Summary of Chapter 2: CHRISTENDOM STRIKES BACK (Pgs.36-54)

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In this chapter Stark notes that the defeat in 672 of Muslim attacers on Constantinople occurred for two reasons.  First, Byzantium had made tools sophisticated enough to best Muslim forces.  The Western technology of impenetrable fortifications, along with natural sea barriers contributed to Muslim defeat.  Second, “Greek fire” a catapult with pumps acting as flame throwers could not be matched by Muslim armies.

The Battle of Tours/Poitiers was a fierce engagement where Muslim troops drove deep into Gaul not far from Paris and advanced to victory over the city of Bordeaux and plundered it.  Again, a small Christian army could not stay their own slaughter by the Muslim army at the Battle of the River Garonne.  It wasn’t until the Muslim army met Charles Martel, the ruler of Gaul, that the tables began to turn against the Muslim’s conquest of Europe.

Here, Martel the powerful battle hardened leader led his troops in battle and conquered the Muslims for several reasons according to Stark, the following of which are notable; the Gaul’s were heavily geared as opposed to Arabs lightly geared, the Frankish soldiers were disciplined, Arabs fled because they sensed they were outmatched.

Many historians see this battle as monumental between having an Arab vs. a Western civilization.  Others make little of this battle and Arabs see it as no big deal (Pg.43).  What is certain is that Spanish Muslims understood that their defeat by Charles Martel was had through an empire building people, not mercenaries or a barbarian horde.  The countries of Spain, Italy and Sicily had to also be reconquered.

All these victories preceded the First Crusade.  This means that when the armies and knights of Western Europe marched or navigated to the Holy Land, they were very familiar with their Muslim opponents and knew they could take them.

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Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 2: HOW IS GOD’S WISDOM MANIFEST IN GOSPEL COMMUNICATION? (Vvs.6-9)

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Paul continues this theme of wisdom and turns it (if you will) upside down.  On the one hand, the apostle refused to succumb to the pressure of using rhetoric as a means to connect with his audience, so that when he preached Christ, the testimony of God would not lose its power, but also so that these “word smiths” would not rely on human wisdom, tact, etc., but instead on the Spirit’s power.

On the other hand, it’s that very tactic of Paul that is Gods wisdom (which seems foolish to the unregenerate soul).  Paul explains:

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Note how Paul says that the wisdom he speaks of is God’s wisdom spoken among the mature (i.e., those who understand that their calling and standing before God was all God’s doing, not theirs).  The mature here are those the world considers to be foolish because they trust in the eyewitness account of the God/Man’s life death and resurrection.

So this wisdom of God is spoken among the “called”, “saints” etc., a wisdom sourced in the Creator not the creature, it’s a wisdom in this present evil age that is from the age to come, it’s a wisdom the rulers of this age do not possess nor can grasp, it’s a wisdom granted by God.

So this wisdom (which I take to mean Christ crucified contextually) was previously hidden predestined by God before time to be mysterious for His glory.  Now I’m not sure how to interpret the phrase “to our glory”.  Could it be that Paul is referring to future glorification in the consummation of the new heavens and the new earth?  Perhaps it speaks of the praise due to those who embrace the message of the cross (even though their calling, redemption, and saintliness are God’s work) and thus despise this world’s wisdom of rejecting the message.

Again, it could be pointing to the honor and value we place on those who possess certain kinds of knowledge that when applied to the knowledge of God, that one has reached the heights of knowledge.  Perhaps it’s all three, or something else not mentioned but Paul continues and provides a phrase that clarifies God’s wisdom compared to the creature:

but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”    

I take rulers to refer to demonic spirits or Satan himself, not human beings.  The reason is because since the beginning in the Garden of Eden unto the present, satanic deception has been a constant affront to God’s word and plans.  Demonic spirits and Satan himself have outlasted all rulers.  Through the wisdom of God’s word and message, demonic ideas that exalt themselves above the knowledge of Christ are demolished by argumentation.  These ideas are called “strongholds” in 2 Cor. 10:1-6:

“Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”  

These ideas come from the god of this world (Satan) who blinds those who don’t believe the message of the cross.  We have a real enemy, and God with his foolishness (i.e., Christ’s Cross) defeated Satan and his creaturely wisdom (i.e., the crucifixion) through the hidden means now revealed to the called—redemption through the last Adam’s atoning death and resurrection from the grave.  Death died with the death of Christ and no creature had a clue what was truly occurring—including Satan.

