Sunday, July 29, 2018

Quotes from Origen Against Celsus, Third Century A.D., Book 4

And he continues: “What is the meaning of such a descent upon the part of God?” not observing that, according to our teaching, the meaning of the descent is pre-eminently to convert what are called in the Gospel the lost “sheep of the house of Israel;” and secondly, to take away from them, on account of their disobedience, what is called the “kingdom of God,” and to give to other husbandmen than the ancient Jews, viz. to the Christians, who will render to God the fruits of His kingdom in due season (each action being a “fruit of the kingdom”). We shall therefore, out of a greater number, select a few remarks by way of answer to the question of Celsus, when he says, “What is the meaning of such a descent upon the part of God?” And Celsus here returns to himself an answer which would have been given neither by Jews nor by us, when he asks, “Was it in order to learn what goes on amongst men?” For not one of us asserts that it was in order to learn what goes on amongst men that Christ entered into this life. Immediately after, however, as if some would reply that it was “in order to learn what goes on among men,” he makes this objection to his own statement: “Does he not know all things?” Then, as if we were to answer that He does know all things, he raises a new question, saying, “Then he does know, but does not make (men) better, nor is it possible for him by means of his divine power to make (men) better.” Now all this on his part is silly talk; for God, by means of His word, which is continually passing from generation to generation into holy souls, and constituting them friends of God and prophets, does improve those who listen to His words; and by the coming of Christ He improves, through the doctrine of Christianity, not those who are unwilling, but those who have chosen the better life, and that which is pleasing to God. I do not know, moreover, what kind of improvement Celsus wished to take place when he raised the objection, asking, “Is it then not possible for him, by means of his divine power, to make (men) better, unless he send some one for that special purpose?” Would he then have the improvement to take place by God’s filling the minds of men with new ideas, removing at once the (inherent) wickedness, and implanting virtue (in its stead)? Another person now would inquire whether this was not inconsistent or impossible in the very nature of things; we, however, would say, “Grant it to be so, and let it be possible.” Where, then, is our free will? and what credit is there in assenting to the truth? or how is the rejection of what is false praiseworthy? But even if it were once granted that such a course was not only possible, but could be accomplished with propriety (by God), why would not one rather inquire (asking a question like that of Celsus) why it was not possible for God, by means of His divine power, to create men who needed no improvement, but who were of themselves virtuous and perfect, evil being altogether non-existent? These questions may perplex ignorant and foolish individuals, but not him who sees into the nature of things; for if you take away the spontaneity of virtue, you destroy its essence. But it would need an entire treatise to discuss these matters; and on this subject the Greeks have expressed themselves at great length in their works on providence. They truly would not say what Celsus has expressed in words, that “God knows (all things) indeed, but does not make (men) better, nor is able to do so by His divine power.” We ourselves have spoken in many parts of our writings on these points to the best of our ability, and the Holy Scriptures have established the same to those who are able to understand them. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 3)

The argument which Celsus employs against us and the Jews will be turned against himself thus: My good sir, does the God who is over all things know what takes place among men, or does He not know? Now if you admit the existence of a God and of providence, as your treatise indicates, He must of necessity know. And if He does know, why does He not make (men) better? Is it obligatory, then, on us to defend God’s procedure in not making men better, although He knows their state, but not equally binding on you, who do not distinctly show by your treatise that you are an Epicurean, but pretend to recognise a providence, to explain why God, although knowing all that takes place among men, does not make them better, nor by divine power liberate all men from evil? We are not ashamed, however, to say that God is constantly sending (instructors) in order to make men better; for there are to be found amongst men reasons given by God which exhort them to enter on a better life. But there are many diversities amongst those who serve God, and they are few in number who are perfect and pure ambassadors of the truth, and who produce a complete reformation, as did Moses and the prophets. But above all these, great was the reformation effected by Jesus, who desired to heal not only those who lived in one corner of the world, but as far as in Him lay, men in every country, for He came as the Saviour of all men. (Origen against celsus, Book 4 chapter 4)

