- Born around 160AD and died around 220AD although these dates are not firm.
- Full name was Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus.
- He was born in Carthage, a city in North Africa.
- He was the son of a Roman Centurian and later converted to Christianity.
- He was a Montanist.
Here is a small excerpt about what Montanists believed:
- Believed is seeking out persecution as well as corporal punishment.
- One who has fallen from grace could not be redeemed.
- In 177AD the movement was banned as heretical.
- The movement almost completely vanished by the sixth century.
One of Tertullian’s most famous works discussing the trinity is found in ‘Against Praxeas’. In chapter three he states some enlightening things on his views of Christendom at his time. According to Tertullian the majority of believers in Christ are ‘simple minded’. He stated the majority of believers were startled at the doctrine of three-in-one. Why were they startled? Because most Christians at this time were under the belief (rightly so) that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and not a personhood of one god with three persons. This went against the Judaic beliefs that the Apostles taught as well as the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself!
He stated ‘The very rule of faith withdraws them from polytheism . . .’ which is true based on the teachings of only one God as found in the Sh’ema as well as the teachings of Christ. Those Gentiles who had just been drawn out of worshipping a pantheon of gods were now rightfully confused. Is God really three-in-one? What’s the difference then between the Christian God and the Egyptian god Ra who was also described as three-in-one, or the Hindu god Vishnu who was three-in-one?
Tertullian believed in his own oikonomia, or how he interprets and practices the canon. This is in line with his strict and rigid code that he practiced as a member of the heretical Montanist movement.
Tertullian writes ‘the numerical order and distribution of the trinity they assume to be a division of the unity . . .’ in chapter three. Tertullian’s theology implies an order or ranking of the persons of the trinity. Again he writes ‘in the Son and in the Holy Ghost, who have the second and the third places assigned to them,’. As you can see, Tertullian without a doubt believes that there is a pecking order in the trinity with God the Father assuming the highest role. Obviously, the other two hold to a lower position and stature. If you ask most trinity professing Christians today, they will say almost the same thing Tertullian proposes in his writings. His teachings have pervaded throughout Christendom to become the de facto standard in the way most Christians believe and perceive of God.
Lastly, in this post I’d like to leave you with Tertullian’s defense against modalists (which he admits is the majority of ‘simple minded’ believers) during his day. He said because modalists believe in angels who are with God and help perform heavenly tasks and are themselves spirit beings from God why should they be offended and reject a plurality of persons in the Godhead? So, basically, Tertullian would have them believe in the trinity because there are a multitude of angels so why not a multitude of persons in God.
Well, I believe I’ll stand upon what scripture tells me of the ontological and metaphysical nature of Christ. Christ was both fully man and fully God. In fact, I’ll even affirm the highlights from the council of Chalcedon in 451AD which were the following:
- Christ is truly God
- Christ is truly man
- Christ has two natures
- Christ is one person