Friday, October 19, 2012

Athanasius: on God, His Son/Word and the Godhead - part 2

In the first installment of this series, I provided an extensive selection from Athansius that delineated his position on God, His Son/Word, and the Godhead with great clarity (LINK).

With this second installment, I would like to provide a few more selections from his corpus that should add even greater clarity to his view. The first group shall be from his De Decretis (or, Defence of the Nicene Definition) wherein, among other important issues, he delves into what Nicene Creed means by "of the essence" and "one in essence" (i.e. homoousios), with the final quote being once again from his 4th Oration/Discourse Against/Contra the Arians:

...I mean, "of the essence" and "one in essence," and that "the Son of God is neither a creature or work, nor in the number of things originated [γενητῶν not γενvητῶν], but that the Word is an offspring from the substance of the Father." (De Decretis - NPNF 2nd Series, 4.152)

Is it right to say that what is God's offspring and proper to Him is out of nothing? or is it reasonable in the very idea, that what is from God has accrued to Him, that a man should dare to say that the Son is not always ? For in this again the generation of the Son exceeds and transcends the thoughts of man, that we become fathers of our own children in time, since we ourselves first were not and then came into being ; but God, in that He ever is, is ever Father of the Son. And the origination of mankind is brought home to us from things that are parallel ; but, since ' no one knoweth the Son but the Father, and no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him,' therefore the sacred writers to whom the Son has revealed Him, have given us a certain image from things visible, saying, ' Who is the brightness of His glory, and the Expression of His Person;' and again, ' For with Thee is the well of life, and in Thy light shall we see lights;' and when the Word chides Israel, He says, ' Thou hast forsaken the Fountain of wisdom; ' and this Fountain it is which says, 'They have forsaken Me the Fountain of living waters?.' And mean indeed and very dim is the illustration compared with what we desiderate ; but yet it is possible from it to understand something above man's nature, instead of thinking the Son's generation to be on a level with ours. For who can even imagine that the radiance of light ever was not, so that he should dare to say that the Son was not always, or that the Son. was not before His generation? or who is capable of separating the radiance from the sun, or to conceive of the fountain as ever void of life, that he should madly say, ' The Son is from nothing,' who says, ' I am the life',' or 'alien to the Father's essence,' who says, ' He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father"?' for the sacred writers wishing us thus to understand, have given these illustrations ; and it is unseemly and most irreligious, when Scripture contains such images, to form ideas concerning our Lord from others which are neither in Scripture, nor have any religious bearing. (Ibid. 4.157, 158 - bold emphasis mine.)

This then is quite enough to expose the infamy of the Arian heresy ; for, as the Lord has granted, out of their own words is irreligion brought home to them'. But come now and let us on our part act on the offensive, and call on them for an answer; for now is fair time, when their own ground has failed them, to question them on ours ; perhaps it may abash the perverse, and disclose to them whence they have fallen. We have learned from divine Scripture, that the Son of God, as was said above, is the very Word and Wisdom of the Father. For the Apostle says,' Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God  ; ' and John after saying,' And the Word was made flesh,' at once adds, 'And we saw His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truths,' so that, the Word being the Only-begotten Son, in this Word and in Wisdom heaven and earth and all that is therein were made. And of this Wisdom that God is Fountain we have learned from Baruch, by Israel's being charged with having forsaken the Fountain of Wisdom. If then they deny Scripture, they are at once aliens to their name, and may fitly be called of all men atheists, and Christ's enemies, for they have brought upon themselves these names. But if they agree with us that the sayings of Scripture are divinely inspired, let them dare to say openly what they think in secret that God was once wordless and wisdomless let them in their madness say, 'There was once when He was not,' and, 'before His generation, Christ was not;' and again let them declare that the Fountain begat not Wisdom from itself, but acquired it from without, till they have the daring to say, ' The Son came of nothing;' whence it will follow that there is no longer a Fountain, but a sort of pool, as if receiving water from without, and usurping the name of Fountain. (Ibid. 4.159, 160 - bold emphasis mine.)

Now with all the above in mind, add to this the previous published selection (LINK) and then what follows:

‘I and the Father are One.’ You say that the two things are one, or that the one has two names, or again that the one is divided into two. Now if the one is divided into two, that which is divided must need be a body, and neither part perfect, for each is a part and not a whole. But if again the one have two names, this is the expedient of Sabellius, who said that Son and Father were the same, and did away with either, the Father when there is a Son, and the Son when there is a Father. But if the two are one, then of necessity they are two, but one according to the Godhead, and according to the Son’s coessentiality with the Father, and the Word’s being from the Father Himself; so that there are two, because there is Father, and Son, namely the Word; and one because one God. For if not, He would have said, ‘I am the Father,’ or ‘I and the Father am;’ but, in fact, in the ‘I’ He signifies the Son, and in the ‘And the Father,’ Him who begot Him; and in the ‘One’ the one Godhead and His coessentiality. For the Same is not, as the Gentiles hold, Wise and Wisdom, or the Same Father and Word; for it were unfit for Him to be His own Father, but the divine teaching knows Father and Son, and Wise and Wisdom, and God and Word; while it ever guards Him indivisible and inseparable and indissoluble in all respects.

But if any one, on hearing that the Father and the Son are two, misrepresent us as preaching two Gods (for this is what some feign to themselves, and forthwith mock, saying, ‘You hold two Gods’), we must answer to such, If to acknowledge Father and Son, is to hold two Gods, it instantly follows that to confess but one we must deny the Son and Sabellianise. For if to speak of two is to fall into Gentilism, therefore if we speak of one, we must fall into Sabellianism. But this is not so; perish the thought! but, as when we say that Father and Son are two, we still confess one God, so when we say that there is one God, let us consider Father and Son two, while they are one in the Godhead, and in the Father’s Word being indissoluble and indivisible and inseparable from Him. And let the fire and the radiance from it be a similitude of man, which are two in being and in appearance, but one in that its radiance is from it indivisibly. (Orations/Discourses Against/Contra the Arians, Book 4.9, 10 – NPNF 2nd Series, 4.436 bold emphasis mine.)

All to the glory of God the Father and His Only-begotten Son...

Grace and peace,


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