Background: this particular question arose from considering the implied ground of the following question: Does the Holy Spirit's procession from the Father and Son infringe on the co-equality of the Trinity? The author of the question assumes a Trinitarian position that is consistent with the 'Athanasian creed'*, with a view to ascertaining the legitimacy of Eastern Orthodox (doctrinal) objections to the 'filioque clause'.

My question is: How (if at all) is the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the Trinity – which includes the doctrine of 'the Monarchy of the Father' – consistent with the Athanasian creed? Particularly the following parts:

So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.


And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal.

I'm most interested in an Eastern Orthodox perspective, but would also welcome an explanation of how 'co-equality' is reconcilable to other views of the Trinity that include 'economic subordinationism' or 'relational surbodinationism'.

*Also known as Quicumque vult – I realise that it is not technically a creed (in the sense of being approved by an ecumenical council) and is almost certainly not authored by Athanasius of Alexandria, but it has come to be widely known by this moniker as it is judged to be wholely consistent with his Trinitarian-championing views to the extant of its being regarded – at least in the West – as a touchstone of Trinitarian doctrine.

  • 1
    Orthodoxy doesn't teach anything that contradicts the quotes from the athanasian creed in your question....the second speaks of how the Trinity transcends time..."before...after" see: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/14693/…
    – user5286
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 20:02
  • 1
    I'll try to work on an answer in my spare time :)
    – user5286
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 20:03
  • are you assuming that "Monarchy of the Father" is the same as subordinationism?
    – user5286
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 8:19
  • @CharlesAlsobrook Not that they are synonymous, but the former is a form of the latter. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 8:23

7 Answers 7


The official Orthodox answer to this question can be seen most clearly in the answers to two questions in the Revised Catechism:

094 What difference is there between the Persons of the Holy Trinity?

God the Father is neither begotten nor proceeds from any other Person, he is the cause, source and principle. This is called the Monarchy of the Father.



095 Are the three Hypostases or Persons of the Most Holy Trinity all of equal majesty? Why then does Jesus say “the Father is greater than I?”

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit share equal majesty as being the eternal, uncreated Savior and Lord. The Father is true God, the Son equally true God, and the Holy Spirit true God. This ontological or essential equality was expressed by the Church by the expression “homoousion” (of the same essence) to condemn Arianism and affirm that the Son is co-eternal and co-uncreated with the Father. This does not negate different roles or functions:

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm to the traditions as I delivered them to you. But I desire you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:2-3)

‘For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection under him,’ it is obvious that this excludes the one who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one (1 Corinthians 15:27-28).

When the Son says that the “Father is greater than I am,” (John 14:28) he is referring to the fact that the Father is the cause and origin, as the Holy Fathers interpret this text:

  • The Son does not say, “My Father is better than I,” lest we should conceive him to be foreign to his nature, but “greater,” not indeed in greatness nor in time, but because of his generation from the Father himself. (St Athanasius, Orations against the Arians, 1.58)

  • Since the Son’s origin (arche) is from the Father, in this respect the Father is greater, as cause and origin. This is why the Lord says, “My Father is greater than I.” Indeed, what else does the word Father signify unless being the cause and origin of that which is begotten of Him? (St Basil, Against Eunomius, 1.25)

  • Superior greatness belongs to the cause, equality to the nature.... To say that [the Father] is greater than [the Son] in his humanity is certainly true, but it is not the point here, since it is no wonder that God is greater than man... (St Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration, 30.7)
  • If anyones say that the Father is greater in so far as He is the cause of the Son, we will not dispute this. But this, however, does not make the Son to be of a different essence. (St John Chrysostom, Homily, 70)

In summary, the Orthodox position explains the Monarchy of the Father in terms of his superior greatness as 'cause, source and principle', while simultaneously maintaining co-equality amongst the Persons of the Trinity due to their being of the same essence. This, is maintained not to be contradictory to the 'Athanasian creed' which (although not used liturgically in the Orthodox churches) is recognised as sound doctrine (source).

