Tuesday, June 30, 2009

T.F. Torrance and the construction of Nicene Orthodoxy (PTT)

Developed originally for the Warfield lecture in 1981, T.F. Torrance's The Trinitarian Faith is a sustained engagement with the thought of the Fathers, shaped by the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed, as a basis for the ancient evangelical faith. Although Torrance claims to be seeking to let the Fathers speak for themselves (p2), there are obvious points where Torrance is beholden to a metanarrative of historical theology which Ayres would probably critique. Further, there is a certain Athanasius-centric thread running through the whole work. Nonetheless, of modern appropriations Torrance's remains vital and significant.

Torrance situates the development of Nicaea, which he views as a critical and decisive moment in theological-ecclesial history, in the dual commitments of faith (in the objective reality of the incarnate Son and the apostolic gospel that follows) and godliness (for doctrine is never divorced from praxis in the Fathers). His characterisation of Graeco-Roman thought as dualistic, and the challenge of Hebraic and Christian thought into that world in Chapter 2 is open to question, but his definitive point about access to the Father is Alexandrian: only God can make God known. Our epistemological foundation is God in Christ. This knowledge is true and accurate as it is according to the nature of the thing known, according to the nature of God as God in Christ. Mt 11:27 is key, as we are given access to the closed circle of interior relations of the Triune God, by the revelation in the incarnation of the Son.

In approaching the creatorship of God, Torrance follows Athanasius in prioritising Father over Creator, but then radically inverts Pr 8:22, by reading the incarnate Christ as the arche of God's economic and soteriological work in time-space (p83). God was not always creator, but always had the capacity of creation, and willed not to exist for himself alone. Torrance makes some specious Hebrew arguments about creation ex nihilo (p95f), but his basic point stands: God alone creates absolutely. More refined, Torrance helpfully points to the distinct yet dependent conception of creation emerging in Athanasius and his heirs. That the creation was distinct secured the gulf between Creator and creation, that it was dependent secured God as absolute being. Between necessity and accidence, the creation is instead contingent. Not only this, it had a rational order and a real freedom.

In chapter 4, he turns explicitly to the Son, though his earlier reflections have shown the centrality of the Son for knowledge of the Father. While Torrance's approach is credo-centric and probably beholden to much to Athanasius' enshrinement of the creed's terminology in his rhetorical polemic, the conceptual framework holds. That Arius' theology threatened the gospel was clear in 325, that the Eusebians' did also had to be worked out (even if Athanasius sneakily called the Ariomaniacs from then on). Torrance correctly identifies the intensely exegetical nature of the controversy, and that homoousios, expressed or not, became a hermeneutical principle that guided Nicene theological endeavours. In Torrance's construal, Nicaea was not about metaphysics, so much as soteriology, not so much a capitulation to Hellenism, but a safeguarding against Hellenistic concepts by reshaping Hellenistic terminology. Torrance shows this by considering the opposite: what is lost without homoousios? The externality of the Son to the Father's being destroys the epistemological ground for knowing God, as well as the soteriological ground for redemption.

In treating of the humanity of Jesus in chapter 5, Torrance focuses again on the soteriological and economic pivot: God became Man in Christ for our sakes. There is an historical necessity to the incarnation. Torrance points in Athanasius to the order: God first, who assumes humanity. Not God in man, but God as man. This means that Christ's humanity is thoroughly personal and vicarious (p151). This further means the Atonement is essentially interior to the life of the Godhead (see Atonement post). It is internal, not external, to God; Christ united himself to our actual existence; and it is about both representation and substitution. Torrance does some work on the biblical language of “ransom, sacrifice, propitiation, expiation, reconciliation” (p168).

Chapter 6 turns to the Holy Spirit, and remains one of the most confusing pieces of theology. In part, the Holy Spirit's functional pointing to the Son tends to obscure theologising about the Spirit. Following Athanasius, the Spirit is image of the Son, and so is imageless himself (p194). The triadic formulae of the NT, along with the baptismal faith of the early church, provided much of the raw material for a faith and a doxological appreciation of the Spirit long before explicit theologising. Torrance's main point of departure in treating the Spirit is Athanasius' Ad Serapion, but also Didymus the Blind. The arguments for the Spirit's divinity follow the basic pattern of those applied for the Son.

Torrance criticises the Cappadocians for locating the cause and source of the Spirit's, and the Son's, being in the person of the Father. This runs the risk of ontologising the persons, and diminishing the commonality of the ousia. Rather, Torrance sees Son and Spirit “ deriv[ing] their distinctive modes of existence and their distinctive properties from the Person of the Father”, not their being (p243). Their being is the being of the Father himself.

Leaving aside The Trinitarian Faith, we can note a few other things about Torrance's appropriation of the Fathers, drawn from Letham's analysis.

Torrance follows Barth in seeing the doctrine of the Trinity as distinctively Christian, so much so that it must characterise and shape all other doctrines. He has an 'onto-relational' concept of the divine persons: the three persons are the one being. This is, from what we have considered elsewhere, a fair reading of the Fathers (against several misreadings we have encountered). Torrance foregrounds homoousion and perichoresis in his trinitarian formulations. In this he is misreading the historical debate though not necessarily its theological content. However, his use of perichoresis with monarchia, that monarchia is not limited to the Father, is shifting from the Cappadocians at the least. How fine a distinction can we make between 'priority' and 'order' in the persons?

Index to Patristic Trinitarian Thought posts

Here is an index to all the posts in the (PTT) series. I have divided them into categories for reference. They represent the summaries of a reading course in 4th century trinitarian theology that I am about to complete (exam on 1st July, 9am AEST). There are a couple more posts to come, which I will update this post with, and later I will compile them and offer a single file for download. Hope you enjoy!

Backgrounds to Nicaea
Starting with but not at Nicaea
The late 320s and 330s
The 340s
The 350s
The 360s
The 370s
381 and Beyond

Key Figures
Athanasius I
Basil of Caesarea I
Basil of Caesarea II
Gregory of Nazianzus I
Gregory of Nyssa I
Augustine I
Augustine IV (Gunton, Ormerod, Barnes)
Hilary of Poitiers

Athanasius II (Orationes Contra Arianos)
Basil of Caesarea III (De Spiritu Sancto, Epistles)
Novatian (De Trinitate)
Tertullian (Adversus Praxean)
Gregory of Nazianzus II (Theological Orations)
Gregory of Nyssa II (Ad Ablabium)
Augustine II (Answer to Maximinus)
Augustine III (De Trinitate)

Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy I
Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy II
Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy III
Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy IV
Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy V
Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy IV
T.F. Torrance and the construction of Nicene Orthodoxy
T.F. Torrance and the Ignorance of Christ
T.F. Torrance on Atonement and the Greek Fathers

Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, VI

The next 2 chapters of Ayres are offered as case studies, as he tries to bring out the elements of his 3 strategies in reading Gregory of Nyssa (Ad Ablabium) and Augustine. As I have integrated my understanding of his arguments into the treatment of those two authors already in the PTT series, I will not summarise the same here.

Chapter 16 is perhaps one of the most provocative and controversial contributions to the modern debate. Entitled “In spite of Hegel , Fire, and Sword”, Ayres conducts a broad brush-stroke appraisal of the history of theological reading of historical theology and the 4th century, laying much blame at the feet of Hegel and the Enlightenment for constructing the paradigms of modern systematics. At the heart of Ayres' criticism is the idea that the very structure of modern systematics is a way of doing theology that makes real engagement with pro-Nicene theology impossible. It is not only that modern systematicians have failed to engage 4th century authors fairly and deeply, but they have not done so at all and their very categories may not even allow them. In the end, Ayres offers up some kind of neo-pro-Nicene theological culture as one to seek after. I confess, I did not have the analytical tools and background to grasp all of this chapter.

All in all, Ayres' book is a bombshell, but a welcome one. It's impossible to read the 4th century in the modern debate without engaging with this book. It's changed my whole reading of patristic trinitarian thought, and I give it 5 stars.

Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, V

We now come to Part III of Ayres' work, in which he begins to synthesise and present his take on pro-Nicene theology. In chapters 11-13 he presents 3 shared 'strategies' used by pro-Nicenes. His presentation tends to be continually dichotomous (he loves to bring out 2s of everything).

So, Chapter 11 focuses on “Speaking of unity and diversity in the Trinity”, and treats topics such as the irreducible simplicity of God, the unity of God without any developed account of the quiddity of divine personhood, the doctrine of inseparable operations, the incomprehensibility of God in his essence, the propriety and limits of analogies.

Ayres has some blunt statements contra modern systematicians:
“ All pro-Nicenes show, however, remarkably little interest in developing a detailed account of what it means to be a divine hypostasis in any generic sense. To be a little more precise, one does not find in pro-Nicenes extended attempts to develop an ontology of divine personhood” (p280)
“we can say that we never find descriptions of the divine unity that take as their point of departure the psychological inter-communion of three distinct people.” (p292)

Chapter 12 deals with Strategy 2: “Christology and Cosmology” (see the dichotomisation process?). Ayres begins with a mention of the misuse of De Régnon in recent years, but then takes as his own starting point answer De Régnon's answer that an image both imitates and reveals, and that the 4th century writers present the Fathers goodness giving rise to the image which “reveals the Father's essential nature as Goodness. This revealing image is part of the perfection of the Father's existence. The ontological unity of the two secures the revelatory image as an eternal expression of the perfect divine existence.”(p304)

He then offers a reading of Nyssa and Augustine on salvation and sanctification focused on 4 themes:
1.“Sanctification and redemption are understood as participation in the body of Christ, as union with the person of Christ.”(p307)
2.“The theme of being one with Christ is shaped by growing pro-Nicene clarity about the distinction between God and creation.”(p307)
3.“Nyssa's account of what it means to be taken up into the divine life revolves around an account of the purified soul reflecting the Word in who image it is made and exhibiting its own mysterious 'union' with the divine life present in it.” (p308)
4.“Insistence on the mysterious, incomprehensible nature of God shapes a particular set of intellectual and contemplative practices.”(p308)

He moves from this to consider how the pro-Nicenes appropriate their contemporary philosophical and theological traditions, noting particularly their interweaving “understandings of the created order's structure with questions of Trinitarian and soteriological doctrine.” and “increasing attention to the semiotics of the created order...the ways in which the created order leads human minds to contemplation of the Creator.” (p314)

Chapter 13 treats Strategy 3: “Anthropology, Epistemology, and the reading of Scripture” (How one can even call this a single strategy is now beginning to strain my numeracy).

