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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 28

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 28.—How It is that Porphyry Has Been So Blind as Not to Recognize the True Wisdom—Christ.

You drive men, therefore, into the most palpable error.  And yet you are not ashamed of doing so much harm, though you call yourself a lover of virtue and wisdom.  Had you been true and faithful in this profession, you would have recognized Christ, the virtue of God and the wisdom of God, and would not, in the pride of vain science, have revolted from His wholesome humility.  Nevertheless you acknowledge that the spiritual part of the soul can be purified by the virtue of chastity without the aid of those theurgic arts and mysteries which you wasted your time in learning.  You even say, sometimes, that these mysteries do not raise the soul after death, so that, after the termination of this life, they seem to be of no service even to the part you call spiritual; and yet you recur on every opportunity to these arts, for no other purpose, so far as I see, than to appear an accomplished theurgist, and gratify those who are curious in illicit arts, or else to inspire others with the same curiosity.  But we give you all praise for saying that this art is to be feared, both on account of the legal enactments against it, and by reason of the danger involved in the very practice of it.  And would that in this, at least, you were listened to by its wretched votaries, that they might be withdrawn from entire absorption in it, or might even be preserved from tampering with it at all!  You say, indeed, that ignorance, and the numberless vices resulting from it, cannot be removed by any mysteries, but only by the πατρικὸς νοῦς, that is, the Father’s mind or intellect conscious of the Father’s will.  But that Christ is this mind you do not believe; for Him you despise on account of the body He took of a woman and the shame of the cross; for your lofty wisdom spurns such low and contemptible things, and soars to more exalted regions.  But He fulfills what the holy prophets truly predicted regarding Him:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nought the prudence of the prudent.” 429   For He does not destroy and bring to nought His own gift in them, but what they arrogate to themselves, and do not hold of Him.  And hence the apostle, having quoted this testimony from the prophet, adds, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?  Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger p. 199 than men.” 430   This is despised as a weak and foolish thing by those who are wise and strong in themselves; yet this is the grace which heals the weak, who do not proudly boast a blessedness of their own, but rather humbly acknowledge their real misery.



Isa. 29.14.


1 Cor. 1.19-25.

Next: Chapter 29

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