The apostolic struggle during this period was not with old pagans or young barbarians, but with other races that had a rich cultural heritage. Among these were Jewish and Moslems.
DISPUTES WITH SARACENS AND JEWS: 600-1000 [Pp.72-76]
JOHN DAMASCENE (d. c. 754) is often designated as the last Father of the East. He was born in Damascus. Among his works the following obtain: In 727, he wrote his first apologetic piece defending the veneration of images contra the Iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Isaurian. In The Source of Knowledge and The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (around 745), in the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem, he composed these masterpieces and from the latter argued that: All men naturally know God through creation; that the Biblical revelation is however the zenith of God’s self-disclosure; and he addresses the controversy between Christians and Jews over the Sabbath. In his, Dialogue between a Saracen and a Christian, he considers the problem of evil and points to Christ as not avoiding it but rather experiencing its hardships.
THEODORE ABU QURRAH (c. 740 to c. 820) [Pp.73-74] a disciple of John Damascene, became the Bishop of Kara (Haran) in Mesopotamia. He is best known for his Arabic treatise God and the True Religion, where he analyzes and confronts the problem of choosing among the various religions that claim to be revealed (E.g., Zoroastrianism, The Samaritan religion, Judaism, Christianity, Manicheism, Sects of Marcion, Bardesenes, and Mohammed.
After examining the similarities and differences, Abu Qurrah concludes that Christianity: first, presents the most plausible idea of God; second that it exhibits the fullest understanding of man’s actual religious needs; third that it prescribes the most appropriate remedy and that miracles and the expansion of Christianity point to its truthfulness.
ABD AL-MASIH AL-KINDI (10th century) allegedly wrote an Arabic apology titled The Epistle of Abdallah ibn-Ismail al-Hashimi to Abd-al-Misah ibn-Ishac al-Kindi, inviting him to embrace Islam; and the Reply of Abd-al-Masih, refuting the same, and inviting the Hashimiteto to embrace the Christian Faith. In this work he considers the prophecies and miracles of Jesus as reasons that testify in favor of Christ, not Mohammed; he contrasts the methods of spreading the message of Christianity and Muslims, where the former by the apostles won people through miracles, their example, and preaching, as opposed to Mohammed’s message was spread through the sword.
ISIDORE OF SEVILLE [P.74] composed a work titled Against the Jews: On the Catholic Faith from the Old and New Testament. The aim of the treatise was to educate believers on how to converse with Jews, rather than on how to convert them.
CARDINAL PETER DAMIAN [Pp.75-76] (1007-72) composed two polemical opuscules (i.e., a small or minor literary or musical work) against the Jews.
In his, A Reply to the Jews, Peter contends with his monks that it is better to war with the flesh than with the Jews who are but extinct. Moreover to protect the faithful, it is admonished that vain disputes be shunned and with the Jews to show the most evident prophetic texts concerning the Christian faith. In the book, Peter also deals with: The Trinity, The Incarnation, and The Sufferings of Christ.
In Peter’s, A Dialogue between a Jew Asking Questions and a Christian Responding, he addresses the non-observance of the laws such as: Circumcision, the Sabbath, the Dietary laws, and Animal Sacrifices. Unfortunately, in concluding this treatise, he impatiently scolds the Jews for their incredulity.
ANSELM (A.D. 1033-1109) [Pp.76-81], known as the great Benedictine Abbot who became the Arch Bishop of Canterbury in (A.D. 1093). Very important to the apologetic enterprise is the thought Anselm disclosed concerning the relationship between faith and reason, which impacted greatly the High Middle Ages. In his classic, Cur Deus Homo, (started around A.D. 1094 and completed around 1098), Anselm stands in the tradition of the Jewish-Christian polemical dialogues of the Middle-Ages. This treatise deals with the reasons for the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the theology of Redemption tied to it.
In Anselm’s Proslogian (A.D. 1077-78) and the Monologion (1076) he deals both with the existence and attributes of God. There’s a similarity with the three works: First, Anselm begins in faith in order that he may ground his understanding in both the Scriptures and in the creeds. Second, Anselm is far removed from the rationalism of the Enlightenment, for although he uses reason to discover and understand the depths of God, there remains our faith in redemption that keeps us persevering.
Third, for Anselm, to understand is the grasping of objective reasons that underlie and illumine the data of faith. Fourth, Anselm sees man’s image as effaced, not erased through the fall and as such, man is not fully rational. [P.78]
Theology for Anselm must therefore be conducted prayerfully and with divine aid. But it must necessarily be conducted sola ratione. He understands that circular reasoning must be avoided when doing exegesis (Monologion).
Fifth, He does his apologetic partly for the benefit of believers (1 Pet.3:15) thus doing his theological reasoning to equip believers to deal with non-Christians. Anselm sees theological knowledge as a single science, which operates by reason under the leading of faith, but arguments, as long as they were cogent reasons, could be understood from those who have no faith. Anselm has a high view of reason.
Concluding Thoughts: Anselm’s ominous contribution to the history of apologetics is seen in his raising so clearly the question of the intrinsic demonstrability of the Christian faith.