Vol. 4, Chapter XI. Doctrinal Controversies

106. General Survey

Our period is far behind the preceding patristic and the succeeding scholastic in doctrinal importance, but it mediates between them by carrying the ideas of the fathers over to the acute analysis of the schoolmen, and marks a progress in the development of the Catholic system. It was agitated by seven theological controversies of considerable interest.

1. The controversy about the single or double Procession of the Holy Spirit. This belongs to the doctrine of the Trinity and was not settled, but divides to this day the Greek and Latin churches.

2. The Monotheletic controversy is a continuation of the Eutychian and Monophysitic controversies of the preceding period. It ended with the condemnation of Monotheletism and an addition to the Chalcedonian Christology, namely, the doctrine that Christ has two wills as well as two natures.

3. The Adoptionist controversy is a continuation of the Nestorian. Adoptionism was condemned as inconsistent with the personal union of the two natures in Christ.

4 and 5. Two Eucharistic controversies resulted in the general prevalence of the doctrine of transubstantiation.

6. The Predestinarian controversy between Gottschalk and Hincmar tended to weaken the influence of the Augustinian system, and to promote semi-Pelagian views and practices.

7. The Image-controversy belongs to the history of worship rather than theology, and has been discussed in the preceding chapter.

The first, second, and seventh controversies affected the East and the West; the Adoptionist, the two Eucharistic, and the Predestinarian controversies were exclusively carried on in the West, and ignored in the East.


107. The Controversy on the Procession of the Holy Spirit

See the Lit. in § 67. The arguments for both sides of the question were fully discussed in the Union Synod of Ferrara-Florence, 1438-’39; see Hefele: Conciliengesch. VII. P. II. p. 683 sqq.; 706 sqq.; 712 sqq.

The Filioque-controversy relates to the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit, and is a continuation of the trinitarian controversies of the Nicene age. It marks the chief and almost the only important dogmatic difference between the Greek and Latin churches. It belongs to metaphysical theology, and has far less practical value than the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. But it figures very largely in history, and has occasioned, deepened, and perpetuated the greatest schism in Christendom. The single word Filioque keeps the oldest, largest, and most nearly related churches divided since the ninth century, and still forbids a reunion. The Eastern church regards the doctrine of the single procession as the corner-stone of orthodoxy, and the doctrine of the double procession as the mother of all heresies. She has held most tenaciously to her view since the fourth century, and is not likely ever to give it up. Nor can the Roman church change her doctrine of the double procession without sacrificing the principle of infallibility.

The Protestant Confessions agree with the Latin dogma, while on the much more vital question of the papacy they agree with the Eastern church, though from a different point of view. The church of England has introduced the double procession of the Spirit even into her litany. It should be remembered, however, that this dogma was not a controverted question in the time of the Reformation, and was received from the medieval church without investigation. Protestantism is at perfect liberty to go back to the original form of the Nicene Creed if it should be found to be more in accordance with the Scripture. But the main thing for Christians of all creeds is to produce “the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.”

Let us first glance at the external history of the controversy.

1. The New Testament. The exegetical starting-point and foundation of the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit is the word of our Lord in the farewell address to his disciples: When the Paraclete (the Advocate) is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth (or, goeth forth) from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.”

On this passage the Nicene fathers based their doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit, as his personal property or characteristic individuality while the unbegotten Fatherhood belongs to the person of the Father, and the eternal generation to the person of the Son.

Our Lord says neither that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, nor that he proceeds from the Father and the Son. But in several other passages of the same farewell addresses he speaks of the Spirit as being sent by the Father and the Son, and promises this as a future event which was to take place after his departure, and which actually did take place on the day of Pentecost and ever since.

On these passages is based the doctrine of the mission of the Spirit. This is regarded as a temporal or historical act, and must be distinguished from the eternal procession in the Trinity itself. In other words, the procession belongs to the Trinity of essence, and is an intertrinitarian process (like the eternal generation of the Son), but the mission belongs to the Trinity of revelation in the historical execution of the scheme of redemption. In this exegesis the orthodox divines of the Greek and Latin churches are agreed. They differ on the source of the procession, but not on the mission.

Modern exegetes, who adhere closely to the grammatical sense, and are not governed by dogmatic systems, incline mostly to the view that no metaphysical distinction is intended in those passages, and that the procession of the Spirit from the Father, and the mission of the Spirit by the Father and the Son, refer alike to the same historic event and soteriological operation, namely, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and his continued work in the church and in the heart of believers. The Spirit “proceeds” when he “is sent” on his divine mission to glorify the Son and to apply the redemption to men. The Saviour speaks of the office and work of the Spirit rather than of his being and essence. Nevertheless there is a difference which must not be overlooked. In the procession, the Spirit is active: in the mission, he is passive; the procession is spoken of in the present tense (ἑκπορεύεται) as a present act, the mission in the future tense (πέμψω) as a future act, so that the former seems to belong to the eternal Trinity of essence, the latter to the historical or economical Trinity of revelation. Now God indeed reveals himself as he actually is, and we may therefore reason back from the divine office of the Spirit to his divine nature, and from his temporal mission to his eternal relation. Yet it may be questioned whether such inference justifies the doctrine of a double procession in the absence of any express Scripture warrant.

