Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tertullian (155-220)

In Against Praxeas, ch.11 Tertullian says it is the Scriptures that "indeed furnish us with our Rule of faith." Many early Church fathers viewed this "rule of faith" as the proper context for the interpretation of Scripture as opposed to what many heretics were putting forward.

Rule of faith:
Now, with regard to this rule of faith— that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend— it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen in diverse manners by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises among ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics.

Tertullian chapter 13 of the treatise On the Prescription Against Heretics


Paul Pavao said...

Well, you sort of present both sides here. The Scriptures produced the rule of faith, and the rule of faith must guide interpretation of the Scriptures.

I like it, but I'd add one important thing.

Today, we have lots of doctrines we fight over that are not addressed by the rule of faith. The rule of faith doesn't describe the mode or purpose of baptism, the role of speaking in tongues, eternal security, faith vs. works, etc.

I'd like to suggest that it would be good for Christians to divide over nothing more than what is in the rule of faith, plus what Scripture commands us to separate over (adultery, fornication, theft; the wicked brother is to be put out from among us - 1 Cor. 5).

The Scripture says that the "sure foundation" of God stands firm, but we've changed it. We have a lot of other foundations than "let those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity," and, in fact, our faith alone doctrine has often caused us to abandon even that one foundation.

It's always fascinating to me that when Paul describes "sound doctrine," he describes it with Titus 2:1-10.

Pretty different from our sound doctrine.

Catz206 said...

Thank you Paul for your input. I wish we didn't divide over insignificant (in so much as they are not the rule of faith) details as well.

Do you think at this point in history we should maintain some denominational differences while also maintaining unity in this rule of faith?