Friday, August 31, 2007

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols' new book..thumbs down.

I pre-ordered Professor Stephen J. Nichols new book, For Us And For Our Salvation, at the recommendation of Jeff Downs ( ), and received it yesterday afternoon. I must say, I am somewhat disappointed, for I am finding some significant errors in the book.

Dr. Nichols writes:

Behind the commotion stood Arius. He taught, in a rather sophisticated manner, that there was a time when Christ was not. He denied his eternality, instead viewing Christ as created or made as the first being. Christ then created or made everything else. This led Arius to view Christ as more than human, but not as identical in essence or being to God. Instead Arius viewed Christ as similar in essence to God. He used the Greek word homoiousion…Arius had considered Christ to be of similar substance to the Father, using the Greek word homoiousion. (Stephen J. Nichols, For Us And For Our Salvation, pp. 59, 61.)

Fact is, Arius never used the word homoiousion; rather, the term came into use after the death of Arius to identify one of three schools which emerged from the teachings Arius during the middle and later half of the 4th century which older scholars termed “Semi-Arian”; the other two schools being, the Homoian and Anhomoian. (For an excellent treatment on this subject, see R.P.C. Hanson’s, The Search For The Christian Doctrine of God, pp. 348-386.)

And Athanasius quoted Arius (from his Thalia) as denying that the Son was similar in essence with the Father; rather, Arius claimed that the Son was “alien” in essence. (Athanasius, De Synodis, 15 – NPNF 4.457.)

And further, the Homoiousians (“Semi-Arians”) affirmed that the Son was from the Father’s essence, contra Arius, who stated that the Son was created “out of non-existence” - Gr. ex ouk ontōn estin – (see Arius’ letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, in Theodoret’s, Ecclesiastical History, Chapter 4 – NPNF 3.41). Interestingly enough, the Homoiousians were probably influenced more by the “two Eusebians”, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea, than by Arius himself.

Dr. Nichols goes on to write:

Athanasius’s view of Christ as being of one substance or essence (homoousion) with the Father won the day, while Arius’ view of Christ as similar substance with the Father (homoiousion) was declared to be outside the bounds of orthodoxy and thus condemned. (Ibid.. p. 66.)

As noted earlier, Dr. Nichols is incorrect about Arius’ teaching on this matter, and he is also in error concerning the status of those who actually did teach/accept the term homoiousion. Note what Athanasius had to say:

Those who deny the Council altogether, are sufficiently exposed by these brief remarks; those, however, who accept everything else that was defined at Nicaea, and doubt only about the Coessential, must not be treated as enemies; nor do we here attack them as Ario-maniacs, nor as opponents of the Fathers, but we discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers, who mean what we mean, and dispute only about the word. For, confessing that the Son is from the essence of the Father, and not from other subsistence, and that He is not a creature nor work, but His genuine and natural offspring, and that He is eternally with the Father as being His Word and Wisdom they are not far from accepting even the phrase, ‘Coessential’… But since they say that He is ‘of the essence’ and ‘Like-in-essence,’ what do they signify by these but ‘Coessential?’ For, while to say only “Like-in-essence,’ does not necessarily convey ‘of the essence,’ on the contrary, to say ‘Coessential,’ is to signify the meaning of both terms, ‘Like-in-essence,’ and ‘of the essences’ And accordingly they themselves in controversy with those who say that the Word is a creature, instead of allowing Him to be genuine Son, have taken their proofs against them from human illustrations of son and father, with this exception that God is not as man, nor the generation of the Son as issue of man, but such as may be ascribed to God, and is fit for us to think. (Athanasius, De Synodis, 41 – NPNF 4.472.)

I for one am certainly wondering if the men who recommended Dr. Nichols book (e.g. John MacArthur, Bruce Ware, Millard Erickson...) have actually read the book.

Grace and peace,



BHodges said...

How does a writer bring himself to write something with absolutely no evidence behind it? From whence the argument to begin with?

David Waltz said...

Hello life,

You posted:

>>How does a writer bring himself to write something with absolutely no evidence behind it? From whence the argument to begin with?>>

Me: To be honest, I don’t know exactly why. But, if I can be allowed to speculate, I would advance the idea that it might be due to a reliance on generalizations based on highly biased polemical treatments of Arianism by “apologists” with little, or no training in Patristics.

