Rethinking of Athanasius's Arguments in Arian Controversy
In this essay, I argue according to Arius's Arius’s Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia and Arius’s Letter to Alexander of Alexandria, and Athanasius's Four Discourses Against the Arians, that in the fourth century's Arian controversy, Athanasius's greatest concern to the Arians' heretic teaching is that there is no genuine union of divinity and humanity in the Incarnation of the Word, implying there is no efficacious salvation for the fallen human race from the God-man union. His arguments range from metaphysics, epistemology, and most importantly, soteriology - the thought of deification (theosis) in Christ as the goal of salvation in the economy of God, to demonstrate the divinity of Christ the Son, and his relationship with the Father.
筆者在本文旨在從亞流的兩封書信：《亞流致尼哥米底亞的優西比烏（Arius’s Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia）》和《亞流致亞歷山大的亞歷山大（Arius’s Letter to Alexander of Alexandria）》，以及亞他那修《駁亞流四論文（Four Discourses Against the Arians）》的卷一和卷三，論證在第四世紀的亞流爭論中，亞他那修（Athanasius，AD 296-373）最大的關注乃是亞流（Arius，AD 256-336）的異端教訓，抹殺了在道成肉身中神性與人性的聯合，並含示了墮落的人類再沒法在神人聯合裡得著有效的救恩。亞他那修的論據乃是從當時的形而上論、認識論，以及更重要的是救恩論—即以在基督裡被神化（theosis），作為在神經綸裡救恩的目標—來證明子基督的神性，以及子與父的關係。
Arians’ Understanding on God and Christ
In holding an absolute monotheism, Arian maintains that God alone is self-subsistent eternally, unbegotten, unchangeable, and without any plurality. To create the world, God, by his entirely free will, through his own "Wisdom" and "Word", creates the Son as a subsistent being who is wholly distinct from himself, before times and ages. The Son in Arian's view is changeable, not eternally-existed, and thus was begotten and has a beginning. As he often said, "there once a time when he (the Son) was not". As the firstborn and perfect creature, the Son shares the Father's life, being, and glory, receiving all his things from the Father. He, through fully obeying the Father's will in the flesh, was exalted as a reward for virtues and improvement, being called "god", "word" and "wisdom" by adoption and participation of grace. As such, the Son's pattern acted as a salvation for all humankind.
亞流為著持守絕對一神論，他堅稱唯有神是永恆地自存、非受生、不改變，以及沒有複數。神為要創造世界，在時間和各世代之先，祂憑著祂的自由意志，藉著祂自己的「智慧」和「道」，創造子作為依賴的存有。 在亞流的觀念中，子是與神自己截然不同的存有，子是可改變的，非永恆地存在，是受生的，並因而是有一個開始。正如他自己常說的話，「曾有一時，祂（子）並不存在。」子作為首生和完全的受造物，祂分享父的生命、存有和榮耀，祂所有的都是從父接受的。 子藉著在肉身的時候完全順服父的旨意，被父高舉作為祂美德和自我改進的奬賞。祂被父收養，有分於父的恩典，而被稱作「神」、「道」和「智慧」。 如此，子就成了人類救恩的模型。
Relationship between Son and Father on Metaphysics
To begin with, Arians say that since the Father is "unoriginated" while the Son is "originate", equaling the Father and the Son is to deny the "unoriginality" of the Father. Athanasius pointed out that following the logic of the Greek philosophy, Arius infers that the Father must be the only Creator who originates all things, including the Son. Thus, the Son must be a creature, external from the Father's substance. Athanasius argues that if the Son is a creature we call "God" only by participation, as Arians said, can we call all creatures "God" as all creatures are participating in the grace of God? Or if the Son is a second God, why not a third, fourth, millionth? Thus, for Athanasius, "The Ario-maiacs with reason incur the charge of polytheism or else of atheism."
