Okay, so maybe the last post wasn’t all that exciting . . . sorry 😉 . This post might not be either, but it has to do with the Holy Spirit, just not the sensational stuff yet. What this post will be highlighting, briefly, is how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (as God) developed within the Patristic churches’ expression. In this case I will be quoting J. N. D. Kelly on the keynote role that Gregory of Nyssa had in the development of the best way of thinking of the Holy Spirit. I.e. was He God? A creation of God? A force or energy? These were some of the questions the early church was facing, and the following description is how one of the Cappadocians worked it out for the Eastern church:
. . . It was Gregory of Nyssa, however, who provided what was to prove to be the definitive statement. The Spirit, he teaches, is out of God and is of Christ; He proceeds out of the Father and receives from the Son; He cannot be separated from the Word. From this it is a short step to the idea of the twofold procession of the Spirit. According to him, the three Persons are to be distinguished by Their origin, the Father being cause . . . and the other two caused . . . . The two Persons Who are caused may be further distinguished, for one of Them is directly . . . produced by the Father, while the other proceeds from the Father through an intermediary. Viewed in this light, the Son alone can claim the title Only-begotten, and the Spirit’s relation to the Father is in no way prejudiced by the fact that He derives His being from Him through the Son. Elsewhere Gregory speaks of the Son as related to the Spirit as cause to effect, and uses the analogy of a torch imparting its light first to another torch and then through it to a third in order to illustrate the relation of the three Persons. (J. N. D. Kelly, “Early Christian Doctrines,” 262)
Later on this would become an issue of contention between the Western and Eastern branches of the church (the filioque and the Great Schism 1054 A.D.), i.e. how the Spirit proceeds, or from whom, but that goes beyond the intent of this post, at the moment. What do you think of Gregory of Nyssa’s articulation, as represented by Kelly, is it acceptable to you? He is trying to honor the homoousion (the deity or substance or person of the Holy Spirit as God) of the Spirit, along with Christ, and the Father; while at the same time also trying not to fall prey to subordinating the Holy Spirit to a level that makes Him less than God. I think Gregory does a good job at that, but maybe you still think the language used above sounds a little questionable or “ify.” Let me know what you think!
Oh yeah, one more point, I also wanted this post to illustrate the fact that the way we have received our theology today was not always as nice, neat, and simple as we think it might be. In other words, the early church had to wrangle with things, and work through stuff (stuff that today we either consider “orthodox” or “heretical” because of them), fundamental stuff that we all to often, I think, don’t appreciate the right way. Theology, good theology, is messy, heart-wrenching stuff . . . because it is a relational thing, not necessarily an mathematical equation.