Monday, June 26, 2006
What did Augustine and Arius have in common?
Answer: Both Arius and Augustine defined deity in terms of divine causality, thus understanding causality to be the essential attribute of deity rather than the hypostatic (i.e. personal) feature of the Father's monarchy.
In this confusion of Person, nature and attribute, Arius went on to assert that only the Father was truly God, for the Logos was begotten of the Father. Thus Christ could not be fully divine in that he was "caused by," and in no way the "cause of," the Father. Divine causality and essential deity are inextricably mixed.
In his argument against the later heresy of semi-Arianism, Augustine conceded this point, but went on to employ it in favor of the essential deity of Christ by positing the filioque doctrine. Thus Augustine saw the Son as the "cause," along with the Father, of another divine Person: the Holy Spirit. "For if the Son has of the Father whatever He has, then certainly He has of the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him" (De Trinitate 15:26:47). In other words, the Son receives divine causality from the Father and thus is fully divine, for the Holy Spirit proceeds from both.
At this point the inconsistency in Augustine's view of the Trinity becomes apparent, for where does this leave the Holy Spirit? If the Holy Spirit is a fully divine hypostasis then wherein is manifested the attribute of causality?
Food for thought.
Until next time.
P.S. I am indebted to my friend, Dr. Joseph Farrell (+Photius), for these insights.