Early Church Fathers
Disputation of the Second Day.
The next day, a notary having again been summoned, the discussion was conducted as follows:
Fortunatus said: I say that God Almighty brings forth from Himself nothing evil, and that the things that are His remain incorrupt, having sprung and being born from an inviolable source; but other contrary things which have their being in this world, do not flow from God nor have appeared in this world with God as their author; that is to say, they do not derive their origin from God. These things therefore we have received in the belief that evil things are foreign to God.
20. Augustin said: And our faith is this, that God is not the progenitor of evil things, neither has He made any evil nature. But since both of us agree that God is incorruptible and incontaminable, it is the part of the prudent and faithful to consider, which faith is purer and worthier of the majesty of God that in which it is asserted that either the power of God, or some part of God, or the Word of God, can be changed, violated, corrupted, fettered; or that in which it is said that Almighty God and His entire nature and substance can never be corrupted in any part, but that evils have their being by the voluntary sin of the soul, to which God gave free will. Which free will if God had not given, there could be no just penal judgment, nor merit of righteous conduct, nor divine instruction to repent of sins, nor the forgiveness of sins itself which God has bestowed upon us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because he who sins not voluntarily, sins not at all. This I suppose to be open and perspicuous to all. Wherefore it ought not to trouble us if according to our deserts we suffer some inconveniences in the things God has made. For as He is good, that He should constitute all things; so He is just, that He may not spare sins, which sins, as I have said, unless free will were in us, would not be sins. For if any one, so to speak, should be bound by some one in his other members, and with his hand something false should be written without his own will, I ask whether if this were laid open before a judge, he could condemn this one for the crime of falsehood. Wherefore, if it is manifest that there is no sin where there is not free exercise of will,1 I wish to hear what evil the soul which you call either part, or power, or word, or something else, of God, has done, that it should be punished by God, or repent of sin, or merit forgiveness, since it has in no way sinned?
Fortunatus said: I proposed concerning substances, that God is to be regarded as creator only of good things, but as the avenger of evil things, for the reason that evil things are not of Him. Therefore for good reason I think this, and that God avenges evil things because they are not of Himself. But if they were from Him, either He would give them license to sin, as you say that God has given free will, He would be already found a participator in my fault, because He would be the author of my fault; or ignorant what I should be, he left me whom he did not constitute worthy of Himself. This therefore is proposed by me, and what I ask now is, whether God instituted evil or not? and whether He Himself instituted the end of evils. For it appears from these things, and the evangelical faith teaches, that the things which we have said were made by God Himself as God the Creator, as having been created and begotten by Him, are to be esteemed incorruptible. These things I also proposed which belong to our belief, and which can be confirmed by you in that profession of ours, without prejudice to the authority of the Christian faith. And because I can in no way show that I rightly believe, unless I should confirm that belief by the authority of the Scriptures, this is therefore what I have insinuated, what I have said. Either if evil things have appeared in the world with God as their author, deign to say so yourself; or if it is right to believe that evil things are not of God, this also the contemplation of those present ought to honor and receive. I have spoken about substances, not about sin that dwells in us. For if what we think to make faults had no origin, we should not be compelled to come to sin or to fault. For because we sinned unwillingly, and are compelled by a substance contrary and hostile to ourselves, therefore we follow the knowledge of things. By which knowledge the soul admonished and restored to pristine memory, recognizes the source from which it derives its existence, in what evil it dwells, by what good works emending again that in which unwillingly it sinned, it may be able through the emendation of its faults, for the sake of good works, to secure for itself the merit of reconciliation with God, our Saviour being the author of it, who teaches us also to practice good things and to flee from evil. For you ask us to believe that not by some contrary nature, but by his own choice, man either serves righteousness or becomes involved in sins; since, no contrary race existing, if the soul, to which as you say God has given free will, having been constituted in the body, dwells alone, it would be without sin, nor would it become involved in sins.
