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“I Believe Because it is Absurd”: The Enlightenment Invention of Tertullian's Credo

  • Peter Harrison

Tertullian is widely regarded as having originated the expression Credo quia absurdum (est) (I believe because it is absurd) and the phrase often appears in contemporary polemics about the rationality of religious belief. Patristic scholars have long pointed out that Tertullian never said this or meant anything like it. However, little scholarly attention has been paid to the circumstances in which this specific phrase came into existence and why, in spite of its dubious provenance, it continues to be regarded by many as a legitimate characterization of religious faith. This paper shows how Tertullian's original expression—“It is certain, because impossible”—was first misrepresented and modified in the early modern period. In seventeenth century England a “credo” version—I believe because it is impossible—became the common form of Tertullian's maxim. A further modification, building on the first, was effected by the Enlightenment philosophe Voltaire, who added the “absurdity condition” and gave us the modern version of the paradox: I believe because it is absurd. These modifications played a significant role in Enlightenment representations of religion as irrational, and signal the beginning of a new understanding of faith as an epistemic vice. This doubtful maxim continues to play a role in debates about the cognitive status of religious faith, and its failure to succumb to the historical evidence against it is owing to its ongoing rhetorical usefulness in such debates.

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1 Tertullian, De carne Christi 5.4. Latin text from Tertullian's Treatise on the Incarnation, ed. and trans. Evans, Ernest (London: SPCK, 1956), 18 (my translation). The word prorsus is not found in the best manuscripts—the Codex Agobardinus or the Codex Trecensis—but is in Corpus Cluniacense, from which the first printed edition of Tertullian was produced in 1521.

2 Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 7, in Patrologia Cursus Completus: Series Latina, ed. Migne, J. P. (Paris, 1857–1912), vol. 2, col. 20.

3 Décarie, Vianney, “Le Paradoxe de Tertullien,” Vigiliae Christianae 15, no. 1 (1961): 2331 ; Barnes, Timothy David, Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), esp. 210; Sider, Robert D., “ Credo quia absurdum?,” Classical World 73, no. 7 (1980): 417419 ; González, Justo L., “Athens and Jerusalem Revisited: Reason and Authority in Tertullian,” Church History, 43, no. 1 (1974): 1725 ; Guerra, Anthony, “Polemical Christianity: Tertullian's Search for Certitude,” The Second Century 8, no. 2 (1991): 109124 ; Osborn, Eric, Tertullian: First Theologian of the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), esp. 48–64; Götz, Ignacio L., Faith, Humor, and Paradox (Westport: Praeger, 2002), 2527 ; Ferguson, Everett, “Tertullian,” Expository Times 120, no. 7 (2009): 313321 .

4 Tertullian, De carne Christi 10, in Evans, Tertullian's Treatise on the Incarnation, 38: “Et hic itaque causas requiro.”

5 Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem 5.1, in Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem, ed. and trans. Evans, Ernest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), 509: “Qui nihil interim credam, nisi nihil temere credendum.”

6 Tertullian, De anima 16, in Patrologia Cursus Completus: Series Latina, vol. 1, col. 672: “Est et illud ad fidem pertinens, quod Plato bifariam partitur animam, per rationale et inrationale. Cui definitioni et nos quidem applaudimus, sed non ut naturae deputetur utrumque. Naturale enim rationale credendum est, quod animae a primordio sit ingenitum, a rationali uidelicet auctore.”

7 Tertullian, De poenitentia 1, in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 76, ed. Bulhart, V. and Ph. Borleffs, J. W. (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1957), 321: “Ceterum a ratione eius tantum absunt quantum ab ipso rationis auctore. Quippe res dei ratio quia deus omnium conditor nihil non ratione providit disposuit ordinavit nihilque non ratione tractari intellegique voluit.”

8 Osborn, Tertullian, 238–241; Colish, Marcia L., The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 2:1617 .

9 Décarie, “Le Paradoxe de Tertullien.”

10 Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.23, 1400a6–8, in Complete Works of Aristotle, trans. W. Rhys Roberts, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2), 2:2231; Moffatt, James, “Aristotle and Tertullian,” Journal of Theological Studies 17, no. 66 (1916): 170171 .

