Chapter XV.—The Truth, that God Made All Things from Nothing, Rescued from the Opponents Flounderings.
Now, if good was neither produced out of matter, since it was not in it, evil as it was, nor out of God, since, according to the position of Hermogenes, nothing could have been produced out of god, it will be found that good was created out of nothing, inasmuch as it was formed of none—neither of Matter nor of God. And if good was formed out of nothing, why not evil too? Nay, if anything was formed out of nothing, why not all things? Unless indeed it be that the divine might was insufficient for the production of all things, though it produced a something out of nothing. Or else if good proceeded from evil matter, since it issued neither from nothing nor from God, it will follow that it must have proceeded from the conversion of Matter contrary to that unchangeable attribute which has been claimed for it, as an eternal being. 6272 Thus, in regard to the source whence good derived its existence, Hermogenes will now have to deny the possibility of such. But still it is necessary that (good) should proceed from some one of those sources from which he has denied the very possibility of its having been derived. Now if evil be denied to be of nothing for the purpose of denying it to be the work of God, from whose will there would be too much appearance of its being derived, and be alleged to proceed from Matter, that it may be the property of that very thing of whose substance it is assumed to be made, even here also, as I have said, God will have to be regarded as the Author of evil; because, whereas it had been His duty 6273 to produce all good things out of Matter, or rather good things simply, by His identical attribute of power and will, He did yet not only not produce all good things, but even (some) evil things—of course, either willing that the evil should exist if He was able to cause their non-existence, or not being strong enough to effect that all things should be good, if being desirous of that result, He failed in the accomplishment thereof; since there can be no difference whether it were by weakness or by will, that the Lord proved to be the Author of evil. Else what was the reason that, after creating good things, as if Himself good, He should have also produced evil things, as if He failed in His goodness, since He did not confine Himself to the production of things which were simply consistent with Himself? What necessity was there, after the production of His proper work, for His troubling Himself about Matter also by producing evil likewise, in order to secure His being alone acknowledged as good from His good, and at the same time 6274 to prevent Matter being regarded as evil from (created) evil? Good would have flourished much better if evil had not blown upon it. For Hermogenes himself explodes the arguments of sundry persons who contend that evil things were necessary to impart lustre to the good, which must be understood from their contrasts. This, therefore, was not the ground for the production p. 486 of evil; but if some other reason must be sought for the introduction thereof, why could it not have been introduced even from nothing, 6275 since the very same reason would exculpate the Lord from the reproach of being thought the author of evil, which now excuses the existence of evil things, when He produces them out of Matter? And if there is this excuse, then the question is completely 6276 shut up in a corner, where they are unwilling to find it, who, without examining into the reason itself of evil, or distinguishing how they should either attribute it to God or separate it from God, do in fact expose God to many most unworthy calumnies. 6277
Contra denegatam æterni conversationem. Literally, “Contrary to that convertibility of an eternal nature which has been denied (by Hermogenes) to be possible.” It will be obvious why we have, in connection with the preceding clause preferred the equivalent rendering of our text. For the denial of Hermogenes, which Tertullian refers to, see above, chap. xii. p. 484.485:6273
This clumsy expedient to save the character of both God and Matter was one of the weaknesses of Hermogenes system.486:6275
Cur non et ex nihilo potuerit induci?486:6276
Ubique et undique.486:6277
Destructionibus. “Ruin of character” is the true idea of this strong term.