21. Augustin said: I say it is not sin, if it be not committed by one's own will; hence also there is reward, because of our own will we do right. Or if he who sins unwillingly deserves punishment, he who unwillingly does well ought to deserve reward. But who doubts that reward is only bestowed upon him who does something of good will? From which we know that punishment also is inflicted upon him who does something of ill will. But since you recall me to primordial natures and substances, my faith is that God Almighty-which must especially be attended to and fixed in the mind-that God Almighty has made good things. But the things made by Him cannot be such as is He who made them. For it is unjust and foolish to believe that works are equal to the workman, things made to the maker. Wherefore if it is reverential to believe that God made all good things, than which nevertheless He is by far more excellent and by far more pre-eminent; the origin and head of evil is sin, as the apostle said: "Covetousness is the root of all evils; which some following after have made shipwreck of the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows."2 For if you seek the root of all evils, you have the apostle saying that covetousness is the root of all evils. But the root of a root I cannot seek. Or if there is another evil, whose root covetousness is not, covetousness will not be the root of all evils. But if it is true that covetousness is the root of all evils, in vain do we seek some other kind of evil. But as regards that contrary nature of yours which you introduce, since I have responded to your objections, I ask that you deign to tell me whether it is wholly evil, whether there can be no sin apart from it, whether by this alone punishment is deserved, not by the soul by which no sin has been committed. But if you say that this contrary nature alone deserves punishment, and not the soul, I ask to which is repentance, which is commanded, vouchsafed. If the soul is commanded to repent, sin is from the soul, and the soul has sinned voluntarily. For if the soul is compelled to do evil, that which it does is not evil. Is it not foolish and most absurd to say that the race of darkness has sinned and that I repent of the sins. Is it not most absurd to say that the race of darkness has sinned and that forgiveness of sins is vouchsafed to me, who according to your faith may well say: What have I done? What have I committed? I was with Thee, I was in a state of integrity, I was contaminated with no pollution. Thou didst send me hither, Thou didst suffer necessity, Thou didst protect Thy domains when great pollution and desolation threatened them. Since therefore Thou knowest the necessity by which I have been here oppressed, by reason of which I could not breathe, which I could not resist; why dost Thou accuse me as if sinning? or why dost Thou promise forgiveness of sins? Reply to this without evasion, if you please, as I have replied to you.
Fortunatus said: We say this, that the soul is compelled by contrary nature to transgress, for which transgression you maintain there is no root save the evil that dwells in us; for it is certain that apart from our bodies evil things dwell in the whole world. For not those things alone that we have in our bodies, dwell in the whole world, and are known by their names as good; an evil root also inheres. For your dignity said that this covetousness that dwells in our bodies is the root of evils; since therefore there is no desire of evil out of our bodies, from that source contrary nature dwells in the whole world. For the apostle designated that, namely covetousness, as the root of evils, not one evil which you have called the root of all evils. But not in one manner is covetousness, which you have said is the root of all evils, understood, as if of that which dwells in our bodies alone; for it is certain that this evil which dwells in us descends from an evil author and that this root as you call it is a small portion of evil, so that it is not the root itself, but is a small portion of evil, of that evil which dwells everywhere. Which root and tree our Lord called evil, as never bearing good fruit, which his Father did not plant, and which is deservedly rooted up and cast into the fire.3 For as you say, that sin ought to be imputed to the contrary nature, that nature belongs to evil; and that this is sin of the soul, if after the warning of our Saviour and his wholesome instruction, the soul shall have segregated itself from its contrary and hostile race, adorning itself also with purer things; that otherwise it cannot be restored to its own substance. For it is said: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. But now that I have come and spoken, and they have refused to believe me, they shall have no excuse for their sin."4 Whence it is perfectly plain, that repentance has been given after the Saviour's advent, and after this knowledge of things, by which the soul can, as if washed in a divine fountain from the filth and vices as well of the whole world as of the bodies in which the same soul dwells, be restored to the kingdom of God whence it has gone forth. For it is said by the apostle, that "the mind of the flesh is hostile to God; is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."5 Therefore it is evident from these things that the good soul seems to sin not voluntarily, but by the doing of that which is not subject to the law of God. For it likewise follows that "the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; so that ye may not do the things that ye will."6 Again: "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive in the law of sin and of death. Therefore I am a miserable man; who shall deliver me from the body of this death, unless it be thegrace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"7 "through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world?"8
