The whole irony of using Tertullian (as if his early opposition to infant baptism, ignoring everything else he said, spoke for the early church) to attack Augustine’s supposed novelties was that on different issues, the Montanist himself held to views that Ken Wilson attributed to be Manichaean Gnostic novelties of Augustine.
In an interview given him by Leighton Flowers, he claimed that Tertullian opposed infant baptism because a person needed to be old enough to make free choice (at 7:30 minute mark) and infant baptism was practiced early on for reasons no one knew (7:42), not even Augustine around 400 AD (7:45). And since according to Wilson, Pelagius initially opposed infant baptism as reason why he debated Augustine (7:50, 9:38), Augustine needed to come up with a theological reason for infant baptism, and that reason was baptismal regeneration and salvation which according to Wilson didn’t exist prior to Augustine (9:59-10:04). And that along with Augustine’s “novel” reason of guilt of sin at birth (10:22, 11:46), whereas before Augustine, everyone prior to him, held to deceased infants all automatically went to heaven, baptized or not. To try to claim such “novel” doctrines of Augustine (infant baptismal regeneration and original sin) were Manichaean, he said only Manichaeans used the same verses as Augustine did for his “novelties.” Wilson used Tertullian (18:36) as an example who combatted Gnostics, Stoics, and Manichaeans (ironic since Tertullian died when Mani, founder of the Manichaeans, was just an infant, and he opposed Gnostics for among others things rejecting baptismal regeneration and salvation, one of the supposed novelties of Augustine).
The interview can be found here:
Keep in mind that he said all this to argue that the so-called Manichaean Gnostic novelty of infant baptismal salvation was the critical foundation of Augustine’s “Calvinist” novelties (see page 78 of Wilson’s The Foundation of Augustinianism-Calvinism)
In regards to Tertullian’s opposition to infant baptism, it came in an early writing of his, 197 AD On Baptism (his attitude on infant baptism would change later on in life). And his argument was not about free choice as Wilson would have it but about the possibility of falling away after baptism (a view of infant baptism of being invalid and hence adult baptism later after that to take away sins did not even occurred to him). He wrote in chapter 18 (note, he didn’t suggest delayed baptisms just for infants):
“And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary — if (baptism itself) is not so necessary — that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood?”
In the same chapter, Tertullian suggested delayed baptisms even for unmarried folks:
“For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred — in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom — until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence.”
Also contrary to what Wilson claimed, infant baptism wasn’t practiced for unknown reasons in the 200s AD. In raising his objections to infant baptism, Tertullian himself knew why it was practiced: for the remission of sins (and note, he didn’t denied infant baptism itself remit sins). In that same chapter, he said:
“The Lord does indeed say, ‘Forbid them not to come unto me.’ Let them ‘come,’ then, while they are growing up; let them ‘come’ while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the ‘remission of sins?’ More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine!”
Note that, besides saying he was objecting to infants being given forgiveness of sins right away in baptism on grounds of possibility of apostasy later on in life (which goes against Wilson’s Free Grace theology), Tertullian already encountered Matthew 19:14 as prooftext for infant baptismal salvation (Wilson in his dissertation book page 158 claimed “Augustine allegorizes” that text into infant baptism for salvation).
The one thing Wilson didn’t mentioned was that Tertullian in the rest of On Baptism was arguing for baptismal salvation and regeneration against Cainite Gnostics (allowing only for baptism of martyrdom/blood exceptions in chapter 16). That alone refutes his claim that Augustine invented baptismal regeneration and salvation in the early church as a result of Manichaean Gnosticism. (And by Wilson’s guilt by association logic, he would fall into Gnosticism for rejecting baptismal regeneration and salvation.)
In fact, in the opening chapter of On Baptism, Tertullian stated:
“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism.”
Furthermore, in chapter 12, Tertullian cited texts like John 3:5 (since in his dissertation book as well as his shorter book, Wilson claimed Augustine invented baptismal view of John 3:5 to replace physical birth out of Manichaean Gnosticism) to argue for baptismal regeneration and salvation against Cainite Gnostics:
“When, however, the prescript is laid down that ‘without baptism, salvation is attainable by none’ (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, ‘Unless one be born of water, he has not life’), there arise immediately scrupulous, nay rather audacious, doubts on the part of some,’ how, in accordance with that prescript, salvation is attainable by the apostles, whom — Paul excepted — we do not find baptized in the Lord? Nay, since Paul is the only one of them who has put on the garment of Christ's baptism, either the peril of all the others who lack the water of Christ is prejudged, that the prescript may be maintained, or else the prescript is rescinded if salvation has been ordained even for the unbaptized.’ I have heard — the Lord is my witness — doubts of that kind: that none may imagine me so abandoned as to excogitate, unprovoked, in the licence of my pen, ideas which would inspire others with scruple.”
