Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sola Scriptura in Athanasius: "On the Incarnation of the Word"

The sequel to "Contra Gentes," Athanasius' "On the Incarnation of the Word" picks up where the prior work left off (link to detailed discussion of Sola Scriptura in Contra Gentes). He already has proven the divinity of the Word, but now he's going to discuss how the Word became flesh. There are 57 sections to this work.

By the second section (link), Athanasius is already quoting Scripture. He continues doing the same in third section (link) where he also quotes from the Shepherd of Hermas (as "the most edifying book of the Shepherd"). He likewise continues to quote from scripture in the next two sections (4th - 5th) including a quote from the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom in each section.

Athanasius continues his argument and explanation, relying on Biblical principles and doctrines, while not necessarily always quoting from Scripture.

In some places, Athanasius places particular emphasis on quoting Scripture, such as when proving his point from Scripture in section 10 (link). For example, he states: "And of this one may be assured at the hands of the Saviour’s own inspired writers, if one happen upon their writings ... ."

In section 12 (link), Athanasius explains the purpose of Scripture:
But since men’s carelessness, by little and little, descends to lower things, God made provision, once more, even for this weakness of theirs, by sending a law, and prophets, men such as they knew, so that even if they were not ready to look up to heaven and know their Creator, they might have their instruction from those near at hand ... For neither was the law for the Jews alone, nor were the Prophets sent for them only, but, though sent to the Jews and persecuted by the Jews, they were for all the world a holy school of the knowledge of God and the conduct of the soul.

In section 13 (link) Athanasius makes a telling comparison to human kings:
5. Once again, a merely human king does not let the lands he has colonized pass to others to serve them, nor go over to other men; but he warns them by letters, and often sends to them by friends, or, if need be, he comes in person, to put them to rebuke in the last resort by his presence, only that they may not serve others and his own work be spent for naught.
His point, of course, is that Christ's coming is that last resort.

Athanasius does not necessarily always cite or quote from Scripture, though he does occasionally do so at length (for example, at section 18). Moreover, while Athanasius frequently appeals to what is "fitting" to persuade his reader, when it comes to actually proving the point, he goes to Scripture. For example, the following is from section 33 (link):
For Jews in their incredulity may be refuted from the Scriptures, which even themselves read; for this text and that, and, in a word, the whole inspired Scripture, cries aloud concerning these things, as even its express words abundantly shew. For prophets proclaimed beforehand concerning the wonder of the Virgin and the birth from her, saying: “Lo, the Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us.” [Isaiah 7:14 - also quoted in Matthew 1:23]
But Moses, the truly great, and whom they believe to speak truth, with reference to the Saviour’s becoming man, having estimated what was said as important, and assured of its truth, set it down in these words: “There shall rise a star out of Jacob, and a man out of Israel, and he shall break in pieces the captains of Moab.” [Numbers 24:17] And again: “How lovely are thy habitations O Jacob, thy tabernacles O Israel, as shadowing gardens, and as parks by the rivers, and as tabernacles which the Lord hath fixed, as cedars by the waters. A man shall come forth out of his seed, and shall be Lord over many peoples.” [LXX Numbers 24:5-7] And again, Esaias: “Before the Child know how to call father or mother, he shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria before the king of Assyria.” [Isaiah 8:4]
That a man, then, shall appear is foretold in those words. But that He that is to come is Lord of all, they predict once more as follows: “Behold the Lord sitteth upon a light cloud, and shall come into Egypt, and the graven images of Egypt shall be shaken.” [Isaiah 19:1] For from thence also it is that the Father calls Him back, saying: “I called My Son out of Egypt.” [Hosea 11:1]
Notice that for Athanasius these doctrines are expressly and clearly taught in Scripture: "even its express words abundantly shew."

The next section (section 34) continues in the same vein:
Nor is even His death passed over in silence: on the contrary, it is referred to in the divine Scriptures, even exceeding clearly. For to the end that none should err for want of instruction in the actual events, they feared not to mention even the cause of His death,—that He suffers it not for His own sake, but for the immortality and salvation of all, and the counsels of the Jews against Him and the indignities offered Him at their hands.
They say then: “A man in stripes, and knowing how to bear weakness, for his face is turned away: he was dishonoured and held in no account. He beareth our sins, and is in pain on our account; and we reckoned him to be in labour, and in stripes, and in ill-usage; but he was wounded for our sins, and made weak for our wickedness. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we were healed.” [Isaiah 53:3-5 - there seem to be some slight variants from both the Masoretic and LXX texts here] O marvel at the loving-kindness of the Word, that for our sakes He is dishonoured, that we may be brought to honour. “For all we,” it says, “like sheep were gone astray; man had erred in his way; and the Lord delivered him for our sins; and he openeth not his mouth, because he hath been evilly entreated. As a sheep was he brought to the slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before his shearer, so openeth he not his mouth: in his abasement his judgment was taken away.” [Isaiah 53:6-8]
Then lest any should from His suffering conceive Him to be a common man, Holy Writ anticipates the surmises of man, and declares the power (which worked) for Him, and the difference of His nature compared with ourselves, saying: “But who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth. From the wickedness of the people was he brought to death. And I will give the wicked instead of his burial, and the rich instead of his death; for he did no wickedness, neither was guile found in his mouth. And the Lord will cleanse him from his stripes.” [Isaiah 53:8-10 - the text here seems close to the LXX]
Once again note that for Athanasius "it is referred to in the divine Scriptures, even exceeding clearly ...."