The illustrious Celsus, taking occasion I know not from what, next raises an additional objection against us, as if we asserted that “God Himself will come down to men.” He imagines also that it follows from this, that “He has left His own abode;” for he does not know the power of God, and that “the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world, and that which upholdeth all things hath knowledge of the voice.” Nor is he able to understand the words, “Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” Nor does he see that, according to the doctrine of Christianity, we all “in Him live, and move, and have our being,” as Paul also taught in his address to the Athenians; and therefore, although the God of the universe should through His own power descend with Jesus into the life of men, and although the Word which was in the beginning with God, which is also God Himself, should come to us, He does not give His place or vacate His own seat, so that one place should be empty of Him, and another which did not formerly contain Him be filled. But the power and divinity of God comes through him whom God chooses, and resides in him in whom it finds a place, not changing its situation, nor leaving its own place empty and filling another: for, in speaking of His quitting one place and occupying another, we do not mean such expressions to be taken topically; but we say that the soul of the bad man, and of him who is overwhelmed in wickedness, is abandoned by God, while we mean that the soul of him who wishes to live virtuously, or of him who is making progress (in a virtuous life), or who is already living conformably thereto, is filled with or becomes a partaker of the Divine Spirit. It is not necessary, then, for the descent of Christ, or for the coming of God to men, that He should abandon a greater seat, and that things on earth should be changed, as Celsus imagines when he says, “If you were to change a single one, even the least, of things on earth, all things would be overturned and disappear.” And if we must speak of a change in any one by the appearing of the power of God, and by the entrance of the word among men, we shall not be reluctant to speak of changing from a wicked to a virtuous, from a dissolute to a temperate, and from a superstitious to a religious life, the person who has allowed the word of God to find entrance into his soul. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 5)

But if you will have us to meet the most ridiculous among the charges of Celsus, listen to him when he says: “Now God, being unknown amongst men, and deeming himself on that account to have less than his due, would desire to make himself known, and to make trial both of those who believe upon him and of those who do not, like those of mankind who have recently come into the possession of riches, and who make a display of their wealth; and thus they testify to an excessive but very mortal ambition on the part of God.” We answer, then, that God, not being known by wicked men, would desire to make Himself known, not because He thinks that He meets with less than His due, but because the knowledge of Him will free the possessor from unhappiness. Nay, not even with the desire to try those who do or who do not believe upon Him, does He, by His unspeakable and divine power, Himself take up His abode in certain individuals, or send His Christ; but He does this in order to liberate from all their wretchedness those who do believe upon Him, and who accept His divinity, and that those who do not believe may no longer have this as a ground of excuse, viz., that their unbelief is the consequence of their not having heard the word of instruction. What argument, then, proves that it follows from our views that God, according to our representations, is “like those of mankind who have recently come into the possession of riches, and who make a display of their wealth?” For God makes no display towards us, from a desire that we should understand and consider His pre-eminence; but desiring that the blessedness which results from His being known by us should be implanted in our souls, He brings it to pass through Christ, and His ever-indwelling word, that we come to an intimate fellowship with Him. No mortal ambition, then, does the Christian doctrine testify as existing on the part of God. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 6)

I do not know how it is, that after the foolish remarks which he has made upon the subject which we have just been discussing, he should add the following, that “God does not desire to make himself known for his own sake, but because he wishes to bestow upon us the knowledge of himself for the sake of our salvation, in order that those who accept it may become virtuous and be saved, while those who do not accept may be shown to be wicked and be punished.” And yet, after making such a statement, he raises a new objection, saying: “After so long a period of time, then, did God now bethink himself of making men live righteous lives, but neglect to do so before?” To which we answer, that there never was a time when God did not wish to make men live righteous lives; but He continually evinced His care for the improvement of the rational animal, by affording him occasions for the exercise of virtue. For in every generation the wisdom of God, passing into those souls which it ascertains to be holy, converts them into friends and prophets of God. And there may be found in the sacred book (the names of) those who in each generation were holy, and were recipients of the Divine Spirit, and who strove to convert their contemporaries so far as in their power. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 7)

