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Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology [Paperback]

by Lewis Ayres
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 22, 2006 0198755058 978-0198755050
Lewis Ayres offers a new account of the most important century in the development of Christian belief after Christ. He shows how the doctrine of the Trinity was developed, and in particular argues that a conception of God's mysteriousness and spiritual progress towards understanding is central to that doctrine. He also proposes that modern theologies of the Trinity fail to appreciate the depth and power of Nicene trinitarianism.

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Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology + Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine + Cyril of Jerusalem (The Early Church Fathers)
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Editorial Reviews


"Bold and erudite...This ambitious work justly shows how crucial the study of the fourth century is for understanding traditional or mainstream trinitarian theology, and it has succeeded already in fostering greater conversation toward this end." --Journal of Religion

About the Author

Lewis Ayres is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at the Candler School of Theology and the Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198755058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198755050
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the cover August 29, 2005
From the back of the book:

The first part of this book offers a new narrative of the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies. It takes forward modern revisionary scholarship, showing the slow emergence of the theologies that came to constitute pro-Nicene orthodoxy. Ancient heresiological categories, such as "Arian" and "Neo-Arian," are avoided while the unity of "Nicene" theologies is not assumed. In the second part, the author offers a new account of the unity in diversity of late fourth-century pro-Nicene theologies. In particular he argues that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed and the statements of unity and plurality in the Trinity to be found in all pro-Nicene theologians and in Theodosius' anti-heretical legislation were intended to be understood in the context of a broad set of theological practices and assumptions. He offers an account of the basic strategies that ground pro-Nicene theology, focusing on common epistemological concerns, a common notion of purification and sanctification, and a common aesthetics of faith. He also provides detailed introductions to the Trinitarian theology of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine of Hippo. Throughout the first two parts of the book a constant concern is to show that the common acceptance of a basic division between eastern and western Trinitarian theologies is unsustainable. Finally, the author considers the failure of modern Trinitarian theology to engage pro-Nicene theology in a substantial manner. Fundamental characteristics of the culture of modern systematic theology, especially the role of narrative and the influence of Hegel, prevent appreciation of the theological culture essential to pro-Nicene theology.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Likely the new standard for doctoral seminars March 20, 2012
By Jacob
For the most part Ayres gives us a magisterial survey and exposition of the Nicene era. His goal is to identify and commend what he terms a "pro-Nicene" theology. His second goal is to combat a problematic understanding of Trinitarian theology: Eastern personalism vs. Western monism, also known as the "De Regnon" Thesis.

He begins his narrative as most do--with a discussion of Origen. Ayres helpfully notes that early Christian thinkers were reticent to use the term "homousios" since it implied a material division in God. Also, "hypostasis" was seen as connoting a reality; therefore, thinkers were reluctant to confess multiple realities in God.

Ayres then continues with a long discussion of Athanasios. While he gives us much useful information and helpfully establishes the context, he really isn't breaking any new ground. Ayres' key sections deal with explicating his "pro-Nicene" theology, particularly as the Cappadocians relate to Augustine. He gives us very helpful analyses of the two Gregories and Hilary.

Of his erudition and scholarship there can be no doubt. This will likely serve as a standard reference for doctoral students, and rightly so. I do not think his analyses are wrong, just incomplete. I agree with Ayres that simplistic readings of "Greek vs. West" are wrong. I just don't see it as really that prevalent, even among Orthodox scholars. They only people I've seen fret over this issue are Ayres' disciples. Even a radical Orthodox scholar like Joseph Farrell--who wrote a 1,200 page critique of forms of Western culture, never reduced scholarship to those categories. I honestly think Ayres is shadow-boxing dead Frenchmen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful February 20, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the development of doctrine as it occured at Nicea in the fourth century, this is an excellent book showing not only the development of doctrine but that modern scholars can fully comprehend the issues and nuances of the issue. I truly enjoyed it and learned much.
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15 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding study October 29, 2007
This is a remarkable book. The sheer learning and expertise radiates from the pages. Granted this is a technical discussion of the legacy of Nicaea, but it is also accessible. One finishes the book with a real grasp and understanding of the achievement of the Church Fathers.
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5 of 52 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written and researched August 13, 2010
By Wu Wei
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was disappointing that this book is pure opinion, without any evidence to prove its case. The first two sections are a historical survey, loaded with various conclusions and summaries for which no evidence is presented at all. The footnotes either just refer to a few primary sources, or give more unproven opinions.

The third section of the book then in a bizarre fashion attempt to show that the "pro-Nicenes" all believe certain doctrines which were not even mentioned in the creed, such as deification. In each case the same logical fallacy is used to attempt to prove the case: arguing from a few specifics to a general. Quotes from primary sources of a few fathers who favor a specific doctrine, like deification, are quoted. The author then states what he thinks those quotes show that the fathers believed, which in itself is very debatable and just the author's unproven opinion. Finally comes the logical fallacy of assuming that since a few pro-Nicene fathers (supposedly) believed a certain doctrine, then ALL the Nicenes must believe it. Which is like saying that 3 pro-Nicenes had brown eyes, so ALL of them must have brown eyes.

Of course any author has the right to throw out unproven opinions as thought provokers. That is why I award two stars. But it is very disappointing that from its cover this book has the appearance of being a researched and formally documented argument, which it clearly is not.
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Topic From this Discussion
Is Jesus God?
I couldn't agree more. Jesus' divinity has to be read into the Gospels (especially the Synoptics) rather than drawn from it. At what point did the "Son of God" begin to be interpreted "God the Son"? And if Jesus really was God, how could God die on the cross, or did only half... Read more
Dec 1, 2007 by DocRoc |  See all 4 posts
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