22. Augustin said: I recognize and embrace the testimonies of the divine Scriptures, and I will show in a few words, as God may deign to grant, how they are consistent with my faith. I say that there was free exercise of will in that man who was first formed. He was so made that absolutely nothing could resist his will, if he had willed to keep the precepts of God. But after he voluntarily sinned, we who have descended from his stock were plunged into necessity. But each one of us can by a little consideration find that what I say is true. For today in our actions before we are implicated by any habit, we have free choice of doing anything or not doing it. But when by that liberty we have done something and the pernicious sweetness and pleasure of that deed has taken hold upon the mind, by its own habit the mind is so implicated that afterwards it cannot conquer what by sinning it has fashioned for itself. We see many who do not wish to swear, but because the tongue has already become habituated, they are not able to prevent those things from going forth from the mouth which we cannot but ascribe to the root of evil. For that I may discuss with you those words, which as they do not withdraw from your mouth so may they be understood by your heart: you swear by the Paraclete. If therefore you wish to find out experimentally whether what I say is true, determine not to swear. You will see, that that habit is borne along as it has become accustomed to be. And this is what wars against the soul, habit formed in the flesh. This is indeed the mind of the flesh, which, as long as it cannot thus be subject to the law of God, so long is it the mind of the flesh; but when the soul has been illuminated it ceases to be the mind of the flesh. For thus it is said the mind of the flesh cannot be subject to the law of God, just as if it were said, that snow cannot be warm. Far so long as it is snow, it can in no way be warm. But as the snow is melted by heat, so that it may become warm, so the mind of the flesh, that is, habit formed with the flesh, when our mind has become illuminated, that is, when God has subjected for Himself the whole man to the choice of the divine law, instead of the evil habit of the soul, makes a good habit. Accordingly it is most truly said by the Lord of the two trees, the one good and the other evil, which you have called to mind, that they have their own fruits; that is, neither can the good tree yield evil fruit, nor the evil tree good fruit, but so long as it is evil. Let us take two men, a good and a bad. As long as he is good he cannot yield evil fruit; as long as he is bad he cannot yield good fruit. But that you may know that those two trees are so placed by the Lord, that free choice may be there signified, that these two trees are not natures but our wills, He Himself says in the gospel: "Either make the tree good, or make the tree evil."9 Who is it that can make nature? If therefore we are commanded to make a tree either good or evil, it is ours to choose what we will. Therefore concerning that sin of man and concerning that habit of soul formed with the flesh the apostle says: "Let no one seduce you;"10 "Every creature that has been made by God is good."11 The same apostle whom you also have cited says: "As through the disobedience of the one the many were constituted sinners; so also through the obedience of the one the many are constituted righteous."12 "Since through man is death, through man also is resurrection of the dead." As long therefore as we bear the image of the earthly man,13 that is, as long as we live according to the flesh, which is also called the old man, we have the necessity of our habit, so that we may not do what we will. But when the grace of God has breathed the divine love into us and has made us subject to His will, to us it is said: "Ye are called for freedom,"14 and "the grace of God has made me free from the law of sin and of death."15 But the law of sin is that whoever has sinned shall die. From this law we are freed when we have begun to be righteous. The law of death is that by which it was said to man: "Earth thou art and into earth thou shalt go."16 For from this very fact we are all so born, because we are earth, and from the fact that we are all so born because we are earth, we shall all go into earth on account of the desert of the sins of the first man. But on account of the grace of God, which frees us from the law of sin and of death, having been converted to righteousness we are freed; so that afterwards this same flesh tortures us with its punishment so long as we remain in sins, is subjected to us in resurrection, and shakes us by no adversity from keeping the law of God and His precepts. Whence, since I have replied to your questions, deign to reply as I desire, how it can happen, that if nature is contrary to God, sin should be imputed to us, who were sent into that nature not voluntarily, but by God Himself, whom nothing could injure?