Nor was Tertullian the only one prior to Augustine in regards to affirming John 3:5 as reference to baptismal regeneration and salvation, not physical birth. In fact such a view of John 3:5 was unanimously held to by church fathers as baptismal rebirth and salvation. Augustine didn’t “alter” John 3:5 from physical birth to “novel” view of baptismal salvation and regeneration. If anything Wilson’s denials of baptismal salvation and regeneration were novel and came first well after Augustine, outside of Gnostics so condemned by Tertullian (and others such as Irenaeus) for that. See this article on pre-Augustine church fathers on John 3:5 here:
And guess who uses prooftexts like 1 Corinthians 1:17 against baptismal regeneration and salvation then? According to Tertullian, Cainite Gnostics (since Wilson want to play Manichaean Gnostic card on Augustine via guilt by association with how they supposedly use certain Scriptures in common). He responded to them in chapter 14:
“But they roll back an objection from that apostle himself, in that he said, ‘For Christ sent me not to baptize;’ 1 Corinthians 1:17 as if by this argument baptism were done away! For if so, why did he baptize Gaius, and Crispus, and the house of Stephanas? However, even if Christ had not sent him to baptize, yet He had given other apostles the precept to baptize. But these words were written to the Corinthians in regard of the circumstances of that particular time; seeing that schisms and dissensions were agitated among them, while one attributes everything to Paul, another to Apollos. For which reason the ‘peace-making’ apostle, for fear he should seem to claim all gifts for himself, says that he had been sent ‘not to baptize, but to preach.’ For preaching is the prior thing, baptizing the posterior. Therefore the preaching came first : but I think baptizing withal was lawful to him to whom preaching was.”
Nor would Tertullian’s On Baptism be his only writing affirming baptismal regeneration and salvation and condemning Gnostics for rejecting that, as in Against Marcion, Book 1, Chapter 28:
“And what will happen to him after he is cast away? He will, they say, be thrown into the Creator's fire. Then has no remedial provision been made (by their god) for the purpose of banishing those that sin against him, without resorting to the cruel measure of delivering them over to the Creator? And what will the Creator then do? I suppose He will prepare for them a hell doubly charged with brimstone, as for blasphemers against Himself; except indeed their god in his zeal, as perhaps might happen, should show clemency to his rival's revolted subjects. Oh, what a god is this! everywhere perverse; nowhere rational; in all cases vain; and therefore a nonentity! — in whose state, and condition, and nature, and every appointment, I see no coherence and consistency; no, not even in the very sacrament of his faith! For what end does baptism serve, according to him? If the remission of sins, how will he make it evident that he remits sins, when he affords no evidence that he retains them? Because he would retain them, if he performed the functions of a judge. If deliverance from death, how could he deliver from death, who has not delivered to death? For he must have delivered the sinner to death, if he had from the beginning condemned sin. If the regeneration of man, how can he regenerate, who has never generated? For the repetition of an act is impossible to him, by whom nothing any time has been ever done. If the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, how will he bestow the Spirit, who did not at first impart the life? For the life is in a sense the supplement of the Spirit. He therefore seals man, who had never been unsealed in respect of him; washes man, who had never been defiled so far as he was concerned; and into this sacrament of salvation wholly plunges that flesh which is beyond the pale of salvation! No farmer will irrigate ground that will yield him no fruit in return, except he be as stupid as Marcion's god. Why then impose sanctity upon our most infirm and most unworthy flesh, either as a burden or as a glory? What shall I say, too, of the uselessness of a discipline which sanctifies what is already sanctified? Why burden the infirm, or glorify the unworthy? Why not remunerate with salvation what it burdens or else glorifies? Why keep back from a work its due reward, by not recompensing the flesh with salvation? Why even permit the honour of sanctity in it to die?”
So in two writings by Tertullian, if we go by guilt by association employed by Wilson and Flowers, they (and not Augustine) would land on the side of Gnostics in regards to their rejection of baptismal regeneration view.
And in A Treatise on the Soul, Tertullian argued even for infant baptismal salvation with John 3:5 as prooftext for it (refuting Wilson’s claims in his dissertation book that Augustine originated not only baptismal view of John 3:5, in place of physical birth, but also infant baptism view of it). In chapter 39, we read:
“All these endowments of the soul which are bestowed on it at birth are still obscured and depraved by the malignant being who, in the beginning, regarded them with envious eye, so that they are never seen in their spontaneous action, nor are they administered as they ought to be. For to what individual of the human race will not the evil spirit cleave, ready to entrap their souls from the very portal of their birth, at which he is invited to be present in all those superstitious processes which accompany childbearing? Thus it comes to pass that all men are brought to the birth with idolatry for the midwife, while the very wombs that bear them, still bound with the fillets that have been wreathed before the idols, declare their offspring to be consecrated to demons: for in parturition they invoke the aid of Lucina and Diana; for a whole week a table is spread in honour of Juno; on the last day the fates of the horoscope are invoked; and then the infant's first step on the ground is sacred to the goddess Statina. After this does any one fail to devote to idolatrous service the entire head of his son, or to take out a hair, or to shave off the whole with a razor, or to bind it up for an offering, or seal it for sacred use — in behalf of the clan, of the ancestry, or for public devotion? On this principle of early possession it was that Socrates, while yet a boy, was found by the spirit of the demon. Thus, too, is it that to all persons their genii are assigned, which is only another name for demons. Hence in no case (I mean of the heathen, of course) is there any nativity which is pure of idolatrous superstition. It was from this circumstance that the apostle said, that when either of the parents was sanctified, the children were holy; 1 Corinthians 7:14 and this as much by the prerogative of the (Christian) seed as by the discipline of the institution (by baptism, and Christian education). Else, says he, were the children unclean by birth: 1 Corinthians 7:14 as if he meant us to understand that the children of believers were designed for holiness, and thereby for salvation; in order that he might by the pledge of such a hope give his support to matrimony, which he had determined to maintain in its integrity. Besides, he had certainly not forgotten what the Lord had so definitively stated: Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; John 3:5 in other words, he cannot be holy.”
