Tertullian’s Trinitas Award

Tertullian Was the Founder of Western Theology

Tertullian has rightly been called the Father of Latin Christianity and the founder of Western Theology. Although he was not at all a trinitarian in the modern sense of the word he was the first theologian who ever used the Latin word trinity (trinitas) in his writings and that is a big deal. It’s even more impressive when you consider that not even Jesus Himself used the word!  None of the disciples of Jesus Christ ever heard him speak the word trinity either before His crucifixion or after His resurrection! No wonder the Reunion organizers felt Tertullian deserved a Windy Award! His thinking may not have been biblical but it was definitely original.

Tertullian Wasn’t a Saint!

Tertullian was Augustine’s predecessor. Historians tell us he eventually joined the Montanist movement that swept through the early church. The Montanists were similar to today’s Charismatics and were generally regarded as a bit loopy by most people. Although Tertullian was a very important theologian he was never granted sainthood and wasn’t even recognized as an official church father by the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Catholic church. He really aggravated both churches by his insistence that Jesus was subordinate to the Father! This was seen as a direct assault on the Trinity and it definitely hurt his book sales.

Tertullian Wasn’t Even a Church Father!

The Awards Committee felt Tertullian made such a huge impact on Christianity that an official Windy Award was long overdue. He was like one of those famous actors who make a lot of memorable films but never quite win an Academy Award.  He wasn’t an official “Church Father” but he definitely deserved some recognition. Everyone knew Tertullian was at least a Church Uncle! His speech on the “Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach” was an instant hit and was destined to become a classic.

Critics Called Tertullian a Heretic!

Moderator:  Tonight we want honor a theologian everyone has heard of! Tertullian was never officially honored as a Church Father but we all know he really is one. He was always something of a wild card as theologians go. Most Christians think he is so famous that he must have been the real deal! His critics call him a heretic but his fans just call him Uncle Turtle. The Awards Committee has voted to give him a Windy Award for creating the Best Brand Name Ever!  Let’s give a warm welcome to our controversial but always interesting colleague, Tertullian!

Audience:  Generally warm applause with a few holdouts here and there. Some theologians were clearly unhappy to see Tertullian get any recognition at all.

Tertullian Was More Like a Church Uncle

Tertullian: Thanks everyone! It feels good to get some official recognition but I’m a bit uncomfortable about being called a “Church Father”.  I’d like it better if Jesus hadn’t said, “Call no man on earth father for one is your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) I do enjoy being a “Church Uncle” though so please just call me Uncle Turtle. Winning this Windy Award is sure more pleasant than getting excommunicated!  (Modern scholars acknowledge that Tertullian wasn’t a Trinitarian!).

The Threeness of God Startled Most Believers!

I remember when we first started kicking around our new ideas about the threeness of God. I knew this wasn’t going to go over very well with the average believer on the street. When I wrote  Against Praxeas I tried to make that clear. “The simple, indeed (much less will I call them ignorant and uneducated), who are always the majority of believers, are startled at the arrangement (of the Three in One) the very rule of faith directs them away from the world’s many gods toward the one and true God…”

Trinitas Was a Great Brand Name!

I knew that our new theological “arrangement” forming God into a tri-personal being was going to be a tough sell. I figured such a big idea called for a new “brand name”. Trinitas has a nice ring to it and was the best Latin word for the job. The rest is history! Once believers began using  the word trinity I knew we had a winner on our hands. Trinity sounds so spiritual and scholarly that it’s hard to resist! It’s also so hard to define that people who don’t understand it go along with it anyway!

Tertullian Rejected the Co-Equality of the Son

My adversaries should stop arguing with me about co-equality but we can talk about that another time.  For now all I can say is thank you for this terrific Windy Award! May God bless all of you except for “you know who” over there in the corner. He is still glaring at me after all these years! I do hope he comes to his senses someday and quits being so argumentative!

PS: Who would have ever guessed Tertullian was such an interesting character and a heretic to boot! He may be famous but according to Athanasius, Uncle Turtle isn’t even saved! We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime why don’t you share a link to  www.theologyallstars.com with a few friends and see what they think? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued….

The Windy Awards

Theologians Like Recognition!