This previously hidden wisdom, knowledge and power have been displayed to those who love God, not to those who hate Him.  So why is the cross God’s wisdom?  It’s because through it God accomplished his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of being a blessing to the nations, plural, through the Messiah.  To Greeks this is foolishness (which indicates they understood the message but rejected the implications of it) and to the Jews this message is a stumbling block (Messiah is to reign, not die, thus a dying deliverer is intolerable, an oxymoron).  Nevertheless, to the “called” both Greek and Jew alike, the message is the power and wisdom of God.

May we His people not cower with the message of Christ, but instead may we clearly and winsomely proclaim it, explain it, and live out its implications among those who are perishing whether it is foolishness to them or a stumbling block.

(SDG)

Summary of “THE MARK OF THE CHRISTIAN” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book The Mark of the Christian Schaeffer points out the great Commandment to love God and neighbor is at the core of our message and it must be lived out if two things are to occur.  First, if men are to know that we are Christ’s disciples, there must be the humble preference toward one another that Jesus demonstrated to the disciples when he washed their feet in (John 13).  Love among the brothers lets the watching world see if we actually belong to Jesus or not.

We may very well be his, but if our actions are contradictory then the unbeliever has the right given by God to judge us.  This kind of life is costly, painful and accompanied by great loss, but our love for the Savior and for the lost must be what motivates us.

Second, we must be unified with believers so that our evangelistic endeavors are not hindered and the world may know that the Father sent the Son (John 17).  This unity must be evident in word and in deed.  Even when there are differences among us, and there will be, it’s critical that forgiveness, repentance, humility and kindness be evident when we part ways with our brothers and sisters.

This unity, according to Schaeffer, is not organizational, nor our mystical union with Him, it’s not our positional unity in Christ, not even a legal unity before Him.  But it’s a real, observable, practical unity that practices both God’s holiness and love.  Schaeffer rightly accentuates that this unity is never to be separated from His propositional truth (scripture) for it is these propositions that believers are called to live out before the world.

Reflections From EZRA 2-6: THE RETURN HOME TO JERUSALEM

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God’s promise of Exile and return of Israel to the land of their fathers was complete Ezra 2:1-2:

Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah.

The names recorded of the sons of Israel who returned to the land is worthy of note.  It first reminds us of individuals who actually experienced this discipline from the LORD and consequent return by His mercies.  These individuals did not go unnoticed by God (as we so often think when hard times befall us), but were personally accounted for (2:2-64).  Still yet, something amazing took place—the LORD God remembered the promise given to His people that they would be in captivity for 70 years.

When scripture talks about God remembering it does not mean that He had an actual moment of “forgetfulness”, He’s the all-knowing, all-wise, self-existent God.  Instead it considers how God in time works out the wise counsel of His will toward his covenant children that have been given His assured promise.  In a cold and ruthless world, the tender mercies of God bring here great solace and fortitude to the lonely, broken and wearied heart.  You have not been forgotten.

Possessing the land God had given to Israel was not going to be realized without opposition.  The rebuilding of the temple is instructive for it points to the way a city and its inhabitants come to flourish—by worshipping the Creator and not the creature as ultimate.  And yet, obstacles had to be overcome the ground of which was a lie.  This lie fabricated came to king Artaxerxes ears by those who surrounded the land of Israel.

Through lies and intimidation (which is the field where spiritual warfare is fought) the work God commanded the people to engage was delayed.  Often lies and fear for our personal welfare go hand in glove.  These keep believers from trusting God’s purposes and plans, and that because the word of the creature seems more ominous (4:1-5; 6-24):

The delay refers to the decree of Cyrus that allowed the temple to be rebuilt (5:6-6:14), but ultimately it was God’s protection that emboldened Israel to continue the labor (5:5).  In fact, through the words of the prophets Haggai and Zachariah, God strengthened His people in spite of the threats.

