podcast 169 – Athanasius’s On the Nicene Council – Part 1

January 24, 2017

With this episode we continue our series on the 4th-century creed-producing councils of catholic bishops (see below for links to the earlier episodes in this series).

At this point in our story, the early 350s, we meet the man who is usually cast is the singular hero of the story: the famous Athanasius of Alexandria, aka St. Athanasius. We hear about his background and his troubled early tenure as bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, and what led to his officially declared (but not enforced) deposition and excommunication.

Then we hear the man himself, the first three chapters of his On the Nicene Council, also called Defence of the Nicene Definition, or by its Latin title De Decretis. This is the first known work of his in which he aggressively defends the new creedal language introduced at the famous council in 325, namely the term homoousion (“same essence” or “same substance” or “same being”), as describing the metaphysical relationship between the Father and the Son. This is a detailed letter to someone who has been arguing with “Eusebians,” catholics who were inclined to think that Nicea’s new language was unhelpful, and who apparently objected that it was unscriptural. Probably too they thought that Father and Son were united more by will than by “nature” or “essence;” at any rate, Athanasius labels them “Arians” and lumps them together with others and attempts to school them in proper theology. We get to hear the first three chapters of his lesson.

Links for this episode:

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

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