A little recognition can sure make you feel good! Movie stars have the Academy Awards and musicians, singers and athletes all have their own awards. We thought the “church fathers” would appreciate some nice trophies too since theologians like recognition as much as anyone. That’s why the Reunion Committee decided to have an awards ceremony and all the hoopla that goes with it!  Theologians like to talk a lot so the Awards Committee decided to call their prizes the Windy Awards!

The Awards Committee figured that personalized awards might keep the recipients from getting too puffed up. Well, that was the theory anyway. Our Theology Allstars rehearsed their humble acceptance speeches for the big night and even got all dressed up!

Ancient Theologians Shaped the Course of History!

Moderator:  Good evening and welcome everyone! What a thrill it is to be here! This is the first and only time that Windy Awards will ever be given to anyone! We are honored to be in the midst of thinkers who have shaped the very course of history with their strong opinions  about God. These men wrote the creeds that defined the broad outlines of Christianity for over 1700 years and no matter how you slice it that’s pretty impressive! Let’s start off by having everyone stand and give a big round of applause to each other!

Audience:  The standing ovation that followed was an enthusiastic display of mutual admiration (for the most part) and was accompanied by shouts of “Hurray for us! Hurray for you and hurray for me too!” There was a lot of excitement in the air and it was clear that everyone was in high spirits.

The Best Theologians Won Trophies

Moderator:  Each and every one of you is going to get a Windy Award tonight! We know some of you have accomplished much more than others but all these beautiful trophies are exactly the same size. (That was the only way we could order them from the supplier). We didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and trust that those of you who were hoping for a bigger trophy will understand.

How to Think of The Trinity!

Tonight’s first Windy Award is the “My Way or The Highway Award!” (The moderator then tore open an envelope and read the note inside). It goes to Bishop Athanasius  who distinguished himself by writing the unforgettable phrase, “He therefore that would be saved must thus think of the Trinity”. This proved once and for all that salvation depends on the acceptance of our creeds! We agreed at the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon  that disputing the trinity spells certain doom for all those unfortunate souls who disagree with us!  Here to accept his Windy Award is Bishop Athanasius!

Audience:  Bravo! Bravo! Congratulations Athanasius! Enthusiastic applause.

The Athanasian Creed Means My Way or the Highway!

Athanasius:   I am deeply honored to receive this award!  Our creed calls down fire from heaven to damn our adversaries and we all know this is exactly what should happen to anyone who rejects the trinity. My Way or the Highway is certainly true in this case! The whole point of our creed was to put some teeth into our theology. That’s why we threatened our opponents with punishment from the Emperor in this life and damnation from God in the next! I accept this marvelous award proudly and humbly and want to thank the Reunion Committee for their tremendous insight and good judgment in awarding it to me.

Audience:  Respectful and prolonged applause.

Meticulus Interviews Athanasius:  Well Bishop Athanasius it certainly seems that your logic and work has carried the day! The crowd loved you and it seems that giving you a Windy Award has near unanimous support.

Athanasius: That is so true Meticulus. So very very true. Thank you for noticing.

Do Creeds Reflect God’s Heart?

Meticulus:  Your creed certainly isn’t the only example of Jesus’ followers wanting to destroy their adversaries. His disciples were ready to destroy a whole city once for not receiving Him. He rebuked them though and said, “You do not know what manner of Spirit you are of!” (Luke 9:55). It seems that the human impulse in that case was far different than God’s! Is it possible your creed expresses the same vengeful impulse and doesn’t reflect God’s heart at all?

Athanasius:  You must be a lunatic to talk to me this way young man! This interview is officially over!

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued…

Let’s Ignore Jesus!

Why not believe what Jesus said?

Jesus Was a Radical Non-Trinitarian

One of the touchiest issues that came up at the All Stars Reunion was how to deal with all the disruptive things Jesus taught. Our discussions about His radical ideas were spirited and controversial to say the least! Everyone knew that Jesus Himself had never espoused anything remotely like the Trinity.  Even though we voted it into existence by a clear majority Jesus Himself was the “odd man out” on this issue. This created no end of theological problems for us but we never gave up on it. No sir! If anything, whenever anyone challenged our formulation of God it just stiffened our resolve! The challenge Jesus presented to our theology was altogether different since He was the Son of God and all. At first it was hard for us to resist His teachings but eventually we figured out a way. We just ignored them!

Was Jesus a Heretic?