2. The Nicene Creed, in its original form of 325, closes abruptly with the article: “And [we believe] into the Holy Spirit.” In the enlarged form (which is usually traced to the Council of Constantinople, 381, and incorporated in its acts since 451, but is found earlier in Epiphanius, 373, and Cyril of Jerusalem, 362, we have the addition: “the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father,” etc. This form was generally adopted in the Eastern churches since the Council of Chalcedon, 451 (at which both forms were recited and confirmed), and prevails there to this day unaltered. It is simply the Scripture phrase without any addition, either of the Greek “alone,” or of the Latin “and from the Son.” The Greek church understood the clause in an exclusive sense, the Latin church, since Augustin and Leo I., in an incomplete sense.

The Latin church had no right to alter an ecumenical creed without the knowledge and consent of the Greek church which had made it; for in the ecumenical Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople the Western church was scarcely represented, at Nicaea only by one bishop (Hosius of Spain), in the second not at all; and in the Council of Chalcedon the delegates of Pope Leo I. fully agreed to the enlarged Greek form of the Nicene symbol, yet without the Filioque, which was then not thought of, although the doctrine of the double procession was already current in the West. A departure from this common symbolical standard of the most weighty ecumenical councils by a new addition, without consent of the other party, opened the door to endless disputes.


The Enlargement of the Nicene Creed

The third national Synod of Toledo in Spain, a.d. 589, held after the conversion of King Reccared to the Catholic faith, in its zeal for the deity of Christ against the Arian heresy which lingered longest in that country, and without intending the least disrespect to the Eastern church, first inserted the clause Filioque in the Latin version of the Nicene Creed. Other Spanish synods of Toledo did the same.

From Spain the clause passed into the Frankish church. It was discussed at the Synod of Gentilly near Paris in 767, but we do not know with what result. The Latin view was advocated by Paulinus of Aquileja (796), by Alcuin (before 804), and by Theodulf of Orleans. It was expressed in the so-called Athanasian Creed, which made its appearance in France shortly before or during the age of Charlemagne. The clause was sung in his chapel. He brought the matter before the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in 809, which decided in favor of the double procession. He also sent messengers to Pope Leo III., with the request to sanction the insertion of the clause in the Nicene Creed. The pope decided in favor of the doctrine of the double procession, but protested against the alteration of the creed, and caused the Nicene Creed, in its original Greek text and the Latin version, to be engraved on two tablets and suspended in the Basilica of St. Peter, as a perpetual testimony against the innovation. His predecessor, Hadrian I., had a few years before (between 792 and 795) defended the Greek formula of John of Damascus and patriarch Tarasius, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. But the violent assault of Photius upon the Latin doctrine, as heretical, drove the Latin church into the defensive. Hence, since the ninth century, the Filioque was gradually introduced into the Nicene Creed all over the West, and the popes themselves, notwithstanding their infallibility, approved what their predecessors had condemned.

The coincidence of the triumph of the Filioque in the West with the founding of the new Roman Empire is significant; for this empire emancipated the pope from the Byzantine rule.

The Greek church, however, took little or no notice of this innovation till about one hundred and fifty years later, when Photius, the learned patriarch of Constantinople, brought it out in its full bearing and force in his controversy with Nicolas I., the pope of old Rome. He regarded the single procession as the principal part of the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit on which the personality and deity of the Spirit depended, and denounced the denial of it as heresy and blasphemy. After this time no progress was made for the settlement of the difference, although much was written on both sides. The chief defenders of the Greek view, after the controversy with Photius, were Theophylactus, Euthymius Zigabenus, Nicolaus of Methone, Nicetus Choniates, Eustratius, and in modern times, the Russian divines, Prokovitch, Zoernicav, Mouravieff, and Philaret. The chief defenders of the Latin doctrine are Aeneas, bishop of Paris, Ratramnus (or Bertram), a monk of Corbie, in the name of the French clergy in the ninth century, Anselm of Canterbury (1098), Peter Chrysolanus, archbishop of Milan (1112), Anselm of Havelberg (1120), and Thomas Aquinas (1274), and in more recent times, Leo Alacci, Michael Le Quien, and Cardinal Hergenröther.


108. The Arguments for and against the Filioque

We proceed to the statement of the controverted doctrines and the chief arguments.

I. The Greek and Latin churches agree in holding — 

(1) The personality and deity of the third Person of the holy Trinity.

(2) The eternal procession (ἑκπόρευσις, processio) of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity.

(3) The temporal mission (πέμψις, missio) of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, beginning with the day of Pentecost, and continued ever since in the church.

II. They differ on the source of the eternal procession of the Spirit, whether it be the Father alone, or the Father and the Son. The Greeks make the Son and the Spirit equally dependent on the Father, as the one and only source of the Godhead; the Latins teach an absolute co-ordination of the three Persons of the Trinity as to essence, but after all admit a certain kind of subordination as to dignity and office, namely, a subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to both. The Greeks approach the Latins by the admission that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son (this was the doctrine of Cyril of Alexandria and John of Damascus); the Latins approach the Greeks by the admission that the Spirit proceeds chiefly (principaliter) from the Father (Augustin). But little or nothing is gained by this compromise. The real question is, whether the Father is the only source of the Deity, and whether the Son and the Spirit are co-ordinate or subordinate in their dependence on the Father.

1. The Greek doctrine in its present shape. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone (ἐκ μόνου τοῦ πατρός), as the beginning (ἀρχή), cause or root (αἰτία, ῥίζη, causa, radix), and fountain (πηγή) of the Godhead, and not from the Son.