Here I notice the following principles: God always keeps His promises; obedience to God is always costly; and God often uses His enemies to accomplish His purposes.  The apostle Paul notes the reason for why these accounts have been inscripturated in Romans 15:4:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

He who began a good work in us will complete until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is He who calls us to persevere to the end so that we may be ultimately delivered, saved.  So may we look to You, LORD, today for our strength in the midst of difficulties, and may we Your People run with perseverance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

(SDG)

 

 

 

WHAT’S SO “GOOD” ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY? Perspectives on the Work of Christ

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What’s so good about Good Friday?  This question deals with what Jesus of Nazareth accomplished over 2000 thousand years ago on Calvary’s bloody cross.  On that hill far away, the Son of righteousness fully satisfied God’s justice and love.  Since its inception, the Church has celebrated the grueling, horrific death of an innocent man who by virtue of his ontological status (His nature as the God/Man) secured rescue from God’s just white hot wrath toward rebels born of Adam.

But how can this be good?  One could argue, and many have, that this act was unjust, cruel, and an act of child abuse (i.e., the heavenly Father sent his one unique Son to die for those who hate God).  Who would ever treat their own sons and daughters in such a way by ordaining them to be brutally murdered by the Jews and the Romans on Calvary’s cross?

God did.  He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who makes covenant with His chosen ones and does nothing wrong.  He’s the God who sets the standards of what is true, beautiful and good.  He’s the God of creation who spoke the worlds into existence out of nothing, sustains its order, and is taking history into a glorious reality never before known or imagined.  To read the full article, click on What’s so good about Good Friday?

Available Now in Summary_”A HISTORY OF APOLOGETICS” by Avery Dulles

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Available now in summary form is A History of Apologetics by Avery Dulles who deftly provides a view into the great minds of Christendom’s past so that we may presently be more faithful to our generation with the real Gospel of Truth that alone rescues sinners from eternal peril.

There’s a treasure trove of wisdom the church has at its disposal that is too often neglected either through: ignorance (i.e., people don’t read Church History), or perhaps through spite (i.e., Protestants and Catholics refuse to appreciate one another’s contributions), even a lack of evangelistic urgency (i.e., Believers don’t really care to share their beliefs because of fear, indifference, etc.), perhaps because of an unbiblical view of the life of the mind as it informs our daily living (i.e., a Fideistic bent).  This book is one more aid to remedy the 21st century plague in the Church of anti-intellectualism.

Summary of Chapter 3: The Middle Ages_Part 2_THE TWELFTH CENTURY [Pp.81-85]

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            Peter Alphonsi (A.D. 1062-1110) [P.81] was a Spaniard converted Jew who became a Christian at age 44.  In his Dialogue with the Jew Moses, he ridicules the Talmud and mounts a rigorous attack against Islam.

Rupert of Deutz (A.D. 1075-1129) [P.81] writes in his Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, an apologetic that focuses primarily on the miracles of Scripture.

Peter the Venerable (A.D. 1094-1156) [Pp.81-82] is the most eminent 12th century apologist and the last great abbot of Cluny.  In his Against the Inveterate Obstinacy of the Jews, he aims at converting Jews by demonstrating that the divine Messiah, his humiliations, and his establishment of a spiritual kingdom are grounded in the Israelite prophets.  In his treatise A Book Against the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens, he addresses the Moslems through; reason, not hatred, by words, not force, not in hatred, but in love.   He appeals to them from the Koran and affirms that; their book commands them to look to the Christian Bible as divinely authoritative and it is this Bible which points to Jesus rather than Mohammed as the true teacher.  Hence, in following the Bible one is to reject Mohammed.

Peter of Blois (D. 1202) in his Against the Perfidy of the Jews, he warns Christians of the diabolical tactics by which the Jews evade the evidences.  He also used arguments from the Incarnation, virginal birth, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ in his apologetic.

