Friday, November 20, 2009

Batut on some implications of Nicaea

“that which comes from God in his fatherhood is the capacity to give origin: proper and specific to the fatherhood of God is not ‘agenesis’ (the absence of an origin), but the fact of being the Source giving rise to other sources. . . .
“Why is God the source of all fatherhood? Precisely because he is more fundamentally Father (Origin) than Unbegotten (without origin). This affirmation was in substance that of the Council of Nicaea, which was convened in 325 to respond to one of the most serious heresies in the history of the Church.
“At the beginning of the fourth century, the Alexandrian priest Arius . . . presented the fact of being without origin as the quasi-definition of God. Unfortunately, the Word could not enter into this definition, since Jesus, the incarnate Word, ceaselessly affirms that he is originated by the Father. . . .
“Consequently, the begetting of the Word had to have been the fruit of a decision the Father made ‘one day’: it is an act of the will and not of nature. There was seen to be, then, no essential difference between the act by which God begot the Word and the act by which he created all things. The primacy of the Word on this understanding is fundamentally instrumental: he was willed with a view to creation, as the ‘firstfruits of the works of God’ (Pr 8:22). Hand in hand with this went the notion that, if God begot ‘one day,’ God was God before being Father: fatherhood is not essential to him. It is conceived according to the model of human fatherhood, and comes as an accidental relation to an already constituted subject. The fact of being Unbegotten alone is divine in God.
“The Council of Nicaea responded in 325 to this radical calling into question of the Christian faith, with the affirmation that God is not first he who is without origin, but he who gives origin, in other words, the Father. . . .
“For Nicaea, fatherhood and sonship are constitutive of the Christian faith: there is in God He who is nothing but Fatherhood, and He who is nothing but Sonship. Unlike what happens with us, the Son will never become Father. Whereas, in our human experience, filiation and fatherhood are stages we pass through (for fatherhood itself is superceded when the child becomes father in turn), in God, they are persons, the Trinity’s subsistent modalities of being.
“In the light of this fatherhood and sonship, the finality of creation reveals itself to be entirely filial, in the face of a divine action that is paternal from the first instant. There is in God no change, no passage from less to more: with respect to us, he does not become father; it is we who become his children. This is why, when we say, ‘I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator . . .’, the distinction between ‘Father’ and ‘Creator’ is very largely conceptual. It means that he who is Father in himself manifests himself as Creator with regard to ourselves, in order to raise us up in the end, in his Son and by the gift of the Spirit, to the filial condition he willed for us from all eternity.”

Jean-Pierre Batut, "Calling fathers 'father': usurping the name of God?," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 299-301. This in response to Claude Bruaire, who claims that "it is by a clear theomorphism that every procreator usurps the divine Name" (La raison politique (Paris: Fayard, 1974), 261, as quoted on p. 298 (italics mine)).

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