The following section (section 35) continues with more Scriptural proof:
But, perhaps, having heard the prophecy of His death, you ask to learn also what is set forth concerning the Cross. For not even this is passed over: it is displayed by the holy men with great plainness.
For first Moses predicts it, and that with a loud voice, when he says: “Ye shall see your Life hanging before your eyes, and shall not believe.” [Deuteronomy 28:66]
And next, the prophets after him witness of this, saying: “But I as an innocent lamb brought to be slain, knew it not; they counselled an evil counsel against me, saying, Hither and let us cast a tree upon his bread, and efface him from the land of the living.” [Jeremiah 11:19 - slightly different from both the LXX and Masoretic texts here]
And again: “They pierced my hands and my feet, they numbered all my bones, they parted my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” [Psalm 22:16-18]
Now a death raised aloft and that takes place on a tree, could be none other than the Cross: and again, in no other death are the hands and feet pierced, save on the Cross only.
But since by the sojourn of the Saviour among men all nations also on every side began to know God; they did not leave this point, either, without a reference: but mention is made of this matter as well in the Holy Scriptures. For “there shall be,” he saith, “the root of Jesse, and he that riseth to rule the nations, on him shall the nations hope.” [Isaiah 11:10] This then is a little in proof of what has happened.
But all Scripture teems with refutations of the disbelief of the Jews. For which of the righteous men and holy prophets, and patriarchs, recorded in the divine Scriptures, ever had his corporal birth of a virgin only? Or what woman has sufficed without man for the conception of human kind? Was not Abel born of Adam, Enoch of Jared, Noe of Lamech, and Abraham of Tharra, Isaac of Abraham, Jacob of Isaac? Was not Judas born of Jacob, and Moses and Aaron of Ameram? Was not Samuel born of Elkana, was not David of Jesse, was not Solomon of David, was not Ezechias of Achaz, was not Josias of Amos, was not Esaias of Amos, was not Jeremy of Chelchias, was not Ezechiel of Buzi? Had not each a father as author of his existence? Who then is he that is born of a virgin only? For the prophet made exceeding much of this sign.
Or whose birth did a star in the skies forerun, to announce to the world him that was born? For when Moses was born, he was hid by his parents: David was not heard of, even by those of his neighbourhood, inasmuch as even the great Samuel knew him not, but asked, had Jesse yet another son? Abraham again became known to his neighbours as a great man only subsequently to his birth. But of Christ’s birth the witness was not man, but a star in that heaven whence He was descending.
Once again, note the affirmation that Scripture clearly teaches these important central truths:
  • "it is displayed by the holy men with great plainness"
  • "This then is a little in proof of what has happened"
  • "all Scripture teems with refutations of the disbelief of the Jews"

One of the most powerful indirect confirmations of the Sola Scriptura approach of Athanasius comes in section 37 (link), where Athanasius argues in this way: "Who then is he of whom the Divine Scriptures say this? Or who is so great that even the prophets predict of him such great things? None else, now, is found in the Scriptures but the common Saviour of all, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ." Similarly, in section 38 (link) "Since then nothing is said in the Scriptures, it is evident that these things had never taken place before." Notice that Athanasius has a presupposition that the answer to the question is to be found in Scripture and if Scripture is silent, it didn't happen. If Athanasius thought that Scripture were an incomplete record, this would not work - for simply exhausting Scripture would not be enough.

