Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Philosophical Defense of the Dual Procession Of The Spirit

In Western strains of Christianity there is the Trinitarian doctrine of the dual procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. Eastern Christianity rejects this notion. They happen to believe that the procession only occurs from the Father. The West rejects this. The agreement over the East and the West is that the Father begets the Son and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The East rejects that the Spirit proceeds from the Son and the West confirms the negation of this proposition. The point of this post is to demonstrate that under certain philosophical presuppositions the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son is more reasonable than not.

The Western view is more reasonable because it has a lot more theological and philosophical explanatory scope. Since the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son is begotten by the Father how do we distinguish them? Well one might say that they have different contingent relational properties such as the Spirit is the one who sanctifies the church or the Son is the one who purchases our redemption…etc. The problem is that these relational properties are contingent and as a result they just happen to be the case but they don’t have to be the case. They don’t tell us anything essential to the Son or the Spirit they are only accidental relation properties. So for example in a possible world W* where there is no creation what do we really know about the differentiation between the persons of the Trinity, specifically the Son and the Spirit? Nothing! And that seems like a very strange and odd thing to say about the persons of the Trinity in whom we are suppose to know and have a relationship with. The East recognizes that there is a difference between procession and being begotten, but how can they explain this? They are both coming from the Father in terms their personhood is being sustained from all eternity past, so where is the difference between these persons? They could say that it is just mysterious and the causation *has* to be different but we just don’t know how to reasonably distinguish them. This view seems completely ineffable.

The West on the other hand doesn’t seem to be in hot water on this score. For we can say that the difference between being begotten and proceeded from is that being begotten from is from one necessary causal relation whereas being proceeded from is two necessary causal relations (since of course the Spirit presumably comes from the Father and the Son). So if one wants to have more explanatory scope in their Trinitarian theology and philosophy then they ought to adopt the western view of the Trinity.

NPT

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

" The point of this post is to demonstrate that under certain philosophical presuppositions the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son is more reasonable than not."

So . . . you admit that this post proves nothing?

Nathanael Taylor said...

Actually, that is a false inference from what I have said. Why think that?

NPT

Anonymous said...

There are "certain philosophical presuppositions" to support nearly any position.

Do you see where I'm going, or do I have to spell it out?

Anonymous said...

Also, have you ever read anything by St. Photios the Great?

His "Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit" should be of particular interest to you, in light of this post's last paragraph.

Nathanael Taylor said...

"There are "certain philosophical presuppositions" to support nearly any position.

Do you see where I'm going, or do I have to spell it out?"

Response: No, you really have to spell it out because I don't read minds. If you could *read* my post you will see these philosophical presuppositions is one of having more explanatory scope and allow us to actually have knowledge of the members trinity, specifically the Son and the Spirit.

NPT

Nathanael Taylor said...

Also, have you ever read anything by St. Photios the Great?

His "Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit" should be of particular interest to you, in light of this post's last paragraph.

Response: I wouldn't be shocked if it was just all mysterious since most of eastern theology seems to me to be irrationalistic. And to a theological rationalist, like myself it is entirely unacceptable. But thanks for the kind reference. Good day to you.

NPT

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't be shocked if it was just all mysterious since most of eastern theology seems to me to be irrationalistic."

And what Eastern theology have you read on which to base this judgment?

Dionysios said...

Nate -

I'm sorry about anonymous's attitude. That's not something I condone.

However, anonymous has a point about St. Photios's Mystagogy.

Check out Krause's posts on Well of Questions which present some of Photios's arguments. Feel free to comment there or respond here.

Here are the links:
http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/game-set-match/

http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/more-st-photius-on-the-filioque/

- Dionysios

Samuel Garcia said...

Just a quick question Nate,

Isn't basing your verdict about the veracity of the Western and Eastern positions on explanatory scope a little weak? What I mean is not your actual argument, but the concept of basing on it on explanatory scope.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good start, but I don't think the logical inference at the end is that now you've proven that your position is all that much better. It's just better on this count, sure.

Do you get me or should I try to re-explain?

Nathanael Taylor said...

"Nate -

I'm sorry about anonymous's attitude. That's not something I condone.

However, anonymous has a point about St. Photios's Mystagogy.

Check out Krause's posts on Well of Questions which present some of Photios's arguments. Feel free to comment there or respond here.

Here are the links:
http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/game-set-match/

http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/more-st-photius-on-the-filioque/

- Dionysios"

Response: Thank you....I will check that out and make a post out of it or I just might agree with him...we will see.

NPT

Acolyte4236 said...

If we thought that God was being, then we could think of the persons as relations of opposition and then we would need an explanation in terms of affirmation and negation to differentite the persons. But we don't, so we don't. The point of homoousios is that there is nothing between the persons, which precludes the possibility of reason grasping the persons qua persons. This is why the Cappadocians deny any knowledge of what constitutes Father, Son and Spirit. Consequently, philosophy has a limit.

You further err in thinking that if the relations are not necessary that they are contingent. But this is exactly the dialectical thinking that we reject. If God is good, is creation evil? If God is king, is man unfree? Further, we don't think there are any "relations" between the persons.

Even if it were true that the filioque were more reasonable than not, don't you as a Protestant have to find it in Sripture? Where does Scripture teach that the hypostasis of the Spirit is prodouced from the Father and the Son?

And I don't think you mean to say that the thesis has more explanatory scope, but power.

And I am not sure why a Protestant is defending the doctrine that is a manifestation of papal power since it was inserted into the Creed by Papal authority. If there was ever anything to protest, the filioque would be it.

Nathanael Taylor said...

If we thought that God was being, then we could think of the persons as relations of opposition and then we would need an explanation in terms of affirmation and negation to differentite the persons. But we don't, so we don't. The point of homoousios is that there is nothing between the persons, which precludes the possibility of reason grasping the persons qua persons.

Response: Well if you don’t think God exists and you are okay with that then okay. I don’t really see that as refutation of my post but interesting stuff. But at the same time he doesn’t not exist…..so much for the law of excluded middle

This is why the Cappadocians deny any knowledge of what constitutes Father, Son and Spirit. Consequently, philosophy has a limit.

Response: Yeah we don’t understand all things and we don’t know all things. But that is because either our finite minds are unable to grasp it (like a infant to a father) or because we cannot hold all knowledge (since we lack that cognitive capacity). But that doesn’t give me the epistemic right to be self-referentially incoherent….either you see that or you don’t.


You further err in thinking that if the relations are not necessary that they are contingent. But this is exactly the dialectical thinking that we reject.

Response: Well, I don’t. This blog presupposes right reason as Luther would have it. Take it this way Perry this blog is a western critique of eastern mystical theology (and Roman Catholics as well; we can’t forget half the party). If someone just rejects reason…then okay good day to you then.

If God is good, is creation evil?

Response: Creation is originally good and God is maximally good.

If God is king, is man unfree?

Response: Yes, free will only exists in name as Captain Martin Luther would have it. And fischer too 

Further, we don't think there are any "relations" between the persons.

Response: Okay! Wow…thanks for making my blog easier then you really cannot distinguish between the hypostasis.

Even if it were true that the filioque were more reasonable than not, don't you as a Protestant have to find it in Sripture? Where does Scripture teach that the hypostasis of the Spirit is prodouced from the Father and the Son?

Response: Scripture and right reason….I am just laying out Martin Luther here.

And I don't think you mean to say that the thesis has more explanatory scope, but power.

Response: cool

And I am not sure why a Protestant is defending the doctrine that is a manifestation of papal power since it was inserted into the Creed by Papal authority. If there was ever anything to protest, the filioque would be it.

Response: genetic fallacy

Thanks again Perry….it’s been fun and great. Your awesome.

NPT

Acolyte4236 said...

Nate,

You seem unfamiliar with the notion of being and its history. I suggest you read up on your pagan heritage. Your failure to seem comments are convicting you of a category mistake are irrelevant. Your objections would only stick if God were being, so you are aiming at a straw man. Further, you obviously fail to grasp the point of there being nothing between the persons, but I suppose that is probably due to your naïve Eunomianism.
If you read Aristotle, the law of excluded middle is applicable to things that be. So again, category mistake.
The Cappadocians don’t deny knowledge of what constitutes the persons due to finitude so your comments fail to map on to my own. Further, you haven’t given an argument showing that I am being incoherent. Either you see that or you don’t, and it seems you don’t.
I don’t reject reason, I think it has its limitations as the bible indicates. But perhaps as you say you are more at home in Luther’s Ockhamistic rationalism. I for one don’t know why you would arbitrarily choose Luther’s “right reason” though. Didn’t he say reason was a “whore?” That would be consistent with the relation Rome has with her children since whores beget bastards.
You also don’t seem to get the pattern relative to dialectic that I pointed out. Your response is still indicative of it, since the being of creation must be subordinated to the divine in order to distinguish it.
If free will exists only as Luther thought of it, then you must adhere to Stoic materialistic determinism since that is what Luther appeals to in the Bondage of the Will. I suppose it will come as news to the Trinity that they don’t enjoy free will either. But who needs the Trinity when you’ve got “Capt’ Luther!”
It doesn’t follow that if the persons aren’t relations of opposition that we can’t distinguish between them. We distinguish between them biblically. But I suppose the Bible isn’t enough for you so you have to snuggle into bed with Aristotle to conceive the category of relation. So much for Sola Scriptura.

