Friday, October 28, 2011
As mentioned in my 10-27-11 thread, though I thought Tim Kimberly's online essay, "Top Ten Theologians: #4 - Athanasius" (LINK) was "pretty good", I also stated that, "it has some important faults". This current thread will delve into two issues that I believe to be deficient.
First, the character of Athanasius -
Under the subheading, "Athansius' Foibles", Tim posted:
Historically, Athanasius is known for his godly life... In the early 20th century, however, many contemporary scholars portrayed Athanasius as very sinister T.D. Barnes states, “Like a modern gangster, he evoked widespread mistrust, proclaimed total innocence – and usually succeeded in evading conviction on specific charges.”
Barnes goes on to explain why most people haven’t heard of this side of him:
If the violence of Athanasius leaves fewer traces in the surviving sources…[the reason is] that he exercised power more efficiently and that he was successful in presenting himself to posterity as an innocent in power, as an honest, sincere and straightforward ‘man of God.’
Barnes makes an argument from silence. In order to survive and even win the day Athanasius surely needed to be a wise, resourceful and clever man. The fact that he ultimately bested his opponents in no way implies that he was more evil than they. [Footnotes provided in the original - excluded from the above extract; interestingly enough, Tim does not provide a footnote for the above citation in italics—the quote is from Barnes', Athanasius and Constantius, p. 33.]
There is a bit more to this 'story'. Back on July 3, 2010, I posted the following:
==Though I am a huge fan of Dr. Schaff, he has not accurately portrayed Athanasius. R.P.C. Hanson, in his massive tome, The Seach for the Christian Doctrine of God provides a much more complete, and accurate, assessment of Athanasius. Chapter 9, “The Behaviour of Athanasius”, sheds considerable ‘light’ on the darker side of Athanasius. It looks as though pretty much the entire chapter is available online via Google Books (LINK - go to pages 239-273). After providing a list of charges levied against Athanasius from various ancient sources, Hanson writes:
“It is remarkable how closely this evidence agrees with the list of Melitian charges against Athanasius given us by Sozomenus: causing divisions and disturbances in his diocese, preventing people entering churches, murders and imprisonments and undeserved beatings and woundings. Instead of ‘the tenderness which could not be loved’, the gentleness which made him…so patient and equitable as a peace-maker’, the majestic moral unity’ of his conduct and the freedom from anything ignoble in it, we find Athanasius behaving like an employer of thugs hired to intimidate his enemies. The evidence of papyrus 1914, Bell remarks, makes it certain that the charges of violent and unscrupulous behaviour in his see made Athanasius at Caesarea in 334, at Tyre in 335, at Serdica in 343 and many times thereafter were not baseless.” (Page 254)
“We can now see why, for at least twenty years after 335, no Eastern bishops would communicate with Athanasius. He had been justly convicted of disgraceful behaviour in his see. His conviction had nothing to do with doctrinal issues. No church could be expected to tolerate behaviour like this on the part of one of its bishops.” (Pages 254, 255.)==
Just prior to the quote that Kimberly provided from Barnes' Athanasius and Constantius (p. 33), Barnes wrote:
Despite his protestations of innocence, Athanasius exercised power and protected his position in Alexandria by the systematic use of violence and intimidation. The papyrus of 335 documents in detail one small episode in which he coerced his opponents and used violence in an attempt to prevent them form attending a church council. That was not an isolated misdemeanor, but a typical example of the means by which bishops of Alexandria maintained their power in the Christian Roman Empire. (Ibid. pp. 32, 33.)
Barnes' "argument" (and Hanson's) is not "from silence", but rather, is based on the careful examination of the extant evidence.
Second, the complete lack of any reference to Athanasius' doctrine of deification (theosis) -
I am more than surprised that Kimberly completely ignored this very important aspect of Athansius' theology. Interestingly enough, one of the authors that he cites (and links to) had this to say:
We have stressed throughout this study that soteriology stands at the heart of Athanasius' theology. Christian soteriology is founded upon the premise that the Father created, through his Son, human beings in the image and likeness of his Son so that they might know him and share in a life of communion with him in that same Son through the divine life of the Holy Spirit...Athanasius' entire defence of the full divinity of the Son was based upon the principle that only if the Son of God were truly divine could humankind's salvation be ensured...Thus Athanasius' perception and articulation of the Trinity is wholly soteriological. (Thomas Gerard Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction, p. 121.)