This centres on the dual-focused account of sanctification: “All pro-Nicene authors believe that at the heart of the purification necessary for Christians lies a reordering of human knowing and desiring.” as well as the reading practices of the pro-Nicenes. He makes some notes towards the importance and emergence of asceticism, as well as to an 'aesthetics of faith'.

Of this section of Ayres, I found Chapter 11 the most persuasive, and can clearly see elements of this strategy throughout the pro-Nicenes. I think he is unhelpfully multiplying categories in Chapters 12 and 13, and perhaps doesn't offer us either enough clarity or enough illustration of his motifs. Nonetheless, I have left Ayres reading the pro-Nicenes with a new sensitivity for the common techniques and traits. In the next post we will consider chapters 14-15.

Augustine of Hippo, IV (PTT)

The assault on Augustine:
Gunton, Barnes, Ormerod, Zizioulas, Turcescu

In this post I want to turn to the modern debate over Augustine. We begin with Colin Gunton, who in Chapter 3 of his The promise of trinitarian theology launches a sustained and hostile attack on Augustine and his legacy. Gunton situates Augustine as making God unknowable, beholden to Platonism, suspicious of materialism, and responsible for Western theology and philosophy's failure to be truly trinitarian and instead deeply individualistic.

So, Gunton thinks Augustine fails to treat the humanity and the materiality of the humanity of Christ with enough gravity; that Augustine's reading of OT theophanies (unlike Tertullian and Irenaeus), makes God more remote, since he appears through the mediation of angels or ephimeral matter; that his account of the baptism of Christ treats the Spirit as substance, not relationally.

In contrasting Augustine and the Cappadocians, Gunton claims that Augustine radically fails to understand Eastern thought and the ousia/hypostasis distinction. Further, Gunton says that Augustine defines persons as relations. Gunton draws the distinction thus:
The Cappadocians: “the three persons are what they are in their relations...therefore the relations qualify them ontologically” (p41)
Augustine: “continues to use relation as a logical rather than an ontological predicate” and thus cannot “make claims about the being of the particular persons” (ibid.)
Gunton now raises Wolfson's critique, that Augustine thinks “the true being of God underlies the threeness”.

Gunton then goes on the attack against Augustine's psychological analogies. For Gunton, this is evidence of Augustine's anti-materialist, intellectualist approach. He writes that Augustine tends to “ illustrate the nature of the Trinity by comparing it not to persons in relation...but to the individual human mind”. This, despite the fact that Augustine denies the identification of the 3 constituent parts of his psychological image with the 3 persons of the Trinity, and the fact that the analogy of 3 persons in the Cappadocians is specifically denied to be adequate (see Gregory of Nyssa, Ad Ablabium!).

Gunton continues, seeing Augustine's treatment of the Spirit as pre-conditioned by his need to find a third party to correspond to his pre-existent psychological analogy, in the will.

I confess, reading Gunton made me angry. His is an essentially uncharitable reading of Augustine, specifically refusing Augustine's own statements about what he is doing, and misreading terribly both Augustine and the Cappadocians.

Michel René Barnes offers a serious critique of Gunton's, et al., reading of Augustine. He insists that neoplatonism is not the primary background for reading Augustine. He points to the tendency to abstract and decontextualise elements of Augustine, and highlights for instance how the debate between Joachim of Fiore and Peter Lombard in the context of the 4th Lateran council seized upon a single phrase in Augustine's On Christian Doctrine as a point of dispute and the basis for theological development. Augustine can hardly be responsible for traditions that build of a single phrase.

Barnes also notes the influence of de Régnon's schema of east/west unity/diversity as the backdrop for many readings of Augustine, a paradigm that is both inaccurate for the 4th century, and on careful reading de Régnon himself, probably inaccurate for him too. Barnes then engages in a close reading of Epistle 11 and Question 69 (see earlier post), to lay bare three motifs found in early Augustine:

(1)the doctrine of inseparable activity as the fundamental expression of divine unity
(2)the epistemic character of the Incarnation as the decisive revelation of divine unity
(3)the 'hermeutical' circle of faith by which true doctrine leads to the process of personal imagining, which deepens doctrinal insight, etc..
These certainly ground the Incarnation as the center of Augustine's epistemology of God (contra Gunton), and the doctrine of inseparable operations as the expression of divine unity (the unity of God is never the starting point in a materialist sense).

Neil Ormerod also offers a critique of Gunton's reading of Augustine. He begins by noting the essential uncharitability of Gunton's reading, for instance Gunton's claim “that Augustine's theology always borders on modalism, which he avoids 'by the mere assertion that he does not wish to be a Modalist'” (Ormerod p35, quoting Gunton from Scottish Journal Theology, 1990, also p35).

Ormerod argues that “personhood cannot be a 'principle of being', because Father and Son (and Spirit) have an identical principle of being.” (p41) If personhood becomes a ground for ontology, which seems to be the shift Gunton and Zizioulas are arguing for, and trying to support from the Cappadocians, then the implication seems to be that the persons are ontologically distinct, which is certainly tritheism (Ormerod seems to think Volf is tritheistic, see footnote p43).

Turcescu makes a similar critique, focusing on Zizioulas' account of persons vs. individuals, in '"Person" versus "Individual", and other modern misreadings of Gregory of Nyssa'(Modem Theology 18:4 October 2002), which see.


Barnes, Michel René (1999) ‘Rereading Augustine’s Theology of the Trinity’ in The Trinity: An interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity Edited by Stephen Davis. Oxford: OUP. p145-176.

Gunton, Colin (1993) The promise of trinitarian theology Edinburgh : T&T Clark. p30-55.

Ormerod, Neil (2005) The Trinity : retrieving the Western tradition Milwaukee, Wis. : Marquette University Press. p33-77.

Augustine of Hippo, III (PTT)

De Trinitate
All quotes from Edmund Hill's translation (New York: New City Press, 1991).

We now come to one of Augustine's longest and most difficult works, On the Trinity. I would say it is hard enough to read, let alone understand, Augustine's work here. Nonetheless, let us make some attempt, and I will deal with a few other key issues and readings in a post to come.

There is a certain delicious yet tragic irony in 1.6, where Augustine disavows responsibility for those who will misread his work and misunderstand his thought. We will return to that in our next post. To focus at hand, De Trinitate is Augustine's attempt to develop a treatment of the doctrine of Trinity (1.4), yet the work once read is peculiarly lacking in what one might expect.

In 1.7 we see Augustine's pro-Nicene presuppositions, “Father and Son and Holy Spirit in the inseparable equality of one substance present a divine unity”. This is a starting point for Augustine, and his grasp on the inseparability of operations will guide the whole project (1.7-8).

He then turns in Bk 1 to treat scriptural texts, and employs throughout the basic principle of partitive exegesis, distinguishing that things said of Christ refer to Christ being “equal by nature, by condition his inferior” (1.14). While Augustine has some distinctive takes on a few passages, there is nothing methodologically radical here.

In Bk 2 he states that various statements need to be read, contextually, as some indicate unity and equality of substance (Jn 10:30, Phil 2:6), others mark his inferiority as a servant (Jn 14:28, Jn 5:22, 27), while Others “which mark him neither as less nor as equal, but only intimate that he is from the Father.”

Augustine then treats of the sending of Son and Spirit. He notes that the Son shares all works with the Father, including acts done 'upon' the Son (eg. The Son is said to sanctify himself). Also, that the Father is not said to be greater than the Spirit, which he refers to the fact that the Spirit does not assume the form of a servant, which the Son does. Then the rest of Bk 2 is taken up with an investigation of OT theophanies, inquiring into the first of 3 questions: which member of the Trinity appears? In each case, Augustine says the evidence is indecisive whether it is one of the Three or all Three as One.

In Bk 3 Augustine considers whether such theophanies occur by angelic means or by purely God-created momentary things. Augustine develops an argument for primary and secondary causes, and sees God at work in both(3.1-11). As for the problem of Pharaoh and his magicians, Augustine asserts that fallen angels can likewise manipulate fine or spiritual reality (3.12f). So his argument develops until in 3.19 he says that thus there are things that occur naturally and regularly, things that occur naturally, regularly, but infrequently, and there are things “that occur equally in the physical realm, but are presented to our senses to tell us something from god. These are properly called miracles and signs.” This is coupled with 3.22, “whatever it was that the OT Fathers saw whenever God showed himself to them... it is clear that it was always achieved through created objects.” how it was done is unclear, that it occurred is certain.

Bk 4 then begins to develop an account of the Son's sending, by depicting the redemptive and mediatorial work of Christ. This is central to Augustine's account of the 'inferiority' of the Son. His account of the fall involves a two-fold fall of body and soul, ignorance and sin. Since Augustine's vision of salvation and eschatology is shaped around direct contemplation and beatific vision, his depiction of atonement is shaped around the same, “to contemplate God, which by nature we are not, we would have to be cleansed by him who became what by nature we are and what by sin we are not” (4.4). From 4.7f Augustine engages in what seems to us some bizarre numerology, but it is entirely historical-contextual, so we should not be too hard on him, so let us move on.
Augustine's account of death and redemption is that Christ dies a single (fleshly) death for our double (body/soul) death, and applies his single (fleshly) resurrection for our double resurrection (body and soul). This account is summed up in 4.25, “There you have what the Son of God has been sent for; indeed there you have what it is for the Son of God to have been sent.” This provides Augustine the basis to deny that 'sending' implies inferiority, but rather has the economic purpose of bringing us home to God, the source and origin of all Deity (4.32).

Books 5-7 form a unit (so Hill), in which Augustine considers the problem raised by 1 Cor 1:24, and whether God is Wise, or Christ, or both, and in what that Wisdom consists. The argument is logical more than metaphysical, and Augustine's thought goes something like this:
Words can be used as predicates, or substantially. Due to God's simplicity (notice that it is foundational), words used as predicates of God become substantives: that God is Wise means that God is Wisdom. Yet, 1 Cor 1:24 seems to use a Substantive relationally, so that God's Wisdom is Christ. One solution (Bk 6), would be to treat all such words relationally, but this collapses, and so Bk 7 provides a more permanent solution, distinguishing a proper and improper use of substantial and relational terms. It is this distinction that allows us to use Father/Son/Spirit relationally within the Godhead, without destroying the Substantial unity.

This is important in the debate between Father and Unbegotten. Augustine's point is that Unbegotten is not a substance term, but a relational term, defined as 'Not-Begotten'. It tells us of the absence of a relation, not of a substance. It is in these chapters that Augustine works towards a relational distinction of the Holy Spirit as Gift and Love (since unlike Father/Son, the name 'Holy Spirit' does not indicate the particulars of his relation).

