Thursday, May 22, 2014

Justin Martyr, The Apologist

There are passages in Scripture that argue for the truth of its teachings (Romans 1:19,20; Acts 17:22-31; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). But one of the earliest who was specifically labeled an apologist for devoting himself to the defense of the Christian faith was Justin Martyr. (There were earlier writers who are regarded as fitting in that category, but their works are not preserved in as much detail as Justin's.) Justin started off as a philosopher and made the rounds of the various Greek philosophies available until an old man introduced him to Christianity. He then devoted himself to persuading people of his new-found faith in comparison to philosophy, pagan mythology, and Judaism (and ultimately died for it). He did so with calmness and thoughtfulness. While he is pointed at times, he does not fall into rancor. He did perhaps fall into the apologist's common error of adopting too much of his opponents' mindset. It is easy, in discussing things with people from differing philosophical viewpoints, to begin to fall into their way of thinking.

The apologists were part of the Christian church from the very beginning. It has been claimed by some that they were one thing instrumental in the early spread of Christianity. But in modern times the practice of apologetics has become controversial. There are those who advocate it. There are others who consider it worthless or even damaging. I do not believe we should so easily desert the intellectual realm. One of the reasons for the superficiality of much of modern Christianity is that it throws aside the rational for vague emotional experience. I am convinced that God is involved in all of life, including the intellect, and it is not right to neglect it. But that does not mean it should be allowed to eclipse other aspects of our humanity. However, it also should not simply be cast aside. I know I would have had great difficulty following Christ without having my intellectual questions answered. I do not believe there is any magic formula for convincing people to come to Christ. I believe there is room for various approaches. But apologetics has been an important part of the Christian church from its very beginning. And I am convinced it still has a part to play today.       

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