John of Damascus, who gave the doctrine of the Greek fathers its scholastic shape, about a.d. 750, one hundred years before the controversy between Photius and Nicolas, maintained that the procession is from the Father alone, but through the Son, as mediator. The same formula, Ex Patre per Filium, was used by Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople, who presided over the seventh ecumenical Council (787), approved by Pope Hadrian I., and was made the basis for the compromise at the Council of Ferrara (1439), and at the Old Catholic Conference at Bonn (1875). But Photius and the later Eastern controversialists dropped or rejected the per Filium, as being nearly equivalent to ex Filio or Filioque, or understood it as being applicable only to the mission of the Spirit, and emphasized the exclusiveness of the procession from the Father.

The arguments for the Greek doctrine are as follows:

(a) The words of Christ, Joh_15:26, understood in an exclusive sense. As this is the only passage of the Bible in which the procession of the Spirit is expressly taught, it is regarded by the Greeks as conclusive.

(b) The supremacy or monarchia of the Father. He is the source and root of the Godhead. The Son and the Spirit are subordinated to him, not indeed in essence or substance (οὐσία), which is one and the same, but in dignity and office. This is the Nicene subordinatianism. It is illustrated by the comparison of the Father with the root, the Son with the stem, the Spirit with the fruit, and such analogies as the sun, the ray, and the beam; the fire, the flame, and the light.

(c) The analogy of the eternal generation of the Son, which is likewise from the Father alone, without the agency of the Spirit.

(d) The authority of the Nicene Creed, and the Greek fathers, especially Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and John of Damascus. The Antiochean school is clearly on the Greek side; but the Alexandrian school leaned to the formula through the Son (διά τοῦ υἱοῦ, per Filium). The Greeks claim all the Greek fathers, and regard Augustin as the inventor of the Latin dogma of the double procession.

The Latin doctrine is charged with innovation, and with dividing the unity of the Godhead, or establishing two sources of the Deity. But the Latins replied that the procession was from one and the same source common to both the Father and the Son.

2. The Latin theory of the double procession is defended by the following arguments:

(a) The passages where Christ says that he will send the Spirit from the Father (Joh_15:26; Joh_16:7); and that the Father will send the Spirit in Christ’s name (Joh_14:26); and where he breathes the Spirit on his disciples (Joh_20:22). The Greeks refer all these passages to the temporal mission of the Spirit, and understand the insufflation to be simply a symbolical act or sacramental sign of the pentecostal effusion which Christ had promised. The Latins reply that the procession and the mission are parallel processes, the one ad intra, the other ad extra.

(b) The equality of essence (ὁμοουσία) of the Father and Son to the exclusion of every kind of subordinationism (since Augustin) requires the double procession. The Spirit of the Father is also the Spirit of the Son, and is termed the Spirit of Christ. But, as already remarked, Augustin admitted that the Spirit proceeds chiefly from the Father, and this after all is a kind of subordination of dignity. The Father has his being (οὐσία) from himself, the Son and the Spirit have it from the Father by way of derivation, the one by generation, the other by procession.

(c) The temporal mission of the Spirit is a reflection of his eternal procession. The Trinity of revelation is the basis of all our speculations on the Trinity of essence. We know the latter only from the former.

(d) The Nicene Creed and the Nicene fathers did not understand the procession from the Father in an exclusive sense, but rather in opposition to the Pneumatomachi who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Some Greek fathers, as Epiphanius, Cyril of Alexandria, and John of Damascus, teach the Latin doctrine. This is not the case exactly. The procession of the Spirit “through the Son,” is not equivalent to the procession “from the Son,” but implies a subordination.

(e) The Latin fathers are in favor of Filioque, especially Ambrose, Augustin, Jerome, Leo I., Gregory I.

(f) The insertion of the Filioque is as justifiable as the other and larger additions to the Apostles’ Creed and to the original Nicene Creed of 325, and was silently accepted, or at least not objected to by the Greek church until the rivalry of the Patriarch of Constantinople made it a polemical weapon against the Pope of Rome. To this the Greeks reply that the other additions are consistent and were made by common consent, but the Filioque was added without the knowledge and against the teaching of the East by churches (in Spain and France) which had nothing to do with the original production.

This controversy of the middle ages was raised from the tomb by the Old Catholic Conference held in Bonn, 1875, under the lead of the learned historian, Dr. Döllinger of Munich, and attended by a number of German Old Catholic, Greek and Russian, and high Anglican divines. An attempt was made to settle the dispute on the basis of the teaching of the fathers before the division of the Eastern and Western churches, especially the doctrine of John of Damascus, that is, the single procession of the Spirit from the Father mediated through the Son. The Filioque was surrendered as an unauthorized and unjustifiable interpolation.

But the Bonn Conference has not been sanctioned by any ecclesiastical authority, and forms only an interesting modern episode in the history of this controversy, and in the history of the Old Catholic communion.


109. The Monotheletic Controversy


(I.) Sources: Documents and acts of the first Lateran Synod (649), and the sixth ecumenical Council or Concilium Trullanum I., held in Constantinople (680), in Mansi, X. 863 sqq. and XI. 187 sqq.