Similarly, in a number of sections Athanasius appeals to Scripture as proof:

  • "For if they do not think these proofs sufficient, let them be persuaded at any rate by other reasons, drawn from the oracles they themselves possess." (Section 38)
  • "Or if not even this is sufficient for them, let them at least be silenced by another proof, seeing how clear its demonstrative force is. For the Scripture says ..." (Section 38)
  • "But perhaps, being unable, even they, to fight continually against plain facts, they will, without denying what is written, maintain that they are looking for these things, and that the Word of God is not yet come. For this it is on which they are for ever harping, not blushing to brazen it out in the face of plain facts." (Section 39)
  • "... then it must be plain, even to those who are exceedingly obstinate, that the Christ is come, and that He has illumined absolutely all with His light, and given them the true and divine teaching concerning His Father. So one can fairly refute the Jews by these and by other arguments from the Divine Scriptures." (section 40)
My non-cessationist friends will be wise to note Athanasius' confirmation of the cessation of prophecy: "To make prophecy, and king, and vision to cease? This too has already come to pass." (section 40)

In arguing against the Greeks, Athanasius uses an excellent argument that demonstrates his view of Scripture (section 47 and section 50):
But as to Gentile wisdom, and the sounding pretensions of the philosophers, I think none can need our argument, since the wonder is before the eyes of all, that while the wise among the Greeks had written so much, and were unable to persuade even a few from their own neighbourhood, concerning immortality and a virtuous life, Christ alone, by ordinary language, and by men not clever with the tongue, has throughout all the world persuaded whole churches full of men to despise death, and to mind the things of immortality; to overlook what is temporal and to turn their eyes to what is eternal; to think nothing of earthly glory and to strive only for the heavenly.
But the Word of God, most strange fact, teaching in meaner language, has cast into the shade the choice sophists; and while He has, by drawing all to Himself, brought their schools to nought, He has filled His own churches; and the marvellous thing is, that by going down as man to death, He has brought to nought the sounding utterances of the wise concerning idols.
Interestingly, this is the first time churches are mentioned - but they are not mentioned as an authority, but rather as an evidence (section 24 included a brief mention of "those who would divide the Church").

As he wraps up his book (section 56), Athanasius makes sure to point his reader back to Scripture:
Let this, then, Christ-loving man, be our offering to you, just for a rudimentary sketch and outline, in a short compass, of the faith of Christ and of His Divine appearing to usward. But you, taking occasion by this, if you light upon the text of the Scriptures, by genuinely applying your mind to them, will learn from them more completely and clearly the exact detail of what we have said. For they were spoken and written by God, through men who spoke of God.
Notice how Athanasius views Scripture as being an even better teacher than he is, and that simply by "genuinely applying your mind" you can learn the truths "more completely and clearly" with "the exact detail." He gives the reason why: namely that they were "spoken and written by God."

The most tradition-friendly line of the book then follows: "But we impart of what we have learned from inspired teachers who have been conversant with them, who have also become martyrs for the deity of Christ, to your zeal for learning, in turn." But note that Athanasius does not hint or suggest that there is an epistemological need for these teachers. While Athanasius does use their martyrdom as a testimony to the truth of their position, to some extent, he never quotes from any of them throughout the work: only quoting from the Scripture or deuterocanonical works, such as Wisdom or the Shepherd.

In the final section (section 57), Athanasius continues his promotion of searching the Scriptures:
But for the searching of the Scriptures and true knowledge of them, an honourable life is needed, and a pure soul, and that virtue which is according to Christ; so that the intellect guiding its path by it, may be able to attain what it desires, and to comprehend it, in so far as it is accessible to human nature to learn concerning the Word of God.
So, Athanasius' exhortation is not to accept the authority of those intermediate teachers, but rather to imitate their example of a godly life. Thus, even in pointing to those who went before us, Athanasius' point is that "For without a pure mind and a modelling of the life after the saints, a man could not possibly comprehend the words of the saints." His point is not that we need additional instructors alongside Scripture, but that we need to remove sin from our life in order to understand Scripture correctly.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sola Scriptura in Athanasius: Contra Gentes

Athanasius' first major work "Contra Gentes" begins with the line: "The knowledge of our religion and of the truth of things is independently manifest rather than in need of human teachers, for almost day by day it asserts itself by facts, and manifests itself brighter than the sun by the doctrine of Christ." (source) Notice how Athanasius describes the truth of the Christian religion as being self-evident and explicitly not "in need of human teachers."

Athanasius immediately continues: "Still, as you nevertheless desire to hear about it, Macarius, come let us as we may be able set forth a few points of the faith of Christ: able though you are to find it out from the divine oracles, but yet generously desiring to hear from others as well." The divine oracles he refers to here are Scripture. Athanasius states that these things can be found out from Scripture, but that Macarius would like to hear it from others as well.

Athanasius then explicitly states:
For although the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth,—while there are other works of our blessed teachers compiled for this purpose, if he meet with which a man will gain some knowledge of the interpretation of the Scriptures, and be able to learn what he wishes to know,—still, as we have not at present in our hands the compositions of our teachers, we must communicate in writing to you what we learned from them,—the faith, namely, of Christ the Saviour; lest any should hold cheap the doctrine taught among us, or think faith in Christ unreasonable.
Here Athanasius explicitly acknowledges the sufficiency of Scripture. He also confesses the usefulness of human teachers, and he himself is one such teacher, doing what our "blessed teachers" before him did: not infallibly defining the Scriptures, but simply explaining them.

