“It is interesting, however, that though the Neo-Arians made a clear distinction between God’s ungenerated essence and God’s activity (ένεργεία) as Father, Eunomius treated Jn. 14:28 as if it said, ‘The ungenerated essence who sent me is greater than I.”
Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism vo. 2, 320.
“From his introductory remarks it is clear that Eunomius intended to base a number of Part III’s arguments upon a refinement of the Middle Platonic theory of language Neo-Arianism had inherited. Like Albinus, Eunomius assumed that there is a ‘natural conformity of names with things’ and that ‘a name is a tool meant for teaching and differentiating the essence of each thing.’ Because it follows that a difference of names indicates a differences of essence, God who is ‘ungenerated’ and the Son who is ‘generate’ must be different in essence.’
“He [Eunomius] proceeded by examining the nature of God’s ‘activity’ (ένεργεία) as ‘the cause and begining of all things.’ A ‘purified’ and ‘precise; account of God’s activity Eunomius said, excludes from divine generation of all things the ‘human’ activity of ‘division’ or ‘movement’ of the essence. He charged that to unite God’s activity of generation to God’s essence was not a Christian but a Greek notion. Because the greeks, including most Middle Platonists, conceived of the cosmos as eternal, they ‘united’ God’s activity of generation to his ungenerated essence, making God and the result of his activity-the world-co-equal. Eunomius continued,
“But we…, who judge God’s activity from its productions, do not suppose that it is safe to bind it, to unite it, to his essence, since we know that his essence is without begining, simple and without end, but that his activity is not without begining. for if it were, so also its productions would be without begining and without end, since it would not be possible for the activity to be without cessation if the production had ceased. For it would be very childish and belonging to an infantile mind should they say that the activity is ungenerated and endless, and so, too, the essence, if none of the productions of his activity is able to be generated in an ungenerated or endless way.”
According to this statement, Eunomius held that activity is consistent with and appropriate to its production, and hence if the production has begining and end, so does the activity. Because scripture revealed that the cosmos had a begining and will have an end, God’s activity also has begining and end; consequently, it cannot be united to God’s ungenerated and endless essence, unless that is,one wants to hold that the activity of God’s essence is ‘unsuccessful’ in generating a production which shares its ungeneratedness or endlessness. Since the attribution of failure to God is impious, Eunomius suggested that the only alternative is to detach God’s activity from his essence and to claim that ”willing is the activity most true and appropriate to God.’ Indeed, scripture was the source of Eunomius’ view, for Ps 115:3 revealed tha God’s will is ‘sufficient for the existence and preservation of all things’ when it claimed, ‘For all things whatever he willed, he made.’ And it is God’s characteristic to make all things out of nothing, Eunomius implied since ‘he has no need of anything for the constitution of the things which he wills.’ Eunomius explained the upshot of all this for the problem of the Son’s likeness to God as follows: ‘Therefore, if scripture has proved that God’s willing is his activity, and his activity is not his essence, and the Uniquely-Generated was made to exist as a hypostasis by the will of theFather, it is necessary that the Son preserve likeness not to God’s essence, but to his activity, which is also his willing.’ Since the Son is one of ‘all things,’ and it is God’s activity of will that produced the Son, the Son, as the production of that activity, must be consistent with and appropriate to that activity-or, in other words, ‘like’ that activity. The Son is like God’s activity or willing, not like his essence. And because God’s role as generating ‘Father’ is bound up with his activity or willing, the appellation Father refers to God’s activity alone and not to his essence. Hence the Son is like the Father (=God’s activity of will) but not like God’s essence...Eunomius contended that since the Colossians passage used the term image in connection with God’s activity of creating-both his creating ‘all things’ and his creating the Son, for the Son is first born of ‘all creation’ the Son is the image of God’s activity, not the image of his essence…”
“The whole acount of our doctrines is summed up as follows: there is the supreme and absolute essence, and there is the essence which exists because of this one but after it, though before all others, and there is a third essence, which is ranked below the first as its cause and below the second as the activity according to which it has been generated. There must also be included in this summary of the whole account the activities which follow the essences and the names which naturally belong to them. Now, each essence both exists and is conceived as absolutely simple and completely one in relation to its own dignity. Its activities are circumscribed by its works, and its works are commensurate with the activities which produced them, being completely necessary, of course, that the activities following each of the essences be less and greater and that some occupy the first rank and some the second–in a word, that their diference amount to that existing between their works, since it is not lawful to say that it is the same activity according which he [the Son] made the angels or the stars and heaven or man…”
Eunomius, Apologia Apologiae, PG 45:296ff, in Kopecek, 451-2.
“All activities, no matter their rank relative to one another, both follow and are lower than the essence to which they pertain. Theirefore, Eunomius stressed that theological methodology should always begin with knowledge of the essences and works its way down to their activities rather than begin with knowledge of activities and work its way up to the essences.”
“When Basil claimed that God has aspects or qualities different form his essence, he was [according to Eunomius] compromising God’s simplicity: he was making God a composite of essence and qualities. The only way to protect the divine simplicity was to affirm that God has no qualities (forEunomius, God engages in activities rather than possesses qualities). All the names we se for God are synonyms.”
“If ungeneratedness and indestructibility are not privations, it is not at all immaterial [contra Basil] whether they designate God’s essence or some of his qualities. Once again Eunomius underlined that God’s simplicity was at stake: “…truth bears witness that nothing is united in nature with God.” If God possesses qualities, he becomes composite. So ungeneratedness, indestructibility, and immortality must themselves “be God’s essence itself.” It goes without saying that all of God’s names are synonyms; they all designate the same simle essence.”
“According to Eunomius, scripture and the Christian tradition did not claim that God became man but that the Son, the Word, the one being in the form of God, became man. Eunomius was not saying that God’s sovereign will was not ultimately responsible for the display of love of humanity; he was saying that the acting out of this love belonged to the Son, and not to the sovereign ‘inactive’ God.”
“The ‘one and only true God’ was presented as most exaslted…and changeless…God is virtually passive…The Son and the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, were presented as being exceedingly active. In fact, the creed provides us with Eunomius’ fullest statement of what precisely it is that the Son does as ‘slave and servant’ of God and what precisely the Holy Spirit does as ‘slave and servant’ of the Son, who is virtually passive after his resurrection, acts through the Holy Spirit to teach and care for Christians.”