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Home > Fathers of the Church > Contra Faustum (Augustine) > Book XX

Contra Faustum, Book XX

Faustus repels the charge of sun-worship, and maintains that while the Manichæans believe that God's power dwells in the sun and his wisdom in the moon, they yet worship one deity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are not a schism of the Gentiles, nor a sect. Augustine emphasizes the charge of polytheism, and goes into an elaborate comparison of Manichæan and pagan mythology.

1. Faustus said: You ask why we worship the sun, if we are a sect or separate religion, and not Pagans, or merely a schism of the Gentiles. It may therefore be as well to inquire into the matter, that we may see whether the name of Gentiles is more applicable to you or to us. Perhaps, in giving you in a friendly way this simple account of my faith, I shall appear to be making an apology for it, as if I were ashamed, which God forbid, of doing homage to the divine luminaries. You may take it as you please; but I shall not regret what I have done if I succeed in conveying to some at least this much knowledge, that our religion has nothing in common with that of the Gentiles.

2. We worship, then, one deity under the threefold appellation of the Almighty God the Father, and his son Christ, and the Holy Spirit. While these are one and the same, we believe also that the Father properly dwells in the highest or principal light, which Paul calls "light inaccessible," 1 Timothy 6:16 and the Son in his second or visible light. And as the Son is himself twofold, according to the apostle, who speaks of Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24 we believe that His power dwells in the sun, and His wisdom in the moon. We also believe that the Holy Spirit, the third majesty, has His seat and His home in the whole circle of the atmosphere. By His influence and spiritual infusion, the earth conceives and brings forth the mortal Jesus, who, as hanging from every tree, is the life and salvation of men. Though you oppose these doctrines so violently, your religion resembles ours in attaching the same sacredness to the bread and wine that we do to everything. This is our belief, which you will have an opportunity of hearing more of, if you wish to do so. Meanwhile there is some force in the consideration that you or any one that is asked where his God dwells, will say that he dwells in light; so that the testimony in favor of my worship is almost universal.

3. As to your calling us a schism of the Gentiles, and not a sect, I suppose the word schism applies to those who have the same doctrines and worship as other people, and only choose to meet separately. The word sect, again, applies to those whose doctrine is quite unlike that of others, and who have made a form of divine worship peculiar to themselves. If this is what the words mean, in the first place, in our doctrine and worship we have no resemblance to the Pagans. We shall see presently whether you have. The Pagan doctrine is, that all things good and evil, mean and glorious, fading and unfading, changeable and unchangeable, material and divine, have only one principle. In opposition to this, my belief is that God is the principle of all good things, and Hyle [matters] of the opposite. Hyle is the name given by our master in divinity to the principle or nature of evil. The Pagans accordingly think it right to worship God with altars, and shrines, and images, and sacrifices, and incense. Here also my practice differs entirely from theirs: for I look upon myself as a reasonable temple of God, if I am worthy to be so; and I consider Christ his Son as the living image of his living majesty; and I hold a mind well cultivated to be the true altar, and pure and simple prayers to be the true way of paying divine honors and of offering sacrifices. Is this being a schism of the Pagans?

4. As regards the worship of the Almighty God, you might call us a schism of the Jews, for all Jews are bold enough to profess this worship, were it not for the difference in the form of our worship, though it may be questioned whether the Jews really worship the Almighty. But the doctrine I have mentioned is common to the Pagans in their worship of the sun, and to the Jews in their worship of the Almighty. Even in relation to you, we are not properly a schism, though we acknowledge Christ and worship Him; for our worship and doctrine are different from yours. In a schism, little or no change is made from the original; as, for instance, you, in your schism from the Gentiles, have brought with you the doctrine of a single principle, for you believe that all things are of God. The sacrifices you change into love-feasts, the idols into martyrs, to whom you pray as they do to their idols. You appease the shades of the departed with wine and food. You keep the same holidays as the Gentiles; for example, the calends and the solstices. In your way of living you have made no change. Plainly you are a mere schism; for the only difference from the original is that you meet separately. In this you have followed the Jews, who separated from the Gentiles, but differed only in not having images. For they used temples, and sacrifices, and altars, and a priesthood, and the whole round of ceremonies the same as those of the Gentiles, only more superstitious. Like the Pagans, they believe in a single principle; so that both you and the Jews are schisms of the Gentiles, for you have the same faith, and nearly the same worship, and you call yourselves sects only because you meet separately. The fact is, there are only two sects, the Gentiles and ourselves. We and the Gentiles are as contrary in our belief as truth and falsehood, day and night, poverty and wealth, health and sickness. You, again, are not a sect in relation either to truth or to error. You are merely a schism and a schism not of truth, but of error.

5. Augustine replied: O hateful mixture of ignorance and cunning! Why do you put arguments in the mouth of your opponent, which no one that knows you would use? We do not call you Pagans, or a schism of Pagans; but we say that you resemble them in worshipping many gods. But you are far worse than Pagans, for they worship things which exist, though they should not be worshipped: for idols have an existence, though for salvation they are nought. So, to worship a tree with prayers, instead of improving it by cultivation, is not to worship nothing, but to worship in a wrong way. When the apostle says that "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God," 1 Corinthians 10:20 he means that these demons exist to whom the sacrifices are made, and with whom he wishes us not to be partakers. So, too, heaven and earth, the sea and air, the sun and moon, and the other heavenly bodies, are all objects which have a sensible existence. When the Pagans worship these as gods, or as parts of one great God (for some of them identify the universe with the Supreme Deity), they worship things which have an existence. In arguing with Pagans, we do not deny the existence of these things, but we say that they should not be worshipped; and we recommend the worship of the invisible Creator of all these things, in whom alone man can find the happiness which all allow that he desires. To those, again, who worship what is invisible and immaterial, but still is created, as the soul or mind of man, we say that happiness is not to be found in the creature even under this form, and that we must worship the true God, who is not only invisible, but unchangeable; for He alone is to be worshipped, in the enjoyment of whom the worshipper finds happiness, and without whom the soul must be wretched, whatever else it possesses. You, on the other hand, who worship things which have no existence at all except in your fictitious legends, would be nearer true piety and religion if you were Pagans, or if you were worshippers of what has an existence, though not a proper object of worship. In fact, you do not properly worship the sun, though he carries your prayers with him in his course round the heavens.

