Early Christian theologian: “I believe because it is absurd.”

In my join talk with Mansur at Speakers Corner yesterday I referred to the famous early church Christian theologian Tertullian who said he believed in Christian doctrine because it is absurd. The Quran in total contrast repeatedly calls on people to use their intellect.

“I believe because it is absurd” is a paraphrase of a statement in Tertullian’s work De Carne Christi (written between AD 203-206), “prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est”, which can be translated: “it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd”. The context is a defence of the tenets of orthodox Christianity against docetism:

Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.
— (De Carne Christi V, 4)
“The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”

source

Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology”. He is also credited as being the first to use the word “Trinity” in reference to God.

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Categories: Christianity, Quotation, Quran

63 replies

  1. …And Tertullian’s thinking is logical because it is illogical.

    Is that really the best he could do? Sad.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “The phrase does not express the Catholic Faith, as explained by Pope Benedict XVI: “The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called “fideism”, which is the desire to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith.”[2]

    “The phrase is often incorrectly used as an example of the irrationality of religious faith. But in the larger context of Tertullian’s overall argument, which is that highly improbable stories are actually unlikely to be fabrications, he is clearly not advocating an irrational approach to faith.[4”

    Another fine example of ignoring the context and following conjecture Bilal!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So you follow the Catholic theological judgements of a pope now??

      Liked by 1 person

    • Huh? I went to “your” source and cited it to show your disinterest in the context of the statement. God forbid!!

      Like

    • So the pope disagrees – does not alter the point:

      An early Christian theologian stated “I believe because it is absurd.”

      He even invented the word ‘Trinity’!

      Liked by 4 people

    • What is your point?

      “The phrase is often incorrectly used as an example of the irrationality of religious faith. But in the larger context of Tertullian’s overall argument, which is that highly improbable stories are actually unlikely to be fabrications, he is clearly not advocating an irrational approach to faith.[4”

      Like

    • I’m just quoting what he said. T. is aware of the absurdities of the Christian faith. The pope is trying to spin his way out of an obvious embarrassment.

      Here is excellent example:

      ‘the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.’

      Muslims been saying it is absurd for years too.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. “Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology”. He is also credited as being the first to use the word “Trinity” in reference to God.”

    How ironic

    “In middle life (about 207), he was attracted to the “New Prophecy” of Montanism, and seems to have split from the mainstream church.” Wikipedia

    Liked by 2 people

    • Burhanuddin,
      Wow! The great Church father, Tertullian, left the mainstream church, and followed the false prophet Montanus who was previously a priest of Apollo or Cybele. He believed in the holy trinity of living Prophets Montanus, and the two females Prisca and Maximilla and their New Prophecy movement which was belived to supersede the doctrines of the Apostles. At times Montanus even claimed to be God himself.

      One can only wonder how the Church continued to honor Tertullian as a Church Father after he engaged in such heresy.

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    • “The Church” can do anything 🙂

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    • A Church that is not limited to rational thought and logic CAN do anything. Therein lies the problematic root of religious innovation.

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    • Haha there are many of the “church fathers” that had heritical views of some sought, especially as they grappled with doctrinal discussions and debates- that was why the councils were convened eventually. Looks like you boys need to do a bit of reading…

      Not dissimilar to the Sunni/Shia schism, the different schools of law, etc

      Like

    • Paulus,
      Could it be that “many of the “church fathers” that had heritical views of some sought,”….. because the original Orthodoxy of Jesus, James and the Jerusalem Church was ejected, in favor of the Proto-Orthodoxy (read Heresy) which was eventually represented by Paul and the Roman Gentile Church? Or maybe just because Christian doctrines are simply illogical and confusing, and easily lead to misguidance and heresy.