  • 2
    I still don't see how 'Monarchy of the Father' as expressed is possibly reconcileable to "And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another", but I think this is about as close as we are going to get to penetrating the mystical characteristics of Orthodox doctrine in this area. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 15:33
  • This answer explains their equality as ontological (essential) equality, which implies “that the Son is co-eternal and co-uncreated.” It then explains the subordination of the Son as that “the Father is the cause and origin.” Is this what is meant by 'relational’ surbordination? Earlier, the answer refers to His subordination as “different roles or functions.” I assume this is what is called economic (or functional) subordination. Is relational subordination the same as economic (functional) subordination? Or is functional subordination the consequence of relational subordination?
    – Andries
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 17:46

There is nothing inherently contradictory between Orthodox Trinitarian Theology and the Athanasian Creed.

The Athanasian Creed is actually considered to be one of the foundational sources of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website:


The next source of the teachings of the Orthodox Church (after Scripture, the Apostle's Creed, and the Creed of Nicea-Constantinople) is the Athanasian Creed, which was written and used by the Western part of the Church and later accepted by the Eastern part, though not used in its liturgical life. This Creed is a source because it states the Orthodox teaching of the faith of the Church. This Creed was not written by Athanasius, but attributed to him, and is believed by some to have been written by St. Ambrose in Latin. It is believed to have been written in either the fourth or fifth century.

The only line in the Athanasian Creed that might raise an eyebrow is about the procession of the Holy Spirit.

From Orthodoxwiki:

The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

Notice that it says the Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son. It does not say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Fr. Thomas Hopko comments on this:

So Jesus can say, “I will send you the Spirit,” because the Spirit is his Spirit, but it’s the Spirit of God that is in Jesus because he’s the Son of God. The Word of God and the Spirit of God are both of God. The Cappadocian Fathers—Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa—will simply say the archē of divinity, the principium divinitatis in Latin, the archē theotitos, is the Father alone. The Father is the cause. The Father is the source of the Spirit and of the Son: the Son, by way of generation or procession, being born, he’s a Son; and the Holy Spirit, breathed forth or proceeding from God the Father.

The doctrine of the "Monarchy of the Father" has never been considered by the Orthodox Church to be the same as subordinationism.

From Wikipedia:

Eastern Orthodox theologians maintain that by the expression "from the Father alone", and Photius' opposition to the Filioque, Photius was confirming what is Orthodox and consistent with church tradition. Drawing the teaching of the Father as cause alone (their interpretation of the Monarchy of the Father) from such expressions from various saints and biblical text. Such as that of Saint Irenaeus, when he called the Word and the Spirit "the two hands of God". They interpret the phrase "monarchy of the Father" differently from those who see it as not in conflict with a procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father through or from the Son. As the Father has given to the Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father.

The Father is "only (mono) father." The Son is "only begotten." The Spirit "only proceeds." Neither the Son, nor the Spirit is subordinated.

Subordination does, however, come into play with the filioque clause, simply because the procession of the Holy Spirit is now no longer unique to only one Person of the Trinity nor shared by all Persons, thus compromising the co-equality of the Persons of the Trinity.

See the accepted answer to the preceding question.

Returning to Wikipedia:

By insistence of the Filioque, Orthodox representatives say that the West appears to deny the monarchy of Father and the Father as principle origin of the Trinity. Which would indeed be the heresy of Modalism (which states the essence of God and not the Father is the origin of, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The idea of Photius having invented that the Father is sole source of cause of the Holy Trinity is to attribute to him something that predates Photius' existence i.e. Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and John of Damascus. "Photius never explored the deeper meaning behind the formula 'through the Son' (διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ), or the necessary eternal relationship between the Son and the Spirit, even though it was a traditional teaching of the previous Greek fathers."

Photius taught this in light of the teachings from Saints like Irenaeus whose Monarchy of the Father is in contrast to subordinationism, as the Orthodox officially condemned subordinationism in the 2nd council of Constantinople. That the Monarchy of Father which is in the Nicene Creed, Photius (and the Eastern Orthodox) endorse as official doctrine. As well as St. John of Damascus who taught the Holy Spirit proceeds from the being of God (as does Zizilious). Which is the Father expressed in the concept of the 'monarchy of the Father' via John 14:28 (“The Father is greater than I am”).