To reframe the discussion, here is how Ayres gives an account:

Augustine offers an alternative account of the Son being Wisdom of God while the Father is still wise in himself, in three steps:
1.Every essence which is spoken of relatively is something apart from that relative predication. Eg, for X to be in relation, X must be something (logically) prior, in order to be in relation. Thus the individual reality of the Persons is affirmed.
2.The Father generates the Son. More specifically, the Son's essence. The Son is essentia de essentia, light from light, wisdom from wisdom. If the Son is Wisdom (1 Cor 1:24, and the Son Is God (Jn 1:3), then the Son is wise in himself, and is Wisdom itself, because God is simple. The grammar of simplicity carries from 1 to 2, everything said of the Father applies in like manner to the Son. “we see that a simple being may generate another who is also coequal and simple.” (379)
3.If the Father is Wisdom itself, and the Son is wisdom itself, then “the Son's essence must be identical with the Father's essence”(379). There are neither two instances of wisdom, not does the unity result from an underlying substance (as many material analogies); the grammar of simplicity gives “very different linguistic resources for us to speak of the unity of the three.” (379)

“Because the principles of his Trinitarian faith tell him that the Spirit is also God and is a distinct person, the same arguments apply to all three persons.”(379) “We do not find the unity by focusing on something different from the persons” and “there is nothing but the persons.” (380)

In Ayres' account, there is no hint that Augustine believes in a prior substratum of God's essence. Rather, Augustine employs Neo-Platonic techniques to articulate the grammar of the pro-Nicenes. It is pro-Nicene theology, not Neo-platonism, that is the driving engine of his theology.

I am going to break off my account of De Trinitate here, for now. Bks 8 onward begin to delve inwards, and consider psychological images and analogies for the Trinity. Perhaps I will return to them a little later. Suffice to make one decisive point though: Augustine recognises, as all the pro-Nicenes do, the limitations of analogy. Bks 14-15 bring that out clearly. Augustine thinks that the Triune pattern of the Godhead almost certainly must be reflected in the creation, and that is why he spends so much time on the psychological analogies, but the further away from God these are, the more imperfect they are as analogies. One of the great misreadings of Augustine is to think that these are offered as analogies for the Trinity per se. This is the Augustinian equivalent to the misreading of the Cappadocians as offering a social analogy. More on this shortly.

Augustine of Hippo, II (PTT)

Answer to Maximinus

This text is the theological equivalent to a 'rejoinder on the stairs'. Augustine, seemingly bested in a debate with Maximinus, writes this tract in order to continue the debate, and show the points in which he is correct, as well as to highlight arguments Maximinus had no answer for and simply avoided.

The text comes in two books, the first concerns points that Maximinus could not refute, the second refutations of Maximinus by Augustine.

Maximinus shows himself firmly in a Latin tradition deriving from Tertullian and Novatian, in that he reads OT theophanies as Christophanies, but then extends this to insist that the Son is visible, the Father alone invisible, and to drive a wedge between their common nature. Augustine employs several arguments to force admittance that the Son is invisible in his nature, though he does appear, and that it is not a characteristic of the Greater to be unable to be seen by the lesser. Augustine denies there are any texts that show the Holy Spirit adoring the Father as if a creature. He also employs a sophisticated exegesis of Jn 17 and like passages, to show that the unity of disciples in Christ is as not identical the union of Father and Son. Augustine's primary tactic in that point is to distinguish unity asserted absolutely, and unity asserted in respect to something. To Maximinus' argument that: if the Son is the same as Father, then the Son is unborn as the Father, Augustine simply responds with the example of Adam: unbegotten, as made by God, yet begets a son of his own nature.

In Book 2, Augustine moves to Maximinus' arguments. The key question is “whether the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have a different substance, as your say, or rather, as we say, have one and the same substance and whether the one God is the Trinity”; Sabellianism is not in view.

Augustine demonstrates his commitment to partitive exegesis, as for instance in dealing with Phil 2:6-9, which he understands economically where Maximinus understands absolutely. Augustine lays down some clear statements in 2.10 where he writes, “The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are three persons, and because these three have one substance, they are supremely one without any difference of natures or of wills” and “Christ is one person with a twofold substance, because he is both God and man.”

There is an interesting point in 2.22, as they debate 1 Cor 3:16, then 6:19-20. Maximinus wants to use the Spirit's cleansing as sign that he prepares the way for God, and so is not God. Augustine brings in other texts such as 1 Cor 6, to argue that the Spirit is himself the indweller of this temple, and thus God.

In 2.26 onwards, they return to debating the Old Testament. Augustine shows that he is not willing to read this simply as Christophanies, but as Theophanies without a clear distinction of person, using creaturely or corporeal forms to effect a manifestation of presence. If the Father is invisible and spirit, so too the Son. The visibility of the Son is inadequate to support OT Christophanies.

Hilary of Poitiers (PTT)

b.ca. 310-320, d. ca. 367-8. We know little of Hilary's early life, though we can probably date his consecration as bishop between 350 and 355. He shows knowledge of both Latin and Greek, a familiarity with Tertullian, Cyprian, and Novatian, and during his exile with emerging Greek theology. Beckwith dates his exile to the synod of Bézier 356, whence he was exiled to Phrygia 357-60 (Hilary was not present at Milan 355, but did receive correspondence of its events; he then did appear at Bézier, where he claims to oppose Saturninus of Arles and the anti-Nicenes). During this time Hilary associates with Basil of Ancyra and Eleusius of Cyzicus, among others, and is present at Seleucia 359. After an unsuccessful request for audience with Constantius, and Constantinople 360's Homoian declaration, Hilary returned from exile unauthorised, and became probably the pro-Nicene's most articulate defender in the West throughout the 360s.

Hilary's most significant works, for this study, are De Synodis, which is Hilary's attempt to make contemporary Eastern theological debate and thought accessible to the West, and De Trinitate, his extensive anti-Homoian/anti-Arian treatise on the Trinity. It is the latter which will occupy us below.

It seems almost certain that De Trinitate is a composite work. Beckwith's recent monograph analyses the constituent parts as De Fide (Bks 2-3), Adversus Arianos (Bks 4-6), with Bk 1 added later, Bks 2-3 substantially revised, to form De Fide, and a major shift in vision from Bk 7 onwards, whence Hilary has decided to turn Adversus Arianos into the magnum opus De Trinitate. Beckwith dates the change of vision to 357-8, the Blasphemy of Sirmium and the anti-Homoian influence of Basil of Ancyra. Notably, Bks 4-6 contain reflection on Arius letter to Alexander of Alexandria, a document no one at the time was engaged with or adhering to.

Turning then to the text of De Trinitate:
Bk 1 offers an introduction, including personal spiritual biography, the need to defend against errors, and an outline of the contents of the book. In 1.19 we get a glimpse of the latter concern with analogies, “we must therefore regard any comparison as helpful to man rather than as descriptive of God, since it suggests, rather than exhausts, the sense we seek.”.

Bks 2-3, the revised De Fide, were originally presented as a defense of Hilary's baptismal faith. Key changes appear to be a move towards a more polemical and apologetic engagement. Though he still speaks of a simple faith in the eternal generation, Hilary now realises that such simplicity of faith leaves believers open to deception. He casts his opponents polemically to the left and right, and is clear to offer his faith against both Homoians, by defending likeness of image and essence, as well as to clearly demarcate his position from Marcellus and Photinus. In particular, he does this by extensive scriptural work, the gospel of John is worked heavily.

When we come to Bks 4-6, we see clearly how Hilary has prefaced his work here with respect to Bks 1-3. This section is, oddly for his historical context, concerned with a detailed refutation of Arius' letter to Alexandria, which Hilary quotes in 4.12-13. No contemporary group is holding this position, and while anti-Arian rhetoric has been employed in both East and West (Athanasian and Marcellan circles), this is really something for the 350s! Nonetheless, although his arguments in this section lack the sophistication to deal with later moderate Eusebian positions, we see the fine grain detail of Hilary's exegesis, especially in dealing with the OT theophanies in a Latin tradition.

Bk 7 begins with a declaration of its excellence, and the situating of Hilary's work between Sabellians, Photinians, Arians, the whole lot. Now we see Hilary begin to deploy a more refined exegesis, particularly of John. So at 7.15, reflecting on Jn 5:18 he writes“equality cannot dwell with difference, nor yet in solitude”, showing his medial path between modalism and ditheism. In 7.28-29 we see Hilary cautiously deploying analogies, and in 7.30 speaking about the limits of analogy. This is due, I think, to the excessive deployment of untenable analogies by Basil of Ancyra, among others.

In Bk 8 onwards, Hilary speaks at more length concerning the Spirit. Ayres (p185) sees Hilary's pneumatology as “entirely economic” and that “in the case of Hilary we find a pneumatology that is clear about the function of the Spirit, proceeds polemically by applying to the Spirit arguments developed in the case of the Son, and deeply austere about the place of the Spirit in the Trinity itself.” Certainly Hilary's writing on the Spirit reads confusingly to myself.

In 9.3 Hilary gives us a clear statement of the dual natures, Christ “being of two natures united for that mediatorship, is the full reality of each nature; while abiding in each, he is wanting in neither; he does not cease to be God because he becomes man, nor fail to be man because he remains for ever God”, and this is followed in 9.5 by a statement of the principle of partitive exegesis, over against the univocalisation of his opponents. 9.58-74 treats of the problem of the ignorance of Christ, in economic terms. 9.68 has this statement, “manifestly, therefore, the ignorance of God is not ignorance but a mystery: in the economy of his actions and words and manifestations, he does not know and at the same time He knows, or knows and at the same time does not know.”

Bk 10 advances the curious (and I think erroneous argument) that Christ experienced the physical cause of pain but not the feeling of pain (Christus pati non dolere potest). I will pass over that subject. In Bk 11 he treats at length 1 Cor 15:21-28, specifically the troublesome Marcellan passage about the subjection of the Son and the Kingdom. 11.40 reveals the kind of confused thought Hilary has:

according to the Dispensation He becomes by His Godhead and His manhood the Mediator between men and God, and so by the Dispensation He acquires the nature of flesh, and by the subjection shall obtain the nature of God in all things, so as to be God not in part, but wholly and entirely. The end of the subjection is then simply that God may be all in all, that no trace of the nature of His earthly body may remain in Him. Although before this time the two were combined within Him, He must now become God only; not, however, by casting off the body, but by translating it through subjection; not by losing it through dissolutions, but by transfiguring it in glory: adding humanity to His divinity, not divesting Himself of divinity by His humanity.

Hilary's view, so far as I can make it out, is that the humanity of Christ will be transfigured into divinity, and caught up in this is our deification, but exactly what Hilary means by this I am unsure.