Anastasius (Vatican librarian, about 870): Collectanea de iis quae spectant ad controv. et histor. monothelit. haeret., first ed. by Sirmond, Par. 1620, in his Opera, III., also in Bibl. Max. PP. Lugd. XII. 833; and in Gallandi, XIII.; also scattered through vols. X. and XI. of Mansi. See Migne’s ed. of Anastas. in “Patrol. Lat.” vols. 127-129.

Maximus Confessor: Opera, ed. Combefis, Par. 1675, Tom. II. 1-158, and his disputation with Pyrrhus, ib. 159 sqq. Also in Migne’s reprint, “Patrol. Gr.” vol. 91.

Theophanes: Chronographia, ed. Bonn. (1839), p. 274 sqq.; ed. Migne, in vol. 108 of his “Patrol. Graeca” (1861).

(II.) Franc. Combefisius (Combefis, a learned French Dominican, d. 1679): Historia haeresis Monothelitarum ac vindiciae actorum Sexti Synodi, in his Novum Auctuarium Patrum, II. 3 sqq. Par. 1648, fol. 1-198.

Petavius: Dogm. Theol. Tom. V. l. IX. c. 6-10.

Jos. Sim. Assemani, in the fourth vol. of his Bibliotheca Juris Orientalis. Romae 1784.

CH. W. F. Walch: Ketzerhistorie, vol. IX. 1-666 (Leipzig 1780). Very dry, but very learned.

Gibbon (Ch. 47, N. Y. ed. IV. 682-686, superficial). Schröckh, vol. XX. 386 sqq. Neander, III. 175-197 (Boston ed.), or III. 353-398 (Germ. ed.). Gieseler, I. 537-544 (Am. ed.).

The respective sections in Baur: Gesch. der Lehre v. d. Dreieinigkeii und Menschwerdung (Tüb. 1841-’43, 3 vols.), vol. II. 96-128; Dorner: Entwicklungsgesch. der Lehre v. d. Person Christi (second ed. 1853), II. 193-305; Nitzsch: Dogmengesch. I. 325 sqq.; and Hefele: Conciliengeschichte (revised ed. 1877) III. 121-313. Also W. Möller. in Herzog2 X. 792-805.

The literature on the case of Honorius see in the next section.


110. The Doctrine of Two Wills in Christ

The Monotheletic or one-will controversy is a continuation of the Christological contests of the post-Nicene age, and closely connected with the Monophysitic controversy.

This question had not been decided by the ancient fathers and councils, and passages from their writings were quoted by both parties. But in the inevitable logic of theological development it had to be agitated sooner or later, and brought to a conciliar termination.

The controversy had a metaphysical and a practical aspect.

The metaphysical and psychological aspect was the relation of will to nature and to person. Monotheletism regards the will as an attribute of person, Dyotheletism as an attribute of nature. It is possible to conceive of an abstract nature without a will; it is difficult to conceive of a rational human nature without impulse and will; it is impossible to conceive of a human person without a will. Reason and will go together, and constitute the essence of personality. Two wills cannot coexist in an ordinary human being. But as the personality of Christ is complex or divine-human, it may be conceived of as including two consciousnesses and two wills. The Chalcedonian Christology at all events consistently requires two wills as the necessary complement of two rational natures; in other words, Dyotheletism is inseparable from Dyophysitism, while Monotheletism is equally inseparable from Monophysitism, although it acknowledged the Dyophysitism of Chalcedon. The orthodox doctrine saved the integrity and completeness of Christ’s humanity by asserting his human will.

The practical aspect of the controversy is connected with the nature of the Redeemer and of redemption, and was most prominent with the leaders. The advocates of Monotheletism were chiefly concerned to guard the unity of Christ’s person and work. They reasoned that, as Christ is but one person, he can only have one will; that two wills would necessarily conflict, as in man the will of the flesh rebels against the Spirit; and that the sinlessness of Christ is best secured by denying to him a purely human will, which is the root of sin. They made the pre-existing divine will of the Logos the efficient cause of the incarnation and redemption, and regarded the human nature of Christ merely as the instrument through which he works and suffers, as the rational soul works through the organ of the body. Some of them held also that in the perfect state the human will of the believer will be entirely absorbed in the divine will, which amounts almost to a pantheistic absorption of the human personality in the divine.

The advocates of Dyotheletism on the other hand contended that the incarnation must be complete in order to have a complete redemption; that a complete incarnation implies the assumption of the human will into union with the pre-existing divine will of the Logos; that the human will is the originating cause of sin and guilt, and must therefore be redeemed, purified, and sanctified; that Christ, without a human will, could not have been a full man, could not have been tempted, nor have chosen between good and evil, nor performed any moral and responsible act.

The Scripture passages quoted by Agatho and other advocates of the two-will doctrine, are Mat_26:39 (“Not as I will, but as Thou wilt”); Luk_22:42 (“Not my will, but thine be done”); Joh_6:38 (“I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me”). For the human will were quoted Luk_2:51 (“he was subject” to his parents); Phi_2:8 (“obedient unto death”), also Joh_1:43; Joh_17:24; Joh_19:28; Mat_27:34; for the divine will, Luk_13:34; Joh_5:21.

