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[Acta Seu Disputatio Contra Fortunatum Manichæum.] a.d. 392.221
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 mode of life, if it shall have been set forth by you.
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,222
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;"224
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 from 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." 228
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 this 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."232
Fortunatus said: Do all things have their existence from God’s command?
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:"233
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.
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 living 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." 234
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,235
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 apostle236
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."237
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. 241