Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He shows the falsehood of Eunomius' calumnious charge that the great Basil had said that “man was emptied to become man,” and demonstrates that the “emptying” of the Only-begotten took place with a view to the restoration to life of the Man Who had suffered.
§4. He shows the falsehood of Eunomius calumnious charge that the great Basil had said that “man was emptied to become man,” and demonstrates that the “emptying” of the Only-begotten took place with a view to the restoration to life of the Man Who had suffered 727 .
He asserts that we say that man has emptied Himself to become man, and that He Who by obedience humbled Himself to the form of the servant shared the form of men even before He took that form. No change has been made in the wording; we have simply transferred the very words from his speech to our own. Now if there is anything of this sort in our writings, (for I call my masters writings ours) let no one blame our orator for calumny. I ask for all regard for the truth: and we ourselves will give evidence. But if there is nothing of all this in our writings, while his language not merely lays blame upon us, but is indignant and wrathful as if the matter were clearly proved, calling us full of absurdity, nonsense, confusion, inconsistency, and so on, I am at a loss to see the right course to take. Just as men who are perplexed at the groundless rages of madmen can decide upon no plan to follow, so I myself can find no device to meet this perplexity. Our master says (for I will again recite his argument verbally), “He is not setting forth to us the mode of the Divine existence, but the terms which belong to the Incarnation.” Our accuser starts from this point, and says that we maintain that man emptied Himself to become man! What community is there between one statement and the other? If we say that the Apostle has not set forth to us the mode of the Divine existence, but points by his phrase to the dispensation of the Passion, we are on this ground charged with speaking of the “emptying” of man to become man, and with saying that the “form of the servant” had pretemporal existence, and that the Man Who was born of Mary existed before the coming in the flesh! Well, I think it superfluous to spend time in discussing what is admitted, seeing that truth itself frees us from the charge. In a case, indeed, where one may have given the calumniators some handle against oneself, it is proper to resist accusers: but where there is no danger of being suspected of some absurd charge, the accusation becomes a proof, not of the false charge made against him who is calumniated, but of the madness of the accuser. As, however, in dealing with the charge of being ashamed of the Cross, we showed by our examination that the charge recoiled upon the accuser, so we shall show how this charge too returns upon those who make it, since it is they, and not we, who lay down the doctrine of the change of the Son from like to like in the dispensation of the p. CLXXIX Passion. We will examine briefly, bringing them side by side, the statements of each party. We say that the Only-begotten God, having by His own agency brought all things into being, by Himself 728 has full power over all things, while the nature of man is also one of the things that were made by Him: and that when this had fallen away to evil, and come to be in the destruction of death, He by His own agency drew it up once more to immortal life, by means of the Man in whom He tabernacled, taking to Himself humanity in completeness, and that He mingled His life-giving power with our mortal and perishable nature, and changed, by the combination with Himself, our deadness to living grace and power. And this we declare to be the mystery of the Lord according to the flesh, that He Who is immutable came to be in that which is mutable, to the end that altering it for the better, and changing it from the worse, He might abolish the evil which is mingled with our mutable condition, destroying the evil in Himself. For “our God is a consuming fire 729 ,” by whom all the material of wickedness is done away. This is our statement. What does our accuser say? Not that He Who was immutable and uncreated was mingled with that which came into being by creation, and which had therefore suffered a change in the direction of evil; but he does say that He, being Himself created, came to that which was kindred and homogeneous with Himself, not coming from a transcendent nature to put on the lowlier nature by reason of His love to man, but becoming that very thing which He was.
For as regards the general character of the appellation, the name of “creature” is one, as predicated of all things that have come into being from nothing, while the divisions into sections of the things which we contemplate as included in the term “creature”, are separated one from the other by the variation of their properties: so that if He is created, and man is created, He was “emptied,” to use Eunomius phrase, to become Himself, and changed His place, not from the transcendent to the lowly, but from what is similar in kind to what (save in regard of the special character of body and the incorporeal) is similar in dignity. To whom now will the just vote of those who have to try our cause be given, or who will seem to them to be under the weight of these charges? he who says that the created was saved by the uncreated God, or he who refers the cause of our salvation to the creature? Surely the judgment of pious men is not doubtful. For any one who knows clearly the difference which there is between the created and the uncreated, (terms of which the divergence is marked by dominion and slavery, since the uncreated God, as the prophet says, “ruleth with His power for ever 730 ,” while all things in the creation are servants to Him, according to the voice of the same prophet, which says “all things serve Thee 731 ,”) he, I say, who carefully considers these matters, surely cannot fail to recognize the person who makes the Only-begotten change from servitude to servitude. For if, according to Paul, the whole creation “is in bondage 732 ,” and if, according to Eunomius, the essential nature of the Only-begotten is created, our adversaries maintain, surely, by their doctrines, not that the master was mingled with the servant, but that a servant came to be among servants. As for our saying that the Lord was in the form of a servant before His presence in the flesh, that is just like charging us with saying that the stars are black and the sun misty, and the sky low, and water dry, and so on:—a man who does not maintain a charge on the ground of what he has heard, but makes up what seems good to him at his own sweet will, need not be sparing in making against us such charges as these. It is just the same thing for us to be called to account for the one set of charges as for the other, so far as concerns the fact that they have no basis for them in anything that we have said. How could one who says distinctly that the true Son was in the glory of the Father, insult the eternal glory of the Only-begotten by conceiving it to have been “in the form of a servant”? When our author thinks proper to speak evil of us, and at the same time takes care to present his case with some appearance of truth, it may perhaps not be superfluous or useless to rebut his unfounded accusations.
This seems to be the sense of the Greek title. The Latin version of the earlier editions appears to represent a different reading, “contigisse, quando in passione homo Christus passus est.”CLXXIX:728
This seems to be the force of αὐτῷ; αὐτὸν might give a simpler construction, but the sense would not be changed. Oehler, who here restores some words which were omitted in the earlier editions, makes no mention of any variation of reading.CLXXIX:729
Heb. xii. 29.CLXXIX:730
Ps. 66:6, 7Ps. lxvi. 6 (LXX.).CLXXIX:731
Ps. cxix. 91.CLXXIX:732
Cf. Rom. viii. 21.
Next: Thereafter he shows that there are not two Christs or two Lords, but one Christ and one Lord, and that the Divine nature, after mingling with the Human, preserved the properties of each nature without confusion, and declares that the operations are, by reason of the union, predicated of the two natures in common, in the sense that the Lord took upon Himself the sufferings of the servant, and the humanity is glorified with Him in the honour that is the Lord's, and that by the power of the Divine Nature that is made anew, conformably with that Divine Nature Itself.
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