Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tertullian on the Joy That Results from Watching People Suffer Eternal Punishment (Spectacles 30)

What a panorama of spectacle on that day! Which sight shall excite my wonder? Which, my laughter? Where shall I rejoice, where exult--as I see so many and so mighty kings, whose ascent to heaven used to be made known by public announcement, now along with Jupiter himself, along with the very witnesses of their ascent, groaning in the depths of darkness? Governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the name of the Lord, melting in flames fiercer than those they themselves kindled in their rage against the Christians braving them with contempt?

Whom else shall I behold? Those wise philosophers blushing before their followers as they burn together, the followers whom they taught that the world is no concern of God's whom they assured that either they had no souls at all or that what souls they had would never return to their former bodies? The poets also, trembling, not before the judgment seat of Rhadamanthus or of Minos, but of Christ whom they did not expect to meet.

Then will the tragic actors be worth hearing, more vocal in their own catastrophe; then the comic actors will be worth watching, more lither of limb in the fire; then the charioteer will be worth seeing, red all over on his fiery wheel; then the athletes will be worth observing, not in their gymnasiums, but thrown about by fire--unless I might not wish to look at them even then but would prefer to turn an insatiable gaze on those who vented their rage on the Lord.

"This is He," I will say, "the son of the carpenter and the harlot, the sabbath-breaker, the Samaritan who had a devil. This is He whom you purchased from Judas, this is He who was struck with reed and fist, defiled with spittle, given gall and vinegar to drink. This is He whom the disciples secretly stole away to spread the story of His resurrection, or whom the gardener removed lest his lettuces be trampled by the throng of curious idlers."

What praetor or consul or quaestor or priest with all his munificence will ever bestow on you the favor of beholding and exulting in such sights? Yet, such scenes as these are in a measure already ours by faith in the vision of the spirit. But what are those things which "eye has not seen nor ear heard and which have not entered into the heart of man"? Things of greater delight, I believe, than circus, both kinds of theater, and any stadium.


Matt13weedhacker said...

The Montantist "ecstasy" or ecstatic influences on this work are seen in: "Yet, such scenes as these are in a measure already ours by faith in the vision of the spirit."

I don't know what to make of this.

Was he a sadist? Certainly vengeful and bitter in his dominant mental inclination. Maybe the followers of the: "New Prophecy" got TOO much of a hard time. Just strange. I find Tertullian here, quite disturbing.

Sean Killackey said...

What a pleasant fellow! I really wish I knew him personally!

Wait, I thought that what we had to look forward to was what Paul said when he wrote, "Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him." And "God will become all things to everyone." Also, "God will reside with men and they will become his people, and he will wipe out all tears from their eyes, and pain, sorrow and mourning will be no more."

Maybe I missed something in the Bible. Good thing he pointed it out!

Edgar Foster said...

I didn't quote the entire section of Spectacles 30, but notice how he opens--with a discussion of the New Jerusalem coming soon. I know you likely remember that the Montanists waited for the city to descend on a particular mountain, but it did not descend in their day.

There does seem to be bitterness there, but you can find a number of passages in Tertullian, where he's bitingly sarcastic and over the top in his rhetoric. He enjoys the suffering of the masses a little too much. However, he's not the only theologian to write this way.

Edgar Foster said...

Yes indeed, Sean. How different the Bible's message of good news is from the hope that some evidently have of watching people suffer for eternity. As Dante wrote concerning his inferno, "Eternal love created me."

No wonder Russell wanted to turn the hose on Hell.

Sean Killackey said...

Yeah, but he is much like the Pharisees when comes to pronouncing judgement. In Revelation Jesus tells them, 'The synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, but are not, I will make them bow to you,' but that's quite removed from the whole, 'You will have great pleasure in seeing your enemies suffer.'

Alethinon61 said...

This post reminded me of the creepy exclamation made by traditionalist John Gerstner:

"Even now, while the evangelical is singing the praises of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, he knows that multitudes are suffering the torments of the damned. He knows that Judas Iscariot has been in unimaginable agony of soul for two thousand years, and that the worst of all torments will be that after his buried body is raised from his bones and ashes he will suffer in body and soul forever and ever. The true Christian, aware of this, is happily, exuberantly, gladly praising the Judge of the Last Day, Jesus Christ, who has sentenced to such merited damnation millions of souls." (Repent or Perish, Ligonier, Penn.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), p. 32

It's difficult to imagine the sort of mind that could be driven to ecstasy by the thought of others being subjected to excruciating agony for all eternity. Edgar Allen Poe himself could have done no better at delineating the malignant thought world of folks like Gerstner and Tertullian, who would choose to revel in the idea that God is a cosmic sadist, an all-powerful, divine Torquemada, gleefully inflicting unspeakable agony on the lost, for all eternity.