A Son by Participation

Still reading through Gregg and Groh and still finding their analysis helpful. In distinguishing the orthodox (i.e., Nicean) understanding of the Son’s relationship with the Father from the Arian, they stress the idea of “participation” (μετοχή). For the Nicean’s (and for Origen as well), the participation of the Son was conceived in substantial terms. This helps us understand why Origen could in his time speak of the Son as a creature and use highly subordinist language. The Son really was created/begotten (at this time, such terms were almost synonymous), but this took place from all eternity (i.e., eternal generation) and was in participation with the Father’s nature/essence. Arians, on the other hand, understood participation in ethical terms, adopting more of a “Stoic” model (though Hanson critiques this). According to Gregg and Groh, the Arian “Son” is a son by adoption for he lives in perfect obedience to the will of God. God, foreknowing this, elected Jesus to become the savior. But, what does Salvation look like for the Arians? I’m still unclear about this right now and I hope Gregg and Groh’s book will elucidate it (or maybe even Hanson). What I do understand is that for the Nicean’s, salvation involves a fundamental change in an individual’s nature. This can only happen if Jesus is of the same essence as the Father (if he weren’t, as Anselm points out so clearly in Cur Deus Homo, we would become like something not quite God and not quite human). So this makes me wonder if the Arian view of salvation is one in which no fundamental change in an individual’s nature takes place, but instead (if it is understood in Stoic terms) the individual is able to lead a virtuous life in conformity to the will of God, the primary example being that of Jesus. I’m not sure if the Arians would speak of an empowering the way that I am used to; as a literal enablement where by I can accomplish what I once was (though potentially possible) unable to to do. More so, if one strives to be consistent with this view of God (which I believe to be the starting point for all other theology), then what implications does that have for ideas of justification and atonement? I think I’m beginning to see why Augustine thought of justification in terms of impartation and not imputation and I’m no sure if it was just because of the bad latin translation which he was using. Indeed, it seems to be the logical outcome of understanding the Son’s relationship to the Father in substantial terms. To put it conversely, if the point of salvation is not to enact a fundamental change in an individual’s nature, then is there really a reason for the Son to be of the same essence as the Father? Or, to put it more provocatively, does a view of justification as imputation only lead to Arianism?


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