Filioque: Why The Disagreement?

The Orthodox and Catholic churches are the oldest in Christendom.  They have many things in common, and there are some things that are disagreed on.  The churches both have valid Apostolic Succession and valid sacraments.  In fact, both observe the seven sacraments instituted by Christ, and carried on by the Apostles.  A couple items that are disagreed on are the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff, and a phrase in the Nicean creed that is known as the filioque clause.  What is the filioque, and what is the objection to it by the Orthodox church?  In this paper these questions will be answered along with the Catholic response.

The western church (i.e. Catholic) uses a phrase in the creed that contains the words “and the Son” (Catholic Answers).  These three words have been one of the causes of schism between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.  This differs from the Orthodox usage that states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son (Catholic Answers).  The Orthodox position is that the filioque was an invention of the 9th century and was erroneously added to the historic creed that was ratified in Constantinople in 381 A.D. (Tim Staples).  Matthew 10:20 is also used as justification against the filioque.  That passage of scripture states, “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:20 NRSV).  The Orthodox position also states that the filioque denies that the Father is first principle among all things.  Denying that the Father is the first principle of life is to confuse the persons of the Trinity (Tim Staples).

This is a controversy that has brewed since 1054 when the first schism between the Eastern and Western churches occurred.  The schism was briefly reconciled in 1439 at the Council of Florence but was brief (William Saunders).  The Catholic church today, as it did back then, answered the question of the filioque in several ways.  The first objection is that the filioque was erroneously added to the creed in the ninth century.  To answer this, we must look at the creed as promulgated at the Council of Constantinople in 381.  In the Greek the Creed states, “who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified” (William Saunders).  This is the Orthodox position, and coincidentally is also what we say in the creed at every mass.  When the creed was translated into Latin the filioque was added.  Church Fathers at the time stated that the two said the same thing.  Though the wording may be different, both uphold Trinitarian dogma and many theologians, on both sides, now say the two is a matter of semantics.

Another objection raised was regarding Matthew 10:20 which says the Spirit proceeds from the Father.  The Catholic church agrees with this verse wholeheartedly, but also considers other verses in holy writ.  There are many verses such as Galatians 4:6 uphold the filioque.  This passage states, “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6 NRSV).  One verse says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and another states that He proceeds from the Son.  All three Trinitarian persons are distinctly mentioned, and The Father and the Son are described as sending the paraclete (Preuss 104) Which one is it?  When we take all passages into account, we see the answer in the wording of the filioque.  Affirming that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in no way undermines the first principle nature of the Father.  It simply affirms scripture and reaffirms this principle.

Works Cited

Catholic Answers.  Filioquehttps://www.catholic.com/tract/filioque, accessed December 1, 2018.

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#00, accessed November 27, 2018.

Preuss, David.  The Divine Trinity:  A Dogmatic Treatise, https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog/page/n114, accessed November 28, 2018.

Saunders, William.  The Wording of the Nicene Creed.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/FILIOQUE.HTM, accessed November 30, 2018.

Staples, Tim.  The Filioque Controversy.  https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9277, accessed November 29, 2018.

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Guest Post: How Can God Die On The Cross?

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

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Not long ago, I was talking with someone about how Jesus is both God and man. I explained how the Bible affirms this, especially in the beginning of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14).

“Jesus cannot be God because Jesus died on the cross,” the man retorted, “and God cannot die.”

Have you ever found yourself pondering this dilemma? Something just doesn’t sound right when we say that God died. It’s as if we are saying that while Jesus was in the tomb for three days the world was without God.

But a world without God would be impossible. Existence is one of God’s attributes. Recall what God said to Moses when asked about His name: “I am who am” (Ex 3:14, Douay-Reims translation). St. Thomas Aquinas even described God as “Him who is subsisting being itself”.1 Existing isn’t just something God does, it’s something He is.

Even more, our existence depends on His. It’s in God that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God stopped existing (even for a moment), creation itself would know about it. It wouldn’t be pretty…

So how do we explain that God died on the cross? We’ll need to investigate two questions: What is man? And what is death? Let’s begin.