Orthodox officially condemned subordinationism in the 2nd council of Constantinople:

Subordinationists argued that a fully divine Son would imperil the monarchy of the Father, and they believed that any distribution of the divine substance to more than one person would indicate that God is both divisible and subject to change. As a result, they held that any person other than the Father must be created by the Father and subordinate to him. They thus argued that the Son was begotten by the Father as the firstborn of creation before time, that the Son is thus subordinate to the Father in every respect, and that the Father is the only person of the Trinity who is God in the fullest sense. This view was rejected as heresy at the Council of Nicaea in 325, which declared that the Son is not a creature but is eternally begotten from the Father. As such, the Son is as fully divine as the Father and worthy of the same worship the Father receives. The debate over these questions continued in the decades that followed, with Arius and other Subordinationists ranged against Athanasius and other defenders of the Nicene formula. A similar debate occurred regarding the Holy Spirit, and it culminated with the Council of Constantinople in 381. Following the pattern of Nicaea, this council condemned the subordination of the Spirit as heresy and argued that the Spirit is equal in dignity and worthy of the same worship as the Father and the Son.

The bottom line is...

You are confusing the conciliar Orthodox teaching of the Monarchy of the Father with the heterdox teaching of Arianism/subordinationism...

  • 1
    I'm certainly not conflating Monarchy of the Father with Arianism which is not the only form of Surbodinationism. I understand the Orthodox rejection of the term as it can be viewed as perjorative, but the actual logic of doing so while still maintaining 'Monarchy of the Father' escapes me. There are a lot of words in your answer, but no clear explanation of the doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father and how in particular it is reconcileable to 'co-equality'. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 14:11

The Original Nicene Creed ( A.D. 325) is opposed to Athanasian Creed in number of ways.

The Athanasian Creed reads:

We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

So far, so good. This is definitely the Trinity of Nicea. However, it then continues:

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet there are not three Lords but one Lord.

Perhaps you can tell the difference between that wording—for which no Scripture can be found—and this from the Nicene Creed, almost directly quoted from 1 Corinthians 8:6:

We believe in one God, the Father … and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God …

1 Corinthians 8:6 and the Nicene Creed say that the one God is the Father. They also say that Jesus Christ is the one Lord.

The Athanasian Creed, on the other hand, says all three persons of the Godhead are the one God and all three are the one Lord. This is the "mystery" of the modern view, but the modern view did not exist until the 4th century! In its place, the early churches—and, according to them, the apostles as well—had a clear explanation of the Trinity. It is true that the explanation is difficult, but it is clear.

The Nicene Creed reads, "We believe in one God, the Father … and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father."

To the early Church, the one God was the Father. Since the time of the Athanasian Creed, not long after Nicea, the one God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is more about terminology than it is about the actual substance of our faith in the Trinity of God. The early Church believed that there was one divine essence, and the Son and the Holy Spirit were both of that one divine essence. Thus the one God, and his divine essence, includes the Son and Holy Spirit.

However, their terminology (and Biblical terminology) is that the one God is the Father. This is the reason that Paul writes, "For us there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 8:6). It is also the reason that when Jesus prayed, he prayed, "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

The reason we give for not using this terminology in modern Christianity is that the Son is regularly called God in the Scriptures (e.g., John 1:1; Tit. 2:13; there are many others). If the Son is called God, and that repeatedly, how can the Father be called the one God, both in Scripture and in the Nicene Creed?

Fortunately, Tertullian did not leave us without an explanation on this matter. He addressed it directly:

I shall follow the apostle [Paul], so that if the Father and the Son are alike to be invoked, I shall call the Father "God" and invoke Jesus Christ as "Lord."

But when Christ alone [is invoked], I shall be able to call him "God." As the same apostle says, "Of whom is Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever" [Rom. 9:5].

For I should give the name of "sun" even to a sunbeam, considered by itself. But if I were mentioning the sun from which the ray emanates, I would certainly withdraw the name of sun from the mere beam. For although I do not make two suns, still I shall reckon both the sun and its ray to be as much two things—and two forms of one undivided substance—as God and his Word, as the Father and the Son. (Against Marcion 2:13).

When the Son is mentioned alone, Tertullian says, we can call him God because he is of the substance of the Father. When mentioned together, the Father is to be called God, and the Son is to be referred to as Lord.

This not only answers the question of why the Father is called the one God in Scripture, it also shows that the idea of homoousios was not new at the Council of Nicea. It was in common use even in the 2nd century (or, in Tertullian's case, the early 3rd century).

Are God and the Word Equal?

Jesus said in John 14:28, "The Father is greater than I."

