One of Athanasius’ supporters was Marcellus, in whom the Monarchianistic tradition entered the discussion. He was a man always in intimate friendship with Athanasius, always accepted by him, although finally, after Athanasius’ death, condemned by the more Origenistic theologians who didn’t like his Monarchianistic trends. His emphasis was on monotheism. Before the creation, God was a mona a unity without differentiation. His Logos was in Him, but was in Him only as a potential’ power, only as a possibility for creation, but not yet as an actual power. Only with the creation does the Logos proceed and become the acting energy of God in all things, through Whom all things have been made. In this moment something has happened – the Divine monas has become broader; it has become a duas, the unity has become a duality. In the incarnation, in the act in which the Logos took on flesh – not became flesh but took on flesh – the second “economy” is performed. An actual separation has occurred between Father and Son, in spite of the remaining potential unity, so that it is now possible for the “eyes of faith” to see the Father in the Son. And then a further broadening of the monas and of the duas occurs. when after the resurrection of Christ the Spirit becomes a relatively independent power in the Christian Church.
But all this separation is only preliminary. The independence of the Spirit and of the Son is nothing final. The Son and the Spirit will finally return into the unity with the Father, and then the flesh of Jesus will wither away. The potential, or eternal, Logos should not be called the Son. He becomes the Son only through the incarnation and resurrection. In Jesus a new man, a new manhood, appears, united with the Logos by love.
Now this is a dynamic Monarchianistic system. The Trinity is dynamized, is put into movement, (approaches) history, and has lost the static character it has in the; genuine Origenistic thinking. But this system was rejected. It was accused of being Sabellian, of representing that kind of Monarchianism in which God the Father Himself appears on earth. Origen and the system of degrees and hierarchies triumphed, against Marcellus, But the fight went on. The Origenistic protest against the homoouseous, against the one substance between Father and Son, led not only to a fight against a man like Marcellus or a man like Athanasius , it led finally to a fight against the Nicaenum itself – only in the east, of course, but there, with strongest power and passion, not only Marcellus but also Athanasius were condemned. The Origenists, who were overwhelmed by the pressure of the emperor in Nicaea, gathered again and gathered such strength that they insisted, against the Nicaenum, on three substances, and could get away with it” It was – if you want to call it so – a pluralistic interpretation of the Trinity; it was an interpretation in the, scheme of emanation, of hierarchies, of powers of being. The unconditional is seen in degrees; but only the Father is, in an unlimited way, unconditional. He alone is the source of everything:,eternal and temporal. This was the mood of the Eastern theologians and of the Eastern popular piety It prevailed again and again, in some cases under strong support of the emperor, who defied the decision of his predecessor Constantine and now tried to press the supporters of the Nicaenum against the Nicaenum.
But there was a shortcoming in Eastern theology. It was united only negatively; it was not united in a positive decision. So it was easy to split it and reduce its power of resistance against the Nicaenum. There were some in the East who practically returned to Arius; they were called the anhomoioi, which means: Christ is not even similar to God; He is completely a creature. There were others who mediated between the Nicaenum and the mood of the East. They were called the homoiousianoi , those who believed not in the homoousios but in the homoiousios , (the latter is derived from homoios (meaning “similar” and ousia, “essence.”)… So we now have the struggle between the homoosioui and the homoiousioi . The hostile pagans in Alexandria made jokes about this fight going on in the streets and barber shops and in the different stores and everywhere: the Christians fight about the iota, the smallest letter of the alphabet – the only letter distinguishing homoousios from homoiousios. But there was behind it more than an iota; there was behind it another piety. For the homoousianoi Father and Son are equal in every respect, but they have no identical substance. This group interpreted the Nicene formula homoousios , which they couldn’t remove any more, in the sense of homoiousios, and even Athanasius and the West finally agreed that this could be done, if only the West accepts the formula homoousios. The West accepted the eternal generation of the Son – a formula which comes from Origen and which the West didn’t like so much before – and with it they accepted the inner Divine, the non-“economic”, non-historical Trinity, which is eternal.