And it is not matter of surprise that in certain generations there have existed prophets who, in the reception of divine influence, surpassed, by means of their stronger and more powerful (religious) life, other prophets who were their contemporaries, and others also who lived before and after them. And so it is not at all wonderful that there should also have been a time when something of surpassing excellence took up its abode among the human race, and which was distinguished above all that preceded or even that followed. But there is an element of profound mystery in the account of these things, and one which is incapable of being received by the popular understanding. And in order that these difficulties should be made to disappear, and that the objections raised against the advent of Christ should be answered—viz., that, “after so long a period of time, then, did God now bethink himself of making men live righteous lives, but neglect to do so before?”—it is necessary to touch upon the narrative of the divisions (of the nations), and to make it evident why it was, that “when the Most High divided the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God, and the portion of the LORD was His people Jacob, Israel the cord of His inheritance;” and it will be necessary to state the reason why the birth of each man took place within each particular boundary, under him who obtained the boundary by lot, and how it rightly happened that “the portion of the LORD was His people Jacob, and Israel the cord of His inheritance,” and why formerly the portion of the LORD was His people Jacob, and Israel the cord of His inheritance. But with respect to those who come after, it is said to the Saviour by the Father, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.” For there are certain connected and related reasons, bearing upon the different treatment of human souls, which are difficult to state and to investigate. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 8)

But we defend our own procedure, when we say that our object is to reform the human race, either by the threats of punishments which we are persuaded are necessary for the whole world, and which perhaps are not without use to those who are to endure them; or by the promises made to those who have lived virtuous lives, and in which are contained the statements regarding the blessed termination which is to be found in the kingdom of God, reserved for those who are worthy of becoming His subjects. (Origen against celsus, Book 4 chapter 10)

But let us look at what Celsus next with great ostentation announces in the following fashion: “And again,” he says, “let us resume the subject from the beginning, with a larger array of proofs. And I make no new statement, but say what has been long settled. God is good, and beautiful, and blessed, and that in the best and most beautiful degree. But if he come down among men, he must undergo a change, and a change from good to evil, from virtue to vice, from happiness to misery, and from best to worst. Who, then, would make choice of such a change? It is the nature of a mortal, indeed, to undergo change and remoulding, but of an immortal to remain the same and unaltered. God, then, could not admit of such a change.” Now it appears to me that the fitting answer has been returned to these objections, when I have related what is called in Scripture the “condescension” of God to human affairs; for which purpose He did not need to undergo a transformation, as Celsus thinks we assert, nor a change from good to evil, nor from virtue to vice, nor from happiness to misery, nor from best to worst. For, continuing unchangeable in His essence, He condescends to human affairs by the economy of His providence. We show, accordingly, that the holy Scriptures represent God as unchangeable, both by such words as “Thou art the same,” and” I change not;” whereas the gods of Epicurus, being composed of atoms, and, so far as their structure is concerned, capable of dissolution, endeavour to throw off the atoms which contain the elements of destruction. Nay, even the god of the Stoics, as being corporeal, at one time has his whole essence composed of the guiding principle when the conflagration (of the world) takes place; and at another, when a rearrangement of things occurs, he again becomes partly material. For even the Stoics were unable distinctly to comprehend the natural idea of God, as of a being altogether incorruptible and simple, and uncompounded and indivisible. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 14)

And with respect to His having descended among men, He was “previously in the form of God;” and through benevolence, divested Himself (of His glory), that He might be capable of being received by men. But He did not, I imagine, undergo any change from “good to evil,” for “He did no sin;” nor from “virtue to vice,” for “He knew no sin.” Nor did He pass from “happiness to misery,” but He humbled Himself, and nevertheless was blessed, even when His humiliation was undergone in order to benefit our race. Nor was there any change in Him from “best to worst,” for how can goodness and benevolence be of “the worst?” Is it befitting to say of the physician, who looks on dreadful sights and handles unsightly objects in order to cure the sufferers, that he passes from “good to evil,” or from “virtue to vice,” or from “happiness to misery?” And yet the physician, in looking on dreadful sights and handling unsightly objects, does not wholly escape the possibility of being involved in the same fate. But He who heals the wounds of our souls, through the word of God that is in Him, is Himself incapable of admitting any wickedness. But if the immortal God—the Word—by assuming a mortal body and a human soul, appears to Celsus to undergo a change and transformation, let him learn that the Word, still remaining essentially the Word, suffers none of those things which are suffered by the body or the soul; but, condescending occasionally to (the weakness of) him who is unable to look upon the splendours and brilliancy of Deity, He becomes as it were flesh, speaking with a literal voice, until he who has received Him in such a form is able, through being elevated in some slight degree by the teaching of the Word, to gaze upon what is, so to speak, His real and pre-eminent appearance. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 15)

