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AUGUSTINE: CONFESSIONS INDEX

BOOK TWELVE

CHAPTER XXII

31. Now suppose that someone tried to argue against these last two opinions as follows: "If you will not admit that this formlessness of matter appears to be called by the term `heaven and earth,' then there was something that God had not made out of which he did make heaven and earth. And Scripture has not told us that God made this matter, unless we understand that it is implied in the term `heaven and earth' (or the term `earth' alone) when it is said, `In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.' Thus, in what follows--'the earth was invisible and unformed'--even though it pleased Moses thus to refer to unformed matter, yet we can only understand by it that which God himself hath made, as it stands written in the previous verse, `God made heaven and earth.'" Those who maintain either one or the other of these two opinions which we have set out above will answer to such objections: "We do not deny at all that this unformed matter was created by God, from whom all things are, and are very good--because we hold that what is created and endowed with form is a higher good; and we also hold that what is made capable of being created and endowed with form, though it is a lesser good, is still a good. But the Scripture has not said specifically that God made this formlessness--any more than it has said it specifically of many other things, such as the orders of `cherubim' and `seraphim' and those others of which the apostle distinctly speaks: `thrones,' `dominions,' `principalities,' `powers'[490]--yet it is clear that God made all of these. If in the phrase `He made heaven and earth' all things are included, what are we to say about the waters upon which the Spirit of God moved? For if they are understood as included in the term `earth,' then how can unformed matter be meant by the term `earth' when we see the waters so beautifully formed? Or, if it be taken thus, why, then, is it written that out of the same formlessness the firmament was made and called heaven, and yet is it not specifically written that the waters were made? For these waters, which we perceive flowing in so beautiful a fashion, are not formless and invisible. But if they received that beauty at the time God said of them, `Let the waters which are under the firmament be gathered together,'[491] thus indicating that their gathering together was the same thing as their reception of form, what, then, is to be said about the waters that are above the firmament? Because if they are unformed, they do not deserve to have a seat so honorable, and yet it is not written by what specific word they were formed. If, then, Genesis is silent about anything that God hath made, which neither sound faith nor unerring understanding doubts that God hath made, let not any sober teaching dare to say that these waters were coeternal with God because we find them mentioned in the book of Genesis and do not find it mentioned when they were created. If Truth instructs us, why may we not interpret that unformed matter which the Scripture calls the earth--invisible and unformed--and the lightless abyss as having been made by God from nothing; and thus understand that they are not coeternal with him, although the narrative fails to tell us precisely when they were made?"

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