The Byzantine Synthesis of Christology and Pneumatology
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Orthodox objections to the filioque clause are often countered by the position that the Orthodox have not adequately dealt with the relationship between the Son and the Spirit, the synthesis of Christology and Pneumatology. This study argues that it was precisely because of these objections to the filioque, that the Orthodox Church was forced to work out such a synthesis. The study approaches the topic historically and systematic- theologically. After a brief exposition of the filioque controversy, it will explore the contributions of the relevant Byzantine theologians culminating in Gregory Palamas who not only presents a viable synthesis of Christology and Pneumatology, but also a potentially reconciliatory ecumenical interpretation to the Filioque. The answer is to be found in the distinction between divine essence and divine energies that characterizes the Patristic thought of the East. It is the result of many centuries of theological debate and deliberation. The foundation was laid by the Early Fathers, supported by Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus, expounded upon by Gregory of Cyprus and taken-up by Gregory Palamas. The monarchy of the Father, the Father as sole source and cause of the other two Persons within the Trinity, was a commonly-held belief among the Greek Fathers. Likewise, Palamas insisted on this, but also recognized that certain Fathers allowed for some kind of procession of the Spirit from the Son too. Yet this procession is not a personal one. That comes from the Father alone. Rather, it belongs to the eternal outpouring of the divine energies. The participation of the Son in the procession of the Spirit, can be accepted only in the sense of energetic procession, and not applied to the mode of existence. The existence of the Holy Spirit is an act of the hypostasis of the Father. The Son participates in the mission and the energies of the Holy Spirit. This energetic procession is, however, eternal and becomes temporal at the will of the Father and the Son. This distinction between causal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone, and the energetic procession from the Father and the Son eternally and in time is Palamas’ contribution and represents the apex of Byzantine theology dealing with the relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit. And, if Gregory Palamas represents the apex of the theological thought of Byzantium on the issue, it is his theology that ultimately is the ‘orthodox’ interpretation of the filioque that remains to date, the only two-fold procession acceptable to the Orthodox.
- Theology