Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: The Passage where he attacks the ῾Ομοούσιον, and the contention in answer to it.
§34. The Passage where he attacks the Ομοούσιον, and the contention in answer to it.
I will omit to speak of the words which occur before this passage which has been quoted. They contain merely shameless abuse of our Master and Father in God, and nothing bearing on the matter in hand. But on the passage itself, as he advances by the device of this terrible dilemma a double-edged refutation, we cannot be silent; we must accept the intellectual challenge, and fight for the Faith with all the power we have, and show that the formidable two-edged sword which he has sharpened is feebler than a make-believe in a scene-painting.
He attacks the community of substance with two suppositions; he says that we either name as Father and as Son two independent principles drawn out parallel to each other, and then say that one of these existencies is produced by the other existence: or else we say that one and the same essence is conceived of, participating in both names in turn, both being 173 Father, and becoming Son, and itself produced in generation from itself. I put this in my own words, thereby not misinterpreting his thought, but only correcting the tumid exaggeration of its expression, in such a way as to reveal his meaning by clearer words and afford a comprehensive view of it. Having blamed us for want of polish and for having brought to the controversy an insufficient amount of learning, he decks out his own work in such a glitter of style, and passes the nail 174 , to use his own phrase, so often over his own sentences, and makes his periods so smart with this elaborate prettiness, that he captivates the reader at once with the attractions of language; such amongst many others is the passage we have just recited by way of preface. We will, by leave, again recite it. “And so the scolding you have given is only a halter, not to be eluded, which you have woven for your own necks; justice, as might have been expected, records in your own words a verdict against yourselves.”
Observe these flowers of the old Attic; what polished brilliance of diction plays over his composition; what a delicate and subtle charm of style is in bloom there! However, let this be as people think. Our course requires us again to turn to the thought in those words; let us plunge once more into the phrases of this pamphleteer. “Either you conceive of the beings as separated and independent of each other, and then bring down one of them, by generation, to the rank of Son, and contend that One who exists independently nevertheless was made by means of the Other existence.” That is enough for the present. He says, then, that we preach 175 two causeless Beings. How can this man, who is always accusing us of levelling and confusing, assert p. LXXX this from our believing, as we do, in a single substance of Both. If two natures, alien to each other on the score of their being, were preached by our Faith, just as it is preached by the Anomœan school, then there would be good reason for thinking that this distinction of natures led to the supposition of two causeless beings. But if, as is the case, we acknowledge one nature with the differences of Person, if, while the Father is believed in, the Son also is glorified, how can such a Faith be misrepresented by our opponents as preaching Two First Causes? Then he says, of these two causes, one is lowered by us to the rank of Son. Let him point out one champion of such a doctrine; whether he can convict any single person of talking like this, or only knows of such a doctrine as taught anywhere at all in the Church, we will hold our peace. For who is so wild in his reasonings, and so bereft of reflection as, after speaking of Father and Son, to imagine in spite of that two ungenerate beings: and then again to suppose that the One of them has come into being by means of the Other? Besides, what logical necessity does he show for pushing our teaching towards such suppositions? By what arguments does he show that such an absurdity must result from it? If indeed he adduced one single article of our Faith, and then, whether as a quibble or with a real force of demonstration, made this criticism upon it, there might have been some reason for his doing so with a view to invalidate that article. But when there is not, and never can be such a doctrine in the Church, when neither a teacher of it nor a hearer of it is to be found, and the absurdity cannot be shown, either, to be the strict logical consequence of anything, I cannot understand the meaning of his fighting thus with shadows. It is just as if some phenzy-struck person supposed himself to be grappling with an imaginary combatant, and then, having with great efforts thrown himself down, thought that it was his foe who was lying there; our clever pamphleteer is in the same state; he feigns suppositions which we know nothing about, and he fights with the shadows which are sketched by the workings of his own brain.
For I challenge him to say why a believer in the Son as having come into being from the Father must advance to the opinion that there are two First Causes; and let him tell us who is most guilty of this establishment of two First Causes; one who asserts that the Son is falsely so named, or one who insists that, when we call Him that, the name represents a reality? The first, rejecting a real generation of the Son, and affirming simply that He exists, would be more open to the suspicion of making Him a First Cause, if he exists indeed, but not by generation: whereas the second, making the representative sign of the Person of the Only-begotten to consist in subsisting generatively from the Father, cannot by any possibility be drawn into the error of supposing the Son to be Ungenerate. And yet as long as, according to you thinkers, the non-generation of the Son by the Father is to be held, the Son Himself will be properly called Ungenerate in one of the many meanings of the Ungenerate; seeing that, as some things come into existence by being born and others by being fashioned, nothing prevents our calling one of the latter, which does not subsist by generation, an Ungenerate, looking only to the idea of generation; and this your account, defining, as it does, our Lord to be a creature, does establish about Him. So, my very learned sirs, it is in your view, not ours, when it is thus followed out, that the Only-begotten can be named Ungenerate: and you will find that “justice,”—whatever you mean by that,—records in your own words 176 a verdict against us.
