Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 14, 2008

The Apologists Continued

The Apologists continued

 

The apologist also wrote about things that were distinctively Christian and especially highlighted the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  This is a doctrine that pagans invariably had trouble with, due to their philosophical tendencies to stress the importance of the spiritual over the physical.  The liberation of the soul from the body at death was seen as a positive accomplishment.  Thus, the teaching that a bodily resurrection of a dead person occurred would have been viewed negatively to the average Greco-Roman person.  Hence, this view initiated the need for the apologists to defend this essential doctrine of the Christian faith.  The apologist also engaged in defending the Christian view of special revelation, the Incarnation and the Deity of Christ.

 

Another common topic indicative especially of Justin Martyr’s writings was to accentuate Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism.  This was done especially by an examination of Old Testament prophecies pointing to their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Although, this was manifestly a very biblical approach to apologetics that builds upon the example of the apostles, it was also pragmatically a good strategy to promote Christianity amongst the pagans.  The consensus among the ancient’s was that the religions that were new or novel received less credibility and were commonly viewed as inauthentic.  On the other hand, ancient religions such as Judaism were revered and granted much more credibility by the Greco-Roman culture.  The Romans, for example, were very impressed with the longevity of Judaism and the fact that it preserved an impressive genealogical record that went all the way back to creation.

 

The apologist’s were also known to argue for the credibility of Christianity based on the superior morality presumed to be preserved amongst Christians over the surrounding pagan culture.  A primary reason for the employment of this argument at the time was due to the fact that many of the critics of Christianity maintained that they were morally corrupt.  This may mystify us, however, this was the reputation that circulated rather powerfully in uninformed anti-christian factions.  The source of that criticism was based on a few significant false perceptions.  In many Roman circles, Christians were characterized as atheist due to their abstention of worshipping any of the known deities.  Moreover, they were also known as traders engaged in serious sin refraining from the true “piety” indicative of worshipping the Roman gods.  The unwillingness to sacrifice to the Roman gods was to demonstrate that they were a very dangerous people.  Thus, Christians are seen as atheist, as traders and accused of gross immorality.  This immorality was inferred by the Christian worship services being known as “love feasts”.  The worship services were also done in secret, because it was classified as an illegal religion not entitled to the privilege of public expression.  However, the critics perceived this secrecy as evident of unsavory behavior that sought isolation from the public.  Many suspected this secrecy was to conceal the alleged cannibalism inferred by the statements of “eating flesh” and “drinking blood”.  The word could then spread that Christians were monstrous people capable of horrendous immorality and wickedness.

 

The apologists sought to address these popular perceptions of Christianity and vindicate the faith by clarifying that Christian’s were called to live a life of genuine morality.  The reason that many of these writings strike us as moralistic is that they are so eager to answer the charge of the pagans.  These charges of immorality were answered with an appeal to the Christian’s rigorously disciplined lifestyle.  The apologists often then seek to turn the tables on the pagans on these issues by pointing to pagan immorality.  They were even able to point to pagan authors who supported their charges against them.  Moreover, the apologist could even point to the pagan gods themselves who were known for their own immoral lifestyle.      

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