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CHAPTER V

EARLY ALEXANDRINE THEOLOGY CONTROVERSY WITH MONARCHIANS

Christianity in Alexandria. -- Alexandria had long been one of the most cosmopolitan and most cultured cities in the world. It was the meeting-place of Greek and Egyptian religion, and the writings of Philo (about A.D. 40) show how profoundly some of the Jews of Alexandria were touched by the spirit of Greek philosophy. The foundation of the Christian Church in this city was traditionally ascribed to St. Mark. In any case it is certain that Christianity had a large number of converts there during the first half of the second century, and the popularity of Egyptian Gnosticism proves that there was a general readiness to give paganism a Christian colouring. The necessity for instructing the Christians how to deal with these attractive errors was quickly realised. A school of catechists was formed whose special work it was to devote themselves to a scientific study of theology and show the relationship of Christianity to secular learning. The first leader of this school was a certain Pantaenus who had been a philosopher of the Stoic school but of whose life we know little. The desire to utilise and promote the learning of the period was widely spread among the Christians at the close of the second and the beginning of the third century. In Palestine, Rome, and Asia Minor they put forth the same efforts, although their teachers were less eminent than Clement and Origen, who were at the head of the Alexandrine school.

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Clement of Alexandria. -- Clement appears to have begun to teach about 190. His style is pure and captivating. He was much influenced both by his Christian predecessors and by Plato. He took in hand the work which had been begun by Justin and some other Apologists. That is, he attempted to show that Christianity is able to satisfy all men who are intellectually and morally in earnest. But he attempted to do the work of the Apologists on a far more magnificent scale than they had attempted themselves. He tried to combine Christian tradition with Greek philosophy in such a way as to present the world with a complete philosophy of religion. That ideal of fellowship with God which was prominent in much of the later Greek philosophy was heightened by Clement, and the attainment of this ideal was promised to those who desired to know and love God through Christ. Clement agreed with the later Platonists in saying that God might be known by those who freed themselves from the bonds of sense, and he said that the Christians who fear Greek philosophy are 'like children who are afraid of hobgoblins.' We may almost say that what Philo is towards Judaism, Clement is towards Christianity. But we cannot quite say this, for Clement is less visionary and more practical than some of his sayings might lead us to imagine, and the knoio- iedge of God which he extols is not a rare, ecstatic rapture, but the joyful confidence of a mind which has been disciplined by the Word of God.

The Doctrine of the Word in Clement. -- Clement, after the manner of the Neo-Platonists, regards God the Father as 'beyond being'; we cannot describe Him adequately. But nevertheless He was eternally Father, never without the Son.11   Strom. v. 1. 1. The Word is 'the beginning, without beginning, of the things that are.' He gave existence to the world. Christianity is the doctrine of the creation, education, and perfection of mankind by the Word. The Word employed two means for instructing men, the law of the old Covenant and the philosophy of the Greeks, which is itself a kind of 61 Covenant. Clement here advances a step beyond Justin. The latter regards Jewish prophecy as the great positive proof that Christianity is true, Clement uses the whole istory of morality and reasoning as the proof of Christianity.

The Word appeared in Christ. 'This Word is the Christy and was of old the cause both of our being and our well-beings but now this same Word has appeared to men, who alone is both God and man.' It is most important to observe that, in spite of his doctrine of the wise man's approximation to the divine nature, Clement denies tnat men are 'consubstantial' with God,11   Strom. ii. 16. 74. and sharply distinguishes even a perfect man from God. Christ is the only Man who is God indeed. He is regarded as the Priest who bestows upon man a series of initiations which lead him to perfect union with God. This idea that Christianity unfolds to man a number of precious mysteries which are hidden from the unbelieving is very marked in Clement. Christ not only teaches and initiates, He also forgives. 'He forgives sins as God, and as man instructs us to be free from sin.' 'He wishes us to be saved from ourselves.'

Clement's conception of the incarnate life of Christ is rather Docetic, a proof that Clement was influenced by that dislike of matter which marked the teaching of the Neo-Platonists. He thinks that Christ only ate food in order to show that His body was real, not because He was hungry, and that Christ could not experience the sensations of bodily pleasure and pain.