 

What is Man?

Man is like an Oreo. An Oreo is made of chocolate cookies and white frosting. Take away one of those two components and you don’t have an Oreo anymore.

Similarly, man is composed of both body and spirit. That is, he has both a material component (his body), as well as a spiritual component (his spirit). Take one away and he isn’t complete.

Consider the second creation account in Genesis 2. We read that, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” And after this, “the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). First God forms man’s body, then he infused in that body the breath of life, a spirit. And it wasn’t until both came together that the first man was complete.

So man is a fusion of both body and spirit. Commenting on this, Frank Sheed said that, “only in man spirit is united with a body, animates the body, makes it to be a living body.”2

So when Jesus took on flesh, He took on a human body, and His divine nature was coupled with a human nature. (For those of you who like big words, this union is what theologians call the Hypostatic Union).

It can be difficult to imagine the God of the universe taking on a human nature. And it can be even more tempting to reduce His humanity to a more comfortable and “bitesize” understanding. But make no mistake, He was (and is) just as much human as we are, similar in all ways except sin. He experienced anger (Matt 21:12-13), sadness (John 11:35), temptation (Matt 4:1-11), and yes, even death (Matt 27:50).

So when we say that Jesus died, we mean it. His death was as real as any other human’s death.

Now that we’ve looked at what a human is, we can move on to what death is.

 

What is Death?

When we talk about death, it’s easy to be nearsighted. We tend to think of it as “The End” (roll the credits). And understandably so, since death marks the end of our earthly lives, and it’s a tragic event for everyone. But that view of death ignores all mention of an afterlife.

As Christians, we don’t see death as the end. It’s a comma, not a period. Consider St. Paul when he said, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain… my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:21,23). Though it seems like the end, death only marks a transition from this life into the next.

Death is when our spirit leaves our body, ending our time on Earth. Our spirit passes into the afterlife. Our bodies, on the other hand, remain on earth, lifeless. As it is written, “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl 12:7). Frank Sheed describes death in these words:

A point comes—suddenly if there is violence, or by slow wearing—when the body can no longer respond to the life-giving energy of the soul. That, precisely, is death. The body unvivified, falls away into its elements. But the soul does not die with the body. Why should it? As a spirit it does not depend for its life upon the body: matter cannot give life to spirit.3

So death isn’t the end. Though separated from the body, the spirit lives on.

Now that we’ve defined what man and death are, we’re finally ready to come back to our original dilemma.

 

Did God Die?

Yes, God did die. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity was tortured to death at the hands of Roman soldiers. Nailed to the wood of the cross, moments before His death, He cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then, Luke tells us, Jesus “breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus’ death on the cross was just as real as any other human death. When His body could no longer sustain life, His spirit departed the material world, leaving His body lifeless. But does this pose any problem for a Christian? Does this sound like a dilemma?

Of course not. The world was not without God for three days. Jesus lived on, in spite of His separation from His body. Dying in no way blotted Jesus out from existence. It only separated Him from His body, causing Him to depart from this world.

So if anyone ever objects that Jesus can’t be God because Jesus died, simply explain that death only separates the spirit from the body, and that in no way poses a dilemma for a Christian. God came that He might redeem us through His death on the cross. And redeem us He did.

Image result for jesus on the cross

 

Sources

[1] Summa Theologiae I, Q 4, Art 2,
www.newadvent.org/summa/

[2] Sheed, F. J. Theology for Beginners, 1981, p. 10.

[3] Sheed, F. J. “Life After Death.” Theology and Sanity,
http://www.ecatholic2000.com/sheed/untitled-31.shtml

The Ten Commandments, Part Two

6.  You shall not commit adultery

This command prohibits sexual activity with any person other than one’s spouse, and also any emotional connection as well.  This command also extends to masturbation as it turns the sexual gift into a selfish act. It protects the dignity of the sacramental marriage, prohibits divorce, and encourages a chaste life.  Regarding this command the catechism states, “They are contrary to the moral law. the sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion” (CCC para 2390).  This command helps us remember that our bodies, though a gift from God, are also a gift to our spouses.  Our spouse may be going through a situation, such as a medical condition, that would not allow sexual activity.  This reminds us that marriage is much more than sex, but a union with that one person.  It reminds us that our sexuality is gift to be given freely to our spouse.