After the introduction (section 1), Athanasius begins (section 2) with a discussion of Creation and general theology. He makes explicit reference to "Holy Scriptures," and there are lots of doctrines obviously derived from Scripture taught in the section. He even quotes from Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

In the next section (section 3), Athanasius speaks of the fall. He again clearly derives his teaching from Scripture and makes his reliance on Scripture explicit: "... according to what the holy Scriptures tell us ...."

In the following section (section 4), Athansius speaks of the effects of the fall, particularly on the mind. He again derives his teaching from Scripture. Speaking to the intended purpose of the things man has, Athanasius describes "ears to listen to the divine oracles and the laws of God ..." ("divine oracles" and "laws" are synonyms for Scripture). Athanasius quotes from 1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient.”

In the next section (section 5), Athanasius speaks of the effects of the fall in terms of sins that flow from it. He once again derives his teaching from Scripture, with fairly obvious reliance on Romans 3:15 ("Their feet are swift to shed blood"), Proverbs 1:16 ("For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood."), or Isaiah 59:7 ("Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths."). Athanasius quotes from Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus.”

Next (section 6), Athanasius makes reference to various erroneous views. He again relies on Scripture both to form his doctrinal correctives, but also to describe those in error (For example, he alludes to 1 Timothy 1:19). He is explicit in relying on Scripture to refute the errors: "But these men one can easily refute, not only from the divine Scriptures, but also from the human understanding itself ...." He then quotes from the gospels, quoting Jesus, quoting the Old Testament (bracketed references are my insertion): "To begin with, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ says in His own gospels confirming the words of Moses: “The Lord God is one; [Mark 12:29 / Deuteronomy 6:4]” and “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [Matthew 11:25 / Luke 10:11 / Deuteronomy 10:14 / Genesis 24:3 / Exodus 31:17].”

Athanasius continues (section 7) by refuting a dualist notion that there is a good god and an evil god. Here we finally have a reference to the church, but it is simply "the truth of the Church’s theology must be manifest ...." Athanasius continues to argue from reason and Scripture. For example, referring to Scripture in yet another way, and quoting it, Athanasius writes: "as the Spirit says somewhere in writing, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” [Ecclesiastes 7:29]"

The next section (section 8) has Athanasius explaining how the error of the use of representational images in worship arose. In this discussion he has clear dependence on Romans 1:20-24. Moreover, he explicitly quotes from Scripture: " But to this the divine Scripture testifies when it says, “When the wicked cometh unto the depth of evils, he despiseth.” [Proverbs (LXX) 18:3]" (You may recall we saw this same Scripture quoted in the Deposition of Arius)

After this (section 9) Athanasius deals with the descent into various things that are not divine as though they were deity, including creatures, non-existent things, passions, and parts. Here, Athanasius explicitly quotes from the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom of Solomon as though it were Scripture, "According as the wisdom of God testifies beforehand when it says, “The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication.”[Wisdom 14:12]" (Cf. Athanasius' explicit identification of Wisdom of Solomon as non-canonical in his 39th festal letter, although as that was written later than this, it may reflect a change of views on his part)

The next section (section 10) gets more specific in calling out specific deities that are simply dead humans, both male and female (Athanasius is especially down on the idea of worshiping women: "For even women, whom it is not safe to admit to deliberation about public affairs, they worship and serve with the honour due to God ... "). While Scripture is not specifically mentioned, the dependence on Wisdom 14 seems pretty apparent.

The following section (section 11) provides a rebuttal. Athanasius again quotes Wisdom of Solomon 14, calling it "Scripture", this time quoting it at length:
But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said, “The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life. For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be for ever. For the vainglory of men they entered into the world, and therefore shall they come shortly to an end. For a father afflicted with untimely mourning when he hath made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god which was then a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices. Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law. And graven images were worshipped by the commands of kings. Whom men could not honour in presence because they dwelt afar off, they took the counterfeit of his visage from afar, and made an express image of the king whom they honoured, to the end that by this their forwardness they might flatter him that was absent as if he were present. Also the singular diligence of the artificer did help to set forward the ignorant to more superstition: for he, peradventure, willing to please one in authority, forced all his skill to make the resemblance of the best fashion: and so the multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took him now for a god, which a little before was but honoured as a man: and this was an occasion to deceive the world, for men serving either calamity or tyranny, did ascribe unto stones and stocks the incommunicable Name.” [Wisdom 14:12-21]

Next (section 12) Athanasius demonstrates both the frailty and the immorality of the deities, building on comments from previous sections.