Origen. -- Clement was eclipsed by his great disciple Origen, born about 185. Origen was one of the greatest philosophers whom the world has ever seen; he was the first great exponent of the Christian Scriptures, and had more influence than any theologian who lived before the time of Athanasius. He travelled far, read deeply, wrote fully. He united the doctrine of the older theologians with the arguments of the Apologists and some of the more important speculations of the Neo-Platonists. His work is essentially comprehensive and intended to unite 62 and not to separate. In his school the works of Greek poets and philosophers were studied, only the works of atheists being excluded. In his system he endeavoured to combine the conclusions of all philosophers, except those who had definitely believed that there is no God or that there are many gods. At the same time he was an orthodox Christian at heart. He did not place Greek philosophy on so high a pedestal as Clement had done, and he had a truer conception both of the Scriptures and of our Lord.

Origen on Ood and His Manifestations. -- The Neo-Platonists taught that God is One, an abstract Being from whom proceeds 'Mind' and the world of thought; from 'Mind' comes the soul of the world, in which world the souls of men exist surrounded by matter. Salvation consists in the 'turning to God' through asceticism and ecstatic rapture. It was held by some, as by the modern Hindu philosophers, that the soul which thus unites itself with God actually becomes God himself. This idea of God as the true centre of all things was quite agreeable to the mind of Origen; he found it in harmony with St. Paul's prediction of the time when God should be 'all in all.' But the distinction between the theories of Origen and those of the Neo-Platonists is nevertheless real.

Origen sometimes speaks of God as an abstract Being. He is 'beyond limitation, beyond estimation, beyond sensation,' and even 'beyond being.' But it is plain that Origen does not mean to deny that God is personal, (lod is declared to be the 'Creator, Preserver, and Governor.' He is 'just and good, the God of the Law and of the Gospel.' In teaching this, Origen opposes the Marcionites, the Gnostics, and the Neo-Platonists. For the Marcionites denied that the same God was both kind and just, the Gnostics universally denied that God created all things, and the Gnostics Basilides and Valentinus agreed with the Neo-Platonists in regarding God as impersonal, without self-consciousness. The very idea of God, according to Origen, implies that He eternally manifests His perfections. He manifests them in the manifold life of the universe of created spirits, both angelic and human, and of the material world.

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But the perfections of God are chiefly manifested in the divine Word, through whom God created and still creates the world of spirits, which Origen believes to be eternal. The Word is thus the living link between the One and the manifold. This resembles the teaching of Philo and the Neo-Platonists, but it is nevertheless distinct from their teaching, for Origen regards the Word as truly personal. He perceives that within God's own life there must be a perfect expression of God's thought, otherwise the perfect Being would not be perfectly productive. The Word is incapable of change,'He is incorporeal. He is consubstantial with the Father. He is not a part of the substance of God but comes from Him as the will proceeds from the mind. As the perfect expression of the Father's mind He is (1) the summary of the ideas which God has of the world and (2) the eternal Son of God. Origen expressly denies that we may say that the Son did not always exist, or say that we are consubstantial with God.

The begetting of the Son is not an act which has taken place once for all, it is a process which never ends. The Saviour is ever being begotten.11   Cf. In Hierem. Hom. ix. 4; De Pr, i. 2. 4. The process itself cannot be adequately described by human analogies, but is represented as both an act of the Father's will and the result of God's essence being what it is.

Origen uses the word 'Trinity.' He asserts the eternity of the Holy Spirit. He describes the Word as finding his peculiar sphere of action in all rational life, while the sphere of the Spirit is the Church which He sanctifies. He speaks of the Son as less than the Father who begat Him, and the Spirit as less than the Son.22   De Pr. i. 3. 5. This refers to the manner in which the life of the Trinity is unfolded, and does not mean that the Son or Spirit are outside the Godhead in any way. It is wortliy of remark that (a) Origen does not perceive the function of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Trinity as clearly as He perceives that of the Word; (b) Origen seems to anticipate the later doctrine of the Western Church that the Spirit 'proceedeth from the Father and the Son.' He says 'The Holy Spirit came into being through the Word.'33   In Joh. ii. 6.

