Advent Series: Nicene Creed – God the Holy Spirit (4)

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

Today we close out the exposition of the divine persons by the Nicene Creed with the article concerning the Holy Spirit.

As we have seen previously, the creed utilizes apposition to indicate who the Holy Spirit is. Namely, he is the Lord and Giver of Life. As we saw in the article concerning the Son, the Holy Spirit is not explicitly called the one God here. Rather, he is identified as the one God in two primary ways.

First, he is identified as the one God by highlighting his participation in the activity of the Father. Just as the Son was identified as the Lord, so also the Spirit is. This highlights that the Son and Spirit participate in the sovereign rule of the Father over all creation. While the Father is the titular omni-potentate, the Son and Spirit participate in this sovereignty and thus in relation to creation are equally sovereign. Secondly, the Spirit is called the Giver of Life. This identification with the creative activity of the Father unites him with the Father in eternity past, just as the creation through the Son did.[1]

Second, he is identified as the one God in the same way that the Son was. Where we saw a series of epexigetical terms for the Son, here we see a short statement that the Spirit proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. This statement is parallel to the claim that the Father begets the Son and in the same way asserts that the Spirit shares in the very nature of God. However, the relation between the Father and the Spirit is one of procession (spiration) rather than of begetting (generation). That is to say that the personal origin of both the Spirit and the Son is in the Father, however that personal origin is of a differing kind.

The creed then asserts that in light of the identification of the Spirit with the one God, first by shared activity and second by shared nature, that just as we worship the Father and the Son we ought also worship the Spirit.

I would be remiss if I did not include a short excursus regarding the Filioque clause. Much ink, and blood, has been spilled over this clause. For ecclesiological reasons I do not support the addition of this clause into the creed. For theological reasons I do not support the idea that the Spirit proceeds from the Son in the same way that he proceeds from the Father. My view is that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and is mediated through the Son. This is true economically, and I believe it to be true ontologically as well. I have titled this view the Per Fillium view. For more details please see the paper I presented at the 2014 North-East meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society

Finally, just as we saw in the article concerning the Son, a brief statement regarding the work of the Holy Spirit is included.[2] Here we see that the proclamation of the Prophets, and I believe by extension the whole of Scripture, is actually the speaking of the Holy Spirit.


 

[1] This threefold activity of the Trinity in creating is a common motif in Christian theology. Here in the creed we see reflected this threefold activity which is present in Genesis 1. The Father creates by means of his spoken Word, and the Spirit then hovers over the unformed creation, forming it and giving it life. I am not certain if this was explicitly intended, but given the influence of the Cappadocians on the Council of Constantinople and their use of this threefold formula I would be comfortable saying that it is probably the case.

[2] There is some debate about the relationship between the final article concerning ecclesiology (which we will cover next week) and the article concerning pneumatology. Given the close association of the two subjects by the Early Church, I am of the opinion that the final article is an extension of the work of the Spirit exposition in the third.

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