Fortunatus said: Just as also the Lord said to His disciples: Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves."17 Hence it must be known that not with hostile intent did our Saviour send forth His lambs, that is His disciples, into the midst of wolves, unless there had been some contrariety, which He would indicate by the similitude of wolves, where also He had sent His disciples; that the souls which perchance might be deceived in the midst of wolves might be recalled to their proper substance. Hence also may appear the antiquity of our times to which we return, and of our years, that before the foundation of the world souls were sent in this way against the contrary nature, that subjecting the same by their passion, victory might be restored to God. For the same apostle said, that not only there should be a struggle against flesh and blood, but also against principalities and powers, and the spiritual things of wickedness, and the domination of darkness."18 If therefore in both places evils dwell and are esteemed wickednesses, not only now is evil in our bodies, but in the whole world, where souls appear to dwell, which dwell beneath yonder heaven and are fettered.
23. Augustin said: The Lord sent His lambs into the midst of wolves, that is, just men into the midst of sinners for the preaching of the gospel received in the time of man from the inestimable divine Wisdom, that He might call us from sin to righteousness. But what the apostle says, that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the other things that have been quoted, this signifies that the devil and his angels, as also we, have fallen and lapsed by sin, and have secured possession of earthly things, that is, sinful men, who, as long as we are sinners, are under their yoke, just as when we shall be righteous, we shall be under the yoke of righteousness; and against them we have a struggle, that passing over to righteousness we may be freed from their dominion. Do you also therefore deign to reply to the one question that I ask: Could God suffer injury, or not? But I ask you to reply: He could not.
Fortunatus said: He could not suffer injury.
24. Augustin said: Wherefore then did He send us hither, according to your faith?
Fortunatus said: My profession is this, that God could not be injured, and that He directed us hither. But since this is contrary to your view, do you tell how you account for the soul being here, which our God desires to liberate both by His commandments and by His own Son whom He has sent.
25. Augustin said: Since I see that you cannot answer my inquiries, and wish to ask me something, behold I satisfy you, provided only that you bear in mind that you have not replied to my question. Why the soul is here in this world involved in miseries has been explained by me not just now, but again and again a little while ago. The soul sinned, and therefore is miserable. It accepted free choice, used free choice, as it willed; it fell, was cast out from blessedness, was implicated in miseries. As bearing upon this I recited to you the testimony Of the apostle who says: "As through one man death, so also through one man came the resurrection of the dead." What more do you ask? Hence do you reply, wherefore did He, who could not suffer injury, send us hither?
Fortunatus said: The cause must be sought, why the soul came hither, or wherefore God desires hence to liberate the soul that lives in the midst of evils?
26. Augustin said: This cause I ask of you, that is, if God could not suffer injury, wherefore He sent us hither?
Fortunatus said: It is inquired of us, if evil cannot injure God, wherefore the soul was sent hither, or for what reason was it mingled with the world? Which is manifest in what the apostle says: "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou formed me thus?"19 If therefore this cause must be pleaded, He must be asked, why He sent the soul, no necessity compelling Him. But if there was necessity for sending the soul, of right is there also the will of liberating it.
27. Augustin said: Then God is pressedby necessity, is He?
Fortunatus said: Now this is it. Do not seek to bring odium upon what has been said because we do not make God subject to necessity, but to have voluntarily sent the soul.
