The well-known patristic scholar and authority on the philosophy and theology of the Holy Fathers, Georges Florovsiky speaks of a very important element in Athanasian theology which proved very important for later Eastern theology.
Having beforehand shown the absence of a concept of creation (from nothing — ex nihilo) in Greek philosophy and the problematics of Origen’s understanding of creation, the author presents St. Athanasius' concept of creation as an act of will (or action) of God, completely differrent from the concept of begetting, as that which is related to (which belongs to) the being itself or the essence of God. For St. Athanasius there exists in God Himself a real distinction between these two acts, one internal and natural — begetting, and the other external and a result of willing — creation. This real distinction of St. Athanasius was used as his argument against the heresy of Arianism. With such a precise theological distinction he liberated pre-Nicean theology from much of its ambiguity and danger. Pre-Nicean theology did not always distinguish between theology and economy, but St. Athanasius insisted on precisely that distinction. This understanding of creation as an act not by nature, but by the will or energy of God, St. Athanasius bequeathed to the Eastern Fathers following him up until St. Gregory Palamas and St. Mark of Ephesus.
We direct our English speaking readers to the full text of this article by Georges Florovsky in »Studia Patristica«, VI, ed. by F. L. Gross (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristliichen Literatur, Band 81, p. 36—57, Akademie—Verlag, Berlin 1962).