Athanasius and Proper Contemplation of the Father and the Son

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The Son is in the Father because his whole being is proper to the Father’s essence…so that whoever sees the Son sees what belongs to the Father and understands that the Son’s being, because it comes from the Father, is therefore in the Father. The Father is in the Son, because the Son is what is from the Father and belongs to him. They relate to one another as the radiance to the sun, the word to the thought expressed and the stream to the fountain. Whoever contemplates the Son like this contemplates what belongs to the Father’s essence and knows that the Father is in the Son.  (Discourses Against the Arians 3.23.3 ACD vol 1 pg72)

Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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70 thoughts on “Athanasius and Proper Contemplation of the Father and the Son

  1. So “Essence” the concept, can be used in biblical theology. In Latin (esse) it simply means to be. The basic or primary element in the being of a thing, the nature.
    Fr. R.

  2. Fr. Robert-Polycarp
    Is Athanasius saying in his dispute with the Arians that the Son of God-is one Essence (ousia) with the Father-because his has the same nature as God?

  3. Thanks for taking the time…
    Perhaps Athanasius believed that the Son of God is singular in Nature/Essence as is God his father.He having taken on flesh and blood-Hebrews 2:14 and Phillipians 2:7.Yet the primary element of his being is his Godhood-Colossians 2:9.
     

  4. YITLOG,

    Just a little history, Arianism flourished (4th & 5th) centuries in the East until Theodosius I presided over its demise at the Council of Constantinople in 381. It survived for another four centuries among the Goths, north of the Danube, and later in countries under Goth domination. We shall leave for the moment, the Semi-Arians.
    It was Athanasius ( the Nicaeans) who said, that The Father and the Son are of identical substance – homoousios. And again, at the Council of Chalcedon, 451.  Also the Cappadocians and the Nicaeans joined forces in 381, and the Cappadocians believed that God the Father and God the Son were of identical substance, but they also emphasized that the Father and Son were distinct, though equally divine. Here we find Basil of Caesarea, and Gregory of Nyssa, as too Gregory of Nazianzus.
    But yes, this goes back to Tertullian who was perhaps one of the first theolog’s to reason and teach this from Scripture. His famous formulation was “tres personae, una subtantia” (three persons, one substance).
    Fr. R.

  5. Joel,
    I think it interesting that Arianism went so long?  Today’s “barbarians” (in theology) are those of deviant theologies, as Socinianism and Unitarianism!  Very sad…2 Tim. 3:13! 
    Fr. R.

  6. Couldyou entertain a question that is a little off this topic?

    Has anyone attempted to translate Marcellus’  Exposition of the Faith before, as you are undertaking to do? Are you a pioneer?

  7. Thanks FR. Robert.
    I was speaking as to what i believed Athanasius meant here…
    (Discourses Against the Arians 3.23.3 ACD vol 1 pg72)
    Perhaps Athanasius believed that the Son of God-has only one Nature/Character/Essence (not two)…The One and same nature as God his Father…
    That the Son of God came in the flesh does not mean that he took on the sinful nature of Adam…That Jesus is the only Son of God who is the same-kind as the Father-Deity.
    Fr. Robert i know that you are a Trinitarian- i was not wanting to dispute that with you…

  8. YITLOG,
    In reality Athanasius, since he was a Nicaean (Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed) would have believed and supported the belief that in Christ there was both God and Man, dual in nature, but not dual in person. You might want to check out St. Cyril’s doctrine, ‘one incarnate nature of God the Logos. By ‘one’ he means one nature out of two: divinity and humanity. This is Miaphysite, the teaching of the Orthodox Oriental Church (Coptic, Syriac). Thus simply miaphysite is the doctrine that Christ has one united nature out of two, again divine and human. This is not Nicaean however two natures God & Man. I think both are acceptable however. Though I favor the Nicaean myself, which appears the most orthodox.
    Fr. R.

