Is the Holy Spirit a product?

I don’t want to get into Filioquist metaphysics.  Confessionally, I am a Protestant and that means I am in the Filioque tradition.  So let’s get this out of the way up front:  do I hold to the Filioque?  I think later Protestant thinkers, in terms of seeing it in Speech-Act format, perhaps have the resources to constructively engage this debate.  But if we are asking do I hold to the Filioque in terms of Augustine, Thomas, and the 4th Lateran Council, the answer is absolutely not.  It is dialectics.

I want to thank Jay Dyer for doing the leg work on this.  Here is the problem: if you say that the Holy Spirit is from the Father’s (and Son’s) will, you are an Arian. Or so St Athanasius says:

Hence the Son, not being (for He existed at the will of the Father), is God Only-begotten , and He is alien from either. Wisdom existed as Wisdom by the will of the Wise God. (De Synodis).

That’s straightfoward enough.  Arian theology says that the Son is a product of the Father’s will (and presumably, the Holy Spirit is a product of the Son’s).    But here is what Western theology states:

Ludwig Ott: “The Holy Ghost proceeds from the will or the mutual love of the Father and Son.” (Sent. certa.). 

Augustine:  “But if any person in the Trinity is also to be specially called the will of God, this name, like love, is better suited to the Holy Spirit; for what else is love, except will?” (De Trinitate, Schaff edition, p.234).

Here a person of the Trinity is identified with the operation or attribute of God.  The Filioquist can get out of this by saying Augustine is saying that the Holy Spirit *is* (=?) the will of the Father, not a product of the will of the Father.   True, that is a different claim.  But if will is a faculty (or operation or function) of essence, then the Holy Spirit is an operation of the essence–and now we are right back at saying he is a product of the essence.

2 thoughts on “Is the Holy Spirit a product?

  1. cal

    What of the non-Augustinian approach of modifying “of the Father and the Son” to “of the Father through the Son”? Some Orthodox seem ok with it, while others have a massive conspiracy theory about all error coming from the one clause. While I’m 100% against Augustine on this, I still think the Spirit must always be understood as conjoined to Christ, for His work is always in conjunction. The Word always comes in the Spirit. I’m not too keen on separating them, because you either get some weird social trinitarianism that verges towards either tritheism or modalism (think Joachim of Fiore and his intellectual progeny). I also don’t like the growing bifurcation between theology and the economy, which is all too common in some circles.

    If you look at Charismatic circles, you can see the problem pretty clearly. The Spirit is spoken of in terms that are either parallel or unique to the work of Christ. That split is really problematic.


    1. that is acceptable language. Gregory II of Cyprus clarified that language to mean:

      Gregory argues that the Spirit exists from the Father but has existence through the Son. The former denotes mode of origin. The latter denotes the eternal manifestation. The former is the internal life of the Trinity. The latter is the external self-revelation of God (Crisis in Byzantium 123ff). Thus, God exists not only in his essence but outside his essence. It is not the internal essence that is revealed but rather the divine life. Further, the Spirit goes forth and shines in the Son independent of mode of origin.


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