JMC : Pre-Scholastic Philosophy / by Albert Stöckl

Arianism and Apollinarism

§ 64.

1. Arianism unites in one system the prominent points of doctrine peculiar both to Gnosticism and to Monarchianism. The Gnostic teaching is represented in the principle that God cannot enter into immediate contact with matter, that He can work upon it only through the agency of intermediate beings. The Monarchian teaching is represented in the doctrine that the Logos, as a person, is extraneous to the Divinity, not intrinsic to it -- a proposition equivalent to a denial of the distinctions involved in the notion of the Trinity. But the construction of the Arian system indicates, at every point, the influence of the notions of Philo -- a source from which, at an early period, the Gnostics had borrowed.

2. Arius, the founder of the system called by his name, was probably a native of Libya. He was a man of considerable exegetical knowledge, eloquent and skilled in dialectics, but he was remarkable for his vanity and his desire of renown. He was a presbyter of Alexandria, and subsequently to the year A.D. 313, when he failed in an attempt to secure for himself the episcopal see of that city, he publicly taught his peculiar theories. He died A.D. 336. We may reduce his doctrines to the following heads: --

3. God is the Unbegotten (agennêtos), and as such He must be one -- two unhegotten beings are inconceivable. This principle, which, as applied to the Divine Nature, is unimpeachable, was applied by Arius to the Divine Persons, and he was in consequence led to such conclusions as these: The Son of God, the Logos, is begotten; He cannot, therefore, be God; He must be regarded merely as a creature. From this it follows that He cannot be eternal, like God; He must have had a beginning; there must have been a time when He did not exist (ên pote, hote ouk ên). We are thus forced to admit a dual Logos -- one intrinsic to the Divinity, which is not a personal entity, and another extrinsic to the Divinity, which possesses the character of personality; but the latter He only a creature, and can be called Wisdom or Logos only in so far as it participates in that uncreated divine wisdom which is an intrinsic but impersonal attribute of God. This is clearly Philo's teaching reproduced.

4. The Logos, being a creature, was endowed with a free will, which He could use for good or for evil. God foresaw that He would use His liberty aright, and as a reward He bestowed upon Him, at His creation, a glory which gave Him a title to be called God. But He is not God in the strict sense of the term, and therefore He is not omniscient; He has not a perfect knowledge of the Father, nor even of His own nature. God enjoyed the title of Father from the moment that He gave being to the Logos as His Son.

5. The Logos is the instrument by means of which God created the world. God could not create the world immediately -- He, the absolutely Pure, could not produce matter which is impure and unholy. He had need of an instrument to create the world, and this instrument was furnished in the Logos. The Logos was formed at the moment when God resolved to create the world. The world, then, does not exist for sake of the Logos; the Logos exists for sake of the world.

6. The Logos is, furthermore, the instrument by which God rules the world. God cannot dispense with an instrument of this kind, for He is no more able to come into immediate contact with the defilements of matter than He is able to create matter. Accordingly, a series of beings are interposed between God and the world -- these supernatural powers (angels) being made subordinate to the Logos. The incarnation of the Logos is explained to signify that the Logos assumed flesh, i.e., a human body, but not a human soul; and in this way actually underwent the sufferings of the Passion.

7. Apollinarism was an offshoot of Arianism; it owes its origin to Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea in Syria (about A.D., 375.) The Apollinarists, like the Manicheans, recognise three constituent elements in man, the body, the carnal soul (psuchê sarkikê), and the spirit. The relation between the carnal soul and the spirit resembles that established by the Manicheans, for the Apollinarists find the source of evil in the psuchê sarkikê. As to the origin of the soul, they are in favour of the theory of generation. They object to the doctrine of creation on the ground that such a doctrine involves the co-operation of God in fornication, adultery, and other such crimes, and they further maintain that the doctrine is opposed to Sacred Scripture which teaches that God ceased to create on the sixth day.

8. Regarding Christ, they taught that the Logos had not assumed human nature in its entirety, but only a body and psuchê sarkikê -- to the exclusion of the nous. In Christ the functions of the nous were discharged by the Logos. It is only in this hypothesis that the conflict between spirit and flesh in Christ becomes intelligible. A section of the Apollinarists went still further, and taught that the body of Christ was not formed from terrestrial matter, but was consubstantial with the Logos. They ascribed to this body qualities of the immaterial order, and asserted that the Logos had brought it with Him from heaven, not received it from Mary.

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