Chapter 2 Summary: The Patristic era_Part 5_THE LATIN APOLOGISTS OF THE FOURTH CENTURY [pp.45-50]


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Arnobius of Sicca was a layman and recent convert who authored The Case Against the Pagans (AD 297).  It’s a collection of five books, among which he addresses: [pp.45-47]; the charge against Christians that they are responsible for the famines in the land.  He simply points out that said allegations are unfounded.

In the objection that Christians are worshipping a mere man he responds by pointing to Christ’s teaching as divine, and thus it is right to regard him as God.

He objects ferociously to Plato’s view that souls are immortal and contends that it is naturally mortal, but capable of receiving the gift of immortality.  In other sections he considers the limitations of the human mind, while still in others he critiques the pagan gods.  His apology could be very useful against deism.

Then there’s Lactantius a younger contemporary and a one-time pupil of Arnobius who was also a rhetorician [?].  Appointed as a teacher by Diocletian and around in (AD 300) after he was converted to Christianity was removed from his chair during the Diocletian persecution.

In his book; Divine Institutes, Lactantius [pp.47-49]; answered charges against Christianity while simultaneously educating the pagans who were interested in the new religion.  It was always his aim to give positive expositions of the principal doctrines of faith.  He was strongly apologetical in tone and content seen when he argues for the existence of one God, grounded on reason and authority.  He exposes the limitations of philosophy and sees it as a futile human effort to only acquire wisdom through human power.  He sets forth the fundamental precepts of morals and theology, and deals with eschatology where he discusses death and the immortality of the soul.

Julius Firmicus Maternus was a Sicilian-born aristocrat, lawyer and astrologer before his conversion.  In his book The Error of the Pagans (AD 346-350) he addresses the Emperors Constantius and Constans.  There he [p.49] addresses Roman paganism, views mystery cults as obscene and a diabolical mockery of the true Redemption and finally appeals to Exodus and Deuteronomy for the extirpation of worshipping false gods and idols.

Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan from (AD 374-397) until his death, was more interested in suppressing paganism than giving reasons for his faith [P.50].  His view of Faith and Reason are: first that Faith precedes reason, secondly by faith we come to knowledge, third by knowledge we come to discipline, and fourth that faith is way higher than reason.  Ambrose’s exorbitant exaltation of faith at the expense of reason, gave him no possible way of conceding anything to non-Christian religions.  The problem with this is that any “common ground” can’t be established and our common humanity as a source pointing to truth is thus stunted.

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