Holy Spirit and Processions: Filioque Revisited

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.


  1. I agree with EO’s criticisms of Rome.  Rome tied the Spirit’s work to an Institution, effectively chaining the Spirit.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Many Western fathers, though, did affirm something awful close to the Filioque.  Easterners haven’t done a good job responding to it.
  5. 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.

Are you using the term “mysteries” correctly?

Does “mysteries” in theology refer to:

a.  the sacraments
b. articles of faith which can’t be proven by pure reason (Vatican 1)
c. things which were unknown in the previous dispensation


Bavinck answers, “But this mystery is so called, not because it is still hidden in the present, but because it had been unknown n the past.  Now–of all things–it has been made public by the gospel of Christ (Rom. 16:25, Col. 1:26; 1 Cor 4:1 et al) and from now on will be increasingly manifest in history” (I: 620).

Francis Nigel Lee messages

I’ve been particularly blessed by the following series of messages:

The Eschatology of Victory by Dr F. N. Lee.

Dr Lee was able to read and communicate the Dutch theologians and apologists without getting sidetracked on the various debates, all the while remaining true to his Westminster roots.  I don’t particularly care for a specific time-frame on the millennium, and so I would differ wtih Dr Lee in that, but the theology expounded in these lectures is phenomenal.

A response to a query on Presbyterian distinctives

Evan asked,

Would you also be so strict on the Presbyterian distinctiveness with the Sabbath, images, , acapella worship, exclusive Psalmody, the Filoque, etc?

I’ll gladly answer this, although most of these questions could have easily been answered by consulting the Westminster Confession of Faith, but I’ll add to each answer:

Sabbath:  don’t work on it.

images:  contrary to a lot of young-pup critics of the Reformed faith, the Reformed faith does not preclude images of non-divine entities.   I understand the EO take on images:  it is not imaging the divine nature qua nature.  However, one must immediately respond that neither does an icon image the divine hypostasis, either, because the wood and painting is not the divine hypostasis.   The divine person incarnate in matter could be worshipped because the matter was in the divine hypostasis.

acapella worship:  some do; some don’t.   The same with Exclusive Psalmody.  Already I can anticipate the charge, “Look how chaotic the Reformed world is.  They can’t even agree on worship.”   Well, I am pretty sure the local Greek church electronic keyboard, is not the same church as what _________________ (insert name of great saint) worshiped in.

Filioque:   The Reformed world officially accepts it.   However, during that time period one can only fight the battles which are currently raging.   The Filioque, for better or worse, was not on the forefront (and I think it should have been, for thus could the Reformers have dealt a full blow to Rome).   Most Reformed systematic theologies do a terrible job on this (Turretin merely asserts every point;  he doesn’t even begin to argue the question).   To be fair, though, they’ve never had a reason to develop it.

My thoughts on the Confederacy

If any topic wanted to prove the presuppositionalist’s axiom of “no neutrality,” the Confederacy would probably be it.  Yet, I think I can come the closest.  I don’t want to defend the Confederacy.  I think life in the said South would have been dreary, as would most any place in the 19th century, save Protestant Scandinavia or Calvinist South Afrika.   Here are some theses on the Confederacy:

  1. Whatever else is said, it must be acknowledged that Abraham Lincoln was a vile white supremacist.  His “darkie” jokes continually made his advisors uncomfortable.
  2. While so-called neo-Confederates are correct in that the war was fought over states’ rights (Lincoln makes this very clear; similar to Pol Pot, university professors seek to erase uncomfortable facts), the deeper question is this:  precisely which states’ rights issue did they fight over?
  3. Abolitionism is hard to defend.   While some were godly Christians, most were Unitarians and a few were terrorists.   John Brown specifically targeted white, Yankee, non-slave owners and butchered them.
  4. A recent line of speculation suggests that many Northerners opposed the expansion of slavery into the frontier because they feared, not without reason, that America would become another version of Haiti.  If true, this utterly destroys the Yankee mythos today.  The North, therefore, opposed slavery on racist grounds!   We see this today:  Yankees and white liberals, while formally worshipping black people, are scared to death of them.  Compare the demographics of a KKK neighborhood and the demographics of a white liberal’s.  It is the same neighborhood.
  5. It’s hard for anyone to seriously argue that we have smaller government and more freedom today.  The 10th Amendment has as much authority as the English monarchy does.