And yet they who care to attend to the connection and truth of all our records, will endeavour to establish not only the antiquity of the writers, but the venerable nature of their writings, and the consistency of their several parts. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 20)

But since, as we have said in the preceding pages, the prophets, in uttering many predictions regarding future events, show that they have spoken the truth concerning many things that are past, and thus give evidence of the indwelling of the Divine Spirit, it is manifest that, with respect to things still future, we should repose faith in them, or rather in the Divine Spirit that is in them. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 21)

But, according to Celsus, “the Christians, making certain additional statements to those of the Jews, assert that the Son of God has been already sent on account of the sins of the Jews; and that the Jews having chastised Jesus, and given him gall to drink, have brought upon themselves the divine wrath.” And any one who likes may convict this statement of falsehood, if it be not the case that the whole Jewish nation was overthrown within one single generation after Jesus had undergone these sufferings at their hands. For forty and two years, I think, after the date of the crucifixion of Jesus, did the destruction of Jerusalem take place. Now it has never been recorded, since the Jewish nation began to exist, that they have been expelled for so long a period from their venerable temple-worship and service, and enslaved by more powerful nations; for if at any time they appeared to be abandoned because of their sins, they were notwithstanding visited (by God), and returned to their own country, and recovered their possessions, and performed unhindered the observances of their law. One fact, then, which proves that Jesus was something divine and sacred, is this, that Jews should have suffered on His account now for a lengthened time calamities of such severity. And we say with confidence that they will never be restored to their former condition. For they committed a crime of the most unhallowed kind, in conspiring against the Saviour of the human race in that city where they offered up to God a worship containing the symbols of mighty mysteries. It accordingly behoved that city where Jesus underwent these sufferings to perish utterly, and the Jewish nation to be overthrown, and the invitation to happiness offered them by God to pass to others,—the Christians, I mean, to whom has come the doctrine of a pure and holy worship, and who have obtained new laws, in harmony with the established constitution in all countries; seeing those which were formerly imposed, as on a single nation which was ruled by princes of its own race and of similar manners, could not now be observed in all their entireness. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 22)

And I have not yet spoken of the other evils which prevail amongst men, from which even those who have the appearance of philosophers are not speedily freed, for in philosophy there are many pretenders. Nor do I say anything on the point that many such evils are found to exist among those who are neither Jews nor Christians. Of a truth, such evil practices do not at all prevail among Christians, if you properly examine what constitutes a Christian. Or, if any persons of that kind should be discovered, they are at least not to be found among those who frequent the assemblies, and come to the public prayers, without their being excluded from them, unless it should happen, and that rarely, that some one individual of such a character escapes notice in the crowd. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 27)

But since he has represented those whom he regards as worms, viz., the Christians, as saying that “God, having abandoned the heavenly regions, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us alone, and to us alone makes His announcements, and ceases not His messages and inquiries as to how we may become His associates for ever,” we have to answer that he attributes to us words which we never uttered, seeing we both read and know that GOD loves all existing things, and loathes nothing which He has made, for He would not have created anything in hatred. We have, moreover, read the declaration: “And Thou sparest all things, because they are Thine, O lover of souls. For Thine incorruptible Spirit is in all. And therefore those also who have fallen away for a little time Thou rebukest, and admonishest, reminding them of their sins.” How can we assert that “God, leaving the regions of heaven, and the whole world, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us only,” when we have found that all thoughtful persons must say in their prayers, that “the earth is full of the mercy of the LORD,” and that “the mercy of the Lord is upon all flesh;” and that God, being good, “maketh His sun to arise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth His rain upon the just and the unjust;” and that He encourages us to a similar course of action, in order that we may become His sons, and teaches us to extend the benefits which we enjoy, so far as in our power, to all men? For He Himself is said to be the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe; and His Christ to be the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” And this, then, is our answer to the allegations of Celsus. Certain other statements, in keeping with the character of the Jews, might be made by some of that nation, but certainly not by the Christians, who have been taught that “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and although “scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” But now is Jesus declared to have come for the sake of sinners in all parts of the world (that they may forsake their sin, and entrust themselves to God), being called also, agreeably to an ancient custom of these Scriptures, the “Christ of God.” (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 28)

