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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 31

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 31.—Against the Arguments on Which the Platonists Ground Their Assertion that the Human Soul is Co-Eternal with God.

Why, then, do we not rather believe the divinity in those matters, which human talent cannot fathom?  Why do we not credit the assertion of divinity, that the soul is not co-eternal with God, but is created, and once was not?  For the Platonists seemed to themselves to allege an adequate reason for their rejection of this doctrine, when they affirmed that nothing could be everlasting which had not always existed.  Plato, however, in writing concerning the world and the gods in it, whom the Supreme made, most expressly states that they had a beginning and yet would have no end, but, by the sovereign will of the Creator, would endure eternally.  But, by way of interpreting this, the Platonists have discovered that he meant a beginning, not of time, but of cause.  “For as if a foot,” they say, “had been always from eternity in dust, there would always have been a print underneath it; and yet no one would doubt that this print was made by the pressure of the foot, nor that, though the one was made by the other, neither was prior to the other; so,” they say, “the world and the gods created in it have always been, their Creator always existing, and yet they were made.”  If, then, the soul has always existed, are we to say that its wretchedness has always existed?  For if there is something in it which was not from eternity, but began in time, why is it impossible that the soul itself, though not previously existing, should begin to be in time?  Its blessedness, too, which, as he owns, is to be more stable, and indeed endless, after the soul’s experience of evils,—this undoubtedly has a beginning in time, and yet is to be always, though previously it had no existence.  This whole argumentation, therefore, to establish that nothing can be endless except that which has had no beginning, falls to the ground.  For here we find the blessedness of the soul, which has a beginning, and yet has no end.  And, therefore, let the incapacity of man give place to the authority of God; and let us take our belief regarding the true religion from the ever-blessed spirits, who do not seek for themselves that honor which they know to be due p. 202 to their God and ours, and who do not command us to sacrifice save only to Him, whose sacrifice, as I have often said already, and must often say again, we and they ought together to be, offered through that Priest who offered Himself to death a sacrifice for us, in that human nature which He assumed, and according to which He desired to be our Priest.

Next: Chapter 32

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