These Scripture passages, which must in the end decide the controversy, clearly teach the human will of Jesus, but the other will from which it is distinguished, is the will of his heavenly Father, to which he was obedient unto death. The orthodox dogma implies the identity of the divine will of Christ with the will of God the Father, and assumes that there is but one will in the divine tripersonality. It teaches two natures and one person in Christ, but three persons and one nature in God. Here we meet the metaphysical and psychological difficulty of conceiving of a personality without a distinct will. But the term personality is applied to the Deity in a unique and not easily definable sense. The three Divine persons are not conceived as three individuals.

The weight of argument and the logical consistency on the basis of the Chalcedonian Dyophysitism, which was acknowledged by both parties, decided in favor of the two-will doctrine. The Catholic church East and West condemned Monotheletism as a heresy akin to Monophysitism. The sixth ecumenical Council in 680 gave the final decision by adopting the following addition to the Chalcedonian Christology:

“And we likewise preach two natural wills in him [Jesus Christ], and two natural operations undivided, inconvertible, inseparable, unmixed, according to the doctrine of the holy fathers; and the two natural wills [are] not contrary (as the impious heretics assert), far from it! but his human will follows the divine will, and is not resisting or reluctant, but rather subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was proper that the will of the flesh should be moved, but be subjected to the divine will, according to the wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of the God Logos, so is also the natural will of his flesh the proper will of the Logos, as he says himself: ‘I came from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the Father who sent me’ (Joh_6:38).… Therefore we confess two natural wills and operations, harmoniously united for the salvation of the human race.”

The theological contest was carried on chiefly in the Eastern church which had the necessary learning and speculative talent; but the final decision was brought about by the weight of Roman authority, and Pope Agatho exerted by his dogmatic epistle the same controlling influence over the sixth ecumenical Council, as Pope Leo I. had exercised over the fourth. In this as well as the older theological controversies the Roman popes — with the significant exception of Honorius — stood firmly on the side of orthodoxy, while the patriarchal sees of the East were alternately occupied by heretics as well as orthodox.

The Dyotheletic decision completes the Christology of the Greek and Roman churches, and passed from them into the Protestant churches; but while the former have made no further progress in this dogma, the latter allows a revision and reconstruction, and opened new avenues of thought in the contemplation of the central fact and truth of the divine-human personality of Christ.


111. History of Monotheletism and Dyotheletism

The triumph of Dyotheletism was the outcome of a bitter conflict of nearly fifty years (633 to 680). The first act reaches to the issue of the Ekthesis (638), the second to the issue of the Type (648), the third and last to the sixth ecumenical Council (680). The theological leaders of Monophysitism were Theodore, bishop of Pharan in Arabia (known to us only from a few fragments of his writings), Sergius and his successors Pyrrhus and Paul in the patriarchal see of Constantinople, and Cyrus, patriarch of Alexandria; the political leaders were the Emperors Heraclius and Constans II.

The champions of the Dyotheletic doctrine were Sophronius of Palestine, Maximus of Constantinople, and the popes Martin and Agatho of Rome; the political supporter, the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus (668-685).

1. The strife began in a political motive, but soon assumed a theological and religious aspect. The safety of the Byzantine empire was seriously threatened, first by the Persians, and then by the Arabs, and the danger was increased by the division among Christians. The Emperor Heraclius (610-640) after his return from the Persian campaign desired to conciliate the Monophysites, who were more numerous than the orthodox in Armenia, Syria, and Egypt. He hoped, by a union of the parties, to protect these countries more effectually against the Mohammedan invaders. The Monophysites took offence at the catholic inference of two energies (ἐνέργειαι) in the person of Christ. The emperor consulted Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople (since 610), who was of Syrian (perhaps Jacobite) descent. They agreed upon the compromise-formula of “one divine-human energy” (μία θεανδρικὴ ἐνέργεια). Sergius secured the consent of Pope Honorius (625-638), who was afterwards condemned for heresy. Cyrus, the orthodox patriarch of Alexandria, published the formula (633), and converted thousands of Monophysites.

But Sophronius, a learned and venerable monk in Palestine, who happened to be in Alexandria at that time, protested against the compromise-formula as a cunning device of the Monophysites. When he became patriarch of Jerusalem (in 633 or 634), he openly confessed, in a synodical letter to the patriarchs, the doctrine of Dyotheletism as a necessary part of the Chalcedonian Christology. It is one of the most important documents in this controversy.

A few years afterwards, the Saracens besieged and conquered Jerusalem (637); Sophronius died and was succeeded by a Monotheletic bishop.

In the year 638 the Emperor issued, as an answer to the manifesto of Sophronius, an edict drawn up by Sergius, under the title Exposition of the Faith (ἔκθεσις τῆς πίστεως), which commanded silence on the subject in dispute, but pretty clearly decided in favor of Monotheletism. It first professes the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and incarnation in the Chalcedonian sense, and then forbids the use of the terms “one” or “two energies” (μία or δύο ἐνέργειαι) since both are heretically interpreted, and asserts one will (θέλημα) in Christ.

2. Two synods of Constantinople (638 and 639) adopted the Ekthesis. But in the remote provinces it met with powerful resistance. Maximus Confessor became the champion of Dyotheletism in the Orient and North Africa, and Pope Martinus I. in the West. They thoroughly understood the controversy, and had the courage of martyrs for their conviction.