11 See, for example, Sider, Robert Dick, Ancient Rhetoric and the Art of Tertullian (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971); Ayers, R. H., Language, Logic and Reason in the Church Fathers (Hildersheim: Olms, 1979), 3132 .

12 Osborn, Tertullian, 28.

13 Décarie, “Le Paradoxe de Tertullien,” 30: “La formule classique: credo quia absurdum (même corrigée en quia ineptum) ne représente pas la pensée de Tertullien.”

14 Roger Pearse, “Witnesses to the Influence of Tertullian,” The Tertullian Project, accessed July 30, 2015,

15 Rhenanus, Beatus, ed., Tertullianus Quintus Septiuius Florens Opera (Basel, 1521).

16 Giry, Louis, trans., De la Chair de Jésus-Christ, et de la Résurrection de la chair, ouvrages de Tertullien (Paris, 1661).

17 For examples, see Hall, Joseph, The Contemplations upon the History of the New Testament (London, 1661), 380381 ; Simon, Richard, Histoire critique du texte du Nouveau Testament (Rotterdam, 1689), 171; Leslie, Henry, A Treatise of the Authority of the Church (Dublin, 1637), 3334 ; Grantham, Thomas, Presumption no Proof; or, Mr. Petto's Arguments for Infant-Baptism Considered and Answered (London, 1687), 2; Arwaker, Edmund, The Ministration of Publick Baptism (London, 1687), 25; Featley, Daniel, The Romish Fisher Caught and Held in his Owne Net (London, 1624), 341342 ; Chillingworth, William, The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation (Oxford, 1638), 110; Falkland, Lucius, A Discourse of Infallibility (London, 1660), 159; Dury, John, Good Counsells for the Peace of Reformed Churches (London, 1641), 30; Sergeant, John, Sure-footing in Christianity (London, 1665), 102.

18 A reference to the specific De carne passage appears in a Latin commentary by the Spanish Jesuit Juan de Mariana (1535–1624), commenting on 1 Cor. 26–28, in Scholia in Vetus et Novum Testamentum (Paris, 1620), 825.

19 The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. Latham, Robert, vol. 2, 1661 (London: Folio Society, 1996), January 27, 1664, p. 8; Reusch, Franx Heinrich, Der Index der verbotenen Bücher (Bonn, 1883), 1:178.

20 Browne, Thomas, Religio Medici [1643], in The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. Sayle, Charles, (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1912), 1:16.  Francis Bacon had earlier said something similar, but without reference to Tertullian. See the translation of De augmentis scientarium in The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. Spedding, James, Ellis, Robert, and Heath, Douglas, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1882), 9:346: “The more discordant and therefore incredible the Divine mystery is, the more honor is shown to God in believing it.”

21 The earliest reference seems to be Vinke, Peter, ΤΗΣ ΠΙΣΤΕΩΣ ἜΛΕΓΧΟΣ; or, The reason of faith briefly discuss'd (London, 1659), 28. There is a 1632 reference, in English, in a sermon of Sibbes, Richard: “Whereas one saith I believe because it is impossible, and too farre above reason” (Christs exaltation purchast by humiliation [London, 1639], 164). But it is not clear that this is a reference to Tertullian. I am grateful to Dolly MacKinnon for drawing my attention to this reference.

22 Thomas Elborow directly links Tertullian's credo and the learning of the creed: A guide to the humble; or, An Exposition on the Common Prayer (London, 1675), 16.

23 Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Beveridge, Henry (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 1: 910 .