Peter Abelard (A.D. 1079-1142) [Pp.82-84] gave considerable clout to reason in the area of religious conviction.  He maintained that human reason (unlike the Augustinians), making use of objectively accessible evidences, could achieve some kind of initial faith.  For Abelard, the “blind faith” of Abraham is an exceptional grace, and thus not normative for ordinary Christians.

In his A Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian, Abelard discusses the rational grounds for faith and highlights the moral superiority of Christianity, with its’ ethics of charity over every religion including Judaism.

In his Christian Theology, Abelard deals with the divine Logos doctrine, and tackles the Trinitarian implications of the Neo-Platonic doctrine of divine emanations.  Abelard’s enthusiasm to build bridges from Christian orthodoxy to alien religions and philosophies, coupled with his attempt to close the gaps between faith and reason, brought on opposition by Bernard of Clairvoux who distrusted dialectics.  This tension between Abelard and Clairvoux symbolize the struggle of every generation.

Richard of St. Victor (1155) [Pp.84-85] wrote a treatise On the Trinity where he combines the traditional insistence on external signs of revelation with a serious quest for necessary reasons.  He also justifies his initial faith by appealing to the extrinsic evidence of miracles.

Alan of Lillie (D. 1202) [p.85] convinced that Moslems could not be won over through arguments from the Scriptures, vied for using intrinsic arguments for the truth of various Christian doctrines.  In On the Catholic Faith against Heretics of His Time, Alan sought to demonstrate Christianity’s faith by using a few simple truth maxims.  In The Art of the Catholic Faith, Alan (supposedly authored) directs his arguments specifically against Moslem tenets.

THOMAS AQUINAS (A.D. 1225-74) [Pp.85-94]

Augustine’s spiritual theology was declining, while Aristotelian philosophy was coming to the forefront of popular thought.  For the first time since the Patristic era, Christians were being offered a scientific vision of the universe that depended not on the Bible.  Through the Spanish Arabic philosopher Averroes (A.D. 1126-98) the teachings of Aristotle became available and the penetration of Averroes precipitated a major spiritual crisis in the European universities.

Combating Aristotelianism could be realized by simply erecting Christian Aristotelianism.  Thomas wrote a series of philosophical commentaries on Aristotle.  On certain points he conceded with Aristotle.  However, Christian revelation had corrected and completed Aristotle’s deficiencies.

In his Summa Contra Gentiles, (either authored in 1258-1264 or 1270-1272), a work understood by many as addressing Christian missions and the university scholar.  This word has no equal in its field.  The aim of the Summa is to be an apologetical theology confronting the new challenge of the scientific Greco-Arabic worldview.  Among other things, the work deals with:  First Book: Chapters 1-9 deals with all things that make one a wise man in light of the supreme truth (first principles) from which all reality derives.

The theologian who contemplates reality in light of divine wisdom has the task of refuting errors in religious teaching, as well as making known the truth of the Catholic Faith and confuting her opponents.

He understands that if the scriptures are not taken to be authoritative, it is appropriate to argue from reason rather than authority.  This does not mean that Aquinas viewed reason as limitless, but he understood that the human mind could discover the divine.  For him, some truths of God are revealed in nature, whereas other truths can only be known through revelation (i.e., Trinity, Incarnation, Sacraments, resurrection).  Aquinas sees that the chief end of man is to find his felicity in the contemplation of God.

The following are some of His Apologetic Arguments: [Pp.91-92]

Miracles were a sign of being God’s messenger, which are stressed in the prophetic writings.  Aquinas defines a miracle strictly as a work that only God could perform.  Moreover, he argues from the impact of Christianity in the world as a proof of its veracity and he indicts Mohammed’s testimony as that which seduced people with carnal pleasures; it taught no sublime truths but those which are common to man; the Koran is mixed with fables and errors and those who trust Mohammed’s words believe lightly.

Augustine and Aquinas’ Differences: [P.92] His Summa Contra Gentiles is a masterpiece and is considered in the Middle Ages as a work comparable to Augustine’s City of God, of the Patristic era.  Thomas used Aristotelian philosophy, whereas Augustine used Neoplatonic philosophy.  Thomas argues from a metaphysical angle, whereas Augustine argues through interpreting history. Thomas uses dispassionate reasoning in his persuasion, whereas Augustine uses rhetoric as his persuasion.

