edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
In the book, Comparative Theology by H.H. Pope Shenouda, it mentions that Catholics and Protestants believe that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, but our Coptic Church says that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only. I don't understand what the difference is.

We believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a Trinity so, in my mind, if the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, He must've also proceeded from the Son. However, Pope Shenouda really emphasized that this is a major difference.

Could someone please explain this to me?



  • The difference is the Father is considered the Source of all. The Son was begotten of the Father before all ages and from eternity. The Holy Spirit comes from the Father because He is the Source. "But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the FATHER will send in My name." Christ does not say whom I will send. If the Holy Spirit proceed from both wouldn't He say from the Father and I? They are all equal beings and one in essence but have different characteristics. I don't really have time to say all I want, I'm sure Fr. Peter or Fr. Kyrillos can answer better than I can. What do the fathers have to say about this?
  • but if the Father is the "Source" then one could argue that this would make the Father "higher" than the Son and Holy Spirit. how do we understand this better? and dont tell me its just a mystery lol cuz no one takes that as a valid answer.. just trying to spark some ideas here lol

    Pray for me and my weakness
  • There are some useful comments by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware here... kallistos ware&f=false

    The main issues seem to be:

    i. The unilateral and illegitimate addition of the filioque to the Creed.

    ii. That the filioque tends to diminish the Holy Spirit, and that this has become evident in the history of Christianity in the West.

    iii. That the filioque tends to make the Holy Spirit some sort of spiritual influence that emanates from the Father and Son because of their Divinity, but which makes the Holy Spirit practically speaking less than the Father and Son by nature.

    There is an interesting short article here that provides additional references for study....

    Pope Benedict of Rome uses the Creed without the Filioque on occasions. And in the document 'Dominius Iesus' he quotes the Creed without the Filioque. Certainly for my own pov the filioque is not the major issue with Roman Catholicism and it can be understand in a more Orthodox sense as 'proceeding from the Father through the Son'.

    Father Peter
  • Hi Father Peter,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this to me! However, I still don't quite understand how the filioque diminishes the Holy Spirit. I'm sorry that I didn't understand it the first time, but could you explain this again?

    I asked my dad and he said that the filioque implies that the Father and Son are separated, which they are not of course, and that's why it's not dogmatically correct. So, because the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, it means that He came from the Father and the Son which are one, even if we just say the Father.... I'm not sure if I conveyed this correctly as I'm having difficulty explaining it in words, but is that what you mean by diminishes the Holy Spirit?

    Thank you and Please remember me in your prayers.
  • It was in 589 at the Council of Toledo in Spain where the Filioque was added to the Creed to combat Arianism, which was the faith that the barbarian Visigoths held as they overturned Rome and migrated to Iberia. This became an issue in later centuries until Leo III, the Bishop of Rome, had the original Nicene Creed, without the Filioque, engraved in two silver tablets in both Greek and Latin. To this day, these still stand in St Peter's Basilica in Rome. As Charlemagne forged his new "Holy Roman Empire," he contested the Byzantine Empire's status as the true Roman Empire, claiming us to be heretics for "omitting the Filioque."

    The strongest evidence against the Filioque is John 15:26:

    ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλητος ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, τὸ Πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ·

    "But when the Intercessor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of the truth, who proceeds from the Father, that One will testify concerning Me."

  • As Mixahls has shown, we must begin with the words of Scripture, which are quite clear.

    The Spirit proceeds from the Father.

    It seems to me that one of the main problems with the filioque is this... The Fathers of the Church have taught us that the Divine nature is shared equally by the three persons of the Trinity, and that which distinguishes them belongs to the individual hypostasis and person. It is almost impossible to say very much which is meaningful about the Divinity, but we are able to distinguish these hypostases by saying that the Father begets, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. These three terms distinguish the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but they are not even a beginning at defining God, who is beyond our definition and understanding.

    Now if some characteristic is shared between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit then it belongs to the Divine nature which is held in common, but if it is held exclusively by one of the Persons of the Trinity, such as 'being begotten' then it is a defining characteristic of the Person.

    So that the Spirit proceeds from the Father is a defining characteristic of the Spirit. The Son does not proceed from the Father, nor does the Father proceed from the Son. Nor do all proceed from the Father, such that we would understand the characteristic to be that of the Divine nature which all share. Such a characteristic would be immortality, and all-holy. The Father is not more immortal than the Son, or the Spirit, but all share in the same immortality of the same Divine nature.

    Now if the Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son then this is problematic. It is clearly NOT a defining characteristic of the
    Father or the Son, and would appear then to be a characteristic of the Divine nature which the Father and the Son share. But since the Spirit cannot proceed from the Spirit then it would seem to be necessary to say that the Spirit does not share in the Divine nature in the same way that the Father and the Son do.

    So it does seem that the filioque, understood in this way, does diminish the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son share some characteristic which the Spirit cannot. Therefore in some sense the Spirit is not as fully engaged in the life of the Trinity.

    Now the filioque does not have to be understood in this way, some would want to understand it in the sense that the Spirit proceeds FROM the Father, THROUGH the Son, which is a perspective used in the East. But in a classic sense it would seem to me to damage the Trinity, and the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit.

    Father Peter
  • Thank you so much, Father Peter! That clears everything up!
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