Grace and peace,


Anonymous said...

Seems he was right on the final outcome, but did not research the details of exactly what Arius taught - but he was right about Arius believing that Jesus
was created out of nothing -- there was a time when the Son did not exist.

But he left out the 3 media views that resulted from Arius' controversy. (the 2 Eusebius', etc. homoiousians, etc.)

Your writing is clear and very helpful for those of us who have not had time to delve that deeply into the details.

Kind of like the often repeated mistake in history books and church history books that "Constantine made Christianity the official state religion". He did not. That was later, under Theodosius in 380 AD. Constantine made it no longer illegal and no longer persecuted; in other words, tolerated, and even favored later.

Anonymous said...

...and not from other subsistence,. . .

Is this where Athanasius quotes from Arius' writing Thalia, and uses "alien substance" ??

Where does Athanisius actually say, I am quoting from Arius' work, Thalia ?

Both references are from De Synodis 15
Did I miss something?

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

You posted:

>>Where does Athanisius actually say, I am quoting from Arius' work, Thalia ?

Both references are from De Synodis 15
Did I miss something?>>

Me: My bad, the long quotation from Athanasius is section 41 not 15 (though I got the NPNF page right [grin]). Thanks much for pointing this out; it has been corrected.

As for Athanasius stating that he was using Arius’ Thalia, that is from the beginning of section 15. Here is the entire section from pages 457, 468 as found in Eerdmans edition (volume 4) of the NPNF series:

>>15. Arius and those with him thought and professed thus: 'God made the Son out of nothing, and called Him His Son;' 'The Word of God is one of the creatures;' and 'Once He was not;' and 'He is alterable; capable, when it is His Will, of altering.' Accordingly they were expelled from the Church by the blessed Alexander. However, after his expulsion, when he was with Eusebius and his fellows, he drew up his heresy upon paper, and imitating in the Thalia no grave writer, but the Egyptian Sotades, in the dissolute tone of his metre, he writes at great length, for instance as follows:—

Blasphemies of Arius.

God Himself then, in His own nature, is ineffable by all men. Equal or like Himself He alone has none, or one in glory. And Ingenerate we call Him, because of Him who is generate by nature. We praise Him as without beginning because of Him who has a beginning. And adore Him as everlasting, because of Him who in time has come to be. The Unbegun made the Son a beginning of things originated; and advanced Him as a Son to Himself by adoption. He has nothing proper to God in proper subsistence. For He is not equal, no, nor one in essence with Him. Wise is God, for He is the teacher of Wisdom. There is full proof that God is invisible to all beings; both to things which are through the Son, and to the Son He is invisible. I will say it expressly, how by the Son is seen the Invisible; by that power by which God sees, and in His own measure, the Son endures to see the Father, as is lawful. Thus there is a Triad, not in equal glories. Not intermingling with each other are their subsistences. One more glorious than the other in their glories unto immensity. Foreign from the Son in essence is the Father, for He is without beginning. Understand that the Monad was; but the Dyad was not, before it was in existence. It follows at once that, though the Son was not, the Father was God. Hence the Son, not being (for He existed at the will of the Father), is God Only-begotten, and He is alien from either. Wisdom existed as Wisdom by the will of the Wise God. Hence He is conceived in numberless conceptions: Spirit, Power, Wisdom, God's glory, Truth, Image, and Word. Understand that He is conceived to be Radiance and Light. One equal to the Son, the Superior is able to beget; but one more excellent, or superior, or greater, He is not able. At God's will the Son is what and whatsoever He is. And when and since He was, from that time He has subsisted from God. He, being a strong God, praises in His degree the Superior. To speak in brief, God is ineffable to His Son. For He is to Himself what He is, that is, unspeakable. So that nothing which is called comprehensible does the Son know to speak about; for it is impossible for Him to investigate the Father, who is by Himself. For the Son does not know His own essence, For, being Son, He really existed, at the will of the Father. What argument then allows, that He who is from the Father should know His own parent by comprehension? For it is plain that for that which has a beginning to conceive how the Unbegun is, or to grasp the idea, is not possible.>>

Also available online at: .)

Once again, sorry about the typo; thank you so much for catching it!

Grace and peace,


simonetta said...

I am writing a book for children about Athanasius and I could really use your input! Could you email me at
Thank you,