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Origen on Redemption. -- With regard to the redemption wrought by the Word, Origen says that the Word took a 'human nature.' He therefore calls Christ God-Man.11   De Pr. ii. 6. 3. Christ became true man with a true body and soul. The Word, the body and the soul make a unity. Nevertheless the Word, altnough 'within the limitation of that man who appeared in Judaea,' was not deprived of His divine perfections. He continued on the throne of God even during His life on earth. Origen does not hold the Docetic views held by Clement; he asserts that the body and soul of Christ suffered. He speaks strongly of the importance of the atonement. It is not only an example, but a commencement of the destruction of the devil's power. It is also an expiation for sin. Like some other Fathers of the Church, Origen misinterprets Matt xx. 28, and thinks that the ransom paid by Christ was paid to the devil. He even represents the death of Christ as a deception of the devil performed by God, the devil having been permitted to think that he had a right over the human soul of Christ, inasmuch as the human race had succumbed to temptation.

The Christ who suffered and made propitiation as our High-priest, is also 'the Head of all men.' Through Him we became the adopted sons of God, in heaven He continues the work of our purification. He still acts as High-priest, that henceforth 'human nature may become divine through communion with that which is more divine, not only in Jesus, but also in all those who both believe and take up the life which Jesus taught.' The work of atonement extends itself beyond the world of men into the world of spirits. After death, the wicked, and perhaps even the saints, will pass into the 'cleansing fire' of hell. This hell, Origen, like Clement, regards as consisting of the torments of conscience. Finally all spirits, good and evil, will be purged and rescued. Then will be the 'restoration of all things' (Acts iii.'21), when everything material and sinful will have ceased to be and God will be truly 'all in all.' According to Origen, the punishment of tne wicked, although very long, is in 65 one sense not eternal. God will take from them the sense of shame and anguish. And yet in another sense their punishment may he said to be eternal, for they will not attain to the joy of seeing God face to face.

Origen's writings were most attractive to thoughtful Christians during the third and fourth centuries, and have proved nearly as attractive to modem students. He was not only pious, zealous, and learned. He really perceived that the incarnation, if true, must be the central fact in the history of the world. A philosopher who had only laid stress upon the creative work of the divine Word or Reason would have transformed Christianity into Greek metaphysics. But Origen not only taught men about this creative work, but also taught men to value the human life of Christ in whom God condescends to reveal himself and to show us of what the human spirit is capable. And the language in which Origen expresses his thoughts is sometimes of great beauty, as when he speaks of Christ making 'an impression in our soul after the likeness of His wounds,' and says that 'we are justified by faith, but much more by the blood of Jesus.'

Much of Origen's teaching with regard to the Trinity and the incarnation was agreeable to the mind of the Church, and was retained as a permanent possession. But there are three points which were objectionable and which caused difficulties : --

1. Origen's doctrine of the function of the divine Word in creation seems to imply that the Son is eternal because creation is eternal. If we deny that creation is eternal we should be obliged, on Origen's principles, to deny that the Son is eternal. This was done in the fourth century by the Arians.

2. His psychology implies that the highest element in man, his rational soul, existed from all eternity. The Word united himself with a material body by the medium of an unfallen eternal spirit, which had always obeyed God and chose to become a soul in order to further the work of redemption.

3. The language of Origen is sometimes inaccurate and does not express his real convictions in an adequate manner. Thus, although he is a strong Monotheist, he 66 speaks of the Son as a 'second God,'11   c. Cels. v. 39. and although he plainly asserts the eternal generation of the Son, he calls Him a 'creature.'22   Quoted by Justinian, L. xxi. 482, Anm, 3; cf. in Joh, i. 22. When he says that the Father and the Son are 'two in hypostasis, but one in unanimity and agreement and identity of Will,' he uses words which agree more with Arianism than with Catholicism. But we must remember that it was not until the fourth century that the phrase 'union of will' was perversely used in contradistinction to 'union of essence,' and also that the word 'hypostasis' in Origen is already losing its ancient significance of 'essence' and tending towards the later meaning of 'person.'

Monarchianism and the Fatherhood of God. -- The Apologists and Origen had done much to show the reasonable character of the Catholic faith and to vindicate the doctrine of Christ's Divinity. But such expressions as 'second God' naturally aroused suspicions in the minds of men who appreciated the value of monotheism. More than this, some of the most orthodox statements about the eternal personality of the Word seemed to ignorant Christians to imply a belief in two or three Gods. They were unable to conceive that the life of God contains an eternal revelation of the highest moral relationship. So we are told by Tertullian that 'some simple people, not to say foolish and uneducated,' after being brought over from polytheism to believe in one true God, 'assert that we preach two or three gods but pretend that they are really worshippers of one God; they say, we hold the Monarchia.'