Here we find another difference between the Nicene Trinity and the modern view. We modern Christians understand Jesus to be referring to himself only during his time on earth. He was living in a body as a man and submitted to the Father. It is for this reason only that the Father was greater than he.

Before and after his time on earth, however, we believe he was in all ways equal to the Father.

The Athanasian Creed agrees, asserting, "In this Trinity none is before or after another, none is greater or less than another… . the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is … equal to the Father as touching his divinity, and inferior to the Father as touching his manhood."

The Council of Nicea, however, would not agree.

Up to and including the Council of Nicea, the church believed that God was inherently greater than his Word. The Father is greater than the Son, and that's an eternal thing. God is always going to be greater than his Word, which is just part of God.

Tertullian writes:

The Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as he himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I" [John 14:28] ... Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as he who begets is one, and he who is begotten is another." (ibid. 9)

This is a delicate issue to broach, so let's not leave it to Tertullian alone.

A.D. 150: We reasonably worship him, having learned that he is the Son of the true God himself, and holding him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third. (Justin Martyr, First Apology 13)

A.D. 185: For if anyone should ask the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord alone to know the hour and the day, he will find at present no more suitable, becoming, or safe reason than this: … For "the Father," says he, "is greater than I." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies II:28:8)

A.D. 225: Grant that there may be some individuals among the multitude of believers who are not in entire agreement with us and who incautiously assert that the Savior is the Most High God. However, we do not hold with them but rather believe him when he says, "The Father who sent me is greater than I." We would not make him whom we call Father inferior—as Celsus accuses us of doing—to the Son of God. (Origen, Against Celsus VIII:14)

A.D. 250: Who does not acknowledge that the person of the Son is second after the Father … when he finds it written: "Because he who sends me is greater than I"? (A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity 26)

A.D. 300: For it was fitting that he who was greater than all things after the Father should have the Father, who alone is greater than himself, as his witness. (Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins: Discourse VII: Procilla ch. 1)

A.D. 320: The apostolic church believes in one Father unbegotten … who is unchangeable and immutable, who is always the same … and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God… . That he is equally with the Father unchangeable and immutable, lacking in nothing, and the perfect Son, and like to the Father, we have learned. In this alone is he inferior to the Father, that he is not unbegotten … as the Lord himself has taught us when he says, "My Father is greater than I." (Alexander of Alexandria, Letter to Alexander, Bishop of the City of Constantinople, par. 12)

It is clear from these quotes, and from the consistency we see in other the early Christian writings about the Trinity, that the idea that the Father is greater than the Son is an eternal idea, not temporary while he was on earth.

The idea is unfamiliar to us, but it is not that hard to grasp. The Father is the one God, and the Son is the Word of that one God, begotten by him in eternity past. The Word of God, being in some sense "part" of God, says that the Father is greater than he is.

Otherwise he is exactly like God, in that he is of the substance and essence of God, being his Logos.

In fact, even while quoting Jesus as saying that the Father is greater, Tertullian refers to the Son as equal to the Father. Immediately after quoting Prov. 8:22, he writes:

Thus does he make him equal to him; for by proceeding from himself he became his first-begotten Son, because begotten before all things. (Against Praxeas Chapter 7)


The Athanasian Creed does not reflect the Orthodox teaching of the Trinity.Clearly, the Orthodox who uses the Original Nicene Creed of 325 knows that the Father is not greater than the Son although not in nature but only in role and function. The Son and Spirit are equal to the Father in nature but subordinate in eternal relations.The Son begotten, the Spirit proceeds and the Father, the singular source [monarchy] of the two. This is like the teaching of functional subordination and ontological equality. Also, of immanent Trinity and economic Trinity combined with it.





