Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The True Doctrine of God the Creator. The Heretics Pretended to a Knowledge of the Divine Being, Opposed to and Subversive of Revelation. God's Nature and Ways Past Human Discovery. Adam's Heresy.
Chapter II.—The True Doctrine of God the Creator. The Heretics Pretended to a Knowledge of the Divine Being, Opposed to and Subversive of Revelation. Gods Nature and Ways Past Human Discovery. Adams Heresy.
We have now, then, cleared our way to the contemplation of the Almighty God, the Lord and Maker of the universe. His greatness, as I think, is shown in this, that from the beginning He made Himself known: He never hid Himself, but always shone out brightly, even before the time of Romulus, to say nothing of that of Tiberius; with the exception indeed that the heretics, and they alone, know Him not, although they take such pains about Him. They on this account suppose that another god must be assumed to exist, because they are more able to censure than deny Him whose existence is so evident, deriving all their thoughts about God from the deductions of sense; just as if some blind man, or a man of imperfect vision, 2700 chose to assume some other sun of milder and healthier ray, because he sees not that which is the object of sight. 2701 There is, O p. 298 man, but one sun which rules 2702 this world and even when you think otherwise of him, he is best and useful; and although to you he may seem too fierce and baneful, or else, it may be, too sordid and corrupt, he yet is true to the laws of his own existence. Unable as you are to see through those laws, you would be equally impotent to bear the rays of any other sun, were there one, however great and good. Now, you whose sight is defective 2703 in respect of the inferior god, what is your view of the sublimer One? Really you are too lenient 2704 to your weakness; and set not yourself to the proof 2705 of things, holding God to be certainly, undoubtedly, and therefore sufficiently known, the very moment you have discovered Him to exist, though you know Him not except on the side where He has willed His proofs to lie. But you do not even deny God intelligently, 2706 you treat of Him ignorantly; 2707 nay, you accuse Him with a semblance of intelligence, 2708 whom if you did but know Him, you would never accuse, nay, never treat of. 2709 You give Him His name indeed, but you deny the essential truth of that name, that is, the greatness which is called God; not acknowledging it to be such as, were it possible for it to have been known to man in every respect, 2710 would not be greatness. Isaiah even so early, with the clearness of an apostle, foreseeing the thoughts of heretical hearts, asked, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? For who hath been His counsellor? With whom took He counsel?…or who taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?” 2711 With whom the apostle agreeing exclaims, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” 2712 “His judgments unsearchable,” as being those of God the Judge; and “His ways past finding out,” as comprising an understanding and knowledge which no man has ever shown to Him, except it may be those critics of the Divine Being, who say, God ought not to have been this, 2713 and He ought rather to have been that; as if any one knew what is in God, except the Spirit of God. 2714 Moreover, having the spirit of the world, and “in the wisdom of God by wisdom knowing not God,” 2715 they seem to themselves to be wiser 2716 than God; because, as the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, so also the wisdom of God is folly in the worlds esteem. We, however, know that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 2717 Accordingly, God is then especially great, when He is small 2718 to man; then especially good, when not good in mans judgment; then especially unique, when He seems to man to be two or more. Now, if from the very first “the natural man, not receiving the things of the Spirit of God,” 2719 has deemed Gods law to be foolishness, and has therefore neglected to observe it; and as a further consequence, by his not having faith, “even that which he seemeth to have hath been taken from him” 2720 —such as the grace of paradise and the friendship of God, by means of which he might have known all things of God, if he had continued in his obedience—what wonder is it, if he, 2721 reduced to his material nature, and banished to the toil of tilling the ground, has in his very labour, downcast and earth-gravitating as it was, handed on that earth-derived spirit of the world to his entire race, wholly natural 2722 and heretical as it is, and not receiving the things which belong to God? Or who will hesitate to declare the great sin of Adam to have been heresy, when he committed it by the choice 2723 of his own will rather than of Gods? Except that Adam never said to his fig-tree, Why hast thou made me thus? He confessed that he was led astray; and he did not conceal the seducer. He was a very rude heretic. He was disobedient; but yet he did not blaspheme his Creator, nor blame that Author of his being, Whom from the beginning of his life he had found to be so good and excellent, and Whom he had perhaps 2724 made his own judge from the very first.
Quem videat non videt.298:2702
Quin potius parcis.298:2705
In periculum extenderis.298:2706
Comp. Isa. 40:13, 14, Rom. 11:34.298:2712
Rom. xi. 33.298:2713
Sic non debuit Deus. This perhaps may mean, God ought not to have done this, etc.298:2714
1 Cor. ii. 11.298:2715
1 Cor. i. 21.298:2716
1 Cor. i. 25.298:2718
1 Cor. ii. 14.298:2720
Luke 8:18, Matt. 13:12.298:2721
That is, the natural man, the ψυχικός.298:2722
Animali = ψυχικῷ.298:2723
Electionem. By this word our author translates the Greek αἵρεσις. Comp. De Præscr. Her. 6, p. 245, supra.298:2724
Next: God Known by His Works. His Goodness Shown in His Creative Energy; But Everlasting in Its Nature; Inherent in God, Previous to All Exhibition of It. The First Stage of This Goodness Prior to Man.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at