6. Your statements about the sun himself are so false and absurd, that if he were to repay you for the injury done to him, he would scorch you to death. First of all, you call the sun a ship, so that you are not only astray worlds off, as the saying is, but adrift. Next, while every one sees that the sun is round, which is the form corresponding from its perfection to his position among the heavenly bodies, you maintain that he is triangular, that is, that his light shines on the earth through a triangular window in heaven. Hence it is that you bend and bow your heads to the sun, while you worship not this visible sun, but some imaginary ship which you suppose to be shining through a triangular opening. Assuredly this ship would never have been heard of, if the words required for the composition of heretical fictions had to be paid for, like the wood required for the beams of a ship. All this is comparatively harmless, however ridiculous or pitiable. Very different is your wicked fancy about youths of both sexes proceeding from this ship, whose beauty excites eager desire in the princes and princesses of darkness; and so the members of your god are released from this humiliating confinement in the members of the race of darkness, by means of sinful passion and sensual appetite. And to these filthy rags of yours you would unite the mystery of the Trinity; for you say that the Father dwells in a secret light, the power of the Son in the sun, and His wisdom in the moon, and the Holy Spirit in the air.

7. As for this threefold or rather fourfold fiction, what shall I say of the secret light of the Father, but that you can think of no light except what you have seen? From your knowledge of visible light, with which beasts and insects as well as men are familiar, you form some vague idea in your mind, and call it the light in which God the Father dwells with His subjects. How can you distinguish between the light by which we see, and that by which we understand, when, according to your ideas, to understand truth is nothing else than to form the conception of material forms, either finite or in some cases infinite; and you actually believe in these wild fancies? It is manifest that the act of my mind in thinking of your region of light which has no existence, is entirely different from my conception of Alexandria, which exists, though I have not seen it. And, again, the act of forming a conception of Alexandria, which I have never seen, is very different from thinking of Carthage, which I know. But this difference is insignificant as compared with that between my thinking of material things which I know from seeing them, and my understanding justice, chastity, faith, truth, love, goodness, and things of this nature. Can you describe this intellectual light, which gives us a clear perception of the distinction between itself and other things, as well as of the distinction between those things themselves? And yet even this is not the sense in which it can be said that God is light, for this light is created, whereas God is the Creator; the light is made, and He is the Maker; the light is changeable. For the intellect changes from dislike to desire, from ignorance to knowledge, from forgetfulness to recollection; whereas God remains the same in will, in truth, and in eternity. From God we derive the beginning of existence, the principle of knowledge, the law of affection. From God all animals, rational and irrational, derive the nature of their life, the capacity of sensation, the faculty of emotion. From God all bodies derive their subsistence in extension, their beauty in number, and their order in weight. This light is one divine being, in an inseparable triune existence; and yet, without supposing the assumption of any bodily form, you assign to separate places parts of the immaterial, spiritual, and unchangeable substance. And instead of three places for the Trinity, you have four: one, the light inaccessible, which you know nothing about, for the Father; two, the sun and moon, for the Son; and again one, the circle of the atmosphere, for the Holy Spirit. Of the inaccessible light of the Father I shall say nothing further at present, for orthodox believers do not separate the Son and the Spirit from the Father in relation to this light.

8. It is difficult to understand how you have been taken with the absurd idea of placing the power of the Son in the sun, and His wisdom in the moon. For, as the Son remains inseparably in the Father, His wisdom and power cannot be separated from one another, so that one should be in the sun and the other in the moon. Only material things can be thus assigned to separate places. If you only understood this, it would have prevented you from taking the productions of a diseased fancy as the material for so many fictions. But there is inconsistency and improbability as well as falsehood in your ideas. For, according to you, the seat of wisdom is inferior in brightness to the seat of power. Now energy and productiveness are the qualities of power, whereas light teaches and manifests; so that if the sun had the greater heat, and the moon the greater light, these absurdities might appear to have some likelihood to men of carnal minds, who know nothing except through material conceptions. From the connection between great heat and motion, they might identify power with heat; while light from its brightness, and as making things discernible, they might represent wisdom. But what folly as well as profanity, in placing power in the sun, which excels so much in light, and wisdom in the moon, which is so inferior in brightness! And while you separate Christ from Himself, you do not distinguish between Christ and the Holy Spirit; whereas Christ is one, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, and the Spirit is a distinct person. But according to you, the air, which you make the seat of the Spirit, fills and pervades the universe. So the sun and moon in their course are always united to the air. But the moon approaches the sun at one time, and recedes from it at another. So that, if we may believe you, or rather, if we may allow ourselves to be imposed on by you, wisdom recedes from power by half the circumference of a circle, and again approaches it by the other half. And when wisdom is full, it is at a distance from power. For when the moon is full, the distance between the two bodies is so great, that the moon rises in the east while the sun is setting in the west. But as the loss of power produces weakness, the fuller the moon is, the weaker must wisdom be. If, as is certainly true, the wisdom of God is unchangeable in power, and the power of God unchangeable in wisdom, how can you separate them so as to assign them to different places? And how can the place be different when the substance is the same? Is this not the infatuation of subjection to material fancies; showing such a want of power and wisdom that your wisdom is as weak as your power is foolish? This execrable absurdity would divide Christ between the sun and the moon—His power in one, and His wisdom in the other; so that He would be incomplete in both, lacking wisdom in the sun, and power in the moon, while in both He supplies youths, male and female, to excite the affection of the princes and princesses of darkness. Such are the tenets which you learn and profess. Such is the faith which directs your conduct. And can you wonder that you are regarded with abhorrence?