Athanasius then (section 13) turns to the folly of idolatry. While he does not explicitly refer to Scripture, his argument closely follows that of Isaiah 44, for example Isiah 44:15-17 describing a person who cuts up wood, uses some for burning and the other for making a god.

His next section (section 14) is especially rich in Scripture. He begins:
But better testimony about all this is furnished by Holy Scripture, which tells us beforehand when it says, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. Eyes have they and will not see; a mouth have they and will not speak; ears have they and will not hear; noses have they and will not smell; hands have they and will not handle; feet have they and will not walk; they will not speak through their throat. Like unto them be they that make them.” [Psalm 115:4-8]
He then continues:
Nor have they escaped prophetic censure; for there also is their refutation, where the Spirit says, “they shall be ashamed that have formed a god, and carved all of them that which is vain: and all by whom they were made are dried up: and let the deaf ones among men all assemble and stand up together, and let them be confounded and put to shame together; for the carpenter sharpened iron, and worked it with an adze, and fashioned it with an auger, and set it up with the arm of his strength: and he shall hunger and be faint, and drink no water. For the carpenter chose out wood, and set it by a rule, and fashioned it with glue, and made it as the form of a man and as the beauty of man, and set it up in his house, wood which he had cut from the grove and which the Lord planted, and the rain gave it growth that it might be for men to burn, and that he might take thereof and warm himself, and kindle, and bake bread upon it, but the residue they made into gods, and worshipped them, the half whereof they had burned in the fire. And upon the half thereof he roasted flesh and ate and was filled, and was warmed and said: ‘It is pleasant to me, because I am warmed and have seen the fire.’ But the residue thereof he worshipped, saying, ‘Deliver me for thou art my god.’ They knew not nor understood, because their eyes were dimmed that they could not see, nor perceive with their heart; nor did he consider in his heart nor know in his understanding that he had burned half thereof in the fire, and baked bread upon the coals thereof, and roasted flesh and eaten it, and made the residue thereof an abomination, and they worship it. Know that their heart is dust and they are deceived, and none can deliver his soul. Behold and will ye not say, ‘There is a lie in my right hand?’” [Isaiah 44:9-20]
He wraps this up with conclusions including "How then can they fail to be judged godless by all, who even by the divine Scripture are accused of impiety?"

The next section (section 15) criticizes idols as being obviously inanimate objects. While he doesn't explicitly quote Scripture here, his argument is reminiscent of Psalm 115:7 "They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat."

We could summarize the following section (section 16) as "inconsistency is the sign of a failed mythology" (to riff off Dr. White's famous maxim). Athanasius points out that the poets' description of the gods is inconsistent and consequently untrustworthy.

Athanasius then argues (section 17) that the poetic deification of these gods was designed to offset their human failings, as opposed to inventing the failings to bring the gods down. He suggests that this was arranged by God, because they were misappropriating "what Scripture calls the incommunicable name and honour of God" (apparently referring again to Wisdom 14).

Athanasius next (section 18) disputes the assertion that the gods invented the arts. On the contrary, Athanasius cleverly points out that in fact the artists who made the images invented the gods.

In the following section (section 19), Athanasius points out the inconsistencies of the use of images to represent God. He quotes from Romans 1:21-26:
For there are with them images of beasts and creeping things and birds, as the interpreter of the divine and true religion says, “They became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things, wherefore God gave them up unto vile passions.”
As an aside, I do find it interesting that Athanasius records the pagans using the same arguments as later idolatrous Christians would use:
While those who profess to give still deeper and more philosophical reasons than these say, that the reason of idols being prepared and fashioned is for the invocation and manifestation of divine angels and powers, that appearing by these means they may teach men concerning the knowledge of God; and that they serve as letters for men, by referring to which they may learn to apprehend God, from the manifestation of the divine angels effected by their means.

Next (section 20), Athanasius argues that images are not good teachers about God, because they are dead - mere dead reflections of living creatures and consequently less than them. Moreover, even if the images are beautiful, that beauty comes from living artists, not from the object of art.

The following section (section 21), contains a very similar argument dealing with the use of the images in connection with praying to (i.e. invoking) the diety represented, whether via angels or not. Once again, Athanasius finds this absurd.

Next (section 22), Athanasius argues that images are an inadequate representation of God both because they do not correspond to the form of God and because they are corruptible.

Then (section 23) Athanasius argues that the diversity of opinions amongst the pagans regarding gods is further evidence of the weakness of their view. What is considered deity by one group is food or an abomination by other groups, for example. Athanasius wraps up this discussion with what appears to be riff on (or paraphrase of) Romans 1:21-26, which had quoted a few sections earlier.

