Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Against the Arians. (Orationes contra Arianos IV.): Extracts from the Thalia of Arius. Arius maintains that God became a Father, and the Son was not always; the Son out of nothing; once He was not; He was not before his generation; He was created; named Wisdom and Word after God's attributes; made that He might make us; one out of many powers of God; alterable; exalted on God's foreknowledge of what He was to be; not very God; but called so as others by participation; foreign in essence from the Father; does not know or see the Father; does not know Himself.
Chapter II.—Extracts from the Thalia of Arius. Arius maintains that God became a Father, and the Son was not always; the Son out of nothing; once He was not; He was not before his generation; He was created; named Wisdom and Word after Gods attributes; made that He might make us; one out of many powers of God; alterable; exalted on Gods foreknowledge of what He was to be; not very God; but called so as others by participation; foreign in essence from the Father; does not know or see the Father; does not know Himself.
5. Now the commencement of Ariuss Thalia and flippancy, effeminate in tune and nature, runs thus:—
According to faith of Gods elect, Gods prudent ones,
Holy children, rightly dividing, Gods Holy Spirit receiving,
Have I learned this from the partakers of wisdom,
Accomplished, divinely taught, and wise in all things.
Along their track, have I been walking, with like opinions.
I the very famous, the much suffering for Gods glory;
And taught of God, I have acquired wisdom and knowledge.
And the mockeries which he utters in it, repulsive and most irreligious, are such as these 1839 :—God was not always a Father; but once God was alone, and not yet a Father, but afterwards He became a Father. The Son was not always; for, whereas all things were made out of nothing, and all existing creatures and works were made, so the Word of God Himself was made out of nothing, and once He was not, and He was not before His p. 309 origination, but He as others had an origin of creation. For God, he says, was alone, and the Word as yet was not, nor the Wisdom. Then, wishing to form us, thereupon He made a certain one, and named Him Word and Wisdom and Son, that He might form us by means of Him. Accordingly, he says that there are two wisdoms, first, the attribute co-existent with God, and next, that in this wisdom the Son was originated, and was only named Wisdom and Word as partaking of it. For Wisdom, saith he, by the will of the wise God, had its existence in Wisdom. In like manner, he says, that there is another Word in God besides the Son, and that the Son again, as partaking of it, is named Word and Son according to grace. And this too is an idea proper to their heresy, as shewn in other works of theirs, that there are many powers; one of which is Gods own by nature and eternal; but that Christ, on the other hand, is not the true power of God; but, as others, one of the so-called powers, one of which, namely, the locust and the caterpillar 1840 , is called in Scripture, not merely the power, but the great power. The others are many and are like the Son, and of them David speaks in the Psalms, when he says, The Lord of hosts or powers 1841 . And by nature, as all others, so the Word Himself is alterable, and remains good by His own free will, while He chooseth; when, however, He wills, He can alter as we can, as being of an alterable nature. For therefore, saith he, as foreknowing that He would be good, did God by anticipation bestow on Him this glory, which afterwards, as man, He attained from virtue. Thus in consequence of His works fore-known 1842 , did God bring it to pass that He being such, should come to be.
6. Moreover he has dared to say, that the Word is not the very God; though He is called God, yet He is not very God, but by participation of grace, He, as others, is God only in name. And, whereas all beings are foreign and different from God in essence, so too is the Word alien and unlike in all things to the Fathers essence and propriety, but belongs to things originated and created, and is one of these. Afterwards, as though he had succeeded to the devils recklessness, he has stated in his Thalia, that even to the Son the Father is invisible, and the Word cannot perfectly and exactly either see or know His own Father; but even what He knows and what He sees, He knows and sees in proportion to His own measure, as we also know according to our own power. For the Son, too, he says, not only knows not the Father exactly, for He fails in comprehension 1843 , but He knows not even His own essence;—and that the essences of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, are separate in nature, and estranged, and disconnected, and alien 1844 , and without participation of each other 1845 ; and, in his own words, utterly unlike from each other in essence and glory, unto infinity. Thus as to likeness of glory and essence, he says that the Word is entirely diverse from both the Father and the Holy Ghost. With such words hath the irreligious spoken; maintaining that the Son is distinct by Himself, and in no respect partaker of the Father. These are portions of Ariuss fables as they occur in that jocose composition.
