Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: The thing that follows is not the same as the thing that it follows.
§41. The thing that follows is not the same as the thing that it follows.
He first says, “the attribute of being ungenerate follows the Deity.” By that we understood him to mean that this Ungeneracy is one of the things external to God. Then he says, “Or rather this Ungeneracy is His actual being.” We fail to understand the sequitur of this; we notice in fact something very queer and incongruous about it. If Ungeneracy follows God, and yet also constitutes His being, two beings will be attributed to one and the same subject in this view; so that God will be in the same way as He was before and has always been believed to be 223 , but besides that will have another being accompanying, which p. XCVII they style Ungeneracy, quite distinct from Him Whose following it is, as our Master puts it. Well, if he commands us to think so, he must pardon our poverty of ideas, in not being able to follow out such subtle speculations.
But if he disowns this view, and does not admit a double being in the Deity, one represented by the godhead, the other by the ungeneracy, let our friend, who is himself neither rash nor malignant, prevail upon himself not to be over partial to invective while these combats for the truth are being fought, but to explain to us, who are so wanting in culture, how that which follows is not one thing and that which leads another, but how both coalesce into one; for, in spite of what he says in defence of his statement, the absurdity of it remains; and the addition of that handful of words 224 does not correct, as he asserts, the contradiction in it. I have not yet been able to see that any explanation at all is discoverable in them. But we will give what he has written verbatim. “We say, or rather the Ungeneracy is His actual being, without meaning to contract into the being 225 that which we have proved to follow it, but applying follow to the title, but is to the being.” Accordingly when these things are taken together, the whole resulting argument would be, that the title Ungenerate follows, because to be Ungenerate is His actual being. But what expounder of this expounding shall we get? He says “without meaning to contract into the being that which we have proved to follow it.” Perhaps some of the guessers of riddles might tell us that by contract into he means fastening together. But who can see anything intelligible or coherent in the rest? The results of following belong, he tells us, not to the being, but to the title. But, most learned sir, what is the title? Is it in discord with the being, or does it not rather coincide with it in the thinking? If the title is inappropriate to the being, then how can the being be represented by the title; but if, as he himself phrases it, the being is fittingly defined by the title of Ungenerate, how can there be any parting of them after that? You make the name of the being follow one thing and the being itself another. And what then is the construction of the entire view? “The title Ungenerate follows God, seeing that He Himself is Ungenerate.” He says that there follows God, Who is something other than that which is Ungenerate, this very title. Then how can he place the definition of Godhead within the Ungeneracy? Again, he says that this title follows God as existing without a previous generation. Who will solve us the mystery of such riddles? Ungenerate preceding and then following; first a fittingly attached title of the being, and then following like a stranger! What, too, is the cause or this excessive flutter about this name; he gives to it the whole contents of godhead 226 ; as if there will be nothing wanting in our adoration, if God be so named; and as if the whole system of our faith will be endangered, if He is not? Now, if a brief statement about this should not be deemed superfluous and irrelevant, we will thus explain the matter.
ὡς εἶναι μὲν τὸν Θεὸν κατὰ ταὐτὸν ὡς εἶναί ποτε(infinitive by attraction to preceding) καὶ εἶναι πεπίστευταιXCVII:224
ἐυαριθμήτων ῥηματων. But it is possible that the true reading may be εὐρύθμων, alluding to the rhythm in the form of abuse with which Eunomius connected his arguments (preceding section).XCVII:225
οὐκ εἰς τὸ εἶναι συναιροῦντεςXCVII:226
He gives to it the whole contents of godhead. It was the central point in Eunomius system that by the ᾽Αγεννησία we can comprehend the Divine Nature; he trusts entirely to the Aristotelian divisions (logical) and sub-divisions. A mere word (γέννητος) was thus allowed to destroy the equality of the Son. It was almost inevitable, therefore, that his opponent, as a defender of the Homoousion, should occasionally fall back so far upon Plato, as to maintain that opposites are joined and are identical with each other, i.e. that γέννησις and ἀγεννησία are not truly opposed to each other. Another method of combating this excessive insistence on the physical and logical was, to bring forward the ethical realities; and this Gregory does constantly throughout this treatise. We are to know God by Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness. Only occasionally (as in the next section) does he speak of the eternity of God: and here only because Eunomius has obliged him, and in order to show that the idea is made up of two negations, and nothing more.
Next: Explanation of 'Ungenerate,' and a 'study' of Eternity.
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