Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He has no reason for distinguishing a plurality of beings in the Trinity. He offers no demonstration that it is so.
§18. He has no reason for distinguishing a plurality of beings in the Trinity. He offers no demonstration that it is so.
Let us examine the following as well. He calls one Being the work of another, the second of the first, and the third of the second. On what previous demonstration does this statement rest: what proofs does he make use of, what method, to compel belief in the succeeding Being as a result of the preceding? For even if it were possible to draw an analogy for this from created things, such conjecturing about the transcendent from lower existences would not be altogether sound, though the error in arguing from natural phenomena to the incomprehensible might then be pardonable. But as it is, none would venture to affirm that, while the heavens are the work of God, the sun is that of the heavens, and the moon that of the sun, and the stars that of the moon, and other created things that of the stars: seeing that all are the work of One: for there is one God and Father of all, of Whom are all things. If anything is produced by mutual transmission, such as the race of animals, not even here does one produce another, for nature runs on through each generation. How then, when it is impossible to affirm it of the created world, can he declare of the transcendent existencies that the second is a work of the first, and so on? If, however, he is thinking of animal generation, and fancies that such a process is going on also amongst pure existences, so that the older produces the younger, even so he fails to be consistent: for such productions are of the same type as their progenitors: whereas he assigns to the members of his succession strange and uninherited qualities: and thus displays a superfluity of falsehood, while striving to strike truth with both hands at once, in a clever boxers fashion. In order to show the inferior rank and diminution in intrinsic value of the Son and Holy Spirit, he declares that “one is produced from another;” in order that those who understand about mutual generation might entertain no idea of family relationship here: he contradicts the law of nature by declaring that “one is produced from another,” and at the same time exhibiting the Son as a bastard when compared with His Fathers nature.
But one might find fault with him, I think, before coming to all this. If, that is, any one else, previously unaccustomed to discussion and unversed in logical expression, delivered his ideas in this chance fashion, some indulgence might be shown him for not using the recognized methods for establishing his views. But considering that Eunomius has such an abundance of this power, that he can advance by his irresistible method 113 of proof even into the p. LVI supra-natural, how can he be ignorant of the starting-point from which this irresistible perception of a hidden truth takes its rise in all these logical excursions. Every one knows that all such arguing must start from plain and well-known truths, to compel belief through itself in still doubtful truths: and that none of these last can be grasped without the guidance of what is obvious leading us towards the unknown. If on the other hand that which is adopted to start with for the illustration of this unknown is at variance with universal belief, it will be a long time before the unknown will receive any illustration from it.
The whole controversy, then, between the Church and the Anomœans turns on this: Are we to regard the Son and the Holy Spirit as belonging to created or uncreated existence? Our opponent declares that to be the case which all deny: he boldly lays it down, without looking about for any proof, that each being is the work of the preceding being. What method of education, what school of thought can warrant him in this, it is difficult to see. Some axiom that cannot be denied or assailed must be the beginning of every process of proof; so as for the unknown quantity to be demonstrated from what has been assumed, being legitimately deduced by intervening syllogisms. The reasoner, therefore, who makes what ought to be the object of inquiry itself a premiss of his demonstration is only proving the obscure by the obscure, and illusion by illusion. He is making the blind lead the blind, for it is a truly blind and unsupported statement to say that the Creator and Maker of all things is a creature made: and to this they link on a conclusion that is also blind: namely, that the Son is alien in nature, unlike in being to the Father, and quite devoid of His essential character. But of this enough. Where his thought is nakedly blasphemous, there we too can defer its refutation. We must now return to consider his words which come next in order.
καταληπτικῆς ἐφόδου—ἡ κατάληψις. These words are taken from the Stoic logic, and refer to the Stoic view of the standard of truth. To the question, How are true perceptions distinguished from false ones, the Stoics answered, that a true perception is one which represents a real object as it really is. To the further question, How may it be known that a perception faithfully represents a reality, they replied by pointing to a relative not an absolute test—the degree of strength with which certain perceptions force themselves upon our notice. Some of our perceptions are of such a kind that they at once oblige us to bestow on them assent. Such perceptions produce in us that strength of conviction which the Stoics call a conception. Whenever a perception forces itself upon us in this irresistible form, we are no longer dealing with a fiction of the imagination but with something real. The test of irresistibility (κατάληψις) was, in the first place, understood to apply to sensations from without, such sensations, according to the Stoic view, alone supplying the material for knowledge. An equal degree of certainty was, however, attached to terms deduced from originally true data, either by the universal and natural exercise of thought, or by scientific processes of proof. It is καταλέψεις obtained in this last way that Gregory refers to, and Eunomius was endeavouring to create in the supra-natural world.
Next: His acknowledgment that the Divine Being is 'single' is only verbal.
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