Tertullian: Biography and Questions


#1

I see Tertullian quoted in the Catholic Answers Library and other places. From what I have read and heard he was a solid Catholic and defended the Church with many great writings. But at the end of my search I find out that he was excommunicated because he joined some cult named Montanists and then wrote some anti-C stuff about the Church in favor of the cult.

So here are my questions:
1)Is he considered an Early Church Father, even if he fell away?

2)He is not a saint because he wrote anti-C stuff, so why is he still quoted from by Catholics? Or does the anti-C stuff not make a difference?

3)What was the big deal with the cult he joined? I read a little about it, but I dont see how he fell for it and made such a fuss over it.

4)Was he directly excommunicated, or was he guilty by association? From what I have read it seems like a fuzzy situation, like one place I read said he was more mad at some people in the Church and not trying to attack it, although he did write some anti-C stuff.

5)Was he reconciled back into the Church before he died?

I understand that things like this happen to famous/respectable people, but it just bothers me that someone like that would throw everything away to join a cult. He lost some high status for trivial reasons.


#2

Rather than providing spotty answers to some excellent questions, here are some links to The Catholic Encyclopedia :

Tertullian

Montanists

Perhaps it was the nature of the early Church, still persecuted by the Roman Emperors, lacking expeditious means of communication between distant communities, that lead to a rise in “fringe sects”.

Sometimes these sects would arise in backwater villages and spread widely before encountering any Church authority to counter them.

Those early years were a fascinating period and many questions go unanswered due to lost letters and manuscripts.

Peace in Christ…Salmon


#3

thanks salmon,
I was already looking through those sources, but they were hard to follow at times and I didnt see some of the stuff I was looking for.


#4

Yes.

[quote=Catholic Dude] 2)He is not a saint because he wrote anti-C stuff, so why is he still quoted from by Catholics? Or does the anti-C stuff not make a difference?
[/quote]

Because he still had brilliant ideas which influenced later generations of Catholics, and because many of his writings were produced before he left the Church. St. Cyprian, who wrote a few decades later, regarded Tertullian as his “master.”

[quote=Catholic Dude] 3)What was the big deal with the cult he joined? I read a little about it, but I dont see how he fell for it and made such a fuss over it.
[/quote]

The Montanists denied the authority of the Church hierarchy and claimed to have prophets who gave them continuing revelation. They believed in direct illumination by the Holy Spirit and put very little stock in tradition. They also had female leaders, which at the time was considered shocking. They were moral rigorists and (like other schismatic groups in the early Church) believed that serious sins were unforgivable after baptism. They were accused of identifying their founder Montanus with the Holy Spirit, but this may have been a misunderstanding. Tertullian’s Montanist writings give no evidence of heresy of that magnitude–simply of a very harsh rigorism and a contempt for the mainstream Church, which he regarded as carnal and lax. He seems to have been drawn to the Montanists largely because of their strict morals and their spiritual fervor. Tertullian believed very strongly that the Church should be radically different from the world, and he seems to have seen the Church of his day (early 2nd cent.) as falling away from that ideal.

[quote=Catholic Dude] 4)Was he directly excommunicated, or was he guilty by association?
[/quote]

We don’t know a whole lot about the details–and bear in mind that these things were not as clear-cut or as centralized as they are in Catholicism today. But as far as I know he was pretty clear in his rejection of the Church.

[quote=Catholic Dude] 5)Was he reconciled back into the Church before he died?
[/quote]

Not that I know of.

Tertullian is indeed a sober warning. I suppose I find his story less disturbing than I ought because, while I admire his writings, I can’t warm up to him very much. (His “Apology” is magnificent, though, and he writes thunderingly great Latin.) He was a hardliner through and through–he has one horrible passage in which he describes the sacred flame guarded by the Vestal Virgins as a symbol of the flames of hell in which they will burn forever. Among non-canonized Church Fathers of dubious orthodoxy, give me Origen any day. (Whatever you say about Origen, he wasn’t a schismatic.) But Tertullian is well worth reading.

In Christ,

Edwin


#5

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