Does the Filioque Subordinate the Holy Spirit to Creation? Response to Jay Dyer


Someone I know brought Jay Dyer’s article “Filioquism is Arian Subordinationism Applied to the Spirit” to my attention, and I feel as though since it is directly engaging the Catholic theology on the Triads, particularly the Filioque-doctrine, it merits a worthy response. Jay Dyer has been an open opponent to Catholic apologetics, and he certainly shows a great deal passion in this direction. This is, of course, not new. We’ve had religious debates going back through the lives of saints, martyrs, Bishops, theologians, and many other great and holy men who were filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful thing to see an engagement on this topic, and for that I am grateful for Jay’s work. Below I attempt to review Jay’s argument and then show how I think it is undermined by the facts. As for an aside – For Patristic proof that the Filioque doctrine was held by even Saints venerated in contemporary Eastern Orthodox calendars, see my “The Filioque in Eastern Orthodox Saints of the West” (here, selections are specifically dealing with the ad-intra relations, and not the later distinction of ad-extra procession)
(1) Jay has correctly summarized the position espoused by Arius which said that the Son of God was a product of God’s will, and thus a creature. If the Son is not co-essential with the Father [God], per Arius, then the Son being an effect of God’s will would put the Son in the external from God, and thus we are speaking of a Son-creature. On the other hand, if the Son were co-essential, as the Nicene forbears would defend, then the Son must share one single-same and natural will with the Father, in which case he could never be external to Father, and, in turn, could never be an effect from the Father’s will (since the will of One is the will of the Other), and thus could never be a creature.
(2) Jay has also correctly summarized the position of St. Athanasius, namely, that the generation of the Son is eternal, and thus cannot be an emanation from God’s will, as external creation truly is. Thank you Eastern fathers.
(3) Jay then come to the conclusion that since the Filioque-doctrine in Roman Catholicism teaches that the Spirit proceeds from the will of the Father and the Son, that the same argument carried by holy Athanasius contra Arius refutes the Catholic Filioque. The logic is that since a product, emanation, or effect of the single divine will would be non-essential with God’s essence, the Spirit must not be co-essential, and thus a Spirit-creation.

However, the inference which is drawn is entirely false because there is a disconnection between it and your premises. Summarily, your premises do not match what the Catholic teaching of Filioque or Triadology is saying, and so the conclusion cannot possibly match either. Here’s why. The “will” or “mutual love” of the Father and the Son which is the person of the Holy Spirit is emphatically admitted by Catholic theology to be something categorically different than the “love” and “will” which is common to the divine essence, and thus all three divine Persons. For Aquinas, the essence of God is equal and the same between the three divine Persons, and thus the essential will of God is common to all three. However, since neither Aquinas nor Catholicism conceive of the spiration of the Holy Spirit to arise from this common will, Jay’s argument does not hold. On the contrary, the “will” by which the Spirit arises is according to a different mode of being in God, namely, that of “relations”. I would expand on this subject, but due to intended Descent_of_the_Holy_Spirit_upon_the_Apostles_(Joseph_Vladimirov,_2)brevity, I will point readers to a helpful summary published by ICU (International Catholic University) on the internal divine relations.  Most readers who are faintly familiar with the theology of Aquinas, as well as the basic Triadology of the Latin tradition, understand that in God there is one single and equal essence, nevertheless real distinctions exist in God according to a differing mode of being, which are the relations Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Aquinas summarizes as follows:  “Hence, there must be real distinction in God, not, indeed, according to that which is absolute—namely, essence, wherein there is supreme unity and simplicity—but according to that which is relative”. So if by “will” Catholic theologians mean the Spirit proceeds from the essential will of God (that which is equal to the divine essence), then Jay’s argument would successfully refute those theologians. However, if by “will” there is posited a different mode of distinction than that of the essence of God, then it does not so refute. For that reason, and that reason alone, we could entirely close up this argument as proceeding from a false premise. But we will continue.

