Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Impossibility of Acknowledging God Without This External Evidence Of His Existence. Marcion's Rejection of Such Evidence for His God Savours of Impudence and Malignity.
Chapter XII.—Impossibility of Acknowledging God Without This External Evidence 2461 Of His Existence. Marcions Rejection of Such Evidence for His God Savours of Impudence and Malignity.
But even if we were able to allow that he exists, we should yet be bound to argue that he is without a cause. 2462 For he who had nothing (to show for himself as proof of his existence), would be without a cause, since (such) proof 2463 is the whole cause that there exists p. 280 some person to whom the proof belongs. Now, in as far as nothing ought to be without a cause, that is, without a proof (because if it be without a cause, it is all one as if it be not, not having the very proof which is the cause of a thing), in so far shall I more worthily believe that God does not exist, than that He exists without a cause. For he is without a cause who has not a cause by reason of not having a proof. God, however, ought not to be without a cause, that is to say, without a proof. Thus, as often as I show that He exists without a cause, although (I allow 2464 that) He exists, I do really determine this, that He does not exist; because, if He had existed, He could not have existed altogether without a cause. 2465 So, too, even in regard to faith itself, I say that he 2466 seeks to obtain it 2467 without cause from man, who is otherwise accustomed to believe in God from the idea he gets of Him from the testimony of His works: 2468 (without cause, I repeat,) because he has provided no such proof as that whereby man has acquired the knowledge of God. For although most persons believe in Him, they do not believe at once by unaided reason, 2469 without having some token of Deity in works worthy of God. And so upon this ground of inactivity and lack of works he 2470 is guilty both of impudence and malignity: of impudence, in aspiring after a belief which is not due to him, and for which he has provided no foundation; 2471 of malignity, in having brought many persons under the charge of unbelief by furnishing to them no groundwork for their faith.
The word cause throughout this chapter is used in the popular, inaccurate sense, which almost confounds it with effect, the “causa cognoscendi,” as distinguished from the “causa essendi,” the strict cause.279:2462
The word cause throughout this chapter is used in the popular, inaccurate sense, which almost confounds it with effect, the “causa cognoscendi,” as distinguished from the “causa essendi,” the strict cause.279:2463
The word “res” is throughout this argument used strictly by Tertullian; it refers to “the thing” made by God—that product of His creative energy which affords to us evidence of His existence. We have translated it “proof” for want of a better word.280:2464
The “tanquam sit,” in its subjunctive form, seems to refer to the concession indicated at the outset of the chapter.280:2465
Omnino sine causa.280:2466
Illum, i.e., Marcions god.280:2467
Deum ex operum auctoritate formatum.280:2469
Non statim ratione, on a priori grounds.280:2470
i.e., Marcions god.280:2471
Compare Rom. i. 20, a passage which is quite subversive of Marcions theory.
Next: The Marcionites Depreciate the Creation, Which, However, is a Worthy Witness of God. This Worthiness Illustrated by References to the Heathen Philosophers, Who Were Apt to Invest the Several Parts of Creation with Divine Attributes.
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