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 Pentecostals and were regarded as a bit too extreme for most people. Although Tertullian was a very important theologian he was never granted sainthood! He 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  theologyallstars.com with a few friends and see what they think? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued….

Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach

A Message from Tertullian

No one quite knew what to expect when Tertullian’s name appeared on the program. Most Ancient Theological All-Stars are known as “Church Fathers” but Tertullian was more like an eccentric “Church Uncle”. Some of his views were at odds with mainstream opinions and were suppressed and ignored in later years due to official disapproval. By and large most people just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well that’s old Tertullian for you!”

Tertullian Was a Great Satirist!

Tertullian was a delightful satirist too! Theologians are not known for having much of a sense of humor since they take most things, including themselves, very seriously. Tertullian, on the other hand, seems to have been cut from different cloth! It was rumored he was secretly pleased that his most ardent fans liked to call him Uncle Turtle. When the topic of his speech was announced there was little doubt that it would be fascinating and entertaining and he did not disappoint!

Tertullian Said the Son Was Not Co-Equal!

Moderator: Our speaker today is fondly called Uncle Turtle by many and is a true theological giant. He may have fallen out of favor with some Church Fathers but his keen observations earned him a place in church history and in our hearts. However, his insistence the Son was not co-equal with the Father really aggravated some of his peers!  This may have hurt his book sales but Old Turtle just kept plodding along and saying what he thought anyway. You gotta love a guy like that! So with no further ado I give you our non-conformist and always interesting Uncle Turtle!

Audience: Warm applause and shouts of “We love you Uncle Turtle!”

Tertullian: Thank you everyone! Thank you so much for such a warm welcome! I know it can be hard to feel kindly toward someone who doesn’t share all your opinions so this heartfelt reception means a lot to me! What an honor and a privilege it is to be here at this reunion! We all know this is never going to happen again so let’s just make the most of it! Isn’t this the most incredible palace ever? The buffet is out of this world and those casino games really grab your attention!  All the pretty young ladies almost make it hard to think about spiritual things so please try to concentrate! On a more serious note I’ve heard about the Emperor’s troubles and wish him a speedy recovery.

Jesus Failed to Teach Us Anything About the Trinity!

Tertullian: Today I want to share a few thoughts with you about the greatest Teacher of parables the world has ever known. It is a miracle that Jesus managed to convey such profound spiritual truths without using the big words we theologians like! We stand in awe at the depth and beauty and power of His words. Sad to say, as you well know, His parables are also woefully incomplete! Somehow or another He failed to address the critically important issues that matter to theologians when we are busily writing our creeds! We must face facts and admit that Jesus neglected to teach us anything about the Trinity! He even forgot to command us to write a creed!

Audience: Shocked silence. No one knew what to say to such bold speech.

Jesus Did Not Give Us the Parables We Need!

Tertullian: Yes, it is shocking to say out loud that the Son of God failed to give us the teachings and parables we need! He did not provide us with any support for our systematic theology! You know it’s true! He claimed to have told us “all things” but can we find even one single solitary parable about the Triune God? Where in Jesus’ teachings is there any attempt at all to explain the Holy Trinity? Where is it I ask? The answer is distressing… it is not there!

Jesus Failed to Teach Any Parables About the Trinity!

What an incredible oversight! You all know there is nothing more important in our theology than the doctrine of Three Persons in One God! How can it be that Jesus completely failed to give us a single parable about the Triune God? It looks like the greatest Teacher the world has ever known really dropped the ball on this one brethren, and that is why we had to come up with our own parables.

PS: We’re glad you’ve taken the time to read about Tertullian and his thoughts on the Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach. We’re not done yet so please come back for more on our next post!

PPS: If you are enjoying this website and maybe even seeing church history more clearly, then why not share theologyallstars.com with a friend? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Background

It Was Time For a Theologians Reunion!

It was very late in the day (but before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ) when it suddenly dawned on us that the time had finally come for a reunion! We hoped the great theologians of the church might all get together in one place and explain things to the rest of us in ways normal human beings could understand.  Theologians just love to explain themselves so we had no trouble at all getting them to show up for our grand event. God even gave all of them permission to attend! Our hearts were filled with anticipation and excitement because we knew that at long last all the confusion about eternal truths would finally be laid to rest. What follows is the unabridged and unbiased account of pretty much everything that went on from beginning to end.

The “Church Fathers” Wanted Us Think Right

The ancient philosopher theologians we call “The Church Fathers” were a brilliant bunch! In their wisdom, they tried to lead us down a path of right thinking. But… is it possible that instead they ended up unleashing violence and hatred between brethren on a scale never before seen?  Our fond hope is that this reunion transcript will help us see things more clearly. Someday when Jesus returns He will reveal what He thinks about our religious traditions. In the meantime we’ll just have to do our best to figure it out all by ourselves.

Romans Thought Christians Were Enemies of the State

The early disciples of Jesus traveled all over the place establishing small pockets of believers around the Mediterranean and Europe. Eventually there were enough Christians to seriously annoy the Romans for lots of reasons that seemed pretty important at the time. They were known as enemies of the state who ought to be killed or at least tortured until they came to their senses. Persecution didn’t work very well though and Christianity flourished in spite of it.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!

Early in the fourth century a pagan emperor named Constantine ruled that Christians weren’t so bad after all and that it wasn’t necessary to kill them anymore!  It was a classic “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!” strategy. Until then Christianity had flowered secretly into a host of different varieties that co-existed in relative peace.  As soon as churches were free to worship openly trouble started. Who believed the right way and who was wrong? Who was a true Christian and who was not? Disputes between Christians became so intense that Constantine saw these religious divisions as a threat to the Roman Empire. The emperor just wanted an end to all the fighting.

Constantine Held a Church Council in Nicea

In 325 AD Emperor Constantine invited 3000 church officials  to a council at his summer palace in Nicea. (about 300 actually showed up) The idea was that they would talk things over and iron out their differences.  Then they would vote on a short statement of faith (a creed) that would become binding on all believers. Surely this would end all the conflict! What could be easier and more sensible than that? What could possibly go wrong? It turned out that a lot went wrong in a hurry!

The Nicene Creed Caused a Lot of Violence

The Nicene Creed they voted on enshrined Trinitarian dogma as the official dogma of Christianity. It also unleashed so much violence between believers that even pagans were scandalized by how much the Christians hated each other. To this day most Christians still solemnly recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday…. even if no one really understands exactly what it means. With these things in mind we could see that the only way out of this mess was to host the Theology All Stars Reunion! So that is what we have done.

Anyone Who Disagrees With Us Must be a Heretic

Heartfelt apologies are hereby offered to the disciples of any particular philosopher or theologian who may be offended by our humble reporting. Nevertheless we must press on and share this honest and accurate account of their lofty words and heroic deeds with you. Be assured there is no fake news here at all. No indeed! This officially authorized transcript is guaranteed, certified and warranted to be absolutely 100% accurate and unbiased. For this reason anyone who disputes this account is hereby declared a heretic, expelled from fellowship with those of us who have the right opinions, and banned from doing anything we consider worthwhile on behalf of or in relationship to anything that has anything to do with ANYTHING related to God. On the other hand, may God richly bless all those who agree with us.

AMEN

Let us begin…

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes