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113

Acts or Disputation

Against Fortunatus, the Manichæan.

[Acta Seu Disputatio Contra Fortunatum Manichæum.] a.d. 392.221221     This Disputation seems to have occurred shortly after the writing of the preceding treatise.  It appears from the Retractations that Fortunatus had lived for a considerable time at Hippo, and had secured so large a number of followers that it was a delight to him to dwell there.  The Disputation is supposed to be a verbatim report of what Augustin and Fortunatus said during a two days’ discussion.  The subject is the origin of evil.  Augustin maintains that evil, so far as man is concerned, has arisen from a free exercise of the will on man’s part; Fortunatus, on the other hand, maintains that the nature of evil is co-eternal with God.  Fortunatus shows considerable knowledge of the New Testament, but no remarkable dialectic powers.  He appears at great disadvantage beside his great antagonist.  In fact, he is far from saying the best that can be said in favor of dualism.  We may say that he was fairly vanquished in the argument, and at the close confessed himself at a loss what to say, and expressed an intention of more carefully examining the problems discussed, in view of what Augustin had said.  Augustin is more guarded in this treatise than in the preceding in his statements about free will.  He found little occasion here, therefore, to retract or explain.  Fortunatus often expresses himself vaguely and obscurely.  If some sentences are difficult to understand in the translation, they will be found equally so in the Latin.—A.H.N.

Disputation of the First Day.

On the fifth of September, the most renowned men Arcadius Augustus (the second time) and Rufinus being consuls, a disputation against Fortunatus, an elder of the Manichæans, was held in the city of Hippo Regius, in the baths of Sossius, in the presence of the people.


1.  Augustin said:  I now regard as error what formerly I regarded as truth.  I desire to hear from you who are present whether my supposition is correct.  First of all I regard it as the height of error to believe that Almighty God, in whom is our one hope, is in any part either violable, or contaminable, or corruptible.  This I know your heresy affirms, not indeed in the words that I now use; for when you are questioned you confess that God is incorruptible, and absolutely inviolable, and incontaminable; but when you begin to expound the rest of your system, we are compelled to declare Him corruptible, penetrable, contaminable.  For you say that another race of darkness, whatever it may be, has rebelled against the kingdom of God; but that Almighty God, when He saw what ruin and desolation threatened his domains, unless he should make some opposition to the adverse race and resist it, sent this virtue, from whose commingling with evil and the race of darkness the world was framed.  Hence it is that here good souls labor, serve, err, are corrupted:  that they may see the need of a liberator, who should purge them from error, loose them from this commingling with evil, and liberate them from servitude.  I think it impious to believe that Almighty God ever feared any adverse race, or was under necessity to precipitate us into afflictions.

Fortunatus said:  Because I know that you have been in our midst, that is, have lived as an adherent among the Manichæans, these are the principles of our faith.  The matter now to be considered is our mode of living, the falsely alleged crimes for which we are maltreated.  Therefore let the good men present hear from you whether these things with which we are charged and which we have thrown in our teeth are true or false.  For from your instruction, and from your exposition and explanation, they will have been able to gain more correct information about our 114mode of life, if it shall have been set forth by you.

2.  Augustin said:  I was among you, but faith and morals are different questions.  I proposed to discuss faith.  But if those present prefer to hear about morals, I do not decline that question.

Fortunatus said:  I wish first to purge myself in your conscience in which we are polluted, by the testimony of a competent man, (who even now is competent for me), and in view of the future examination of Christ, the just judge, whether he saw in us, or himself practiced by imitation, the things that are now thrown in our teeth?

3.  Augustin said:  You call me to something else, when I had proposed to discuss faith, but concerning your morals only those who are your Elect can fully know.  But you know that I was not your Elect, but an Auditor.  Hence though I was present at your prayer meetings,222222     The word used is oratio, by which is evidently meant the religious services to which Auditors were admitted, prayer (oratio) being the prominent feature.—A.H.N. as you have asked (whether separately among yourselves you have any prayer meetings, God alone and yourselves can know); yet in your prayer meetings where I have been present I have seen nothing shameful take place; but only that the faith that I afterwards learned and approved is denounced, and that you perform your services facing the sun.  Besides this I found out nothing new in your meetings, but whoever raises any question of morals against you, raises it against your Elect.  But what you who are Elect do among yourselves, I have no means of knowing.  For I have often heard from you that you receive the Eucharist.  But since the time of receiving it was concealed from me, how could I know what you receive?223223     The allusion here is doubtless to the probably slanderous charge that the Manichæans were accustomed to partake of human semen as a Eucharist.  The Manichæan view of the relation of the substance mentioned to the light, and their well-known opposition to procreation, give a slight plausibility to the charge.  Compare the Morals of the Manichæans, ch. xviii., where Augustin expresses his suspicions of Manichæan shamelessness.  See also further references in the Introduction.—A.H.N.   So keep the question about morals, if you please, for discussion among your Elect, if it can be discussed.  You gave me a faith that I today disapprove.  This I proposed to discuss.  Let a response be made to my proposition.

Fortunatussaid:  And our profession is this very thing:  that God is incorruptible, lucid, unapproachable, intenible, impassible, that He inhabits His own eternal lights, that nothing corruptible proceeds from Him, neither darkness, demons, Satan, nor anything adverse can be found in His kingdom.  But that He sent forth a Saviour like Himself; that the Word born from the foundation of the world, when He had formed the world, after the formation of the world came among men; that He has chosen souls worthy of Himself according to His own holy will, sanctified by celestial command, imbued with the faith and reason of celestial things; that under His leadership those souls will return hence again to the kingdom of God according to the holy promise of Him who said:  "I am the way, the truth, and the door;"224224     This is, of course, a mixture of two passages of Scripture.—A.H.N. and "No one can come unto the Father, except through me."  These things we believe because otherwise, that is, through another mediator, souls cannot return to the kingdom of God, unless they find Him as the way, the truth, and the door.  For Himself said:  "He that hath seen me, hath seen my Father also;"225225     John xiv. 8, 9. and "whosoever shall have believed on me shall not taste death forever, but has passed from death unto life, and shall not come into judgment."226226     John v. 24.   These things we believe and this is the reason of our faith, and according to the strength of our mind we endeavor to act according to His commandments, following after the one faith of this Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.227227     As remarked in the Introduction, the Manichæans of the West, in Augustin’s time, sustained a far more intimate relation to Christianity than did Mani and his immediate followers.  Far as Fortunatus may have been from using the above language in the ordinary Christian sense, yet he held, by profession at least, enough of Christian truth to beguile the unwary.—A.H.N.

4.  Augustin said:  What was the cause of those souls being precipitated into death, whom you confess come through Christ from death to life?

Fortunatus said:  Hence now deign to go on and to contradict, if there is nothing besides God.

5.  Augustin said:  Nay, do you deign to answer the question put to you:  What cause has given these souls to death?

Fortunatus said:  Nay but do you deign to say whether there is anything besides God, or all things are in God.

6.  Augustin said:  This I can reply, that the Lord wished me to know that God cannot suffer any necessity, nor be violated or corrupted in any part.  Which, since you also acknowledge, I ask by what necessity He sent hither souls that you say return through Christ?

Fortunatus said:  What you have said:  that thus far God has revealed to you, that He is incorruptible, as He has also revealed to me; the reason must be sought, how and wherefore souls have come into this world, so that now of right God should liberate them 115from this world through his Son only begotten and like Himself, if besides Himself there is nothing?

7.  Augustin said:  We ought not to disappoint those present, being men of note, and from the question proposed for discussion go to another.  So we both confess, so we concede to ourselves, that God is incorruptible and inviolable, and could have in no way suffered.  From which it follows, that your heresy is false, which says that God, when He saw desolation and ruin threaten His kingdom, sent forth a power that should do battle with the race of darkness, and that out of this commingling our souls are laboring.  My argument is brief, and as I suppose, perfectly clear to any one.  If God could have suffered nothing from the race of darkness because He is inviolable, without cause He sent us hither that we might here suffer distress.  But if anything can suffer, it is not inviolable, and you deceive those to whom you say that God is inviolable.  For this your heresy denies when you expound the rest of it.

Fortunatussaid:  We are of that mind in which the Apostle Paul instructs us, who says:  "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who when He had been constituted in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself receiving the form of a servant, having been made in the likeness of men, and having been found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and was made obedient even unto death." 228228     Philipp. ii. 5-8.   We have this mind therefore about ourselves, which we have also about Christ, who when He was constituted in the form of God, was made obedient even unto death that He might show the similitude of our souls.  And like as He showed in Himself the similitude of death, and having been raised from the midst of the dead showed that He was from the Father, in the same manner we think it will be with our souls, because through Him we shall have been able to be freed from this death, which is either alien from God, or if it belongs to God, His mercy ceases, and the name of liberator, and the works of Him who liberates.229229     Fortunatus could not surely have used this language with any proper conception of its meaning.  He seems, against Mani, to have identified in some sense the Jesus that suffered with Christ.  Yet even in this statement his docetism is manifest.—A.H.N.

8.  Augustin said:  I ask how we came into death, and you tell how we may be liberated from death.

Fortunatus said:  So the apostle said that we ought to have that mind concerning ourselves which Christ has shown us.  If Christ was in suffering and death, so also are we.

9.  Augustin said:  It is known to all that the Catholic faith is to the effect that our Lord, that is the Power and Wisdom of God,230230     1 Cor. i. 24. and the Word through whom all things have been made and without whom was not anything made,231231     John i. 3. took upon Himself man to liberate us.  In the man whom He took upon Himself, He demonstrated those things that you spoke of.  But we now ask concerning the substance of God Himself and of Unspeakable Majesty, whether anything can injure it or not.  For if anything can injure it, He is not inviolable.  If nothing can injure the substance of God, what was the race of darkness about to do to it, against which you say war was waged by God before the foundation of the world; in which war you assert that we, that is souls that are now manifestly in need of a liberator, have been commingled with every evil and implicated in death.  For I return to that very brief statement:  If He could be injured, He is not inviolable; if He could not, He acted cruelly in sending us hither to suffer these things.

Fortunatus said:  Does the soul belong to God, or not?

10.  Augustin said:  If it is just that you should fail to respond to my questions, and that I should be questioned, I will reply.

Fortunatus said:  Does the soul act independently?  This I ask of you.

11.  Augustin said:  I indeed will tell what you have asked; only remember this, that while you have refused to respond to my questions, I have responded to yours.  If you ask whether the soul descended from God, it is indeed a great question; but whether it descends from God or not, I make this reply concerning the soul, that it is not God; that God is one thing, the soul another.  That God is inviolable, incorruptible, and impenetrable, and incontaminable, who also could be corrupted in no part and to whom no injury can be done in any part.  But we see also that the soul is sinful, and is conversant with misery, and seeks the truth, and is in want of a liberator.  This changing condition of the soul shows me that the soul is not God.  For if the soul is the substance of God, the substance of God errs, the substance of God is corrupted, the substance of God is violated, the substance of God is deceived; which it is impious to say.

Fortunatus said:  Therefore you have denied that the soul is of God, so long as it serves sins, and vices, and earthly things, and is led by error, because it cannot happen that either God or His substance should suffer 116this thing.  For God is incorruptible and His substance immaculate and holy.  But here it is inquired of you whether the soul is of God, or not?  Which we confess, and show from the advent of the Saviour, from His holy preaching, from His election; while He pitied souls, and the soul is said to have come according to His will, that He might free it from death and might bring it to eternal glory, and restore it to the Father.  But what do you say and hope concerning the soul; is it from God or not?  Can the substance of God, from which you deny that the soul has its being, be subject to no passions?

12.  Augustin said:  I have denied that the soul is the substance of God in the sense of its being God; but yet I hold that it is from God as its author, because it was made by God.  The Maker is one thing, the thing made is another.  He who made cannot be corruptible at all, but what He made cannot be at all equal to Him who made it.

Fortunatus said:  Nor have I said that the soul is like God.  But because you have said that the soul is an artificial thing, and that there is nothing besides God, I ask whence then God invented the substance of the soul?

13.  Augustin said:  Only bear in mind that I reply to your interrogations, but that you do not reply to mine.  I say that the soul was made by God as all other things that were made by God; and that among the things that God Almighty made the principal place was given to the soul.  But if you ask whence God made the soul, remember that you and I agree in confessing that God is almighty.  But he is not almighty who seeks the assistance of any material whence he may make what he will.  From which it follows, that according to our faith, all things that God made through His Word and Wisdom, He made out of nothing.  For so we read:  "He ordered and they were made; He commanded and they were created."232232     Ps. cxlviii. 5.

Fortunatus said:  Do all things have their existence from God’s command?

14.  Augustin said:  So I believe, but all things which were made.

Fortunatus said:  As things made they agree, but because they are unsuitable to themselves, therefore on this account it follows, that there is not one substance, although from the same order of the One they came to the composition and fashioning of this world.  But it is plain in the things themselves that there is no similarity between darkness and light, truth and falsehood, death and life, soul and body, and other similar things which differ from each other both in names and appearances.  And for good reason did our Lord say:  "The tree which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up and cast into the fire, because it brings not forth good fruit:"233233     Matt. xv. 13, and iii. 10.   and that the tree has been rooted up.  Hence truly it follows from the reason of things that there are two substances in this world which agree in forms and in names, of which one belongs to corporeal natures, but the other is the eternal substance of the omnipotent Father, which we believe to be God’s substance.