7.  You shall not steal.

This command prohibits the unlawful taking of one’s property.  Two examples are stealing physical property and intellectual property.  This command tells us to treat others how we want to be treated and promotes the fair treatment of all.  It also helps us to treat the poor virtuously as not to take advantage of their situation and steal the time that they have with their families.  The command tells us to treat every person with dignity, and the catechism echoes this when it states, “respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world’s goods” (CCC para 2407).  One situation that is dealt with daily is in regard to social media.  Someone may post something that is insightful, but when it is posted it is now intellectual property.  It is ok to share the quotation, but not ok to post it without citing who said it.

8.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This command tells us to not be dishonest in any way.  Two examples are not to lie and not to gossip.  The command encourages us to be fruitful witnesses to Christ and the gospel.  It also tells us to denounce hypocrisy.  Regarding this the catechism states, “Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth” (CCC para 2465).  An example of how this command can be applied happens at places of employment throughout the world.  When someone has a juicy piece of gossip to tell we must resist the temptation.  To listen is to encourage, and the character of the person may never recover.

9.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

This command tells us to not lust after someone else’s spouse or to look for sex outside of marriage.  This command encourages us to live a life of modesty and chastity.  We are to be chaste in the vocation in which we are called.  If we are single then we are chaste, and if married we have sexual relations with our spouse.  As the catechism states, “chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart” (CCC para 2520).  This command helps us make sound moral decisions by reminding us that we are set apart as a Christian people.  Temptation is all around us, and we may be attracted to someone who is married.  It reminds us to respect the marriage sacrament and the dignity of the individual.  They are much more than their looks.

10.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

This command tells to not be envious by the material possessions that some one has, and reminds to not be greedy.  The command reminds us that we are to keep God first and be thankful for the blessings that he has given us.  God has given us so much and we must remember that.  The catechism says it best when it states, “The economy of law and grace turns men’s hearts away from avarice and envy” (CCC para 2541).  This command plays out perfectly when looking at those who have been blessed with riches.  Many think that since they have much they won’t miss it if we take a little.  If we see them drop a $100 bill it is not okay to keep it.  This command reminds us to act uprightly with our fellow man, and what is theirs is theirs.  It keeps us from having bad thoughts and keeps us from breaking other commands.

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Doubleday Books.  New York, NY:  1995.  Print.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

God is Love

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.-1 John 4:11-16

The second reading in today’s mass is from the first letter of St. John.  This letter is a personal favorite of mine.  There is so much theological depth and things we can use on an everyday basis.  This letter is an extension of the Gospel he wrote, and we see a lot of talk about love.  Today’s passage is especially challenging for us.  St. John writes that to love is how we remain in God because God is love.  In a world that seems to be about revenge and shaming to get what we want this may seem extreme.  In fact, it is outright countercultural.

If we acknowledge and accept Christ as the Son of God then St. John says that we have come to know the love that God has for us.  Since we know that love we have been called, and have the obligation, to love others.  Even those who may not like us.  This doesn’t mean that we need to have someone in our home who does us harm, but we have to acknowledge their worth as someone who is made in the image of God.  Remember that God is love, and if we claim Christ then we have an obligation to reflect that love to others.  Are we doing it?

Quote

The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.
–Pope St. Gregory the Great

Study the Bible With Me

I want to start off for begging for your forgiveness.  On December 1 I started a new podcast titled The Daily Bible, and I forgot to make mention of it here.  The goal of this show is to help you understand the Bible a little more.  Everyday I go over one to three verses and explain the history, meaning, and application of the verse.

The show officially launched on December 1 with discussing the geneology in Matthew Chapter one.  This morning I completed chapter four, and tomorrow I will move into chapter five.  The shows run from 4-7 minutes and are a good way to accompany any devotional that you may be reading.  Every verse in the Bible will be covered…even the “controversial” ones.  When the New Testament is complete I will go into the Old Testament.  It has been an exciting journey thus far, and I hope you come along for the ride.

