Thursday, October 1, 2009

What Would Tertullian Say?

I'm a big fan of Tertullian. Sure, he sort of lost his mind towards the end of his life and went all Montanist. He was a huge asset to the Church before then, though, and we should all hope for his salvation.

The best part about Tertullian is that his style is well suited for disputation. He has no difficulty whatsoever in calling a spade a spade. I was thinking about this recently in my continued interior rant against that horrendous joke that places the One True Church founded by God Himself on the same level as, say, Benny Hinn's congregation.

Anyways, amidst all this, I am confronted with certain aspects of non-Catholic beliefs that I simply cannot abide. Among these is the idea of sola scriptura. Folks quoting the Bible to you and then ignoring Biblical responses on the grounds that they "know better" or because "the Catholic Church added books later" or simply denying that certain Bible passages exist altogether (eg- Romans 2:6 that God will render to man according to his works) just all gets really old after a while.

Tertullian actually responds to this sort of issue in his Prescription Against the Heretics:

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, “as many as walk according to the rule,” which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics.

Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, “Who are you?"

It's a pretty sweet shpiel, I think, and clearly illustrates the authority of the Church and why bandying verses about really does no good. Anybody can whip up their own exegesis of a passage. The issue is which is the correct one, which can only be discerned in the mind of the Church.

Of course, Jesus cares about none of this Truth business. He's just around to watch the game.

1 comment:

Roisin said...

It sounds a bit like the old saying, "the Devil can quote Scripture."