St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

The third paragraph of the Apostles’ Creed begins with the affirmation of belief in the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost. This eighth article was to counteract those in the early Church who  denied the divinity and/or personhood of the Holy Spirit, a heresy that was called either Macedonianism (after the 4th century founder of this sect, Macedonius) or Phnematomachianism (for they were “combaters of the Spirit”). The articles of the Creed that follow each deal with some aspect of God’s Spirit’s work.
Even after the official formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity became settled teaching of the Church, certain aspects of that teaching have been and continue to be controversial. One major bone of contention between the Eastern and the Western Churches is the filioque clause. Both the Son and the Spirit derive their eternal existence from the Father; but the Son is begotten of the Father, whereas the Spirit proceeds from the Father.
 The original Greek version of the Creed put forward at the first general council of the united Church held in Nicea in 325AD, later revised & reaffirmed at the second council held at Constantinople in 381AD, affirmed that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, with no mention of the Son. The version of the Nicene found in The Book of Common Prayer, following the tradition of the Western Catholic Church, includes the affirmation that the Holy Ghost proceeds from both the Father and the Son (in Latin, filioque). The filioque clause was first added to the Latin version of the Nicene Creed by the 12th council of Toledo in 681AD in response to a couple of lingering heresies regarding the full deity of the Son. Several of the early church fathers in both the Eastern and the Western churches taught that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son; and the Church in the East did not object to the doctrine itself, at least not at first. It was only later in connection with rivalries between the patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople, and between rival emperors in the East and West, that the filioque as it was used in the Western versions of the Nicene Creed became a source of strife between the two Churches.

Volumes have been written on this subject from the historical & theological perspectives; and we cannot go into much detail here. There are two approaches to this controversy. Some blame miscommunication & misunderstanding due to the differences in the languages, Greek versus Latin; and difference in theological outlooks, East versus West. Others opine that the theological issues are of real moment, involving truth versus falsehood. There is truth in both views of the controversy. Over the last century or two, many Anglicans have urged the removal of the filioque from the Prayer Book version of the Nicene Creed, arguing that it was not included in the original version adopted by the councils of the undivided Church. It is hoped that this will at least ease tensions between the Anglican and Eastern Churches. But a number of Anglican worthies of the 16th & 17th centuries, such as Richard Field, John Pearson, and Archbishop William Laud, defended the filioque against the objections of the Greek/Eastern Church. In the 19th century, Anglo-Catholic luminary E B Pusey also defended the continued use of the filioque, arguing that attempts to remove the clause from the Prayer Book version of the Creed would lead only to further confusion.


I would close by making reference to several passages of Scripture that are commonly used in support of the filioque. These are St John 14:15; 15:26; 16:7, 13-15; 20:22; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19. These texts indicate both that the Son sends the Holy Ghost to His disciples, and that the Spirit proceeds from Him as well as from the Father. Holy Scripture is the ultimate arbiter of all theological controversy. And, after 1500 years of usage in the Western Church, the Prayer Book version of the Nicene Creed should remain unaltered.