Clearly then, when we speak of the analogy of intellect and will/love (see here and here for primers), we furnish a different category of conception from what is of the divine essence, and common to the three. For example, when we describe the Father contemplating, understanding, intellectualizing, and comprehending himself and speaking it expressly as “Word”, we are speaking of the hypostatic or relational mode of origination, not what is common in the divine essence. The Father generates the Son *by way* of expressing this intellectual self-understanding. Likewise, the Father and the Son, both of whom imprint each other by the bond of love (analogically speaking) which draws the will towards each Other (towards the Beloved), we are speaking of a hypostatic mode of the Spirit’s being, not the will/love common to the divine essence. We have to be careful to take note that this pertains to the analogy of hypostatic/relational modes of being, and not what is equal to or collapses into the single same divine essence.

We could also add some extra strength to this by pointing to the fact that the intellectual generation of the Son from the Father does not entail passivity in the Son. Now, why is that? It is because this intellectual generation is a single operation which exists in the intra-Trinitarian relational mode of being, and is not the “intellect” which inheres in the divine essence. In the begetting-begotten dynamic, it is not 2 operations which exist, but 1 single operation seen from the distinction of paternity and filiation. So the begetting-begotten operation *exists in both Father and Son*, and not some in the Father and some in the Son. In the same way, the operation of proceeding or “breathing” by which the Holy Spirit is originated is not an operation which exists somewhat in the Father, then another somewhat in the Son, and then another somewhat in the Spirit. Rather, it is a single operation of breathing in all three, where distinctions only exist according to the relational mode (paternity, filiation, and spiration).

Champaigne,_Philippe_de_-_Saint_Augustin_-_1645-1650Fr. Gilles Emery (O.P), Professor of Dogmatic Theology @ the Univ of Fribourg, puts it very succinctly when he writes: “The profession of the Holy Spirit is the procession of Love in person. When saying this, we must take care not to confuse the person of the Holy Spirit with the essential act of loving that is common to the three divine Persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Love by essence, in the same degree to which they are God. St. Augustine was well aware of this difficult. On the one hand, the ‘substance’ of God is Love, and this substance is one and the same in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the ‘Holy Spirit is properly called Charity’. Put otherwise, when one designates the Holy Spirit as Charity or Love in Person in the Trinity, one seeks to signify the ‘property’ of the Holy Spirit without confusing it with the Love that is an attribute common to the three Persons” (The Trinity, page 151)

Well put. It is precisely by Jay’s confusing the person of the Holy Spirit with the essential act of loving (i.e. will) that is common to the three divine persons that his article goes afoul.

But if Catholic theology does not teach that the Spirit of God originates from the essential will of God (i.e. the will of Father, Son, and Spirit which all share equally), then what business do it have in saying that the Spirit proceeds analogously according to the spiritual faculty of “will”? Firstly, as the links I’ve given show, this explanation or theologizing of the intra-Trinitarian relations according to the mode of intellect and will are analogies pertaining to that alone, and not positions on the divine essence of God. When we say the Son of God is Wisdom begotten from the Father in his Wisdom, we are not saying that the Son is the product of a Wisdom which is common to the divine essence. The word “Wisdom” here would be used as an analogy of the spiritual faculty of intellect in a Spiritual being. St. Augustine drew fleshed this out by differentiating how human fathers generate sons. There is a physical biology and reproductive process. There is no physical body in God, nor reproductive process in this way. Nevertheless, there is posited a reproductive process when we chant in the Creed, “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father”. Augustine spoke of this begetting operation as an intellectual, rather than cropped-marco_cardisco_-_saints_augustine_jerome_and_gregory_the_great_-_walters_3711471.jpgphysical, for obvious reasons. Plus, the Scripture tells us that the Son is the Word of God, and so the analogy is that just as Words which proceed from the mouth are a product of the mind thinking itself out expressly, so the Son of God is generating analogously. But if we were to accept Jay’s argument, then this analogy would also entail that the Son is a creature, since by gutting the sense of analogy and confusing it with the intellect of the divine essence we would be saying the Son is a product of God the most holy Trinity! In the same way, therefore, when we speak of the union of Father and Son, what draws one to the other in the paternal & filial “love” is according to the motion of will, as an analogy akin to intellect. Quite a separate thing than the essential will of the Trinity.

