Saturday, April 09, 2011

St. Augustine with a pocket full of punches.

3. The Manichees are accustomed to find fault in the following way with the first book of the Old Testament, which is entitled, Genesis. About the words, "In the beginning God made heaven and earth," they ask, "In what beginning?" They say, "If God made heaven and earth in some beginning of time, what was he doing before he made heaven and earth? And why did he suddenly decide to make what he had not previously made through eternal time?" We answer them that God made heaven and earth in the beginning, not in the beginning of time, but in Christ. For he was the Word with the Father, through whom and in whom all things were made. For, when the Jews asked him who he was, our Lord Jesus Christ answered, "The beginning; that is why I am speaking to you."g But even if we believe that God made heaven and earth at the beginning of time, we should certainly realize that there was no time before the beginning of time. For God also made time, and thus there was no time before he made time. Hence, we cannot say that there was a time when God had not yet made anything. For how could there be a time that God had not made since he is the maker of all time? And if time began to be with heaven and earth, there cannot be found a time when God had not yet made heaven and earth.lo When they say, "Why did he suddenly decide?" they speak as if some time passed during which God produced nothing. But a time could not pass that God had not already made, because he cannot be the producer of time unless he is before time. Surely the Manichees themselves read the Apostle Paul and praise and honor him, and they mislead many by interpreting his Letters wrongly. Let them tell us what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "The knowledge of the truth which is in accord with the goodness of God for the hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie, promised before eternal time." For what could precede eternal time? Let them be forced to explain this. Then they will understand that they do not understand when they rashly want to find fault with what they ought to study with care.

4. Suppose, however, that they do not say, "Why did God suddenly decide to make heaven and earth?" but remove the word "suddenly" and only say, "Why did God decide to make heaven and earth?" For we do not say that this world has the same duration as God, for this world does not have the same eternity as the eternity that God has. God certainly made the world, and thus time began to be along with the creation that God made, and in this sense time is called eternal. Nonetheless, time is not eternal in the same way that God is eternal, because God who is the maker of time is before time. So too, all the things that God has made are very good, but they are not good in the same way that God is good, because he is their maker, while they are made. Nor did he give birth to them out of himself so that they are what he is; rather he made them out of nothing so that they are equal neither to him by whom they have been made nor to his Son through whom they have been made. For this is juSt. But if they say, "Why did God decide to make heaven and earth?" we should answer them that those who desire to know the will of God should first learn the power of the human will. They seek to know the causes of the will of God though the will of God is itself the cause of all that exists. For if the will of God has a cause, there is something that surpasses the will of God-and this we may not believe. Hence, one who asks, "Why did God make heaven and earth?" should be told, "Because he willed to." For the will of God is the cause of heaven and earth, and the will of God, therefore, is greater than heaven and earth. One who asks, "Why did God will to create heaven and earth?" is looking for something greater than the will of God, though nothing greater can be found. Hence, let human temerity hold itself in check, and let it not seek what is not lest it not find what is. If anyone desires to know the will of God, let him become a friend of God. For, if anyone wanted to know the will of a man of whom he was not a friend, everyone would laugh at his impudence and folly. But one becomes a friend of God only by the highest purity of morals and by that goal of the command, of which the Apostle speaks, "The goal of the command is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned," and if they had this, they would not be heretics.

St. Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichaeos 1.2.3-4.

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