On Genesis: Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees; And, on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, An Unfinished Book

By Saint Augustine; Roland J. S. J. Teske | Go to book overview
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absolutely nothing. 38. For we should not be like those who do not believe that Almighty God could have made something from nothing, when they observe that carpenters or any workmen cannot produce anything unless they have something out of which to make it. For wood helps the carpenter, and silver helps the silversmith, and gold the goldsmith, and clay helps the potter so that they are able to accomplish their works. For if they are not helped by that matter out of which they make something, they cannot make anything since they do not themselves make the matter. A carpenter does not make wood, but makes something out of wood, and the case is the same with all the rest of these workmen as well. But Almighty God did not have to be helped by anything that he had not made so that he could make what he wanted. For if something that he had not made helped him to make those things he wanted to make, he was not almighty, and that is sacrilegious to believe. 39.


CHAPTER 7

Unformed Matter Is Called by Various Names

11. Hence, that unformed matter which God made from nothing was first called heaven and earth, and Scripture said, "In the beginning God made heaven and earth," not because

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38.
Augustine insists that God made the unformed matter out of nothing, and he points out that, unlike other makers, God needs no help from some matter out of which he makes something. If God needed such help from matter he would not be omnipotent. He inculcates the idea of creation out of nothing by comparison with an artisan making something and by the denial of any need for a material cause out of which God makes the unformed matter. The idea of nothing was not an easy one to come by, especially for a Platonist who views being in terms of permanence and stability. Cf. DBV 2.8 where Augustine, struggling with the concept of nothing, describes it as "whatever is flowing, dissolving, melting and—so to speak—perpetually perishing."
39.
God's omnipotence has as a necessary condition that he needs no help from anything else for creating all that he has created. In DCD 21.7.1 Augustine says, "God is called almighty (omnipotens) for no other reason than that he can do whatever he wills."

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On Genesis: Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees; And, on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, An Unfinished Book
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