does not love, does not know God; for God is love’. From this it follows that we
can only make the judgement whether someone is faithful or unfaithful
from his works. If his works are good, he is one of the ‘faithful’, even if
he di¡ers from the other ‘faithful’ in matters of belief. On the other hand, if
his works are bad, he is unfaithful, even if he agrees with the wording of what
they believe. For if obedience is met with, faith is necessarily found, but faith
without works is dead.
The same John also teaches this explicitly in verse
13 of the same chapter: ‘By
this’, he says,‘we know that we abide in Him and He abides in us, because He has
given us of His own spirit’, namely love.
For he had already stated that God is
love, hence he concludes (from the principles he had already accepted) that
anyone who has love, truly has the spirit of God. He even concludes, because no
one has seen God, that no one recognises God or is aware of him other than
through love of his neighbour, and hence that the only attribute of God that
anyone can know is this love, so far as we share in it. If these arguments are not
decisive, they nevertheless explain John’s meaning clearly enough, but chapter
3 and 4, of the same Epistle explain it still more clearly, where he tells us in
explicit terms what we intend to say here.‘And by this’, he a⁄rms,‘we are sure
that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, I know him, and
does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ From
this it likewise follows, that the true antichrists are those who persecute honest
men and lovers of justice because they di¡er from them in doctrine and do not
adhere to the same tenets of belief as themselves. For we know that those who
love justice and charity are faithful by this measure alone, and he who persecutes
the faithful is an antichrist.
3) It follows, ¢nally, that faith requires not so much true as pious dogmas,
that is, such tenets as move the mind to obedience, even though many of these
may not have a shadow of truth in them. What matters is that the person who
embraces them does not realize that they are false ^ otherwise, he is necessarily
in revolt against [true piety]: for how can anyone eager to love justice and obey
God adore as divine what that person knows to be alien to the divine nature?
People may indeed err in their simplicity of heart, but the Bible does not con-
demn ignorance, only wilful disobedience, as we have already shown. Indeed,
this necessarily follows from the only possible de¢nition of faith itself, all parts of
which must be derived from its universal foundation which we have already laid
out and from the sole intent of the whole of the Bible, unless we are willing to
contaminate it with our own opinions. This de¢nition does not expressly require
dogmas that are true but only such as are necessary for inculcating obedience, i.e.
those that con¢rm the mind in love towards our neighbour, by means of which
alone each person is in God (to use John’s language) and God is in each person.
Faith and philosophy
9] Each person’s faith therefore must be deemed pious or impious by
reason of their obedience or disobedience alone, and not in relation to
truth or falsehood. Besides which, there is no doubt that man’s common
nature is extremely diverse.
People do not agree about everything; rather
opinions govern men in di¡erent ways such that doctrines that move one
person to devotion provoke another to derision and contempt. It follows
that in the true universal and general faith pertain no dogmas capable of
giving rise to controversy amongst honest people. For doctrines of this
nature may be pious in one person and impious in another, given that they
are to be judged by works alone. The only tenets that belong to universal
faith therefore are those that are absolutely required for obedience to God,
ignorance of which makes obedience quite impossible. As for the rest,
every person, knowing himself better than anyone else, should believe
whatever he considers best for strengthening his love of justice. On this
basis, I think no scope is left for disputes within the church.
10] Nor will I any longer hold back from listing the dogmas of uni-
versal faith or the fundamentals of the intent of the whole of Scripture,
which (as follows very clearly from what we have shown in these two
chapters) all tend towards this: that there exists a supreme being who
loves justice and charity, and that, to be saved, all people must obey and
venerate Him by practising justice and charity towards their neighbour.
From this principle all the speci¢c points are readily derived, and there
are no others beside these:
1) There is a God (that is, a supreme being) who is supremely just and
merciful, or an exemplar of the true life, whom no one who does not know or
who does not believe that He exists can obey or acknowledge as judge.
2) He is one; for no one can doubt that that this too is absolutely required
for supreme devotion, admiration and love towards God. Devotion, admiration
and love, will arise only from the pre-eminence of one above all others.
3) He is everywhere present and all things are manifest to Him; for if things
were believed to be hidden from him, or if it were not known that he sees all
things, there would be doubts about the equity of his justice by which he directs
all things, or it would even be unknown.
4) He possesses supreme right and dominion over all things; nor is anything
that He does compelled by laws, but He does all things at His absolute pleasure
and by His unique grace. For all men are obliged to obey Him absolutely but He
is obliged to obey no one.