Maximus was born about 580 of a distinguished family in Constantinople, and was for some time private secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, but left this post of honor and influence in 630, and entered a convent in Chrysopolis (now Scutari). He was a profound thinker and able debater. When the Monotheletic heresy spread, he concluded to proceed to Rome, and passing through Africa be held there, in the presence of the imperial governor and many bishops, a remarkable disputation with Pyrrhus, who had succeeded Sergius in the see of Constantinople, but was deposed and expelled for political reasons. This disputation took place in July, 645, but we do not know in what city of Africa. It sounded all the depths of the controversy and ended with the temporary conversion of Pyrrhus to Dyotheletism.

About the same time, several North-African synods declared in favor of the Dyotheletic doctrine.

In the year 648 the Emperor Constans II. (642-668) tried in vain to restore peace by means of a new edict called Typos or Type, which commanded silence on the subject under dispute without giving the preference to either view. It set aside the Ekthesis and declared in favor of neutrality. The aim of both edicts was to arrest the controversy and to prevent a christological development beyond the fourth and fifth ecumenical councils. But the Type was more consistent in forbidding all controversy not only about one energy (μία ἐνέργεια), but also about one will (ἕν θέλημα). Transgressors of the Type were threatened with deposition; if clergymen, with excommunication; if monks, with the loss of dignity and place, of military or civil officers.

3. An irrepressible conflict cannot be silenced by imperial decrees. Pope Martin I., formerly Apocrisiarios of the papal see at Constantinople, and distinguished for virtue, knowledge and personal beauty, soon after his election (July 5th, 649), assembled the first Lateran Council (Oct., 649), so called from being held in the Lateran basilica in Rome. It was attended by one hundred and five bishops, anathematized the one-will doctrine and the two imperial edicts, and solemnly sanctioned the two-will doctrine. It anticipated substantially the decision of the sixth ecumenical council, and comes next to it in authority on this article of faith.

The acts of this Roman council, together with an encyclical of the pope warning against the Ekthesis and the Type, were sent to all parts of the Christian world. At the same time, the pope sent a Greek translation of the acts to the Emperor Constans II., and politely informed him that the Synod had confirmed the true doctrine, and condemned the heresy. Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paulus had violated the full humanity of Christ, and deceived the emperors by the Ekthesis and the Type.

But the emperor, through his representative, Theodore Calliopa, the exarch of Ravenna, deposed the pope as a rebel and heretic, and removed him from Rome (June, 653). He imprisoned him with common criminals in Constantinople, exposed him to cold, hunger, and all sorts of injuries, and at last sent him by ship to a cavern in Cherson on the Black Sea (March, 655). Martin bore this cruel treatment with dignity, and died Sept. 16, 655, in exile, a martyr to his faith in the doctrine of two wills.

Maximus was likewise transported to Constantinople (653), and treated with even greater cruelty. He was (with two of his disciples) confined in prison for several years, scourged, deprived of his tongue and right hand, and thus mutilated sent, in his old age, to Lazica in Colchis on the Pontus Euxinus, where he died of these injuries, Aug. 13, 662. His two companions likewise died in exile.

The persecution of these martyrs prepared the way for the triumph of their doctrine. In the meantime province after province was conquered by the Saracens.


112. The Sixth Ecumenical Council. a.d. 680

Constans II. was murdered in a bath at Syracuse (668). His son, Constantine IV. Pogonatus (Barbatus, 668-685), changed the policy of his father, and wished to restore harmony between the East and the West. He stood on good or neutral terms with Pope Vitalian (6 57-672), who maintained a prudent silence on the disputed question, and with his successors, Adeodatus (672-676), Donus or Domnus (676-678), and Agatho (678-681).

After sufficient preparations, he called, in concert with Agatho, a General Council. It convened in the imperial palace at Constantinople, and held eighteen sessions from Nov. 7, 680, to Sept. 16, 681. It is called the Sixth Ecumenical, and also the First Trullan Synod, from the name of the hall or chapel in the palace. The highest number of members in attendance was one hundred and seventy-four, including three papal legates (two priests and one deacon). The emperor presided in person, surrounded by civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries. The acts are preserved in the Greek original and in two old Latin versions.

After a full discussion of the subject on both sides, the council, in the eighteenth and last session, defined and sanctioned the two-will doctrine, almost in the very language of the letter of Pope Agatho to the emperor. Macarius, the patriarch of Alexandria, who adhered to Monotheletism, was deposed.

The epistle of Agatho is a worthy sequel of Leo’s Epistle to the Chalcedonian Council, and equally clear and precise in stating the orthodox view. It is also remarkable for the confidence with which it claims infallibility for the Roman church, in spite of the monotheletic heresy of Pope Honorius (who is prudently ignored). Agatho quotes the words of Christ to Peter, Luk_22:31, Luk_22:32, in favor of papal infallibility, anticipating, as it were, the Vatican decision of 1870.

But while the council fully endorsed the dyotheletic view of Agatho, and clothed it with ecumenical authority, it had no idea of endorsing his claim to papal infallibility; on the contrary, it expressly condemned Pope Honorius I. as a Monotheletic heretic, together with Sergius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Paulus, Petrus, and Theodore of Pharan.

Immediately after the close of the council, the emperor published the decision, with an edict enforcing it and anathematizing all heretics from Simon Magus down to Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pope Honorius, who in all was their follower and associate, and confirmed the heresy. The edict forbids any one hereafter to teach the doctrine of one will and one energy under penalty of deposition, confiscation, and exile.

