Couple of Doozies from Tertullian’s Theological Cronies
In this blog’s first post, I wrote this about a particularly bad quote from the early theologian Tertullian:
Sounds bad, and it is bad. It’s also representative, of a school of thought of which Tertullian was one pupil. And here’s the thing, if you ask me, that school was in session before Tertullian, and, significantly, we’re all enrolled in it today.
In this post, I want to tell you about some of Tertullian’s classmates. I’ll call this category “More Bad Quotes from Dead Theologians,” and it’ll become a repository of blatantly anti-women quotations from heroes of the faith that we cherish. Feel free to send me your favorites.
Why do this, you ask? Because I think it’s important to demonstrate the historical lineage of male privilege thinking in the writings of the church’s historical thought shapers. Consider it a chronicle of entrenched ecclesiastical misogyny. My aim, then, is to exposit the theological trail of woe that has set the groundwork for where the church stands today.
In doing all of this, I realize that I’ll be tossing some cherished theological icons under the bus next to Tertullian. And, for them, the same maxim that I wrote about here applies:
We must remember that even if we disagree about something important, in the Kingdom we still called to fellowship together in the Lord, understanding that we have far more in common with a brother or sister than we have in dispute.
So, without further ado, let me share some not-so-fun quotes from two of Tertullian’s classmates:
Here’s Jean Calvin, from his commentary on 1 Timothy 2: Now Moses shews that the woman was created afterwards, in order that she might be a kind of appendage to the man; and that she was joined to the man on the express condition, that she should be at hand to render obedience to him. (ref here)
Then there’s Thomas Aquinas, from Summa Theologiae: As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence; such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher observes (De Gener. Animal. iv, 2). On the other hand, as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten, but is included in nature’s intention as directed to the work of generation. (ref here)
Considered in today’s light, these quotes, and others like them, are clearly preposterous. And yet I think they have shaped our current situation, by contributing to a church culture marked by male privilege, more than we care to admit.
What about you? How do you see quotes like these influencing us today?