9. But besides your errors regarding these conspicuous and familiar luminaries, which you worship not for what they are, but for what your wild fancy makes them to be, your other absurdities are still worse than this. Your illustrious World-bearer, and Atlas who helps to hold him up, are unreal beings. Like innumerable other creatures of your fancy, they have no existence, and yet you worship them. For this reason we say that you are worse than Pagans, while you resemble them in worshipping many gods. You are worse, because, while they worship things which exist though they are not gods, you worship things which are neither gods nor anything else, for they have no existence. The Pagans, too, have fables, but they know them to be fables; and either look upon them as amusing poetical fancies, or try to explain them as representing the nature of things, or the life of man. Thus they say that Vulcan is lame, because flame in common fire has an irregular motion: that Fortune is blind, because of the uncertainty of what are called fortuitous occurrences: that there are three Fates, with distaff, and spindle, and fingers spinning wool into thread, because there are three times—the past, already spun and wound on the spindle; the present, which is passing through the fingers of the spinner; and the future, still in wool bound to the distaff, and soon to pass through the fingers to the spindle, that is, through the present into the future: and that Venus is the wife of Vulcan, because pleasure has a natural connection with heat; and that she is the mistress of Mars, because pleasure is not properly the companion of warriors: and that Cupid is a boy with wings and a bow, from the wounds inflicted by thoughtless, inconstant passion in the hearts of unhappy beings: and so with many other fables. The great absurdity is in their continuing to worship these beings, after giving such explanations; for the worship without the explanations, though criminal, would be a less heinous crime. The very explanations prove that they do not worship that God, the enjoyment of whom can alone give happiness, but things which He has created. And even in the creature they worship not only the virtues, as in Minerva, who sprang from the head of Jupiter, and who represents prudence—a quality of reason which, according to Plato, has its seat in the head—but their vices, too, as in Cupid. Thus one of their dramatic poets says, "Sinful passion, in favor of vice, made Love a god." Even bodily evils had temples in Rome, as in the case of pallor and fever. Not to dwell on the sin of the worshippers of these idols, who are in a way affected by the bodily forms, so that they pay homage to them as deities, when they see them set up in some lofty place, and treated with great honor and reverence, there is greater sin in the very explanations which are intended as apologies for these dumb, and deaf, and blind, and lifeless objects. Still, though, as I have said, these things are nothing in the way of salvation or of usefulness, both they and the things they are said to represent are real existences. But your First Man, warring with the five elements; and your Mighty Spirit, who constructs the world from the captive bodies of the race of darkness, or rather from the members of your god in subjection and bondage; and your World-holder, who has in his hand the remains of these members, and who bewails the capture and bondage and pollution of the rest; and your giant Atlas, who keeps up the World-holder on his shoulders, lest he should from weariness throw away his burden, and so prevent the completion of the final imitation of the mass of darkness, which is to be the last scene in your drama;— these and countless other absurdities are not represented in painting or sculpture, or in any explanation; and yet you believe and worship things which have no existence, while you taunt the Christians with being credulous for believing in realities with a faith which pacifies the mind under its influence. The objects of your worship can be shown to have no existence by many proofs, which I do not bring forward here, because, though I could without difficulty discourse philosophically on the construction of the world, it would take too long to do so here. One proof suffices. If these things are real, God must be subject to change, and corruption, and contamination; a supposition as blasphemous as it is irrational. All these things, therefore, are vain, and false, and unreal. Thus you are much worse than those Pagans, with whom all are familiar, and who still preserve traces of their old customs, of which they themselves are ashamed; for while they worship things which are not gods, you worship things which do not exist.