  • 2
    Thankyou, I appreciate the effort you've gone to in this answer. It seems reading between the lines, that you're asserting that the 'Athanasian creed' is not fully consistent with the Orthodox conception of the Trinity (especially where it says 'none is greater') - would that be a fair statement? Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 7:48
  • 1
    I don't think 1 Cor 8:6 can mean that only the father is God or only Jesus is lord. It looks like a parallelism to me. It is arguing against idolatry by showing how the classic Jewish statement that there is one God applies to Christians: both the father and the son are the creator of everything. This verse is equating them, to show that both should be called both God and lord. If you had quoted the whole verse it would be much easier to see.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 8:08
  • 1
    The focus of Paul and of the fathers is to convey the Trinity using proper modes of explanation/appelations. The Father is God( elohim), the Son is Lord ( YHWH). Both titles are truly divine, of God.
    – R. Brown
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 8:13
  • 1
    The Nicene Creed also calls Jesus "God" and the Holy Spirit "Lord." Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 0:46
  • 1
    This is so far, is the best answer to filoque controversy as it concluded with the word " functional subordination and ontological equality". The Begotten Son playing the Role as the Redeemer is a function of subordination to the Father's Will, while the Holy Spirit as "another Advocate" and "Spirit of Truth" is also a functional subordination like the Logos by stripping them of Power & Authority both the Son and the Holy Spirit were sent as subordinate to the Will of the Father but only because of their role to play but not negating their equality in Divine Essence. Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 20:30

I am a little surprised at the reasoning claiming to justify that the Athanasian Creed is fully Orthodox. Yet I feel reluctant to dismiss it outright. I do feel compelled, though, to treat it with suspicion.

For when I read the Latin version of it, the words, " Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio" stood out. That sounds like the Filioque to me.

Sure, Hopko and others rightly point out that there is a distinction between sending the Spirit into the world and the eternal procession, but I find it hard to read the above words from the Athanasian Creed as being about anything except the eternal procession (the immediate context is, after all, set by the following words: nec factus, nec creatus, nec genitus sed PROCEDENS). So it is attributing it to both Father and Son, which is exactly what is wrong with the Filioque. Procession from both violates the principle of Monarchy, as Lossky explained so well.

It is well to treat Lossky as the more authoritative source here, since more modern sources talking about the Filioque have often been written by people under pressure from their hierarchs to preach Union with Rome. This is why I will not attend GOA parishes anymore.

  • 1
    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. Thanks for offering an answer here on a tricky question. However, in my view your answer could use a little more clarity and focus on the precise question asked which is whether the doctrine of Monarchy is consistent with the Athanasian Creed. You seem to imply that it isn't, but it's not entirely clear. Also, who is Lossky? Inquiring readers want to know. See also: What makes a good supported answer? Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 4:02

I would only add that I know one place where an Eastern Orthodox publication explicitly takes issue with the phrase in the Athanasian Creed, "of the Father and of the Son." St Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter (useful to many who use Western liturgical tradition, but produced in affiliation with the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church), p. 432, omits the words "and of the Son," giving them in a footnote and simply stating, "The Latin text reads... However the version from the Greek and Russian Horologion is given above." This also tells me that the Athanasian Creed is given in the Greek and Horologion without these words.

Yes, the word "proceeds" is not used in the Athanasian Creed, but the very general "is of/from" seems more ontological/definitional than an alternative expression such as "is sent by." I think there are two rational Eastern Orthodox positions on the Athanasian Creed text with these words: (1) It does not have Conciliar authority behind it, but, theologically, it is unobjectionable or at least can be explained consistently with the Church's teaching. (This would, obviously, be the camp that takes issue with the filioque as a departure from Conciliar agreement and Church tradition, not insisting that it cannot be understood in a small-o orthodox fashion.) (2) Both this and the filioque are pretty much equally heretical. (This is the camp that insists that the filioque commits the Western church to false teaching.)

What I don't see is how group (2) -- those who find in "proceeds" language a violation of orthodoxy that can't be explained away by distinguishing the eternal procession and the temporal mission -- would find less to object to in the Athanasian Creed's "is from/of" language.

  • The question specifically asks about the Monarchy of the Father. This post does not directly address that issue.
    – bradimus
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 0:40
  • @bradimus This is still a very useful contribution imo - together with Matt J's , it seems to more faithfully represent Orthodox thought than the other more upvoted answers. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 1:11
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers on this site. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 1:59

Is the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of "the Monarchy of the Father" consistent with the Athanasian creed?

This is a summary of an article available at Monarchy of the Father.


