Dogmatic Theology 1.25: Orthodox Critique of the Filioque

Today we treat the FILIOQUE. This is a Latin term that appears on the Latin form of the Creed. In context, it refers to the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father “and from the Son.” Filioque means “and from the Son.”

This is a dogma for Catholics. However, it is greatly disputed by the Orthodox. We can distinguish two basic schools of thought among the Orthodox, a “strict” and a “moderate” school. We will focus on the “strict” school, its basic doctrines, and its basic arguments. In a subsequent podcast, we will treat the Catholic dogma and arguments for it, responding to the strict Orthodox position, noting also where even the “moderate” school diverges from Catholic faith.

Hebrew or LXX? Or Both?!

In general, Hebrew is more polyvalent than Greek. Thus, the Hebrew text of Scripture is often ambiguous and could be taken in various ways. We might say that without further information we are not sure how we should take it. For example, Ex 3:14 could mean, “I am who am” or “I will be who I will be.” Could be present tense or future tense.

Now, the New Testament more often than not cites not the Hebrew text but the Greek translation called “Septuagint” (LXX for short). In face, the NT cites the LXX 5 out of 6 times. Unsurprisingly, the LXX often disambiguates the Hebrew. Example: Should we read Is 7 as “virgin will give birth” or merely “young lady will give birth”? The LXX specifies “virgin.” Again, is the upshot of Gen 3:15 “they (the seed) will crush your (serpent’s) head” or “he (a coming male) will crush your head.” The Hebrew does not make the discernment; many scholars therefore conclude that “they” conveys the meaning better, “they” meaning the “sons and daughters of Adam.” The LXX, however, unequivocally states “he” (masculine pronoun referring to the neutral “seed”).

A tension may arise. Someone will pine for the plasticity of the Hebrew while another may prize the specificity of the LXX. We may, in fact, hold both but differently.

Regarding Gen 3:15, the LXX happens to give the Christian specificity before Christ: “he will crush your head.” Christians believe that only Jesus Christ, God and man, can crush the head of the serpent with his own power. However, the plastic force of the Hebrew is not thereby nullified. It can still carry through its potential ambiguity, ordered or disciplined by the Greek specificity. The LXX, read in light of the NT, specifies the chief conqueror, Christ Jesus. But the Hebrew allows us also to read “the sons and daughters of Adam,” on the proviso that these are “in Christ” crushing the serpent with him. Note: Several of the Targumim reflect exactly this kind of synthesis among the Jews!

Perhaps, also, the Hebrew in Is 7 can indicate both virgin and “young lady.” It clearly means “virgin” because of the NT confirmation. Perhaps, also, it can be a word of consolation, a sign, already for the king, promising him a son (Hezekiah). Still, this sign is not exactly “as deep as hell, as high as heaven.” Thus, even the Hebrew text signals something more remarkable than a mere sign to Ahaz. It is unreasonable to read the text as regarding merely a “young lady,” as Justin the Martyr pointed out centuries and centuries ago.

Still, the Hebrew ambiguity cannot always carry through. God reigns above all times, not being at all bound by measurement. Thus, we ought not read “I will be who I will be” in the natural sense such a locution suggests, namely, that God is in time.

Can Natural Law Save A Non-Christian?

No. Natural love cannot save anyone, and all that the natural law dictates is natural love. Nor can the law give the power to relate to God as His adopted son, unless the law is the Power of God in the Heart; then the law is the power. The natural law has not the power; nor has the Mosaic law the power to save. Moses came with the law; but Jesus came with Grace and Truth, with power. That power is the Holy Spirit! (Jn 1; Rom 8; etc.).

