Welcome, once again surfers. It is good to know you are reading the blog. At the start there is something that bears repeating; I do not have any answers. I only have questions. So with that in mind we will discuss regula fidei, or the rule of faith.
Surfers, we will begin our discussion with a little history. C’mon, was that an audible groan? Stay with me now. I heard it said, more than once, that if you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it (doomed I say). I have no idea where this quote came from, so forgive me for not identifying the source. What it refers to is learning lessons from mistakes of the past, individual and collective. This learning means we will not have to make those same mistakes again because we are much wiser having known what happened in our collective pasts. Let me introduce you to one of our illustrious former leaders Tertullian. That is right surfers, we are going back to roughly 185 CE.
I know what you are saying; you mean we have to dust off some ancient relic? Yep. It seems that the Church was going through growing pains as it decided what it was going to look like in the future. This is similar to the decisions the Church must make today to define what it will look like in the future. Tertullian had a lot to say in about how the future of the Church was and is shaped. Many of the same attitudes of Tertullian can be felt today. It also needs to be noted that the same questions that were asked regarding failth and the Church hierarchy back in Tertullian’s day are being asked still today.
It is usual, indeed, with persons of a weaker character, to be so built up (in confidence) by certain individuals who are caught by heresy, as to topple over into ruin themselves…For to the Son of God alone was it reserved to persevere to the last without sin. But what if a bishop, if a deacon, if a widow, if a virgin, if a doctor, if even a martyr, have fallen from the rule (of faith), will heresies on that account appear to possess the truth? Do we prove the faith by the persons, or the persons by the faith? No one is wise, no one is faithful, no one excels in dignity, but the Christian; and no one is a Christian but he who perseveres even to the end. Tertullian.
I guess I should explain that rule of faith is the Tertullian equivalent of the modern Church Creed. This rule of faith is just like the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. So here we have our forefather, Tertullian, saying essentially the same thing that B16 did in the dictatorship of relativism homily. Did B16 just rewrite some tracts from Tertullian? You be the judge. Of course B16 would have had to temper the language. I mean he couldn’t call people heretics could he?
So we have Tertullian facing the same issues in 185 CE that the modern Church faces today. There are many voices calling people of faith to new and exciting relations with God, just like there is today. How did Tertullian handle this?
Away with the man who is ever seeking because he never finds; for he seeks there where nothing can be found. Away with him who is always knocking because it will never be opened to him; for he knocks where there is none (to open). Away with him who is always asking because he will never be heard; for he asks of one who does not hear.Tertullian.
How about this one?
Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our palmary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides.Tertullian.
There you have it, a lesson from our past. Everything was fine as long as people didn’t ask any questions. The Church was strong as long as people didn’t seek God in ways the Bishops and the Priests didn’t sanction. Ask yourself; is this the Church I want to belong to? The same issues still remain. God reaches out to people of faith where they are, and to deny the authenticity of God’s message is impossible. What will the Church look like in the future? How will the current leaders learn from Tertullian? What does it mean that after almost 2000 years nothing has changed? Should the Church leaders do something different in the future? There I go again asking questions. Tertullian would not be happy.