Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 21, 2008

The Apologist Continued – 2

The Apologists continued


The apologists recognized that there was a lot of unrest amongst pagans about the mythology intrinsic with their beliefs and rampant immorality within their circles.  It was found that it was not counterproductive to attack the pagans on these points.  The apologists also turned to the pagan philosophers pointing out how it was so common for them to contradict each other.  If philosophy was supposed to be a path to truth, it should not be leading to different truths they would argue.  What we find is a rather sophisticated apology that is being developed during the second century, seeking to defend the faith from gross misconceptions.    


Although, the apologists were “unapologetic” in criticizing certain aspects of pagan culture, we also find them expressing praises for certain aspects of that same culture.  In part it reflected genuine admiration and in part it was an apologetic strategy.  If you can compliment about something in your opponent it is an effective means of gaining his attention.  However, it was not simply a strategy but a deep seated conviction on the part of many apologists who tended to see in Platonic philosophy a great ally.  Plato stressed the importance of the spiritual, in the triumph of the truth, and morality.  Many in the ancient Church believed that there were significant aspects of Platonism that could be used in Christianity.  Thus, a dilemma arose amongst Christians in having to acknowledge that there was much truth derived from this pagan philosophy.  Justin Martyr offered several arguments to explain this dilemma in the ancient Church summarized in the following:


·         God had left a spark of reason within the minds of men also known as the logos sparmaticos (the seed of the word).  There is a seed or spark of reason that remains in humans endowed by God that allows pagans to come to a variety of truth.  This truth was limited to common elements of life such as politics, arts, justice, morality, philosophy, however, not when it came to salvation.

·         The Spirit of God directly revealed truth to some of the philosopher’s, particularly Plato. 

·         Demons revealed some truth to pagan philosophers so that when Christians encountered these philosophers they would be less apt to listen to them.

·         He also posited that Plato visited Egypt and was able to obtain a copy of the Pentateuch, which provided him with a divine source for his material.    


Needless to say that Justin had a deep conviction that Platonic philosophy possessed many essential truths.  This reverence for Platonism may have explained his practice of continuing to wear his philosophers robe in public.   This embracing of Platonism by early Christians was the beginning of a long-lasting and precarious relationship that has continued to influence Christian thought to our day.


In Reformed theology this dilemma is dealt with through the doctrine of Common Grace, which accounts for the gifts derived from the culture outside of the covenant community.  It is God’s Common Grace, which is source for all good in society that has been preserved after the fall.  We do not go to the Scriptures to learn how to fix an automobile, manage our finances or how to vote on Election Day.  The lack of a robust doctrine of Common Grace has been the source a much confusion within Christianity that is manifested in innumerable ways today.      



  1. Hi,
    Are You Catholic??

  2. John,

    Welcome to Standing Solus Christus. To answer your question, it depends on what you mean by “Catholic”. If you are using it to refer to the universal Church of believers whose beliefs are articulated in the early ecumenical creeds, yes.

    However, if you mean it as short hand for Roman Catholic, no. I am a (“catholic” ) Reformed Christian subsribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith. See the beliefs section in the sidebar for further reference.


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