Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He did wrong, when mentioning the Doctrines of Salvation, in adopting terms of his own choosing instead of the traditional terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
§14. He did wrong, when mentioning the Doctrines of Salvation, in adopting terms of his own choosing instead of the traditional terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The reason for this invention of new words I take to be manifest to every one—namely: that every one, when the words father and son are spoken, at once recognizes the proper and natural relationship to one another which they imply. This relationship is conveyed at once by the appellations themselves. To prevent it being understood of the Father, and the Only-begotten Son, he robs us of this idea of relationship which enters the ear along with the words, and abandoning the inspired terms, expounds the Faith by means of others devised to injure the truth.
One thing, however, that he says is true: that his own teaching, not the Catholic teaching, is summed up so. Indeed any one who reflects can easily see the impiety of his statement. It will not be out of place now to discuss in detail what his intention is in ascribing to the being of the Father alone the highest degree of that which is supreme and proper, while not admitting that the being of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is supreme and proper. For my part I think that it is a prelude to his complete denial of the being of the Only-begotten and of the Holy Ghost, and that this system of his is secretly intended to effect the setting aside of all real belief in their personality, while in appearance and in mere words confessing it. A moments reflection upon his statement will enable any one to perceive that this is so. It does not look like one who thinks that the Only-begotten and the Holy Ghost really exist in a distinct personality to be very particular about the names with which he thinks the greatness of Almighty God should be expressed. To grant the fact 106 , and then go into minute distinctions about the appropriate phrases 107 would be indeed consummate folly: and so in ascribing a being that is in the highest degree supreme and proper only to the Father, he makes us surmise by this silence respecting the other two that (to him) they do not properly exist. How can that to which a proper being is denied be said to really exist? When we deny proper being to it, we must perforce affirm of it all the opposite terms. That which cannot be properly said is improperly said, so that the demonstration of its not being properly said is a proof of its not really subsisting: and it is at this that Eunomius seems to aim in introducing these new names into his teaching. For no one can say that he has strayed from ignorance into some silly fancy of separating, locally, the supreme from that which is below, and assigning to the Father as it were the peak of some hill, while he seats the Son lower down in the hollows. No one is so childish as to conceive of differences in space, when the intellectual and spiritual is under discussion. Local position is a property of the material: but the intellectual and immaterial is confessedly removed from the idea of locality. What, then, is the reason why he says that the Father alone has supreme being? For one can hardly think it is from ignorance that he wanders off into these conceptions, being one who, in the many displays he makes, claims to be wise, even “making himself overwise,” as the Holy Scripture forbids us to do 108 .
i.e. of the equality of Persons.LI:107
i.e. for the Persons.LI:108
Eccles. vii. 16.
Next: He does wrong in making the being of the Father alone proper and supreme, implying by his omission of the Son and the Spirit that theirs is improperly spoken of, and is inferior.
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