15.  Augustin said:  Those contrary things that move you so that we think adversely, have happened on account of our sin, that is, on account of the sin of man.  For God made all things good, and ordered them well; but He did not make sin, and our voluntary sin is the only thing that is called evil.  There is another kind of evil, which is the penalty of sin.  Since therefore there are two kinds of evil, sin and the penalty of sin, sin does not pertain to God; the penalty of sin pertains to the avenger.  For as God is good who constituted all things, so He is just in taking vengeance on sin.  Since therefore all things are ordered in the best possible way, which seem to us now to be adverse, it has deservedly happened to fallen man who was unwilling to keep the law of God.  For God gave free will to the rational soul which is in man.  For thus it would have been possible to have merit, if we should be good voluntarily and not of necessity.  Since therefore it behooves us to be good not of necessity but voluntarily, it behooved God to give to the soul free will.  But to this soul obeying His laws, He subjected all things without adversity, so that the rest of the things that God made should serve it, if also the soul itself had willed to serve God.  But if it should refuse to serve God, those things that served it should be converted into its punishment.  Wherefore if all things are rightly ordered by God, and are good, neither does God suffer evil.

Fortunatus said:  He does not suffer, but prevents evil.

16.  Augustin said:  From whom then was He about to suffer it?

Fortunatus said:  This is my point, that He wished to prevent it, not rashly, but by power and prescience.  But deny evil to be apart from God, when other precepts can be shown which are done apart from His will.  A precept is not introduced, unless where there is contrariety.  The free faculty of liv117ing is not given except where there is a fall according to the argument of the apostle who says:  "And you did he quicken, when ye were dead in your trespasses and sins, wherein aforetime ye walked according to the rulership of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the souls of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the counsels of the flesh, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:  but God, who is rich in all mercy, had mercy on us.  And when we were dead by sins, quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace ye have been saved; and at the same time also raised us up, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any one should glory.  For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them.  Wherefore remember, that aforetime ye were Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision, by that which is called circumcision in flesh made by hands, because ye were at that time without Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers of the covenant, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world.  But now in Christ Jesus, ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.  For He is our peace, who made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in His flesh, making void by His decrees the law of commandments, that in Himself He might unite the two into one new man, making peace, that He might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, slaying the enmities in Himself.  And He came and preached peace unto you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh.  For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father." 234234     Eph. ii. 1-18.  There are several somewhat important variations from the Greek text in this long extract.  The attentive reader can get a good idea of the nature of the variations by comparing this literal translation with the revised English version.—A.H.N.

17.  Augustin said:  This passage from the apostle, which you have thought fit to recite, if I mistake not, makes very strongly for my faith and against yours.  In the first place, because free will itself, on which I have said that the possibility of the soul’s sinning depends, is here sufficiently expressed, when sins are mentioned, and it is said that our reconciliation with God takes place through Jesus Christ.  For by sinning we were brought into opposition to God; but by holding to the precepts of Christ we are reconciled to God; so that we who were dead in sins may be made alive by keeping His precepts, and may have peace with Him in one Spirit, from whom we were alienated, by failure to keep His precepts; as is set forth in our faith concerning the man who was first created.  I ask of you, therefore, according to that passage which has been read, how can we have sins if contrary nature compels us to do what we do?  For he who is compelled by nature to do anything, does not sin.  But he who sins, sins by free will.  Wherefore would repentance be enjoined upon us, if we have done nothing evil, but only the race of darkness?  Likewise, I ask, to whom is forgiveness of sins granted, to us or to the race of darkness?  If to the race of darkness, their race will also reign with Him, receiving the forgiveness of sin; but if to us it is manifest that we have sinned voluntarily.  For it is the height of folly for him to be pardoned who has done no evil.  But he has done no evil, who has done nothing of his own will.  Therefore the soul that today promises itself forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God, if it should cease to sin, and repent of past sins:  if it should answer according to your faith and should say:  In what have I sinned?  In what am I guilty?  Why hast Thou expelled me from Thy domains, that I might do battle with some sort of race?  I have been trodden under foot, I have been mixed up, I have been corrupted, I am worn out,235235     There are three readings here, "wearied out," "deceived," and "worn out."  The latter is preferred by the Benedictine editors.—A.H.N. my free will has not been preserved.  Thou knowest the necessity by which I am preserved:  Why dost Thou impute to me the wounds that I have received?  Wherefore dost Thou compel me to repentance when Thou art the cause of my wounds; when Thou knowest what I have suffered, what the race of darkness has done against me, Thou being the author who couldst suffer no harm and yet wishing to save the domains which nothing could injure, Thou didst thrust me down into these miseries.  If indeed I am a part of Thee, who have proceeded from Thy bowels, if I am from Thy kingdom and Thy mouth, I ought not to suffer anything in this race of darkness, so that I being uncorrupted that race should be subjected, if I was a part of the Lord.  But now since it cannot be controlled except by my corruption, how can I either be said to be a part of Thee, or Thou remain 118inviolable, or not be cruel in wishing me to suffer for those domains, that could in no way be injured by that race of darkness?  Respond to this if you please, and deign also to explain to me how it was said by the apostle, "We were by nature children of wrath," who, he says, have been reconciled to God.  If therefore they were by nature children of wrath, how do you say that the soul is by nature a daughter and portion of God?

Fortunatussaid:  If with regard to the soul the apostle had said that we are by nature children of wrath, the soul would have been alienated by the mouth of the apostle from God.  From this argument you only show that the soul does not belong to God, because, the apostle says, "We are by nature children of wrath."  But if it is said in view of the fact that the apostle236236     Rom. xi. 1. was held by the law, descending as he himself testifies, from the seed of Abraham, it follows that he has said corporeally, that we [i.e., Jews] were children of wrath even as the rest of mankind.  But he shows that the substance of the soul is of God, and that the soul cannot otherwise be reconciled to God than through the Master, who is Christ Jesus.  For the enmity having been slain, the soul seemed to God unworthy to have existed.  But that it was sent, this we confess, by God yet omnipotent, both deriving its origin from Him and sent for the sealing of His will.  In the same way we believe also that Christ the Saviour came from heaven to fulfill the will of the Father.  Which will of the Father was this, to free our souls from the same enmity, this enmity having been slain, which if it had not been opposed to God could neither be called enmity where there was unity, nor could slaying be spoken of or take place where there was life.

18.  Augustin said:  Remember that the apostle said that we are alienated from God by our manner of life.

Fortunatus said:  I submit, that there were two substances.  In the substance of light, as we have above said, God is to be held incorruptible; but that there was a contrary nature of darkness, that which I also today confess is vanquished by the power of God, and that Christ has been sent forth as a Saviour for my restoration, as previously the same apostle says.

19.  Augustin said:  That we should discuss on rational grounds the belief in two natures, has been made obligatory by those who are hearing us.  But inasmuch as you have again betaken yourself to the Scriptures, I descend to them, and demand that nothing be passed by, lest using certain statements we should bring confusion into the minds of those to whom the Scriptures are not well known.  Let us therefore consider a statement that the apostle has in his epistle to the Romans.  For on the first page is what is strongly against you.  For he says:  "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He promised aforetime by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was made unto Him of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness from the resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ."237237     Rom. i. 1-4.   We see that the apostle teaches us concerning our Lord Jesus Christ that before the flesh he was predestinated by the power of God, and according to the flesh was made unto Him of the seed of David.  Since you have always denied and always will deny this, how do you so earnestly demand the Scriptures that we should discuss rather according to them.

Fortunatussaid:  You assert that according to the flesh Christ was of the seed of David, when it should be asserted that he was born of a virgin,238238     Isa. vii. 14. and should be magnified as Son of God.  For this cannot be, unless as what is from spirit may be held to be spirit, so also what is from flesh may be known to be flesh.239239     John iii. 6.   Against which is the authority of the Gospel in which it is said, that "flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God, neither shall corruption inherit incorruption."240240     1 Cor. xv. 50.

Here a clamor was made by the audience who wished the argument to be conducted on rational grounds, because they saw that Fortunatus was not willing to receive all things that are written in the Codex of the apostle.  Then little discussions began to be held here and there by all, until Fortunatus said that the Word of God has been fettered in the race of darkness.  At which, when those present had expressed their horror, the meeting was closed. 241241     This little side remark lends reality to the discussion, and enables us to form a vivid conception of what doctrinal debates were in the age of Augustin.—A.H.N.


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