Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: His elaborate account of degrees and differences in 'works' and 'energies' within the Trinity is absurd.
§24. His elaborate account of degrees and differences in works and energies within the Trinity is absurd.
Now let us see what he adds, as the consequence of this. After saying that we must perforce regard the Being as greater and less and that while 137 the ones, by virtue of a pre-eminent magnitude and value, occupy a leading place, the others must be detruded to a lower place, because their nature and their value is secondary, he adds this; “their difference amounts to that existing between their works: it would in fact be impious to say that the same energy produced the angels or the stars, and the heavens or man; but one would positively maintain about this, that in proportion as some works are older and more honourable than others, so does one energy transcend another, because sameness of energy produces sameness of work, and difference of work indicates difference of energy.”
I suspect that their author himself would find it difficult to tell us what he meant when he wrote those words. Their thought is obscured by the rhetorical mud, which is so thick that one can hardly see beyond any clue to interpret them. “Their difference amounts to that existing between their works” is a sentence which might be suspected of coming from some Loxias of pagan story, mystifying his hearers. But if we may make a guess at the drift of his observations here by following out those which we have already examined, this would be his meaning, viz., that if we know the amount of difference between one work and another, we shall know the amount of that between the corresponding energies. But what “works” he here speaks of, it is impossible to discover from his words. If he means the works to be observed in the creation, I do not see how this hangs on to what goes before. For the question was about Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: what occasion was there, then, for one thinking rationally to inquire one after another into the nature of earth, and water, and air, and fire, and the different animals, and to distinguish some works as older and more honourable than others, and to speak of one energy as transcending another? But if he calls the Only-begotten and the Holy Spirit “works,” what does he mean by the “differences” of the energies which produce these works: and what are 138 those wonderful energies of this writer which transcend the others? He has neither explained the particular way in which he means them to “transcend” each other; nor has he discussed the nature of these energies: but he has advanced in neither direction, neither proving so far their real subsistence, nor their being some unsubstantial exertion of a will. Throughout it all his meaning hangs suspended between these two conceptions, and oscillates from one to the other. He adds that “it would be impious to say that the same energy produced the angels or the stars, and the heavens or man.” Again we ask what necessity there is to draw this conclusion from his previous remarks? I do not see that it is proved any more 139 because the energies vary amongst themselves as much as the works do, and because the works are not all from the same source but are stated by him to come from different sources. As for the heavens and each angel, star, and man, or anything else understood by the word “creation,” we know from Scripture that they are all the work of One: whereas in their system of theology the Son and the Spirit are not the work of one and the same, the Son being the work of the energy which follows the first Being, and the Spirit the further work of that work. What the connexion, then, is between that statement and the heavens, man, angel, star, which he drags in, must be revealed by himself, or some one whom he has initiated into his profound philosophy. The blasphemy intended by his words is plain p. LXVI enough, but the way the profanity is stated is inconsistent with itself. To suppose that within the Holy Trinity there is a difference as wide as that which we can observe between the heavens which envelope the whole creation, and one single man or the star which shines in them, is openly profane: but still the connexion of such thoughts and the pertinence of such a comparison is a mystery to me, and I suspect also to its author himself. If indeed his account of the creation were of this sort, viz., that while the heavens were the work of some transcendent energy each star in them was the result of an energy accompanying the heavens, and that then an angel was the result of that star, and a man of that angel, his argument would then have consisted in a comparison of similar processes, and might have somewhat confirmed his doctrine. But since he grants that it was all made by One (unless he wishes to contradict Scripture downright), while he describes the production of the Persons after a different fashion, what connexion is there between this newly imported view and what went before?
But let it be granted to him that this comparison does have some connexion with proving variation amongst the Beings (for this is what he desires to establish); still let us see how that which follows hangs on to what he has just said, In proportion as one work is prior to another and more precious than it, so would a pious mind affirm that one energy transcends another. If in this he alludes to the sensible world, the statement is a long way from the matter in hand. There is no necessity whatever that requires one whose subject is theological to philosophize about the order in which the different results achieved in the world-making are to come, and to lay down that the energies of the Creator are higher and lower analogously to the magnitude of each thing then made. But if he speaks of the Persons themselves, and means by works that are older and more honourable those works which he has just fashioned in his own creed, that is, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it would be perhaps better to pass over in silence such an abominable view, than to create even the appearance of its being an argument by entangling ourselves with it. For can a more honourable be discovered where there is not a less honourable? If he can go so far, and with so light a heart, in profanity as to hint that the expression and the idea less precious can be predicated of anything whatever which we believe of the Trinity, then it were well to stop our ears, and get as quickly as possible out of hearing of such wickedness, and the contagion of reasoning which will be transfused into the heart, as from a vessel full of uncleanness.