10. If you think that your doctrines are true because they are unlike the errors of the Pagans, and that we are in error because we perhaps differ more from you than from them, you might as well say that a dead man is in good health because he is not sick; or that good health is undesirable, because it differs less from sickness than from death. Or if the Pagans should be viewed in many cases as rather dead than sick, you might as well praise the ashes in the tomb because they have no longer the human shape, as compared with the living body, which does not differ so much from a corpse as from ashes. It is thus we are reproached for having more resemblance to the dead body of Paganism than to the ashes of Manichæism. But in division, it often happens that a thing is placed in different classes, according to the point of resemblance on which the division proceeds. For instance, if animals are divided into those that fly and those that cannot fly, in this division men and beasts are classed together as distinct from birds, because they are both unable to fly. But if they are divided into rational and irrational, beasts and birds are classed together as distinct from men, for they are both destitute of reason. Faustus did not think of this when he said: There are in fact only two sects, the Gentiles and ourselves, for we are directly opposed to them in our belief. The opposition he means is this, that the Gentiles believe in a single principle, whereas the Manichæans believe also in the principle of the race of darkness. Certainly, according to this division we agree in general with the Pagans. But if we divide all who have a religion into those who worship one God and those who worship many gods, the Manichæans must be classed along with the Pagans, and we along with the Jews. This is another distinction, which may be said to make only two sects. Perhaps you will say that you hold all your gods to be of one substance, which the Pagans do not. But you at least resemble them in assigning to your gods different powers, and functions, and employments. One does battle with the race of darkness; another constructs the world from the part which is captured; another, standing above, has the world in his hand; another holds him up from below; another turns the wheels of the fires and winds and waters beneath; another, in his circuit of the heavens, gathers with his beams the members of your god from cesspools. Indeed, your gods have innumerable occupations, according to your fabulous descriptions, which you neither explain nor represent in a visible form. But again, if men were divided into those who believe that God takes an interest in human affairs and those who do not, the Pagans and Jews, and you and all heretics that have anything of Christianity, will be classed together, as opposed to the Epicureans, and any others holding similar views. As this is a principle of importance, here again we may say that there are only two sects, and you belong to the same sect as we do. You will hardly venture to dissent from us in the opinion that God is concerned in human affairs, so that in this matter your opposition to the Epicureans makes you side with us. Thus, according to the nature of the division, what is in one class at one time, is in another at another time: things joined here are separated there: in some things we are classed with others, and they with us; in other things we are classed separately, and stand alone. If Faustus thought of this, he would not talk such eloquent nonsense.

11. But what are we to make of these words of Faustus: The Holy Spirit, by his influence and spiritual infusion, makes the earth conceive and bring forth the mortal Jesus, who, as hanging from every tree, is the life and salvation of men? Letting pass for a moment the absurdity of this statement, we observe the folly of believing that the mortal Jesus can be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit by the earth, but not by the Virgin Mary. Dare you compare the holiness of that chaste virgin's womb with any piece of ground where trees and plants grow? Do you pretend to look with abhorrence upon a pure virgin, while you do not shrink from believing that Jesus is produced in gardens watered by the filthy drains of a city? For plants of all kinds spring up and are nourished in such moisture. You will have Jesus to be born in this way, while you cry out against the idea of His being born of a virgin. Do you think flesh more unclean than the excrements which its nature rejects? Is the filth cleaner than the flesh which expels it? Are you not aware how fields are manured in order to make them productive? Your folly comes to this, that the Holy Spirit, who, according to you, despised the womb of Mary, makes the earth conceive more fruitfully in proportion as it is carefully enriched with animal off-scourings. Do you reply that the Holy Spirit preserves His incorruptible purity everywhere? I ask again, Why not also in the virgin's womb? Passing from the conception, you maintain in regard to the mortal Jesus— who, as you say, is born from the earth, which has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit— that He hangs in the shape of fruit from every tree: so that, besides this pollution, He suffers additional defilement from the flesh of the countless animals that eat the fruit; except, indeed, the small amount that is purified by your eating it. While we believe and confess Christ the Son of God, and the Word of God, to have become flesh without suffering defilement, because the divine substance is not defiled by flesh, as it is not defiled by anything, your fanciful notions would make Jesus to be defiled even as hanging on the tree, before entering the flesh of any animal; for if He were not defiled, there would be no need of His being purified by your eating Him. And if all trees are the cross of Christ, as Faustus seems to imply when he says that Jesus hangs from every tree, why do you not pluck the fruit, and so take Jesus down from hanging on the tree to bury Him in your stomach, which would correspond to the good deed of Joseph of Arimathea, when he took down the true Jesus from the cross to bury Him? John 19:38 Why should it be impious to take Christ from the tree, while it is pious to lay Him in the tomb? Perhaps you wish to apply to yourselves the words quoted from the prophet by Paul, "Their throat is an open sepulchre:" Romans 3:13 and so you wait with open mouth till some one comes to use your throat as the best sepulchre for Christ. Once more, how many Christs do you make? Is there one whom you call the mortal Christ, whom the earth conceives and brings forth by the power of the Holy Spirit; and another crucified by the Jews under Pontius Pilate; and a third whom you divide between the sun and the moon? Or is it one and the same person, part of whom is confined in the trees, to be released by the help of the other part which is not confined? If this is the case, and you allow that Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, though it is difficult to see how he could have suffered without flesh, as you say he did, the great question is, with whom he left those ships you speak of, that he might come down and suffer these things, which he certainly could not have suffered without having a body of some kind. A mere spiritual presence could not have made him liable to these sufferings, and in his bodily presence he could not be at the same time in the sun, in the moon, and on the cross. So, then, if he had not a body, he was not crucified; and if he had a body, the question is, where he got it: for, according to you, all bodies belong to the race of darkness, though you cannot think of the divine substance except as being material. Thus you must say either that Christ was crucified without a body; which is utterly absurd; or that he was crucified in appearance and not in reality, which is blasphemy; or that all bodies do not belong to the race of darkness, but that the divine substance has also a body, and that not an immortal body, but liable to crucifixion and death, which, again, is altogether erroneous; or that Christ had a mortal body from the race of darkness, so that, while you will not allow that Christ's body came from the Virgin Mary, you derive it from the race of demons. Finally, as in Faustus' statement, in which he alludes in the briefest manner possible to the lengthy stories of Manichæan invention, the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit conceives and brings forth the mortal Jesus, who, hanging from every tree, is the life and salvation of men, why should this Saviour be represented by whatever is hanging, because he hung on the tree, and not by whatever is born, because he was born? But if you mean that the Jesus on the trees, and the Jesus crucified under Pontius Pilate, and the Jesus divided between the sun and the moon, are all one and the same substance, why do you not give the name of Jesus to your whole host of deities? Why should not your World-holder be Jesus too, and Atlas, and the King of Honour, and the Mighty Spirit, and the First Man, and all the rest, with their various names and occupations?