24 Freke, William, A Vindication of the Unitarians, Against a Late Reverend Author on the Trinity (London, 1687), 25.

25 For exceptions, see Warmstry, Thomas, Suspiria Ecclesiae & reipublica Anglicanae (London, 1648), 509; Pierce, Thomas, A Decad of Caveats to the People of England of General Use in All Times (London, 1679), 436437 ; Long, Thomas, An Answer to a Socinian Treatise, Call'd The Naked Gospel (London, 1691), 39; Hopkins, Ezekiel, An Exposition on the Lord's Prayer with a Catechistical Explication Thereof (London, 1692), 296297 ; Vinke, The Reason of Faith, 28; Brownrig, Ralph, Twenty Five Sermons (London, 1664), 262. Significantly, all except Vinke and Brownrig reproduce the Tertullian quotation accurately.

26 More, Henry, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness (London, 1660), 459; Stillingfleet, Edward, Origines sacrae (London, 1662), 184185 ; Taylor, Jeremy, Symbolon theologikon, (London, 1674), 231; Norris, John, An Account of Reason & Faith in Relation to the Mysteries of Christianity (London, 1697), 255; Boyle Papers, 1:70, in Boyle on Atheism, ed. MacIntosh, J. J. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 358; Locke, John, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 4.18.11, ed. Nidditch, Peter H. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), 696. For other negative assessments of the maxim, see Bury, Arthur, Not Fear, but Love (London, 1683), 46; Freke, William, A Vindication of the Unitarians (London, 1687), 25; Pett, Peter, preface to The Happy Future State of England (London, 1688).

27 Tillotson, John, A Sermon Concerning the Unity of the Divine Nature and the B. Trinity (London, 1693), 29.

28 Smith, Thomas, Two Compendious Discourses (London, 1699), 12. For further examples, see Burgess, Anthony, Vindiciae legis (London, 1646), 76; Pendlebury, Henry, A Plain Representation of Transubstantiation (London, 1687), 44; Tillotson, John, “The Possibility of the Resurrection Asserted and Proved,” in The Works of Dr. John Tillotson (London, 1820), 8:326328 .

29 Some argued that Catholics were enthusiasts: Wharton, Harry, The Enthusiasm of the Church of Rome Demonstrated (London, 1688).

30 Kennett, White, A Letter from a Student at Oxford (London, 1681), 67 .

31 Jenyns, Soame, A View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion (Dublin, 1786), 148.

32 Descartes, Meditations 4, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. Cottingham, John, Stoothoff, Robert, and Murdoch, Dugald (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 2:3743 .

33 Descartes, Discourse 3, in Philosophical Writings, 1:122, 125.

34 Harrison, Peter, The Territories of Science and Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 105108 ; cf. Harrison, Peter, ‘Religion’ and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 2628 . See also Sorkin, David, The Religious Enlightenment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 1114 .

35 Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed. Malcolm, Noel (Oxford: Clarendon, 2012), 2:102, cf. 3:576, 1142.

36 Stillingfleet, Edward, A Rational Account of the Grounds of Protestant Religion (London, 1665), 203.

37 Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 4.17.24, p. 687.

38 Ibid. See also A Third Letter for Toleration, in The Works of John Locke, in Nine Volumes, 12th ed. (London: 1823) 6:152, 407; Locke, Of the Conduct of the Understanding, ed. Fowler, Thomas, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1901), 6; Locke: A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity, in Works of John Locke, 7:296. Revealed truths, for Locke, are “above reason” but not “against reason” (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 4.18.9–10, pp. 695–696).

39 Tomkins, Martin, A Sober Appeal to a Turk or Indian (London, 1722), 31; Addison, Joseph, Maxims, Observations, and Reflections: Moral, Political, and Divine (London, 1719–1720), 38.

40 For the use of the paradox in anti-Trinitarian arguments and responses, see Nye, Stephen, Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity (London, 1693); Sherlock, William, An Answer to a Late Dialogue (London, 1687); Stillingfleet, Edward, The Doctrine of the Trinity and Transubstantiation, 2nd ed. (London, 1688), passim; Tillotson, Sermon Concerning the Unity of the Divine, 29–35; Whitby, Daniel, A Short View of Dr. Beveridge's Writings (London, 1711), 52. For the credo and miracles, see Thoughts on Miracles in General (London, 1767), 74.

