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Describe Christian apologetics in the second century

    Apologetics in the second century took place from within, as they defended their faith from Gnosticism and from without as they fought to be recognized as, not only a legitimate religion, but “…as superior to the idolatry of the pagans and the ritualistic worship of the Jews.”[1] However, I see issues of great concerns, even in some of the apologetic efforts that were taking place.

    Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, for example, composed a harmony of the four Gospels known as the Diatessaron. For two centuries this harmonization became the standard form of the Gospel in the Syriac-speaking areas.[2] I rather we go directly into the Word of God for ourselves.

    Other issues of concerns in second-century apologetics are found in Athenagoras’ approach; even as he argued the superiority of Christianity over paganism, in his dispute concerning the resurrection he argues from the prospective of nature and reason and refuses to utilize Scripture.[3] Finally, another issue of concern was Theophilus’ approach as he speaks of Logos, but avoid speaking about Jesus and also present the narrative of the creation in Genesis as allegoric.

    I find these approaches to apologetics troubling and perhaps as original seeds from some of the theological and doctrinal mess we see in our day.

What were the accusations against Christians?

    The Bible tells us in Acts 8:1 that there was great persecution against the church. It seems like the devil did not waste any time in trying to destroy the church from the very beginning. The attack came from outside, in the form of persecution and false accusations and, from within, in the form of heresy. Persecution aroused as Christianity began to shapeup her own identity away from Judaism. There were four specific accusations against Christians; all of these accusations were grotesque misinterpretations of our faith and practices. They accused us of: 1) incest, 2) cannibalism, 3) atheism and 4) of being a subversive group.

How did apologists like Justin respond?

    Ferguson introduces Justin Martyr as arguably the most important and most influential apologist of the second century.[4] This man “fought his apologetics battles on four fronts: against pagan intellectuals, the state, the Jews, and heretics.”[5] He addressed the four accusations against Christianity head on, presenting a picture of Christian people as being indeed very moral people. Justin also utilized the prophesies in Scripture to defend his case. Justin dances very closely with philosophy and mythology in order to present Christianity to the lost. He was bold in addressing pagan practices as demonic. That boldness cost him making his last name a reality in his life. No doubts, much to admired when it comes down to Justin’s apologetics.

What apologetic principles could be used today in a modern context?

    We most remember that according to First Peter 3:15, we are called to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” (KJV) The word “asketh” here has a very interesting definition; it comes from the Greek word, αἰτέω aitéō; fut. aitḗsō. meaning, “to ask, request, beg. The seeking by the inferior from the superior (Acts 12:20); by a beggar from the giver (Acts 3:2); by the child from the parent (Matt. 7:9); by man from God (Matt. 7:7; James 1:5; 1 John 3:22).”[6]      I can conclude by this definition that these are folks that are asking sincere questions concerning our faith. This definition is perhaps describing someone who is really interested in the reason why our hope rests in God. These are not the truth suppressors describe in Romans 1:18.[7]

    I say all this to say that we can’t leave the Word of God out; we are not defending God, He does not need any defending from us; we are defending our faith. I believe that it is vitally important to follow the example of Justin Martyr. It is obvious that this man was a student of God’s Word, an educated man, who was able to present the truth of God’s Word in an intelligent and relevant way for his time. He used philosophy and mythology, as those were important concepts of his time. However, he presented the power and accuracy of the prophesies in God’s Word.

    I believe that everything that can be use for our apologetics is useful, whether is through the knowledge of the cosmos, physic, mathematics and science in general; nevertheless we must not fall into the trap of the atheist, humanist and agnostics of our day.

    We must never shy away from utilizing God’s Word. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

[1] Everett Ferguson, Church History, Volume One: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 70

[2] Ibid, 71

[3] Ibid, 71

[4] Everett Ferguson, Church History, Volume One: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation, 71

[5] Ibid, 72

[6] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[7] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (KJV)

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