12. So, with regard to the Holy Spirit, how can you say that he is the third person, when the persons you mention are innumerable? Or why is he not Jesus himself? And why does Faustus mislead people, in trying to make out an agreement between himself and true Christians, from whom he differs only too widely, by saying, We worship one God under the threefold appellation of the Almighty God the Father, Christ his Son, and the Holy Spirit? Why is the appellation only threefold, instead of being manifold? And why is the distinction in appellation only, and not in reality, if there are as many persons as there are names? For it is not as if you gave three names to the same thing, as the same weapon may be called a short sword, a dagger, or a dirk; or as you give the name of moon, and the lesser ship, and the luminary of night, and so on, to the same thing. For you cannot say that the First Man is the same as the Mighty Spirit, or as the World-Holder, or as the giant Atlas. They are all distinct persons, and you do not call any of them Christ. How can there be one Deity with opposite functions? Or why should not Christ himself be the single person, if in one substance Christ hangs on the trees, and was persecuted by the Jews, and exists in the sun and moon? The fact is, your fancies are all astray, and are no better than the dreams of insanity.

13. How can Faustus think that we resemble the Manichæans in attaching sacredness to bread and wine, when they consider it sacrilege to taste wine? They acknowledge their god in the grape, but not in the cup; perhaps they are shocked at his being trampled on and bottled. It is not any bread and wine that we hold sacred as a natural production, as if Christ were confined in grain or in vines, as the Manichæans fancy, but what is truly consecrated as a symbol. What is not consecrated, though it is bread and wine, is only nourishment or refreshment, with no sacredness about it; although we bless and thank God for every gift, bodily as well as spiritual. According to your notion, Christ is confined in everything you eat, and is released by digestion from the additional confinement of your intestines. So, when you eat, your god suffers; and when you digest, you suffer from his recovery. When he fills you, your gain is his loss. This might be considered kindness on his part, because he suffers in you for your benefit, were it not that he gains freedom by escaping and leaving you empty. There is not the least resemblance between our reverence for the bread and wine, and your doctrines, which have no truth in them. To compare the two is even more foolish than to say, as some do, that in the bread and wine we worship Ceres and Bacchus. I refer to this now, to show where you got your silly idea that our fathers kept the Sabbath in honor of Saturn. For as there is no connection with the worship of the Pagan deities Ceres and Bacchus in our observance of the sacrament of the bread and wine, which you approve so highly that you wish to resemble us in it, so there was no subjection to Saturn in the case of our fathers, who observed the rest of the Sabbath in a manner suitable to prophetic times.

14. You might have found a resemblance in your religion to that of the Pagans as regards Hyle [matter], which the Pagans often speak of. You, on the contrary, maintain that you are directly opposed to them in your belief in the evil principle which your teacher in theology calls Hyle. But here you only show your ignorance, and, with an affectation of learning, use this word without knowing what it means. The Greeks, when speaking of nature, give the name Hyle to the subject-matter of things, which has no form of its own, but admits of all bodily forms, and is known only through these changeable phenomena, not being itself an object of sensation or perception. Some Gentiles, indeed, erroneously make this matter co-eternal with God, as not being derived from Him, though the bodily forms are. In this manifest error you resemble the Pagans, for you hold that Hyle has a principle of its own, and does not come from God. It is only ignorance that leads you to deny this resemblance. In saying that Hyle has no form of its own, and can take its forms only from God, the Pagans come near to the truth which we believe in contradistinction from your errors. Not knowing what Hyle or the subject-matter of things is, you make it the race of darkness, in which you place not only innumerable bodily forms of five different kinds, but also a formative mind. Such, indeed, is your ignorance or insanity, that you call this mind Hyle, and make it give forms instead of taking them. If there were such a formative mind as you speak of, and bodily elements capable of form, the word Hyle would properly be applicable to the bodily elements, which would be the matter to be formed by the mind, which you make the principle of evil. Even this would not be a quite accurate use of the word Hyle, which has no form of any kind; whereas these elements, although capable of new forms, have already the form of elements, and belong to different kinds. Still this use of the word would not be so much amiss, notwithstanding your ignorance; for it would thus be applied, as it properly is, to that which takes form, and not to that which gives it. Even here, however, your folly and impiety would appear in tracing so much that is good to the evil principle, from your not knowing that all natures of every kind, all forms in their proportion, and all weights in their order, can come only from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it is, you know neither what Hyle is, nor what evil is. Would that I could persuade you to refrain from misleading people still more ignorant than yourselves!

15. Every one must see the folly of your boasting of superiority to the Pagans because they use altars and temples, images and sacrifices and incense, in the worship of God, which you do not. As if it were not better to build an altar and offer sacrifice to a stone, which has some kind of existence, than to employ a heated imagination in worshipping things which have no existence at all. And what do you mean by saying that you are a rational temple of God? Can that be God's temple which is partly the construction of the devil? And is this not true of you, as you say that all your members and your whole body were formed by the evil principle which you call Hyle, and that part of this formative mind dwells in the body along with part of your god? And as this part of your god is bound and confined, you should be called the prison of God rather than his temple. Perhaps it is your soul that is the temple of God, as you have it from the region of light. But you generally call your soul not a temple, but a part or member of God. So, when you say you are the temple of God, it must be in your body, which, you say, was formed by the devil. Thus you blaspheme the temple of God, calling it not only the workmanship of Satan, but the prison-house of God. The apostle, on the other hand, says: "The temple of God is holy, which temple you are." And to show that this refers not merely to the soul, he says expressly: "Do you not know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which you have of God?" You call the workmanship of devils the temple of God, and there, to use Faustus' words, you place Christ, the Son of God, the living image of living majesty. Your impiety may well contrive a fabulous temple for a fabulous Christ. The image you speak of must be so called, because it is the creature of your imagination.