41 In 1666, Jesuit author Jacques Noüet, writing in support of transubstantiation, reproduced the paradox in Latin and French, attributing to Marcion the view that doctrine of the Incarnation is “absurde, inconcevable & impossible”: La Presence de Iesus-Christ dans le Tres-Saint Sacrement (Paris 1666), 38. In 1681, Jacques Goussault offered a positive account of the paradox, giving the Latin original and a poetic reflection on it: Poësies et Pensées Chrétiennes (Paris, 1681), 88. Claude Lion, of the French Oratory, also cited the paradox in 1685, explaining its context and stressing that ineptus should be understood in terms of indignitas: Sermons sur les principaux mistères de Nostre Seigneur et de la Sainte Vierge (Lyon, 1685), 215216 .

42 Bayle, Dictionnaire historique et critique, 5th ed. (Amsterdam, 1740), 4:645: “Disons aussi que la Foi du plus haut prix est celle qui sur le témoignage divin embrasse les Véritez le plus opposees a la Raison.” The éclaircissements make their first appearance in the second edition of the Dictionnaire (1702).

43 Ibid.

44 Matytsin, Anton, “Reason and Utility in French Religious Apologetics,” in God in the Enlightenment, ed. Bulman, William J. and Ingram, Robert R. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 6382 , esp. 66–67.

45 See, for example, Le Febvre, Julien Jacques, Bayle en petit (Douai, 1737); Hayer, Jean-Nicolas-Hubert, La Religion vengée, ou Réfutation des auteurs impies (Paris, 1752), vol. 3, esp. 314. Cf. Duguet, Jacques Joseph, Traite de la croix de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (Paris, 1733), 9:118119 .

46 My emphasis. “Le celebre passage de Tertullien (de carne Christi) mortuus est Dei Filius, credibile est, quia ineptum est; & sepulcus revixit, certum est quia impossible [sic], est une saillie, qui ne peut être entendue que des apparences d'absurdité”: Essais de Théodicée, 2nd ed. (1710; Amsterdam, 1714), 60.

47 Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophiques (London, 1676), 1:204: “La foi consiste . . . à croire les choses parcequ'elles sont impossibles.”

48 [Voltaire], Le Dîner du comte de Boulainvilliers par Mr. St. Hyacinte (Amsterdam, 1767), 18: “C'est pourtant ce ridicule que St. Augustin a trouvé divin; il disoit, je le crois parce que cela est absurd, je le crois parce que cela est impossible.” (It is, however, this very ridicule that Augustine thought divine. He said: I believe because it is absurd, I believe because it is impossible).

49 A possible source of confusion is one of Augustine's remarks in a passage discussing Christ's resurrection that bears a superficial resemblance to the paradox ( City of God 22.5, Loeb Classical Library 411, trans. McCracken, George E. [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957], 7: 188189 ): “If it is incredible, it is also certainly incredible that an incredible thing has thus been believed.” (Si autem res incredibilis credita est, etiam hoc utique incredibile est, sic creditum esse quod incredibile est).

50 Voltaire, Economy de Paroles,” in Questions sur l'Encyclopédie, 2nd ed. (London, 1771–1772), 5:62: “St. Augustin parle par économie quand il dit, Je crois parce que cela est absurde. Je crois parce que cela est impossible.” Cf. Voltaire's correspondence with D'Alembert, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire avec des remarques etc. by sundry: Tome XXIV, Correspondence (Paris, 1832), 134.

51 Up until this point, the Essay had been known only from a few reviews and Locke's own brief French digest. See Bonno, Gabriel, La culture et la civilisation britanniques devant l'opinion française de la Paix d'Utrecht aux Lettres philosophiques (1713–1734) (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1948), 8096 ; Hampton, J., “Les traductions françaises de Locke au XVIIIe siècle,” Revue de littérature compare 29 (1955): 240251 .

