Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XXX.—Of false wisdom
Chap. XXX.—Of False Wisdom.
I have taught, as I imagine, that the honours paid to gods are not only impious, but also vain, either because they were men whose memory was consecrated after death; or because the images themselves are insensible and deaf, inasmuch as they are formed of earth, and that it is not right for man, who ought to look up to heavenly things, to subject himself to earthly things; or because the spirits who claim to themselves those acts of religious service are unholy and impure, and on this account, being condemned by the sentence of God, fell to the earth, and that it is not lawful to submit to the power of those to whom you are superior, if you wish to be a follower of the true God. It remains that, as we have spoken of false religion, we should also discuss the subject of false wisdom, which the philosophers profess,—men endued with the greatest learning and eloquence, but far removed from the truth, because they neither know God nor the wisdom of God. And although they are clever and learned, yet, because their wisdom is human, I shall not fear to contend with them, that it may be evident that falsehood can be easily overcome by truth, and earthly things by heavenly.
They thus define the nature of philosophy. Philosophy is the love or pursuit of wisdom. Therefore it is not wisdom itself; for that which loves must be different from that which is loved. If it is the pursuit of wisdom, not even thus is philosophy identical with wisdom. For wisdom is the object itself which is sought, but the pursuit is that which seeks it. Therefore the very definition or meaning of the word plainly shows that philosophy is not wisdom itself. I will say that it 1492 is not even the pursuit of wisdom, in which wisdom is not comprised. For who can be said to devote himself to the pursuit of that to which he can by no means attain? He who gives himself to the pursuit of medicine, or grammar, or oratory, may be said to be studious of that art which he is learning; but when he has learned, he is now said to be a physician, a grammarian, or an orator. Thus also those who are studious of wisdom, after they had learned it, ought to have been called wise. But since they are called students of wisdom as long as they live, it is manifest that that is not the pursuit, because it is impossible to arrive at the object itself which is sought for in the pursuit, unless by chance they who pursue wisdom even to the end of life are about to be wise in another world. Now every pursuit is connected with some end. That, therefore, is not a right pursuit which has no end.
Next: Chap. XXXI.—Of knowledge and supposition
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