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….

The Christian Sanhedrin

The Jewish Sanhedrin Bungled Jesus’ Case!

When Athanasius spoke on the topic of tradition we thought he had settled everything once and for all, but no! There were still some holdouts lurking around the Reunion who were plainly at odds with the majority view.  It was clear that something had to be done! The Reunion organizers were in a real pickle until someone suggested taking a close look at the Jewish Sanhedrin. Admittedly, the Sanhedrin definitely bungled the situation with Jesus. Other than that, they had run things in Israel unopposed for a very long time. If Jesus hadn’t come along they would likely still be in charge! Maybe it was time to take a close look at how they did it!

Would Our Speaker be Origen or Eusebius?

The Reunion Organizers considered having Origen speak on maintaining order since he was so bright and well known. Eusebius though, was the final choice even though many thought he was just Constantine’s flunky. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and it sure didn’t hurt Eusebius’ career! In a strange twist of fate Eusebius and Athanasius had been fierce adversaries throughout their lifetimes. They gladly excommunicated each other whenever circumstances allowed! The possibility of fireworks between them made the atmosphere of the reunion just crackle with electricity!  Hearing from Eusebius so soon after Athanasius had spoken promised to be truly exciting.

Eusebius Was a Famous Church Historian

Moderator: We have the rare pleasure tonight of hearing from one of the church’s most important and well-known historians! Eusebius of Caesarea is our speaker and I’m sure you will be most interested in what he has to say. Even though it is well known that Eusebius and Athanasius were enemies, Eusebius has promised not to say anything derogatory about Athanasius.  He has also agreed not to excommunicate Athanasius tonight so let’s all relax and give a warm welcome to Eusebius of Caesarea!

Audience: Respectful applause.

The Jewish Sanhedrin Was Powerful

Eusebius: Thank you! Thank you! It is such a pleasure to be here! I want to assure you that I will not say anything nasty about Athanasius even though it sure wouldn’t hurt to tell the truth about him. If I thought his ego could take it, I’d give you an earful! Instead of talking about him let’s talk about how wonderful it is to have the authority to enforce truth and stamp out error! History reveals that was the privilege and responsibility of the Jewish Sanhedrin and of the new and improved Christian Sanhedrin too! Yes, I know there are some who would disagree that there even IS a Christian Sanhedrin but let’s talk about it.

Church Councils Are the Christian Sanhedrin!

Let me remind you that the word Sanhedrin simply means assembly or council and in Israel it had a lot of clout! It had 70 members who met at the Temple pretty much every day except the Sabbath and what they said was LAW! The members of the Sanhedrin were the undisputed rulers of religious life and of the Temple in Jerusalem. Most people knew it was not a good idea to get on the wrong side of the Sanhedrin! Things in Israel generally ran smoothly under their rule and no one dared resist their authority, at least not until Jesus stepped on the scene! He made a habit of challenging their authority and sometimes He even opposed them on their own turf and they hated Him for it!

The Sanhedrin Enforced Jewish Traditions

You may be wondering, what exactly did the Sanhedrin do? Well, its job was to make sure everyone followed the letter of the law and observed Jewish traditions in the way the Sanhedrin deemed essential.  It was a powerful force for maintaining tradition as long as there was Temple worship in Jerusalem. Its power was limited only by Rome and it couldn’t execute anyone without permission from the Roman authorities, but that was just a minor inconvenience.  Later, when the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were scattered, the Sanhedrin fell on hard times too and was finally disbanded altogether in 425 AD.

Jesus Challenged The Sanhedrin!

The chief priests who made up the Sanhedrin wanted to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing and were always trying to trap Him with trick questions.  When a woman was caught in adultery they said “The Law says we should stone her to death! What do you say?” Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Sanhedrin allowed concession stands to operate in the Temple but Jesus drove the vendors out with a whip! Then He turned over the tables of the money changers! They thought Jesus was determined to make them look bad! He openly challenged their opinions and rulings and they wanted to silence Him so much that they came up with a plan to kill Him. When Jesus finally acknowledged that he was the Messiah they accused Him of blasphemy and sentenced Him to death at the hands of the Roman authorities.

Church Councils Enforce Christian Traditions

The new and improved Christian version of the Sanhedrin is called a Church Council and its members are called Church Fathers. Interestingly enough the Christian Sanhedrin came into power at roughly the same time the Jewish Sanhedrin was going out of existence! The Jewish Sanhedrin is no more but the power of the Christian Sanhedrin is as great as ever! Yes, the Christian Sanhedrin only rules in absentia today but that’s still pretty impressive when you think about it! Interestingly, each group resorted to murder at the hands of civil authorities when their authority was challenged.

Jesus Got Killed for Claiming to be the Messiah

Some things never seem to change! The issue that finally got Jesus killed by the Jewish Sanhedrin was His claim to be the promised Messiah. (If He had claimed to be the second person in a triune God they would have just thought He was crazy.) This was the very same issue that got so many non-trinitarians killed by the Christian Sanhedrin. These oddballs simply believed that Jesus was their Messiah and Savior!  For some reason they did not buy the idea that He was a second “person” in God. Jesus’ simple claim to be the Messiah and Son of God (not God Himself mind you) resulted in His own death. Many of His followers have died for exactly the same reason!

Sanhedrins and Councils Should be Feared!

What is the lesson to be learned in all this? We proclaim that keepers and enforcers of tradition are to be feared and respected in every age! Those who dare to challenge religious authorities and traditions often end up dead! It would be nice if things were otherwise and you should know that killing those who disagree with us is not always our first choice! Our fondest hope is that those who dispute our theology would come to their senses. Sadly, many believers refuse to acknowledge our authority and we are sometimes left with no choice but to kill them.

The Death Penalty Protects Traditions!

Some people may need to perish in order to preserve our cherished traditions. The Jewish Sanhedrin proclaimed this very thing when they sentenced Jesus to death (John 11:50). Killing people has been shown to be an effective way to protect religious traditions!  Some believers say Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God but recklessly deny that He is of exactly the same essence as the Father! These simpletons are entitled to the severity of God but not His goodness. This may sound a little rough but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

The Christian Sanhedrin Rules in Absentia!

Many governments in modern times refuse to execute our enemies for us but there is always hope this will change! In the meantime we encourage believers to at least label those who disagree with us as heretics. Treat them with the contempt they deserve! This is about the best we can do for now. The true wisdom of our Christian Sanhedrin is shown by how long it has survived and how it continues to rule in absentia! We are still in charge and we aren’t even physically on the scene anymore!

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight! It has been a great honor to be here with you. Is it almost time for dinner? I can’t wait to see that great buffet I’ve heard so much about!

Moderator: My goodness everyone, this has certainly been an interesting evening! We are so glad Eusebius could join us and share his unique historical insights and perspective! Who knows what might come next? Only time will tell!

PS: Are we being a little too direct here? We certainly hope not! Our motto is, “Tell it like it is” but we try to do it with kindness and humor and sometimes we even succeed! If you agree, why not tell a friend about  theologyallstars.com  and see what they think? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes