Our Knowledge Of God: The Relevance Of The Debate Between Eunomius And The Cappadocians -- By: Graham A. Keith

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:1 (NA 1990)
Article: Our Knowledge Of God: The Relevance Of The Debate Between Eunomius And The Cappadocians
Author: Graham A. Keith


Our Knowledge Of God: The Relevance Of The Debate Between Eunomius And The Cappadocians1

Graham A. Keith

The Arian Controversy, spanning at least seventy years, did not run along a single track.2 We would expect the issues to shift over such a period of time, especially if recent scholarship is right in recognising in Arius himself a rather isolated figure both theologically and ecclesiastically.3

The issues posed by Arius were, however, real concerns of the day even if few followed Arius exactly. The Council of Nicaea may have pointed the way to some answers; but its significance was lost for almost a generation until the emergence of a movement of extreme Arian tendency. It was dubbed Anomoeanism by its opponents because of its bland affirmation that the Son of God was unlike (ἀνόμοιος) the Father in substance. Recent scholarship, however, has preferred to use the term Neo-Arianism to designate this movement.4

This title does leave open whether the movement was reproducing the teaching of Arius in a new guise or not. I believe that in its beginnings the movement reflected a brazen

restatement of Arius’ position sharpened on the anvil of debate and moulded by the tools of logic, though in time new emphases were to emerge.

Neo-Arianism stressed the question of theological language. In one sense this had been implicit in the opening shots of the Arian Controversy. Arius had objected to his bishop’s statement ‘Always the Father, always the Son’5 and had produced his counter-slogan ‘There was when the Son of God was not’.6 But the implications of this for the status of the Son and for God’s paternity were not extensively explored in the early stages of the controversy.

The Neo-Arians reacted against the primacy accorded to the names Father and Son, despite their traditional standing in the church. They preferred a different tradition to which they gave an elevated status and a new significance. They put forward the term ἀγέννητος (unbegotten) as the most appropriate designation of the Supreme Being.7 Indeed, they even made God ‘unbegotten essence’. Or, to use a form of expression beloved of the Neo-Arians themselves, ‘unbeg...

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