Today I've been thinking about the Homoiousians. I imagine you think about them from time to time as well, but just in case they've not been at the forefront of your mind recently, let me remind you who they were. The Homoiousians were the moderate party in the fourth century debates about the person of Christ. They positioned themselves between the Homoousians on the one hand (note the lack of 'i' - homo rather than homoi) and the Arians on the other. To boil it right down, whilst the Homoousians said that God the Son was of one being with the Father, and the Arians said that God the Son was unlike the Father, the Homoiousians said that the Son was similar to or like the Father in his essence and attributes.
As we all know (right?), the Homoousians ultimately won the day; the Gospel story required the relationship between Father and Son which they championed. Arianism has been denounced as heresy by all branches of the Christian church.
But my thinking today has not really about the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of yesteryear. Rather I've been thinking about the role played by the 'moderates', the Homoiousians, in all this debate. They were a varied bunch. Some were very slippery characters; they had Arian sympathies, but lacked the courage of their convictions. Others were simply concerned for the unity of the church; they wanted to try to acommodate the views of as many as possible (whilst ruling out the extremes of Arianism). Others just felt that it wasn't as important as everyone was making out; they just wanted to preach the gospel without getting mixed up in this abstract argument.
History has not judged their efforts kindly, nor should it. Whatever the motives, good or bad, the attempt to moderate and compromise and hold people together led to the Homoiousians advocating, or at least tolerating, heretical doctrine. They did not, in the final analysis, speak the truth about God. Had they been allowed to triumph, the Gospel would have disappeared. In the end, whatever they hoped to achieve, they were in fact aiding and abetting the enemy.
I've been thinking about Homoiousians as I reflect on the role some people I respect very much are playing in the big debates in the church today - especially around gender and sexuality. I worry that in trying to be gentle, kind, moderate... they're running the danger of being on the wrong side. When it comes down to it, on this and all issues, we have to listen and speak. If God said nothing on the subject, we'd jolly well better shut up. But if he spoke, we'd better hear what he says and articulate it clearly. No messing around. No fudging, no hedging, no softening the edges. Rather, gentleness with clarity.