We know, too, that in the arrangement of the universe there are certain beings termed “thrones,” and others “dominions,” and others “powers,” and others “principalities;” and we see that we men, who are far inferior to these, may entertain the hope that by a virtuous life, and by acting in all things agreeably to reason, we may rise to a likeness with all these. And, lastly, because “it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like God, and shall see Him as He is.” (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 29)

But since nothing belonging to human nature is permanent, this polity also must gradually be corrupted and changed. And Providence, having remodelled their venerable system where it needed to be changed, so as to adapt it to men of all countries, gave to believers of all nations, in place of the Jews, the venerable religion of Jesus, who, being adorned not only with understanding, but also with a share of divinity, and having overthrown the doctrine regarding earthly demons, who delight in frankincense, and blood, and in the exhalations of sacrificial odours, and who, like the fabled Titans or Giants, drag down men from thoughts of God; and having Himself disregarded their plots, directed chiefly against the better class of men, enacted laws which ensure happiness to those who live according to them, and who do not flatter the demons by means of sacrifices, but altogether despise them, through help of the word of God, which aids those who look upwards to Him. And as it was the will of God that the doctrine of Jesus should prevail amongst men, the demons could effect nothing, although straining every nerve to accomplish the destruction of Christians; for they stirred up both princes, and senates, and rulers in every place,—nay, even nations themselves, who did not perceive the irrational and wicked procedure of the demons,—against the word, and those who believed in it; yet, notwithstanding, the word of God, which is more powerful than all other things, even when meeting with opposition, deriving from the opposition, as it were, a means of increase, advanced onwards, and won many souls, such being the will of God. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 32)

But we invite him who peruses this reply of ours to the charges of Celsus to have patience, and to listen to our sacred writings themselves, and, as far as possible, to form an opinion from their contents of the purpose of the writers, and of their consciences and disposition of mind; for he will discover that they are men who strenuously contend for what they uphold, and that some of them show that the history which they narrate is one which they have both seen and experienced, which was miraculous, and worthy of being recorded for the advantage of their future hearers. Will any one indeed venture to say that it is not the source and fountain of all blessing (to men) to believe in the God of all things, and to perform all our actions with the view of pleasing Him in everything whatever, and not to entertain even a thought unpleasing to Him, seeing that not only our words and deeds, but our very thoughts, will be the subject of future judgment? And what other arguments would more effectually lead human nature to adopt a virtuous life, than the belief or opinion that the supreme God beholds all things, not only what is said and done, but even what is thought by us? And let any one who likes compare any other system which at the same time converts and ameliorates, not merely one or two individuals, but, as far as in it lies, countless numbers, that by the comparison of both methods he may form a correct idea of the arguments which dispose to a virtuous life. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 53)

No one, moreover, who has not heard what is related of him who is called “devil,” and of his “angels,” and what he was before he became a devil, and how he became such, and what was the cause of the simultaneous apostasy of those who are termed his angels, will be able to ascertain the origin of evils. But he who would attain to this knowledge must learn more accurately the nature of demons, and know that they are not the work of God so far as respects their demoniacal nature, but only in so far as they are possessed of reason; and also what their origin was, so that they became beings of such a nature, that while converted into demons, the powers of their mind remain. And if there be any topic of human investigation which is difficult for our nature to grasp, certainly the origin of evils may be considered to be such. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 65)

Celsus in the next place, as if he were able to tell certain secrets regarding the origin of evils, but chose rather to keep silence, and say only what was suitable to the multitude, continues as follows: “It is sufficient to say to the multitude regarding the origin of evils, that they do not proceed from God, but cleave to matter, and dwell among mortal things.” It is true, certainly, that evils do not proceed from God; for according to Jeremiah, one of our prophets, it is certain that “out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good.” But to maintain that matter, dwelling among mortal things, is the cause of evils, is in our opinion not true. For it is the mind of each individual which is the cause of the evil which arises in him, and this is evil (in the abstract); while the actions which proceed from it are wicked, and there is, to speak with accuracy, nothing else in our view that is evil. I am aware, however, that this topic requires very elaborate treatment, which (by the grace of God enlightening the mind) may be successfully attempted by him who is deemed by God worthy to attain the necessary knowledge on this subject. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 66)