It is easy also to find mud in his words after that to cast upon this execrable teaching. For the other horn of his dilemma partakes in the same mental delusion; he says, “or else you first allow one single causeless being, and then marking this out by an act of generation into Father and Son, you declare that this non-generated being came into existence by means of itself.” What is this new and marvellous story? How is one begotten by oneself, having oneself for father, and becoming ones own son? What dizziness and delusion is here? It is like supposing the roof to be turning down below ones feet, and the floor above ones head; it is like the mental state of one with his senses stupified with drink, who shouts out persistently that the ground does not stand still beneath, and that the walls are disappearing, and that everything he sees is whirling round and will not keep still. Perhaps our pamphleteer had such a tumult in his soul when he wrote; if so, we must pity him rather than abhor him. For who is so out of hearing of our divine doctrine, who is so far from the mysteries of the Church, as to accept such a view as this to the detriment of the Faith. Rather, it is hardly enough to say, that no one ever dreamed of such an absurdity to its detriment. Why, in the case of human nature, or any other p. LXXXI entity falling within the grasp of the senses who, when he hears of a community of substance, dreams either that all things that are compared together on the ground of substance are without a cause or beginning, or that something comes into existence out of itself, at once producing and being produced by itself?
The first man, and the man born from him, received their being in a different way; the latter by copulation, the former from the moulding of Christ Himself; and yet, though they are thus believed to be two, they are inseparable in the definition of their being, and are not considered as two beings, without beginning or cause, running parallel to each other; nor can the existing one be said to be generated by the existing one, or the two be ever thought of as one in the monstrous sense that each is his own father, and his own son; but it is because the one and the other was a man that the two have the same definition of being; each was mortal, reasoning, capable of intuition and of science. If, then, the idea of humanity in Adam and Abel does not vary with the difference of their origin, neither the order nor the manner of their coming into existence making any difference in their nature, which is the same in both, according to the testimony of every one in his senses, and no one, not greatly needing treatment for insanity, would deny it; what necessity is there that against the divine nature we should admit this strange thought? Having heard of Father and Son from the Truth, we are taught in those two subjects the oneness of their nature; their natural relation to each other expressed by those names indicates that nature; and so do Our Lords own words. For when He said, “I and My Father are one 177 ,” He conveys by that confession of a Father exactly the truth that He Himself is not a first cause, at the same time that He asserts by His union with the Father their common nature; so that these words of His secure our faith from the taint of heretical error on either side: for Sabellius has no ground for his confusion of the individuality of each Person, when the Only-begotten has so distinctly marked Himself off from the Father in those words, “I and My Father;” and Arius finds no confirmation of his doctrine of the strangeness of either nature to the other, since this oneness of both cannot admit distinction in nature. For that which is signified in these words by the oneness of Father and Son is nothing else but what belongs to them on the score of their actual being; all the other moral excellences which are to be observed in them as over and above 178 their nature may without error be set down as shared in by all created beings. For instance, Our Lord is called merciful and pitiful by the prophet 179 , and He wills us to be and to be called the same; “Be ye therefore merciful 180 ,” and “Blessed are the merciful 181 ,” and many such passages. If, then, any one by diligence and attention has modelled himself according to the divine will, and become kind and pitiful and compassionate, or meek and lowly of heart, such as many of the saints are testified to have become in the pursuit of such excellences, does it follow that they are therefore one with God, or united to Him by virtue of any one of them? Not so. That which is not in every respect the same, cannot be one with him whose nature thus varies from it. Accordingly, a man becomes one with another, when in will, as our Lord says, they are perfected into one 182 , this union of wills being added to the connexion of nature. So also the Father and Son are one, the community of nature and the community of will running, in them, into one. But if the Son had been joined in wish only to the Father, and divided from Him in His nature, how is it that we find Him testifying to His oneness with the Father, when all the time He was sundered from Him in the point most proper to Him of all?
Reading οὖσαν for οὐσίαν of Oehler and Migne.LXXIX:174
πρεσβεύειν. So Lucian. Diog. Laert., and Origen passim.LXXX:176
your own words, i.e. not ours, as you say. The Codex of Turin has τοῖς ἡμετέροις, and ἡμῖν above: but Oehler has wisely followed that of Venice. Eunomius had said of Basils party (§34) justice records in your own words a verdict against yourselves. No, Gregory answers; your words (interpreting our doctrine) alone lend themselves to that. But to change καθ᾽ ἡμῶν of the Codd. also to καθ᾽ ὑμῶν would supply a still better sense.LXXXI:177
John x. 30.LXXXI:178
ὄσα ἐπιθεωρεῖται τῇ φύσει.LXXXI:179
Psalm ciii. 8.LXXXI:180
Luke vi. 36.LXXXI:181
Matthew v. 7.LXXXI:182
John xvii. 23. “I in them, and thou in Me, that they may be perfected into one.” (R.V.)
Next: Proof that the Anomœan teaching tends to Manichæism.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at