  9. Thank you again Fr. Robert and good-morning…
    You are absolutely right about Athanasius,i read his creed early Monday morning… I absolutely believe that the Son of God came in the flesh.That Jesus is both God and man. Fr. Robert what i do not believe is that Jesus has a human nature..If Jesus has a human nature-wouldn’t that nature be the same as Adam’s?
    I know our Lord is Holy and sinless.I believe that he took on flesh and blood and so the infirmities of our flesh.He hungered-He tired-He wept and he loved.For this cause he was tempted/tried as we are-yet without sin.There was no sin in him.There was nothing for him-to be drawn away by and enticed.That he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh,does not mean that he took on human nature…
    My understanding and please correct me if i am wrong.Is that it was not the blood that coursed through Adam’s veins or his flesh that was sinful-but that Adam became a sinner by (his) nature/ character.He was not deceived by the serpent,but sin was conceived in him.
    We are the children of Adam by nature-we were all ” in” Adam… Jesus is the seed of the woman-God is his Father.Wasn’t the purpose of the virgin birth-that Christ be sinless,having only the nature of God and not the nature of sinful Adam.
    FR.R i know that Mary the mother of Jesus was Not sinless. However,it is strongly indicated throughout scripture that the nature of a men and women comes from their father alone.Jesus does not have an earthly father-He was not ” in” Adam.
    This is why i believe that he has one-nature.We who have become the children of God are partakers of his divine nature-through/by His Spirit. Jesus is the only Son (of God) who is the same-kind as God his Father. He is indeed the Son of man-the second Adam.For Mary a human being,is his mother.
    Thank you again Fr. Robert…I do love reading the church fathers above all others
     

  10. YITLOG,
    In theology, we call Christ’s sinlessness his “Impeccability”, the freedom from both the taint or capability of sin. Also, to my mind Mary the Mother of the Lord, must have been given a singular grace during the time of her ‘Magnificat’, and or since the angel Gabriel came and told her she was “full of grace” and “the..O favored one!” I would myself follow the teaching from the Council of Ephesus, the Theotokos – the one who gave birth to God, the God-bearer. Mary is simply but profoundly the Mother of the Incarnate Christ! 
    AS to how, and in what manner the aspect of ‘Original Sin’, I am toward some what is called Traducianism, the belief from Adam, that parents transmit the soul as well as the physical body of their offspring. Here both were Tertullian and Augustine. But, this is more certain theology, than we can press the physical. Though for me, there is something to this idea of human transmission, of both soul and genes, etc. Certainly man and all humanity are sinful thru & thru! Imputation of Sin. And here is also where I also part company with the Eastern Orthodox, who deny this reality of sin!
    As to Christ having one nature. I would say that Christ has two natures, human & divine, but one person!  But as stated, in His humanity He was never capable of fallen human sin. His trial was as in the Garden, to do the Father’s will. (Not mine but yours be done!) We need to see Gethsemane more…St. Mark 14:32-36 / Lk.22:44!  Christ suffered all the human pain of anxiety and apprehension, but without human sin.
    Yours,
    Fr. R.

  11. Afternoon Fr. Robert
    I too believe that Jesus’ trail/testing took place in the Garden of Gethsemane-that Hebrews 4:15 refers to the Lord’s words in Luke 22:28-Matthew 26:38 and John 12:27.Perhaps his words even speak more to the infirmities of  the flesh,that he took on.Indeed the Lord suffered pain,sorrow and death.These again,are the infirmities of our flesh.These things have nothing to do with our nature.
    My point of speaking before or referring to passages of scripture that speak of the sin nature was to prove that the sin nature or Adam’s nature-has nothing to do with our Lord.The temptation of  Satan was to teach us how to resist the devil-so that he flee’s/leave us alone.To rely on God’s Holy Spirit within us and his written word.Remember in Matthew 4:11 the devil-left Jesus alone.The nature of Adam was not in Jesus.Therefore he could not be enticed by the kingdoms of the world.Nor could he tempt God.His being hungry was an infirmity of the flesh even in this Jesus relied on the written words of  God his Father.I do not believe that the soul is transmitted by our parents.We are fully and wholly like Adam,who’s soul was created by God.
    Have you read this article?
    http://www.apuritansmind.com/FrancisTurretin/francisturretincrerationismtraducianism.htm
    Have a good evening Fr.Robert

  12. YITLOG,
    Thanks, I do have Turretin’s three volumes. Always worth reading. On this subject, we cannot be too dogmatic save to say all humanity have inherited Adam, top to bottom!  The depravity of our sinfulness is something we can only touch, it’s depth is in all of us…even after regeneration.
    And you are so right our Lord Jesus had no place of entrance for sin. To use a metaphor, gold is always gold no matter how hot the heat. However, the incarnation will forever be a mystery, God & Man in One person – the God-Man! . . . Glory!!!
    Thanks for the article.
    Yours,
    Fr. R.

