Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Evil of Two Kinds, Penal and Criminal. It is Not of the Latter Sort that God is the Author, But Only of the Former, Which are Penal, and Included in His Justice.
Chapter XIV.—Evil of Two Kinds, Penal and Criminal. It is Not of the Latter Sort that God is the Author, But Only of the Former, Which are Penal, and Included in His Justice.
On all occasions does God meet you: it is He who smites, but also heals; who kills, but also makes alive; who humbles, and yet exalts; who “creates 2867 evil,” but also “makes peace;” 2868 —so that from these very (contrasts of His providence) I may get an answer to the heretics. Behold, they say, how He acknowledges Himself to be the creator of evil in the passage, “It is I who create evil.” They take a word whose one form reduces to confusion and ambiguity two kinds of evils (because both sins and punishments are called evils), and will have Him in every passage to be understood as the creator of all evil things, in order that He may be designated the author of evil. We, on the contrary, distinguish between the two meanings of the word in question, and, by separating evils of sin from penal evils, mala culpæ from mala pœnæ, confine to each of the two classes its own author,—the devil as the author of the sinful evils (culpæ), and God as the creator of penal evils (pœnæ); so that the one class shall be accounted as morally bad, and the other be classed as the operations of justice passing penal sentences against the evils of sin. Of the latter class of evils which are compatible with justice, God is therefore avowedly the creator. They are, no doubt, evil to those by whom they are endured, but still on their own account good, as being just and defensive of good and hostile to sin. In this respect they are, moreover, worthy of God. Else prove them to be unjust, in order to show them deserving of a place in the sinful class, that is to say, evils of injustice; because if they turn out to belong to justice, they will be no longer evil things, but good—evil only to the bad, by whom even directly good things are condemned as evil. In this case, you must decide that man, although the wilful contemner of the divine law, unjustly bore the doom which he would like to have escaped; that the wickedness of those days was unjustly smitten by the deluge, afterwards by the fire (of Sodom); that Egypt, although most depraved and superstitious, and, worse still, the harasser of its guest-population, 2869 was unjustly stricken with the chastisement of its ten plagues. God hardens the heart of Pharaoh. He deserved, however, to be influenced 2870 to his destruction, who had already denied God, already in his pride so often rejected His ambassadors, accumulated heavy burdens on His people, and (to sum up all) as an Egyptian, had long been guilty before God of Gentile idolatry, worshipping the ibis and the crocodile in preference to the living God. Even His own people did God visit in their ingratitude. 2871 Against young lads, too, p. 309 did He send forth bears, for their irreverence to the prophet. 2872
See Isa. xlv. 7.308:2869
Hospitis populi conflictatricem.308:2870
Subministrari. In Apol. ii., the verb ministrare is used to indicate Satans power in influencing men. [The translator here corrects his own word seduced and I have substituted his better word influenced. The Lord gave him over to Satans influence.]308:2871
Num. 11:0, Num. 21:0.309:2872
2 Kings 2:23, 24. [See notes 4, 5, 9, following.]
Next: The Severity of God Compatible with Reason and Justice. When Inflicted, Not Meant to Be Arbitrary, But Remedial.
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