Bk 12 deals with Pr 8:22f at length, and shows clear traces of the partitive exegetical principle in practice, advancing the basically pro-Nicene treatment of the verse.

Augustine of Hippo, I (PTT)

Introduction, Epistle 11, Question 69 of Diverse Questions

Augustine. Even to pronounce the name is to evoke the echoes of his significance for Western thought. Considered by many the greatest theologian since Paul, foundational for the Western theological tradition, it is almost impossible not to have an opinion about him (despite not having read him, as Barnes quips).

The details of his life (354-430) are easily read elsewhere. Moreover, the vast scope of his theological output is well beyond our attention here. Rather, as a slightly later contemporary to the controversies of the 4th century, Augustine provides an important, if not the important, Western theological witness to the victory of pro-Nicene thought.

Ayres treats of Augustine (364-383) as part of his attempt to show the consistency of his analysis of pro-Nicene strategies and grammar. Ayres notes that early Augustine certainly shows engagement with Platonist thought (Confessions 7), but that the influence of such texts and philosophies is more difficult to demonstrate than assume. Confessions 7.10 speaks of Augustine's conception of God as an extended material substance being challenged and reformulated as immaterial Being itself, and simple in Himself. Pointing to Confessions 7.9, Ayres further argues that Augustine came to those Platonist texts with a pre-existing pro-Nicene understanding. The dominant background of Neoplatonism in Augustine is open to significant challenge (see also post on Gunton/Barnes to follow).

Ayres looks to Letter 11, dated ca 389, for evidence of Augustine's early thinking. Here Augustine is responding to a question from Nebridius about why we say only the Son became incarnate. Augustine responds with a statement of the doctrine of inseparable operations (2), a pro-Nicene principle, and one that could be said to generate the very problem. While Augustine's answer leaves much wanting, as he treats of the interrelatedness of existence, particularity, and endurance of things that exist, and the need for epistemological condescension in our knowledge of the Father and Spirit through the Son, his clear commitment to some elements of pro-Nicene thought is evident. Ayres points further to De fide et symbolo (On the Faith and the Creed), 393 where Augustine shows himself aware of the key Latin anti-Homoian tradition, showing the equality of Father and Son, referring to 1 Cor 1:24, as well as an awareness of Pr 8:22 and other key texts in the debate.

The issue of the incarnation as particular to the Son is again dealt with in Sermon 52, ca 410, on Mt 3:13ff, where Augustine begins again with the inseparability of operations, but then writes, “ The Son indeed and not the Father was born of the Virgin Mary; but this very birth of the Son, not of the Father, was the work both of the Father and the Son. The Father indeed suffered not, but the Son, yet the suffering of the Son was the work of the Father and the Son.” (52.8). Augustine has found a manner of attributing commonality of works with distinction within those works.

Further evidence of Augustine's pro-Nicene strategies are seen in Question 69, from De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus (Responses to Miscellaneous Questions), in which he is tackling 1 Cor 15:28. In response to 'Arian' univocalisation, Augustine writes, “those things that were written about the distinction between the Father and the Son were written partly with reference to the properties of the persons [eg, begetter and begotten] and partly with reference to the assumption of humanity” (69.2). Augustine interprets the text with reference to the assumption of humanity (1 Cor 15:20, understands 'until' to not mean 'end' (as Lk 1:33 would contradict), and in relation as Christ is head of his body, the church (69.10).

381 and Beyond (PTT)

Ayres (251-260), Behr (117-122)

We have already treated briefly the arrival of Gregory of Nazianzus in Constantinople in 380. The edict of Theodosius, Feb 28, 380, and his treatment of Demophilus of Constantinople, clearly marked the new Imperial agenda. Jan 10th, 381 Theodosius forbade the use of churches and worship within city walls to various 'heretics'; Ayres notes that in this, and subsequent decrees, Theodosius describes a basic formulation of pro-Nicene Trinitarian theology, without any dependence upon a technical terminology.

Subsequently, he summoned the council of Constantinople, which opened May 31st, presided over by Meletius. There was no western representation at the council. 36 'Macedonians' came, but after conciliation failed, withdrew. An Egyptian delegation turned up late (Peter having died in February). Meletius died mid-council, and Gregory took over. He pushed for Paulinus in Antioch, but the council consecrated Flavian (a member of Paulinus' community, backed by the Syrians) instead. The Egyptian delegation, on arrival, raised objections to Gregory's legitimacy, not least in the transferral of see from Nazianzus to Constantinople; this was certainly connected to Peter of Alexandria's earlier persuasions to Maximus the Cynic to usurp Gregory's place in the capital. Gregory, losing support and patience with the council, resigned from both presidency and episcopacy, and retired to his country home; Nectarius, an unbaptised civil official was elected bishop, and presided until its conclusion in July. 4 canons were issued:

1. Endorsing Nicaea and anthematising Eunomians, Eudoxians, Pneumatomachians, Sabellians, Marcellians, Photinians, and Apollinarians (and all stripes of 'Arianism');
2. concerning episcopal sees and boundaries;
3. placing the honour of Constaninople after Rome, curtailing Alexandria's influence,
4. voiding Maximus the Cynic's bishopric and all his ordinations.

Lastly, it produced the creed, and issued a Tome. The creed is undocumented from the council itself, but is known from Chalcedon. Among significant changes are the extended statement on the Spirit, the omission of 'from the ousia of the Father' (Ayres suggests the precise wording of the creed was not as intensely formulated as we might think, and that Basil-Meletius and their circles were less attached to the phrase, cf. the significance in Athanasius' thought), and the omission of Nicaea's anathemas (probably explicable by the fact that the Council did not meet to condemn someone present at the council, cf. Arius at Nicaea).

July 30, 381, Theodosius issues a further edict, confirming the council. Behr writes, “ This edict is the imperial stamp on the pro-Nicene position settled upon at the Council of Constantinople, making it the official religion of the Roman Empire”. Western councils, while generally pro-Nicene in theology, met at Aquileia 381 and Rome 382, complaining and protesting the proceedings of Constantinople (not least re-ordering the prestige of metropolitan sees).

Constantinople is certainly not 'the end', though it is the triumph, not of a creed, but of a way of doing theology and speaking of God. In 383 Theodosius held a council and called for submissions of a statement of faith from all major sects; only pro-Nicenes and Novatianists were found acceptable. From 383-4 onwards Theodosius began to crack down on 'Eunomians', 'Macedonians', and 'Arians', though such communities persisted for quite some time.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The 370s (PTT)

Behr (104-119), Ayres (222-243, 260-267)

In 372 Valens travelled to Caesarea and met with Basil. This meeting turned out relatively favourable for Basil, and as a consequence he gained ecclesiastical responsibility for Armenia. Nonetheless, the split of Cappadocia into two provinces threatened his episcopal influence, and he responded by appointing numerous relatives and supporters to newly created sees. During the 370s Basil spends considerable effort in trying to build alliances in the East, deal with the triple-division in Antioch, and approach Rome and the west.

During the 370s, Damasus holds power in Rome, and the correspondence between Basil and Damasus figures significantly in East-West relations. The relationship was strained due to support for differing bishops in Antioch. Nonetheless, Damasus is basically pro-Nicene in his theology.

In 374 Ambrose is elected bishop of Milan. He succeeded the Homoian Auxentius, and seems to be largely unpressured in the early years of his episcopacy.

Valentinian dies in the West, campaigning in Germania, and Gratian succeeds him.

Among other events (infra), Ambrose comes under increasing pressure in Milan, and so writes De Fide, and in a few years adds 3 more books to it, as well as by 381De Spiritu (influence from Didymus, or plagiarism according to Jerome). Ambrose shows familiarity with Eastern pro-Nicene theology, as well as Hilary, and includes elements such as the doctrine of inseparable operations, a sophisticated account of 'generation', and anti-Homoian exegesis.

In 378 the 5th decisive extra-ecclesial event for the 4th century occurs: the battle of Adrianople (the other 4 are: Constantine's unification of Empire, the sole rule of Constantius from 351, the death of Constantius in 361, and the reign of Julian the Apostate). Goth incursions across the Danube led to the defeat of Valens and his army, and Gratian close at hand, in consultation, appointed Theodosius to rule the East. He came out of retirement in Hispania, and was declared Augustus Jan 379. In the same year, Meletius held a small council in Antioch. Ayres sees this as a Basil-Meletius power-bloc become pro-active in moving towards a Nicene settlement, and the council produces a pro-Nicaea statement which it then addresses to Theodosius. This council also sent Gregory of Nazianzus to Constantinople, to pastor the 'Nicene' Christians, a role in which he excelled and gave him the scope for some of the most important oratory of his career.

Behr draws attention to edicts of Theodosius, such as Feb 28, 380, endorsing Nicaea, and the faith of Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria, as a standard for trinitarian orthodoxy. On Nov 24 380, he enters Constantinople, and demands a Nicene confession from Demophilus, who declines and is exiled, this paves the way for Gregory of Nazianzus installation Nov 27.

Gregory of Nyssa, II (PTT)

Ad Ablabium

To Ablabius: On not three Gods, has long been held up as a distinctive and paradigmatic text for both Gregory, and for the approach of the Cappadocians. A careful reading of the text shows that to a large extent it simply doesn't do what many think it does. In this summary, I follow aspects of both Behr (427-434) and Ayres (345-364).

The confronting problem for the text is how the Cappadocians can avoid being tritheists. The argument is put in terms of speaking of a singular human nature, yet three individual persons. This is, we may recall, the grammatical distinction that Gregory employs in his Epistle to Peter. It is, also, commonly taken as a starting point for discussion of Social Trinitarianism and the Eastern tendency to start with the Persons.

Yet, in Ad Abl., Gregory's argument is that such an analogy fails at exactly this point. In defending against the charge of tritheism, Gregory advances two arguments, or in Ayres' schematic, two lines of argument with two sections (A1-B1-A2-B2).

The first of these is to exclude polytheism by definition, and to understand that to speak of a 'nature' is at once to be speaking of something singular and simple. Gregory elaborates to say that in common usage we speak of 'men', but properly speaking we should speak of 'man'. This is negligible when talking about human beings, but more particular care must be taken in speaking about God, for more is at stake.

Gregory's second line of argument is about what names describe. He is insistent, as Basil before him, that names do not define essences, and so begins with an argument for 'Godhead', θεότης, denoting the activity of God. He writes, “ nature is unnameable and unspeakable, and we say that every term either invented by the custom of men, or handed down to us by the Scriptures, is indeed explanatory of our conceptions of the Divine Nature, but does not include the signification of that nature itself”. Names signify operations.