  13. Y, as Joel calls you.
    Here is a profound thought, how can an Eternal Being either be born or die? Perhaps, the best way to define this beyond our best profound theology, is with simple hymns, like those of Charles Wesley: ‘th ‘Invisible appears’ ‘Victim divine’, ‘Death Divine’ etc. These antithesis, also shades off into oxymoron, or strange blends of opposites, ‘I want a calmly-fervent zeal’, or again the antitheses…’Impassive, He suffers; Immortal, He dies’. Finally,
    ‘Beings Source begins to Be,
    And God himself is Born’
    These rhetorical devices are just Charles Wesely’s way with hymns to say what we cannot really ever completely understand! God born of woman, God who died upon the Cross, ever true but so hard to understand!
    Fr. R.

  14. For you Fr. Robert-My favorite Wesley-John
    1 THOU great Redeemer, dying Lamb,
    We love to hear of thee;
    No music’s like thy charming name,
    Nor half so sweet can be.
    2 O may we ever hear thy voice
    In mercy to us speak!
    And in our Priest we will rejoice,
    Thou great Melchizedek!
    3 Our Jesus shall be still our theme
    While in this world we stay:
    We’ll sing our Jesu’s lovely name
    When all things else decay.
    4 When we appear in yonder cloud,
    With all that favoured throng,
    Then will we sing more sweet, more loud,
    And Christ shall be our song.

  15. Joel,
    I love Isaac Watts hymns!  I have a book with many that he published. ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross’, is perhaps his most well known. In history I think he was the first actual Evangelical English hymn writer? Of course with the Wesley’s.
    Here is one of my favorites:
    “Almighty God to Thee
    Be endless honours done;
    The undivided Three
    And the mysterious One.
    Where reason fails with all her powers.
    There faith prevails and love adores.”
    Also he was an independent pastor and Calvinist.
    Fr. R.

  16. Perhaps my very favorite from Charles, is called:  Wrestling Jacob. Here is lyrical drama, the first stanza…
    “Come, O Thou Travelor unknown
    Whom still I hold, but cannot see.”
    Note, here what faith alone beholds, Christ Jesus!  ‘Whom still I hold..’ Or really HE holds us!
    Fr. R.

  17. All so beautiful gentlemen…
    When hell, enraged, lifts up her roar; when Satan stops my path before;
    When fiends rejoice, and wait my end; when legioned hosts their arrows send.
    Feat not, my soul, but hurl at hell, Thy battle-cry — IMMANUEL.
    Charles  Spurgeon
    I  also read the Christmas Homily of  St John Chrysostom (the beautiful)-early this morning. Man Alive! There is none his equal…
    I like the new design Polycarp…

  18. Oh yes, would that the modern Church (so-called) heard the words, and really listened to the Great Chrysostom!  That little pic of me is this year, lets see can I even remember when I was 30? lol  My wife just said, I am aging to milder ways.  Well as long as she thinks so?  But I do wish I had 3o again, just to walk closer (or seek to) with our Lord!  When I am with Christ forever, you my friend and brother will be still at the wheel here with Christ! My prayer anyway!
    Fr. R.

  19. Y – let me see what ‘essence’ is in the original. I would imagine that it is ousia, which at that time, Athanasius would have understood as ‘hypostasis’.

    The phrase in Exodus 3.14 is ‘I Am that I Am’. I means ‘exists’ as God alone Exists/Lives.

  20. If memory and Google serves, this particular work was written mid-4th century, after the Council in 325 had stated that the Father and Son was one substance, homosousias/consubstantial to borrow from Tertullian?

    The Arians, especially at this time, would have said that the Son was of a different essence, or similar to the Father, thus creating two distinct divinities.

  21. While John and Charles are indeed excellent hymn writers, I’ll stick with Uncle Isaac:

    1. When I survey the wondrous cross
    on which the Prince of Glory died;
    my richest gain I count but loss,
    and pour contempt on all my pride.

    2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    save in the death of Christ, my God;
    all the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to his blood.

    3. See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
    sorrow and love flow mingled down.
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    or thorns compose so rich a crown.

    4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    that were an offering far too small;
    love so amazing, so divine,
    demands my soul, my life, my all.

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