Given total depravity, right reason seems quite impossible. Even if this weren’t, you still haven’t given a scriptural justification for the filioque. Again, so much for Sola Scriptura.
And it is no genetic fallacy to argue that Protestants who claim to object to papal innovations pushed upon the faithful by papal power have sufficient grounds to protest the filioque. It seems you can’t distinguish between modus ponens and an informal fallacy.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Nate,

You seem unfamiliar with the notion of being and its history. I suggest you read up on your pagan heritage. Your failure to seem comments are convicting you of a category mistake are irrelevant. Your objections would only stick if God were being, so you are aiming at a straw man. Further, you obviously fail to grasp the point of there being nothing between the persons, but I suppose that is probably due to your naïve Eunomianism.
If you read Aristotle, the law of excluded middle is applicable to things that be. So again, category mistake.
The Cappadocians don’t deny knowledge of what constitutes the persons due to finitude so your comments fail to map on to my own. Further, you haven’t given an argument showing that I am being incoherent. Either you see that or you don’t, and it seems you don’t.
I don’t reject reason, I think it has its limitations as the bible indicates. But perhaps as you say you are more at home in Luther’s Ockhamistic rationalism. I for one don’t know why you would arbitrarily choose Luther’s “right reason” though. Didn’t he say reason was a “whore?” That would be consistent with the relation Rome has with her children since whores beget bastards.
You also don’t seem to get the pattern relative to dialectic that I pointed out. Your response is still indicative of it, since the being of creation must be subordinated to the divine in order to distinguish it.
If free will exists only as Luther thought of it, then you must adhere to Stoic materialistic determinism since that is what Luther appeals to in the Bondage of the Will. I suppose it will come as news to the Trinity that they don’t enjoy free will either. But who needs the Trinity when you’ve got “Capt’ Luther!”
It doesn’t follow that if the persons aren’t relations of opposition that we can’t distinguish between them. We distinguish between them biblically. But I suppose the Bible isn’t enough for you so you have to snuggle into bed with Aristotle to conceive the category of relation. So much for Sola Scriptura.

Given total depravity, right reason seems quite impossible. Even if this weren’t, you still haven’t given a scriptural justification for the filioque. Again, so much for Sola Scriptura.
And it is no genetic fallacy to argue that Protestants who claim to object to papal innovations pushed upon the faithful by papal power have sufficient grounds to protest the filioque. It seems you can’t distinguish between modus ponens and an informal fallacy.

Response: This isn't really responding to my argument in the post. Although you made one point that kind of attempts at this about we know them through the Bible (and presumably the church). But if you decide to read my blog you will see that it's deal with possible world semantics for part of the argument that would show your Bible response to be insufficient. If one wants to believe in philosophy and reason and not believe in beyond being eastern stuff then they would have a pretty good reason to believe in the dual procession. Of course certain established philosophical presuppositions about relational properties have to be in place, they have to believe in contingency and necessity and so on.

NPT

Acolyte4236 said...

Actually it is responding to you argument. It cuts the argument off at the knees. First since your argument presupposes knowledge of God ad intra. Second since you posit persons as relations. And Third that a lack of philosophical distinctions doesn’t imply a lack of distinctions per se (biblical ones for example-but perhaps you think the Bible is formally insufficient?). As I noted in another thread, I don’t view the generation of the divine persons as necessary or contingent, but eternal, so the argument that you gave that the generation of the Son is contingent is a strawman.
You assert that there are certain “established” philosophical presuppositions about relational properties have to be in place, but this is grasping at straws not to mention question begging. If I thought like your Roman mother that theology was a science, I might think that too, but I don’t. So you can’t assert this relation between philosophy and theology without question begging. And the flat out fist pounding that if “you want to believe in reason” won’t get you anywhere since that is not under dispute. What is under dispute is the scope of reason and it seems you haven’t yet been brought up to speed on question as discussed for the last 2,400 years.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Actually it is responding to you argument. It cuts the argument off at the knees. First since your argument presupposes knowledge of God ad intra.

Response: Sure and if you don't think that is a reasonable presupposition then that's fine, my post was directed to those who obviously did think that to be a reasonable presupposition. Thus, if you are eastern and reject knowledge of God ad intra you are going to think this argument is bad. But if you are Protestant and you believe knowledge of God ad intra is possible then this argument I think is pretty powerful and to be honest my target audience was Western Protestants.