Yet, the objection that might be raised is that common operations signify common operators co-working, as 3 farmers farming, of 3 orators orating. Gregory raises this objection to more clearly argue his case. For Gregory, the operations of the Divine Persons are not individuated, but they share the same and singular operation. He writes, “every operation which extends from God to Creation, and is named according to our variable conceptions of it, has its origin from the Father, and proceeds through the Son, and is perfected in the Holy Spirit” (notice how this echoes Basil in De Spiritu Sancto. It is right at this point we should note how divergent this is from the Social Analogy. The distinction of the divine persons is not the same as that observed in human persons.

The core elements to take away from Ad Ablabium is this: simplicity of nature, common operation and common power of the common divine essence; the incomprehensibility of 'what' God is, and 'what' a divine person is; that the persons are not psychological entities unto themselves; that persons can be distinguished causally and in relation but not in essence nor in operation.

Gregory of Nyssa, I (PTT)

(Behr, p409-413)

Gregory of Nyssa, the younger brother of Basil, is a less prominent figure than Basil or Nazianzus. We correspondingly have less biographical data. b.ca.355, it seems he did not travel abroad, but probably studied rhetoric under Basil himself in Caesarea. Seems to have been married for a time. Was then consecrated to Nyssa by Basil in 372, as part of Basil's manoeuvrings re: division of Cappadocia into 2 provinces. He was not a success in ecclesiastical affairs and was deposed. After Basil's death (Jan 1, 379), he returned to Nyssa, and attended Antioch 379. In the 70s he began to write extensively. Bks 1 & 2 of Against Eunomius were written in 17 days are presented at Constantinople 381.

He was held in high regard at Constantinople 381, delivering Meletius' funeral oration, and mentioned by Theodosius in his edict as one of 11 episcopal norms of orthodoxy. By 383 he completed Bk 3 of Against Eunomius. From the mid 80s he writes primarily against Apollinarians. The last we hear of him is at the synod of Constantinople 394.
Gregory sees his writing as explicitly continuing on the work of Basil. We will treat of 3 important texts, Contra Eunomium, Ad Ablabium, and in this post, To Peter (listed as Epistle 38 of Basil; authorship disputed).

To Peter
This letter, also presented as a letter from Basil to Gregory himself, centers largely around a clarification of the terminology of ousia and hypostasis. Gregory considers ousia to refer to the common essence of a thing, but concerning hypostasis, he writes, “ My statement, then, is this. That which is spoken of in a special and peculiar manner is indicated by the name of the hypostasis” (3). The hypostasis is marked by what is particular and peculiar, not by personal ontology nor psychological identity. So, for example, he writes of the Spirit: “ It has this note of its peculiar hypostatic nature, that It is known after the Son and together with the Son, and that It has its subsistence of the Father” (4), to identify its peculiar marks or idiomatic characteristics. Similarly of the Son and the Father.

In (5) he writes of an analogy of the separate and conjoined is seen in visible tokens. But tokens are not the truth “for it is not possible that there should be complete correspondence between what is seen in the tokens and the objects in reference to which the tokens is adopted”. He also relates the rainbow as an analogy – the colours distinct but conjoined, the light is of one essence.

He then treats of Hebrews 1:3, and teaches us to understand that it concerns, “not the distinction of the hypostases from one another...rather the apprehension of the natural, inseparable, and close relationship of the Son to the Father” (7). He then extends this from Jn 14:9, Col 1:15, to lay down the principles, who thus perceives the image, perceives the archetype. Who perceives the Son, perceives the father's Hypostasis also. (8)

Concerning this letter, Behr makes a few key observations. In drawing the distinction between ousia as referring to the generic, eg. 'man', and hypostasis to the particular, eg. 'Paul', Gregory is making a distinction founded in grammar, far more than he is making a social analogy of 3 persons (cf. Ad Abl to follow). Secondly, 'God' for Gregory is primarily the Father, not 'what is in common'. Thus he stands in a Cappadocian monarchian lineage with Basil.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Culling the Blogs

I've decided to drastically cut down my RSS-feeds and blog-reading.

This, ironically perhaps, is your chance to make the list. If you've been reading my blog, lurking, whatever, and you have a blog, i'd love to hear from you in a comment.

As for the rest, I'll be monitoring my rss-feeds over the next week, and making some chops!
(But those of you already reading this probably have nothing to worry about).

Update: 300 to 100! Feeling much less overwhelmed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Australian Government continues to push censorship scheme

"The Federal Government has now set its sights on gamers, promising to use its internet censorship regime to block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds."

from today's SMH, here.

Senator Conroy's foolhardy scheme to censor the internet hasn't been scuttled at all, it's just quietly moving forward. So much for the claims that it's all about the 'really bad stuff': the government is willing to censor whatever it deems unsuitable, and the system will have no effective safeguards. It's already a disgrace that there is no R18+ rating for video and computer games. Why have a rating system at all if you're going to treat your entire adult population like 15 year olds? But of course, the internet filtering scheme is designed to make the whole internet PG.

In good news, some bright folk are working on forming Pirate Party Australia.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gregory of Nazianzus, II (PTT)

The Theological Orations

The Theological Orations are widely regarded as some of Gregory's finest rhetorical and theological work. In 5 orations, delivered probably in the summer of 380 in the Anastasia church in Constantinople, from which Gregory was leading the Nicene Christians of the Capital, Gregory discourses about theological method, ascetic purity, and the Trinity.

First Oration (Or. 27)

The first oration serves really as a prologomenon (in a non-technical sense) to the others. Gregory caricatures the Eunomians and their eloquent rhetoric and impenetrable logic. He depicts the discussion of theology to be a reverent affair, approached with proper restraint, with purity of life and mind. The topic of theology should be “matters within our reach, and to such an extent as the mental power and grasp of our audience may extend” (27.4), and our conversation should first be with God himself, not with ourselves.

Second Oration (Or. 28)

The opening of the Second Oration contains some brilliant rhetorical moves, as Gregory seems to lead on a tantalising ascent into the knowledge of God (28.1-3), before awakening us to the fact that God is, in his essence, incomprehensible, “not, I mean, as to the fact of His being, but as to its nature.” (28.5).
Next Gregory treats of philosophical speculation about God (7-11), how we may rightly conclude his incorporeality, immateriality, etc., but that all these privatives tell nothing positive about God. They are like the man who is asked 'what is 2x5' and answers 'not 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, etc. (28.9).
Moreover, when we approach God through his names and titles (28.13), we are lead to think in creaturely and material conceptions, which is the root of so many idolatries (28.13-16). Indeed the saints of old (28.17-21) fell silent at the contemplation of what God is in himself. In 28.22-31 Gregory embarks on a marvellous “poem of creation”, so that we might marvel at the vast scope of God's work. He concludes this section with all that has been able to be said about God apart from the Incarnation, in terms of God's majesty. This paves the way for the 3rd Oration, on the Son.

Third Oration (Or. 29)

In the 3rd Oration, Gregory begins from the conception of God as monarchia, but he carefully refers this to one God, not one 'Person'. The Son is begotten, the Spirit 'emitted', but without reference to time nor in a corporeal manner. They are eternal, and co-eternal with the Father, yet have a causal relationship with him. “They are from Him, through not after Him” (29.3)
29.6 shows a piece of Gregory's dialectic brilliance. Confronted with the question whether the Son was begotten voluntarily or involuntarily, Gregory asks his opponents the same question, with the same dilemma: if voluntarily, they are sons 'of will', if involuntarily, then what tyrant compelled their father? Rather, the Father wills it but this does not make the Son a 'son of will', further the manner of his generation is unknown to us (29.8). Gregory continues in the same vein, demolishing Heterousian 'dilemmas' of this kind.
In 29.15 Gregory makes an important technical argument, which flows as follows: 'the Father is greater, as cause', the Eunomians would add 'cause by nature', then conclude 'greater by nature'. Gregory says this is an error, for they have shifted from the particular to the general. Predicates are affirmed “'of some particular thing in some particular respect'”. To say that man X is dead, one cannot generalise and say 'man' is dead. 'the Father' is greater as Father, ie. as cause of the Son, not as God, for the Son is God.

Gregory then turns to a great number of scriptures, and in 29.17 states his principle of partitive exegesis: “ What is lofty you are to apply to the Godhead, and to that Nature in Him which is superior to sufferings and incorporeal; but all that is lowly to the composite condition of Him who for your sakes made himself of no reputation and was Incarnate – yes, for it is no worse thing to say, was made Man, and afterwards was also exalted”. In 29.19-20 he then applies this, with a brilliant recitation of alternating ascriptions to Christ's divinity and humanity, and then concludes in 29.21 with a prayer for his opponents, “if it may be, change these men and make them faithful instead of rhetoricians, Christians instead of that which they now are called. This indeed we entreat and beg for Christ's sake.”

Fourth Oration (Or. 30)

the Fourth Oration treats 10 sets of texts that the Eunomians raise. It is the most exegetically focused of the orations. Here are some key quotations:

“Whatever we find joined with a cause we are to refer to the Manhood, but all that is absolute and unoriginate we are to reckon to the account of His Godhead.” (30.2, re: Pr 8.22)

“ Your mistake arises from not understanding that Until is not always exclusive of that which comes after, but asserts up to that time, without denying what comes after it” (30.4, re: 1 Cor 15:35)

“the evident solution is that the Greater refers to origination, while the Equal belongs to the Nature” (30.7, re: Jn 14:28)

In treating of Jn 6:38, since Gregory is committed to taking it to refer to the Godhead, he understands it to be saying that the Son has no will other than the Father's, so that the one God has one will (30.12)

In the second half of the Oration (30.17f), Gregory treats of titles of God and of the Son, noting which are said absolutely, which in relation to other things, which refer to the incarnate Christ, and which are common with the Father. In all these, however, he maintains the principle that names do not define the essence, but sketch the attributes (so 30.17)

Fifth Oration (Or. 31)

The Fifth Oration forms the capstone to the series, and treats the Holy Spirit. Gregory says the Spirit must be either Substance or Accident (31.6), but the logic shows that he is substance, not accident, for he effects, and is not effected. He is not begotten, as the Son, nor unbegotten, as the Father, but proceeds: “What then is Procession? Do you tell me what is the Unbegottenness of the Father, and I will explain to you the physiology of the Generation of the Son and the Procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be frenzy—stricken for prying into the mystery of God.” (31.8) Nor does he lack something that he should be or not be a 2nd Son, but rather has a different mutual relation to the Father and Son. 3.10 drops the bombshell, as Gregory just comes out and declares that the Spirit is God. In 31.13 he answers the objection that they are tritheists, but asking whether or not the Spirit-Deniers aren't equally ditheists. In 3.15 Gregory goes to some length to show that the one human nature and the many instances of it are not a suitable analogy for the simple unity of God's essence. Behr writes, “the singularity of the one God, for Gregory, lies in the fact that the being of the Son and the Spirit is none other than the being of the Father himself.” (Behr, p361); again, “Gregory rejects the analogy of a single humanity and a plurality of human beings. Instead, “the being of the Father is what divinity is and, as such, is also what the Son and the Spirit are, for they are of his being.” (p365).