首先，因著亞流派認為父是「非起始」的，而子是「有起始的」，他們認為將子的神性等同父的神性即否認了父的非起始性。亞他那修指出亞流跟隨了當代希臘哲學的邏輯，亞流意味著父必定是唯一的創造者，萬物包括子都是起始於祂。因此，亞流推斷子必定是受造物，是在父的本質以外的。 亞他那修反駁指出，若如亞流所說，作為受造物的子，能因有分恩典而被稱作「神」，那麼，我們能否因所有受造物有分於神的恩典，而稱它們都為「神」？若子是次神，則有為何沒有第三、第四、第一百萬的神？ 故此，對亞他那修來說，「亞流派不是帶來泛神論，就是無神論。」
Co-inhering being One God by wholly participation
Athanasius suggests the way which Christ gains and holds his Sonship is essentially different from ours. He is not participating in the Father by adoption or grace, as creatures do, externally and dependently, but is "wholly participating" in the Father by nature, even that what is partaken from the Father, is the Son. In Book 3, Athanasius introduces the concept of the coinherence to illustrate this point. The Father and the Son, each whole and perfect God, are in each other as shown in the Gospel of John 14-17, so their substance is one and the same. Since the Son is in the Father, he has all that the Father has. Being Father's own Image and offspring, the Son and the Father are one God.
亞他那修認為基督取得和持守祂的兒子名分的方式，乃是在本質上不同於我們的方式。祂作為子，並非如我們這些受造物般憑著收養或恩典，外在並依賴地有分於父， 而是憑著本質全然地有分於父。 在《駁亞流四論文》卷三，亞他那修引入「互相内在」（coinherence）這概念來說明這點。父和子各是完整和完全的神。正如約翰福音14至17章所示，祂們互相內在彼此裡面，故祂們的本質是一並相同。 因為子是在父裡面，祂所有的就是父所有。子作為父自己的形像和兒子，子與父乃是同一位神。
Immutability of the Son
Concerning the Arian statement whether the Word is "mutable", Athanasius objects to it by asking a rhetorical question "how can such a one be the Father’s Image, not having the likeness of His unalterableness?" and replying "therefore the Image of the unalterable God must be unchangeable" because "the Son, being from the Father, and proper to His essence, is unchangeable and unalterable as the Father Himself." Therefore, he concludes that the Son is immutable as the Father because the Son shares the same substance with the Father.
對於亞流所認為道是「可變的」，亞他那修反對這看法而反問：「怎能一位既是父的形像，而沒有像父的不變性？」， 並回應說：「因此，不變之神的形像必定也是不變的」，因為「子的存有和本質既是來自父，子也就如父自己一樣是不改變的。」 故此，亞他那修總結，子是如父一樣不改變，因為祂分享父相同的本質。
In response to the Arian view that the Son lacks perfect knowledge to the Father, Athanasius answered why the Son seemed irrogant to the Father when he was in the flesh, saying the knowledge of the Son is the knowledge of the Father, but for the profit of his disciples, he did not know as a man.
Urgency to Salvation
Arius holds a radically different soteriological point from Athanasius. He understood that as a perfect creature, the Son has perfectly fulfilled Father’s will through obedience in his life and earthly ministry, and exalted to be “god” as "a reward for his virtue" or “promotion”, thus becoming the model and pioneer of men’s progress to God that man may be adopted and gain their Sonships. Athanasius considers this view as undoing the work of the Son’s incarnation in which God himself unified with humanity. He insists that unless the Word is God coming to us in flesh, then we are still in our sins. He regards not only the Son's incarnation, his being humbled, anointed, suffering, death and exalted are also for our salvation and even “on our behalf”. Athanasius, following the tradition church teaching of deification, argues that the Son’s incarnation is for human’s deification as the goal of salvation. Only he, being God, can deify man to be sons of God. The Son, however, did not lose his divinity when taking up humanity in the flesh. Rather, because he is the very God, he even deified the flesh he took up. Thus, to Arians, for acting a moral improvement model for men, the Son must be a creature as fallen men; while to Athanasius, for men to be saved unto the gods by participation in grace, the Son must be the true God by nature.