28. Augustin said: Recall what was said above. And it runs: "But if there was necessity for sending the soul, of right is there also the will of liberating it. Augustin said: We have heard: But if there was necessity for sending the soul, of right is there also the will of liberating it." You, therefore, said that there was necessity for sending the soul. But if you only wish to say "a will to send," I add this also: He who could suffer no injury, had the cruel will to send the soul to so great miseries. Because I speak for the sake of refuting this statement, I ask pardon from the mercy of that One in whom we have hope of liberation from all the errors of heretics.
Fortunatus said: You asseverate that we say that God is cruel in sending the soul, but that God made man, breathed into him a soul which assuredly He foreknew to be involved in future misery, and not to be able by reason of evils to be restored to its inheritance. This belongs either to one who is ignorant, or who gives the soul up to these aforesaid evils. This I have cited because you said not long since, that God adopted the soul, not that it is from Him; for to adopt is a different matter.
29. Augustin said: Concerning adoption I remember that I spoke some days ago according to the testimony of the apostle, who says that we have been called into the adoption of sons.20 This was not my reply, therefore, but the apostle's, concerning which thing, that is, that adoption, we may inquire, if we please, in its own time; and concerning that I will reply without delay, when you shall have answered my objections.
Fortunatus said: I say that there was a going forth of the soul against a contrary nature, which nature could not injure God.
30. Augustin said: What need was there for that going forth, when God whom nothing could injure had nothing to protect?
Fortunatus said: Do you conscientiously hold that Christ came from God?
31. Augustin said: Again you are questioning me. Reply to my inquiries.
Fortunatus said: So I have received in faith, that by the will of God He came hither.
32. Augustin said: And I say: Why did God, omnipotent, inviolable, immutable, whom nothing could injures send hither the soul, to miseries, to error, to those things that we suffer?
Fortunatus said: For it has been said: "I have power to lay down my soul and I have power to take it again."21 Now He said that by the will of God the soul went forth.
33. Augustin said: I ask for the reason why God, when He can in no way suffer injury, sent the soul hither?
Fortunatus said: We have already said that God can in no way suffer injury, and we have said that the soul is in a contrary nature, therefore that it imposes a limit on the contrary nature. The restraint having been imposed on the contrary nature, God takes the same. For He Himself said, "I have power to lay down my soul and power to take it." The Father gave to me the power of laying down my soul, and of taking it. To what soul, therefore, did God who spoke in the Son refer? Evidently our soul, which is held in these bodies,which came of His will, and of His will is again taken up.
34. Augustin said: Why our Lord said: "I have power to lay down my soul and power to take it," is known to all; because He was about to suffer and to rise again. But I ask of you again and again, If God could in no way suffer injury, why did he send souls hither?
Fortunatus said: To impose a limit on contrary nature.
35. Augustin said: And did God omnipotent, merciful and supreme, that He might impose a restraint on contrary nature, wish it to be limited so that He might make us unrestrained?
Fortunatus said: But so He calls us back to Himself.
36. Augustin said: If He recalls to Himself from an unrestrained state, if from sin, from error, from misery, what need was there for the soul to suffer so great evils through so longs time till the world ends? since God by whom you say it was sent could in no way suffer injury.
Fortunatus said: What then am I to say?
37. Augustin said: I know that you have nothing to say, and that I, when I was among you, never found anything to say on this question, and that I was thus admonished from on high to leave that error and to be converted to the Catholic faith or rather to recall it, by the indulgence of Him who did not permit me to inhere forever in this fallacy. But if you confess that you have nothing to reply, I will expound the Catholic faith to all those hearing and investigating, seeing that they are believers, if they permit and wish.
Fortunatus said: Without prejudice to my profession I might say: when I shall have reconsidered with my superiors the things that have been opposed by you, if they fail to respond to this question of mine, which is now in like manner proposed to me by you, it will be in my contemplation (since I desire my soul to be liberated by an assured faith) to come to the investigation of this thing that you have proposed to me and that you promise you will show.
Augustin said: Thanks be to God.