Friday, January 13, 2006
Tertullian and Against All Heresies
Well unbeknownst to me when I started this blog the title "Against All Heresies" is actually the name of a document authored by Tertullian somewhere around 200 AD. I could pretend I knew that and that is why I picked it, but I decided that before the fraud was exposed I would just admit to it.
Reading about Tertullian, I was amazed at what an interesting person he was. Raised a pagan he converted due to the impressive example of the early Christians who approached martyrdom with bravery and abandon. He was described as aggressive, sarcastic, brilliant and funny. Clearly he was a choleric. He is known as the first "Latin" Christian and published prolifically. (today he would have been a blogger)He was the first to use the word Trinity. His writing was mainly in response to local actions, persecutions being experienced by the Catholic Church and heresy. Hence his text, "Against All Heresies".
In it Tertullian named several early heretics and explained what their particular heresies were. For example the Ophites worshipped serpents, some denied the physical resurrection and then there were the Cainites. And the reason they attracted my attention was because of their belief that Cain was superior to Abel and also their attempt to defend and even elevate Judas by stating that it was through his actions that mankind was offered salvation.
Isn't funny how some things never change? This article describes a current attempt to do the same thing for the "son of perdition". I see it as an attempt to claim that everyone is in heaven. God couldn't possibly be so mean as to send anyone to hell, not even Judas. Of course all this is unspoken but you get the drift.
But Tertullian is most well known for his Apologeticum- or defense of Christianity. It is brief, bold and spirited.
Sadly, Tertullian succumbed to the heresy of Montanism and was denounced by St. Jerome and St. Augustine. Montanists believed that the Holy Spirit was giving new inspiration to contemporary prophets. The new beliefs did not involve dogma but practical matters of resisting persecution, avoiding remarriage after the death of one's spouse, austere fasting and a hostility to compromise with sin. It was not the belief in these things that consituted the heresy but the idea that the Holy Spirit (whose direct inspiration ended with the apostles)was in a sense reactivated. Tertullian left the "mainstream" Montanists and formed his own sect that became known as Tertullians. After his death the remnant of this group was reconciled with the Church by St. Augustine.
For famous quotes by Tertullian:
and a few of my favorites are:
He who lives only to benefit himself, confers on the world a benefit when he dies.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
The first reaction to truth is hatred.
See how these Christians love one another.
Prevention of birth is a precipitation of murder.