Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume IV/Manichaean Controversy/On the Morals of the Manichaeans/Chapter 7
Chapter 7.—The Goodness of God Prevents Corruption from Bringing Anything to Non-Existence. The Difference Between Creating and Forming.
9. But the goodness of God does not permit the accomplishment of this end, but so orders all things that fall away that they may exist where their existence is most suitable, till in the order of their movements they return to that from which they fell away. Thus, when rational souls fall away from God, although they possess the greatest amount of free-will, He ranks them in the lower grades of creation, where their proper place is. So they suffer misery by the divine judgment, while they are ranked suitably to their deserts. Hence we see the excellence of that saying which you are always inveighing against so strongly, "I make good things, and create evil things." To create is to form and arrange. So in some copies it is written, "I make good things and form evil things." To make is used of things previously not in existence; but to form is to arrange what had some kind of existence, so as to improve and enlarge it. Such are the things which God arranges when He says, "I form evil things," meaning things which are falling off, and so tending to non-existence,—not things which have reached that to which they tend. For it has been said, Nothing is allowed in the providence of God to go the length of non-existence.
10. These things might be discussed more fully and at greater length, but enough has been said for our purpose in dealing with you. We have only to show you the gate which you despair of finding, and make the uninstructed despair of it too. You can be made to enter only by good-will, on which the divine mercy bestows peace, as the song in the Gospel says, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good-will." It is enough, I say, to have shown you that there is no way of solving the religious question of good and evil, unless whatever is, as far as it is, is from God; while as far as it falls away from being it is not of God, and yet is always ordered by Divine Providence in agreement with the whole system. If you do not yet see this, I know nothing else that I can do but to discuss the things already said with greater particularity. For nothing save piety and purity can lead the mind to greater things.
- In Retract. i. 7, § 6, it is said: "This must not be understood to mean that all things return to that from which they fell away, as Origen believed, but only those which do return. Those who shall be punished in everlasting fire do not return to God, from whom they fell away. Still they are in order as existing in punishment where their existence is most suitable." [This does not really meet the difficulty suggested on a preceding page.—A.H.N.]
- Isa. xlv. 7.
- [That is to say nothing is absolutely evil, and conversely what is absolutely evil is ipso facto non-existent.—A.H.N.]
- Luke ii. 14.