亞流持守與亞他那修截然不同的救贖觀。他理解子乃是一個完美的受造物，祂在祂的生命和屬地職事裡，藉著順服完美地滿足了父的旨意，並被高舉為「神」，以作為「祂美德的賞賜」或「提昇」， 因而成了人類提昇至神，被收養而取得兒子名分的模型和先鋒。亞他那修認為亞流這觀點，廢除了子成肉身使神自己與人性聯合的工作。 他堅持除非道就是神自己親自成為肉身而來，否則我們仍是活在罪中。在他看來，不僅子的成肉身，連祂的降卑、受膏、受苦難、受死、被高舉等一切過程，都是為著我們的救恩，甚至是「代表我們」。 亞他那修跟隨教會傳統的神化教導，指出子成肉身乃是為著人被神化這終極的救恩目標。只有祂是神自己才能使人神化成為神的眾子。 然而，子在祂肉身裡取上人性時並沒有失去祂的神性。反之，因祂就是神自己，祂甚至能神化祂所取的肉身。 因此，對亞流派來說，因為看子是作為給人類道德的模型，故子必定是如墮落的人類般是受造物；但對亞他那修來說，因為看子是人類能憑有分恩典而成為神的拯救者，故子必定是本質上是神。
To sum up, the Son understood in the view of Athanasius is according to "the scope of faith", that he is the Eternal Word, being the Father’s Word, and Radiance and Wisdom, made flesh becoming our Savior. From the perspectives of metaphysics, epistemology and soteriology, Athanasius demonstrates that the Son is of the Creator in the Creator-creation distinction to have the perfect divinity, and in order to differentiate from Arians’ misusing and misinterpreting biblical languages, he employed the philosophical word homoousios and deems only this word was sufficiently enough to describe the biblical sense that the Son and the Father are ontologically the same substance.
總結來說，亞他那修乃是照著「信仰的規範」， 即子基督是永恆的道、是父的道、光輝和智慧，成肉身來作我們的救主。 亞他那修從形而上論、認識論和救贖論， 論證子乃是在「創造-受造界線」中的創造者，祂有完全的神性。為了從亞流的誤用和誤解聖經語言中區別出來，亞他那修採用了當時哲學詞彙「同質」（homoousios），並視唯有這詞才能足以描述聖經的觀念—子與父乃是本體上與父相同本質。
Both Arius and Athanasius, interestingly, are the successors of Origen's spiritual inheritance. However, Athanasius was trying to keep in the Patristics' theological interpretation, which is Christocentric in the God's eternal salvation plan (oikonomia) according to the "Rule of Faith". I found that though taking the extra-biblical languages from philosophy, Athanasius did not interpret Scripture in that track as Arius did, but in the church tradition track, particularly the soteriological track, that God in order to make men God, he himself has to make man. In Athanasius's argument with the Arians, it is clearly shown that salvation as deification takes the primary and central position in his theological thought. This concept has also shaped the theological development of the latter church, particular the Eastern Church. I think it is worth the attention of today's evangelicals to rediscover Patristics' theological interpretation and especially, this traditional soteriological concept of deification in order to better understand the history of early orthodox theological development.
Arius, "Arius’s Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia", 4-5, in The Trinitarian Controversy, William G. Rusch trans. and ed. (U.S: Fortress Press, 1980), pp.29-30.
Arius, "Arius’s Letter to Alexander of Alexandria", 3-5 in ibid., pp.31-32.
Athanasius, NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1.9: “(Arius said) And ‘Christ is not very God, but He, as others, was made God by participation; the Son has not exact knowledge of the Father, nor does the Word see the Father perfectly; and neither exactly understands nor knows the Father. He is not the very and only Word of the Father, but is in name only called Word and Wisdom, and is called by grace Son and Power. He is not unalterable, as the Father is, but alterable in nature, as the creatures.”