16. If your mind is an altar, you see whose altar it is. You may see from the very doctrines and duties in which you say you are trained. You are taught not to give food to a beggar; and so your altar smokes with the sacrifice of cruelty. Such altars the Lord destroys; for in words quoted from the law He tells us what offering pleases God: "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." Observe on what occasion the Lord uses these words. It was when, in passing through a field, the disciples plucked the ears of grain because they were hungry. Your doctrine would lead you to call this murder. Your mind is an altar, not of God, but of lying devils, by whose doctrines the evil conscience is seared as with a hot iron, 1 Timothy 4:2 calling murder what the truth calls innocence. For in His words to the Jews, Christ by anticipation deals a fatal blow to you: "If you had known what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless." Matthew 12:7

17. Nor can you say that you honor God with sacrifices in the shape of pure and simple prayers: for, in your low, dishonoring notions about the divine nature and substance, you make your god to be the victim in the sacrifices of Pagans; so far are you from pleasing the true God with your sacrifices. For you hold that God is confined not only in trees and plants, or in the human body, but also in the flesh of animals, which contaminates Him with its impurity. And how can your soul give praise to God, when you actually reproach Him by calling your soul a particle of His substance taken captive by the race of darkness; as if God could not maintain the conflict except by this corruption of His members, and this dishonorable captivity? Instead of honoring God in your prayers, you insult Him. For what sin did you commit, when you belonged to Him, that you should be thus punished by the god you cry to, not because you left Him sinfully of your own choice; for he himself gave you to His enemies, to obtain peace for His kingdom? You are not even given as hostages to be honorably guarded. Nor is it as when a shepherd lays a snare to catch a wild beast: for he does not put one of his own members in the snare, but some animal from his flock; and generally, so that the wild beast is caught before the animal is hurt. You, though you are the members of your god, are given to the enemy, whose ferocity you keep off from your god only by being contaminated with their impurity, infected with their corruptions, without any fault of your own. You cannot in your prayers use the words: "Free us, O Lord, for the glory of Your name; and for Your name's sake pardon our sins." Your prayer is: "Free us by Your skill, for we suffer here oppression, and torture, and pollution, only that You may mourn unmolested in Your kingdom." These are words of reproach, not of entreaty. Nor can you use the words taught us by the Master of truth: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Matthew 6:12 For who are the debtors who have sinned against you? If it is the race of darkness, you do not forgive their debts, but make them be utterly cast out and shut up in eternal imprisonment. And how can God forgive your debts, when He rather sinned against you by sending you into such a state, than you against Him, whom you obeyed by going? If this was not a sin in Him, because He was compelled to do it, this excuse must apply you, now that you have been overthrown in the conflict, more than to Him before the conflict began. You suffer now from the mixture of evil, which was not the case with Him when nevertheless He was compelled to send you. So either He requires that you should forgive Him his debt; or, if He is not in debt to you, still less are you to Him. It appears that your sacrifices and your pure and simple prayers are false and vile blasphemies.

18. How is it, by the way, that you use the words temple, altar, sacrifice, for the purpose of commending your own practices? If such things can be spoken of as properly belonging to true religion, they must constitute the true worship of the true God. And if there is such a thing as true sacrifice to the true God, which is implied in the expression divine honors, there must be some one true sacrifice of which the rest are imitations. On the one hand, we have the spurious imitations in the case of false and lying gods, that is, of devils, who proudly demand divine honors from their deluded votaries, as is or was the case in the temples and idols of the Gentiles. On the other hand, we have the prophetic intimations of one most true sacrifice to be offered for the sins of all believers, as in the sacrifices enjoined by God on our fathers; along with which there was also the symbolic anointing typical of Christ, as the name Christ itself means anointed. The animal sacrifices, therefore, presumptuously claimed by devils, were an imitation of the true sacrifice which is due only to the one true God, and which Christ alone offered on His altar. Thus the apostle says: "The sacrifices which the Gentiles offer, they offer to devils, and not to God." 1 Corinthians 10:30 He does not find fault with sacrifices, but with offering to devils. The Hebrews, again, in their animal sacrifices, which they offered to God in many varied forms, suitably to the significance of the institution, typified the sacrifice offered by Christ. This sacrifice is also commemorated by Christians, in the sacred offering and participation of the body and blood of Christ. The Manichæans understand neither the sinfulness of the Gentile sacrifices, nor the importance of the Hebrew sacrifices, nor the use of the ordinance of the Christian sacrifice. Their own errors are the offering they present to the devil who has deceived them. And thus they depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and to doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy.