There were a few stalwarts who actually thought we should excommunicate Jesus because of His unorthodox claim that the Father was greater than He. After all, our creeds insist Jesus and the Father are co-equal and we had a long history of excommunicating people who dared to disagree with us. The proposal caused quite a stir at first but was finally rejected because it seemed too crazy, even for us. Cooler heads realized that officially banishing Jesus from the faith meant we’d have to excommunicate the apostles too! We knew in our hearts that excommunicating Jesus and the apostles to preserve our creed would be terribly unpopular with the masses, so we didn’t do it.

Ignoring Jesus Works Just Fine!

We decided it would be much better to simply ignore the teachings of Jesus rather than oppose them directly and openly! Fortunately, there was a lot of precedent for this and it has the distinct advantage of being something many believers are already familiar with! The essence of this approach was eloquently expressed by Rev. D. James Kennedy, the once famous (but now deceased) religious broadcaster and is printed below.

The Apostles’ Creed Ignores Jesus’ Teachings!

“Many people today think that the essence of Christianity is Jesus’ teachings, but that is not so. If you read the Apostle Paul’s letters, which make up most of the New Testament you will see that there is almost nothing said about the teachings of Jesus. Throughout the rest of the New Testament, there’s little reference to the teachings of Jesus, and in the Apostles’ Creed, the most universally held Christian creed, there’s no reference to Jesus’ teachings. There is also no reference to the example of Jesus. Only two days in the life of Jesus are mentioned – the day of His birth and the day of His death. Christianity centers not in the teachings of  Jesus, but in the Person of Jesus…

Ignoring Jesus is a Clever Idea!

To this we simply say WOW! THANKS A MILLION REV. KENNEDY! It is truly clever to say that Jesus is central to the faith but His teachings aren’t really so important! Once we were able to dispense with Jesus’ teachings it was a piece of cake for us to create creeds, doctrines and traditions that we liked better. It took a lot of doing at first but we reinforced our own teachings by discouraging believers from even reading the words of Jesus. We encouraged people to trust in us instead of trusting in scripture! We really got our point across by killing anyone caught owning or reading the Bible in spite of our orders. This was a brilliant move and it worked like a charm!

Some Good Old Theological Razzle Dazzle!

Eventually most people were so under our sway that even if they did read the Bible it didn’t really matter.  All it took was some good old theological razzle dazzle and people believed whatever we told them while they still claimed to believe in scripture alone! People would read a verse and fail to see what it said! They would listen to the words of scripture and not hear them! “They have eyes to see but they see not and ears to hear but they hear not.” Maybe they didn’t hear what Jesus said but they sure heard us!

Jesus Says God is One…  We Say God is Three

Jesus teaches that God is One but we teach that God is Three… and just ignore what Jesus said! This works so well that most Christians solemnly affirm that God is three persons and not one. When some people protest that the Bible says something different than our trinitarian dogma we tell them their problem is that they want scripture to mean what it says. Then we patiently and cleverly explain that scripture does not always mean what it says and they believe us!

Never Argue With Jesus… Just Ignore Him!

We never argue with Jesus’ teachings!  We have found it is better to just ignore His words and promote our own ideas instead. Some complain that Jesus warned us not to call Him Lord Lord unless we actually follow His teachings, but we have learned to ignore that too! After all, if the Apostles’ Creed can completely ignore the teachings of Jesus why can’t we?

PS: It’s hard to imagine that people believe “in” Jesus… but ignore the things He taught! Maybe that good old razzle dazzle is more potent than we like to think. While you’re considering these things would you be willing to take a minute to share a link to  www.theologyallstars.com with a friend or two? That would be nice and we’ll thank you if you do!  God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

The Final Excommunication

What came next at the All-Star Theologians Reunion was almost beyond belief! There had been a few awkward moments to be sure but by and large the church “fathers” had behaved themselves reasonably well in spite of old disagreements. That all changed dramatically when Athanasius asked for a few moments to address the group “from the heart”. He said he didn’t have any carefully prepared remarks but simply wanted to share his feelings. This was an exceptional request from a man who had spent his entire life speaking “from the head.” Now he wanted to share what was in his heart!

Athanasius Liked to Argue!