1.38: "they say this of the Savior… of the mere grace given to Him, and for a Creator of His being according to essence, after the similitude of all others. And being such, as they maintain, it will be manifest further that He had not the name Son’ from the first, if so be it was the prize of works done and of that very same advance which He made when He became man, and took the form of the servant; but then, when, after becoming ‘obedient unto death,’ He was, as the text says, ‘highly exalted,’ and received that ‘Name’ as a grace, ‘that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow.’ (translated by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 1891, from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.html)
Ibid., 1.31: " But if they still are satisfied with merely asking, ‘Is the Unoriginate one or two?’… they are like to say that the Unoriginate is the image of creatures; the end of which is a confusion of the whole subject, an equalling of things originated with the Unoriginate, and a denial of the Unoriginate by measuring Him with the works; and all to reduce the Son into their number (works)."
Ibid., 3.16: " For they cannot see the One in the Other, because their natures and operations are foreign and distinct. And with such sentiments, they will certainly be going on to more gods, for this will be the essay of those who revolt from the One God.
Ibid., 3.15: "…Rather then will the Ario-maniacs with reason incur the charge of polytheism or else of atheism, because they idly talk of the Son as external and a creature, and again the Spirit as from nothing. For either they will say that the Word is not God; or saying that He is God, because it is so written, but not proper to the Father’s Essence, they will introduce many because of their difference of kind (unless forsooth they shall dare to say that by participation only, He, as all things else, is called God."
Ibid., 1.6: " Moreover he has dared to say, that ‘the Word is not the very God;’ ‘though He is called God, yet He is not very God,’ but ‘by participation of grace, He, as others, is God only in name.’ And, whereas all beings are foreign and different from God in essence, so too is ‘the Word alien and unlike in all things to the Father’s essence and propriety,’ but belongs to things originated and created, and is one of these."
Ibid., 1.16: "Such thoughts then being evidently unseemly and untrue, we are driven to say that what is from the essence of the Father, and proper to Him, is entirely the Son; for it is all one to say that God is wholly participated, and that He begets…the Son Himself partakes of nothing, but what is partaken from the Father, is the Son…. For they cannot see the One in the Other, because their natures and operations are foreign and distinct. And with such sentiments, they will certainly be going on to more gods, for this will be the essay of those who revolt from the One God."
Ibid., 3.3: "I in the Father and the Father in Me.’ For the Son is in the Father, as it is allowed us to know, because the whole Being of the Son is proper to the Father’s essence, as radiance from light, and stream from fountain; so that whoso sees the Son, sees what is proper to the Father, and knows that the Son’s Being, because from the Father, is therefore in the Father."
Ibid., 3.1: "For He is Himself the Father’s Power and Wisdom, and by partaking of Him things originate are sanctified in the Spirit; but the Son Himself is not Son by participation, but is the Father’s own Offspring.
Ibid., 3.4: "but the nature is one; (for the offspring is not unlike31 its parent, for it is his image), and all that is the Father's, is the Son's. Wherefore neither is the Son another God, …and He and the Father are one in propriety and peculiarity of nature, and in the identity of the one Godhead".
Ibid., 1.35: " For the Father is unalterable and unchangeable, and is always in the same state and the same; but if, as they hold, the Son is alterable, and not always the same, but of an ever-changing nature, how can such a one be the Father’s Image, not having the likeness of His unalterableness?"
Ibid., 1.36: " Therefore the Image of the unalterable God must be unchangeable; for ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’… And with reason; for things originate, being from nothing, and not being before their origination, because, in truth, they come to be after not being, have a nature which is changeable; but the Son, being from the Father, and proper to His essence, is unchangeable and unalterable as the Father Himself."
Ibid., 1.6: "…he(Arius) has stated in his Thalia, that ‘even to the Son the Father is invisible,’ and ‘the Word cannot perfectly and exactly either see or know His own Father;’ but even what He knows and what He sees, He knows and sees ‘in proportion to His own measure,’ as we also know according to our own power. For the Son, too, he says, not only knows not the Father exactly, for He fails in comprehension, but ‘He knows not even His own essence."