Can someone outside the Covenant be saved? More precise question, calling for more precise answer. In response to a query, I have written the below answer, touching on the Covenant, Church, grace outside the sacraments, and why evangelize? MY RESPONSE:

I have to be succinct with the answers to your excellent questions. I hope it does not come across to bluntly. I could spend hours with you discussing and very happy to do so in person. But to cut to the chase:
It is a dogma that one is saved if and only if one dies in the state of grace. Thus, the law (Mosaic or natural law) cannot save me. It has not the power. This is basic Pauline teaching (Rom 3ff) which contextualizes what he means in Rom 2. So, Paul does not mean that one can without grace be saved by trying to adhere to the natural law. Neither did Pius IX when he echoed Paul. Rather, Pius IX means that outside the Church, one can receive the grace necessary for salvation. Further, someone visibly outside the Church can even cooperate with these graces and be saved. However, is this happening in great percentages? That is another matter, and answers should be sober and balanced.
It would be imbalanced to say it never happens and imbalanced to say it happens pretty much in most cases. What is the balanced statement?
The ordinary gateway to salvation is through the sacraments, the works of Christ the High Priest, sending gifts to men through his appointed ministers in the appointed ways. E.g., after committing a mortal sin, most Catholics recognize that the only way they can have confidence of re-entry into grace is through Confession. The Church teaches that to fail to take the opportunity to get to confession in such a state is implicit contempt for the sacrament and thus implicit (but real) rejection of grace.
It is also confirmed teaching that grace is available outside the sacraments. This, however, is ordered to the reception of grace through the sacraments. It may be the good thought Lydia had to continue to listen to Paul and to be baptized, her and her family (children too?). So, the grace makes a turning possible, and the turning leads to sacraments, and the sacraments are the actual entryway.
It is not impossible that someone who never hears of or reaches the sacraments can be saved. However, unspeakably more grace is available through the sacraments. And so, the likelihood of salvation outside the Church is very uncertain, unsteady, unreliable. Pius XII, Mystici corporis is excellent on this. Also, hidden grace is ordered to the sacraments, and those who enjoy the sacraments have a universal mission to spread the word. Those of good will who secretly receive grace will be disposed to accept the message rightly preached. Of course, one can never judge the interior heart. But one can judge character. The fact that many reject the message rightly preached is indication that they are not on the way to salvation.
There is current euphoria over the possibility that “all” may be saved. The opinion is wildly erroneous. The euphoria is pastorally destructive, not ennobling and inspiring. Revelation is trampled and dogmas ignored. With this as the ultimate dramatic backdrop, a kind of ultimate entitlement (Who is God to Judge Me?!) the West has fallen into indifference about Christ and his religion and about living an upright moral life. Meanwhile, certain moral sensitivities, while having genuine goods to protect, have gone berserk in their intensity and myopia (tobacco, pollution, migration) and made people lose even judgment and common sense, labeling all who would strive for balance and common sense to be haters. I have another blog post on the issue of this euphoria of universal salvation entitled “Balthasar’s Delirious Hope”; it goes into a little more detail concerning the theologian partly behind this euphoria.
There is yet another issue that touches on the theme of your questions.
One needs to distinguish the essence of a religion from its elements. The essence is the package deal, how it coheres as a whole and whether or not it is duly appointed. There is only one religion that is true and duly appointed today, and it is the Catholic religion. Other religions have some elements of truth and also some elements of error. However, no other religion today is appointed by God as the way of salvation. When we simply compare elements, we speak of “fulness of truth” in the Catholic religion and “degrees of approximation” to that in other Christian communities and even other religions. These are true assertions: fulness here and degrees outside. However, to compare the elements is not the only relevant analysis. Another, much more essential and significant, analysis regards the question of which religion is appointed by God. On this analysis, only one religion is true, the Catholic religion. Sadly, this analysis has not been actively employed much in the past five decades, but its truth has not disappeared. In fact, this truth is even one of the “elements”. See my post on the “Fulness of Truth” for more.
Why be Catholic? If one believes it is the true religion appointed by God, one should be Catholic. One can make an argument for this; I have sketched one in a podcast On the One True Religion.
The Catholic religion is not spread by the sword (although it may be protected by the sword). It is spread best by a loving presentation that does not refrain from the “whole truth”. Should I leave the Catholic Church, I would be aware of rejecting the grace of God. Should I fail to present it to another who is receptive, I believe I have wronged that person. I might fail, but God asks me.

