Divine Simplicity in Aetius’ Neo-Arianism

 “4.  If God remains endlessly in ungenerated essence and the generate is endlessly generate, then the perverse doctrine of the homoousion and the homoiousion will be destroyed. And incomparability in essence is established when each of the two natures remains unceasingly in its proper rank of nature.

5. If God is ungenerated with respect to essence, what was generated was not generated by partition of essence, but he has made it to exist as a hypostasis by his power. For no pious reasoning permits the same essence to be generated and ungenerated.

6.  If the ungenerated has been generated, what prevents the genrerated from having become generated? For every nature shuns what is improper to it for what is proper to it.

7. If God is not entirely ungenerated, nothing hinders him from having generated essentially. But if he is entirely ungenerated, he was not partioned essentially in generation, but he made the generate to exist as a hypostasis by his power.

8. If the ungenerated God is entirely generative, what was generated was not generated essentially, since his entire essence is able to generate but not to be generated.  If the essence of God, having been transformed, is said to be generate, his essence is not unchangeable, since the change effected the formation of the Son. If the essence of God be unchangeableand superior to generation, relationship with the Son will be confessed to be a mere mode of address.”

10. If the generate was complete within the ungenerated,it is generate as a result of the things from which the ungenerrated generated it. This is false, for it is not possible that a generated nature be within an ungenerated essence.  For the same thing is not able both to be an not to be. For a generate thing is not able to be ungenerated, and being ungenerated could not have been a generate thing, since to say that God consists of unlike parts presents to him the height of blasphemy of hybris.

The Syntagmation

“We have seen from our discussion of syllogisms #5 and #6 that Aetius based at least part of his argument against homoousion on the expectation that his opponents would agree to the axiom of God’s essential unity or simplicity. Certainly syllogisms #7 and #8 depend on this axiom.  If God is admitted to be essentially compound, argued #7, then part of God’s essence could remin ungenerated while the other part  would be able to become generated-or, as syllogism #8b put it ‘transformed’ into that which is generated. But since God is admitted not to be compound, if he is ungenerated, he must be entirely ungenerated (#7).  On the other hand, the Christian tradiiton was unanimous in believing that he in some way caused the Son to exist as a separate entity. With partition ruled out, the only alternative left, reiterated Aetius, is that God’s essence created the Son, that ‘he made the generate to exist as a hypostasis by his power.’ (#7). Moreover, given God’s simplicity, the entire essence of God must have been involved in the creation of the son and, in that sense, to have been ‘entirely generative” (#8). The implicaiton was that God’s essence could have been generated in no sense whatsoever. Homoousion of the entirely generative one with the generated one is impossible. We see how crucial the assumption of God’s unity or simplicity was to Aetius arguments; this will become apparent once again when we consider syllogism #10.”

Thomas A. Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism, vol. 1, 231-232, 236.

8 Responses to Divine Simplicity in Aetius’ Neo-Arianism

  1. ioannis says:

    It seems to me that Aetius identifies the essence of God with the “ungenerate” just like Eunomius.

  2. Andrew,

    As I understand it, anything that is intelligibly one thing has an essence, because it is a unity, and a unity as some_thing_. The language of essence presupposes that Nietzsche is wrong, and that things are not merely a shifting federation of forces that are destined to have a fallout, but that they have a real, singular unity to them, which unity is the possibility of their being intelligible at all.

    If something is made, if it has a beginning, if there is a time when we can say “this was not,” then it is generated in some sense. An essence is always singular, static, and generic – hypostases are always unique and unrepeatable instances of an essence.

    The issue in Aetius above (as I understand it) is not whether an essence can be generated – everything created by God is a generated essence, because it has a beginning, because it is contingent, etc. – but rather whether there is some kind of division within God which we Orthodox are forced to affirm by virtue of our affirming that the Son is of one essence with the Father. If the Son and the Father are intelligibly distinct (so the argument goes), are they not two different essences? How can a singular essence be two things – namely, generated and ungenerated?

    Perry is, presumably, listing the heretic’s reasonable (but false) argument simply to show up the important distinction between nature/essence and person again.

    God’s Peace

  3. Isn’t it inappropriate to speak of generating essences anyway? Essences are either created or uncreated; hypostases are either beotten/ generated or unbegotten/ ungenerated, right?

  4. Lucian says:

    Adam was created not begotten; the reverse holds true for Christ, the New Adam. In any case, man is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and the human family (father, son, mother) mirrors the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Even John 10:30 reminds us of Genesis 2:24. So I think my reasoning stands (it’s true that Adam’s unbegottenness is not the same as the Father’s [just as Adam’s essence is not the same as the Father’s], but it’s not supposed to be the same, it’s supposed to liken it).

  5. Lucian,

    Adam was created and hence generated. It matters not if he passed through the birth canal or not.

  6. Lucian says:

    I don’t know, I’m curious: would the Arians have said that Adam was NOT of the same essence as the rest of humanity (since he wasn’t born) ?

  7. Lucian,

    Are human parents generated things? The dialectic is between generated and ungenerated, not between generated and generating, right?

  8. Lucian says:

    For no pious reasoning permits the same essence to be generated and ungenerated.

    Except for the essence of all living things… unless one wants to show that the offsprings don’t share the same essence as their parents. (The problem that I always observed with heresies was just how illogical they are: Mary can’t be the mother of God, because she didn’t give birth to the divine essence: but no-one says the same thing for our mothers, who don’t give birth to our soul; we can’t bow down to saints and angels, but we can bow down to kings and princes, etc — it’s simply absurd).

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