One of the blasphemies of fourth century Arianism, and every theology that has mimicked it ever since, involved the denial of the eternal existence of the person of the Son. They regarded him as the greatest of creatures, but finite, and therefore liable to change and to sin.
As a super exalted creature the Son's knowledge of the Father is greater than ours, but it is not the knowledge of an infinite Father known and rejoiced in by an infinite Son. The Father remained ineffable to the Son. The maxim that "the finite cannot comprehend the infinite" is true not only for ourselves, for the saints in heaven, and for angels and archangels, but also for the Son.
On the Arian view the Son of God was made, and not self-existent as God. "There was when he was not" was a differentiating article that separated Arian heresy from Christian orthodoxy. Of the eternal existence of the Son the Nicene Creed affirmed that the Son was "begotten, not made."
Indeed the Nicene Creed set out the following statement on the errors to be rejected and the consequence of holding to them:
But as for those who say, There was when he was not, and, Before being born he was not, and that he came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is from a different hypostasis or substance, or is created, or is subject to alteration or change--these the Catholic Church anathematizes.If the Arian view held true then not only would the deity of the Son be a mistaken idea but the very Fatherhood of God would also disappear. That is the logical consequence of denying the eternal Sonship of the Son. When did the Father become the Father? When he had a Son.
When the Arians pulled back the curtain and peered into eternity they wanted to say that God was a Father, but their claim wouldn't hold true when you peered all the way back into the very deepest recesses of eternity. When you looked that far back there was no ultimate personalism about God, no eternal Fatherhood, for there was no eternal Son.
Was there love and relationship at the very heart of the universe? Not at all. For the Arians there was an impersonal God, all dressed up in attributes, but with no one to love. When he created a Son, he then became the Father, but this was not the deepest truth about him. The personal nature of God needed an act of creation in order to flourish. Before there was a Son, what can be said of the personal nature of God is so thin and diminished as to be of no real worth.
Arianism was not only found wanting as an inadequate explanation of the being of God, a failure to explain the truth as it is in Scripture, it was also found to be chilling as a faith to live by.
Hilary of Poitiers set this out as follows (I will also include his prefatory remarks that touch on matters raised in the previous post):
But the errors of heretics and blasphemers force us to deal with unlawful matters, to scale perilous heights, to speak unutterable words, to trespass on forbidden ground. Faith ought in silence to fulfil the commandments, worshipping the Father, reverencing with Him the Son, abounding in the Holy Ghost, but we must strain the poor resources of our language to express thoughts too great for words. The error of others compels us to err in daring to embody in human terms truths which ought to be hidden in the silent veneration of the heart.
For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text.
Is not truth indestructible? When we hear the name Father, is not sonship involved in that Name? The Holy Ghost is mentioned by name; must He not exist? We can no more separate fatherhood from the Father or sonship from the Son than we can deny the existence in the Holy Ghost of that gift which we receive.
Yet men of distorted mind plunge the whole matter in doubt and difficulty, fatuously reversing the clear meaning of words, and depriving the Father of His fatherhood because they wish to strip the Son of His sonship. They take away the fatherhood by asserting that the Son is not a Son by nature.
On the Trinity, Book 2, sections 2-3