Athanasius next (section 24) once again points out that each group destroys the gods of the other group, either by sacrifice or eating. Picking on the Egyptians (fitting for his location), Athanasius points out that the water of the Nile is used to wash off dirt and is disposed of carelessly.

Next (section 25) Athanasius turns to the folly and abomination of human sacrifice. Athanasius points out the absurdity of offering equal to equal or arguably offering the higher to the lower, since a living human is sacrificed to a dead idol. He notes that this problem was not unique to one group of pagans, but widely problematic.

Athanasius then turns (section 26) to the sexual immorality that came from the worship of the gods. He quotes from Romans 1:26-27:
But all live along with the basest, and vie with the worst among themselves, and as Paul said, the holy minister of Christ: “For their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness.”

Next (section 27), Athanasius addresses the arguments of those who claim to worship the universe or parts of it, rather than animals. Athanasius claims that this position is rebutted by the testimony of the universe to her creator. Athanasius quotes Psalm 19:1:
as the divine law also says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.”

Athanasius then (section 28) argues against the idea that the universe as a whole is God. This cannot be, because the universe is made up of parts.

In the final section of part 1 (section 29), Athanasius summarizes much of the preceding discussion by pointing out, in essence, that the whole system of paganism is inconsistent and unreliable. The forces of nature are opposed to one another, none of them being all powerful. He indicates that in the next part he will discuss the "Leader and Artificer of the Universe, the Word of the Father."

Part II

The first section of part 2 (section 30), Athanasius argues that everyone can perceive God, because man has a rational soul. In support of his argument, Athanasius quotes from both the Old and New Testaments:
in the first instance, as Moses also taught, when he said: “The word” of faith “is within thy heart.” [Deuteronomy 30:14] Which very thing the Saviour declared and confirmed, when He said: “The kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:21]

The next section (section 31) contains Athanasius' argument that man has a rational soul. He focuses on the fact that senses alone are not enough to make decisions not to grasp a sword blade or drink poison, and similarly more than senses are need to appreciate music.

After that (section 32), Athanasius argues against those who deny reason. He argues that the only way to explain the turning away of the senses from doing that which they are designed to do, such as turning away from seeing, etc. is reason governing the body. Athanasius also argues that sense experience leads away from eternality and immortality, but argues that our conception of those things demonstrates that there must be the presence of something immortal to produce a concept of immortality since our bodies could not have spontaneously come up with such a thing. Similarly, the existence of moral restraints are not explained by natural forces, but instead by a rational soul.

In the following section (section 33), Athanasius makes a reference to church teaching, but it is merely: "But that the soul is made immortal is a further point in the Church’s teaching which you must know ...." He then argues for this position, however, by reasoning from the difference between body and the soul ("But we shall more directly arrive at a knowledge of this from what we know of the body, and from the difference between the body and the soul."), namely that the body has mortal objects and the soul has immortal objects. He does not appeal to any allegedly authoritative church tradition or church council.

Athansius then (section 34) concludes by going back to his Romans 1 themes and pointing out that men who deny they have a soul become like irrational animals, and that those who admit they have a soul are self-contradictory in worshiping a soul-less deity. In support of his position, Athanasius appeals to Scripture:
For the soul is made after the image and likeness of God, as divine Scripture also shews, when it says in the person of God: “Let us make man after our Image and likeness.” [Genesis 1:26]

Part III

Part 3 begins (section 35) with an argument by Athanasius that the invisible God can be seen through his visible works. In support of this argument, he appeals directly to the authority of Scripture:
And I say this not on my own authority, but on the strength of what I learned from men who have spoken of God, among them Paul, who thus writes to the Romans: “for the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made;” [Romans 1:20] while to the Lycaonians he speaks out and says: “We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, to turn from these vain things unto a Living God, Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is, Who in the generations gone by suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. And yet He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.” [Acts 14:15-17]

Then (section 36) Athanasius produces a number of examples from nature that he believes demonstrate that nature has a creator who makes everything work together.

In the following section (section 37) Athanasius amplifies this argument by noting that the dualities of nature can only be explained by an overruling power holding them such that it's not (for example) all hot or all cold, all light or all darkness. None of these dualities has won out, because they serve a higher purpose.

Then (section 38) Athanasius argues that the harmony of nature implies rule, and that this can only be rule by one.

Similarly, in the following section (section 39), Athanasius argues that multiple gods creating the universe would imply weakness and/or would result in disharmony.