Note the following from the pen of Athanasius:
Athanasius - De Incarnation 54 For He was made man that we might be made God. (NPNF, second series, 4.65).
Athanasius - Defence of the Nicene Definition 3.14 ...the Word was made flesh in order to offer up this body for all, and that we, partaking of His Spirit, might be deified, a gift which we could not otherwise have gained than by His clothing Himself in our created body, for hence we derive our name of "men of God" and "men in Christ." But as we, by receiving the Spirit, do not lose our own proper substance, so the Lord, when made man for us, and bearing a body, was no less God; for He was not lessened by the envelopment of the body, but rather deified it and rendered it immortal. (NPNF, second series, 4.159).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 1.11.38 ...but rather He Himself has made us sons of the Father, and deified men by becoming Himself man. (NPNF, second series, 4.329).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 1.11.39 Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us...And how can there be deifying apart from the Word and before Him? (NPNF, second series, 4.329).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 1.11.45 For He who is the Son of God, became Himself the Son of Man; and, as Word, He gives from the Father, for all things which the Father does and gives, He does and supplies through Him; and as the Son of Man, He Himself is said after the manner of men to receive what proceeds from Him, because His Body is none other than His, and is a natural recipient of grace, as has been said. For He received it as far as His man’s nature was exalted; which exaltation was its being deified. But such an exaltation the Word Himself always had according to the Father’s Godhead and perfection, which was His. (NPNF, second series, 4.333).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 2.21.70 Whence the truth shews us that the Word is not of things originate, but rather Himself their Framer. For therefore did He assume the body originate and human, that having renewed it as its Framer, he might deify it in Himself, and thus might introduce us all into the kingdom of heaven after His likeness. For man had not been deified if joined to a creature, or unless the Son were very God; nor had man been brought into the Father’s presence, unless He had been His natural and true Word who had put on the body. And as we had not been delivered from sin and the curse, unless it had been by nature human flesh, which the Word put on (for we should have had nothing common with what was foreign), so also the man had not been deified, unless the Word who became flesh had been by nature from the Father and true and proper to Him. For therefore the union was of this kind, that He might unite what is man by nature to Him who is in the nature of the Godhead, and his salvation and deification might be sure. (NPNF, second series, 4.386).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 3.25.23 And the work is perfected, because men, redeemed from sin, no longer remain dead; but being deified, have in each other, by looking at Me, the bond of charity. (NPNF, second series, 4.406).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 3.25.25 ...and as we are sons and gods because of the Word in us, so we shall be in the Son and in the Father, and we shall be accounted to have become one in Son and in Father...(NPNF, second series, 4.407).
Athanasius - Contra Arians 3.26.33 ...no longer do these things touch the body, because of the Word who has come in it, but they are destroyed by him, and henceforth men no longer remain sinners and dead according to their proper affections, but having risen according to the Word's power, they abide ever immortal and incorruptible. Whence also, whereas the flesh is born of Mary Bearer of God [θεοτόκου], He Himself is said to have been born, who furnishes to others an origin of being; in order that He may transfer our origin into Himself, and we may no longer, as mere earth, return to earth, but as being knit into the Word from heaven, may be carried to heaven by Him. Therefor in like manner not without reason has He transferred to Himself the other affections of the body also; that we, no longer as being men, but as proper to the Word, may have share in eternal life. For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but henceforward our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse form sin being removed, because of Him who is in us, and who has become a curse for us. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened; the flesh no longer earthly, but being henceforth made Word [λογωθείσης της σαρκός - this strong term is here applied to human nature generally; it is also used to describe our Lord's flesh], by reason of God's Word who for our sake 'became flesh.' (NPNF, second series, 4.412)
Athanasius - Contra Arians 3.28.48 For now the flesh had risen and put off its mortality and been deified. (He is here speaking of Christ's flesh). (NPNF, second series, 4.420).
Athanasius - Letter 60 (Ad Adelphium) And if God sent His Son brought forth from a woman, the fact causes us no shame but contrariwise glory and great grace. For He has become Man, that He might deify us in Himself, and He has been born of a woman, and begotten of a Virgin, in order to transfer to Himself our erring generation, and that we may become henceforth a holy race, and ‘partakers of the Divine Nature,’ as blessed Peter wrote. And ‘what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.’ (NPNF, second series, 4.576)
[Note: NPNF = The Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, (second series), 1979 Eerdmans reprint.]
I think I should end here, stating that I sincerely hope the above does not detract too much from Kimberly's ongoing series.
Grace and peace,