52 Locke, John, Essai philosophique concernant l'entendement humain, trans. Coste, Pierre (Amsterdam, 1700), 903.

53 Voltaire, Lettres Philosophique, ed. Taylor, F. A., 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961), 44: “Nos mystères ont beau être contraires à nos démonstrations, ils n'en sont pas moins révérés par les philosophes chrétiens, qui savent que les objets de la raison et de la foi sont de différente nature.” See also Gabriel Bonno, “The Diffusion and Influence of Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding in France before Voltaire's Lettres Philosophiques,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 91, no. 5 (1947): 421425 .

54 Le Grande Dictionaire François-Latin (Rouen, 1609), 6, 491. Consequently, in early modern French, absurde and inepte could be used synonymously. I am grateful to the anonymous reader of Church History for this latter point. For examples, see Le Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé, s.v. “inepte,” accessed January 27, 2017,

55 Traité De La Chair De Iésus-Christ, trans. Giry, Louis (Paris, 1661), 24: “Le Fils de Dieu est mort, c'est une chose que je trouve croyable, parce qu'elle résiste au sens humain. Le Fils de Dieu ayant ésté mis dans le tombeau est resuscité! Je croy que cela est vray parce que c'est une chose qui paroist impossible.” The 1844 edition reproduces these words (with some modernized spellings): Traité De La Chair De Jésus-Christ, trans. Charpentier, M., (Paris, 1844), 290. Les Pères de L’Église, trans. de Genoude, Eugène-Antoine (Paris, 1841), 6:399: “Le Fils de Dieu est mort: il faut le croire, parce que cela révolte ma raison: il est ressuscité du tombeau où il avait été enseveli; le fait est certain, parce qu'il est impossible.” In contrast, the twentieth-century French edition in the Sources Chrétiennes series uses “absurde”. Tertullien, La Chair du Christ, trans. Mahé, Jean-Peirre (Paris: Cerf, 1975), 1:229, but also offers explanations of how the passage should be interpreted, 1:183–184.

56 Janin, Jules, Histoire de la littérature dramatique (Paris, 1853), 2:154. Other authors attribute the paradox to “un docteur,” “les docteurs de Rome,” and “un père de l’église.” Augustine was a doctor of the church; Tertullian was not. There is also an attribution to Blaise Pascal. Louis-Aimé Martin, The Education of Mothers of Families; Or, The Civilisation of the Human Race, trans. Lee, Edwin (London, 1842), 188.

57 Voltaire, “Original Sin,” in Philosophical Dictionary Part 4, in The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version; A Critique and Biography by John Morley, trans. Fleming, William F. (New York: E. R. DuMont, 1901), vol. 6, Online Library of Liberty: A Collection of Scholarly Works About Individual Liberty and Free Markets, accessed December 18, 2015,

58 English works typically ascribe authorship to Tertullian, presumably drawing upon the earlier Anglophone sources. However, the traces of Voltaire's influence on English letters are discernable into the nineteenth century, particularly in the periodical literature and in works translated from French and German. See, for example, The London Magazine (1828): 77; Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal 74 (1850): 400; Dublin Review 107 (1890): 64; Schleiden, Matthias Jacob, Principles of Scientific Botany (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1849), 232.

59 Salgues, J. B., Mélanges inédits de littérature de J. B. de La Harpe (Paris, 1810), 258.

60 Planche, Gustave, Salon de 1831 (Paris, 1831), 13: “Je crois, parce que cela est absurde; je crois, parce que je ne comprends pas; je crois parce que je ne sais pas; parce que d'autres se sont chargés de savoir et de comprendre pour moi.”

61 Décembre-Alonnier, Dictionnaire populaire illustré d'histoire, de géographie, de biographie, de technologie, de mythologie, d'antiquités, des beaux-arts et de littérature, 2nd ed.(Paris, [1861]), s.v. “Dogme,” 2:846.

62 Blanc, Auguste, Histoire des conspirations et des exécutions politiques (Paris, 1846), 2:65.

63 See n50. For the Morning-Chronicle reference see Journal des débats et des décrets, October 15, 1804, p. 2.

64 Bailleul, Jacques-Charles, Dictionnaire critique du langage politique, gouvernemental, civil, administratif et judiciaire de notre époque (Paris, 1842), 652.

