Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He then shows the eternity of the Son's generation, and the inseparable identity of His essence with Him that begat Him, and likens the folly of Eunomius to children playing with sand.
§3. He then shows the eternity of the Sons generation, and the inseparable identity of His essence with Him that begat Him, and likens the folly of Eunomius to children playing with sand.
But since, in what follows, he is active in stirring up the ill savour of his disgusting attempts, whereby he tries to make out that the Only-begotten God “once was not,” it will be well, as our mind on this head has been made pretty clear by our previous arguments, no longer to plunge our argument also in what is likewise bad, except perhaps that it is not unseasonable to add this one point, having selected it from the multitude. He says (some one having remarked that “the property of not being begotten is equally associated with the essence of the Father 950 ”), “The argument proceeds by like steps to those by which it came to a conclusion in the case of the Son.” The orthodox doctrine is clearly strengthened by the attack of its adversaries, the doctrine, namely, that we ought not to think that not to be begotten or to be begotten are identical with the essence 951 , but that these should be contemplated, it is true, in the subject, while the subject in its proper definition is something else beyond these, and since no difference is found in the subject, because the difference of “begotten” and “unbegotten” is apart from the essence, and does not affect it, it necessarily follows that the essence must be allowed to be in both Persons without variation. Let us moreover inquire, over and above what has been already said, into this point, in what sense he says that “generation” is alien from the Father,—whether he does so conceiving of it as an essence or an operation. If he conceives it to be an operation, it is clearly equally connected with its result and with its author, as in every kind of production one may see the operation alike in the product and the producer, appearing in the production of the effects and not separated from their artificer. But if he terms “generation” an essence separate from the essence of the Father, admitting that the Lord came into being therefrom, then he plainly puts this in the place of the Father as regards the Only-begotten, so that two Fathers are conceived in the case of the Son, one a Father in name alone, Whom he calls “the Ungenerate,” Who has nothing to do with generation, and the other, which he calls “generation,” performing the part of a Father to the Only-begotten.
And this is brought home even more by the statements of Eunomius himself than by our own arguments. For in what follows, he says:—“God, being without generation, is also prior to that which is generate,” and a little further on, “for He Whose existence arises from being generated did not exist before He was generated.” Accordingly, if the Father has nothing to do p. CCXXIV with generation, and if it is from generation that the Son derives His being, then the Father has no action in respect of the subsistence of the Son, and is apart from all connection with generation, from which the Son draws His being. If, then, the Father is alien from the generation of the Son, they either invent for the Son another Father under the name of “generation,” or in their wisdom make out the Son to be self-begotten and self-generated. You see the confusion of mind of the man who exhibits his ignorance to us up and down in his own argument, how his profanity wanders in many paths, or rather in places where no path is, without advancing to its mark by any trustworthy guidance; and as one may see in the case of infants, when in their childish sport they imitate the building of houses with sand, that what they build is not framed on any plan, or by any rules of art, to resemble the original, but first they make something at haphazard, and in silly fashion, and then take counsel what to call it,—this penetration I discern in our author. For after getting together words of impiety according to what first comes into his head, like a heap of sand, he begins to cast about to see whither his unintelligible profanity tends, growing up as it does spontaneously from what he has said, without any rational sequence. For I do not imagine that he originally proposed to invent generation as an actual subsistence standing to the essence of the Son in the place of the Father, nor that it was part of our rhetoricians plan that the Father should be considered as alien from the generation of the Son, nor was the absurdity of self-generation deliberately introduced. But all such absurdities have been emitted by our author without reflection, so that, as regards them, the man who so blunders is not even worth much refutation, as he knows, to borrow the Apostles words, “neither what he says, nor whereof he affirms 952 .”
“For He Whose existence arises from generation,” he says, “did not exist before generation.” If he here uses the term “generation” of the Father, I agree with Him, and there is no opponent. For one may mean the same thing by either phrase, by saying either that Abraham begat Isaac, or, that Abraham was the father of Isaac. Since then to be father is the same as to have begotten, if any one shifts the words from one form of speech to the other, paternity will be shown to be identical with generation. If, therefore, what Eunomius says is this, “He Whose existence is derived from the Father was not before the Father,” the statement is sound, and we give our vote in favour of it. But if he is recurring in the phrase to that generation of which we have spoken before, and says that it is separated from the Father but associated with the Son, then I think it waste of time to linger over the consideration of the unintelligible. For whether he thinks generation to be a self-existent object, or whether by the name he is carried in thought to that which has no actual existence, I have not to this day been able to find out from his language. For his fluid and baseless argument lends itself alike to either supposition, inclining to one side or to the other according to the fancy of the thinker.
Presumably the quotation from the unknown author, if completed, would run, “as that of being begotten is associated with the essence of the Son.”CCXXIII:951
If the property of not being begotten is “associated with” the essence, it clearly cannot be the essence, as Eunomius elsewhere maintains it to be: hence the phrase which he here adopts concedes S. Gregorys position on this point.CCXXIV:952
1 Tim. i. 7.
Next: After this he shows that the Son, who truly is, and is in the bosom of the Father, is simple and uncompounded, and that, He Who redeemed us from bondage is not under dominion of the Father, nor in a state of slavery: and that otherwise not He alone, but also the Father Who is in the Son and is One with Him, must be a slave; and that the word “being” is formed from the word to “be.” And having excellently and notably discussed all these matters, he concludes the book.
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