19. It may be well that Faustus, or at least that those who are charmed with Faustus' writings, should know that the doctrine of a single principle did not come to us from the Gentiles; for the belief in one true God, from whom every kind of nature is derived, is a part of the original truth retained among the Gentiles, notwithstanding their having fallen away to many false gods. For the Gentile philosophers had the knowledge of God, because, as the apostle says, "the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." But, as the apostle adds, "when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." Romans 1:20-23 These are the idols of the Gentiles, which they cannot explain except by referring to the creatures made by God; so that this very explanation of their idolatry, on which the more enlightened Gentiles were wont to pride themselves as a proof of their superiority, shows the truth of the following words of the apostle: "They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Romans 1:25 Where you differ from the Gentiles, you are in error; where you resemble them, you are worse than they. You do not believe, as they do, in a single principle; and so you fall into the impiety of believing the substance of the one true God to be liable to subjugation and corruption. As regards the worship of a plurality of gods, the doctrine of lying devils has led the Gentiles to worship many idols, and you to worship many phantasms.

20. We do not turn the sacrifices of the Gentiles into love-feasts, as Faustus says we do. Our love-feasts are rather a substitute for the sacrifice spoken of by the Lord, in the words already quoted: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." At our love-feasts the poor obtain vegetable or animal food; and so the creature of God is used, as far as it is suitable, for the nourishment of man, who is also God's creature. You have been led by lying devils, not in self-denial, but in blasphemous error, "to abstain from meats which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." 1 Timothy 4:3-4 In return for the bounties of the Creator, you ungratefully insult Him with your impiety; and because in our love-feasts flesh is often given to the poor, you compare Christian charity to Pagan sacrifices. This indeed, is another point in which you resemble some Pagans. You consider it a crime to kill animals, because you think that the souls of men pass into them; which is an idea found in the writings of some Gentile philosophers, although their successors appear to have thought differently. But here again you are most in error: for they dreaded slaughtering a relative in the animal; but you dread the slaughter of your god, for you hold even the souls of animals to be his members.

21. As to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs, and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols, I should not care to answer such a charge, were it not for the sake of showing how Faustus, in his desire to cast reproach on us, has overstepped the Manichæan inventions, and has fallen heedlessly into a popular notion found in Pagan poetry, although he is so anxious to be distinguished from the Pagans. For in saying that we have turned the idols into martyrs, he speaks of our worshipping them with similar rites, and appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food. Do you, then, believe in shades? We never heard you speak of such things, nor have we read of them in your books. In fact, you generally oppose such ideas: for you tell us that the souls of the dead, if they are wicked, or not purified, are made to pass through various changes, or suffer punishment still more severe; while the good souls are placed in ships, and sail through heaven to that imaginary region of light which they died fighting for. According to you, then, no souls remain near the burying-place of the body; and how can there be any shades of the departed? What and where are they? Faustus' love of evil-speaking has made him forget his own creed; or perhaps he spoke in his sleep about ghosts, and did not wake up even when he saw his words in writing. It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers. But we build altars not to any martyr, but to the God of martyrs, although it is to the memory of the martyrs. No one officiating at the altar in the saints' burying-place ever says, We bring an offering to you, O Peter! Or O Paul! Or O Cyprian! The offering is made to God, who gave the crown of martyrdom, while it is in memory of those thus crowned. The emotion is increased by the associations of the place, and love is excited both towards those who are our examples, and towards Him by whose help we may follow such examples. We regard the martyrs with the same affectionate intimacy that we feel towards holy men of God in this life, when we know that their hearts are prepared to endure the same suffering for the truth of the gospel. There is more devotion in our feeling towards the martyrs, because we know that their conflict is over; and we can speak with greater confidence in praise of those already victors in heaven, than of those still combating here. What is properly divine worship, which the Greeks call latria, and for which there is no word in Latin, both in doctrine and in practice, we give only to God. To this worship belongs the offering of sacrifices; as we see in the word idolatry, which means the giving of this worship to idols. Accordingly we never offer, or require any one to offer, sacrifice to a martyr, or to a holy soul, or to any angel. Any one falling into this error is instructed by doctrine, either in the way of correction or of caution. For holy beings themselves, whether saints or angels, refuse to accept what they know to be due to God alone. We see this in Paul and Barnabas, when the men of Lycaonia wished to sacrifice to them as gods, on account of the miracles they performed. They rent their clothes, and restrained the people, crying out to them, and persuading them that they were not gods. We see it also in the angels, as we read in the Apocalypse that an angel would not allow himself to be worshipped, and said to his worshipper, "I am your fellow-servant, and of your brethen." Revelation 19:10 Those who claim this worship are proud spirits, the devil and his angels, as we see in all the temples and rites of the Gentiles. Some proud men, too, have copied their example; as is related of some kings of Babylon. Thus the holy Daniel was accused and persecuted, because when the king made a decree that no petition should be made to any god, but only to the king, he was found worshipping and praying to his own God, that is, the one true God. Daniel vi As for those who drink to excess at the feasts of the martyrs, we of course condemn their conduct; for to do so even in their own houses would be contrary to sound doctrine. But we must try to amend what is bad as well as prescribe what is good, and must of necessity bear for a time with some things that are not according to our teaching. The rules of Christian conduct are not to be taken from the indulgences of the intemperate or the infirmities of the weak. Still, even in this, the guilt of intemperance is much less than that of impiety. To sacrifice to the martyrs, even fasting, is worse than to go home intoxicated from their feast: to sacrifice to the martyrs, I say, which is a different thing from sacrificing to God in memory of the martyrs, as we do constantly, in the manner required since the revelation of the New Testament, for this belongs to the worship or latria which is due to God alone. But it is vain to try to make these heretics understand the full meaning of these words of the Psalmist: "He that offers the sacrifice of praise glorifies me, and in this way will I show him my salvation." Before the coming of Christ, the flesh and blood of this sacrifice were foreshadowed in the animals slain; in the passion of Christ the types were fulfilled by the true sacrifice; after the ascension of Christ, this sacrifice is commemorated in the sacrament. Between the sacrifices of the Pagans and of the Hebrews there is all the difference that there is between a false imitation and a typical anticipation. We do not despise or denounce the virginity of holy women because there were vestal virgins. And, in the same way, it is no reproach to the sacrifices of our fathers that the Gentiles also had sacrifices. The difference between the Christian and vestal virginity is great, yet it consists wholly in the being to whom the vow is made and paid; and so the difference in the being to whom the sacrifices of the Pagans and Hebrews are made and offered makes a wide difference between them. In the one case they are offered to devils, who presumptuously make this claim in order to be held as gods, because sacrifice is a divine honor. In the other case they are offered to the one true God, as a type of the true sacrifice, which also was to be offered to Him in the passion of the body and blood of Christ.