Concluding Remarks:  In his Summa contra Gentiles towers above all previous apologetic works in its clarity, perfect coherence, balance, economy, and precision.  Aquinas like Augustine responded to the challenges hoisted against Christendom with the tools they had a developed.

Chapter 2 Summary: The Patristic Era_Part 7_AUGUSTINE AND HIS DISCIPLES [pp.59-71]

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Aurelius Augustine [pp.59-69]  (AD 354-430) is the first Western apologist to achieve true eminence as a theologian. He was able to place theology in a highly developed metaphysic of religious knowledge.  Of his many apologetic works, the following are:

On the Happy Life, where he notes that man has an insatiable desire for happiness and once the possibility of immortality is known, a drive towards eternal life obtains; An answer to Skeptics; Providence and The Problem of Evil; Of True Religion and On the Usefulness of Belief (AD 390-391); Confessions (AD 397-400).

Augustine’s view of Truth and Reason are the following: First, truth is absolute and above mans’ mind; second, if anything exists that is more excellent than wisdom, it is clearly God; third, to approach God with the mind demands a suitable moral disposition where there’s a: detachment from the senses, restraint of the passions, and an earnest longing for enlightenment.  The reason for the aforesaid is because for the mind to see God, it must be illuminated by Him (Mt.16).

For Augustine, “God is better known by what He is not” and God draws the soul not only through reason but also through authority.  When it comes to the knowledge of God, he held that one must believe before one seeks understanding.  He quotes (Is.7:9) asserting, “If you do not believe you shall not understand”.  His view of Socrates and Plato (Greek giants in philosophy) is that they would be Christians had they lived in his time because, according to Augustine, they were so close to Christ.

Augustine’s view of Apostolic succession; First, that belief in Christ is grounded on the unanimous authority of the Church which/because it is historically grounded all the way back to the Apostles.  Second, that the Bible was the Book of the Catholic Church and thus undermining the Church would weaken his confidence in the Gospel.  Third, that the Churches authority really influenced his belief.  Fourth, that both the size, antiquity, and unanimity of its teachers impacted his views.

Augustine’s Apologetic among other things focused on; The Resurrection, Differentiating between miracles and magic for the latter were seen as perpetual, rather than having ceased, the Virgin birth, the Ascension, Fulfilled prophecy, and the Expansion of the Catholic Church.  In his Manner of engagement with the opposition, Augustine was placid and urbane perhaps because of what great mercy God had toward him.

Augustin’s City of God is the most brilliant refutation of pagan religions up until his time.  It lays down a theology of history from the creation to the final restoration of all things found in Christ.

Paulus Orosius [p.69] was a pupil of Augustine who wrote Seven Books of the History Against the Pagans.  These writings are a history from the time of the flood to (AD 417).  It was intended to be a supplement to the City of God and climaxes at the birth of Christ.

Salvian [pp.69-70] was a monk from Lerins (AD 439-451) who wrote On the Present Judgment where he focuses on the disasters the various Roman provinces had suffered.  He contends that such disasters are evidence of God’s justice, not a case against it.  Moreover, he contends that the Romans of old were blessed because of their natural justice, but now are being punished for their immoral corruption.

Conclusion: [pp.70-71] these apologists were not only lively, but Christian apologists are eternally indebted to the Patristic Era of the Church for their boldness in seeking to relate the Biblical revelation to the areas of: the whole of human culture, philosophy, and history.  These are worthy to be read and emulated.

Chapter 2 Summary_The Patristic Era_Part 6_GREEK APOLOGISTS OF THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES [pp.51-59]

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The founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus (AD 205-270) and his disciple Porphyry (AD 234-301) were in part inspired by the example of Christian theologians, erected a systematic theology for pagans that was intellectually respectable.  Porphyry’s treatise Against the Christians, attacked through philosophical argumentation: the Historicity of the Bible, Doctrines of creation, Evil as illusory, the Resurrection, Miracles and Jesus’ Genealogy.