Pope Agatho died Jan. 10, 682; but his successor, Leo II., who was consecrated Aug. 17 of the same year, confirmed the sixth council, and anathematized all heretics, including his predecessor, Honorius, who, instead of adorning the apostolic see, dared to prostitute its immaculate faith by profane treason, and all who died in the same error.


113. The Heresy of Honorius

J. von Döllinger (Old Cath.): Papstfabeln des Mittelalters. München, 1863. The same translated by A. Plummer: Fables respecting the Popes in the Middle Ages; Am ed. enlarged by Henry B. Smith, N. York, 1872. (The case of Honorius is discussed on pp. 223-248 Am. ed.; see German ed. p. 131 sqq.).

Schneemann (Jesuit): Studien über die Honoriusfrage. Freiburg i. B, 1864.

Paul Bottala (S. J.): Pope Honorius before the Tribunal of Reason and History. London, 1868.

P. Le Page Renouf: The Condemnation of Pope Honorius. Lond., 1868. The Case of Honorius reconsidered. Lond. 1870.

Maret (R.C.): Du Concil et de la paix relig. Par. 1869.

A. Gratry (R.C.): Four Letters to the Bishop of Orleans (Dupanloup) and the Archbishop of Malines (Dechamps), 1870. Several editions in French, German, English. He wrote against papal infallibility, but recanted on his death-bed.

A. de Margerie: Lettre au R. P. Gratry sur le Pape Honorius et le Bréviaire Romain. Nancy, 1870.

Jos. von Hefele (Bishop of Rottenburg and Member of the Vatican Council): Causa Honorii Papae. Neap., 1870. Honorius und das sechste allgemeine Concil. Tübingen, 1870. (The same translated by Henry B. Smith in the “Presbyt. Quarterly and Princeton Review, “N. York, April, 1872, p. 273 sqq.). Conciliengeschichte, Bd. III. (revised ed., 1877), pp. 145 sqq., 167 sqq., 290 sqq.

Job. Pennachi (Prof. of Church Hist. in the University of Rome): De Honorii I. Romani Pontificis causa in Concilio VI. ad Patres Concilii Vaticani. Romae, 1870. 287 pp. Hefele calls this the most important vindication of Honorius from the infallibilist standpoint. It was distributed among all the members of the Vatican Council; while books in opposition to papal infallibility by Bishop Hefele, Archbishop Kenrick, and others, had to be printed outside of Rome.

A. Ruckgaber: Die Irrlehre des Honorius und das Vatic. Concil. Stuttgart, 1871.

Comp. the literature in Hergenröther; Kirchengesch., III. 137 sqq.

The connection of Pope Honorius I. (Oct. 27, 625, to Oct. 12, 638) with the Monotheletic heresy has a special interest in its bearing upon the dogma of papal infallibility, which stands or falls with a single official error, according to the principle: Si falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. It was fully discussed by Catholic scholars on both sides before and during the Vatican Council of 1870, which proclaimed that dogma, but could not alter the facts of history. The following points are established by the best documentary evidence:

1. Honorius taught and favored in several official letters (to Sergius, Cyrus, and Sophronius), therefore ex cathedra, the one-will heresy. He fully agreed with Sergius, the Monotheletic patriarch of Constantinople. In answer to his first letter (634), he says: “Therefore we confess one will (θέλημα, voluntas) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He viewed the will as an attribute of person, not of nature, and reasoned: One willer, therefore only one will. In a second letter to Sergius, he rejects both the orthodox phrase: “two energies,” and the heterodox phrase: “one energy” (ἐνέργεια, operatio), and affirms that the Bible clearly teaches two natures, but that it is quite vain to ascribe to the Mediator between God and man one or two energies; for Christ by virtue of his one theandric will showed many modes of operation and activity. The first letter was decidedly heretical, the second was certainly not orthodox, and both occasioned and favored the imperial Ekthesis (638) and Type (648), in their vain attempt to reconcile the Monophysites by suppressing the Dyotheletic doctrine.

The only thing which may and must be said in his excuse is that the question was then new and not yet properly understood. He was, so to say, an innocent heretic before the church had pronounced a decision. As soon as it appeared that the orthodox dogma of two natures required the doctrine of two wills, and that Christ could not be a full man without a human will, the popes changed the position, and Honorius would probably have done the same had he lived a few years longer.

Various attempts have been made by papal historians and controversialists to save the orthodoxy of Honorius in order to save the dogma of papal infallibility. Some pronounce his letters to be a later Greek forgery. Others admit their genuineness, but distort them into an orthodox sense by a nonnatural exegesis. Still others maintain, at the expense of his knowledge and logic, that Honorius was orthodox at heart, but heretical, or at least very unguarded in his expressions. But we have no means to judge of his real sentiment except his own language, which is unmistakably Monotheletic. And this is the verdict not only of Protestants, but also of Gallican and other liberal Catholic historians.

2. Honorius was condemned by the sixth ecumenical Council as “the former pope of Old Rome,” who with the help of the old serpent had scattered deadly error. This anathema was repeated by the seventh ecumenical Council, 787, and by the eighth, 869. The Greeks, who were used to heretical patriarchs of New Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, felt no surprise, and perhaps some secret satisfaction at the heresy of a pope of Old Rome.

Here again ultramontane historians have resorted to the impossible denial either of the genuineness of the act of condemnation in the sixth ecumenical Council, or of the true meaning of that act. The only consistent way for papal infallibilists is to deny the infallibility of the ecumenical Council as regards the dogmatic fact. In this case it would involve at the same time a charge of gross injustice to Honorius.