He continues to say that “neither have visible things been given to man (by God), but each individual thing comes into existence and perishes for the sake of the safety of the whole passing agreeably to the change, which I have already mentioned, from one thing to another.” It is unnecessary, however, to linger over the refutation of these statements, which have been already refuted to the best of my ability. And the following, too, has been answered, viz., that “there will neither be more nor less good and evil among mortals.” This point also has been referred to, viz., that “God does not need to amend His work afresh.” But it is not as a man who has imperfectly designed some piece of workmanship, and executed it unskilfully, that God administers correction to the world, in purifying it by a flood or by a conflagration, but in order to prevent the tide of evil from rising to a greater height; and, moreover, I am of opinion that it is at periods which are precisely determined beforehand that He sweeps wickedness away, so as to contribute to the good of the whole world. If, however, he should assert that, after the disappearance of evil, it again comes into existence, such questions will have to be examined in a special treatise. It is, then, always in order to repair what has become faulty that God desires to amend His work afresh. For although, in the creation of the world, all things had been arranged by Him in the most beautiful and stable manner, He nevertheless needed to exercise some healing power upon those who were labouring under the disease of wickedness, and upon a whole world, which was polluted as it were thereby. But nothing has been neglected by God, or will be neglected by Him; for He does at each particular juncture what it becomes Him to do in a perverted and changed world. And as a husbandman performs different acts of husbandry upon the soil and its productions, according to the varying seasons of the year, so God administers entire ages of time, as if they were, so to speak, so many individual years, performing during each one of them what is requisite with a reasonable regard to the care of the world; and this, as it is truly understood by God alone, so also is it accomplished by Him. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 69)

Celsus has made a statement regarding evils of the following nature, viz., that “although a thing may seem to you to be evil, it is by no means certain that it is so; for you do not know what is of advantage to yourself, or to another, or to the whole world.” Now this assertion is made with a certain degree of caution; and it hints that the nature of evil is not wholly wicked, because that which may be considered so in individual cases, may contain something which is of advantage to the whole community. However, lest any one should mistake my words, and find a pretence of wrongdoing, as if his wickedness were profitable to the world, or at least might be so, we have to say, that although God, who preserves the free-will of each individual, may make use of the evil of the wicked for the administration of the world, so disposing them as to conduce to the benefit of the whole; yet, notwithstanding, such an individual is deserving of censure, and as such has been appointed for a use, which is a subject of loathing to each separate individual, although of advantage to the whole community. It is as if one were to say that in the case of a city, a man who had committed certain crimes, and on account of these had been condemned to serve in public works that were useful to the community, did something that was of advantage to the entire city, while he himself was engaged in an abominable task, in which no one possessed of moderate understanding would wish to be engaged. Paul also, the apostle of Jesus, teaches us that even the very wicked will contribute to the good of the whole, while in themselves they will be amongst the vile, but that the most virtuous men, too, will be of the greatest advantage to the world, and will therefore on that account occupy the noblest position. His words are: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, prepared unto every good work.” These remarks I have thought it necessary to make in reply to the assertion, that “although a thing may seem to you to be evil, it is by no means certain that it is so, for you do not know what is of advantage either to yourself or to another,” in order that no one may take occasion from what has been said on the subject to commit sin, on the pretext that he will thus be useful to the world. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 70)

