Basil: Contra Eunomius 2.24

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So, then, there has been sufficient discussion of the fact that God is called Father in the proper and suitable sense, and this is not a name of passion but of affinity, affinity either by grace as in the case of human beings, or by nature as in the case of the Only-Begotten. Now let us grant that even this term, like so many others, is figurative and is said metaphorically. But when we hear that God becomes angry, falls asleep, and flies, and other descriptions like these which produce meanings that are not suitable when taken in their obvious sense, we neither strike out the words of the Spirit nor take what has been said in a bodily manner. Why shouldn’t we also inquire into the notions of this term, so often employed by the Spirit, that are appropriate for God? Or shall we expunge only this term from the scripture, denouncing it on the basis of how humans use it?

Let’s examine the issue in this way. According to customary usage here below, the designation ‘to beget’ signifies two things: the passion of the begetter and affinity to the one begotten. This being the case, when the Father says to the Only-Begotten: From the womb before daybreak I have begotten you (Ps. 109.3) and: You are my Son, today I have begotten you (Ps. 2.7), which of these two do we say is communicated by means of this world? That begetters are subject to passion? Or that there is an affinity of nature between the begetter and the one begotten? For my part, I claim the latter. I can’t imagine that these men would ever contradict me, unless they have been reduced to manifest delirium. And so, if the term is proper to God, why do you dishonour it as if it were foreign? Since it has been transferred from human affairs, latch onto its sound sense and put aside the meanings that are less good. When it is a question of the word to its correct notion and thereby go beyond its lowly and dishonourable meanings.

Do not say to me: “What is begetting? What kind of thing is it? How could it happen? Even now we are not going to repudiate the solid foundation of our faith in the Father and the Son because the manner of the begetting is ineffable and utterly inconceivable. If we are going to measure all things by comprehension and suppose that that which is incomprehensible to our reasoning does not exist at all, the reward of faith will be gone, the reward of hope will be gone. How could we still be worthy of the blessings stored up for faith in invisible realities, if we trust only that which is evident to our reasoning? Why did the notions become futile and their senseless heart darkened (Rom. 1.21)? Wasn’t it because they followed only what was apparent to their reasoning and refused to believe the proclamation of the Spirit? Whom does Isaiah mourn for the lost? Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and smart in their own sight! (Is. 5.21) How can it not be men such as these?

I will pass by many things Eunomius says in the meantime—everything he openly puts forth about the Son not being begotten and everything he says by way of pretence about how the Only-Begotten admits of being a creature and something made—because I want to get to the most important part of his impiety. I will indicate only the following about what we are leaving out: wishing to conceal with his words the blasphemy he prepared earlier in the treatise and to soften the shamelessness of his account, he said that he does not construe the Only-Begotten as something common with creation. But he has forgotten his own doctrines which he expounded above with naked and undisguised expressions. Because of them he once again falls into shameless contradiction that is as obvious as can be. So, then, this is what he writes:

Let no one be disturbed when he hears that the Son is something made, as if a common substance were construed for them by the commonality of the names

So, then, O wisest of men, if diversity of substance necessarily follows upon difference in names—for you surely recall that he uttered these words in his earlier arguments—how is it not true even in this case that commonality of substance follows upon the commonality of names? For he clearly did not make this statement just once or incidentally. As soon as he says that the commonality of names does not mean there is a substance in common, a little further on, as if regretting what he just said, he adds the following to attack his opponents:

If in fact these people had any concern for the truth, they should confess that when the names are different, the substances are also different.

How could anyone use language more carelessly? In short measure, he switches between contrary positions: now he says that a difference in names necessarily intimates diversity in substance, now he says that commonality of names does not means there is a substance in common. But here I think we are behaving very similar to those who accuse a murderer of an insult or a punch or some such misdemeanour.