Archive | April, 2011

Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem

9 Apr

My sister-in-law, Rachel, posted a great quote by Tertullian on her facebook page. I liked it so much, I did some Googling to discover the context was a rather large diatribe against Marcion. I think I’ll have to read more of Tertullian now.

Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem

Here’s an excerpt:

But evidently he does judge evil by refusing consent, and condemns it
by forbidding it: yet he forgives it by not avenging, and excuses it
by not punishing. There you have as a god a defaulter against the
truth, one who annuls his own decision. He is afraid to condemn what
he does condemn, afraid to hate what he does not love, allows when
done that which he does not allow to be done, and would rather point
out what he disapproves of than give proof of it. Here you will find
the ghost of goodness, discipline itself a phantasm, casual precepts,
offences free from fear. Listen, you sinners, and any of you not yet
so, that you may be able to become so: a better god has been
discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts
punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness
wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely
kind. Of course he forbids you to sin—but only in writing. It lies
with you whether you consent to accord him obedience, so as to appear
to have given honour to your god: for he will not accept your
And in fact the Marcionites make it their boast that they do not
at all fear their god: for, they say, a bad god needs to be feared,
but a good one loved. Fool: you call him lord, but deny he is to be
feared, though this is a term suggesting authority, and with it
fear. Yet how shall you love, unless you fear not to love? Evidently
he is not even your father, to whom would be due both love for
affection’s sake, and fear for the sake of authority: nor is he your
lawful lord, for you to love for human kindness’ sake and fear for the
sake of discipline. This is the way kidnappers are loved without being
feared. The only domination which can be an object of fear is the
lawful and regular one: though even an illicit one can be an object of
affection, since it rests not upon respect but upon affectation, on
seduction and not on force: and what greater seduction is there than
to abstain from punishing wrongdoing? So then, you who decline to fear
your god because he is good, what keeps you from bubbling over into
all manner of vice—the superlative enjoyment of life, I suppose, for
all who do not fear God? Why absent yourself from those popular
pleasures, the excitement of the race-course, the savagery of the wild
beast show, the lechery of the stage? Why also during persecution do
you not at once offer your incense, and so gain your life by denial?
Oh no, you answer, far from it. In that case you are already in
fear—of doing wrong: and by your fear you have admitted your fear of
him who forbids the wrong. It is another matter if, in imitation of
your god’s perversity, you pay respect to him whom you do not fear, as
he in turn forbids what he does not punish. With much greater
inconsequence, to the question, What will happen on that day to every
sinner? they answer that he will be cast away, as it were out of
sight. Is not this an act of judgement? He is judged worthy to be cast
away—evidently by a judgement of condemnation: unless perhaps the
sinner is cast away into salvation, so that this too may stand to the
credit of a god supremely good. And yet what can being cast away
amount to, if not the loss of that which he was on the way to obtain
if he were not cast away—salvation, no less? So then he will be cast
away to the damage of his salvation: and a sentence like this can only
be passed by one offended and indignant, a punisher of wrongdoing—in
short, a judge.