Monday, June 01, 2009

Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, I

I'll post one more language-learning post tomorrow, then I'll leave the topic alone for awhile.

Meantime, this week I'm reading through Lewis Ayres Nicaea and its Legacy. After spending most of the first half of the year drowning in primary sources (in translation - even my Greek is not up to reading 1500 dense pages of trinitarian theology in patristic Greek), I'm now trying to pummel my way through some secondary literature. Ayres, so far as I can tell, represented a major break with past accounts of the 4th century debates. He highlights what he is going to do in his introduction - an attempt to gather the scholarship of the last 30 years, which has certainly revised past accounts of the 4th century debates, and firstly offer a new narrative summary of the period (which no one had done). Ayres also promises to attack notions that is was about the Creator/Creature divide (such a divide was only perceptible once the 4th century debate settled), the tendency to read the period through 'heresiological labels' inherent in the texts, and the East/West division. Instead, Ayres proposes to focus on how the question of the Word's generation was dominant, and how much of the debate was shaped by questions of how to read scripture.

Outstanding quotation from the introduction comes at the very end:

In many ways the argument of my last chapter is not that modern Trinitarianism has engaged with pro-Nicene theology badly, but that it has barely engaged with it at all. As a result the legacy of Nicaea remains paradoxically the unnoticed ghost at the modern Trinitarian feast. (p.7)


mark said...

Interesting - we had a fairly vigorous debate in doctrine today about the importance of "generation" in the Nicene controversy. I'd be really keen to hear more posts about Ayer's understanding of the way in which it played out! (In between your other posts, that is!!)


Seumas Macdonald said...

There'll be plenty of Ayres (watch the spelling, it's an easy mistake to make) this week. I should make some Torrance posts too (3rd time through "The Trinitarian Faith" and it begins to make sense).

mark said...

Yes - Ayres indeed! whoops. Glad to hear it makes sense the 3rd time through! I'm just finishing it the first time through this week! :)