Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin/A Treatise on Faith and the Creed/Chapter 2
Chapter 2.—Of God and His Exclusive Eternity.
2. For certain parties have attempted to gain acceptance for the opinion that God the Father is not Almighty: not that they have been bold enough expressly to affirm this, but in their traditions they are convicted of entertaining and crediting such a notion. For when they affirm that there is a nature which God Almighty did not create, but of which at the same time He fashioned this world, which they admit to have been disposed in beauty, they thereby deny that God is almighty, to the effect of not believing that He could have created the world without employing, for the purpose of its construction, another nature, which had been in existence previously, and which He Himself had not made. Thus, forsooth, [they reason] from their carnal familiarity with the sight of craftsmen and house-builders, and artisans of all descriptions, who have no power to make good the effect of their own art unless they get the help of materials already prepared. And so these parties in like manner understand the Maker of the world not to be almighty, if thus He could not fashion the said world without the help of some other nature, not framed by Himself, which He had to use as His materials. Or if indeed they do allow God, the Maker of the world, to be almighty, it becomes matter of course that they must also acknowledge that He made out of nothing the things which He did make. For, granting that He is almighty, there cannot exist anything of which He should not be the Creator. For although He made something out of something, as man out of clay, nevertheless He certainly did not make any object out of aught which He Himself had not made; for the earth from which the clay comes He had made out of nothing. And even if He had made out of some material the heavens and the earth themselves, that is to say, the universe and all things which are in it, according as it is written, “Thou who didst make the world out of matter unseen,” or also “without form,” as some copies give it; yet we are under no manner of necessity to believe that this very material of which the universe was made, although it might be “without form,” although it might be “unseen,” whatever might be the mode of its subsistence, could possibly have subsisted of itself, as if it were co-eternal and co-eval with God. But whatsoever that mode was which it possessed to the effect of subsisting in some manner, whatever that manner might be, and of being capable of taking on the forms of distinct things, this it did not possess except by the hand of Almighty God, by whose goodness it is that everything exists,—not only every object which is already formed, but also every object which is formable. This, moreover, is the difference between the formed and the formable, that the formed has already taken on form, while the formable is capable of taking the same. But the same Being who imparts form to objects, also imparts the capability of being formed. For of Him and in Him is the fairest figure of all things, unchangeable; and therefore He Himself is One, who communicates to everything its possibilities, not only that it be beautiful actually, but also that it be capable of being beautiful. For which reason we do most right to believe that God made all things of nothing. For, even although the world was made of some sort of material, this self-same material itself was made of nothing; so that, in accordance with the most orderly gift of God, there was to enter first the capacity of taking forms, and then that all things should be formed which have been formed. This, however, we have said, in order that no one might suppose that the utterances of the divine Scriptures are contrary the one to the other, in so far as it is written at once that God made all things of nothing, and that the world was made of matter without form.
3. As we believe, therefore, in God the Father Almighty, we ought to uphold the opinion that there is no creature which has not been created by the Almighty. And since He created all things by the Word, which Word is also designated the Truth, and the Power, and the Wisdom of God,—as also under many other appellations the Lord Jesus Christ, who is commended to our faith, is presented likewise to our mental apprehensions, to wit, our Deliverer and Ruler, the Son of God; for that Word, by whose means all things were founded, could not have been begotten by any other than by Him who founded all things by His instrumentality;—
- Reading pulchre ordinatum. Some editions give pulchre ornatum = beautifully adorned.
- Si mundum fabricare non posset. For si some mss. give qui = inasmuch as He could not, etc.
- De limo = of mud.
- Wisd. xi. 17
- Speciosissima species = the seemliest semblance.
- John i. 3
- John xiv. 6; 1 Cor. i. 24
- For qui several mss. give quibus here = "under" many other appellations is the Lord Jesus Christ introduced to our mental apprehensions, by which He is commended to our faith.
- For Rector we also find Creator = Creator.