The Fundamental Difference Between the “East” and “West” (Part III)


Historical Background

The Franks deliberately provoked doctrinal differences, between the East Romans, (the Orthodox) and the West Romans, (the Roman Catholics) in order to break the national and ecclesiastical unity of the original Roman nation. Because of this deliberate policy, the filioque question took on irreparable dimensions. However, the identity of the West Romans and of the East Romans as one indivisible nation, faithful to the Roman Christian faith promulgated at the Ecumenical Synods held in the Eastern part of the Empire, is completely lost to the historians of Germanic background, since the East Romans are consistently called “Greeks” and “Byzantines.”

Thus, the historical myth has been created that the West Roman Fathers of the Church, the Franks, Lombards, Burgundians, Normans, etc., are one continuous and historically unbroken “Latin” Christendom, clearly distinguished and different from a mythical “Greek” Christendom. The frame of reference accepted without reservation by Western historians for so many centuries has been “the Greek East and the Latin West.”

A much more accurate understanding of history presenting the filioque controversy in its true historical perspective is based on the Roman viewpoint of church history, to be found in (both Latin and Greek) Roman sources, as well as in Syriac, Ethiopian, Arabic, and Turkish sources. All these point to a distinction between Frankish and Roman Christendom, and not between a mythical “Latin” and “Greek” Christendom. Among the Romans, Latin and Greek are national languages, not nations. The Fathers are neither “Latins” nor “Greeks” but Romans.

Having this historical background in mind, one can then appreciate the significance of certain historical and theological factors underlying the so-called filioque controversy. This controversy was essentially a continuation of the Germanic or Frankish effort to control not only the Roman nation, now transformed into the serfs of Frankish feudalism, but also the rest of the Roman nation and Empire.

The historical appearance of Frankish theology coincides with the beginnings of the filioque controversy. Since the Roman Fathers of the Church took a strong position on this issue, as they did on the question of Icons (also condemned initially by the Franks), the Franks automatically terminated the patristic period of theology with Saint John of Damascus in the East (after they accepted the Seventh Ecumenical Synod) and Isidore of Seville in the West. After this, the Roman Empire no longer can produce Fathers of the Church because the Romans rejected the Frankish filioque. In doing so, the Romans withdrew themselves from the central trunk of Christianity (as the Franks understood things) which now becomes identical with Frankish Christianity, especially after the East Franks expelled the Romans from the Papacy and took it over themselves.

From the Roman viewpoint, however, the Roman tradition of the Fathers was not only not terminated in the eighth century, but continued a vigorous existence in the East, as well as within Arab-occupied areas. Present research is now leading to the conclusion that the Roman Patristic period extended right into the period of Ottoman rule, after the fall of Constantinople New Rome. This means that the Eighth Ecumenical Synod (879), under Photios, the so-called Palamite Synods of the fourteenth century, and the Synods of the Roman Patriarchates during the Ottoman period, are all a continuation and an integral part of the history of Patristic theology. It is also a continuation of the Roman Christian tradition, minus the Patriarchate of Old Rome, which, since 1009 after having been captured, ceased to be Roman and became a Frankish institution.

Without ever mentioning the Franks, the Eighth Ecumenical Synod of 879 condemned those who either added or subtracted from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and also those who had not yet accepted the Seventh Ecumenical Synod.

It must first be emphasized that this is the first instance in history wherein an Ecumenical Synod condemned heretics without naming them. In this case the heretics are clearly the universally feared Franks. It is always claimed by Protestant, Anglican, and Latin scholars that since the time of Hadrian I or Leo III, through the period of John VIII, the Papacy opposed the filioque only as an addition to the Creed, but never as doctrine or theological opinion. Thus, it is claimed that John VIII accepted the Eighth Ecumenical Synod’s condemnation of the addition to the Creed and not of the filioque as a teaching.

However, both Photios and John VIII’s letter to Photios testify to this pope’s condemnation of the filioque as doctrine also. Yet the filioque could not be publicly condemned as heresy by the Church of Old Rome. Why? Simply because the Franks were militarily in control of papal Romania, and as illiterate barbarians were capable of any kind of criminal act against the Roman clergy and populace. The Franks were a dangerous presence in papal Romania and had to be handled with great care and tact.

Yet the Romans in the West could never support the introduction of the filioque into the Creed, not because they did not want to displease the “Greeks,” but because this would be heresy. The West Romans knew very well that the term procession in the Creed was introduced as a parallel to generation, and that both meant causal relation to the Father, and not energy or mission.

This interpretation of the filioque is the consistent position of the Roman popes, and clearly so in the case of Leo III. The minutes of the conversation held in 810 between the three apocrisari of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III, kept by the Frankish monk Smaragdus, bear out this consistency in papal policy.[9] Leo accepts the teaching of the Fathers, quoted by the Franks, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as taught by Augustine and Ambrose. However, the filioque must not be added to the Creed as was done by the Franks, who got permission to sing the Creed from Leo but not to add to the Creed.

When one reads these minutes, remembering the Franks were a dangerous presence in Rome capable of acting in a most cruel and barbarous manner if provoked, then one comes to the clear realization that Pope Leo III is actually telling the Franks in clear and diplomatic terms that the filioque in the Creed is a heresy.

In the light of the above, we do not have the situation usually presented by European, American, and Russian historians in which the filioque is an integral part of so–called “Latin” Christendom with a “Greek” Christendom in opposition on the pretext of its introduction into the Creed. (The addition to the Creed was supposedly opposed by the popes not doctrinally, but only as addition in order not to offend the “Greeks.”) What we do have is a united West and East Roman Christian nation in opposition to an upstart group of Germanic races who began teaching the Romans before they really learned anything themselves. Of course, German teachers could be very convincing on questions of dogma, only by holding a knife to the throat. Otherwise, especially in the time of imposing the filioque, the theologians of the new Germanic theology were better than their noble peers, only because they could read and write and had, perhaps, memorized Augustine.

(End of Part III)


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