      Looks like you need to do some more reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    • No- it’s because they lived in a Greco-roman culture of high philosophical thought, which is why we see so many of the heretical ideas find their “stemmatics” to use Ijaz’s favourite term, in some of the great philosophical ideas. For example, Gnosticism. If you took the time to do some reading, you would realise that this false islamic dichotomy of Jesus/James vs Paul has no historical basis in the early fathers- its Islamic conjecture, and we all know you shouldn’t be following that.

      Ironically, the Koran contains known gnostic fables.

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    • Paulus,
      “…this false islamic dichotomy of Jesus/James vs Paul has no historical basis in the early fathers- its Islamic conjecture..”

      It is not Islamic Conjecture, it is written in the pages of YOUR Bible for all to see. Biblical scholars have pointed this out. It is amazing how you blame Islam for everything that is wrong with your own religion.

      Also it doesn’t matter if the stemmatics of the church fathers heritical ideas came from the “Greco-roman culture of high philosophical thought” – Heresy is Heresy……and moreso if it stems from the paganistic Greco-Roman culture of high paganistic thought.

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  4. You guys should read the whole argument of Tertullian; at least more of the context surrounding his statement. He is arguing against Marcion’s denial of the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead and Marcion’s denial of the virgin birth and Marcion’s denial that Christ had a real physical body and was truly human.

    Very ironic coming from Muslims, because you are suppossed to believe in His humanity, virgin birth, physical body.

    http://www.tertullian.org/articles/evans_carn/evans_carn_04eng.htm

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here is another translation of Tertullian’s work, “On the flesh of Christ”.

    Tertullian is using 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, especially verses 18, 25 and 27 in his argument.

    “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise.” I Corinthians 1:27

    https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.v.vii.iv.html

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    • spin spin spin away the absurdity….

      Liked by 1 person

    • this is why christians destroys the greek and roman civilizations and hates greek philosophy.

      Like

    • I thought you guys (Muslims here that I have read and other Muslims also) are always saying the Deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity is the influence of Greek paganism and philosophy and Greco-Roman worldview?

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    • That is a contradiction to what you said about Tertullian and the results of his statement.

      Which is it?

      It seems Tertullian is right and expresses the Creator’s amazing ability to confound the wise and philosopher and shows the power of the Monotheistic and Trinitarian God of the Old Testament – His miracles and power and fulfillment in the NT.

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    • Tritarian God of the Old Testament? Where does the OT teach that?

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    • Tertullian’s theology is founded on both the NT and the OT – the NT is the result of further revelation based on the OT. There are hints of the Trinity in the OT – “let us make man in our image”, plural form of Elohim, etc. The Spirit of God hovering on the waters; and Psalm 110:1, Psalm 2 – “kiss and prostrate (worship) the Son”, etc.

      My point is what Tertullian teaches is based on the OT, because the NT is based on that; and so it cannot be a result of “Greco-Roman pagan philosophy”, since he is arguing against Marcion and Gnostics who did not believe in the body of Jesus – that He had a real body and was really human and born physically of a virgin in time and space, etc. – they though physical matter and bodies and sex was evil; and that is a direct contradiction to the Hebrew ideas of the goodness of God’s creation – see especially Genesis chapters 1-2 and the book of Song of Solomon, etc.

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    • they (the Gnostics, Marcion, Docetics, Valentianians, Basiledes) thought physical matter and bodies and sex was evil; and that is a direct contradiction to the Hebrew ideas of the goodness of God’s creation – see especially Genesis chapters 1-2 and the book of Song of Solomon, etc.

      It was Marcion and the Gnostics that Terullian was arguing against – they (Gnostics and Marcion and Docetics) were the ones who were influenced by Greek pagan philosophical ideas of dualism that matter is evil. Hinduism has a lot of that thinking also, as does Buddhism.

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    • Tertullian became a Montantist later, but his emphasis was not on Montantist doctrine, but Montantist discipline (he thought the catholic church was being too light on sin), but even then, Tertullian later at the very end of his life, scholars have noted that he also left the Montantists and formed his own group; he definitely was a very idealistic type of personality.

