Can Tertullian and Origen be considered "Church Fathers"?


Can Tertullian and Origen be considered Church Fathers, despite their later heretical claims? I want to know if I can used their writings to defend the Catholic Faith. Thanks


They are considered “Church Fathers.” Their writings before their conversion to heretical sects would be good for Apologetics to show our history.

These men are not infallible though. I just hope that they repented before they cross the after life.




I believe that both are considered Church Fathers even though they both held to things that are not considered sound. They were still both influential in their day give us some amazing views into the early Church.

Also keep in mind that Tertulian wasn’t heretical until his latter years which sadly was probably due to over zealousness on his part.

As for Origen keep in mind that the “excommunication” on Origen is highly controversial and likely not even valid as it was established by an anti-pope and mostly based on indirect evidence.

Some claimed that he taught reincarnation but any honest perusal of his work clearly shows that he not only did not support the concept of transmigration of souls but explicitly rebukes it. Take this quote from his Commentary on Mathew:

In this place [Matt. 17:10-13] it does not appear to me that by Elijah the soul is spoken of, lest I should fall into the dogma of transmigration, which is foreign to the church of God, and not handed down by the Apostles, nor anywhere set forth in the Scriptures . . .

The only thing that any one has ever been able to really hold against Origen is his belief in the preexistence of souls. However, a reading of his works clearly shows that while he himself believed this possible and he occasionally discussed these things with other learned theologians. He explicitly stated that this concept was not to be publically taught or explained. So while Origen did hold to a belief that today we understand to be heretical he never taught this belief nor encouraged it.


I’m currently reading a book by Mike Aquilina, “The Fathers of the Church”. Many of the Fathers had brilliant minds and/or led exceptionally pious lives; these are among the hallmarks that set them apart from their contemporaries and made them worth emulating.

Some of the Fathers, such as Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa, are recognized by the Church as saints. Others, including Tertullian and Origen, are not. I find this interesting … i.e., I would have expected every Church Father to automatically qualify for sainthood, but this is not so.

The orthodox teachings of Tertullian and Origen helped to guide the formation of Catholic theology at a time when this was a paramount need in the early Church. At some point, however, they began to stray into unorthodox territory, and that is where you begin to “draw the line” regarding their practical contributions as Church Fathers.

Insofar as their unorthodox positions go, Origen is not judged as harshly as Tertullian. I’d have to check the book (I don’t have it with me right now), but from what I recall, his unorthodox leanings were more of a speculative nature. He was not deliberately or knowingly attempting to be heretical. Origen always tried to “think with the Church” but evidently got a little ahead of himself at times, thus venturing into some gray areas that later Magisteriums would not condone after Catholic doctrine had become more fully developed.


The thing is that Tertullian makes some of the greatest contributions to the language used by the “Saints”. He was way ahead of his time, and far ahead of the Greek East in constructing the language of how we talk about Jesus. Always remember without Heretics, there is no Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church (though I am Catholic this is not bashing) was not a seemless constuction of a faith, but rather Heretics (Arius, Origen, Tertullian, Julian of Eclanum and Pelagius) simply didn’t have the same political power or lost an arguement. They are not evil men or “of the devil” as Athanasius put it. They are Church Fathers because without them, we wouldn’t have had concrete Trinity language, or Dual-natures of Christ language, or Free will and Grace language.


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