Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Against the Arians. (Orationes contra Arianos IV.): Objections to the Foregoing Proof. Whether, in the generation of the Son, God made One that was already, or One that was not.
Chapter VII.—Objections to the Foregoing Proof. Whether, in the generation of the Son, God made One that was already, or One that was not.
22 (continued). Ranking Him among these, according to the teaching of Eusebius, and accounting Him such as the things which come into being through Him, Arius and his fellows revolted from the truth, and used, when they commenced this heresy, to go about with dishonest phrases which they had got together; nay, up to this time some of them 1968 , when they fall in p. 320 with boys in the market-place, question them, not out of divine Scripture, but thus, as if bursting with the abundance of their heart 1969 ;—He who is, did He make him who was not, from that which was [not], or him who was? therefore did He make the Son, whereas He was, or whereas He was not 1970 ? And again, Is the Unoriginate one or two? and Has He free will, and yet does not alter at His own choice, as being of an alterable nature? for He is not as a stone to remain by Himself unmoveable. Next they turn to silly women, and address them in turn in this womanish language; Hadst thou a son before bearing? now, as thou hadst not, so neither was the Son of God before His generation. In such language do the disgraceful men sport and revel, and liken God to men, pretending to be Christians, but changing Gods glory into an image made like to corruptible man 1971 .
23. Words so senseless and dull deserved no answer at all; however, lest their heresy appear to have any foundation, it may be right, though we go out of the way for it, to refute them even here, especially on account of the silly women who are so readily deceived by them. When they thus speak, they should have inquired of an architect, whether he can build without materials; and if he cannot, whether it follows that God could not make the universe without materials 1972 . Or they should have asked every man, whether he can be without place; and if he cannot, whether it follows that God is in place, that so they may be brought to shame even by their audience. Or why is it that, on hearing that God has a Son, they deny Him by the parallel of themselves; whereas, if they hear that He creates and makes, no longer do they object their human ideas? they ought in creation also to entertain the same, and to supply God with materials, and so deny Him to be Creator, till they end in grovelling with Manichees. But if the bare idea of God transcends such thoughts, and, on very first hearing, a man believes and knows that He is in being, not as we are, and yet in being as God, and creates not as man creates, but yet creates as God, it is plain that He begets also not as men beget, but begets as God. For God does not make man His pattern; but rather we men, for that God is properly, and alone truly 1973 , Father of His Son, are also called fathers of our own children; for of Him is every fatherhood in heaven and earth named 1974 . And their positions, while unscrutinized, have a shew of sense; but if any one scrutinize them by reason, they will be found to incur much derision and mockery.
24. For first of all, as to their first question, which is such as this, how dull and vague it is! they do not explain who it is they ask about, so as to allow of an answer, but they say abstractedly, He who is, him who is not. Who then is, and what are not, O Arians? or who is, and who is not? what are said to be, what not to be? for He that is, can make things which are not, and which are, and which were before. For instance, carpenter, and goldsmith, and potter, each, according to his own art, works upon materials previously existing, making what vessels he pleases; and the God of all Himself, having taken the dust of the earth existing and already brought to be, fashions man; that very earth, however, whereas it was not once, He has at one time made by His own Word. If then this is the meaning of their question, the creature on the one hand plainly was not before its origination, and men, on the other, work the existing material; and thus their reasoning is inconsequent, since both what is becomes, and what is not becomes, as these instances shew. But if they speak concerning God and His Word, let them complete their question and then ask, Was the God, who is, ever without Reason? and, whereas He is Light, was He ray-less? or was He always Father of the Word? Or again in this manner. Has the Father who is made the Word who is not, or has He ever with Him His Word, as the proper offspring of His substance? This will shew them that they do but presume and venture on sophisms about God and Him who is from Him. Who indeed can bear to hear them say that God was ever without Reason? this is what they fall into a second time, though endeavouring in vain to escape it and to hide it with their sophisms. Nay, one would fain not hear them disputing at all, that God was not always p. 321 Father, but became so afterwards (which is necessary for their fantasy, that His Word once was not), considering the number of the proofs already adduced against them; while John besides says, The Word was 1975 , and Paul again writes, Who being the brightness of His glory 1976 , and, Who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen 1977 .
25. They had best have been silent; but since it is otherwise, it remains to meet their shameless question with a bold retort 1978 . Perhaps on seeing the counter absurdities which beset themselves, they may cease to fight against the truth. After many prayers 1979 then that God would be gracious to us, thus we might ask them in turn; God who is, has He so become, whereas He was not? or is He also before His coming into being? whereas He is, did He make Himself, or is He of nothing, and being nothing before, did He suddenly appear Himself? Unseemly is such an enquiry, both unseemly and very blasphemous, yet parallel with theirs; for the answer they make abounds in irreligion. But if it be blasphemous and utterly irreligious thus to inquire about God, it will be blasphemous too to make the like inquiries about His Word. However, by way of exposing a question so senseless and so dull, it is necessary to answer thus:—whereas God is, He was eternally; since then the Father is ever, His Radiance ever is, which is His Word. And again, God who is, hath from Himself His Word who also is; and neither hath the Word been added, whereas He was not before, nor was the Father once without Reason. For this assault upon the Son makes the blasphemy recoil upon the Father; as if He devised for Himself a Wisdom, and Word, and Son from without 1980 ; for whichever of these titles you use, you denote the offspring from the Father, as has been said. So that this their objection does not hold; and naturally; for denying the Logos they in consequence ask questions which are illogical. As then if a person saw the sun, and then inquired concerning its radiance, and said, Did that which is make that which was, or that which was not, he would be held not to reason sensibly, but to be utterly mazed, because he fancied what is from the Light to be external to it, and was raising questions, when and where and whether it were made; in like manner, thus to speculate concerning the Son and the Father and thus to inquire, is far greater madness, for it is to conceive of the Word of the Father as external to Him, and to idly call the natural offspring a work, with the avowal, He was not before His generation. Nay, let them over and above take this answer to their question;—The Father who was, made the Son who was, for the Word was made flesh 1981 ; and, whereas He was Son of God, He made Him in consummation of the ages also Son of Man, unless forsooth, after the Samosatene, they affirm that He did not even exist at all, till He became man.
