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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book II, Chapter 6

Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 6)

The angels and the Creator of the world could not have been ignorant of the Supreme God.

1. How, again, could either the angels, or the Creator of the world, have been ignorant of the Supreme God, seeing they were His property, and His creatures, and were contained by Him? He might indeed have been invisible to them on account of His superiority, but He could by no means have been unknown to them on account of His providence. For though it is true, as they declare, that they were very far separated from Him through their inferiority [of nature], yet, as His dominion extended over all of them, it behooved them to know their Ruler, and to be aware of this in particular, that He who created them is Lord of all. For since His invisible essence is mighty, it confers on all a profound mental intuition and perception of His most powerful, yea, omnipotent greatness. Wherefore, although no one knows the Father, except the Son, nor the Son except the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal Him, Matthew 11:27 yet all [beings] do know this one fact at least, because reason, implanted in their minds, moves them, and reveals to them [the truth] that there is one God, the Lord of all.

2. And on this account all things have been [by general consent] placed under the sway of Him who is styled the Most High, and the Almighty. By calling upon Him, even before the coming of our Lord, men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power. This was the case, not as if earthly spirits or demons had seen Him, but because they knew of the existence of Him who is God over all, at whose invocation they trembled, as there does tremble every creature, and principality, and power, and every being endowed with energy under His government. By way of parallel, shall not those who live under the empire of the Romans, although they have never seen the emperor, but are far separated from him both by land and sea, know very well, as they experience his rule, who it is that possesses the principal power in the state? How then could it be, that those angels who were superior to us [in nature], or even He whom they call the Creator of the world, did not know the Almighty, when even dumb animals tremble and yield at the invocation of His name? And as, although they have not seen Him, yet all things are subject to the name of our Lord, so must they also be to His who made and established all things by His word, since it was no other than He who formed the world. And for this reason do the Jews even now put demons to flight by means of this very adjuration, inasmuch as all beings fear the invocation of Him who created them.

3. If, then, they shrink from affirming that the angels are more irrational than the dumb animals, they will find that it behooved these, although they had not seen Him who is God over all, to know His power and sovereignty. For it will appear truly ridiculous, if they maintain that they themselves indeed, who dwell upon the earth, know Him who is God over all whom they have never seen, but will not allow Him who, according to their opinion, formed them and the whole world, although He dwells in the heights and above the heavens, to know those things with which they themselves, though they dwell below, are acquainted. [This is the case], unless perchance they maintain that Bythus lives in Tartarus below the earth, and that on this account they have attained to a knowledge of Him before those angels who have their abode on high. Thus do they rush into such an abyss of madness as to pronounce the Creator of the world void of understanding. They are truly deserving of pity, since with such utter folly they affirm that He (the Creator of the world) neither knew His Mother, nor her seed, nor the Pleroma of the Æons, nor the Propator, nor what the things were which He made; but that these are images of those things which are within the Pleroma, the Saviour having secretly laboured that they should be so formed [by the unconscious Demiurge], in honour of those things which are above.

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Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103206.htm>.

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