Now, Jay seems to already recognize the difference between what in Catholic theology pertains to relative/hypostatic modes of being versus the essential when he places the blame on the “faulty analogy of human psychology and physiology” of Augustine. However, he doesn’t  go further into any detail in that dismissal, and then proceeds to try and match Arius’s subordinating the Son with the acclaimed Catholic Church’s subordinating the Spirit. For the reasons I’ve given, I don’t think he’s achieved his goals. However, on the condition that Jay thinks that Catholic theology has cleverly devised artificial and inconsistent logic so that it (1) attempts to posit a real distinction in God (e.g. Trinity) but (2) does not enjoy the right to do so because of said inconsistency, then we will have to at least first establish that this whole Arian-Subordination contra Filioque argument is not styled at engaging with the manifest teaching of Filioque, but rather what Jay thinks the Latin teaching on Filioque conceptually entails. That is something different. My next post will be on how the Thomistic equation of each divine Person with the divine essence does not abrogate any real distinction in God, and thus also showing the appropriateness of the theology of intellect and will (love) in the relational mode of being.

St. Paul and the Altar to the “Unknown God”


Beginning with Acts 17:16, the beginning of that portion of Scripture, Luke records

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. ” (v16)

This is important. What Paul thinks about the worship of idols is not a dormant or neutral activity. For Paul, worship of idols is the fellowship of demons. In his first epistle to Corinth, he wrote the following, warning the Corinthians to abstain from eating food offered to idols (not for the reasons they chose, but for other prudential reasons), namely as follows:

“Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (1 Cor 10:20-23)


Here, the is an incompatibility between the worship of the true God and the worship of idols with is the communion of the demonic. Therefore, I argue that when Paul saw that Athens was “given over to idols”, I understand Paul’s perspective to not be consistent with an admission that the Athenians were truly in fellowship with God. In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, St. Paul describes the movement of Gentiles from their lostness to salvation with the following summary:  For they [Macedonia/Achaia] themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9). But if those who say that Gentiles were serving God already during their time worshiping idols, in a way known to God, then it is unlikely that Paul would say that they have “turned to God from idols” when they converted to Christ.

In Ephesians 2, Paul describes the Gentiles of Ephesus prior to their coming to know Christ in the following terms:

“You were at that time aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. (Eph 2:12-14)

Alienation from salvation is what Paul is saying in so many words. Aliens from the “commonwealth” of Israel is not the socio-economic strata, but the heritage of Abraham’s seed, i.e. eternal salvation. Alien from the covenants and the promises, likewise. And that this is not to be interpreted in some sort of Rahner/Balthasarian sense of alienation from the “visible” kingdom is proven when Paul says “without God” and “without hope”. So if Paul thinks that Gentiles who do not know Christ are without salvation, without God, and without hope, there is little room to believe they are actually saved, with God, and with the hope of salvation in light of natural revelation (or something of that sort).


So now we get to Luke where he records the hotly debated passage:

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;  for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you”

Paul recognizes that the people are religious and that they have many objects of worship. This altar with the inscription was the result of their religious speculations, and they just so happened to realize that they needed another altar for a god whom they might not know. Again, this is not for Paul some sort of code that they have a partial communion with God through partaking of the good, true, and beautiful. We have already seen from his other statements that this sort of religiosity and objective worship has demonic effects, and leaves men and woman separated from God, without hope, and thus without salvation. At least, there was sufficient reason for St. Paul to describe this as the normal state of affairs.

Notice the construction of the verse. He says that he made note of how religious the Athenians were because they even had an altar with the inscription “to the unknown God”. In other words, they were so zealous for religion that they even made an extra altar for a god they might not know.


Then Paul proceeds to tell the Athenians that God is not worshiped with objects, human hands, etc,etc. And that he is rather sought through a different manner, in light of his eternal immanence in creation; something the Athenians were clearly unaware of. Thus, Paul in this sermon is precisely telling them they don’t worship the true God with this altar and inscription.


Sure, they set it up like that, and Paul utilizes the fact that they, in their zeal for religion, left open an altar to a God they don’t know, as a way to introduce the subject, but his is not Paul somehow saying that the Athenians were God-worshipers. How could it be? He just negated that God is worshiped through those means.


Finally, even if we were to take this interpretation that the Athenian idolaters were actually worshiping God together with their idols, that still doesn’t account for the vast fullness of humanity outside of the Greco-Roman world, and thus, to bring this back to the whole DB Hart discussion, the objection of negligence still would hold for those who recognize God did not provide ample revelation to those persons who never even built an altar to this”Unknown God”.