Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XIII. The ideas of those philosophers are refuted who deny to God the care of the whole world, or of any of its parts.
The ideas of those philosophers are refuted who deny to God the care of the whole world, or of any of its parts.
47. But let us return to our point, lest we seem to have lost sight of the break we made in answering the ideas of those who, seeing some wicked men, rich, joyous, full of honours, and powerful, whilst many upright men are in want and are weak,—suppose therefore that God either cares nothing about us (which is what the Epicureans say), or that He is ignorant of mens actions as the wicked say—or that, if He knows all things, He is an unjust judge in allowing the good to be in want and the wicked to have abundance. But it did not seem out of place to make a digression to meet an idea of this kind and to contrast it with the feelings of those very persons whom they consider happy—for they think themselves wretched. I suppose they would believe themselves more readily than us.
48. After this digression I consider it an easy matter to refute the rest—above all the declaration of those who think that God has no care whatever for the world. For instance, Aristotle declares that His providence extends only to the moon. But what workman is there who gives no care to his work? Who would forsake and abandon what he believes himself to have produced? If it is derogatory to rule, is it not more so to have created? Though there is no wrong involved in not creating anything, it is surely the height of cruelty not to care for what one has created.
49. But if some deny God to be the Creator, and so count themselves amongst the beasts and irrational creatures, what shall we say of those who condemn themselves to such indignity? They themselves declare that God pervades all things, that all depend upon His power, that His might and majesty penetrate all the elements,—lands, heaven, and seas; yet they think it derogatory to Him to enter into mans spirit, which is the noblest thing He has given us, and to be there with the full knowledge of the divine Majesty.
50. But philosophers who are held to be reasonable laugh at the teacher 86 of these ideas as besotted and licentious. But what shall I say of Aristotles idea? He thinks that God is satisfied with His own narrow bounds, and lives within the prescribed limits of His kingdom. This, however, is also what the poets tales tell us. For they relate that the world is divided between three gods, so that it has fallen to the lot of one to restrain and rule heaven, to another the sea, and to a third the lower regions. They have also to take care not to stir up war one with the other by allowing thoughts and cares about the belongings of others to take hold of them. In the same way, Aristotle also declares that God has no care for the earth, as He has none for the sea or the lower regions. How is it that these philosophers shut out of their ranks the poets whose footsteps they follow? 87
It is only fair to state that the character of Epicurus is mainly known in modern times from opponents or persons who did not understand him. See the account in Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biography.9:87
Arist. Metaph. i. 2. An allusion to Aristotles saying that “the poets lie much.”
Next: Chapter XIV. Nothing escapes God's knowledge. This is proved by the witness of the Scriptures and the analogy of the sun, which, although created, yet by its light or heat enters into all things.
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