Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He does wrong in assuming, to account for the existence of the Only-Begotten, an 'energy' that produced Christ's Person.
§20. He does wrong in assuming, to account for the existence of the Only-Begotten, an energy that produced Christs Person.
That such is his intention in using these phrases will be clear from what follows, where he more plainly materializes and degrades our conception of the Son and of the Spirit. “As the energies are bounded by the works, and the works commensurate with the energies, it necessarily follows that these energies which accompany these Beings are relatively greater and less, some being of a higher, some of a lower order.” Though he has studiously wrapt the mist of his phraseology round the meaning of this, and made it hard for most to find out, yet as following that which we have already examined it will easily be made clear. “The energies,” he says, “are bounded by the works.” By works he means the Son and the Spirit, by energies the efficient powers by which they were produced, which powers, he said a little above, follow the Beings. The phrase bounded by expresses the balance which exists between the being produced and the producing power, or rather the energy of that power, to use his own word implying that the thing produced is not the effect of the whole power of the operator, but only of a particular energy of it, only so much of the whole power being exerted as is calculated to be likely to be equal to effect that result. Then he inverts his statement: “and the works are commensurate with the energies of the operators.” The meaning of this will be made clearer by an illustration. Let us think of one of the tools of a shoemaker: i.e., a leather-cutter. When it is moved round upon that from which a certain shape has to be cut, the part so excised is limited by the size of the instrument, and a circle of such a radius will be cut as the instrument possesses of length, and, to put the matter the other way, the span of the instrument will measure and cut out a corresponding circle. That is the idea which our theologian has of the divine person of the Only-begotten. He declares that a certain energy which follows upon the first Being produced, in the fashion of such a tool, a corresponding work, namely our Lord: this is his way of glorifying the Son of God, Who is even now glorified in the glory of the Father, and shall be revealed in the Day of Judgment. He is a work commensurate with the producing energy. But what is this energy which follows the Almighty and is to be conceived of prior to the Only-begotten, and which circumscribes His being? A certain essential Power, self-subsisting, which works its will by a spontaneous impulse. It is this, then, that is the real Father of our Lord. And why do we go on talking of the Almighty as the Father, if it was not He, but an energy belonging to the things which follow Him externally that produced the Son: and how can the Son be a son any longer, when something else has given Him existence according to Eunomius, and He creeps like a bastard (may our Lord pardon the expression!) into relationship with the Father, and is to be honoured in name only as a Son? How can Eunomius rank our Lord next after the Almighty at all, when he counts Him third only, with that mediating energy placed in the second place? The Holy Spirit also according to this sequence will be found not in the third, but in the fifth place, that energy which follows the Only-Begotten, and by which the Holy Spirit came into existence necessarily intervening between them.
Thereby, too, the creation of all things by the Son 115 will be found to have no foundation: another personality, prior to Him, has been invented by our neologian, to which the authorship of the world must be referred, because the Son Himself derives His being according to them from that energy. If, however, to avoid such profanities, he makes this energy which produced the Son into something unsubstantial, he will have to explain to us how non-being can follow being, and how what is not a substance can produce a substance: for, if he did that, we shall find an unreality following God, the non-existent author of all existence, the radically unsubstantial circumscribing a substantial nature, the operative force of creation contained, in the last resort, in the unreal. Such is the result of the teaching of this theologian who affirms of the Lord Artificer of heaven and earth and of all the Creation, the Word of God Who was in the beginning, through Whom are all things, that He owes His existence to such a baseless entity or conception as that unnameable energy which he has just invented, and that He is circumscribed by it, as by an enclosp. LIX ing prison of unreality. He who gazes into the unseen cannot see the conclusion to which his teaching tends. It is this: if this energy of God has no real existence, and if the work that this unreality produces is also circumscribed by it, it is quite clear that we can only think of such a nature in the work, as that which is possessed by this fancied producer of the work: in fact, that which is produced from and is contained by an unreality can itself be conceived of as nothing else but a non-entity. Opposites, in the nature of things, cannot be contained by opposites: such as water by fire, life by death, light by darkness, being by non-being. But with all his excessive cleverness he does not see this: or else he consciously shuts his eyes to the truth.
Some necessity compels him to see a diminution in the Son, and to establish a further advance in this direction in the case of the Holy Ghost. “It necessarily follows,” he says, “that these energies which accompany these Beings are relatively greater and less.” This compelling necessity in the Divine nature, which assigns a greater and a less, has not been explained to us by Eunomius, nor as yet can we ourselves understand it. Hitherto there has prevailed with those who accept the Gospel in its plain simplicity the belief that there is no necessity above the Godhead to bend the Only-begotten, like a slave, to inferiority. But he quite overlooks this belief, though it was worth some consideration; and he dogmatizes that we must conceive of this inferiority. But this necessity of his does not stop there: it lands him still further in blasphemy: as our examination in detail has already shewn. If, that is, the Son was born, not from the Father, but from some unsubstantial energy, He must be thought of as not merely inferior to the Father, and this doctrine must end in pure Judaism. This necessity, when followed out, exhibits the product of a non-entity as not merely insignificant, but as something which it is a perilous blasphemy even for an accuser to name. For as that which has its birth from an existence necessarily exists, so that which is evolved from the non-existent necessarily does the very contrary. When anything is not self-existent, how can it generate another?
If, then, this energy which follows the Deity, and produces the Son, has no existence of its own, no one can be so blind as not to see the conclusion, and that his aim is to deny our Saviours deity: and if the personality of the Son is thus stolen by their doctrine from the Faith, with nothing left of it but the name, it will be a long time before the Holy Ghost, descended as He will be from a lineage of unrealities, will be believed in again. The energy which follows the Deity has no existence of its own: then common sense requires the product of this to be unreal: then a second unsubstantial energy follows this product: then it is declared that the Holy Ghost is formed by this energy: so that their blasphemy is plain enough: it consists in nothing less than in denying that after the Ingenerate God there is any real existence: and their doctrine advances into shadowy and unsubstantial fictions, where there is no foundation of any actual subsistence. In such monstrous conclusions does their teaching strand the argument.
There is of course reference here to John i. 3: and Eunomius is called just below the new theologian, with an allusion of S. John, who was called by virtue of this passage essentially ὁ θεόλογος
Next: The blasphemy of these heretics is worse than the Jewish unbelief.
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