A few people thought Athanasius might have mellowed since the great Ecumenical Council in Nicea. His request to make a few remarks at this particular session was taken by some as a clue that he wanted to sow peace and reconciliation in the Body of Christ. It turned out they were wrong. He still felt like arguing! Interestingly enough, the session he chose for sharing his heart was listed on the Reunion Program as “The Mark of the Lamb“. The theme was “By this shall all men know you are my disciples if you have love for each other.” The irony of what followed was exquisite.

Athanasius Against the World!

Athanasius’ adversaries had some pretty uncharitable nicknames for him (you’ll have to research them yourself if you’re interested). Suffice it to say his enemies were not shy about using well-placed insults when it suited them. History tells us that Athanasius was known for his adversarial and confrontational approach and was generally argumentative with everyone! Maybe it was his basic temperament or maybe he just liked arguing since he was so good at it. Athanasius even had his own brand name and became known as “Athanasius Contra Mundum” which meant “Athanasius Against the World”.

Athanasius Argued With  Everyone!

Our great theologian from Alexandria argued with just about everyone! His most notable conflicts were with Arius, Eusebius and Emperor Constantine, along with Emperors Constantius II, and Emperors Valens and Julian too. Athanasius used his political connections to excommunicate and banish his religious rivals whenever he was in favor with a particular Roman Emperor. Sometimes though, the political tides would turn against him and then his rivals would exile and excommunicate him! His career was an ongoing drama of forced exiles followed by a return to ecclesiastical power… until the next time. Then the cycle would start all over again. Four different Roman Emperors excommunicated and banished Athanasius on five different occasions! That’s just how it goes when you hitch your wagon to an earthly star and Athanasius had hitched his wagon firmly to the power of the Roman empire.

Heretics, Scoundrels and Traitors

Athanasius: Beloved friends and brothers!  You all know it is my custom to bring you well-reasoned and eloquent arguments for our doctrines and traditions but today my heart is stirred and the time has come for something more. I have a few things to get off my chest and want to clear the air about how some people have treated me. Most of you already know that Eusebius is a scoundrel through and through! If he wasn’t I wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of having him banished and excommunicated in the first place. It was a great disappointment to me when afterwards he got Constantine’s ear and had me excommunicated and banished. What a rat!

Arius, Constantine and Eusebius Were All Against Him!

I was faced with Arius the heretic, Emperor Constantine the backstabber and Eusebius the weasel and they were all against me! I’m not going to bore you with all the sordid details of how they shamelessly disagreed with some of my finest theological arguments for the trinity. It is enough to say they did and they were not the only ones! Emperors Constantius II, Valens and Julian also banished me a few times after I’d been excommunicated by some second-rate bishops and councils who were just jealous of my prominence.

Athanasius Excommunicates Everyone!

What really gets under my skin is that the reunion organizers allowed some of these characters to come to this reunion and even let them speak!  I can’t even tell you how ticked off I am about that! Anyway, they are such colossal disappointments I have decided to excommunicate all of them personally and permanently. Yes, that includes the reunion organizers too! I have made up my mind so there is no need to convene a council or take a vote or anything like that. Don’t go running to old Constantine either! His days are over and his power is broken. I’m warning you ahead of time. Don’t even try to argue with me because it won’t do you any good. Just remember that the creeds you know and believe in were my writings and ideas!

A Janitor Rebuked the Great Theologian

Pragmatticus was up in the rafters again and had heard all he could take. He didn’t start cussing but he did have something to say. “That’s the whole problem Smarticus! The things you argued for and established were your ideas and that’s why they caused so much trouble. You were smart enough to overwhelm your human opponents but you will never overwhelm God! If the things you taught were simply God’s words they would have brought peace and blessing to those who heard them. Your prideful words only brought division and bloodshed. The legacy of your dogma started with your arrogant claim that to be saved men had to think of God in the incomprehensible way you declared. You will be remembered for your brazen desire to banish and excommunicate anyone who disagrees with you. Thank God the Kingdom is not yours!

Athanasius: I recognize that voice! That’s the janitor Pragmatticus! Who does he think he is to disagree with me? People like him who don’t even have an advanced degree in theology really aggravate me! How did he get invited to our reunion anyway? I hereby excommunicate him too. No one gets in the Kingdom unless I say so…  and I say it takes understanding and complying with the creed that bears my name!

A Still Small Voice Was Heard…

A Still Small Voice was heard saying, “Truly, truly I tell you I am the door of the sheep. I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me. I am the door. If anyone enters by me he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture.”

