Inspired my review of Alister McGrath’s book in my previous post regarding the theme of the Trinity, it prompted me to ask myself a question. If “and the Son” was removed from the Nicene Creed, would that bother me? For me personally? My answer from the gut would be: “No.” But then, many people thoughout the centuries have been accused of heresy for saying “No”.
You might be asking: “What in the world is the filioque?” The Nicene Creed, an ancient creed of the church, is accepted and recited universally by Christians around the world.
The Western Church (Protestants and Roman Catholics) recites the Nicene Creed with an addition of three words to one line (in our English translations). This is called the filioque clause; and it reads:
“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son”
The Eastern Church (Orthodox), however, recites the creed without “and the Son” (the filioque clause):
“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”
It’s interesting to note that: “and the Son” was not originally in the Nicene Creed but was later added. Apparently, this filioque clause was added in the 6th century to prevent a doctrinal error called Arianism. But is it necessary today? Who is correct, the East or the West?
Furthermore, this addition seems to conflict with scripture (see John 15:26 below). Where does scripture say anything about the Son proceeding from the Father? Okay, we do know that the Son proceeds from the Father but is it necessary that it also be stated in the creed?
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (ESV)
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me” (TNIV)
The Spirit should not be perceived as being born from the Son because all three has always been (sense of birth/generation). The Spirit can, however, be perceived as coming after the Son during Pentecost (sense of order/timing). I know all this can be confusing and I think I am still confused myself.
Do you think the Son proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit from the Son?
Or do you think the Son and Spirit have equal footing where both equally proceed from the Father?
What did you learn or recite in church? Or do you recite any creed in church?