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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Goodness of Marcion's God Only Imperfectly Manifested; It Saves But Few, and the Souls Merely of These. Marcion's Contempt of the Body Absurd.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXIV.—The Goodness of Marcion’s God Only Imperfectly Manifested; It Saves But Few, and the Souls Merely of These. Marcion’s Contempt of the Body Absurd.

But as God is eternal and rational, so, I think, He is perfect in all things. “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 2619 Prove, then, that the goodness of your god also is a perfect one. That it is indeed imperfect has been already sufficiently shown, since it is found to be neither natural nor rational. The same conclusion, however, shall now be made clear 2620 by another method; it is not simply 2621 imperfect, but actually 2622 feeble, weak, and exhausted, failing to embrace the full number 2623 of its material objects, and not manifesting itself in them all. For all are not put into a state of salvation 2624 by it; but the Creator’s subjects, both Jew and Christian, are all excepted. 2625 Now, when the greater part thus perish, how can that goodness be defended as a perfect one which is inoperative in most cases, is somewhat only in few, naught in many, succumbs to perdition, and is a partner with destruction? 2626 And if so many shall miss salvation, it will not be with goodness, but with malignity, that the greater perfection will lie. For as it is the operation of goodness which brings salvation, so is it malevolence which thwarts it. 2627 Since, however, this goodness) saves but few, and so rather leans to the alternative of not saving, it will show itself to greater perfection by not interposing help than by helping. Now, you will not be able to attribute goodness (to your god) in reference to the Creator, (if accompanied with) failure towards all. For whomsoever you call in to judge the question, it is as a dispenser of goodness, if so be such a title can be made out, 2628 and not as a squanderer thereof, as you claim your god to be, that you must submit the divine character for determination.  So long, then, as you prefer your god to the Creator on the simple ground of his goodness, and since he professes to have this attribute as solely and wholly his own, he ought not to have been wanting in it to any one. However, I do not now wish to prove that Marcion’s god is imperfect in goodness because of the perdition of the greater number. I am content to illustrate p. 290 this imperfection by the fact that even those whom he saves are found to possess but an imperfect salvation—that is, they are saved only so far as the soul is concerned, 2629 but lost in their body, which, according to him, does not rise again. Now, whence comes this halving of salvation, if not from a failure of goodness? What could have been a better proof of a perfect goodness, than the recovery of the whole man to salvation? Totally damned by the Creator, he should have been totally restored by the most merciful god. I rather think that by Marcion’s rule the body is baptized, is deprived of marriage, 2630 is cruelly tortured in confession. But although sins are attributed to the body, yet they are preceded by the guilty concupiscence of the soul; nay, the first motion of sin must be ascribed to the soul, to which the flesh acts in the capacity of a servant. By and by, when freed from the soul, the flesh sins no more. 2631 So that in this matter goodness is unjust, and likewise imperfect, in that it leaves to destruction the more harmless substance, which sins rather by compliance than in will. Now, although Christ put not on the verity of the flesh, as your heresy is pleased to assume, He still vouchsafed to take upon Him the semblance thereof. Surely, therefore, some regard was due to it from Him, because of this His feigned assumption of it. Besides, what else is man than flesh, since no doubt it was the corporeal rather than the spiritual 2632 element from which the Author of man’s nature gave him his designation? 2633 “And the Lord God made man of the dust of the ground,” not of spiritual essence; this afterwards came from the divine afflatus:  “and man became a living soul.”  What, then, is man? Made, no doubt of it, of the dust; and God placed him in paradise, because He moulded him, not breathed him, into being—a fabric of flesh, not of spirit. Now, this being the case, with what face will you contend for the perfect character of that goodness which did not fail in some one particular only of man’s deliverance, but in its general capacity? If that is a plenary grace and a substantial mercy which brings salvation to the soul alone, this were the better life which we now enjoy whole and entire; whereas to rise again but in part will be a chastisement, not a liberation.  The proof of the perfect goodness is, that man, after his rescue, should be delivered from the domicile and power of the malignant deity unto the protection of the most good and merciful God.  Poor dupe of Marcion, fever 2634 is hard upon you; and your painful flesh produces a crop of all sorts of briers and thorns. Nor is it only to the Creator’s thunderbolts that you lie exposed, or to wars, and pestilences, and His other heavier strokes, but even to His creeping insects. In what respect do you suppose yourself liberated from His kingdom when His flies are still creeping upon your face? If your deliverance lies in the future, why not also in the present, that it may be perfectly wrought? Far different is our condition in the sight of Him who is the Author, the Judge, the injured 2635 Head of our race! You display Him as a merely good God; but you are unable to prove that He is perfectly good, because you are not by Him perfectly delivered.


Footnotes

289:2619

Matt. v. 48.

289:2620

Traducetur.

289:2621

Nec jam.

289:2622

Immo.

289:2623

Minor numero.

289:2624

Non fiunt salvi. [Kaye, p. 347.]

289:2625

Pauciores.

289:2626

Partiaria exitii.

289:2627

Non facit salvos.

289:2628

Si forte (i.e., εἰ τύχοι εἴπερ ἄρα, with a touch of irony,— a frequent phrase in Tertullian.

290:2629

Anima tenus. Comp.De Præscr. Hær. 33, where Marcion, as well as Apelles, Valentinus, and others, are charged with the Sadducean denial of the resurrection of the flesh, which is censured by St. Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 12.

290:2630

Compare De Præscr. Hær. 33, where Marcion and Apelles are brought under St. Paul’s reproach in 1 Tim. iv. 3.

290:2631

Hactenus. [Kaye, p. 260.]

290:2632

Animalis (from anima, the vital principle, “the breath of life”) is here opposed to corporalis.

290:2633

םרָאָהָ, homo, from המָרַאְַהָ, humus, the ground; see the Hebrew of Gen. ii. 7.

290:2634

Febricitas.

290:2635

Offensum, probably in respect of the Marcionite treatment of His attributes.


Next: God is Not a Being of Simple Goodness; Other Attributes Belong to Him. Marcion Shows Inconsistency in the Portraiture of His Simply Good and Emotionless God.

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