7. Who is there that hears all this, nay, the tune of the Thalia, but must hate, and justly hate, this Arius jesting on such matters as on a stage 1846 ? who but must regard him, when he pretends to name God and speak of God, but as the serpent counselling the woman? who, on reading what follows in his work, but must discern in his irreligious doctrine that error, into which by his sophistries the serpent in the sequel seduced the woman? who at such blasphemies is not transported? The heaven, as the Prophet says, was astonished, and the earth shuddered 1847 at the transgression of the Law. But the sun, with greater horror, impatient of the bodily contumelies, which the common Lord of all voluntarily endured for us, turned away, and recalling his rays made that day sunless. And shall not all human kind at Ariuss blasphemies be struck speechless, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, to escape hearing them or seeing their author? Rather, will not the Lord Himself have reason to denounce men so irreligious, nay, so unthankful, in the words which He has already uttered by the prophet Hosea, Woe unto them, for they have fled from Me; destruction upon p. 310 them, for they have transgressed against Me; though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me 1848 . And soon after, They imagine mischief against Me; they turn away to nothing 1849 . For to turn away from the Word of God, which is, and to fashion to themselves one that is not, is to fall to what is nothing. For this was why the Ecumenical 1850 Council, when Arius thus spoke, cast him from the Church, and anathematized him, as impatient of such irreligion. And ever since has Ariuss error been reckoned for a heresy more than ordinary, being known as Christs foe, and harbinger 1851 of Antichrist. Though then so great a condemnation be itself of special weight to make men flee from that irreligious heresy 1852 , as I said above, yet since certain persons called Christian, either in ignorance or pretence, think it, as I then said, little different from the Truth, and call its professors Christians; proceed we to put some questions to them, according to our powers, thereby to expose the unscrupulousness of the heresy. Perhaps, when thus caught, they will be silenced, and flee from it, as from the sight of a serpent.
de Syn. §15. [where the metre of the Thalia is discussed in a note.]309:1840
de Syn. §18; Joel ii. 25.309:1841
Ps. xxiv. 10.309:1842
de Syn. 26, note 7, de Decr. 6, note 8.309:1843
Vid. de Syn. 15, note 6. κατάληψις was originally a Stoic word, and even when considered perfect, was, properly speaking, attributable only to an imperfect being. For it is used in contrast to the Platonic doctrine of ἴδεαι, to express the hold of things obtained by the mind through the senses; it being a Stoical maxim, nihil esse in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu. In this sense it is also used by the Fathers, to mean real and certain knowledge after inquiry, though it is also ascribed to Almighty God. As to the position of Arius, since we are told in Scripture that none knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him, if κατάληψις be an exact and complete knowledge of the object of contemplation, to deny that the Son comprehended the Father, was to deny that He was in the Father, i.e. the doctrine of the περιχώρησις, de Syn. 15, ἀνεπιμικτοί, or to maintain that He was a distinct, and therefore a created, being. On the other hand Scripture asserts that, as the Holy Spirit which is in God, searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God, so the Son, as being in the bosom of the Father, alone hath declared Him. vid. Clement. Strom. v. 12. And thus Athan. speaking of Mark xiii. 32, If the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son, and the Father knows the day and the hour, it is plain that the Son too, being in the Father, and knowing the things in the Father, Himself also knows the day and the hour.” Orat. iii. 44.309:1844
de Decr. 25, note 2.309:1845
de Syn. 15.309:1846
Ep. Encycl. 6; Epiph. Hær. 73. 1.309:1847
Jer. ii. 12.310:1848
Hos. vii. 13.310:1849
Hos. 7.15. lxx.310:1850
de Decr. 27, note 1.310:1851
Ib. 3, note 1, §1, note 3.310:1852
And so Vigilius of the heresies about the Incarnation, Etiamsi in erroris eorum destructionem nulli conderentur libri, hoc ipsum solum, quod hæretici sunt pronunciati, orthodoxorum securitati sufficeret. contr. Eutych. i. p. 494.
Next: The Importance of the Subject. The Arians affect Scripture language, but their doctrine new, as well as unscriptural. Statement of the Catholic doctrine, that the Son is proper to the Father's substance, and eternal. Restatement of Arianism in contrast, that He is a creature with a beginning: the controversy comes to this issue, whether one whom we are to believe in as God, can be so in name only, and is merely a creature. What pretence then for being indifferent in the controversy? The Arians rely on state patronage, and dare not avow their tenets.
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