It is a comfort to see how little things have changed in thousands of years. Theophilus of Antioch, having worked his way through numerous objections and religions turns to philosophy. Here a great deal of words have been exhausted but in some important ways little new has taken place.
First there are the atheists and deists and Freud:
Some of the philosophers of the Porch say that there is no God at all; or, if there is, they say that He cares for none but Himself; and these views the folly of Epicurus and Chrysippus has set forth at large. And others say that all things are produced without external agency, and that the world is uncreated, and that nature is eternal; and have dared to give out that there is no providence of God at all, but maintain that God is only each man’s conscience.
For these God is somewhere between a delusion and non-existence. It is interesting that Theophilus doesn’t even take the time to prove God’s existence:
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:19-23. To deny God’s existence is to deny the sun shining at noon.
Now others, a la Spinoza and Hegel, admit to a God who is inhabits and is subsumed by all the universe. There is no real creation, only an extension of God:
And others again maintain that the spirit which pervades all things is God.
Next, Theophilus turns to Plato and a Creator who doesn’t actually create. Before the Big Bang became the default cosmology there was the Steady State theory which held that the universe was eternal and somehow creating continuously. I have an astronomy book from the 1960s which puts out both theories as possibilities.
Theophilus holds up this God for examination and finds he is not really much of a God after all:
But Plato and those of his school acknowledge indeed that God is uncreated, and the Father and Maker of all things; but then they maintain that matter as well as God is uncreated, and aver that it is coeval with God. But if God is uncreated and matter uncreated, God is no longer, according to the Platonists, the Creator of all things, nor, so far as their opinions hold, is the monarchy of God established. And further, as God, because He is uncreated, is also unalterable; so if matter, too, were uncreated, it also would be unalterable, and equal to God; for that which is created is mutable and alterable, but that which is uncreated is immutable and unalterable. And what great thing is it if God made the world out of existent materials? For even a human artist, when he gets material from some one, makes of it what he pleases.
Theophilus ends this section of his argument not by “proving” the truth of his thesis by drawing out every inconsistency in the rejected views. Rather, he makes an argument which seem more at home in evangelism and presuppositional apologetics.
Theophilus without apology asserts God as God is. Theophilus does not defend God: God needs no defense. In this, Theophilus reminds me of Gideon’s father, when Gideon tore down the idol in the night:28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built.
29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
Theophilus does not defend God, he asserts God. As Spurgeon said of the Bible, the best defense is to let the lion out of the cage
But the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not He makes whatever He pleases; just as the bestowal of life and motion is the prerogative of no other than God alone. For even man makes indeed an image, but reason and breath, or feeling, he cannot give to what he has made. But God has this property in excess of what man can do, in that He makes a work, endowed with reason, life, sensation. As, therefore, in all these respects God is more powerful than man, so also in this; that out of things that are not He creates and has created things that are, and whatever He pleases, as He pleases.
Theophilus recounts Psalm 115:
1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. – Psalm 115:1-3
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