Ibid., 1.35: "... because of this 'he who has seen the Son has seen the Father' [John 14:9] and the knowledge of the Son is the knowledge of the Father."
Ibid., 3.49: "the Son then did know, as being the Word; for He implied this in what He said,—‘I know but it is not for you to know;’ for it was for your sakes that sitting also on the mount I said according to the flesh, ‘No, not the Son knoweth,’ for the profit of you and all."
Ibid., 1.37: “For if He received what He had as a reward of His purpose, and would not have had it, unless He had needed it, and had His work to shew for it, then having gained it from virtue and promotion, with reason had He ‘therefore’ been called Son and God, without being very Son.”.
Ibid., 1.40: “And in vain do the Arians lay stress upon the conjunction ‘wherefore,’ because Paul has said, ‘Wherefore, hath God highly exalted Him.’ For in saying this he did not imply any prize of virtue, nor promotion from advance…”
See more “reward of virtue”, “advancement” or “promotion” on 1.36, 1.38, 1.39, 1.40, 1.44, 1.47, 1.49, etc.
Ibid., 3.32: “More clearly however and indisputably than all reasoning does what was said by the Archangel to the Bearer of God herself, shew the oneness of the Divine Word and Man. For he says, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.’”
This point is particularly emphasized and shown in the fact that the phrase "for us" appears 47 times in Books 1 and 3. Ibid., 1.41: For example, "Therefore, because he was the image of the Father, and because he was immortal, the Word 'took the form of a slave' [Phil. 2:7] and for us as man in his flesh endured death, that thus on our behalf through death he might offer himself to the Father. There also as man, on account of us and on our behalf, he is said to be highly exalted, so that in in his death we all have died in Christ so that in Christ himself again we may be highly exalted…" Ibid., 1.41: For example, "Therefore, because he was the image of the Father, and because he was immortal, the Word 'took the form of a slave' [Phil. 2:7] and for us as man in his flesh endured death, that thus on our behalf through death he might offer himself to the Father. There also as man, on account of us and on our behalf, he is said to be highly exalted, so that in in his death we all have died in Christ so that in Christ himself again we may be highly exalted…"
Ibid., 1.38-39: "…he did not have the title of Son and God as a reward; rather, he himself has made us sons to the Father, and deified men, having become man himself… but being God, he later become man, that instead he might deify us." Similar expression regarding deification of Athanasius would be found in 1.42. 1.45, 3.39.
Ibid., 3.38: "For He did not, when He became man, cease to be God; nor, whereas He is God does He shrink from what is man’s; perish the thought; but rather, being God, He has taken to Him the flesh, and being in the flesh deifies the flesh."
Ibid., 3.28: " Now what has been briefly said above may suffice to shew their(Arian's) misunderstanding of the passages they then alleged; and that of what they now allege from the Gospels they certainly give an unsound interpretation."
Ibid., 3.29: "Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this,—it contains a double account of the Savior; that He was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father’s Word and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us He took flesh of a Virgin, Mary Bearer of God, and was made man."
Athanasius also used the emphatic vindication of worship as the exclusive prerogative of divinity. He argues that the worship of the Son even before his incarnation and exaltation proves that he is really the true God. See ibid., 1.43: "He only who is really God is worshipped in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the fact that the Lord, even when come in human body and called Jesus, was worshipped and believed to be God’s Son, and that through Him the Father was known…", and ibid., 3:32: "…we may become, not worshippers of any other, but truly devout towards God, because we invoke no originate thing, no ordinary man, but the natural and true Son from God, who has become man, yet is not the less Lord and God and Savior."
Ibid., 1.9: '(He is) Very Son of the Father, natural and genuine, proper to His essence, Wisdom Only-begotten, and Very and Only Word of God is He; not a creature or work, but an offspring proper to the Father’s essence. Wherefore He is very God, existing one in essence (homoousios) with the very Father."