Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Résumé of his dogmatic teaching. Objections to it in detail.
§13. Résumé of his dogmatic teaching. Objections to it in detail.
But somehow our discourse has swerved considerably from the mark; it has had to turn round and face each of this slanderers insults. To Eunomius indeed it is no small advantage that the discussion should linger upon such points, and that the indictment of his offences against man should delay our approach to his graver sins. But it is profitless to abuse for hastiness of speech one who is on his trial for murder; (because the proof of the latter is sufficient to get the verdict of death passed, even though hastiness of speech is not proved along with it); just so it seems best to subject to proof his blasphemy only, and to leave his insults alone. When his heinousness on the most important points has been detected, his other delinquencies are proved potentially p. L without going minutely into them. Well then; at the head of all his argumentations stands this blasphemy against the definitions of the Faith—both in his former work and in that which we are now criticizing—and his strenuous effort to destroy and cancel and completely upset all devout conceptions as to the Only-Begotten Son of God and the Holy Spirit. To show, then, how false and inconsistent are his arguments against these doctrines of the truth, I will first quote word for word his whole statement, and then I will begin again and examine each portion separately. “The whole account of our doctrines is summed up thus; there is the Supreme and Absolute Being, and another Being existing by reason of the First, but after It 105 though before all others; and a third Being not ranking with either of these, but inferior to the one, as to its cause, to the other, as to the energy which produced it: there must of course be included in this account the energies that follow each Being, and the names germane to these energies. Again, as each Being is absolutely single, and is in fact and thought one, and its energies are bounded by its works, and its works commensurate with its energies, necessarily, of course, the energies which follow these Beings are relatively greater and less, some being of a higher, some of a lower order; in a word, their difference amounts to that existing between their works: it would in fact not be lawful to say that the same energy produced the angels or stars, and the heavens or man: but a pious mind would conclude that in proportion as some works are superior to 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. These things being so, and maintaining an unbroken connexion in their relation to each other, it seems fitting for those who make their investigation according to the order germane to the subject, and who do not insist on mixing and confusing all together, in case of a discussion being raised about Being, to prove what is in course of demonstration, and to settle the points in debate, by the primary energies and those attached to the Beings, and again to explain by the Beings when the energies are in question, yet still to consider the passage from the first to the second the more suitable and in all respects the more efficacious of the two.”
Such is his blasphemy systematized! May the Very God, Son of the Very God, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, direct our discussion to the truth! We will repeat his statements one by one. He asserts that the “whole account of his doctrines is summed up in the Supreme and Absolute Being, and in another Being existing by reason of the First, but after It though before all others, and in a third Being not ranking with either of these but inferior to the one as to its cause, to the other as to the energy.” The first point, then, of the unfair dealings in this statement to be noticed is that in professing to expound the mystery of the Faith, he corrects as it were the expressions in the Gospel, and will not make use of the words by which our Lord in perfecting our faith conveyed that mystery to us: he suppresses the names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and speaks of a Supreme and Absolute Being instead of the Father, of another existing through it, but after it instead of the Son, and of a third ranking with neither of these two instead of the Holy Ghost. And yet if those had been the more appropriate names, the Truth Himself would not have been at a loss to discover them, nor those men either, on whom successively devolved the preaching of the mystery, whether they were from the first eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, or, as successors to these, filled the whole world with the Evangelical doctrines, and again at various periods after this defined in a common assembly the ambiguities raised about the doctrine; whose traditions are constantly preserved in writing in the churches. If those had been the appropriate terms, they would not have mentioned, as they did, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, granting indeed it were pious or safe to remodel at all, with a view to this innovation, the terms of the faith; or else they were all ignorant men and uninstructed in the mysteries, and unacquainted with what he calls the appropriate names—those men who p. LI had really neither the knowledge nor the desire to give the preference to their own conceptions over what had been handed down to us by the voice of God.
there is the Supreme and Absolute Being, and another Being existing through the First, but after It. The language of this exposition of Eunomius is Aristotelian: but the contents nevertheless are nothing more nor less than Gnosticism, as Rupp well points out (Gregors v. Nyssa Leben und Meinungen, p. 132 sq.). Arianism, he says, is nothing but the last attempt of Gnosticism to force the doctrine of emanations into Christian theology, clothing that doctrine on this occasion in a Greek dress. It was still an oriental heresy, not a Greek heresy like Pelagianism in the next century.
Rupp gives two reasons why Arianism may be identified with Gnosticism.
1. Arianism holds the Λόγος as the highest being after the Godhead, i.e. as the πρωτότοκος τῆς κτίσεως, and as merely the mediator between God and Man: just as it was the peculiar aim of Gnosticism to bridge over the gulf between the Creator and the Created by means of intermediate beings (the emanations).
2. Eunomius and his master adopted that very system of Greek philosophy which had always been the natural ally of Gnosticism: i.e. Aristotle is strong in divisions and differences, weak in identifications: he had marked with a clearness never attained before the various stages upwards of existencies in the physical world: and this is just what Gnosticism, in its wish to exhibit all things according to their relative distances from the ᾽Αγέννητος, wanted.
Eunomius has in fact in this formula of his translated all the terms of Scripture straight into those of Aristotle: he has changed the ethical-physical of Christianity into the purely physical; πνεύμα e.g. becomes οὐσία: and by thus banishing the spiritual and the moral he has made his ᾽Αγέννητος as completely single and incommunicable as the τὸ πρῶτον κίνουν ἀκίνητον (Arist. Metaph. XII. 7).
Next: 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.
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