The Biblicality and Cogency of Tertullian’s Doctrine of the Trinity

This paper surveys the Trinitarian logic of Tertullian in “Against Praxeas.” Despite the common accusation that he promoted an inconsistent or proto-Arian doctrine of God, his theology is wholly consistent when the logical space within which he operates is laid bare. Tertullian effectively offers two classes of Trinitarian analogies: a “monarchy” analogy, which bears a logical affinity to later Arianism, and “mind” analogy, which bears a logical affinity to modalism and is a precursor to Augustine’s famous doctrine of subsistent relations. Tertullian’s vacillation between the analogies is not a mark of indecision or inconsistency, but the necessary logical movement of Trinitarian reasoning which is simultaneously intellectual and worshipful. Contrasted with the heretical extremes of Arianism and modalism, Tertullian’s theology carves out a space that is both cogent and biblical.

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