For the past few years I’ve attacked the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Filioque. I still hold to all of my criticisms. What I have since seen, though, is that the same argument applies to the so-called “Photian” defenses as well. Romanism errs on the Filioque in that they make the Father and Son productive of the Spirit: the Spirit results from a mutual operation between Father and Son. That’s a form of Eunomianism. Many scholars today, sharing that apprehension, have pointed out that the Eastern, Photian defense is no different: it has the same causal, productive logic, except this time the Father’s causal operation produces Son and Spirit.
I’ve read most of the main literature on this topic (I am not wise. I speak as a fool). I haven’t read Bulgakov, if he adds anything to it. In that literature something of an alternative conclusion arises: regardless of one’s position on this matter, it is almost certain that the writers of Scripture didn’t have in mind 9th century philosophical categories about the Spirit’s procession.
The problem in discussing this is most people, good Christians, cannot really relate to it and don’t care. When the common man reads the Bible and sees references to the Spirit in the New Testament, the emphasis is on “baptism of,” gifts, regeneration, unity in the Spirit (distinct from unity in a certain Institutional Church), etc. Eastern Orthodox theology, while rightly criticizing Rome on this point, painted itself in a corner. It’s theology of the Holy Spirit–for the most part–is simply a negative reaction to Rome (okay, I know that is an extreme overstatement, but read Photios on this point and tell me otherwise). When I read Reformed writers on the Holy Spirit, I see a sharper convergence with what the New Testament teaches.
- I agree with EO’s criticisms of Rome. Rome tied the Spirit’s work to an Institution, effectively chaining the Spirit.
- Apropos of (1), I am not sure how well EO avoided that same problem. There is an emphasis on the unity of the Spirit, but only as that unity of the Spirit is placed in communion with a different institution.
- If the Spirit is tied with regeneration, as all groups affirm, and only those in (1) or (2) have the Spirit, it’s hard to see how others who claim the name of Christ can be saved. That’s a hard conclusion, but I want EO and VII Catholics to own up to it. I am glad that guys like McGuckin want to affirm Protestants’ salvation; I’m just not sure how he can consistently do so. To say at the end, “Well, it’s all a mystery” is a cop out.
- Many Western fathers, though, did affirm something awful close to the Filioque. Easterners haven’t done a good job responding to it.
- When it comes to actual theology of the Spirit, the Reformation tradition is the only one actually talking about what the New Testament is talking about.