Then he followed that by this to start chapter 40: “Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; Romans 6:4 and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame.”
And in chapter 41, he wrote, “Therefore, when the soul embraces the faith, being renewed in its second birth by water and the power from above, then the veil of its former corruption being taken away, it beholds the light in all its brightness. It is also taken up (in its second birth) by the Holy Spirit, just as in its first birth it is embraced by the unholy spirit.”
Note, that Tertullian argued for infant baptismal salvation not only from John 3:5 (and 1 Corinthians 7:14), but also from the view of infants are born having an unclean nature in Adam needing rebirth given in baptism. Saying one is embraced at birth by the unholy spirit would seem to suggest he held to we were born lost at birth unless baptized.
This writing refutes several things all at once: that prior to Augustine in 412 AD, no one knew why infant baptism was practiced, no one held to infants need salvation given in baptism, no one affirmed baptismal salvation and regeneration (and John 3:5 view of it), and no one thought of the “Manichaean” idea of being born in sin in Adam.
In regards to the last point, consider the fact that Tertullian wrote this in chapter 3 of The Soul’s Testimony (note the part of the whole human race transmitting Adam’s condemnation by virtue of being tainted in their descent from him and given over to death on account of Adam’s sin:
“In expressing vexation, contempt, or abhorrence, you have Satan constantly upon your lips; the very same we hold to be the angel of evil, the source of error, the corrupter of the whole world, by whom in the beginning man was entrapped into breaking the commandment of God. And (the man) being given over to death on account of his sin, the entire human race, tainted in their descent from him, were made a channel for transmitting his condemnation.”
Bear in mind, that such a view of original sin could not have possibly existed prior to 412, according to Wilson since he would have us believe prior to that date, no one affirmed baptismal salvation and no one knew why infant baptism was practiced, not even Augustine on either point. He made such veritably debunked claims (as shown by Tertullian quotes affirming baptismal regeneration and salvation, including even of infants, in one of his later writings) not only in his interview, but in writings as well, including his Foundation page 97:
“The following three factors figure most prominently in explaining Augustine's later conversion to determinism: infant baptism, Stoicism, and Manichaeism. Augustine's deterministic conversion would not have occurred without the infant baptismal tradition in his local North Africa. Only in North Africa and nearby Rome do we have the earliest proofs for infant baptism, and only with Augustine does a newborn's salvation from inherited eternal damnation come by proxy through parental faith. This claim was challenged by a contemporary local bishop. Prior to 412 CE, even Augustine had viewed baptism as unnecessary for salvation and infant baptism had no explanation. Therefore, as Sage concluded, speculating an apostolic origin for infant baptism to forgive damnable guilt inherited from Adam appears unlikely.”
Besides the fact infant baptism existed early on outside of Rome and North Africa (affirmations of infant baptismal regeneration by Irenaeus’ Fragment 34 and Against Heresies Book 2, Chapter 22 at Lyons, Ambrose’s On Abraham, 2.81,84, at Milan, Gregory Nazianzen’s Oration 40.23 at Constantinople- the latter holding to unbaptized infants are neither saved or damned- attested to that), not even Tertullian would ultimately agreed with Wilson in regards to the latter’s rejection of infant baptismal salvation (even earlier Tertullian’s opposition to infant baptism had little to do with Wilson’s Baptist beliefs and everything to do with his own version of baptismal regeneration that affirmed baptism forgives sins only before baptism, but not afterwards). Early church father views of infant baptismal regeneration and salvation are discussed here:
The fact that Wilson had to push completely false and wholesale revisionist claims that no one knew why infant baptism was practiced and no one held to baptismal salvation and regeneration prior to Augustine inventing the latter as reason for the former is telling when he used both as his talking points as why original sin as understood by Augustine could not possibly existed prior to then.
That’s on top of using such claims (as if Tertullian was on his side on baptism) to push other false claims such as Augustine even as of 400 AD didn’t know why infant baptism was practiced or Pelagius rejected infant baptism as reason he and Augustine first debated (ironically, Wilson said Pelagius and Julian approved of infant baptism in his dissertation when it suited him to do so). And comically, as pointed out above, the false claim that Tertullian refuted Manichaeans who didn’t even existed when he died (its founder Mani was an infant at the time).
All so he can grind his axe against Augustine.
Here we stand.