St. Irenaeus of Lyons (129 – 203)
Knowledge of God Comes From God
For the Lord taught us that no man is capable of knowing God, unless he be taught of God: that is, that God cannot be known without God: but that this is the express will of the Father that God should be known.
And for this purpose did the Father reveal the Son, that through His instrumentality He might be manifested to all, and might receive those righteous ones who believe in Him into incorruption and everlasting enjoyment…. The Father therefore has revealed Himself to all, by making His Word visible to all; and, conversely, the Word has declared to all the Father and the Son, since He has become visible to all….
For by means of the creation itself, the Word reveals God, the Creator; and by means of the world does He declare the Lord as Maker of the world; and by means of the formation of man, the Artificer who formed him.
~ Against Heresies, Book IV, ch. 6:6, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, Edinburgh, 1865, pg. 391.
How Knowledge of God Comes Through Creation
God, by wisdom, founded the earth, and by understanding hath He established the heaven, declares Solomon….
There is therefore one God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and arranged all things; but this is the Creator who has granted this world to the human race, and who as regards His greatness, is indeed unknown to all who have been made by Him…; but as regards His love, He is always known through Him by whose means He ordained all things. Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. … Wherefore the prophets… (and) the Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold converse with them upon earth, should confer with them, and should be present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is, from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, in order that man, having embraced the Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father….
The prophets indicated beforehand that God should be seen by men; as the Lord also says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But in response to His greatness and His wonderful glory, “no man shall see God and live” (Ex. 33:20)… For man does not see God by his own powers; but when He wills and as He wills. For God is powerful in all things… and He shall also be seen paternally in the kingdom of heaven, the Spirit truly preparing man in the Son of God, and the Son leading him to the Father, while the Father, too, confers incorruption upon him for eternal life, which comes to every one from the fact of his seeing God. For as those who see the light are within the light, and partake of its brilliancy; even so, those who see God are in God, and receive of His splendor. And His splendor vivifies them; those, therefore, who see God, do receive life….
Men, therefore, shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by that sight, and attaining even unto God….
For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.
~ Against Heresies, Book IV, ch. 20:1-7, Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, Edinburgh, 1865, pg. 439-444.
Christ is Inherent in Creation
This is our Lord, who in the last times was made man, existing in this world, and who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to his own, in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon the tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself.
~ Against Heresies, Vol. 1, v 28, 3, pp. 105-106, as quoted in Linzey, Animal Theology, Univ. Of Illinois Press, 1995, pg. 10.
Nothing is Without Symbolic Meaning
With God nothing is empty of meaning, and nothing is without symbolism.
~ Against Heresies, quoted in Ronda De Sola, Quotable Saints, Servant Books, Ann Arbor, 1992, pg. 92.
The Glory of God in Creation is a Man Beholding God
For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God, which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who seek God.
~ Against Heresies 4:20.7, col. 1037. Quoted in The Vision of God. Vladimir Lossky. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983, p. 40.
The Word as the Creator of the World
The Creator of the world is the Word of God: and this is our Lord, who was made man, existing in this world, and who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to His own in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon a tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself.
~ Against Heresies 5:18.3. In Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. C. Scribner’s Sons, 1905, p. 546.
What is it that Separates Us from Incorruption?
Since the Lord has power to infuse life into what He has fashioned, and since the flesh is capable of being quickened, what remains to prevent its participating in incorruption, which is a blissful and never-ending life granted by God?
~ Against Heresies 5:3.3. In Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. C. Scribner’s Sons, 1905, p. 530.
The Future of the World
Neither the substance nor the essence of creation will be annihilated, but the “fashion” of the world passes away.
~ Against the Heresies, 5.36:1. Quoted in Self-Emptying Love in a Global Context by Robert Sears and Joseph Bracken. Wipf and Stock, 2006.
The Eternal Word Underlies Creation
In an invisible manner [the eternal Logos] contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs all things.
