Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 63

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Chapter 63 [LIV.]—Does God Create Contraries?

He next endeavours, by much quotation from the apostle, about which there is no controversy, to show “that the flesh is often mentioned by him in such a manner as proves him to mean not the substance, but the works of the flesh.” What is this to the point? The defects of the flesh are contrary to the will of man; his nature is not accused; but a Physician is wanted for its defects. What signifies his question, “Who made man’s spirit?” and his own answer thereto, “God, without a doubt?” Again he asks, “Who created the flesh?” and again answers, “The same God, I suppose.” And yet a third question, “Is the God good who created both?” and the third answer, “Nobody doubts it.” Once more a question, “Are not both good, since the good Creator made them?” and its answer, “It must be confessed that they are.” And then follows his conclusion: “If, therefore, both the spirit is good, and the flesh is good, as made by the good Creator, how can it be that the two good things should be contrary to one another?” I need not say that the whole of this reasoning would be upset if one were to ask him, “Who made heat and cold?” and he were to say in answer, “God, without a doubt.” I do not ask the string of questions. Let him determine himself whether these conditions of climate may either be said to be not good, or else whether they do not seem to be contrary to each other. Here he will probably object, “These are not substances, but the qualities of substances.” Very true, it is so. But still they are natural qualities, and undoubtedly belong to God’s creation; and substances, indeed, are not said to be contrary to each other in themselves, but in their qualities, as water and fire. What if it be so too with flesh and spirit? We do not affirm it to be so; but, in order to show that his argument terminates in a conclusion which does not necessarily follow, we have said so much as this. For it is quite possible for contraries not to be reciprocally opposed to each other, but rather by mutual action to temper health and render it good; just as, in our body, dryness and moisture, cold and heat,—in the tempering of which altogether consists our bodily health. The fact, however, that “the flesh is contrary to the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would,”[1] is a defect, not nature. The Physician’s grace must be sought, and their controversy must end.


  1. Gal. v. 17.