In the final section, 31.21-30, Gregory defends against the attack that calling the Spirit 'God' is unscriptural, with the simple but powerful point that 'unbegotten' is an entirely unscriptural term that the Eunomians are always using. In his concluding remarks, 31.31, Gregory speaks about the limits and failings of analogical language. That though we approach God in our speech about him, there is no suitable analogy in nature for the Creator of nature. Finally it seems best to Gregory to give up on analogies, and cling to the truth as given in a few words, and guided by the Spirit (31.33).

Gregory of Nazianzus, I (PTT)

Gregory the Theologian is a fascinating figure. b. ca. 329/30, the son of the bishop of Nazianzus, also Gregory. He studied rhetoric, visited Palestine and Alexandria, and spent 348-58 studying in Athens with Basil; he returned a few years later than Basil to Cappadocia, was forcibly ordained by his father on Christmas 361, but then fled. He later returned home after the threat of schism, and assumed his father's role. Appointed by Basil, for political purposes, as Bishop of Sasima in 372. Gregory slinked off to Seleucia to avoid running Nazianzus; In 379 he went to Constantinople to lead the Nicene Christians there, and in 381 presided over the council of Constantinople after Meletius' death. During the council he resigned his episcopacy, unhappy with the council's handling of Antioch, the Macedonians, and attacked by an Egyptian delegation over the legitimacy of his position. Ironically, for a staunch pro-Nicene theologian, Gregory thought Constantinople 381 didn't go far enough in asserting the Spirit's divinity, and was unhappy with the outcome. He retired to a private life, and died ca. 390. Nonetheless, his orations become the most copied Byzantine manuscripts, after the Scriptures themselves.

His later years are dedicated in part to combating Apollinarius and his teachings. It is something of a modern misreading of Apollinarius to be wondering whether the Apollinarian Christ has enough requisite 'parts' to be fully human. For Apollinarius the issue is the unity of the subject, Christ, and the impact of the communicatio idiomatum of the two natures. The great problem with Apollinarius is that he extends the communicatio too far: the two natures share in each other's properties, so that he reads texts about Christ's humanity and/or divinity univocally as of not only the one subject, but virtually of the one nature. This is the kind of univocal reading that Alexander opposed Arius for, Athanasius the Eusebians, and Basil the Heterousians. Gregory's Letter to Cledonius is really the definitive word on the topic: “If anyone has set his hope on a man without a mind, he is completely mindless and not worthy of being saved in his entirety. The unassumed is the unhealed; what is united to God, that is also saved” (Ep 101 (.5 in Wickham, .31 in Gallay), quoted in Behr, p405).

In our next post we'll consider the Theological Orations in more detail.

Basil of Caesarea, III (PTT)

De Spiritu Sancto

If one comes to On the Holy Spirit looking for a systematic treatment of the Spirit, one will surely be disappointed. Basil writes dSS in a particular polemical context, and it is those issues that drive his treatise. Those issues become readily apparent in 2-4, the attacks of Aetius, Eunomius, and the like, both on the place of the Spirit in the Trinity, and the innovation in liturgy that Basil is accused of, for speaking “ with the Son together with the Holy Ghost” ( Μετά ... σύν; 2).

Basil's treatise advances on two main thrusts. Firstly, Basil engages in a vigorous investigation of the use of prepositions in scripture; secondly, he advances a pro-Nicene argument for the Spirit's divinity.

In the first vein, Basil identifies his opponents' position in 5-6 as treating prepositions as only admitting a singular usage and application. Instead, Basil will show that this position is contradictory when applied to the scriptures, which instead show variation according to various meanings and emphases. So “through” (δία) is used not only of the Son, but also the Father (10), and “in” (ἐν)not only of the Spirit, but also of the Father (11).

Basil joins not only prepositional analysis, but partitive exegesis, in 17f, as he speaks of the blessings that are economically presented through the Son, without subordinating him in ontology or doxology.

From 22f Basil's focus is on the Spirit. Against his opponents' contention that the Spirit not be ranked with the Father and Son (24), Basil simply points to Mt 28:19 and the strength of baptismal traditions. If Jesus is prepared to rank the Spirit with the Father and Himself, who are we to improve on it? The attack, Basil says, is not so much against himself, but against the Christian Faith. Basil spends significant time on appealing to the faith of our baptism. In 34 is a great argument that we are baptised 'in' water, but we do not grant water equal dignity with Father and Son! Of course not!

From 37f, Basil begins to discuss the Spirit's common operation with the Father and Son. They share all works, in inseparable operation. Basil's explanation of this is that the original cause is the Father, the creative cause, the Son, the perfecting cause, the Spirit, of all things that are made (38).

Against the claim that the Spirit should not be exalted, Basil directs us again to scripture ( Jn 4:24, Lam 4:20, 1 Jn 2:20 (the NPNF reference is incorrectly to 1 Jn 1:10), Ps 143:10, Ps 51:10, Ps 92:15; Jn 14:17, 16:13, 1 Jn 5:6, 2 Cor 3:8-9, Jn 14:16) which are shared in common with the Father and Son.

A novel argument of his opponents appears in 51, that the Spirit is neither slave, nor master, but a free (citizen). Basil in response to this refers to the sharp Creator/creation distinction, and asserts that all creatures are slaves, and if not a creature, then the Spirit is God and shares his monarchy.

Basil returns to discussion of prepositions (58f), again affirming that the Scriptures vary their prepositional usage to point to functional differences, not ontological or doxological distinctions. So, when we speak of his proper rank, we contemplate him with the Father and Son. When of his grace in operation, that the Spirit is in us (63).

Against the claim that 'in' is sufficient and therefore 'with' is novel and inappropriate, Basil launches a sustained appeal to church tradition and uniformity, (66-70) and to specific precedents in the Fathers (72-75).

and Selected Epistles (9, 52, 125, 234)
(Quotations from NPNF series)

Epistle 9, to Maximus, (ca. 360)
Noteworthy for Basil saying that ὄμοιον κατ´ οὐσίαν if read with ἀπαραλλάκτως is equivalent to homoousion. (like according to essence + without any difference). But if “without any difference” is removed, as at Constantinople, then the phrase is suspicious, since likeness by itself supposes unlikeness. “I am myself for the homoousion, as being less open to improper interpretation”.

Epistle 38
This letter is variously ascribed to either Basil of Caesarea, or Gregory of Nyssa. I will treat it under Gregory.

Epistle 52, to Canonicae (women devoted to charity and living apart from men) (ca. 370)
Again the issue is homoousion. Basil responds to the problem that the Antiochene synods (264, 269) condemned its use in association with Paul of Samosata; he denies that it implies an anterior or underlying substance, and says “when both the cause and that which derives its natural existence from the cause are of the same nature, then they are called 'of one substance'” (2) He also affirms that it refutes modalism “For nothing can be of one substance with itself, but one thing is of one substance with another” (3). He also defends the place of the Spirit as coeternal and coequal in the Godhead (4).

Epistle 125 A transcript of the faith, dictated by Basil, subscribed by Eustathius, bishop of Sebasteia. (ca. 373)
Important for its statement of the Nicene creed (2), and relation to recent developments concerning the spirit (3).

Epistle 234, to Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium (ca. 376)
This letter addresses the attack that the pro-Nicenes worship what they do not know, for they consider the essence of God unknowable. Basil writes, “The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from his operations, but do not undertake to approach near to his essence” (1). Basil affirms the incomprehensibility of God in himself as a fundamental principle for pro-Nicene theology

Part I: Introduction to Basil of Caesarea
Part II: Basil's Theological Contribution

Basil of Caesarea, II (PTT)

Theological Contribution
Behr (282-324), Ayres (188-221)

Behr helpfully situates Basil against the theology of Aetius and Eunomius. Their theology was characterised by certain key elements: that speech of God must be accurate, otherwise it was fantasy; that words applied to God are not done so analogically, but homonymically: ie., 'Father' is a different word altogether when spoken about God than when it is spoken of humans. It is important to distinguish this from the Athanasian position, that 'Father' takes its meaning from the nature of the thing spoken of, so that a certain analogy is preserved. Eunomius' position is far more radical with regards to language. For Eunomius, 'unbegotten' is the primary and exact designation for God, which by terminology excludes the Son from proper deity. In Eunomius' theology, the Son is the image of God's activity, not of his essence. (see Behr, p267-82).

When we come to Basil then, we see him emerging from a broad Homoiousian context, but rapidly moving to the development of a pro-Nicene theology with strong resonances (though not dependencies) to Athanasius, and even the western pro-Nicenes.

On the question of theological language, Basil makes 'Father' the primary category, not 'unbegotten'. This is grounded in the revelation of the scriptures, that it is only through the Son that God is known. Speculation about 'the unbegotten' by itself is pure speculation, not theology grounded in the Apostolic proclamation. Basil develops an account of human reflection, ἐπίνοια, in which the mind stands between words and essence, and words do not reach the essence itself (Ayres traces some lineage of Stoic thought behind epinoia). Indeed, for Basil as for the pro-Nicenes as a whole, one cannot know the 'what' of God, but rather the 'how': we know God, as he is, through his activities, not in his essence. So 'unbegotten' tells us of the 'how' of the Father's existence, not 'what' he is.

In response to Eunomius' exegesis of the Son as 'offspring' and 'created thing' ( γέννημα and ποίημα), Basil follows the same partitive exegetical method we have encountered already, speaking of things spoken theologically, and economically. This is key for his interpretation of the disputed Acts 2:36.

One of the key contributions of Basil, and the Cappadocians as a group, is work on the concept of identity and difference, and how the One and the Three should be related. Basil's basic solution is to ascribe “whatever properties are held to characterize divinity” (Behr, p294) to the principle of the essence, but whatever is peculiar to each person, to the Person. Basil neither considers the divinity as some kind of substratum, nor does treat the essence as a kind of 'genus' or class of being, of which the Three are instances.

Basil also affirms the doctrine of inseparable operations, pointing in De Spiritu Sancto to their common work as affirming their common divinity. Although Basil is engaged in the terminological development of one ousia, three hypostaseis, that is not the be all and end all of his trinitarian thought. Importantly, Basil's account of hypostaseis means that, since they are distinguished according to what is particular to each of them, there is nothing 'common' to all three as 'hypostasis': there is no general account of what a 'hypostasis' is, much as there is no definition of the 'what' of the ousia.