26. This is sufficient from us in answer to their first question. And now on your part, O Arians, remembering your own words, tell us whether He who was needed one who was not for the framing of the universe, or one who was? You said that He made for Himself His Son out of nothing, as an instrument whereby to make the universe. Which then is superior, that which needs or that which supplies the need? or does not each supply the deficiency of the other? You rather prove the weakness of the Maker, if He had not power of Himself to make the universe, but provided for Himself an instrument from without 1982 , as carpenter might do or shipwright, unable to work anything without adze and saw! Can anything be more irreligious? yet why should one dwell on its heinousness, when enough has gone before to shew that their doctrine is a mere fantasy?
This miserable procedure, of making sacred and mysterious subjects a matter of popular talk and debate, which is a sure mark of heresy, had received a great stimulus about this time by the rise of the Anomœans. Eusebiuss testimony to the profaneness which attended Arianism upon its rise will be given de Syn. 2, note 1. The Thalia is another instance of it. S. Alexander speaks of the interference, even judicial, in its behalf against himself, of disobedient women, δι᾽ ἐντυχίας γυναικαρίων ἀτακτων ἃ ἠπάτησαν, and of the busy and indecent gadding about of the younger, ἐκ τοῦ περιτροχάζειν πᾶσαν ἀγυιὰν ἀσέμνως. ap. Theod. H. E. i. 3. p. 730, also p. 747; also of the mens buffoon conversation, p. 731. Socrates says that in the Imperial Court, the officers of the bedchamber held disputes with the women, and in the city in every house there was a war of dialectics. Hist. ii. 2. This mania raged especially in Constantinople, and S. Gregory Naz. speaks of Jezebels in as thick a crop as hemlock in a field. Orat. 35. 3, cf. de Syn. 13, n. 4. He speaks of the heretics as aiming at one thing only, how to make good or refute points of argument, making every market-place resound with their words, and spoiling every entertainment with their trifling and offensive talk. Orat. 27. 2. The most remarkable testimony of the kind though not concerning Constantinople, is given by S. Gregory Nyssen, and often quoted, Men of yesterday and the day before, mere mechanics, off-hand dogmatists in theology, servants too and slaves that have been flogged, runaways from servile work, are solemn with us and philosophical about things incomprehensible.…With such the whole city is full; its smaller gates, forums, squares, thoroughfares; the clothes-venders, the money-lenders, the victuallers. Ask about pence, and he will discuss the Generate and Ingenerate; inquire the price of bread, he answers, Greater is the Father, and the Son is subject; say that a bath would suit you, and he defines that the Son is out of nothing. t. 2. p. 898.320:1969
Matt. xii. 34.320:1970
This objection is found in Alex. Ep. Encycl. 2. ὁ ὢν θεὸς τὸν μὴ ὄντα ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος. Again, ὄντα γεγέννηκε ἢ οὐκ ὄντα. Greg. Orat. 29. 9. who answers it. Pseudo-Basil. contr. Eunom. iv. p. 281. 2. Basil calls the question πολυθρύλλητον, contr. Eunom. ii. 14. It will be seen to be but the Arian formula of He was not before His generation, in another shape; being but this, that the very fact of His being begotten or a Son, implies a beginning, that is, a time when He was not: it being by the very force of the words absurd to say that God begat Him that was, or to deny that God begat Him that was not. For the symbol, οὐκ ἦν πρὶν γεννήθῃ, vid. Excursus B. at the end of this Discourse.320:1971
Rom. i. 23, and §2.320:1972
De Decr. § 11, esp. note 6.320:1973
De Decr. 31, note 5320:1974
Eph. iii. 15.321:1975
John i. 1.321:1976
Heb. i. 3.321:1977
Rom. ix. 5.321:1978
Vid. Basil, contr. Eunom. ii. 17.321:1979
This cautious and reverent way of speaking is a characteristic of S. Athanasius, ad Serap. i. 1. vid. ii. init. ad Epict. 13 fin. ad Max. init. contr. Apoll. i. init. I must ask another question, bolder, yet with a religious intention; be propitious, O Lord, &c. Orat. iii. 63, cf. de Decr. 12, note 8, 15, note 6, de Syn. 51, note 4.321:1980
De Decr. 25, note 2.321:1981
John i. 14.321:1982
ὄργανον, de Decr. 7, n. 6, de Syn. 27, note 11. This was alleged by Arius, Socr. i. 6. and by Eusebius, Eccles. Theol. i. 8. supr. Ep. Eus., and by the Anomœans, supr. de Decr. 7, note 1.
Next: Objections Continued. Whether we may decide the question by the parallel of human sons, which are born later than their parents. No, for the force of the analogy lies in the idea of connaturality. Time is not involved in the idea of Son, but is adventitious to it, and does not attach to God, because He is without parts and passions. The titles Word and Wisdom guard our thoughts of Him and His Son from this misconception. God not a Father, as a Creator, in posse from eternity, because creation does not relate to the essence of God, as generation does.
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