22. Faustus is wrong in saying that our Jewish forefathers, in their separation from the Gentiles, retained the temple, and sacrifices, and altars, and priesthood, and abandoned only graven images or idols, for they might have sacrificed, as some do, without any graven image, to trees and mountains, or even to the sun and moon and the stars. If they had thus rendered to these objects the worship called latria, they would have served the creature instead of the Creator, and so would have fallen into the serious error of heathenish superstition; and even without idols, they would have found devils ready to take advantage of their error, and to accept their offerings. For these proud and wicked spirits feed not, as some foolishly suppose, on the smell of the sacrifice, and the smoke, but on the errors of men. They enjoy not bodily refreshment, but a malevolent gratification, when they in any way deceive people, or when, with a bold assumption of borrowed majesty, they boast of receiving divine honors. It was not, therefore, only the idols of the Gentiles that our Jewish forefathers abandoned. They sacrificed neither to the earth nor to any earthly thing, nor to the sea, nor to heaven, nor to the hosts of heaven, but laid the victims on the altar of the one God, Creator of all, who required these offerings as a means of foreshadowing the true victim, by whom He has reconciled us to Himself in the remission of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul, addressing believers, who are made the body of which Christ is the Head, says: "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God." Romans 12:1 The Manichæans, on the other hand, say that human bodies are the workmanship of the race of darkness, and the prison in which the captive deity is confined. Thus Faustus' doctrine is very different from Paul's. But since whosover preaches to you another gospel than that you have received must be accursed, what Christ says in Paul is the truth, while Manichæus in Faustus is accursed.

23. Faustus says also, without knowing what he says, that we have retained the manners of the Gentiles. But seeing that the just lives by faith, and that the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned, and that these three, faith, hope, and love, abide to form the life of believers, it is impossible that there should be similarity in the manners of those who differ in these three things. Those who believe differently, and hope differently, and love differently, must also live differently. And if we resemble the Gentiles in our use of such things as food and drink, and houses and clothes and baths, and those of us who marry, in taking and keeping wives, and in begetting and bringing up children as our heirs, there is still a great difference between the man who uses these things for some end of his own, and the man who, in using them, gives thanks to God, having no unworthy or erroneous ideas about God. For as you, according to your own heresy, though you eat the same bread as other men, and live upon the produce of the same plants and the water of the same fountain, and are clothed like others in wool and linen, yet lead a different life, not because you eat or drink, or dress differently, but because you differ from others in your ideas and in your faith, and in all these things have in view an end of your own— the end, namely, set forth in your false doctrines; in the same way we, though we resemble the Gentiles in the use of this and other things, do not resemble them in our life; for while the things are the same, the end is different: for the end we have in view is, according to the just commandment of God, love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned; from which some having erred, are turned to vain jangling. In this vain jangling you bear the palm, for you do not attend to the fact that so great is the difference of life produced by a different faith, even when the things in possession and use are the same, that though your followers have wives, and in spite of themselves get children, for whom they gather and store up wealth; though they eat flesh, drink wine, bathe, reap harvests, gather vintages, engage in trade, and occupy high official positions, you nevertheless reckon them as belonging to you, and not to the Gentiles, though in their actions they approach nearer to the Gentiles than to you. And though some of the Gentiles in some things resemble you more than your own followers—those, for instance, who in superstitious devotion abstain from flesh, and wine, and marriage,— you still count your own followers, even though they use all these things, and so are unlike you, as belonging to the flock of Manichæus rather than those who resemble you in their practices. You consider as belonging to you a woman that believes in Manichæus, though she is a mother, rather than a Sibyl, though she never marries. But you will say that many who are called Catholic Christians are adulterers, robbers, misers, drunkards, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine. I ask if none such are to be found in your company, which is almost too small to be called a company. And because there are some among the Pagans who are not of this character, do you consider them as better than yourselves? And yet, in fact, your heresy is so blasphemous, that even your followers who are not of such a character are worse than the Pagans who are. It is therefore no impeachment to sound doctrine, which alone is Catholic, that many wish to take its name, who will not yield to its beneficial influence. We must bear in mind the true meaning of the contrast which the Lord makes between the little company and the mass of mankind, as spread over all the world; for the company of saints and believers is small, as the amount of grain is small when compared with the heap of chaff; and yet the good grain is quite sufficient far to outnumber you, good and bad together, for good and bad are both strangers to the truth. In a word, we are not a schism of the Gentiles, for we differ from them greatly for the better; nor are you, for you differ from them greatly for the worse.

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Source. Translated by Richard Stothert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 4. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/140620.htm>.

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