Someone will say, “But doesn’t this make you a racist?”   Well, yes and no.  I love black people and Asians, so no, I am not a racist.  However,  by Att. General Eric Holder’s definition of racism–anyone who has white pigmentation–then yes, I am a racist.  That’s because white people = racists, by the State Dept’s standards.

Further, I am not a racist because “racism” is a specifically Marxist concept and I reject Marxist concepts.   Corollary:  those who do their theology around attacking “racism” are Marxists.

Someone might respond, “Doesn’t this make you a kinist?” No, it doesn’t.  Kinism is a larger movement which defines itself as consistent Van Tillian theonomists.  I am neither Van Tillian nor theonomist, so I can’t be a kinist.  I do think their debates with mainstream Presbyterianism are quite funny, though.

A post on weight lifting and “working out”

I am not the most “buff” person in the world, but I am reasonably strong for my size and have done a number of different strength programs with varying degrees of success.  While this topic may appear mundane, it actually highlights an aspect of American thinking that is not always, pardon the pun, healthy.  In the 1800s traveling salesman would promise “snake oil” that would cure baldness, erectile dysfunction, shyness, etc.   Anyone stupid enough to buy this deserved to lose their money.

It’s the same situation today.   Americans want the “dream body” in a few days with relatively little effort.  Here is the problem:  working out is…well…hard.   You are destroying muscle cells and dealing with the lactic acid bath that soon follows.  It is not for no reason that New Year’s resolutions last ten days.  It isn’t fun…at first.

Lifting weights mirrors economic investment (godly dominion man).  You will not see any real gains for about four weeks.  You will not see any substantial gains for at least six.  And to make it worse, since you are looking at yourself in a mirror everyday, and since any gains (by definition) will be small, the odds are you won’t see any gains (though they are there).

However, there are legitimate venues for working out.  I’ve tried a good deal of them.   The ones that promise painfully hard work over a long period of time are generally worth the time (and maybe the money).

Scooby does a good job exposing all the snake oil products.

The Good Ones:

Old-Fashioned weight lifting.  As with any workout program, a lot depends on your genetics and body type (I know it is not politically correct to mention it, but genes and DNA really do make a difference).  Get a decent weight lifting book and assuming you have access to weights (non-negotiable, obviously), then this can deliver reasonable, long-term growth.

P 90-X.  Currently the most popular.  Pros:  it really does give you practical strength in key, core areas.  Every workout also boosts your cardio.   If you continue with it for 90 days, you will see results.   Cons:  it is kind of pricey and you will have to come up with your own weights (dumbbells up to 40 lbs).  Also, it has an insane learning curve.  You simply won’t be able to do the first few workouts for the full hour, and don’t pretend you can do the ab-ripper workout right away.  You can’t.  This is really discouraging for most people and they simply quit.   Further, while you will get stronger and get rid of fat, if you are little and wiry to begin with, you will not pack on muscle mass.

Bodyweight:  it’s free.  And it works.  Even better, most people will spend 30 dollars on the ultimate chin up bar whereas this guy will show you how to get the same results for free (hint: use a towel).

I modify my own workouts.  Some of p90x’s workouts are really good (legs, chest and back, and plyometrics).  Some are stupid (Kenpo), and I am not fully sold on their different phases.

Neutral to Bad

Men’s Health tips.  If you go to the men’s health website (and I recommend you don’t, since they are pagan fornicators), they will give you dietary and other such tips on weight lifting that promise you instant results.  Like anything in life, if someone promises you instant results, they secretly want your money.   Still, some of them are halfway decent.

I really don’t like the “get lean muscle” look.  I am currently growing my beard out and trying to pack on mass.  Basically, I want to look as opposite from the Jersey-shore metrosexual as I possibly can.

The best workout: a mixture of bodyweight and old-fashioned weightlifting.  Every two weeks I do a few P90X workouts to “shock” my muscles.