Eusebius of Caesarea, (263-339) was the Christian apologist who most effectively answered Porphyry.  Known greatly for being a Church historian, Eusebius is considered by some authorities as the greatest apologist of the ancient Church.  Eusebius has been accused of lacking originality, because he quotes a string of different authors to make a case whenever possible.  Nonetheless, his sheer volumes of excerpts possess a genuine unity of design and argument.  In His books, some of the following are what is covered: [pp.51-54]

In Preparation, he answers the principal objections of pagans as Porphyry who claim Christians are unfaithful to the Greek religious heritage.  In Proof, he absolves Christians from their Jewish accusers that say they have abandoned the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures.  In Proof of the Gospel, he argues from the NT for the surpassing moral stature of Jesus Christ, who in Greek philosophy has no equal.  Eusebius used the signs of the times greatly in his apologetic for the Christian faith.  Among the early apologists, concerning the aforementioned, he surpasses them all.

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 295-373) educated at the famous catechetical school, he grew up during the last and greatest persecution which ended in Egypt (AD 311).  His writings include: [pp.54-55]

Treatise Against the Pagans, where he reiterates the standard arguments against idolatry and polytheism.  He seems to be especially indebted to Clement and Athanagoras.  In The Incarnation of The Word still one of the most widely read pieces of patristic theology, he writes vibrantly and focuses on the positive and doctrinal aspects of the Word.  Unlike the vitriolic writing of Tertullian, his manner of writing is winsome and attractive.  Moreover, his writing is swift with prose, not bogged down with erudition, contra Origen and Eusebius.

In Cur Deus Homo; he deals with the problem of the incarnation.  Much like Anselm would approach the subject, Athanasius contends that it was necessary for God to satisfy his mercy and justice.  Moreover, in this work he points to fulfilled messianic prophecies to demonstrate Christ’s authenticity; he then refutes Hellenistic objections to the incarnation and finally he considers the meaning and effects of the Resurrection.  

Chrysostom [pp.56-57] was not a keen Jewish apologist. His manner is vitriolic and invective as seen in his:  Demonstration to Jews and Greeks that Christ is God (381-87) he demonstrates to the Greeks that Christ did what no mere man can do.  To the Jews he shows that Christ is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies.  Dulles holds that his Homilies against the Jews (AD 387) is an embarrassment to Christian apologetics seen through his unsympathetic accusations of the Jews as stubborn and blind, and demands their renunciation of their errors.

Cyril of Alexandria [p.57] wrote a treatise For the Holy Religion of the Christians against the Impious Julian (AD 435-440) adopts the position that no books apart from the Bible are necessary for a perfect formation in piety and letters.

Apollinaris of Laodicea [p.57] (AD 310-390) wrote a treatise On Truth where he argues against Porphyry.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus [pp.57-59]  (AD 393-485) was a great Antiochene theologian who composed The Cure of Pagan Maladies; or The Truth of the Gospels from Greek Philosophy.  He advances among other things the need to refute the notions that: Christians refuse reason and opt for blind faith; that the Biblical writers were ignorant and unpolished; that the Cult of martyrs is a senseless superstition; moreover, he uses quotes from pagan philosophers as a well as sacred ones in his argumentation and his apologetic work tends to depict the strengths and weaknesses of Greek apologetics in the patristic age.

Chapter 2 Summary: The Patristic Era_Part 2_THE ALEXANDRIAN’S OF THE THIRD CENTURY [Pgs. 31-38]

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We now turn to Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 214) who after much searching for the truth converted to Christianity and succeeded the Sicilian apologist Pantaenus, at the catechetical school in Alexandria (about 200 AD)  [Pp.31-34].  His Principal Works are The Protrepticus (Converter) the focus of which is an apologetic exhortation to conversion.  In its literary form, it resembles Aristotle’s Protrepticus and Cicero’s Hortensius. He also wrote The Paedogogus (Tutor) and The Stromata (Miscellanies).

