Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: To the Severity of God There Belong Accessory Qualities, Compatible with Justice. If Human Passions are Predicated of God, They Must Not Be Measured on the Scale of Human Imperfection.
Chapter XVI.—To the Severity of God There Belong Accessory Qualities, Compatible with Justice. If Human Passions are Predicated of God, They Must Not Be Measured on the Scale of Human Imperfection.
Even His severity then is good, because just: when the judge is good, that is just. Other qualities likewise are good, by means of which the good work of a good severity runs out its course, whether wrath, or jealousy, 2882 or sternness. 2883 For all these are as indispensable 2884 to severity as severity is to justice. The shamelessness of an age, which ought to have been reverent, had to be avenged. Accordingly, qualities which pertain to the judge, when they are actually free from blame, as the judge himself is, will never be able to be charged upon him as a fault. 2885 What would be said, if, when you thought the doctor necessary, you were to find fault with his instruments, because they cut, or cauterize, or amputate, or tighten; whereas there could be no doctor of any value without his professional tools? Censure, if you please, the practitioner who cuts badly, amputates clumsily, is rash in his cautery; and even blame his implements as rough tools of his art. Your conduct is equally unreasonable, 2886 when you allow indeed that God is a judge, but at the same time destroy those operations and dispositions by which He discharges His judicial functions. We are taught 2887 God by the prophets, and by Christ, not by the philosophers nor by Epicurus. We who believe that God really lived on earth, and took upon Him the low estate of human form, 2888 for the purpose of mans salvation, are very far from thinking as those do who refuse to believe that God cares for 2889 anything. Whence has found its way to the heretics an argument of this kind: If God is angry, and jealous, and roused, and grieved, He must therefore be corrupted, and must therefore die. Fortunately, however, it is a part of the creed of Christians even to believe that God did die, 2890 and yet that He is alive for evermore. Superlative is their folly, who prejudge divine things from human; so p. 310 that, because in mans corrupt condition there are found passions of this description, therefore there must be deemed to exist in God also sensations 2891 of the same kind. Discriminate between the natures, and assign to them their respective senses, which are as diverse as their natures require, although they seem to have a community of designations. We read, indeed, of Gods right hand, and eyes, and feet: these must not, however, be compared with those of human beings, because they are associated in one and the same name. Now, as great as shall be the difference between the divine and the human body, although their members pass under identical names, so great will also be the diversity between the divine and the human soul, notwithstanding that their sensations are designated by the same names. These sensations in the human being are rendered just as corrupt by the corruptibility of mans substance, as in God they are rendered incorruptible by the incorruption of the divine essence. Do you really believe the Creator to be God? By all means, is your reply. How then do you suppose that in God there is anything human, and not that all is divine? Him whom you do not deny to be God, you confess to be not human; because, when you confess Him to be God, you have, in fact, already determined that He is undoubtedly diverse from every sort of human conditions. Furthermore, although you allow, with others, 2892 that man was inbreathed by God into a living soul, not God by man, it is yet palpably absurd of you to be placing human characteristics in God rather than divine ones in man, and clothing God in the likeness of man, instead of man in the image of God. And this, therefore, is to be deemed the likeness of God in man, that the human soul have the same emotions and sensations as God, although they are not of the same kind; differing as they do both in their conditions and their issues according to their nature. Then, again, with respect to the opposite sensations,—I mean meekness, patience, mercy, and the very parent of them all, goodness,—why do you form your opinion of 2893 the divine displays of these (from the human qualities)? For we indeed do not possess them in perfection, because it is God alone who is perfect. So also in regard to those others,—namely, anger and irritation, we are not affected by them in so happy a manner, because God alone is truly happy, by reason of His property of incorruptibility. Angry He will possibly be, but not irritated, nor dangerously tempted; 2894 He will be moved, but not subverted. 2895 All appliances He must needs use, because of all contingencies; as many sensations as there are causes: anger because of the wicked, and indignation because of the ungrateful, and jealousy because of the proud, and whatsoever else is a hinderance to the evil. So, again, mercy on account of the erring, and patience on account of the impenitent, and pre-eminent resources 2896 on account of the meritorious, and whatsoever is necessary to the good. All these affections He is moved by in that peculiar manner of His own, in which it is profoundly fit 2897 that He should be affected; and it is owing to Him that man is also similarly affected in a way which is equally his own.
Proinde est enim.309:2887
[See Vol. II. p. 71 (this series), for an early example of this Communicatio idiomatum.]310:2891
Præsumitis. [So of generation, Sonship, etc.]310:2894
Præstantiam, “Qua scilicet præstat præmia vel supplicia” (Rigalt.).310:2897
Next: Trace God's Government in History and in His Precepts, and You Will Find It Full of His Goodness.
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