Then (section 40), Athanasius answers the question: "Who is the one God who created the universe?" He asserts that it is God the Word. While he does not directly quote from the Scripture, numerous bits are clearly derived from the Scripture, such as the following:
  • "Father of Christ" (Cf. Romans 15:6)
  • "by His own Wisdom and His own Word, our Lord and Saviour Christ," (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Timothy 1:1)
  • "Word which is God" (Cf. John 1:1)
  • "He being the Power of God and Wisdom of God " (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24)
  • "has suspended the earth, and made it fast, though resting upon nothing" (cf. Job 26:7)
  • "the sea is kept within bounds," (Cf. Jeremiah 5:22; Psalm 104:9)

Next, (section 41), Athanasius again discusses the Word. His discussion is rich with Biblical terminology, and he even concludes the section with an explicit quotation of Scripture:

For it partakes of the Word Who derives true existence from the Father, and is helped by Him so as to exist, lest that should come to it which would have come but for the maintenance of it by the Word,—namely, dissolution,—“for He is the Image of the invisible God, the first-born of all Creation, for through Him and in Him all things consist, things visible and things invisible, and He is the Head of the Church,” [Colossians 1:15-18] as the ministers of truth teach in their holy writings.

Then (section 42) Athanasius describes what the Word does. Once again, he closely follows Biblical teaching and even directly quotes from John's gospel:
And, not to spend time in the enumeration of particulars, where the truth is obvious, there is nothing that is and takes place but has been made and stands by Him and through Him, as also the Divine says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.” [John 1:1]

In the next section (section 43), Athanasius likens the universe to a choir, the human body with its senses, and a city, with the Word analogously being the conductor, the soul, and the king.

After that (section 44), Athanasius expands on his point about the Word being the ordering principle. Athanasius quotes from the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom:
But Himself being over all, both Governor and King and organising power, He does all for the glory and knowledge of His own Father, so that almost by the very works that He brings to pass He teaches us and says, “By the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen.” [Wisdom 13:5]

Then (section 45) Athansius argues that just as the Universe shows us the Word, the Word shows us the Father. He quotes copiously from Scripture:
And this one may see from our own experience; for if when a word proceeds from men we infer that the mind is its source, and, by thinking about the word, see with our reason the mind which it reveals, by far greater evidence and incomparably more, seeing the power of the Word, we receive a knowledge also of His good Father, as the Saviour Himself says, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” [John 14:9] But this all inspired Scripture also teaches more plainly and with more authority, so that we in our turn write boldly to you as we do, and you, if you refer to them, will be able to verify what we say. 3. For an argument when confirmed by higher authority is irresistibly proved. From the first then the divine Word firmly taught the Jewish people about the abolition of idols when it said: “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven image, nor the likeness of anything that is in the heaven above or in the earth beneath.” [Exodus 20:4 / Deuteronomy 5:8] But the cause of their abolition another writer declares, saying: “The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the works of men’s hands: a mouth have they and will not speak, eyes have they and will not see, ears have they and will not hear, noses have they and will not smell, hands have they and will not handle, feet have they and will not walk.” [Psalm 135:15-17 / Psalm 115:4-7] Nor has it passed over in silence the doctrine of creation; but, knowing well its beauty, lest any attending solely to this beauty should worship things as if they were gods, instead of God’s works, it teaches men firmly beforehand when it says: “And do not when thou lookest up with thine eyes and seest the sun and moon and all the host of heaven, go astray and worship them, which the Lord thy God hath given to all nations under heaven.” [Deuteronomy 4:19] But He gave them, not to be their gods, but that by their agency the Gentiles should know, as we have said, God the Maker of them all. 4. For the people of the Jews of old had abundant teaching, in that they had the knowledge of God not only from the works of Creation, but also from the divine Scriptures. And in general to draw men away from the error and irrational imagination of idols, He saith: “Thou shalt have none other gods but Me.” [Exodus 20:3 / Deuteronomy 5:7] Not as if there were other gods does He forbid them to have them, but lest any, turning from the true God, should begin to make himself gods of what were not, such as those who in the poets and writers are called gods, though they are none. And the language itself shews that they are no Gods, when it says, “Thou shalt have none other gods,” which refers only to the future. But what is referred to the future does not exist at the time of speaking.
Notice in this section not only the fact that Athansius so abundantly relies on Scripture, but that he says "inspired Scripture also teaches more plainly and with more authority" (than nature and reason) and "an argument when confirmed by higher authority is irresistibly proved."

