it from us to say so, the Son of both…although we neither utter nor think of any articulate word that is significant in any tongue of any nation, but our thought is formed by that which we know; and there is in the mind’s eye of the thinker an image resembling that thought which the memory contained, will or love as a third combining these two as parent and offspring. And he who can, sees and discerns that this will proceeds indeed from thought (for no one wills that of which he is absolutely ignorant what or of what sort it is), yet is not an image of the thought: and so that there is insinuated in this intelligible thing a sort of difference between birth and procession, since to behold by thought is not the same as to desire, or even to enjoy will. (Par 50)

As we can see, Augustine explains himself by appealing to his illustrations. From these illustrations we can see that relationally the Spirit cannot be son of both the Father and Son. Rather, relationally the Spirit is the will to see (or remember) an image. This Image [the Son/Logos] must already exist in the Mind as “no one Wills that of which he is absolutely ignorantof what sort [of Image] it is.” Will “proceeds indeed from thought [i.e. Mind]” or in other words, from the Father, but not in such a sense that it includes the actual Vision (“not an image of the thought.”) So, Will is not born of the Image, but it takes into account the eternal existence of the Image, or it cannot exist. The relationship between Father and Son, that being the Father desires for there to be the Son, proceeds the Spirit. This is the difference between birth (Father begets Son) and procession (Father’s Will pertaining to the Son).

Therein ends my comments on Book XV. I will sum up my long argument in favor of Augustine being Pneumatologically Orthodox, and not Florentine, by quoting Augustine himself:

…whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen. (Par 51)

May this prayer apply to me, despite my weak grasp of theology, that I have portrayed accurately both the teachings of Augustine and Orthodox Catholic Christianity.

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