In His arguments Clement resembles Justin Martyr’s and other 2nd century apologists.  The difference however is that they are more polished given his literacy of Greek mythology, philosophy, and mystery cults.  For him Greek music is lauded for its ability to strengthen and give peace to the soul.  Yet Christ is the minstrel who imparts harmony to the universe making music to God.

Clement contrasts the Greek mystery religions with their mythic stories of the gods, and idol worship as truly atheistic, but not Christianity.  And even though Greeks did receive light of the truth, Clement held that it’s incomparable with the revelation of the Old Testament and the New Testament ultimately exemplified in the Word (Logos).

His acumen is revealed in his work which is well ordered; combined both with variety and with symmetry.  Clement is a Christian Humanist who combines piety with the highest values of ancient culture.  And his body of work focused on Christ as the Incarnate Word who works in all men’s souls, so they can experience his true presence.

Another Alexandrian apologist is Origin (born about 184) who while still a boy, lost his father to martyrdom.  How that event shaped Origin, is for another time to reflect, but perhaps it did play a vital role in turning him into a man given to a life of study and one of the Church’s first expository preachers of Holy Scripture. [Pp.34-38]

His Major Work is Contra Celsum, where he defends core Christian doctrines like the Virgin Birth, Miracles, Deity of Christ, Reliability of Scripture, etc.

First, Celsus attacks the Virgin Birth account by affirming what so many in Jesus’ day held—that he was born of fornication.  Today, for many, this is not a big deal, but in that day it was a disgrace.  How could anyone claim to come from God if they were an illegitimate bastard child?

Second, Celsus held that the miracles of Jesus and his alleged wonders were performed through magic arts learned in Egypt.  Interestingly, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons (miracle) by Satan’s power, but Jesus put that notion to rest quickly.

Third, there’s a denial of the historicity of the Resurrection.  Celsus, like so many today, held that this account was nothing more than a fabricated lie.

Fourth, Celsus denied the Deity of Jesus.  Of the many reasons advanced, the clincher for him was the disciples’ disbelief and reaction to the crucifixion.  Their reaction “proved” Christ was not divine.  Added to these objections, Celsus held that “faith” was irrational because it could not be verifiably true in history; the Bible was not a reliable source of information but instead is full of legends and childish doctrines.  Moreover, the exclusive claims of Christianity left no room for pluralism and he thus saw it as intolerant.  And when it came to Christendom’s ethical teachings, Celsus was not impressed since these teachings are also found among other philosophers.

In Contra Celsum Origin responds to several charges:  First, biblical faith is not based on philosophical arguments but on the Spirit’s power (1 Cor.2:4) and even if Christians are not educated, it does not then follow that they despise wisdom; they only despise the wisdom which leads to destruction.

Second, in light of Jesus’ Character, it’s actually incredible to hold that he would have made up the story of the virgin birth.

Third, as far as Jesus’ miracles or those of the apostles, the power behind said phenomena was not fraudulent magic, which rather than bringing them wealth and fame earned them public shame martyrdom.

Fourth, the Bible’s historicity is selectively chosen by Celsus, for the Moses in whom he professes to believe, is far harder to prove historically than Jesus of Nazareth.

Fifth, Origin argued for Christ’s Deity by using messianic prophecies to show he was the Messiah along with his miracles, which allegedly was present in Origen’s contemporary Christianity.

Sixth, the Crucifixion and Resurrection accounts could not have been a fabrication for the disciples gave their lives to preaching the risen Lord.  Moreover, the resurrection was no fantasy, nor hallucinations, for these things happen not to sane people.

Seventh, regarding Ethics, just because similarities obtain among Greeks and Christians, does not mean that our Scriptures are not revelation.

 Final Thoughts: Contra Celsum ranks high as an apologetics classic as this letter reveals the first apologist who is very prepared for battle.  It is however very ad hominem. Nevertheless, it reveals how there’s nothing new under the sun.  Some of the objections raised against Christianity’s truth claims by Celsus have been repeated over and again throughout history.  It’s encouraging to know many stalwarts intellectually and spiritually have dealt with the same objections we encounter and gave us a model to consider for our day and era.