To answer this question, below, I first analyze and summarize the Athanasian Creed (AC), excluding its ‘anathemas’ at the beginning and at the end, and excluding the section on the incarnation. Then I compare this summary to the doctrine of the "Monarchy of the Father" of the Eastern Orthodox Church, using particularly the Catechism of the Orthodox Faith and a well-known talk on the Trinity by Fr. Thomas Hopko

Christianity originated in the Eastern Roman Empire (in Judea) and most of the Christian theologians of the first centuries were from that area. However, the Muslim military conquests in later centuries considerably weakened Christianity in the east. At the same time, the Church in Rome grew in prominence and remained a powerful force throughout the Middle Ages. For that reason, the theology of the church in the western world today has been mostly inherited from the Church in Rome. On the other hand, the doctrinal differences that always existed between the church in the east and the west, together with the severe persecution which the church in the east suffered over many centuries, ensured that, to a greater extent than in the west, Eastern Orthodoxy retained the theology of the church fathers of the first centuries. For that reason, it is important that we take note of the teachings of that denomination.

All emphases in quotes below are added by myself.

Athanasian Creed

This article analyses the Athanasian Creed (AC) and summarizes it as follows:

The Son and the Spirit came into existence timelessly from the being or essence of the Father to form three distinct but coeternal Persons.

However, the essence remained undivided.

The Son and the Holy Spirit are equal with the Father ontologically (in terms of essence) and functionally (in terms of roles).

Since all three Persons are uncreated, unlimited, eternal, and Almighty, they seem to be three Gods. However, because the Father’s essence remains undivided, there is one Almighty God with one mind and will, existing in a Trinity.

The remainder of this article compares this summary of the Athanasian Creed (AC) with Eastern Orthodoxy (EO).

Who is God?

The AC and OE identify “God” differently.

The Greek word theos, often translated as “God,” has a wide range of meanings. For example, the New Testament uses it also to refer to false gods and to God’s people. Therefore, to specify that the true God is intended, the Bible sometimes refers to the “one God” (e.g., Mark 12:28-30; John 5:44; 1 Cor 8:6). The Nicene Creed of 325 AD followed this practice and identified the “one God” as the Father:

“We believe in one God, the Father almighty” (Nicene Creed)

The Athanasian Creed (AC) continued to use the phrase “one God” but, while the “one God” in the Nicene Creed is the Father, in the AC, formulated more than 100 years later, the “one God” is the Trinity. For example:

“We worship one God in Trinity.”

Eastern Orthodoxy, following rather the Nicene Creed, states:

“The one God in whom we believe is not the Holy Trinity. … The one God is the Father of Jesus Christ.”

For this reason, “in Eastern Orthodoxy, the term triune God is not a traditional formula. You find the term tri-personal or tri-hypostatic Divinity. There is no tri-personal God.” (Hopko)

Although, in EO, the Son is not the “one God” or part of the “one God,” His only begotten Son “is divine with the very same divinity as the one true and living God.” For this reason, EO translates John 1:1c as “and the Word was divine” (Hopko).

EO does sometimes refer to the Trinity or to the Son as “God” but, in such instances, it uses the word “God” not in a “personal” sense to identify the “one God.” Rather, “when it is said that ‘Jesus Christ is God’ or that there is ‘one God in three Persons’, we use the word God in the qualitative sense of ‘uncreated’ or ‘divine’” (EO Catechism, question 93).

The Trinity

EO agrees with the AC that the Son and Holy Spirit were not created, but came forth from the being of the Father and, therefore, "are of the same essence as the Father" (Hopko).

Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between the Trinity in the AC and in EO. As discussed, while, in the AC, the “one God” is the Trinity, in EO, the “one God” is the Father alone. The following shows that this is a real difference; not only a difference in terminology:

The AC does not allow the “dividing the essence.” Consequently, the Trinity has one single undivided essence. In this view, the term homoousios in the Nicene Creed must be translated as “one substance.” The one single essence and the strong emphasis on one-ness also imply that the three Persons have one single mind and will.

When searching in EO for evidence of one-ness of essence, I did not find it. What I did find is an emphasis on the sameness of substance. For example, the Son “is divine with the same divinity as the one true and living God” (Hopko). And the Son and the Spirit have “ontological or essential equality” with the Father (EO Catechism, question 95).

Also related to the concept in the AC of an undivided essence, I found in EO that “God the Father is thus always with and inseparable from his Only-Begotten Son and Holy Spirit” (EO Catechism, question 90).

Therefore, while the AC teaches that the three Persons are ontologically “one” (have one single substance), in EO they are ontologically the “same,” implying three distinct substances of the same type that are eternally and inseparable together. In that case, homoousios should be translated as “same substance.”

