Athanasius did not see beyond the horizon of his own time. He attributed the highest efficacy to the mysteries of the cultus. He regarded them as the personal legacy of Christ, immediate emanations of his life as God-man, and as containing the means of applying salvation. If in succeeding centuries the religious interest attached itself more and more closely to ritual, that did not imply any contradiction of the conception of the great Alexandrian. He also laboured on behalf of the dogma which was to obtain its practical and effective presentation in the boldly
Athanasius’ importance to posterity consisted in this, that he defined Christian faith exclusively as faith in redemption through the God-man who was identical in nature with God, and that thereby he restored to it fixed boundaries and specific contents.’ Eastern Christendom has been able to add nothing up to the present day. Even in theory it has hit on no change, merely overloading the idea of Athanasius; but the Western Church also preserved this faith as fundamental. Following on the theology of the Apologists and Origen, it was the efficient means of preventing the complete Hellenising and secularisation of Christianity.
The history of dogma in the East after the Nicene Council reveals two interlacing lines of development. First, the idea of “the God-man from the point of view of the redemption and elevation of the human race to divine life, in other words, the faith of Athanasius, was elaborated on all sides. In this the history of dogma, in the strict sense of the term, exhausted itself, for dogma was faith in the God-man. But with this a second development was closely connected, one which dealt with the relations of dogma and theology.