Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Against the Heathen. (Contra Gentes.): But neither can the cosmic organism be God. For that would make God consist of dissimilar parts, and subject Him to possible dissolution.
§28. But neither can the cosmic organism be God. For that would make God consist of dissimilar parts, and subject Him to possible dissolution.
How then can these things be gods, seeing that they need one anothers assistance? Or how is it proper to ask anything of them when they too ask help for themselves one from another? For if it is an admitted truth about God that He stands in need of nothing, but is self-sufficient and self-contained, and that in Him all things have their being, and that He ministers to all rather than they to Him, how p. 19 is it right to proclaim as gods the sun and moon and other parts of creation, which are of no such kind, but which even stand in need of one anothers help? 2. But, perhaps, if divided and taken by themselves, our opponents themselves will admit that they are dependent, the demonstration being an ocular one. But they will combine all together, as constituting a single body, and will say that the whole is God. For the whole once put together, they will no longer need external help, but the whole will be sufficient for itself and independent in all respects; so at least the would-be philosophers will tell us, only to be refuted here once more. 3. Now this argument, not one whit less than those previously dealt with, will demonstrate their impiety coupled with great ignorance. For if the combination of the parts makes up the whole, and the whole is combined out of the parts, then the whole consists of the parts, and each of them is a portion of the whole. But this is very far removed from the conception of God. For God is a whole and not a number of parts, and does not consist of diverse elements, but is Himself the Maker of the system of the universe. For see what impiety they utter against the Deity when they say this. For if He consists of parts, certainly it will follow that He is unlike Himself, and made up of unlike parts. For if He is sun, He is not moon, and if He is moon, He is not earth, and if He is earth, He cannot be sea: and so on, taking the parts one by one, one may discover the absurdity of this theory of theirs. 4. But the following point, drawn from the observation of our human body, is enough to refute them. For just as the eye is not the sense of hearing, nor is the latter a hand: nor is the belly the breast, nor again is the neck a foot, but each of these has its own function, and a single body is composed of these distinct parts,—having its parts combined for use, but destined to be divided in course of time when nature, that brought them together, shall divide them at the will of God, Who so ordered it;—thus (but may He that is above pardon the argument 144 ), if they combine the parts of creation into one body and proclaim it God, it follows, firstly, that He is unlike Himself, as shewn above; secondly, that He is destined to be divided again, in accordance with the natural tendency of the parts to separation.
Cf. Orat. i. 25, note 2.
Next: The balance of powers in Nature shews that it is not God, either collectively, or in parts.
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