Second since you posit persons as relations.

Response: Oh this is interesting and yes I agree. If one thought that a person could not stand in necessary relations then this argument would be bad of course. But I seem to think it is a reasonable presupposition so again I had Protestants in mind to justify this belief philosophically and perhaps maybe later I will have a theological defense of this doctrine. *Note* I think persons are a lot more than relations...but my explanation of persons and my rejection of the person/nature distinction will have to be discussed in another post and I've already planned on taking quotes from you and mikes blog. So I will try to be charitable and clear so people can hear of your blog in a positive and good light while perhaps agreeing or disagreeing.

And Third that a lack of philosophical distinctions doesn’t imply a lack of distinctions per se (biblical ones for example-but perhaps you think the Bible is formally insufficient?).

Response: Well, that wasn't my point really. I don't think the Bible addresses whether each of the members of the trinity are necessary or if there relations are necessary and so on (or a definition of person). I am using intuitions about great making properties and the knowledge we think we have of the divine persons (Protestants not orthodox).

As I noted in another thread, I don’t view the generation of the divine persons as necessary or contingent, but eternal, so the argument that you gave that the generation of the Son is contingent is a strawman.

Response: Yeah, if you reject the presupposition of things in reality have modal properties then again your not going to find this argument very good. Now of course I think it is obvious but if you don't I am not going to belittle you for that or something odd similar to that.

You assert that there are certain “established” philosophical presuppositions about relational properties have to be in place, but this is grasping at straws not to mention question begging.

Response: Yes, I think this is true of most critiques of skepticism. We can't actually disprove it without begging the question since they don't believe knowledge can be obtained...all you can say *okay*, but my basic beliefs and the way I see things are just different. There is no way one can prove or disprove skepticism so far as I can see, but most people think it's quite odd. I feel the similar way about what you have wrote about rejecting the presuppositions about relation properties, but if you have church authority and are okay with it then I can't do much with this post to burst that bubble. I would more go with my Ockam's razor argument on entirely different post.

If I thought like your Roman mother that theology was a science, I might think that too, but I don’t. So you can’t assert this relation between philosophy and theology without question begging. And the flat out fist pounding that if “you want to believe in reason” won’t get you anywhere since that is not under dispute. What is under dispute is the scope of reason and it seems you haven’t yet been brought up to speed on question as discussed for the last 2,400 years.

Response: This is a great point! One I totally agree with....but you and I happen to come to different conclusions about it. I am proud to think of it as a science in the medieval sense. However, I reject Roman church authority pretty clearly so I would be uncomfortable with calling it my mother...probably more like a unfaithful wife that has left the true gospel. But thanks for your very great insights. Always feel free to comment on this blog. I really enjoy your blogs and your strong opinions and response to me.

Thanks for being so colorful always Perry.

Acolyte4236 said...

Well since most of the Christian tradition doesn’t endorse theological rationalism, most don’t take the position you are offing as a reasonable presupposition, even within Classical Protestantism. Further, even if your argument were sound, it would beg the question against the Orthodox since it assumes things that they reject. Consequently it only shows us that certain views may be incompatible with your own thinking in other areas and not with Orthodoxy-in other words, you’re not Orthodox.. But we already knew that. So at best the argument is question begging and probably is incompatible with Protestant views about God.

Since you think that persons are relations, what is a relation in the divine essence? And why would it be reasonable to assume that western Trinitarian particulars are just “reasonable” and can be used in an argument in a non-question begging way against the East which doesn’t view the persons as relations? And yeah, I’d just get a kick to see you articulate how God is one and three without a distinction between person and nature, since that is common to all Christian traditions.

Your point was that the Orthodox aren’t able to distinguish the persons. I showed that we do so biblically. So you were wrong. If the Bible doesn’t address the question of whether the persons are necessary or if their relations are necessary then you have admitted that you adhere to extra-biblical theology and go beyond what is written.
Do you think that God has modal properties? If so, what actualizes those modal properties? Or is God not “real?” Furthermore, there is nothing in S5 that requires one to think of God as having intrinsic modal properties. And finding something “obvious” isn’t a reason for thinking it is true. Try arguments rather than assertions.

The issue isn’t global skepticism so you are giving a false analogy. There are a variety of views concerning relations and properties and whether such things apply to God. Certainly Aquinas for example or Anselm for that matter thought that properties in the modern sense were applicable to God. So I am not on some weird unobvious ground. The ground I am standing on, on this point is equally occupied by numerous Catholic and Protestant theologians.

