St Gregory the Theologian: Oration 20 (part 3)

Eclectic Orthodoxy


St Gregory now comes to the heart of Oration 20: a succinct presentation of the Nicene understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity: “So we adore the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, dividing their individualities [hypostases] but uniting their godhead; and we neither blend the three into one thing, lest we be sick with Sabellius’s disease, nor do we divide them into three alien and unrelated things, lest we share Arius’s madness” (20.5). Gregory locates the orthodox understanding of God between two heretical extremes. On the one side there is the heresy of modalism, in which the Father, Son, and Spirit are understood to be temporal manifestations of one undifferentiated Deity. The historic representative of modalism was the third century heretic Sabellius, but in Gregory’s time a view akin to modalism was also being taught by Marcellus of Ancyra. On the other side…

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