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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
ATHENAGORAS: Chapter XII.—Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XII.—Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism.

Should we, then, unless we believed that a God presides over the human race, thus purge ourselves from evil? Most certainly not. But, because we are persuaded that we shall give an account of everything in the present life to God, who made us and the world, we adopt a temperate and benevolent and generally despised method of life, believing that we shall suffer no such great evil here, even should our lives be taken from us, compared with what we shall there receive for our meek and benevolent and moderate life from the great Judge. Plato indeed has said that Minos and Rhadamanthus will judge and punish the wicked; but we say that, even if a man be Minos or Rhadamanthus himself, or their father, even he will not escape the judgment of God. Are, then, those who consider life to be comprised in this, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” and who regard death as a deep sleep and forgetfulness (“sleep and death, twin brothers” 735 ), to be accounted pious; while men who reckon the present life of very small worth indeed, and who are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity; and who know that the life for which we look is far better than can be described in words, provided we arrive at it pure from all wrong-doing; who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent, that we not only love our friends (“for if ye love them,” He says, “that love you, and lend to them that lend to you, what reward will ye have?” 736 ),—shall we, I say, when such is our character, and when we live such a life as this, that we may escape condemnation at last, not be accounted pious? These, however, are only small matters taken from great, and a few things from many, that we may not further trespass on your patience; for those who test honey and whey, judge by a small quantity whether the whole is good.


Footnotes

134:735

Hom., Il., xvi. 672.

134:736

Luke 6:32, 34; Matt. v. 46.


Next: Chapter XIII.—Why the Christians Do Not Offer Sacrifices.

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