Dogmatic Theology 1.24: Divine Persons

Today, we treat the notion of “person” in God. First, we tackle the definition of person in general. We then ask whether this notion can be applied to God. That question is pursued from the principles of natural reason. Finally, we ask what a Christian should mean by “person” when said of God.

For a useful outline booklet to help order your consideration of the podcast, you might check out this link. Also, if you wish to follow up at an academic level, read my article touching on the inter-religious issues of this topic. I defend a way to find a truth in the Jewish and Islamic affirmation, “God is one” without negating the Trinity.

Dogmatic Theology 1.23: Relations in the Trinity

We now treat an important technical aspect of Trinitarian thought: Relations!

The Scriptures call the “First Person” Father and the “Second Person” Son. Father and Son are relational terms. Each term points us to another. Father points us to son, just as “master” points us to “servant.”

God is one in essence, but there are three really distinct relations in God. The only basis for distinction in God is relation. This is dogma. Let’s work to understand the theological guts behind this dogma.

Dogmatic Theology 1.22: Critique of “I-Thou” Arguments for the Trinity

Here, I present a set of critiques of the basic structure of the “I-Thou” argument for the Trinity.

Who endorses such arguments? Richard of St. Victor, Walter Kasper, Joseph Ratzinger, and others. I affirm the good intentions but evaluate critically the presuppositions and implications of them. The standards I use are dogma, the teachings of the Church, and natural reason. I have an extended treatment (link at end) of the problems with this argument in an article in Nova et Vetera. Why this photo? Anthropomorphism. There are other critical problems with this approach as wielded by the aforesaid thinkers, namely, the implication of Tritheism. In my article, I suggest how the insights of the social analogy, and there certainly are insights, can with theological prudence be recovered / retrieved in disciplined fashion to avoid the problematic features critiqued here.


Dogmatic Theology 1.21: Social Analogy for the Trinity

Today, we treat the “social analogy” for the Trinity. This analogy is much easier to understand than the “psychological” one. Especially these days, people find it very beautiful and affirming. They also find that it gives good moral direction to life, helping them see the evil of contraception. These are all positives in its favor.

Of course, questions remain. We will treat these questions in a subsequent podcast. In case you want to read further on this, see my article on the topic at this link.

Dogmatic Theology 1.20: How the Spirit Comes from Father and Son

This is the second of two treatments of the so-called “psychological analogy” for the Trinity. The term is of course ridiculous. It may have been invented by critics. At any rate, the analogy itself is amazing. It is a true theological achievement of the highest order. It is grounded esp. in Augustine and Aquinas, and furthered by Lonergan in the 20th century. (Lonergan is good on many things, and also of doubtful judgment on other matters, esp. after 1965.)

We have two ways of understanding a theological matter by analogy. One kind of analogy is metaphorical. This is good and beautiful, immediately accessible and easier to understand. It also has less explanatory power and also implies falsehoods. In short, you have to keep hemming in the metaphor so it does not lead you astray. To do this, you need other metaphors. Thus, counterbalancing metaphors help you get a bigger picture, each being somewhat true and somewhat false.

By contrast, there is a “proper analogy.” A proper analogy is simply true. It has no falsehood about it (of course, when rightly understood). Thus, everything implied in the analogy is also true. It is an achievement of theology as a science.

Aquinas presents this Augustinian analogy for the Trinity as a proper analogy. I believe he is correct.

This is very rewarding, although it is quite a journey.

Dogmatic Theology 1.19: How the Son Comes from the Father

Today, we seek to understand what we believe. We believe the Son is co-equal with the Father, because he has the divine nature. We believe the Son is co-eternal with the Father, ever from the Father. But how to understand something so lofty?

We have patristic images or metaphors for this. These are beautiful and more easily accessible. We also have a great achievement of dogmatic or speculative theology. This is so beautiful, though difficult. Let us begin the journey of the mind to God by following Augustine and Aquinas on this great labor. Bonaventure and scores of other great saints also took this journey.