I have a new hero. Writing one of my essays has brought me into contact with the work of the early church theologian, Tertullian (who wrote between about 195 and 212). He had an acute mind and a sharp pen, but besides a passionate commitment to scripture he was also attuned to the present-day revelations of the Holy Spirit. It is this that brought him into conflict with what was becoming the established church.
Let me give a brief flavour of his writing. One of his opponents was Praxeas, a trendy thinker who had gained the favour of Rome. As well as being opposed to prophecy, Praxeas believed that God, instead of being the three persons of the Trinity, was only one person, so that it was God the Father who was crucified on the cross. Tertullian was incensed that such a heretic should have the ear of the pope, and his own summary of his response is still pungent:
Praxeas attended to two matters of the devil at Rome: he expelled prophecy and introduced heresy; he put the Paraclete to flight and crucified the Father. Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 1.5
In other ways, Tertullian was a figure of his own time. His strictures on the veils that women should wear seem strange, and to 21st century eyes is one of his less appealing arguments.
The older I get, the more I appreciate genuine friendship. Let me pick out a couple of events.
Coming back from a wedding last Saturday, I asked Jon whether he and Rachel would mind if I landed on their doorstep two hours later. I met Jon through an Alpha course about five years ago. He was working at a sports shop, and had a deep-seated desire to become a tennis coach, which led him onto an LTA course. I was struggling to write book on science and faith, and my call to ordained ministry hadn’t yet returned. We’d often meet and chat – and with his chipper personality he was always encouraging, and could generally put an optimistic spin on events where others would see only doom and gloom. He’s now the head tennis coach at the Longleat CenterParcs, and moved near there a year ago. Having shared in some dark days in the past, it was awesome to be able to enjoy each other’s recent good times.
Since leaving Nelson Thornes, I’ve enjoyed having former colleagues become friends. Dominique had the dubious pleasure of being my boss for about a year, and I soon began to appreciate her sparky personality and wise counsel. She left NT and the quagmire of Documentum (don’t ask, it was an ordeal for all of us), and became a mother five months ago. She may have met her match in Mya, though! I’m convinced, given her parents, that Mya is destined to become a singer-songwriter.
Today I went up Cleeve Hill, a lovely area. Here’s a view from the top.