Ayres offers a number of key points to keep in mind when considering Basil. Firstly, Basil expresses some initial concern over homoousios, though seems to affirm the meaning, if not the term. Neither Nicaea, homoousios, ousia/hypostasis, nor Athanasius, are the starting points for Basil's theological work. Analogies of the human person are relatively absent from the core of Basil's theology, and he makes no sustained use of human nature in 3 instances. In treating the Spirit, Basil offers one of the first full-fledged integrations of the Spirit into the Godhead, both by aligning the Spirit's work with the Father's and the Son's, and then by “ placing all discussion of ἐνέργεια language within the context of a causal sequence in which activity is caused by and reveals a power (δύναμις) which in turn is an inherent and constituting aspect of a substance” (Ayres, p216).

Part I: Introduction to Basil of Caesarea
Part III: De Spiritu Sancto, and selected Letters

Basil of Caesarea, I (PTT)

(Behr, 104-107; 263-267), Ayres (222-229)

Basil emerges in the second half of the 4th century as, probably, the key player. His theological contribution, coupled with politico-ecclesiastical manoeuvres, help to both develop, and effect the triumph of, pro-Nicene theology. b. ca. 330, into aristocratic Christian family. Studied in Athens, taught rhetoric in Caesarea; toured ascetic settlements in Asia Minor, Syris, Palestine, and Egypt.

Although the earliest of Basil's significant works, Contra Eunomius, appears in 364, his most significant contributions lie in the 370s. June 370 he is elected as successor to Caesarea, and in 372 confronts and wins over Valens (at least to personal favour): he is entrusted with oversight of Armenia even as Cappadocia is split into two. The split of Cappadocia is the catalyst for Basil to appoint a number of new bishops to new sees in response, not least the Gregories.

Two constant problems beset Basil's alliance-building program. Firstly, Valens and the government were anti the pro-Nicenes, so it was difficult “to act openly against the Homoians” (Ayres, p222). Secondly, unpredictable personal antipathies and ambitions made alliances, even among those who were doctrinally close, difficult to achieve and maintain.

He sided with Meletius in Antioch, sought rapprochement (with ongoing difficulties) with Damasus of Rome (who continued to support Paulinus in Antioch); ultimately his overtures to Rome failed due to continuing suspicion, but the Tome of Damasus reveals their growing theological agreement, even if Basil died before it was finally reached. In the late 370s he is writing about and against Pneumatomachians and Apollinarius, with De Spiritu Sancto ca.375. He died January 1, 379, shortly before the accession of Theodosius, but having laid the foundation for pro-Nicene theology to triumph at Constantinople 381.

Part II: Basil's Theological contribution
Part III: De Spiritu Sancto, and selected Letters

The 360s (PTT)

Ayres (167-178), Behr (95-104)

Feb 360
Julian, appointed Caesar by Constantius, is proclaimed Augustus by his troops in Gaul.
During 359-61 Athanasius writes his De Synodis (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia), designed in large part to sway Homoiousians who were disgruntled about the events of the twin councils, and bring them back to homoousios as the only suitable expression of homoiousios.
Around this time Hilary is completing his De Synodis as well, trying to outline Eastern developments to Western bishops, and show the orthodoxy of the Homoiousians. Before his death he will also compile his De Trinitate (I will treat Hilary in some future posts).

Nov 3, 361
Constantius, falling ill, appoints Julian as his successor, thus averting almost certain civil war. Julian ('the Apostate') will have a brief but influential impact on the course of the controversy. As part of his policy of causing strife among Christians, he allowed exiled bishops to return home. Athanasius returned to Alexandria Feb 21, 362, and held a council within a few weeks, which produced an Epistle designed to effect reconciliation and re-establish communion on a basic affirmation of Nicaea; the council also produced the Tome to the Antiochenes, seeking to reconcile Paulinus' and Meletius' factions in Antioch, again with an appeal to Nicaea. The Tome was ineffective in achieving that reconciliation.

Oct 24, 362
Meanwhile, realising that his policy was not having the desired effect, Julian sent an edict exiling Athanasius once again. Athanasius didn't go far, and news of Julian's death reached him on June 26, 363.
Aetius was recalled during Julian's reign, and ordained to the episcopate. Within the next few years Aetius and Eunomius start ordaining their own bishops, which will soon form an alternative hierarchy of Heterousian churches.

Feb 364
Athanasius returned from seeking audience with Jovian (Julian's immediate successor).
Meletius meanwhile held a council in Antioch, affirming Nicaea though understanding homoousios to mean 'like in essence', and interpreting the whole creed in an anti-Anomoian sense. The cracks in the Homoian 'consensus' of 359 begin to appear.
February 16, two days after Athanasius return to Alexandria, Jovian died. Valentinian was proclaimed emperor, and March 28 appointed his brother Valens as Augustus to the East.

Under Valentinian, the Western bishops revoked Ariminum, and instead subscribed to Nicaea. Hilary was unsuccessful in having Auxentius deposed from Milan, and ordered to return to Gaul.
Valens prohibited a similar Eastern council, exiled Athanasius again in 365, before recalling him in 366 in an attempt to gain Egyptian support in opposing the usurper Procopius, who held Constantinople.

Hilary dies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The 350s (PTT)

Ayres (133-166), Behr (83-95)

Sirmium 351
A council meets and condemns Photinus, Marcellus, and Athanasius, issuing another reworking of the 4th Antiochene. The focus seems to be the condemnation of Photinus on his home turf. Athanasius responds with his own council in Alexandria.

Aug 10, 353
Magnentius, usurper of Constans in the West, suicides. This, coupled with the execution of Gallus, Caesar in the East, renders the whole empire into the hands of Constantius, providing a unity not seen since Constantine. Constantius, like Constantine before him, will take his universal political scope as an opportunity (for pragmatic reasons) to push for ecclesial and theological unity.

With Constantius in Arles, a small council met, and was presented with the synodal letter from Sirmium. Constantius begins to use this as a tool for uniformity, and presents the ultimatum to either sign up to it or face deposition and exile; all but 2 agree. Ayres notes that Western allegiance to Nicaea emerges as a reaction to Constantius' attempts to enforce conformity to Sirmium. Faced with that choice, opposition begins to form around Nicaea as a rallying standard, and one to which Athanasius himself appeals more and more.

Another council meets in Milan, with the same ultimatum. 3 refuse and are exiled; Hilary also refused, and was exiled as result (Behr, p85, says Hilary was absent and the document was sent to him; Ayres, p137, refers to Synod 91 and affirms that he was present). Also from Milan, Constantius arranged Athanasius' exile, sending troops in Jan 356 who raid his church on the night of Feb 8-9, Athanasius fleeing into the Egyptian wilderness. His replacement, George, arrived in Feb 357 (not popularly received, was almost lynched in Aug 358, and left Oct 2 358.

By Spring 357, Liberius of Rome, previously exiled, was prepared to compromise and sign, and in summer Ossius, last of the die-hards, holed up in Sirmium, also signed. By this time the “blasphemy of Sirmium” contained explicit proscription of ousia language as unscriptural, confusing, and misleading.

It is during this period that Aetius, and his disciple and secretary Eunomius, begin to emerge on the scene. Ayres calls them Heterousians, replacing the traditional ascription 'Anomoians'. Aetius is with George in Egypt in 357, and the two arrive in Antioch where Eudoxius holds a council and endorses the Sirmium Blasphemy.

Basil of Ancyra holds a council before Easter, and aligns the confessions of Constantinople 336, Antioch 341, Serdica and Sirmium 351, presenting the Son as like in essence to the Father. Their position is then presented to Constantius, at that time on the verge of endorsing Eudoxius' position. This Homoian theology wins him over though, and Eudoxius, Aetius, and Eunomius are all exiled. Basil of Ancyra then persuades Constantius to hold firstly a small council, Sirmium 358, which is followed by the twin councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 359

Ariminum and Seleucia 359
Before the twin-council, the small Sirmium council met and drew up the Dated Creed, so named for its explicit date of Pentecost May 22, 359 (Athanasius ridicules their need to date their faith). The creed is vaguely Homoian, and Basil of Ancyra's Homoiousian position is on the decline: he signs with the rider “ not only according to will, but according to hypostasis and according to existence and according to being” whereas Valens wants simply “like the Father” rather than “like in all things”.

The twin councils mark a really special turning point. Ariminum opened May 22, 359 (The dates for both creed and council come from Behr), with 400 bishops or so in attendance. The majority endorsed Nicaea, and felt no need for a new credal statement. Valens, Ursacius, and 80 bishops withdrew from the council, which then formally condemned those two ringleaders. Both groups sent delegations to Constantius, who received the minority first, accepted their position, kept the majority delegation waiting first at Adrianople, then at Niké, and pressured them into accepting the Dated creed, not least by saying the Eastern council had already agreed(!) and by presenting the Dated creed as a reformulation of 'Nicene' theology.

Seleucia opened Sep 27, 359, with 150 bishops initially, and again a majority emerged advocating in their case the Dedication Creed from Antioch. Acacius of Caesarea and his minority withdrew, promulgated their own creed, asserting that the Son was like in will alone. The majority similarly condemned Acacius and his supporters, and both parties sent delegations to Constantius. They met in Constantinople, where Constantius again pressured the majority into accepting the Dated creed, now arguing that Ariminum had already endorsed it (!). A council was held, presided by Acacius, in 360, endorsing this creed, affirming likeness 'according to Scripture', and thus the Imperially backed victory of Homoian theology. They virtually outlawed ousia language, moved decisively away from 'X from X' statements, and left behind the 4th Antiochene. They also deposed a huge number of bishops primarily on conduct grounds. Perversely, many of these were deposed for transferring sees (contra Nicaea 325), and then replaced those bishops with other bishops from various sees (thus breaking the very same Nicene canon). Yet, ironically, the victory of Homoian theology made the Heterousian implications clearer, and drove the Homoiousians away, right at the time that Athanasius was seeking to bring them back to Nicaea.

The 340s (PTT)

Ayres (117-132), Behr (77-83).

Antioch 341
A group of Eastern bishops, including Eusebius N., (now Constantinople), Acacius of Caesarea, Asterius, and the Emperor Constantius, met at this council, and produced a number of documents (extant in Athanasius' De Synodis):

The first denies being Arian – a reaction to Julius' letter, and Athanasius' polemical strategy.

