Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, or, anglicized as Tertullian, (ca. 160 – ca. 220 A.D.) was a prolific early Christian Berber author and the first to write Christian Latin literature. He coined concepts like TRINITY, “Three Persons, One Substance,” and this phrase—
certum est quia impossible est— It is certain because it is impossible
It is certain because it is impossible. What an intriguing approach to problems. Whether resolving the dilemma of the Triune nature of God or determining the primary substantial nature of mercury or H2O, Tertullian’s attitude was to conclude certainty in the probability of the impossible. Could he have been so confident of his resolution today, with scientific method at such a pinnacle of detailed observation and explanation?!? “Science” asserts that it is only a matter of time before it can explain everything. This does not leave little room for faith—it leaves no room for faith. [Albeit, science itself is fraught with assumptions about the nature of the universe and presuppositions that craft their own conclusions.]
But certainty because of impossibility!?! How does that work?!? Could it be that a thing seems impossible from one vantage point but obvious and simple from another? That impossible or not from either vantage point, from its own self-perception, it is, in fact, TRUE? (Okay, I’m coming out! I was a philosophy major in college.)
Let’s bring it down to earth again. Suppose you were assigned a task that seems virtually impossible. IMPOSSIBLE. Cannot be done, cannot work, under any circumstances! No way! Because of its impossible nature, why bother to even start it!?! Yet Tertullian presumed the inverse stance— its impossibility made it certain. If we were to assume that posture at work, in our home, in our relationships with difficult people (certainly impossible!), how might it affect our words, our actions and responses, or our emotions and attitudes? Not that the impossible isn’t difficult; but our attitude toward it might carry us closer to resolution than we might imagine. (Personally, I’ve long relished the reactions I evoke when I talk about how we intend to meet the challenges we face at NEEDinc. “That’s impossible!” Outwardly I respond with “Hummm. How so?” but inwardly I’m chuckling.)
When your confidence and source of strength lies within yourself, within your own well of intellectual/emotional capital, you, invariably/eventually, wear down/dry up, or simply quit trying. But if your certainty and strength lay outside yourself, say, in the God who created you, and you are consistently tapped into that source of strength, aren’t the possibilities… endless?
To accomplish what is possible takes time and tenacity: to do what is impossible takes a little longer… and just maybe a closer connection with the God who made you.
Have a nice week.