      Like

    • But the Montantists still believed in the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the goodness of God’s creation, etc.

      The problem with the Montanists was their view of ongoing revelation and prophesy – they were the first Charismatics. Tertullian’s reason for joining them was not so much about that, but he liked their more rigorous stance on discipline and against sin.

      But he eventually left them also, at the very end of his life.

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    • “Tertullian’s theology is founded on both the NT and the OT…”

      Yep Tertullian the montanist

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    • see my answers above about Tertullian becoming a Montantist later and even later, toward the end of his life, he left the Montantists. The roots of Greek pagan philosophy are in the Gnostics and Marcion, who thought the body and physical matter was evil; the very groups that Tertullian was arguing against were the ones that were taking Greek dualistic pagan philosophy over Scripture and the OT’s view of the goodness of creation. (Genesis 1-2)

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  6. Tertullian is agreeing with 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

    18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    19 For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

    20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?
    Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
    21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
    22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;
    23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,
    24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
    27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
    28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,
    29 so that no man may boast before God.
    30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
    31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

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    • Still, it is absurd, like you belief that God died.

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    • Since Jesus was also fully human, it is not that absurd. God the Father did not die; neither the Holy Spirit; neither was the divine nature of Jesus affected by physical death, since death cannot affect something non-physical.

      When Tertullian said it is absurd, it meant it is so mysterious and amazing that it confounds you and rebukes you in your unbelief, since you don’t believe God (the eternal Son) can become human if He wants to and be Jesus as one person with 2 natures; and live and died on the cross, and rose from the dead.

      Like

    • So did God the Son die?

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    • So basically Paul of Tarsus is saying his Gospel (and the whole of gentile xtianity) is based on neither Wisdom nor Miracles. So, he has nothing to offer, except blind faith. Secondly, what kind of a God-believing man would call God “weak” and “foolish”, what kind of absurd and blasphemous writing is this do you call scripture?!

      Like

  7. asking you to read more of the context is “spin, spin, spin” ??

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  8. Paul Williams asked:
    So did God the Son die?

    Yes, but the divine nature was not hurt or affected by death, since death is only about the creation/physical realm.
    The Divine nature provided the power to overcome death and resurrect Jesus from the dead; proving His death was an effective and powerful atonement that forgives sin for all the believers for all time.

    The answer requires more than just a quick “sound-bite” type of sentence.

    http://effectualgrace.com/2017/04/10/did-god-die-on-the-cross/#more-18778

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    • “So did God the Son die? Yes, but the divine nature was not hurt or affected by death”

      Ken your answer is illogical and confused. God is not the author of confusion.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Yes, but the divine nature was not hurt or affected by death, since death is only about the creation/physical realm”
      ???
      Man, we didn’t ask you about the (creation) since God by definition is not creation!

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    • “Yes, but the divine nature was not hurt or affected by death..”

      The divine person died then?

      And you are separating the natures. Nono.

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  9. Isaiah 55:8-9

    God Almighty says:

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

    I recall even Muslims using this and agree with it here a few days; although I cannot find it.

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  10. Ken said
    ‘My point is what Tertullian teaches is based on the OT, because the NT is based on that; and so it cannot be a result of “Greco-Roman pagan philosophy’
    Ken, there’s a good reason why all others disagree with your statement above. It must be!
    Jews, muslims, atheists , and even some sincere christians don’t agree with your statement. Think about it!

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  11. But Muslims reject the main OT prophesies about the Messiah and His substitutionary atoning death.
    Daniel 9:24-27

    Isaiah 52:13-15 and 53:1-12

    Jesus is clearing referring to that in Mark 10:45 / Matthew 20:28, which the Qur’an is hinting at in 37:107 as to the true meaning of Genesis 22.

    “I am” is referring to His Deity in Exodus 3:14 “I am that I am” and Isaiah 43:10-13 and 44:6 and other passages. “I am, and there is no other”. Jesus is clearly claiming to be Yahweh / יהוה , the same nature as the Father.

