Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lactantius on God's Paternitas in Relation to Humanity

There are a number of senses in which Latantius views God as a Father. First, he argues that God is a Father to humanity, his principal creation: “When our one and only father was making man as an intelligent being capable of reason, he raised him up from the ground and elevated him to contemplation of his maker” (DI 2.1.15). The Stoics taught that humans especially are “fragments of God” or qeoi since the Maker of all things invested humanity with the capacity to reason, engage in discursive thinking or ratiocinate. Humanity also enjoys preeminence for the reason that the divine one fashioned anthropoids in an upright position so that homo sapiens could behold the starry heavens above.[1] Ovid, whom Lactantius describes as a “gifted poet,” attests to humanity’s rationale for looking up at heaven: a theist seeks faith in the celestial realm.[2] The heavens declare God’s glory or relate details concerning the work of his hands (Psalms 19:1-2). Scripture even refers to the heavens as God’s abode (1 Kings 8:27, 43). Therefore, Lactantius reasons that humans contemplate God when they peer into the heavens, the deity's figurative inner sanctum.[3] Once again, the North African apologist illustrates the manner in which his life situation (Sitz-im-Leben) along with the sacred writings functions as a vital crucible of ideas. Marcus Tullius Cicero and the prodigious bard Ovid definitively inform Lactantian concepts of God the Father and the human relation to God.[4]

[1] DI 2.1.16-19.

[2] DI 2.1.15-17.

[3] DI 2.1.17.

[4] Metamorphoses 1.84-86. See M. Perrin, L’homme antique et chr├ętien. L’anthropologie de Lactance-250-325 (Paris: 1981), 73ff.

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