Saturday, May 2, 2009

St. Athanasius, formerly heretical father of orthodoxy

It’s the feast day of Athanasius, about whom I have written before. This morning, for kicks and giggles, I thought I’d read something he wrote and settled on his Defense of the Nicene Definition. As one does, you know.

Oh, his world is so familiar to me. Those who nowadays like to announce their orthodoxy might be interested to know the arguments used against the Nicene Creed by the Arians.

Athanasius wrote, “I marvelled at the effrontery which led the Arians, after all the past detection of unsoundness and futility in their arguments, …, still to complain…, ‘Why did the Fathers at Nicæa use terms not in Scripture.’”

Yes, indeedy. One of the big bugaboos for the Arians about the Nicene Creed was that it was unscriptural. Doesn’t that sound familiar? (If it doesn't, then you are blessedly free of the strife that comes from following too many Anglican blogs.)

And then when the supporters of the Nicene Creed made their arguments from Scriptures, “they invent excuses, ‘Why was this defined, and not that?’ Yet wonder not if now they practise thus; for in no long time they will turn to outrage, and next will threaten ‘the band and the captain.’” Yeah, that sounds way too familiar, too.

Tradition is, apparently, another big argument the Arians used: “But next that they did not invent them for themselves (since this is one of their excuses), but spoke what they had received from their predecessors.” Who knew Athanasius was such a revisionist?

And how many blogs have I seen that sounded like this: “And what is strange indeed, Eusebius of Cæsarea in Palestine…sent to his Church a letter, saying that this was the Church’s faith, and the tradition of the Fathers; and made a public profession that they were before in error, and were rashly contending against the truth.”

La plus ca change, eh? Oh, Athanasius. I bet you’re sighing in heaven. Keep us company, will you?, as we sort out this whole “orthodoxy” thing.

[The image is from the Daily Scriptorium which is far more geeky than I can aspire to be.]


Jan Toepfer said...

I know it is probably generational, but could you please translate the captions on the icon for me. Thanks Mom

Laura Toepfer said...

It's not generational; it's LOLspeak, like icanhazcheezburger, plus church history geek insider jokes.

Jesus is your HOMOI?
O Really?

The "homoi" is a couple of things:
A play on "homeboy,"
AND a reference to the Arian controversy which wanted to have in the Creed that Jesus is like the Father (but inferior)--homoiousious
as opposed to what ended up in the Creed, that Jesus is one being with the Father--homoousious
(which is a word not found in the Bible, which is one of the arguments against it).

Kinda lame, huh? Those are the jokes you get from people who read Athanasius.