The second is the Dedication Creed. It is clearly anti-Sabellian, and anti-Marcellan. It also contains anti-Arian anathemas. Ayres thinks the creed shows that the East is broadly 'Eusebian'. Athanasius treats it as 'Arian', but Hilary of Poitiers is prepared to treat it as broadly pro-Nicene in its anti-modalist intent. The text notably lacks any mention of the Son being of the Father's ousia. Behr notes that it emphasises the Son's and Spirit's independent and external existence, and the Son's relation as image of God, as well as speaking of three hypostases, one in agreement. Behr describes it as one of the last attempts of a clear statement of the 'pluralist eikon theology' before it dispersed along divergent lines.

The third text is a personal statement of belief from Theophronius.

The fourth text, which I will refer to as the 4th Antiochene Creed, is a shorter statement, prepared to be sent West to Constans, lacking either ousia or image language, and explicitly anti-Marcellan in its eschatology.

Serdica 343
Amidst tensions between Constans and Constantius, a council was scheduled for Serdica in 343, with both Eastern and Western delegations. Yet the two groups never met, the Westerns insisting on Athanasius and Marcellus' presence, and the Easterns refusing the idea totally. The Easterns retreated to Philippopolis, and issuing their decrees from their, including a reworked version of the 4th Antiochene and fresh condemnations of Athanasius and Marcellus. For the part of the Westerns, they denounced the position of Ursacius and Valens, and issued their own long statement of faith. The Athanasian emphases on the continuity of being of Father and Son is pitted against the Eusebian image-theology and clear distinction.

Antioch 344
A further council was held, issuing the Macrostich creed, known for its long-verse structure. It is essentially another reworking of the 4th Antiochene, avoiding ousia language, emphasising Father-Son continuity, and maintaining an anti-Marcellan thrust. The Son is 'like in all things' – a shift towards 'Homoian' theology that will become increasingly indefinite about exactly what likeness the Son has to the Father (a shift that will lead to the emergence of radical Homoians, Heterousians like Aetius and Eunomius, which will eventually send the Homoiousians back into the arms of Nicaea). It also asserts that the Son must be begotten by choice or will, not necessity, which is a very non-Athanasian position that shows the ascendancy of the 'Arian' dichotomies (as Athanasius sees it).

Milan 345
The Macrostich creed was brought West to a council in Milan, but failed to be presented, as the Western bishops insisted the Easterns denounce Arius and his theology before doing any business. Naturally, the Easterns were offended by the suggestion, and refused to do any such thing. Nonetheless, the council condemns Photinus, a vocal exponent and developer of Marcellus' theology, and Marcellus' position in the West becomes increasingly compromised.

The Return of Athanasius
June 345 Athanasius is granted permission by Constantius to return to Alexandria, whither he arrives Oct 21, 346 and remains until 356, his longest stay in his see.

The late 320s and 330s (PTT)

In this post I will briefly summarise developments and movements between 325-340; the summary is drawn from Behr (70-76) and Ayres (85-104).

Nov 27, 327
Constantine writes to Arius, seeking to rehabilitate him and inviting him to submit a statement of belief. Alexander of course refused, and sent Athanasius to Constantinople to oppose the whole manoeuvre.

April 17, 328
Alexander of Alexandria dies, Athanasius recalled and elected bishop. Immediate opposition from Melitian faction.

ca. 330
Though Arius is forgotten, the interpretation of Nicaea and homoousios becomes a live debate between 'Eusebians' and Marcellans/Alexandrians. So Asterius defends Eusebius of Nicomedia, Marcellus responds, and then Eusebius of Caesarea responds in turn (see below).

Tyre, 335
Athanasius was summoned to a council, stacked against him, whence he fled to Constantinople, and the council reinstated Arius and then deposed Athanasius. Who, in Constantinople, convinced Constantine of his innocence (on charges of violence), but a delegation from his opponents raised the accusation of a threat to the grain supply, which was enough to get him exiled to Trier on Nov 7, 335, though without either trial or deposition from office.

Eusebius of Caesarea, before his death May 30, 339, wrote two anti-Marcellan works, Against Marcellus and Ecclesiastical Theology. Marcellus of Ancyra had been deposed in July 336 for heresy; this goes some way to showing the non-Nicenes' concern about Nicaea and Marcellus' theology. Eusebius sees Marcellus' partitive exegesis leading to the non-existence of the Word before the incarnation, and so a form of Sabellianism, coupled with an adoptionistic understanding of the incarnation.

May 22, 337
Constantine dies, leaving the empire to Constantinus (Britain and Gaul; dies 340), Constantius (East) and Constans (West). The new emperors grant leave for exiled bishops to return. Constantius transfers Eusebius of Nicomedia to Constantinople, while Athanasius returns to Alexandria Nov 23, 337, but councils in Antioch, winter 337-8 and then again winter 338-9 depose him, and so April 16, 339 Athanasius heads to Rome, where he will encounter Marcellus, begin to develop an anti-Arian polemic, as well as find support among the Latin theological traditions. He finds support in Julius of Rome, who holds a council in Rome 339-40 predictably vindicating both Marcellus and Athanasius.

Athanasius, II (PTT)

Orationes Contra Arianos I-III

Oration 1

Oration I begins by identifying the problem as Arius and his teaching. This is the emergence of Athanasius' polemical strategy of casting his opponents as 'Arians', even though from I.32 onwards he is going to treat Asterius as his main opponent. Nonetheless, Athanasius does begin with a restatement of Arius' teachings, from the Thalia in I.5-7. He then goes on to establish and defend certain principles: that the Son is eternal, uncreated (I.11f), but this does not make him a brother to the Father, a second unoriginate (I.14), rather a Son properly, not in name only (I.15-16); Athanasius lays down the general theological rule that speech and analogies about God must be understood with reference to their object, God, and so do not imply material or creaturely connotations. In I.17-21 he considers image language, and defends the attribution to the Son of the properties of God. He then returns to insisting that human analogies applied to God cannot carry with them creaturely concepts. In I.30-31 he begins to confront those tricky 'Arian' dichotomies: originate or unoriginate? Athanasius answer begins the move to distinguish between unoriginate and unbegotten. In I.32 Asterius appears as a named opponent, and it is in fact with Asterius and 'Eusebian' theology more generally that Athanasius is going to deal.

From I.37 onwards, the focus shifts to exegesis of disputed texts. This shows and reminds us that at stake is an exegetical argument. Philippians 2 is one of the first battlegrounds. Athanasius rejects the idea that the Son is promoted as a reward for his obedience, instead speaking of the self-abasement of the Word in becoming human, but his exaltation as a feature of the economy and the assumed humanity.

I.46 treats of the anointing in Ps 45:7-8, which Athanasius treats in conjunction with Christ's baptism, which he sees as anointing for us, indeed the anointing of our humanity in him. The 'wherefores' that we encounter speak not of the basis for, but the end for which, Christ does these things.

I.53 is beautiful, as Athanasius turns to Pr 8:22, Heb 1:4, 3:1, Acts 2:36 and their use to show that the Son is a creature. Athanasius responds with careful exegesis about the time of these statements, the aspect of comparison, and the subject matter to be considered.

Oration 2
II.3 contains the well known statement, “let them not question about the terms... For terms do not disparage his nature; rather that Nature draws to Itself those terms and changes them. For terms are not prior to essence, but essences are first, and terms second.” Here Athanasius is asserting his fundamental principle for how we can speak about God, which is part of the key controversy of the 4th, not merely theology, but the appropriate grammar of theological talk.
So in II.1-11 Athanasius shows how this principle fits with scripture, and how 'made' when applied to the Son must either mean 'beget' in an eternal sense, or else refer to the assumption of the flesh by the divine Word. This is then applied to the interpretation of Acts 2:36, in reference to the economy and the humanity (II.11-18), before Athanasius comes to that sticky Pr 8:22 again.

Athanasius begins with one of those tricky 'Arian' questions: “did he who is make from that which was not one that was not or one that was?” (II.18). In II.19 Athanasius reinforces the absolute distinction of Creator/creation, which makes the claim that the Son is 'a creature yet not as the other creatures' virtually worthless – he would be exactly as the other creatures. In II.21 Athanasius presents the inseparability of operations, which would make the Son the maker of himself as a creature, which is likewise absurd.

Athanasius then spends considerable time arguing for the eternity of the Son, his non-created status, that he is proper to the Father's essence, and not a Son nor Wisdom nor Word by participation, but in nature. It is only in II.44 that he comes back to Pr 8:22 to actually deal with the verse. Having already established the eternality of the Son, Athanasius understands 'created' here to mean 'begotten', by the principles already established (II.44); he also makes not of 'for the works', which qualification is teleological, and so refers the verse to the economy and incarnation (II.50). He then moves into further discussion of made/begotten language, and its reference to men and to the Son. For Athanasius, we are made first, then adopted. The Son is begotten eternally, and then 'made' Man for our sakes, that we might indeed by adopted by participation. This is soteriologically grounded in II.69: creature cannot save creature, but God alone had to take human flesh to do so.

The final section of Oration 2 treats more of the theme of Wisdom.

Oration 3

Oration 3 begins with a treatment of Jn 14:10, upon which Athanasius takes umbrage with Asterius' reading of it. Asterius seems to read it in line with Acts 17:28, so that the Christ's statement in Jn 14:10 is no more than the rest of us might make, a union we might all have with God. Athanasius' response is that the “ whole Being of the Son is proper to the Father's essence” (III.3), and that the Father and Son share all properties, except being Father and Son (III.4). III.7 responds to the charge that God speaks of himself 'alone' or 'only', that such statements include the Son, and are against idolatry. III.10f responds to the claim that Father and Son are one in will and judgment, that such a unity is no more than angels and saints could be said to have. The heart of the opponents' argument is that the Son is a creature, like us more than he is like God, and Athanasius' key response is that they should then be consistent and stop worshipping him!

From III.26 onwards, Athanasius treats texts from the Gospel referring to the Son receiving, not knowing, etc.. Again the issue is exegetical – the 'Arians' use such verses univocally to refer to the Son, without respect to context, time, subject; Athanasius' continual response is partitive exegesis, that such things are said economically. Otherwise the whole foundation of the incarnation and atonement simply falls apart. So in III.29 he writes “And this [double] scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture” - the double focus that provides the basis for partitive exegesis.

Texts like Mt 11:27, Jn 3:35 are not written to show the Son's deficiency, but his dependence and generation from the Father. It is not that he lacks these things, but that he as received them eternally. (III.35f)

From III.59 Athanasius takes up the debate about the Son's being either by will or by necessity. Again, the dichotomy is false. He is of the essence, neither involuntarily, nor forced, but his being cannot be extrinsic or external to God, lest he cease to be God.