I know of very few Scripturalists who make significant contributions to the common philosophy that Clark, Robbins, Cheung, etc. have each developed in his own way. Being able to read, retain, and reproduce what good arguments these men have learned by God’s grace and revelation is a worthy goal. But I think that Scripturalists who attempts to further this common philosophy deserve recognition. As it seems to me that Drake Shelton’s Triadology is an instance of this, I want to provide a summary of and comment on his view for those who are, like I was and to some extent still am, unacquainted with the eastern perspective of the Trinity.
While I continue the process of summarization, I wanted to comment on five objections Drake makes against the Filioque, an issue I think is a little more open-ended than some other doctrines related to the Trinity. Drake seems to agree when he writes, “I do not have that strong of a feeling about the doctrine but I must say that much heresy and division could have been avoided if the root errors of the Filioque would have been exposed.” He does proceed to defend single procession, however. I think these arguments are interesting but ultimately require elaboration in order to be sound proofs that the Filioque is false:
Argument 1. Drake cites Robert Letham as saying “Augustine’s beginning with the trinity rather than with the Father, as the Cappadocians had done, together with his stress on the divine simplicity, makes the Filioque almost inevitable.” From this, Drake concludes, “if Divine Simplicity is wrong, so is Filioque.” But this does not follow, for the Filioque could be [almost] inevitable for reasons other than divine simplicity. Of course, the onus would be on the one who affirms the Filioque to provide these reasons, but that seems to be what most of these arguments come down to. Rather than refuting the Filioque, it seems to volley the burden of proof back to the proponent of the Filioque. In a post on the Monarchy of the Father, Drake says, "If then the Father is Monarch/hypostatic origin and cause, causality need not be predicated of the Son and therefore need not posit the Filioque." It's true that, given the available evidence, the Filioque seems superfluous. But impossible? I don't know that these arguments go so far as to show that. Scripture seems to be silent on the ontological relation between the Spirit and Son, which, if true, is why Argument 2 fails:
Argument 2. Drake asserts that the Filioque “posits a subordination of the Holy Spirit.” I believe I am correct in stating that Drake means to imply this is unacceptable due to an underlying premise: as persons, the Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Son. But this premise is not established. If the Son and Spirit can be subordinate to the Father, why not the Spirit to the Son? Now, the silence of Scripture can cut both ways. Instead of the Spirit proceeding from the Father and Son, perhaps the Son is generated by the Father and Spirit. So I hope I'm not giving the impression that I lean towards acceptance of the Filioque. On the contrary, my intuitions lie in the opposite direction. But that's not enough, which is why I hope this post will lead to a definitive answer.
Argument 3. The Filioque “confuses the distinct properties among the divine Persons.” Why must “cause” be a predicate of the Father alone? Even if the Filioque is true, aseity would remain a distinguishing property of the Father. Furthermore, even if the Father and Son shared a common predicate that the Spirit does not, this would only be relevant if the Spirit can be shown to necessarily be co-equal with the Son.
Argument 4. The Filioque is said to posit “the Son as a cause and therefore a Father.” One defense against this could be that the Son cannot be a "Father" unless He were unoriginate. After all, the Monarchy of the Father is said to be the principle of unity among the persons of the Trinity; the Son and Spirit are identified as such in accordance to their relation to the Father from whom they ultimately logically derive, not according to the way in which they relate to each other.
Argument 5. Drake cites Photius as asking, “what does the Spirit gain which He did not already possess in His procession from the Father?” I'm not sure this is phrased as well as it could have been, so if I may, Photius' problem with the Filioque is this:
The Son extends from or is generated by the nature of the Father. The Father and the Son are consubstantial; that is, the one divine nature is predicated of distinct individuals. The Spirit is also consubstantial with the Father and Son. Given this, how can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Son as well as the Father? In what way could the Holy Spirit proceed from the Son?
It cannot be from the divine nature of the Son that the Spirit proceeds, for there is nothing in the divine nature of the Son which could supplement the divine nature of the Father in the procession of the Spirit. The divine nature just refers to a set of predicable attributes that identify a subject as divine. The Son possesses no more of these attributes than the Father - the Son is not "more divine" than the Father, as if that could even make sense.
This means, however, that if the Spirit extends from the Father's nature at all, to say that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well is to say that He proceeds from the Son in some respect other than from His nature. But what, then?
That is the argument. But here too the argument would end with an open-ended question. It seems to me that a full refutation of the Filioque depends on answers to one of these questions:
- Is there a subordination of the Spirit to the Son?
- Does the Filioque stem from absolute divine simplicity, or is there another reason one could believe it?
- Is causality a property of the Father alone?
- Does causality imply fatherhood? If so, so what?
- Can the Spirit be said to proceed from the Son in some respect other than His nature? Why not?