~ Against Heresies, 5:28.3. Quoted in The Travail of Nature. By H. Paul Santmire. Fortress Press, 1985, p. 40.
This early theologian is sometimes described as the first biblical theologian. He lived during the first generation after the apostles. His emphasis is on the importance of mystic experience as a fortifying aspect of faith. Irenaeus was called the “Apostle of Unity between the Churches” for his efforts to preserve harmony within the Church. He served as Bishop of Gaul (France) from the city of Lyons and wrote against the doctrines of the gnostics. “To reveal their doctrines is to defeat them,” he wrote, regarding his effort to preserve the revealed truth of Jesus Christ. His opposition to the Gnostics was based upon their denial of the presence of God in the natural creation. His writings have continuing ecological relevance because they affirm the divinity in the world and because they depict the providential activity of God alive everywhere in the natural order. More vigorously than many of his contemporaries, he asserts the goodness of all creation because God’s loving presence permeates its every part.
Creation Reveals God as the Creator
Through creation itself the Word reveals God the Creator. Through the world He reveals the Lord who made the world. Through all that is fashioned he reveals the Craftsman who fashioned it all.
~ Against Heresies in Office of Readings (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1983), 164. Quoted in Nature as Spiritual Practice by Steven Chase. Eerdmans Publishing, 2011 p. 84.
God’s Immanence Oversees Every Part of Creation
He it is who fills the heavens, and views the abysses, who is also present with every one of us. For He says, “Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off? If any man is hid in secret places, shall I not see him?” For His hand lays hold of all things, and that it is which illumines the heavens, and lightens also the things which are under the heavens, and trieth the reins and the hearts, is also present in the hidden things, and in our secret thoughts, and does openly nourish and preserve us.
~ Against Heresies, Vol1.4:19.2. Eds. James Donaldson, Ernest Richardson, Bernhard Pick. Scribner’s Sons, 1905, p. 187.
The Way to the New Life in Christ
In discussing the new life of the Christian and the strength to make changes in one’s life, Irenaeus relates that this life comes by personal experiential knowledge of Christ.
To see the light is to be in the light and to participate in God’s life-giving splendor.
~ Against Heresies 4:2, col. 1035. Quoted in The Vision of God. Valdimir Lossky. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983, p. 42.
Creation is Made for Man
Man was not made for the sake of the creation, but creation for the sake of man.
~ Against Heresies XXIX.1. In Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I, p. 558. Ed. Alexander Roberts. New York: Cosimo, 2007. Orignially published 1885.
The Resurrection of the Whole Body
But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if this indeed does not obtain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, not the bread which we break the communion of His Body…. And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills). He has acknowledged the cup (which is part of the creation) as His own Blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own Body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.
~ Against Heresies, Book V, Ch II.2. Quoted in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I. Ed. Alexander Roberts. New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007. p. 528.
Creation Reveals Him Who Formed it
That God is the Creator of the world is accepted even by those very persons who in many ways speak against Him, and yet acknowledge Him, styling Him the Creator…. while the very heathen learned it from the creation itself. For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles themselves.
~ Against Heresies, Book II, ch. 9:1, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, Edinburgh, 1865, pg. 143.
The Ancient Curse
Immediately after Adam had transgressed, as the Scripture relates, He pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: “God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man.” But man received, as the punishment of his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth, and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from whence he was taken…. But the curse in all its fullness fell upon the serpent which had beguiled them….
~ Against Heresies, Book III, ch. 23:3, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, Edinburgh, 1865, pg. 364.
The Maker and Framer of the Universe
God exercises a providence over all things, and therefore He also gives counsel; and when giving counsel, He is present with those who attend to moral discipline…. The Maker and Framer of the Universe is good. “And to be good,” no envy ever springs up with regard to anything; thus establishing the goodness of God, as the beginning and the cause of the creation of the world.
~ Against Heresies, Book III, ch. 25:1, 5, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, Edinburgh, 1865, pg. 371-373.