We speak, indeed, of the “wrath” of God. We do not, however, assert that it indicates any “passion” on His part, but that it is something which is assumed in order to discipline by stern means those sinners who have committed many and grievous sins. For that which is called God’s “wrath,” and “anger,” is a means of discipline; and that such a view is agreeable to Scripture, is evident from what is said in the sixth Psalm, “O LORD, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure;” and also in Jeremiah. “O LORD, correct me, but with judgment: not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.” Any one, moreover, who reads in the second book of Kings of the “wrath” of God, inducing David to number the people, and finds from the first book of Chronicles that it was the devil who suggested this measure, will, on comparing together the two statements, easily see for what purpose the “wrath” is mentioned, of which “wrath,” as the Apostle Paul declares, all men are children: “We were by nature children of wrath, even as others.” Moreover, that “wrath” is no passion on the part of God, but that each one brings it upon himself by his sins, will be clear from the further statement of Paul: “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” How, then, can any one treasure up for himself “wrath” against a “day of wrath,” if “wrath” be understood in the sense of “passion?” or how can the “passion of wrath” be a help to discipline? Besides, the Scripture, which tells us not to be angry at all, and which says in the thirty-seventh Psalm, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath,” and which commands us by the mouth of Paul to “put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication,” would not involve God in the same passion from which it would have us to be altogether free. It is manifest, further, that the language used regarding the wrath of God is to be understood figuratively from what is related of His “sleep,” from which, as if awaking Him, the prophet says: “Awake, why sleepest Thou, Lord?” and again: “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.” If, then, “sleep” must mean something else, and not what the first acceptation of the word conveys, why should not “wrath” also be understood in a similar way? The “threatenings,” again, are intimations of the (punishments) which are to befall the wicked: for it is as if one were to call the words of a physician “threats,” when he tells his patients, “I will have to use the knife, and apply cauteries, if you do not obey my prescriptions, and regulate your diet and mode of life in such a way as I direct you.” It is no human passions, then, which we ascribe to God, nor impious opinions which we entertain of Him; nor do we err when we present the various narratives concerning Him, drawn from the Scriptures themselves, after careful comparison one with another. For those who are wise ambassadors of the “word” have no other object in view than to free as far as they can their hearers from weak opinions, and to endue them with intelligence. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 72)

For, in the first place, he is of opinion that “thunders, and lightnings, and rains are not the works of God,”—thus showing more clearly at last his Epicurean leanings; and in the second place, that “even if one were to grant that these were the works of God, they are brought into existence not more for the support of us who are human beings, than for that of plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns,”—maintaining, like a true Epicurean, that these things are the product of chance, and not the work of Providence. For if these things are of no more use to us than to plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns, it is evident either that they do not proceed from Providence at all, or from a providence which does not provide for us in a greater degree than for trees, and herbs, and thorns. Now, either of these suppositions is impious in itself, and it would be foolish to refute such statements by answering any one who brought against us the charge of impiety; for it is manifest to every one, from what has been said, who is the person guilty of impiety. In the next place, he adds: “Although you may say that these things, viz., plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns, grow for the use of men, why will you maintain that they grow for the use of men rather than for that of the most savage of irrational animals?” Let Celsus then say distinctly that the great diversity among the products of the earth is not the work of Providence, but that a certain fortuitous concurrence of atoms gave birth to qualities so diverse, and that it was owing to chance that so many kinds of plants, and trees, and herbs resemble one another, and that no disposing reason gave existence to them, and that they do not derive their origin from an understanding that is beyond all admiration. We Christians, however, who are devoted to the worship of the only God, who created these things, feel grateful for them to Him who made them, because not only for us, but also (on our account) for the animals which are subject to us, He has prepared such a home, seeing “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, that He may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” But that He should have provided food even for the most savage animals is not matter of surprise, for these very animals are said by some who have philosophized (upon the subject) to have been created for the purpose of affording exercise to the rational creature. And one of our own wise men says somewhere: “Do not say, What is this? Or Wherefore is that? for all things have been made for their uses. And do not say, What is this? Or Wherefore is that? for everything shall be sought out in its season.” (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 75)

He is not ashamed, moreover, to say, in addition to these statements (that the unseemly character of his opinions may be manifest to those who will live after him): “Come now, if one were to look down from heaven upon earth, in what respect would our actions appear to differ from those of ants and bees?” Now does he who, according to his own supposition, looks from heaven upon the proceedings of men and ants, look upon their bodies alone, and not rather have regard to the controlling reason which is called into action by reflection; while, on the other hand, the guiding principle of the latter is irrational, and set in motion irrationally by impulse and fancy, in conjunction with a certain natural apparatus? But it is absurd to suppose that he who looks from heaven upon earthly things would desire to look from such a distance upon the bodies of men and ants, and would not rather consider the nature of the guiding principles, and the source of impulses, whether that be rational or irrational. And if he once look upon the source of all impulses, it is manifest that he would behold also the difference which exists, and the superiority of man, not only over ants, but even over elephants. For he who looks from heaven will see among irrational creatures, however large their bodies, no other principle than, so to speak, irrationality; while amongst rational beings he will discover reason, the common possession of men, and of divine and heavenly beings, and perhaps of the Supreme God Himself, on account of which man is said to have been created in the image of God, for the image of the Supreme God is his reason. (Origen against Celsus, Book 4 chapter 85)

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160