In this respect, EO also follows the Nicene Creed, for (1) the literal meaning of the term homoousios is "same substance," (2) before Nicea homoousios meant “of generically the same substance,” and (3) the purpose of the creed was not the affirm the UNITY of the Godhead, but the DIVINITY of the Son.

And while the emphasis on one-ness in the AC implies one single mind, the emphasis on three-ness in the EO implies three distinct minds and wills. As Hopko stated, “there are three instances of divine life in perfect and total unity.”

For these reasons, the difference, where the AC identifies the Trinity as God while EO defines God as the Father only, is a real difference; not merely a difference in terminology.


Subordination in the Godhead may be classified into different categories:

Relational Subordination

In both the AC and EO, the Son and the Spirit are relationally subordinate to the Father, meaning that they came into existence from the being of the Father. This is the meaning of the phrase, “the Monarchy of the Father” (EO Catechism, question 94).

Filioque Clause

In the AC, “the Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son.” EO claims that this appears to deny the monarchy of Father. In EO, the Spirit proceeds from God (the Father) alone (Wikipedia).

EO does not deny that the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, but explains that as that, because “the Christ is the Son of God on whom God the Father sends and affirms His Holy Spirit, the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ” (Hopko).

However, in the AC, since the Son was begotten by the Father, the Father remains the ultimate Source of the Spirit. For that reason, in my view, the filioque is NOT in opposition to the Monarchy of the Father.

Functional Subordination

In EO, the Son and the Spirit are functionally subordinate to the Father. The EO Catechism, question 95 states that the Son and the Spirit are ontologically (in terms of substance) equal with the Father, however, “this does not negate different roles or functions.” The question then gives examples of different functions or roles in which the Son is subordinate to the Father (1 Cor 11:2-3; 15:27-28).

The AC, on the other hand, does not seem to allow for functional subordination.

Ontological Subordination

For the following reasons, it is proposed that, in EO, the Son and the Spirit are also ontologically less than (subordinate to) the Father:

Firstly, the examples above of the functional subordination of the Son point to eternal functional subordination. But eternal functional subordination implies ontological subordination. Why would the Son and the Spirit be eternally functionally subordinate unless they are also ontologically subordinate?

Secondly, if “the Father is the cause and origin,” as the EO Catechism claims, the Son and the Spirit received their substance and divinity from the Father. If that is true, and if they do not have one single substance as in the AC, then the substances of the Son and the Spirit are portions of the substance of the Father. That would mean that they are ontologically subordinate to the Father, as Tertullian also taught:

“The Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole” (Tertullian Against Praxeas, 9 (ANF 3: 604))


In the AC, the "one God" is the Trinity, existing in one single substance and mind. In EO, the "one God" is the Father, and the trinity have three distinct substances and wills.

While, in the AC, the strong emphasis on the single undivided substance and only allows relational subordination, in EO, the Son is ontologically, functionally, and relationally subordinate to the Father.


Here is the Symbol of Faith of Orthodox Christians:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;

And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;

And rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures;

And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;

And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets;

In One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I Confess one Baptism for the remission of sins.

I look for the Resurrection of the dead,

And the life of the age to come, Amen.

You can see twelve elements of the Orthodox creed. Here is no words about "the Monarchy of the Father"! It's simply to understand that whole created world is the Monarchy of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Trinity of one essence and inseparable, One God.

As the Lord Jesus Christ said (John 16:15):

All things that the Father hath are mine


The Athanasian creed, if it has words about Filioque, is the heresy and does not belong to the Saint Athanasius of Alexandria! So we never consistent true Orthodox faith with the heretical Filioque even by using some auxiliary constructions like "the Monarchy of the Father".

  • 2
    That is the Nicene creed, not the Athanasian creed - your answer lacks basic research. Commented May 26, 2014 at 11:46
  • I answer about "the Monarchy of the Father" with respect to the Orthodox creed. The Athanasian creed, if it has words about Filioque, is the heresy and do not belongs to the Saint Athanasius of Alexandria!!!
    – DenisMath
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 11:53
  • 1
    It is generally recognised that the Athanasian Creed was not written by Athanasius (or indeed written in the fourth century). It's frequently known as Quicunque Vult for precisely that reason. Moreover, this doesn't answer the question. There is plainly more to Orthodox theology than the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, and the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father has traditionally been Orthodox teaching. Commented May 26, 2014 at 17:57

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