3. But this last theory is refuted by the popes themselves, who condemned Honorius as a heretic, and thus bore testimony for papal fallibility. His first success or, Severinus, had a brief pontificate of only three months. His second successor, John IV., apologized for him by putting a forced construction on his language. Agatho prudently ignored him. But his successor, Leo II., who translated the acts of the sixth Council from Greek into Latin, saw that he could not save the honor of Honorius without contradicting the verdict of the council in which the papal delegates had taken part; and therefore he expressly condemned him in the strongest language, both in a letter to the Greek emperor and in a letter to the bishops of Spain, as a traitor to the Roman church for trying to subvert her immaculate fate. Not only so, but the condemnation of the unfortunate Honorius was inserted in the confession of faith which every newly-elected pope had to sign down to the eleventh century, and which is embodied in the Liber Diurnus, i.e. the official book of formulas of the Roman church for the use of the papal curia. In the editions of the Roman Breviary down to the sixteenth century his name appears, yet without title and without explanation, along with the rest who had been condemned by the sixth Council. But the precise facts were gradually forgotten, and the medieval chroniclers and lists of popes ignore them. After the middle of the sixteenth century the case of Honorius again attracted attention, and was urged as an irrefutable argument against the ultramontane theory. At first the letter of Leo II. was boldly, rejected as a forgery as well as those of Honorius; but this was made impossible when the Liber Diurnus came to light.

The verdict of history, after the most thorough investigation from all sides and by all parties remains unshaken. The whole church, East and West, as represented by the official acts of ecumenical Councils and Popes, for several hundred years believed that a Roman bishop may err ex cathedra in a question of faith, and that one of them at least had so erred in fact. The Vatican Council of 1870 decreed papal infallibility in the face of this fact, thus overruling history by dogmatic authority. The Protestant historian can in conscience only follow the opposite principle: If dogma contradicts facts, all the worse for the dogma.



Bishop Hefele, one of the most learned and impartial Roman Catholic historians, thus states, after a lengthy discussion, his present view on the case of Honorius (Conciliengesch., vol. III. 175, revised ed. 1877), which differs considerably from the one he had published before the Vatican decree of papal infallibility (in the first ed. of his Conciliengesch., vol. III. 1858, p. 145 sqq., and in his pamphlet on Honorius, 1870). It should be remembered that Bishop Hefele, like all his anti-infallibilist colleagues, submitted to the decree of the Vatican Council for the sake of unity and peace.

“Die beiden Briefe des Papstes Honorius, wie wir sie jetzt haben, sind unverfälscht und zeigen, dass Honorius von den beiden monotheletischen Terminis ἒν θέλημα und μία ἐνέργεια den erstern (im ersten Brief) selbst gebrauchte, den anderen dagegen, ebenso auch den orthodoxen Ausdruck δύο ἐνέργειαι nicht angewendet wissen wollte. Hat er auch Letzteres (die, Missbilligung des Ausdruckes δύο ἐνέργ.) im zweiten Brief wiederholt, so hat er doch in demselben selbst zwei natürliche Energien in Christus anerkannt und in beiden Briefen sich so ausgedrückt, dass man annehmen muss, er habe nicht den menschlichen Willen überhaupt, sondern nur den Verdorbenen menschlichen Willen in Chistus geläugnet, aber obgleich orthodoz denkend, die monotheletische Tendenz des Sergius nicht gehörig durchschaut und sich missverständlich ausgedrückt, so dass seine Briefe, besonders der erste, den Monotheletismus zu bestätigen schienen und damit der Häresie Factisch Vorschub leisteten. In dieser Weise erledigt sich uns die Frage nach der Orthodoxie des Papstes Honorius, und wir halten sonach den Mittelweg zwischen denen, welche ihn auf die gleiche Stufe mit Sergius von Constantinopel und Cyrus von Alexandrien stellen und den Monotheleten beizählen wollten, und denen, welche durchaus keine Makel an ihn duldend in das Schicksal der nimium probantes verfallen sind, so dass sie lieber die Aechtheit der Acten des sechsten allgemeinen Concils und mehrerer anderer Urkunden läugnen, oder auch dem sechsten Concil einen error in facto dogmatico zuschreiben wollten.” Comp. his remarks on p. 152; “Diesen Hauptgedanken muss ich auch jetzt noch festhalten, dass Honorius im Herzen richtig dachte, sich aber unglücklich ausdrückte, wenn ich auch in Folge wiederholter neuer Beschäftigung mit diesem Gegenstand und unter Berücksichtigung dessen, was Andere in neuer Zeit zur Vertheidigung des Honorius geschrieben haben, manches Einzelne meiner früheren Aufstellungen nunmehr modificire oder völlig aufgebe, und insbesondere über den ersten Brief des Honorius jetzt milder urtheile als früher.”

Cardinal Hergenröther (Kirchengeschichte, vol. I. 358, second ed. Freiburg i. B. 1879) admits the ignorance rather than the heresy of the pope. “Honorius,” he says, “zeigt wohl Unbekanntschaft mit dem Kern der Frage, aber keinerlei häretische oder irrige Auffassung. Er unterscheidet die zwei unvermischt qebliebenen Naturen sehr genau und verstösst gegen kein einziges Dogma der Kirche.”