65 Franck, Adolphe, Dictionnaire des Sciences Philosophiques (Paris, 1845), s.v. “Foi,” 2:433.

66 See for example, Buchez, Philippe-Joseph-Benjamin, Essai d'un traité complet de philosophie, du point de vue du catholicisme et du progress (Paris, 1840), 3:54; Renan, Ernest, Études d'histoire religieuse (Paris, 1857), 410.

67 de Flotte, Gaston, Bévues parisiennes, les journaux, les revues, les livres (Marseille, 1860), 9293 ; de Flotte, , Bévues parisiennes, série 2 (Marseille, 1868), 165, 204.

68 Examples of Italian references, all identifying Augustine as the source, include: Castellazzo, Luigi, Tito Vezio, ovvero Roma cento anni avanti l'era cristiana racconto storico (Firenze, 1867), 363; Trombetta, Paolo, Donatello (Rome: Ermanno Loescher & Company, 1887), 161; La Rassegna Nazionale 83 (1895): 422. For an attempt to correct the common misattribution see: La Cività cattolica (Rome, 1860), 8:474.

69 Krug, Wilhelm Traugott, Allgemeines Handwörterbuch der philosophischen Wissenschaften (Leipzig, 1827), 1:461. Other German sources include Rebmann, Andreas Georg Friedrich, Ein Gemählde menschlicher Sitten, Vorurtheile, Thorheiten, Laster, etc. etc. (Leipzig, 1795), 268269 ; Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, October 1825, 2; Magazin für philosophische, medizinische, und gerichtliche Seelenkunde (Wurzburg, 1839), 4:25. All attribute the saying to Augustine except Rebmann, who identifies the author as “a monk with a burnt brain.”

70 See, for example, Maunter, Thomas, The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy, (London: Penguin, 2000), s.v. “credo quia absurdum,” 116; Dictionary of Philosophical Terms: English-German, ed. Waibl, Elmar and Herdina, Philip (London: Routledge, 1997), s.v. “credo quia absurdum (est),”  84; Stone, Jon R., The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (New York: Routledge, 2005), s.v. “credo quia absurdum (est),” 146; Bunnin, Nicholas, ed., Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), s.v. “Fideism,” 255; Penelhum, Terrence, “Fideism,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, ed. Quinn, Philip L. and Taliaferro, Charles (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 379; Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, ed. Dent, Susie, 19th ed. (Edinburgh: Chambers, 2012), s.v. “credo quia impossibile, an alternative version is credo quia absurdum est,” 322. Older dictionaries and handbooks include: Büchmann, Georg, Geflügelte worte: Der citatenschatz des deutschen volks (Berlin, 1872), s.v. “Credo quia absurdum,” 171 (includes the correct Latin original); Wilhelm Windelband, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie, 2nd ed. (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1903), 184; The Stanford Dictionary of Anglicized Words and Phrases (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1892), s.v. “Credo quia impossibile” (“ascribed to S. Augustine, but may be based on Tertullian”), 293.

71 Blackburn, Simon, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), s.v. “credo quia absurdum est,” 88.

72 Freud, Sigmund, The Future of an Illusion (London: Hogarth Press, 1928), 4950 .

73 Weckovicz, T. E. and Weckovicz, H. P. Liebel, The History of Great Ideas in Abnormal Psychology (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1990), 38.

74 King, D. Brett, Woody, William Douglas, and Viney, Wayne, A History of Psychology: Ideas and Context, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2016), 80. Cf. Bret, George Sidney, A History of Psychology (1921; repr., London: Routledge, 2002), 197.

