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Chapter VII.—Pagan Philosophy the Parent of Heresies. The Connection Between Deflections from Christian Faith and the Old Systems of Pagan Philosophy.

These are “the doctrines” of men and “of demons”19111911    1 Tim. iv. 1. produced for itching ears of the spirit of this world’s wisdom: this the Lord called “foolishness,”19121912    1 Cor. iii. 18 and 25. and “chose the foolish things of the world” to confound even philosophy itself. For (philosophy) it is which is the material of the world’s wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and the dispensation of God. Indeed19131913    Denique. heresies are themselves instigated19141914    Subornantur. by philosophy. From this source came the Æons, and I known not what infinite forms,19151915    Formeæ, “Ideæ” (Oehler). and the trinity of man19161916    See Tertullian’s treatises, adversus Valentinum, xxv., and de Anima, xxi.; also Epiphanius, Hær. xxxi . 23. in the system of Valentinus, who was of Plato’s school. From the same source came Marcion’s better god, with all his tranquillity; he came of the Stoics. Then, again, the opinion that the soul dies is held by the Epicureans; while the denial of the restoration of the body is taken from the aggregate school of all the philosophers; also, when matter is made equal to God, then you have the teaching of Zeno; and when any doctrine is alleged touching a god of fire, then Heraclitus comes in. The same subject-matter is discussed over and over again19171917    Volutatur. by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments19181918    Retractatus. are involved. Whence comes evil? Why is it permitted? What is the origin of man? and in what way does he come? Besides the question which Valentinus has very lately proposed—Whence comes God? Which he settles with the answer: From enthymesis and ectroma.19191919    “De enthymesi;” for this word Tertullian gives animationem (in his tract against Valentinus, ix.), which seems to mean, “the mind in operation.” (See the same treatise, x. xi.) With regard to the other word, Jerome (on Amos. iii.) adduces Valentinus as calling Christ ἔκτρωμα, that is, abortion. Unhappy Aristotle! who invented for these men dialectics, the art of building up and pulling down; an art so evasive in its propositions,19201920    Sententiis. so far-fetched in its conjectures, so harsh, in its arguments, so productive of contentions—embarrassing19211921    Molestam. even to itself, retracting everything, and really treating of19221922    Tractaverit, in the sense of conclusively settling. nothing! Whence spring those “fables and endless genealogies,”19231923    1 Tim. i. 4. and “unprofitable questions,”19241924    Tit. iii. 9. and “words which spread like a cancer?”19251925    2 Tim. ii. 17. From all these, when the apostle would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against. Writing to the Colossians, he says, “See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost.”19261926    Col. ii. 8. The last clause, “præter providentiam Spiritus Sancti,” is either Tertullian’s reading, or his gloss of the apostle’s οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν—“not after Christ.” He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews (with its philosophers) become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, whilst it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects. What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from “the porch of Solomon,”19271927    Because in the beginning of the church the apostles taught in Solomon’s porch, Acts iii. 5. who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.”19281928    Wisdom of Solomon, i. 1. Away with19291929    Viderint. all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our palmary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides.

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