    Muslims reject Psalm 2 and 110 on His Deity also, so they don’t agree with John 8:24.

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    • Your two passages are NOT about ‘The Messiah and His substitutionary atoning death.’
      Daniel 9:24-27
      Isaiah 52:13-15 and 53:1-12

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    • Daniel 9:24-27 certainly does.
      Verse 24 has three phrases about atonement for sin, finishing of transgression, etc.

      “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, ”

      and verses 25-26 speak of the Messiah to come and that the Messiah in verse 26 will be “cut off” (killed) – see parallel in Isaiah 53:8 – connect that with Jesus clearly referring to Isaiah 53 in Mark 10:45, and then you can intellectually see that the Christian interpretation is the right one.

      Especially when it says that the temple will destroyed after the Messiah is “cut off”, that proves it, since 40 years later, in 70 AD, the temple was destroyed, and it proved Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:36 and 24:1-3, and 24:15.

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    • Wrong.

      Daniel 9:24-27 says nothing about a Messiah and His substitutionary atoning death.

      24 ‘Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.[a] 25 Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its[b] end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place[c] shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.’

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    • yes it does.
      9:24 is about atonement
      9:25-26 are about Messiah
      9:26 – Messiah is “cut off”
      see Isaiah 53:8 for similar concept of “cut off”
      Isaiah 53:8
      By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
      And as for His generation, who considered
      That He was cut off out of the land of the living
      For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

      Daniel 9:26 -27
      the temple is decreed to be destroyed, fulfilled in Matthew 23:36; 24:1-3; 25:15

      Therefore, it is all about the Messiah as the suffering servant atonement for sins, confirmed by Mark 10:45.

      and even alluded to by Qur’an 37:107 as “ransom” interpretation of Genesis 22, also confirmed by John the Baptist (Yahya) – John 1:29

      boom!

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    • “But Muslims reject the main OT prophesies about the Messiah and His substitutionary atoning death”
      Why do you complain from muslims? Jews themselves reject what so called prophecies about the messiah. Jews, atheists, some sincere christians think christians try to enforce some meanings by neglecting the context, the orignal language, and even the history to make some passages in the OT look like as if they talk about the messiah who has to be god somehow, and he has to die for the sins of the world, while those passages say nothing about this crazy idea which Jesus himself would have not even thought about.

      “They are not Christians at all if they disagree with the Deity of Christ and the Trinity”
      Many early christians neither did they believe in Jesus as God, nor did they believe in your trinity, so it’s not your discision while you have this history.

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    • Ken I have rarely seen such a flagrant case of eisegesis.

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  12. Do you deny that

    Daniel 9:24 is about atonement?

    that Daniel 9:25-26 mention “Messiah” twice?

    that Daniel 9:26 speaks of Messiah being “cut off” ?

    That Isaiah 53:8 also speaks of the suffering Servant being “cut off” from the land of the living? (dead)

    that Daniel 9:26 says the temple will be destroyed after the Messiah is cuff off?

    that Jesus referred back to Daniel 9:24-27 in Matthew 24:15, thus showing the fulfillment of Matthew 23:36, 24:1-3 and 24:15 ?

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    • mix and match. Not exegesis.

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    • No; you cannot deal with the text. The text of Daniel 9:24-27, Isaiah 53:8, Matthew 23:36; 24:1-3; 24:15 totally destroys any argument of yours, which you have not even provided. It is also confirmed by Mark 10:45 and also the Qur’an hints at it in Surah 37:107 as a picture of the “ransom by substitutionary sacrifice” (great victim of slaughter) – proper understanding of Genesis 22 and Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac and God providing the substitute.

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    • bits here, bits there, mix up, cook, and hey presto – Ken’s wondrous doctrine

      Like

  13. Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and being the atonement is the wondrous doctrine of all Christians in all history.

    Like

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