Christian Theology Zoom Summary

Hello, good evening, everyone. How are you all doing today? Good evening, doing well. Oh, great, great, great.

For the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. I hope that you all are doing well and so far you are learning some good stuff about Christian theology in this class. We’ll go ahead and open with a word of prayer and then we’ll begin.

Okay, let’s go to God in prayer. Heavenly Father, we thank you for your saving love. Even while we were still sinners, you demonstrated your love towards us by sending your son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.

Father, we remain eternally grateful for your saving love. Lord, we pray that as we serve you as ministers of the gospel in this day and age, help us to do ministry with love, knowing that you first loved us. Thank you for your call on each of our lives and I pray, God, that you strengthen us in the work of the ministry.   

I pray for every student in this class. Lord, you know the areas where they are struggling. You know the areas where they need enlightenment.

Please give them what they need so that they will grow in the knowledge of the word, that they will develop their theology and be good theologians for the contemporary church. We pray that you bless our session this evening. We ask that you go before us and make this session meaningful and help us so that what we will cover tonight will be meaningful and helpful for us.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Amen.

Amen. Amen. Okay, so far we are in week four and we’ve covered some important topics in Christian theology.

We’ve looked at the doctrine of the trinity. We’ve looked at the doctrine of creation last week, and this week we are looking at the doctrine of Christ, Christology. And next week we’re going to be looking at the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pneumatology.

So what we’re going to do today is that we’re going to discuss a very important subject in Christian theology known as the filioque controversy. And by the end of this lecture, for those of you who might not know what this means, you will have a hopefully a better understanding of what the filioque controversy was all about. So the objective for today’s collaborate session is to learn about the person of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Father and the Son.

But we will be learning about the person of the Holy Spirit from the perspective of the early church fathers. So that’s what we look at. And by delving into the filioque controversy from the perspective of the early church fathers, we will get to know who the Holy Spirit is and the work of the Holy Spirit as well, especially in relation to the Father and the Son as the other persons of the trinity.

So before we address the filioque controversy, it’s important for us to begin as far back as the first few centuries. So by the fifth century or until the fifth century, the church was united. There was just one united church with five major branches or major centers.

There was a center in the West and the rest of the Christian centers were in the East. So in the West, the main Christian center was in Rome, while in the East, there were four major Christian centers. There was a center in Constantinople, there was a center in Antioch, there was a center in Jerusalem, and there was a center in Alexandria.

So until the century, there was one universal church that was divided in five main centers in the West and in the East. And as you can see here, the Eastern church and the Western church all had notable church fathers. In the Eastern church, these were some of the notable church fathers who were involved in the theological development of the church through their research and writing.

And some of them were conferred the prestigious designation of doctor of the church, such as St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom. So these were some of the Eastern church fathers. Then in the West, these were some of the notable Western church fathers.

And the first four doctors of the Western church were St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, and St. Ambrose. So these men, this was the patristic period, these men were very instrumental in the church. Through their research and writings and publications, they were able to establish important doctrinal talents, which still hold hold true in the church today.

It was not until AD 325 when there was a need for an ecumenical council. Even though the church was one, there was a need for bishops in the church to come together to discuss important matters of the of the church and to establish theological treaties that will govern the ministry praxis of the church. And so the then Emperor Constantine I summoned the first ecumenical council.

And this council was held in a place called Nicaea, which is in present-day Iznik in Turkey. And this first ecumenical council was attended by a total of 318 bishops from the East and from the West. However, it is important to note that only five bishops from the West attended this first council of Nicaea.

The purpose of this council was to address a very important heresy that was spreading into the nooks and crannies of society and affecting the church at the time, known as Arianism. These were the teachings of a certain fellow by the name of Arius. Arius thought that Jesus is not eternal because He was begotten within time by the Father.

And therefore he argued that Jesus is neither whole eternal nor consubstantial with the Father. Whole eternal simply means equal to the Father and consubstantial means of the same nature or the same essence with the Father. So Arius taught vigorously that the Son and the Father are not the same.

Because the Son is begotten, the Son is not co-eternal with the Father and that the Son is not consubstantial with the Father. And so this doctrine began to spread and this undermined the divinity of Christ significantly. And so it was necessary for the bishops of the church to come together to discuss this matter and to arrive at a solid theological position regarding the divinity of Christ and how the church must view Christ.

And so after much deliberations, the council eventually came to a conclusion regarding the teachings of Arius. And it was established that Arianism was a heresy. And so the teachings of Arius were all condemned as heresy and outlawed in the church.

And to prevent further teachings to develop in the church, the 318 bishops established a defining statement of faith or statement of belief which has now come to be known as the Nicene Creed. This is the history of the Nicene Creed. And one of the statements of the Nicene Creed read as follows.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who proceeds from the Father. And this was a theological position to explain the person of Christ, or rather the person of the Holy Spirit, and how the Holy Spirit relates with the other persons of the Trinity. And in the year 431, another council was convened, this time around by the then emperor Theodosius II, another Roman emperor.

And this council was known as the Council of Ephesus. And the purpose of this council was to affirm the Nicene Creed as the dogma of the church, the standard doctrine of the church, and to prohibit any additions to the Nicene Creed or the production of any new creed. So the tradition then was that the Nicene Creed was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And so basically it was inerrant. No new thoughts were to be added to the Nicene Creed. And the thoughts expressed in the Nicene Creed are to remain as established by the 318 bishops.

Nothing was to be taken out of the Nicene Creed. So this was the standard. This was the understanding of the church.

The Nicene Creed was the dogma of the church. But it was not until the 9th century when things began to change. With the approval of the then Pope Leo III, the Western church began viewing things differently.

They went further to make some changes in the Nicene Creed, which it was established that there were to be no changes on the creed whatsoever. So Western church fathers added a clause to the Nicene Creed, which has come to be known in Christian theology as the Filioque clause. The word Filioque is a Latin word which simply means and from the sun.

And so the Nicene Creed read differently in the Western church than it did in the Eastern church. Whenever the Christians in the Western church were reading the Nicene Creed, especially on this defining statement of the Holy Spirit, they read it as follows. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, Filioque.

So that’s how they added the concept of Filioque to this doctrinal statement. And the argument was that the Holy Spirit does not only proceed from the Father. It is true that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, but not only that.

The Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son. So it is reasonable, it is theologically encompassing for the church to affirm the fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds both from the Father and from the Son. To say that the Holy Spirit only proceeds from the Father is half truth.

And so the Western church fathers felt that a more theologically robust position of the Holy Spirit would require that the Filioque clause be added to the Nicene Creed. But unfortunately, the scholars and church fathers in the Western church rejected this, the scholars and church fathers in the Eastern church rejected this Western church idea of the Filioque clause. And so because of these irreconcilable differences, there was a major split in the church in the year 1054 AD, which is also known as the Great Schism.

And so the Western church and the Eastern church split. The Christians in the Western church went off to form the Roman Catholic church. So if you did not know how the Roman Catholic church started, now you know.

So before 1054 AD, there was just the Catholic church. The word Catholic simply means universal. So as if you read the Nicene Creed, it talks about we believe in the Catholic church.

Sometimes people get confused by that statement when they hear the Nicene Creed being read in Protestant churches. And then some would say, how come Protestants are actually reading and saying we believe in the Catholic church? There is a difference between the Catholic church and the Roman Catholic church. The word Catholic means universal.

So Catholic before 1054 AD, there was the Catholic church, the universal church with five Christian centers in the West and in the East. So but after this schism, the church in the West, which with its center in Rome, broke off to become the Roman Catholic church. So in other words, the universal church that is controlled by the Romans.

And then the Christians in Eastern Europe, in the four other major Christian centers in Alexandria, in Constantinople, in Jerusalem, and in Antioch, they broke off to form the Eastern Orthodox church or the Greek Orthodox church. So since the whole of that region was a Byzantine region, Greek was spoken in Eastern Europe, while Latin was spoken in Rome. And so another name was the Latin church.