75 Colvin, Stephen S., “The Common-Sense View of Reality,” The Philosophical Review 11, no. 2 (1902): 139151, 143: “In the last period of Greek philosophy the human race sought refuge in divine certainty, typified by Tertullian's credo quia absurdum.” There followed medieval philosophy with its “dogmatism and poor logic.” Cf. Hales, Steven D., This is Philosophy: An Introduction (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2013), 65; Lundskow, George, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (London: Sage, 2008), 45 ; Wilson, Robert, Astronomy through the Ages (London: Taylor and Francis, 1937), 30: Tertullian represents “the fundamental conflict between the Christian religion and science which was to continue for centuries.” Cf. Barnes, Michael Horace, Understanding Religion and Science: Introducing the Debate (London: Continuum, 2010), 1, 16. For philosophical dictionary references, see n61.

76 Cassirer, Ernst, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968), 180. Cf. An Essay on Man (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1944), 72.

77 See, for example, Brooke, John Hedley, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Numbers, Ronald L., ed., Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009); Harrison, Territories of Science and Religion.

78 Draper, John William, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (New York: Appleton, 1898), 45. Draper does not specifically reference the credo.

79 White, A. D., History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (London: Macmillan, 1896), 2:230; Darwin, Charles, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (London: Collins, 1958), 57; Huxley, Thomas Henry, “Agnosticism,” in The Nineteenth Century 25, no. 144 (February 1889): 169194 , esp. 176; Huxley's article is reproduced in Huxley, Collected Essays (London: Macmillan, 1894), 5:224. See also Seeley, John Robert, Natural Religion (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1882), 77; Religion and Physical Science,” The Nineteenth Century and After 52 (1902): 954; Shoman, Shlomo, Art, Myth and Deviance (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2006), 25, in which Augustine is credited with the credo.

80 Weber, Max, “Science as a Vocation,” in The Vocation Lectures (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004), 29.

81 Dawkins, Richard, The Devil's Chaplain (New York: Mariner Books, 2004), 139; Hitchens, Christopher, God is not Great (New York: Twelve, 2007), 260; Coyne, Jerry A., Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible (New York: Viking, 2015), 68. Interestingly, Dawkins and Coyne both correctly cite the original. But Dawkins goes on to give the standard “because it is absurd” version, while Coyne also immediately glosses the original thus: “to believe in something because it is absurd.” Cf. Boghossian, Peter, A Manual for Creating Atheists (Durham: Pitchstone, 2013), 3435 .

82 Jung, C. G., Psychological Types, trans. Adler, Gerhard and Hull, R. F. C. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971), 1216 . Cf. Labhardt, A., “Tertullien et al philosophie ou la recherche d'une ‘position pure,’Museum Helveticum 7, no. 3 (1950): 159180 ; Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 29–30.

83 Gilson, Etienne, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1939), 1015 .

84 Augustine takes nisi credideritus, non intelligetis from Isa. 7:9 (Septuagint). Cited inter alia in De libero arbitrio 1.2; De magistro 1.1; De doctrina christiana 2.12.17.  Fides quaerens intellectum was the original title of Anselm's Proslogion.

85 Kretzmann, Norman, “Reason in Mystery,” Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture Series 25 (1989): 1539 , esp. 20. For similar divisions which reference Tertullian's credo, see Skirbekk, Gunnar and Gilje, Nils, A History of Western Thought: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 2001), 116; Navia, Luis E., The Adventure of Philosophy (Westport: Praeger, 1999), 137.

86 Plantinga, Alvin, “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology,” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 54 (1980): 4963 ; Wolterstorff, Nicholas, “The Reformed Tradition,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, ed. Quinn, Philip and Taliaferro, Charles (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 165170 . This position should not be confused with fideism.

87 Edelstein, Dan, The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 1.

88 See, for example, Smith, Wilfred Cantwell, The Meaning and End of Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1962); Harrison, Territories of Science and Religion; Harrison, ‘Religion’ and the Religions; Nongbri, Brent, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2013); Bossy, John, “Some Elementary Forms of Durkheim,” Past and Present 95 (1982): 318 ; Lash, Nicholas, The Beginning and End of ‘Religion’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

I am grateful to members of the University of Queensland's Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, especially Kim Hajek and Peter Cryle, for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. An anonymous referee for Church History also provided incisive and helpful remarks.

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Church History
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