This word Monarchia signifies the 'sole rule' of the first person of the Trinity, and Monarchianism became the most dangerous heresy of the third century. The phrase, 'we hold the Monarchia,' like the modern phrase, 'we are Unitarian Christians,' quietly suggested that Catholic Christianity was polytheism, and although Monarchianism found most of its supporters among the ignorant, it had its prophets among the clever and cultured. Widely as the two great schools of Monarchians differed, they both agreed that no real Fatherhood had 67 eternally existed in the nature of God. They both denied that Christ was from eternity the Son of God. And thus, like modem Unitarians, they refused to admit that perfect fatherly love and divine submission to that love always existed in the life of God. Modalist Monarchianism. -- This was the more popular of the two forms of Monarchianism. It regarded the holy Trinity as the three different modes in which the One divine person manifested himself. It is assumed that Christ is essentially divine. The Son was ordinarily taught to be simply the Father made manifest. Thus St. Hippolytus (died about 235) accuses this heresy of maintaining that 'the Father is called also by the name of Son according to a change of times . . . confessing him- self to be the Son unto those who saw Him, but not having concealed that He was the Father unto those who could receive it.' TertuUian gave to these Monarchians the name of 'Patripassians,' i,e, those who teach that the Father suffered.

Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, and especially St. Hippolytus, were the ablest opponents of this theory.

It was introduced into Rome in the time of Pope Victor (189-198) by Praxeas, who afterwards went to found a sect in Africa. He taught that the Father and the Son were the same person, but in attempting to explain him- self he said that in Jesus Christ there was a man who was 'the Son' and that this was Jesus, and also a Spirit who was 'the Father,' and that this was Christ, The Popes Victor, Zephyrinus and Callistus were considered favourable to Patripassianism. The case of Victor is doubtful, but Zephyrinus appears to have been inclined to this heresy, and Callistus taught much the same as Praxeas.

Noetus of Smyrna and certain of his disciples had a large following at Rome at this period. Noetus taught Patripassianism in its simplest and barest form. 'He said that Christ himself was the Father, and that the Father himself was born, and suffered, and died.'11   Hipp. c. Noet. 1. He accepted the Gospel of St John, but asserted that the 68 statements about the eternal Word were merely figurative and allegorical. His disciple Cleomenes held the theory that God is both invisible and visible and that when visible He is the Son. It is very probable that these teachers sincerely desired to maintain the great truth that it was God himself who chose to share man's griefs and trials, but it cannot be denied that their theory undermines some of the most important truths of the Gospel. There are reasons for thinking that their conception of God was influenced by the philosophy of the Stoics.

Sabellius taught the most complete and systematic form of Medalist Monarchianism. He appears to have been connected with the district of Pentapolis in Libya, and lectured in Rome in the days of Zephyrinus and Callistus. His influence was so important that Catholics in the East generally called Modalist Monarchians 'Sabellians.' He advanced beyond Noetus by giving a definite place in the Godhead to the Holy Spirit. Moreover, by teaching that the three divine persons are three distinct activities, he made a nearer approach to Catholic doctrine than Noetus. But the likeness between Sabellianism and Catholicism was only superficial. Sabellius was strictly Modalist. He held that God is a unit, and that as Father God is the Creator and Law-giver, as Son He is Redeemer, as Spirit He is the Giver of life and holiness. These modes of God's life were taught to be manifested successively and not simultaneously. They were called prosopa, a word which the Catholics sometimes employed to describe the different persons of the Trinity, but which Sabellius used in the sense of a transitory manifestation. He described God by the uncouth word Huiopator, Son-Father. Pope Callistus, in spite of his leaning towards Monarchianism, excommunicated Sabellius.

It is important to notice that the central idea of this doctrine was accepted by Schleiermacher, an eminent German preacher and writer of the early part of the nineteenth century. Schleiermacher became the founder of a large school of German theologians, who have used Christian phrases about the Trinity and the incarnation while rejecting the ancient and legitimate meaning of 69 such phrases. Even in England we may discern a tendency towards Sabellianism in shallow explanations of the Trinity as 'God in nature, God in history, and God in the conscience,' or in the statement that we preserve the doctrine of the Trinity if we recognise that God has revealed himself as Power, Wisdom, and Love, while denying that these three essential activities eternally knew and loved each other in a personal relationship.