So they would refer to the Western church, either as the Roman Catholic church or the Latin church. And so as you can see in the screen, you could see a diagram displaying the arguments put forward by both the Eastern church and the Latin church or the Roman Catholic church. So the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son or proceeds from the Father and the Son.

But with the Eastern church argument, the Father begets the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and that’s it. So you might be asking, okay, what’s the big deal here? How come this was such of an issue to an extent that the Eastern church had to break off from the Western church or the Western church had to break off from the Eastern church? What was the theological rational of the Eastern church and what was the theological rational of the Western church? Let’s take a look at some of the arguments put forward by some of the church fathers from both sides of the table. Let’s begin with the argument against the filioque clause as argued by the Western or by the Eastern church fathers.

And one of the notable Eastern church father who argued vigorously against the filioque clause was a theologian known as St. Gregory Palamas. He was a Byzantine theologian who later served as the archbishop of Thessalonica. So he had a significant influence in the church community.

So he was considered a lead apologist regarding the argument against the filioque clause. So let’s look at what he argued as a way of understanding the Eastern church argument against the clause. His first argument was that Jesus is the theologos.

Jesus is the theologian. And so if we must learn any truth especially regarding the life and ministry of the Holy Spirit, let’s learn not from the papists. The papist again is another word to refer to the Roman Catholics.

And St. Gregory Palamas says if we must learn any truth, let’s not learn from the papists or from the Latin church or from the Pope. We must learn only from the theologos, the theologian. And so he went further to cite some passages of scripture where Jesus Himself clearly speaks on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

John 15.26 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. And in John 14.26, he goes further to argue that the Bible says, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name. So he argues that both texts reveal that the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.

So the Eastern Church does not oppose the argument that both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. The argument is that when it comes to proceeding, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. And St. Gregory Palamas went further to argue that there is a major theological difference between sending and proceeding.

According to him, sending is common among the members of the Trinity. This is known as the Economic Trinity, where each member of the Trinity can send each other. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Holy Spirit.

That is common. There is no theological problem with the Holy Spirit being sent by the Father and the Son, as the text clearly reveals. But he argues that to proceed connotes something different.

It connotes giving of existence. And he argued that there is biblical evidence on how the Son and the Spirit came to be, but there is no evidence of how the Father came to be. According to the Bible, St. Gregory Palamas argues that the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.

So how did the Son come to be? The Father begot the Son. That’s how the Son got to be. How did the Holy Spirit come about? The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.

But there is no explanation of the source of the Father. And that’s why he argued that the Father is unique in the Trinity, in that the Father is a life-giving force. The Father gives life to the Son in that he begets the Son.

The Father gives life to the Holy Spirit in that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. And so the Father is the life-giving force, the life-giving source for both the Son and the Spirit. The Father is the only person in the Trinity that does not take his existence from the other two.

There is no biblical evidence or biblical text that seems to suggest that the Father takes his existence from any of the other two. That’s his argument. Which is why to argue, therefore, that the Spirit also proceeds from the is heretical, according to St. Gregory Palamas, because that means you are equating the Son with the Father.

The Son who is begotten of the Father, you are equating him with the Father who is neither begotten nor does he proceed from anyone. So that’s his first argument, to refute, from a theological standpoint, the argument of the Philioque clause. Now, before I move on to his second argument, who would like to comment on this argument put forward by St. Gregory Palamas? Which sounds reasonable, okay? It sounds like, okay, perhaps some of you might be saying, okay, well, this argument seems very plausible.

Perhaps I need to rethink my theology. Now, just so you know, we’re going to refute this argument in a moment, and I’m going to explain to you why it’s theologically problematic. I would like to say something, James Brown, Dr. Kami.

Yes, go ahead, please. Okay, I believe it’s in 1 John 5-7, it says, and there are three that bear record in heaven, Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. And then if you go to John 1-1, it says, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And then John 1-14 says, and the Word was made flesh. So, and you know, and that’s when it became Jesus. So, so the Word, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit have always existed.

They existed before even what we call time, before creation, they existed. And they are made of the same homo-we.

Christian Theology Zoom Summary

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