Can any one dare to speak of the divine and supreme Being in such a way that a less degree of honour in comparison is proved by the argument. “That all,” says the evangelist, “may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. 140 ” This utterance (and such an utterance is a law to us) makes a law of this equality in honour: yet this man annuls both the law and its Giver, and apportions to the One more, to the Other less of honour, by some occult method for measuring its extra abundance which he has discovered. By the custom of mankind the differences of worth are the measure of the amount of honour which each in authority receives; so that inferiors do not approach the lower magistracies in the same guise exactly as they do the sovereign, and the greater or less display of fear or reverence on their part indicates the greater or the less worshipfulness in the objects of it: in fact we may discover, in this disposition of inferiors, who are the specially honourable; when, for instance, we see some one feared beyond his neighbours, or the recipient of more reverence than the rest. But in the case of the divine nature, because every perfection in the way of goodness is connoted with the very name of God, we cannot discover, at all events as we look at it, any ground for degrees of honour. Where there is no greater and smaller in power, or glory, or wisdom, or love, or of any other imaginable good whatever, but the good which the Son has is the Fathers also, and all that is the Fathers is seen in the Son, what possible state of mind can induce us to show the more reverence in the case of the Father? If we think of royal power and worth the Son is King: if of a judge, all judgment is committed to the Son 141 : if of the magnificent office of Creation, all things were made by Him 142 : if of the Author of our life, we know the True Life came down as far as our nature: if of our being taken out of darkness, we know He is the True Light, who weans us from darkness: if wisdom is precious to any, Christ is Gods power and Wisdom 143 .
Our very souls, then, being disposed so naturally and in proportion to their capacity, and yet so miraculously, to recognize so many and great wonders in Christ, what further excess of honour is left us to pay exclusively to the Father, as inappropriate to the Son? Human reverence of the Deity, looked at in its plainest meaning, is nothing else but p. LXVII an attitude of love towards Him, and a confession of the perfections in Him: and I think that the precept so ought the Son to be honoured as the Father 144 , is enjoined by the Word in place of love. For the Law commands that we pay to God this fitting honour by loving Him with all our heart and strength and here is the equivalent of that love, in that the Word as Lawgiver thus says, that the Son ought to be honoured as the Father.
It was this kind of honour that the great David fully paid, when he confessed to the Lord in a prelude 145 of his psalmody that he loved the Lord, and told all the reasons for his love, calling Him his “rock” and “fortress,” and “refuge,” and “deliverer,” and “God-helper,” and “hope,” and “buckler,” and “horn of salvation,” and “protector.” If the Only-begotten Son is not all these to mankind, let the excess of honour be reduced to this extent as this heresy dictates: but if we have always believed Him to be, and to be entitled to, all this and even more, and to be equal in every operation and conception of the good to the majesty of the Fathers goodness, how can it be pronounced consistent, either not to love such a character, or to slight it while we love it? No one can say that we ought to love Him with all our heart and strength, but to honour Him only with half. If, then, the Son is to be honoured with the whole heart in rendering to Him all our love, by what device can anything superior to His honour be discovered, when such a measure of honour is paid Him in the coin of love as our whole heart is capable of? Vainly, therefore, in the case of Beings essentially honourable, will any one dogmatize about a superior honour, and by comparison suggest an inferior honour.
Again; only in the case of the creation is it true to speak of priority. The sequence of works was there displayed in the order of the days; and the heavens may be said to have preceded by so much the making of man, and that interval may be measured by the interval of days. But in the divine nature, which transcends all idea of time and surpasses all reach of thought, to talk of a “prior” and a “later” in the honours of time is a privilege only of this new-fangled philosophy. In short he who declares the Father to be prior to the subsistence of the Son declares nothing short of this, viz., that the Son is later than the things made by the Son 146 (if at least it is true to say that all the ages, and all duration of time was created after the Son, and by the Son).
τὰς μὲν, i.e. Οὑσίος. Eunomius Arianism here degenerates into mere Emanationism: but even in this system the Substances were living: it is best on the whole to translate οὐσία being, and this, as a rule, is adhered to throughout.LXV:138
κᾀκείναι αἱ ἐνεργείαι αὖται.LXV:139
τῷ παρηλλάχθαι, κ.τ.λ. This is Oehlers emendation for the faulty reading τὸ of the editions.LXVI:140
John v. 23.LXVI:141
John v. 22; i. 3.LXVI:142
John v. 22; i. 3.LXVI:143
1 Cor. i. 24. “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”LXVII:144
John v. 23. The Gospel enjoins honour and means love: the Law enjoins love and means honour.LXVII:145
a prelude. See Ps. 7:1, Ps. 18:1, 2Psalm vii. 1 and Psalm xviii. 1, “fortress,” κραταίωμα; στερέωμα, LXX.LXVII:146
The meaning is that, if the Son is later (in time) than the Father, then time must have already existed for this comparison to be made; i.e. the Son is later than time as well as the Father. This involves a contradiction.
Next: He who asserts that the Father is 'prior' to the Son with any thought of an interval must perforce allow that even the Father is not without beginning.
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