Sunday, October 11, 2009

Theodoret of Cyrus: Consider Creation as a Whole to see the Goodness of the Parts

This is how we should judge: not focusing on each item of creation in isolation, but examining its usefulness to the whole. Fire, for example, can scorch, not only destroying bodies but also burning houses, ships, and crops, yet it is one of the four basic elements of which everything is composed, and mortal nature cannot survive without it. Similarly, water inundates the land, destroys houses, and is responsible for the death of great numbers of sailors. It also harms people who drink it at the wrong time or in excessive quantities, but no one who was not entirely mad ever categorized water as deadly. It irrigates the land and nourishes plants, brute beasts, and human beings. So, this is how we examine each of the other creatures; we do not look at it in isolation to see whether it is harmful or beneficial but consider whether it contributes to the common good.

- Theodoret of Cyrus (around A.D. 393 to around A.D. 457), Questions on the Octateuch, Question 18 on Genesis, p. 43 (2007), Robert C. Hill translator.