Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Against the Heathen. (Contra Gentes.): The refutation of popular Paganism being taken as conclusive, we come to the higher form of nature-worship. How Nature witnesses to God by the mutual dependence of all her parts, which forbid us to think of any one of them as the supreme God. This shewn at length.
§27. The refutation of popular Paganism being taken as conclusive, we come to the higher form of nature-worship. How Nature witnesses to God by the mutual dependence of all her parts, which forbid us to think of any one of them as the supreme God. This shewn at length.
But perhaps those who have advanced beyond these things, and who stand in awe of Creation, being put to shame by these exposures of abominations, will join in repudiating what is readily condemned and refuted on all hands, but will think that they have a well-grounded and unanswerable opinion, namely, the worship of the universe and of the parts of the universe. 2. For they will boast that they worship and serve, not mere stocks and stones and forms of men and irrational birds and creeping things and beasts, but the sun and moon and all the heavenly universe, and the earth again, and the entire realm of water: and they will say that none can shew that these at any rate are not of divine nature, since it is evident to all, that they lack neither life nor reason, but transcend even the nature of mankind, inasmuch as the one inhabit the heavens, the other the earth. 3. It is worth while then to look into and examine these points also; for here, too, our argument will find that its proof against them holds true. But before we look, or begin our demonstration, it suffices that Creation almost raises its voice against them, and points to God as its Maker and Artificer, Who reigns over Creation and over all things, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; Whom the would-be philosophers turn from to worship and deify the Creation which proceeded from Him, which yet itself worships and confesses the Lord Whom they deny on its account. 4. For if men are thus awestruck at the parts of Creation and think that they are gods, they might well be rebuked by the mutual dependence of those parts; which moreover makes known, and witnesses to, the Father of the Word, Who is the Lord and Maker of these parts also, by the unbroken law of their obedience to Him, as the divine law also says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork 143 .” 5. But the proof of all this is not obscure, but is clear enough in all conscience to those the eyes of whose understanding are not wholly disabled. For if a man take the parts of Creation separately, and consider each by itself,—as for example the sun by itself alone, and the moon apart, and again earth and air, and heat and cold, and the essence of wet and of dry, separating them from their mutual conjunction,—he will certainly find that not one is sufficient for itself but all are in need of one anothers assistance, and subsist by their mutual help. For the Sun is carried round along with, and is contained in, the whole heaven, and can never go beyond his own orbit, while the moon and other stars testify to the assistance given them by the Sun: while the earth again evidently does not yield her crops without rains, which in their turn would not descend to earth without the assistance of the clouds; but not even would the clouds ever appear of themselves and subsist, without the air. And the air is warmed by the upper air, but illuminated and made bright by the sun, not by itself. 6. And wells, again, and rivers will never exist without the earth; but the earth is not supported upon itself, but is set upon the realm of the waters, while this again is kept in its place, being bound fast at the centre of the universe. And the sea, and the great ocean that flows outside round the whole earth, is moved and borne by winds wherever the force of the winds dashes it. And the winds in their turn originate, not in themselves, but according to those who have written on the subject, in the air, from the burning heat and high temperature of the upper as compared with the lower air, and blow everywhere through the latter. 7. For as to the four elements of which the nature of bodies is composed, heat, that is, and cold, wet and dry, who is so perverted in his understanding as not to know that these things exist indeed in combination, but if separated and taken alone they tend to destroy even one another according to the prevailing power of the more abundant element? For heat is destroyed by cold if it be present in greater quantity, and cold again is put away by the power of heat, and what is dry, again, is moistened by wet, and the latter dried by the former.
Ps. xix. 1.
Next: But neither can the cosmic organism be God. For that would make God consist of dissimilar parts, and subject Him to possible dissolution.
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