Redeeming Tertullian

nJZkmRWSo after this week, I’m just 4 months away from my Masters. It’s been an awesome journey. And all that stands in my way now is this: 9 books to read, 5 book reports, 4 reflection papers, 2 term papers and then my final project.

Piece of cake.

As I come to the end, I’m looking back at major themes, and one big idea that we’ve hit class after class is the reality of the Trinity. You know, that theological doctrine that says that God, Jesus and Spirit are one yet distinct? If you grew up in the church, it’s the bit of theology that youth pastors have spent years trying to cook up just the right analogy for. You know, a three-legged stool, three-space, the three states of water and the like.

As it turns out, Tertullian was one of the primary shapers of our understanding of the Trinity. Yep, our Tertullian. In his work Adversus Praxeam, he wrote this:

“…while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.”

So for the last two years, Tertullian has helped me conceive of a trinitarian theology that applies to everything from the mission of God to the built environment. The hallmarks of a trinitarian understanding are concepts such as equality, interdependence and the all-encompassing reality of relationship.

This said, for some reason, Tertullian wasn’t able to apply this line of thinking to his theologies around gender. Remember his take on women?

“You are the Devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that tree; you are the first foresaker of the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the Devil was not brave enough to approach; you so lightly crushed the image of God, the man Adam.”

Equal, interdependent and relational? Not so much.

So for the next few posts, I want to endeavour to redeem Tertullian’s thinking by applying his trinitarian theological framework to the relationship between the genders. How does the unified, interdependent, relational reality of the Trinity factor into how men and women ought to relate to one another? And what are the implications for male privilege?

Stay tuned and we’ll find out together.

What about you? How do you see the Trinity factoring into the conversation about the relationship between the genders?

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