If you wish to listen I have provided the links to the show in popular podcast directories below.  God bless you and thank you for your support of this page.

 

Click here to listen of ITunes

Click here to listen on Soundcloud

Click here to listen on Spreaker

Click here to listen on Stitcher

Click here to listen on Podbean

Click here to listen on Castbox

I hope you enjoy the show, and if you do please rate it and share it.  God bless.

 

3 Ways To Share The Gospel To Culture

-Featured Guest Post by Jeff Perry-
Presenting the gospel has always been a recurring topic among Christians. I asked a handful of individuals what the gospel was in their own words?

The gospel helps us pray, and get into the Word more and become more like Christ.”

The gospel directs our hearts to love as Jesus did.”

The gospel saves us so we can glorify God

The gospel leads us to remorse and salvation.”

Do you see the confusion? Look again and notice how these answers are EFFECTS of the gospel. Each answer using an action verb; helps, directs, saves, and leads. Paul say’s we are saved by Grace not by works.

What Is The Gospel? The Announcement Of Jesus

  • Creation couldn’t save itself, so God came down in the flesh of Jesus. The promised One (Gen 3:15) to save back His people. Jesus lived a sinless life and willfully went to a cross as the propitiation (In place of) death, the wage of sin. Not only did He sacrifice Himself as payment for sin, Jesus proved His sacrifice was enough with the resurrection. We can be confident Jesus paid the price towards a holy God. By faith, we reunite to God through forgiveness because the debt has been paid on our behalf.

The fullness of the gospel goes beyond understanding and reasoning. Psalm 147:5 “Great is our LORD and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” The overlying principle is God’s availability and willingness of reuniting with those who want too.

1, Know The Gospel

We just covered our first step to apply the gospel to culture, knowing the gospel. How can we give something we don’t have? Misunderstanding the gospel will result in a misrepresentation.

2. Know The Culture

This leads us to our second step, contextualization. This is a fancy word that implies, “To know the moment.” In the book Center Church by Tim Keller, this is a continual theme. His definition is best.

“Contextualization is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.” ~ Tim Keller

Contextualization is translating and adapting the communication and application of the gospel to a particular culture without compromising the meaning and details of the gospel itself.

  • This does not mean we are surrendering the gospel and changing Christianity to fit within the world view. Instead we adapt the gospel to a particular culture or audience.

In other words, contextualization confronts and completes each society’s cultural account with the gospel as the solution.

3. Share It

The best way to share the gospel to culture, is to share the gospel to culture. Let us be intentionally active. Steps 1 and 2 are meaningless unless it is used. In military terms, we can know the mission and the target, but without activating the missile the mission fails.

How can you be intentionally active within your culture?

~Grace & Peace

 

More Information

Jeff Perry is a writer at Absolute Aspiration.  The goal of his work is to encourage others to share the Gospel of Christ to a hurting world.  You can follow Jeff on his website or on Twitter.  He lives with his wife and three children in Buffalo, New York.  They attend church at the Chapel in Cheektowaga.

Deeds of Christ

Every Sunday in the creed we declare that Jesus is our Lord, but what does that mean?  What implications does that have on our lives?  In the Gospels Jesus tells us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love God (Matthew 22:37), and show mercy (John 8:11).  How do his words correlate to his deeds, and what does that mean for us as his followers?  This essay will take a deeper look at the scriptures referenced to illustrate how the words that Christ spoke correspond with his actions.

Jesus often spoke of what we now the call the perfect commandment.  Jesus spoke about loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as yourself.  The first verse mentioned above is Mark 12:31 which states, “The second is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these” (NRSV).  To love your neighbor means so much more than greeting them when they are in their front yard.  Whether they treated him as he deserved or not, Jesus showed compassion to everyone (Collins 51).  He healed the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, St. Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:14, and healed a multitude in Matthew 14:14.  In healing the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, Jesus shows that his salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike.  In addition, this was a member of the occupying government and an enemy of the Jewish people.  He shows us what we must do with those we do not agree with.  We must still them as people as they are created in the image of God.