Some listeners decided there was a big difference between what was in the heart of Athanasius and what was in the heart of God.

PS: We don’t think the Athanasian Creed expresses what is in the heart of God at all! That’s our honest opinion anyway. What’s yours? By the way… we’d sure appreciate it if you would share this website with a friend. Believing Christians should at least be aware of the perspective we try to share at       www.theologyallstars.com    Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

What God Did Not Say

It is sacrilege to put words in God’s mouth. It is the height of hubris to speak for God, as if God did not make Himself clear. When it comes to religion, theologians cannot help themselves; they simply must speak for God. The theological fallout is lay Christians carry the heavy burden of attempting to justify how there are three in one and one in three when it comes to the “godhead.” What a curious and non- Biblical term that is. This becomes ever more complicated when fiddling with defining the divine and human natures of Jesus as a part of the three-in-one “godhead.”

God certainly did speak to His creation. There are many hundreds of Biblical references to God speaking to His people from Genesis to Revelation. In the first verse of Genesis, God created His creation. Then, in the first short chapter, He specifically spoke, proclaiming His work was good. Adam and Eve were spoken to, as was Moses. Throughout the Old Testament God spoke to His people and His Prophets. In the Gospels God and Jesus had some of the most intimate and compelling exchanges in the Bible. Finally, God spoke to the Apostles and the writers of the Bible. Recognize Scripture is not merely a collection of Bible stories. It IS the spoken word of God.

When God speaks, it is often an awesome event. “The Lord thundered from heaven” (2 Samuel 22:14). “The God of glory thundereth” and “the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness” (Psalms 29: 3-9). The longest conversation with God comes in the Book of Job. The tremendous tenor of it is made plain in Chapter 38 when God speaks from the whirlwind asking Job where he was when the foundations of the earth were laid, and if he could change the stars in the sky. All the way to Revelation God speaks with unequivocal authority: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Revelation 1:8). Awesome, just awesome!

God does not always speak with the voice of intimidating and dramatic events or revelation. In the 18th and 19th chapters of First Kings, Elijah was pursued by Jezebel wanting to kill him but was thwarted by an earthquake and fire. God comforted the exhausted Elijah with “a still small voice.” God spoke to Jesus solemnly as in famous Luke 3:22: “Thou art My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

God is succinctly summed up in the Shema of the Hebrew and Jewish tradition from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” Notice the one. God specifically reiterates this with “I am the Lord thy God” no less than seven times: Exodus 20:2, Deuteronomy 5:6, Psalms 81:10, Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 48:27, Isaiah 51:15, and Hosea 13:4. In Genesis and Exodus alone God spoke in the singular twenty-seven times about the covenants with Israel using “My covenant” and “I covenant.” And, when God spoke to Jesus, it was always in the singular. Of the many hundreds of times when God spoke, there is only one oddity.

“Let us make man in our image.” Genesis 1:26 is simple fodder for those who are compelled to make a sophomoric attempt at speaking for God. This “us” is in no way evidence of a trinity, but rather God and His attendant angels. God makes it clear He is a single God when He tells us, “I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24). God reiterates this again with, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). These verses among hundreds of others tell us God is one God. But because one errant interpretation among the hundreds of other singular verses, theologians and indoctrinated lay Christians believe they can speak for God in the pluralistic three-in-one and the one-in-three.

It is a pretty big deal for God to be three persons in one being. In fact, this is the biggest deal of all in the Bible and the biggest deal to Christians. Lay Christians labor over this mystery, and theologians build entire careers on this conundrum. However, and this is a gigantic HOWEVER, not once did God ever say, “We, the three-in-one and the one-in-three, covenant with Israel.” God did not compel Job with, “We will demand of thee, and thou will answer Us” (Job 38:3). From the second verse of the Bible to the second to the last verse of the Bible, God did not say: “Surely We will come quickly” (Revelation 22:20).

Six times God tells us He is a jealous God. Tampering with His words and His being is the height of hubris. Christians needn’t speak for God. There is no need or reason to pick up the weight of a man- made mystery and turn God into an egg or water. All we need do is accept God the Father, His Son the Christ, and listen to the gift of our Paraclete in the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, Jeremiah 33 tells us He (not we) will forgive our inequities and remember our sin no longer. It is sacrilege to speak for God!