As for you’re the comments on proper basicality, they actually don’t really do what you want them to do for the simple reason that they are a capitulation to skepticism. And yes there are promising ways to defeat global skepticism.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Well since most of the Christian tradition doesn’t endorse theological rationalism, most don’t take the position you are offing as a reasonable presupposition, even within Classical Protestantism. Further, even if your argument were sound, it would beg the question against the Orthodox since it assumes things that they reject. Consequently it only shows us that certain views may be incompatible with your own thinking in other areas and not with Orthodoxy-in other words, you’re not Orthodox.. But we already knew that.

Response: This is obvious Perry. I already said this in my previous response (minus that most traditional Christians are not theological rationalist). This was directed to Western Christian’s in the analytic rational tradition. This was not direct toward eastern mystics. Are you actually reading my response or are you saying things just to be overly argumentative and rhetorical?

So at best the argument is question begging and probably is incompatible with Protestant views about God.

Response: Well this may be in tension with what other Protestants have believed but in Protestantism we don’t have to follow what other Protestant theologians believe or have believed. We merely need to follow scripture and right reason. Perry the Protestants do not have an infallible church tradition. So why are you even talking about this? As far as I can see I am going by accepted Protestant traditional methodology scripture and right reason. This post is more directed at the latter rather than the former.

Since you think that persons are relations, what is a relation in the divine essence?

Response: Instantiations of all that it is to be a person. I make an ontological distinction between substance, nature, person, and the actions that flow from the persons. I will defend this on another blog since I disagree with Mike G., Mark K., and perhaps your arguments against persons being instantiations of nature (which I see persons as instantiations of substances and not natures).

And why would it be reasonable to assume that western Trinitarian particulars are just “reasonable” and can be used in an argument in a non-question begging way against the East which doesn’t view the persons as relations? And yeah, I’d just get a kick to see you articulate how God is one and three without a distinction between person and nature, since that is common to all Christian traditions.

Response: Off topic. This isn’t directed at eastern mystics as I have said over and over again. And I would love to defend my distinctions of substance, person, and nature in another post.

Your point was that the Orthodox aren’t able to distinguish the persons. I showed that we do so biblically. So you were wrong. If the Bible doesn’t address the question of whether the persons are necessary or if their relations are necessary then you have admitted that you adhere to extra-biblical theology and go beyond what is written.

Response: Nope it is making a theological inference from the Bible. So that is incorrect. You didn’t respond to my argument of not being to distinguish the persons in a world where God didn’t create, unless you believe God had to create out of necessity. But of course none of this really matters since you have such a pessimistic view of knowledge that we as image bears can have of God’s essence. So again if you would have taken time to actually have read my previous post you would have found out that this post isn’t directed at eastern mystics concern the divine essence.

Do you think that God has modal properties? If so, what actualizes those modal properties? Or is God not “real?”

Response: God eternally self-actualizes those properties. In a similar way to how God self-sustains himself and has freedom as a uncaused cause unmoved mover.

Furthermore, there is nothing in S5 that requires one to think of God as having intrinsic modal properties. And finding something “obvious” isn’t a reason for thinking it is true. Try arguments rather than assertions.

Response: It’s properly basic that things that are obvious are in themselves good reasons for thinking them true.

The issue isn’t global skepticism so you are giving a false analogy.

Response: You clearly didn’t even understand what I wrote. I am saying if someone *sees* something as reasonable and you can’t give an argument for it, but you *see* something else as reasonable (mainly that relation properties exists and eastern mysticism is obviously false) then you can’t really argue, just like you can’t argue with someone who just rejects logic and/or is a global skeptic. So this isn’t a false analogy at all I am saying you can’t argue with people who hold to positions that are so unreasonable that they don’t even accept even more basic reasons.

There are a variety of views concerning relations and properties and whether such things apply to God. Certainly Aquinas for example or Anselm for that matter thought that properties in the modern sense were applicable to God. So I am not on some weird unobvious ground. The ground I am standing on, on this point is equally occupied by numerous Catholic and Protestant theologians.

Response: This has little relevance. Philosophy is not based on convention. But maybe in your case it is seeing that you would rather give names and books rather than arguments. So in that case we have an entirely different paradigm of rationality.

As for you’re the comments on proper basicality, they actually don’t really do what you want them to do for the simple reason that they are a capitulation to skepticism. And yes there are promising ways to defeat global skepticism.

Response: There is no argument here, so I see no reason why anybody would accept it. But the funny thing is this: I am not even sure if it is on topic.

NPT

Rob said...

Does anyone else here think there's just a lot of wasted air on this, that this kind of thing is silly?