To go along with loving our neighbor, Jesus tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NRSV).  How is loving God a deed of Jesus?  As the Son of God he is the only way to the Father, and Christ said we can only know the Father through him (John 14:6).  To love God with all your heart is to go where he leads and to do what he is telling us to do.  In short, we must follow his will if we love him with our whole being.  Jesus demonstrated this is many ways, with the most notable being his Passion.

In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the human will of Jesus manifesting itself.  He is so terrified about what he must endure that he begins to sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  This is a medical condition known as Hematidrosis, and occurs when an individual in experiencing extreme stress.  He prayed that he may not have to endure, and this shows he is human.  He was scared, and above all it means he can relate to what we go through.  Though he was terrified, Christ knew his mission and because of his overwhelming love we are redeemed.

In John chapter 8 Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who are circling a woman and looking to stone her for the sin of adultery.  According to Leviticus 20:10 this was the consequence for such an action, but adultery takes two people.  The woman was about to get stoned, but where was the man?  It is speculated that the man was in the crowd that was wanting to stone the woman, and this was a way to trap Jesus.  He knew what was going on, and said if someone present has never sinned then he could throw the stone (John 8:7).  Jesus told her to stop sinning, and did not condemn her.  He forgave her for the sin by saying “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11 NRSV).  Jesus showed mercy and did not just talk about it.  We see this several times in the Gospels, but this example is significant as the penalty was death for such a sin.  He gave the woman a new life and hope, and he does the same for us.

 

Two Looks at the Trinity

Gordon Fee and St. Gregory of Nazianzus both present the doctrine of the Trinity, but in different ways.  St. Gregory goes into a bit more theological depth, and this makes sense.  Just five years before St. Gregory’s birth the Council of Nicea met to discuss the Arian controversy.  During St. Gregory’s ministry Arianism was particularly strong, and as a result he used much more theological terms, and scripture to counterpoint those of his opponents.  He had to do this because his opponents were using scripture, but they were also guilty of eisegesis.  St. Gregory states in oration 31, “Look at the facts:  Christ is born, the spirit is his forerunner, Christ is baptized, the spirit bears him witness.  Is there any significant function of God, which the Spirit does not perform [1].”  Here St. Gregory is attributing, using scripture, that the Holy Spirit does perform some of the same functions as the Father and the Son.  This implies the Biblical teaching of the Trinity which states that there is one God in three persons.

Dr. Gordon Fee’s study on Paul is a very helpful resource, but a distinction must be made in regards to Paul.  When Paul was preaching and writing his letters his doctrine of the Trinity was not challenged.  In many places in his letters he mentions the Trinity, but it is never disputed.  One such passage is 2 Corinthians 13:14 which states, “May the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  Another is Acts 19:2 when Paul encounters believers baptizing in with John’s baptism.  They had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and after educating them they were properly baptized.  Gordon Fee describes Paul as expressing, “The Spirit, who reveals to us the ‘deep things of God’, does so because he alone knows the mind of God; and the Spirit is our intercessor, who prays through us in keeping with God’s own pleasure, precisely because the Spirit and the Father each knows the mind of the other [2].”

Both areas are very helpful as St. Gregory describes the Trinity via the actions of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  He vividly describes what each does.  Gordon Fee describes the Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Trinity in terms of an intricate relationship.  Each knows the mind of the other, and know how to interact because each only knows the mind of the other.  A problem of words arises as the same thing is being discussed, but there is a 1600 year gap in language.

It is very helpful to understand how Paul understood the Trinity because his words are sometimes twisted to mean something he did not mean.  From a purely theological point of view St, Gregory’s description was much more detailed.  It had to be to combat the heresy that was going on.

 

Works Cited

  1. Gregory of Nazianzus.  On God and Christ:  The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius.  (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladamirs Press, 2002), 139.
  2. Gordon D. Fee. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. (Nashville, TN:  Baker Publishing Group, kindle locations 950-965), Kindle Edition

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