The next section (section 46) continues Athanasius' demonstration from Scripture (here, I quote the entire section, because it is so rich with Scripture quotations):
Has then the divine teaching, which abolished the godlessness of the heathen or the idols, passed over in silence, and left the race of mankind to go entirely unprovided with the knowledge of God? Not so: rather it anticipates their understanding when it says: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God;” [Deuteronomy 6:4] and again, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy strength;” [Deuteronomy 6:5 / Mark 12:30 / Luke 10:27] and again, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve, and shalt cleave to Him.” [Deuteronomy 10:20 / cf. Matthew 4:10 / Luke 4:8] 2. But that the providence and ordering power of the Word also, over all and toward all, is attested by all inspired Scripture, this passage suffices to confirm our argument, where men who speak of God say: “Thou hast laid the foundation of the earth and it abideth. The day continueth according to Thine ordinance.” [Psalm 119:90-91 / LXX Psalm 118:90-91] And again: “Sing to our God upon the harp, that covereth the heaven with clouds, that prepareth rain for the earth, that bringeth forth grass upon the mountains, and green herb for the service of man, and giveth food to the cattle.” [Psalm 147:7-8] 3. But by whom does He give it, save by Him through Whom all things were made? For the providence over all things belongs naturally to Him by Whom they were made; and who is this save the Word of God, concerning Whom in another psalm he says: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth.” [Psalm 33:6] For He tells us that all things were made in Him and through Him. 4. Wherefore He also persuades us and says, “He spake and they were made, He commanded and they were created;” [LXX Psalm 148:5] as the illustrious Moses also at the beginning of his account of Creation confirms what we say by his narrative, saying: and God said, “let us make man in our image and after our likeness:” [Genesis 1:26] for also when He was carrying out the creation of the heaven and earth and all things, the Father said to Him, “Let the heaven be made,” and “let the waters be gathered together and let the dry land appear,” and “let the earth bring forth herb” and “every green thing:” [Genesis 1] so that one must convict Jews also of not genuinely attending to the Scriptures. 5. For one might ask them to whom was God speaking, to use the imperative mood? If He were commanding and addressing the things He was creating, the utterance would be redundant, for they were not yet in being, but were about to be made; but no one speaks to what does not exist, nor addresses to what is not yet made a command to be made. For if God were giving a command to the things that were to be, He must have said, “Be made, heaven, and be made, earth, and come forth, green herb, and be created, O man.” But in fact He did not do so; but He gives the command thus: “Let us make man,” and “let the green herb come forth.” By which God is proved to be speaking about them to some one at hand: it follows then that some one was with Him to Whom He spoke when He made all things. 6. Who then could it be, save His Word? For to whom could God be said to speak, except His Word? Or who was with Him when He made all created Existence, except His Wisdom, which says: “When He was making the heaven and the earth I was present with Him?” [Proverbs 8:27 - "and earth" may be a variant] But in the mention of heaven and earth, all created things in heaven and earth are included as well. 7. But being present with Him as His Wisdom and His Word, looking at the Father He fashioned the Universe, and organised it and gave it order; and, as He is the power of the Father, He gave all things strength to be, as the Saviour says: “What things soever I see the Father doing, I also do in like manner.” [John 5:19] And His holy disciples teach that all things were made “through Him and unto Him;” [Romans 11:36] 8. and, being the good Offspring of Him that is good, and true Son, He is the Father’s Power and Wisdom and Word, not being so by participation, nor as if these qualifies were imparted to Him from without, as they are to those who partake of Him and are made wise by Him, and receive power and reason in Him; but He is the very Wisdom, very Word, and very own Power of the Father, very Light, very Truth, very Righteousness, very Virtue, and in truth His express Image, and Brightness, and Resemblance. And to sum all up, He is the wholly perfect Fruit of the Father, and is alone the Son, and unchanging Image of the Father.
Notice that Athanasius believes that the divinity of the Word as distinct from the Father is already sufficiently clear from the Old Testament: "one must convict Jews also of not genuinely attending to the Scriptures."

Finally (section 47), Athanasius concludes the work. He continues to quote from Scripture:
But in and through Him He reveals Himself also, as the Saviour says: “I in the Father and the Father in Me:” [John 14:10] so that it follows that the Word is in Him that begat Him, and that He that is begotten lives eternally with the Father. But this being so, and nothing being outside Him, but both heaven and earth and all that in them is being dependent on Him, yet men in their folly have set aside the knowledge and service of Him, and honoured things that are not instead of things that are: and instead of the real and true God deified things that were not, “serving the creature rather than the Creator,” [Romans 1:25] thus involving themselves in foolishness and impiety.
He concludes with an exhortation to worship the Word or face peril on judgment day.

You will notice that although there were a couple of mentions of the church, there was no appeal to the authority of the church nor any appeal to the authority of church tradition apart from Scripture. Instead, the only appeal to authority was to the authority of Scripture, a source of authority that to Athanasius was so clear in its teaching of the deity of Christ even in the Old Testament that the Jews are to be faulted for inattentively reading the Old Testament Scriptures.