The treatment concludes with a discussion of current trends in the scholarly conversation. Keywords: development of doctrine , history , sviluppo , evolutio , Immaculate Conception , Perrone. Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase.
Only the true God is God in the proper sense. He also strongly emphasises the unbridgeable distance between uncreated and created. What is created can never become an uncreated eternally existent being. This is why deification in Athanasius is paired with sanctification, 51 51 Against the Arians 3. Christians become children of God by grace and adopted brothers and sisters to Christ who is Son of God by nature.
Becoming Like God
This phrase is used by Athanasius himself in the epistemological sense of human ability to know God in Life of Antony Deified individuals do not receive the fullness of divinity. In other words, what God has according to his nature becomes granted to deified human beings by salvific grace. Therefore, while deified individuals become capable of participating in the life of God they can never become an object of worship.
One who is made a god is not God in the proper sense, but only a sharer of some divine characteristics. The importance of the deification exchange formula is not in claiming the relationship of equal participants. It can be argued that the emphasis is more on the incarnation of God than on deification of the human being. The full divinity of the Son is the main point of deificational exchange in Athanasius that he consistently contrasts with false teaching of Arius.
There is no other source of deification but God himself. If Arius accepts that the Son of God is the creator and the Lord of creation, and Arius does accept that, then he needs to acknowledge the full divinity of the Son. Toward the end of On the Incarnation , without mentioning of Arius by name, Athanasius expresses this idea more clearly, thus betraying the main purpose behind his apologetic diptych — these two treatises were not simply directed against Gentiles but specifically geared toward the condemnation of Arianism: So if they [Greeks] completely deny that there is a Word of God, they are acting foolishly in mocking at what they do not know.
Letter to Adelphius 4. Therefore, Arians who believe in the Word of God by treating him as a creation of the Father only ridicule themselves and are not different from the Gentiles. However, this is not the only concern in the context of equating of Arius with paganism. Even if Athanasius accepts the understanding of the divinity of the Son on Arian terms, Arius still can be found guilty of paganisation.
If the Son is God, who is the divine agent of creation and human deification, but either less divine than the Father or in any degree ontologically separate from the Father, how would that be different from teaching pagan polytheism? For Athanasius, the Nicene Trinitarianism is monotheistic and could not be blamed for the profession of three gods, because the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have only one Godhead.
M. Wiles. The making of Christian Doctrine - Persée
Thus, Arius, when he postulates the existence of three in an ontological sense different and separate beings as members of the Trinity 61 61 For explicit acknowledgement of existence of three different beings in the Trinity see Arius, Letter to Alexander of Alexandria 4. For Athanasius the most important characteristics of paganism are its polytheism along with the worship of the elements of creation instead of the creator. The teaching of Arius that naturally, for him, proposes a similar perspective can never be reconciled with Christianity. Any teaching about creation of the creator out of nothing would make absolutely unintelligible the origin of the world.
Therefore, the creator must be the uncreated God. Hence, it is incapable of transmitting the genuine process of creation further, except only in metaphorical sense, but in a metaphorical sense creation of something already presupposes the existence of material. Therefore it is not a genuine act of creation.
Thus, the important implication of the paganising falsehood of Arian teaching is that if the Saviour is created there cannot be hope for salvation. The picture Athanasius wanted to portray of Arius was to expose his teaching in terms that would present the most appalling effect on the learned and common Christian.
Athanasian effort, however, is not merely a populist one. In Against the Pagans Athanasius, by creating the base for identifying Arius with worship of a creature and being a polytheist, also by default identifies him with other misconceptions, perversions, and consequences of paganism. Athanasius repeatedly speaks about Arian impiety. He speaks about Arian immorality. It is hardly true that Athanasius intended to blame Arius for the same perversions and debaucheries as Zeus.
After all, Arius was not an Olympian god. Arian immorality was akin to the immorality of common pagans — immorality and impiety of ignorance in the matters of true religion. In his understanding of the Son created by the Father, Arius worshiped one who was not God at all. He worshipped the creature. He worshipped the pure product of his wicked imagination and personal travesty. For Athanasius, any misconstrued concept of God is idolatry.
Any distorted concept of God is nothing else but human invention and the cause of it is evil.
Churches of Christ
Adolf Harnack is correct to point out that when Athanasius calls Arians pagans, Jews, and Ariomaniacs, he does it not merely in an abusive sense, but he really means it. The vehement impetus of Athanasius to paganise Arius and his teaching proved to be successful. It was so prevailing throughout the centuries that even at the beginning of the twentieth century Henry Gwatkin, who contributed extensively to a comprehensive study of Arianism that dominated academic discourse for the first half of the century, does not see in Arianism anything but a step back to heathenism.
Gwatkin, Studies in Arianism , 2 ed. Cambridge: Deighton Bell, ; H. The Athanasian effort to stand by the Nicene formula dominates his theological discourse where the paganisation of Arius is only one facet of the story, though a significant one. Here we find the first — perhaps the only — implementation of the deification theme in Christian tradition that was applied to present one Christian theology, albeit viewed as heretical, as pagan divinisation.
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