Adoptionist Monarchianism.--This agrees with Modalist Monarchianism in holding that there is only one person in the Godhead. Its peculiarity is the theory that Jesus became the adopted Son of God, a divine power having been bestowed upon Him. It is assumed that Christ is essentially human. This heresy was brought to Rome by Theodotus, a tanner from Byzantium. He was expelled from the Church by Pope Victor about 190 or earlier. As St. Hippolytus shows that Theodotus taught that Jesus was only a human prophet on whom the Spirit, otherwise called Christ, descended at His baptism,11   Philos. vii. 35. we can safely assert that the view held by Theodotus as to 'the rule of faith' was very different from the view held by Catholic Christians. His heresy is often called Psilanthropisin (i.e. the doctrine that our Lord is 'mere man').

Another Theodotus, by profession a banker, taught the same doctrine at Rome in the time of Pope Zephyrinus. Christ, he said, was a 'mere man' who received the Holy Spirit as His baptism, and so became exalted to a quasidivine rank. Some of the followers of Theodotus believed that Christ became completely deified after His resurrection. Others denied this, and thought that He never was really God at all. The Theodotians affirmed that the apostles themselves had taught as they did, and that the truth of the Gospel-message had been kept until the times of Victor! In spite of the grotesque character of this assertion, it has been utilised by eminent modern Rationalists who have misunderstood the teaching of Hermas as Adoptionist, and endeavoured to establish a chain of Adoptionist teaching between the apostles and the Theodotians.

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Artemon who died about 270 was the last important teacher of Adoptionist Monarchianism in Rome.

Paul of Samosata stands out as the greatest representative of this school of thought. He was a Syrian and was bishop of Antioch, one of the most magnificent and populous cities in the empire, and was partly responsible both for the long-lived ecclesiastical jealousies between Antioch and Alexandria, and also for the Arian controversies of the fourth century.

Paul of Samosata taught that there was in God only one prosopon or person. The Word was only an impersonal power of God, just as the reason of any man is impersonal. This Word dwelt, or rather acted, in the prophets, especially Moses. In Jesus, the Child of the Virgin Mary, this Word dwelt in a peculiar degree. The Word however dwelt in Jesus, not essentially but as a quality. That is, Jesus was only a prophet more inspired than other prophets. At His baptism Jesus was anointed by the Holy Ghost and His nature became still more divine after His resurrection. He therefore became divine progressively, His progress being the reward of His love and obedience to God. He might be called 'God,' and be said to have 'one will with God.' These expressions were nevertheless only metaphorical. The real meaning of Paul of Samosata was that 'the Saviour was connected with God.' He consistently tried to put down the use of chants which implied the real Divinity of Christ.

His fellow-bishops regarded his doctrines with natural horror, and three successive synods were held at Antioch to consider his case. The last synod was held in 268 or 269, and it is known that it rejected the word homo-ousios, consubstantial, as applied to the Son. St. Hilary and St. Athanasius differ in their account of this circumstance. Athanasius suggests that the word was rejected by the Catholics because Paul said that they used it in a materialising sense; Hilary leads us to suppose that Paul used it to imply that the Word was an impersonal attribute of the Father, and that the Catholics therefore condemned it.

In 272 the Emperor Aurelian took from Paul the 71 ecclesiastical property of the Church of Antioch. But his influence was by no means at an end. His pupil, Lucian of Antioch, who was martyred in 312, changed the doctrine of Paul of Samosata by teaching that the Word who dwelt in Jesus was a semi-divine creature, a kind of demigod, and not an impersonal influence of the Father. He admitted that there was another Word which was the impersonal reason of God. This theory was so simple that it won acceptance, and among the hearers of Lucian who embraced this paganised Christianity were Arias and Eusebius of Nicomedia.

Something more similar to the original teaching of Paul lingered in some districts of the East. The Acts of the dispute of Archelaus and Manes, a document of the early part of the fourth century, is Adoptionist in its Christology, and the sect of the Pauliani was well-known in that century. It is more than probable that the notorious sect of the Paulicians, which spread over part of Europe during the Middle Ages, and had a few Armenian adherents even in the nineteenth century, was named after the great Syrian bishop. The word 'Paulician' is Armenian in form, and it seems that in the ninth century, or rather earlier, an Armenian named Smbat revived a crude form of the teaching of Paul of Samosata, and secured a host of followers among the less cultivated Armenians.

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