Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD by Sergio Tangari

1Considering Some Who Have Shaped the Church’s Thought  

The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7.  Too often Christians find themselves imitating the faith of those who actually do not speak the word of God to them in truth.  Instead, they listen to teachers who proclaim what their itching ears want to hear to their utter destruction.  One way to guard against that is to consider how believers through the centuries understood the Gospel, and treasured Christ as they lived out its implications.

There are two cautions, two extremes, I think are critical to consider if we are to love God with our minds and hearts.  First, we must guard against thinking that because something is old (pick a number) it’s irrelevant in the present and for our future.  Second, we must guard against thinking that because something is new it’s relevant for the present and future.  Both extremes are foolish, irrational, clothed in hubris and blind us from discovering objective truth so that we may live out its implications presently and in the days ahead.

The following summaries are provided to encourage, challenge, comfort and invigorate the follower of Christ to consider how in the last two millennia followers of Christ understood and lived out the implications of their faith.  It’s to consider how these believers spent their energies for the glory of God and the cause of the kingdom, and to see where their example is worthy to be emulated.

Some things will seem odd, some things odious, some things onerous, and some things endearing.  I trust in no way you will be bored.  These summaries are but a taste of their substance that I’ve attempted to capture so that you the reader will take up and read at the source.

(Soli Deo Gloria)

                                                           

 The Patristic & Medieval Period

Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans[1]

In his letter to the Romans, Ignatius addresses the issue of his death.  As a prisoner, Ignatius first encourages the Romans to pray not for his deliverance, but for his death.  Secondly, he desires a martyr’s death to prove the genuineness of his faith.  Third, martyrdom is to be via the wild beasts.  Fourth, Ignatius desires death to rid himself from his persecutors.  If the wild beasts don’t want him, he will entice them to rip him to shreds.  For his goal is to attain to Jesus.

Fifth, only by death could Ignatius attain to the true life.  He desires neither the pleasures of this world nor it’s kingdoms, but rather the pleasures of God and His kingdom.  Only through death can he attain to this true life.  Sixth, he exhorts the Romans to demonstrate their fidelity to Christ by imitating him.  Seventh, Ignatius affirms that what he has written to the Romans is in accordance with Gods will.  Hence, to prevent Ignatius from martyrdom is equivalent to the Romans hating him.  Finally, he encourages the Romans to pray for the Syrian church, who only have Jesus Christ as the overseer.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, then Ignatius was a fool.  But if Christ is risen from the dead according to eyewitness accounts (The Gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians 15, etc.) then Ignatius understood true treasure and was thus willing to lay down his life for the Master.

As a young man, in 1984 I attended a lecture where Richard Wurmbrand, the Lutheran pastor tortured for Christ, imprisoned in a communist prison for over 14 years, spoke of his experiences.  It was humbling for I was in the presence of one who loved Jesus in word and deed.  While not all believers are chosen by God to journey that road of suffering, all believers are called by Christ do die to self.  This is why Jesus made it clear that in order to follow him, we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.  The road is hard, for some more than others, but the rewards far outweigh the temporary hardships.  What say you friend?

[1] Ignatius, “Epistle to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, 73, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

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Reflections From 1 Corinthians 4: IS THEIR EVER A TIME TO JUDGE ANOTHER’S WORK IN THE GOSPEL? (Vvs.1-5)

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Paul continues his thought from chapter three and exhorts the believers to think biblically, truthfully, when they regard the apostle’s status:

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”

Like the Corinthians, many of us tend to label and decipher a person’s value based on their status in life.  To assist them in their view of the apostle, Paul says; “regard us as servants of Christ…stewards of God’s mysteries.”  Note the gravity and humility of this statement.

On the one hand, the gravity of being put in charge to steward, care for and appropriately handle the mysteries of God (i.e., to unfold the meaning of the incarnation and work of Christ on Calvary’s cross) as revealed to the apostle by Christ himself.

On the other hand, consider Paul’s humility recognizing that he’s Christ’s servant not a “superstar apostle” celebrity.  Contrary to the Corinthian blunder of comparing themselves among each other, Paul compares himself to no mere man, but recognizes his status before the risen Lord as a servant.  All who are in ministerial work are just that, servants and nothing more.

They are servants who have received mercy and God’s kindnesses.  That’s why any boasting that’s not Christ centered is truly in vain.  The Creator has given all things which the creature enjoys (i.e., salvation and gifts which accompany God’s people) freely, these are not earned.  Thus, to boast in that which you have not accomplished and posing as if you did is indeed delusional.

After describing his position as servant and steward, Paul accentuates that not just anyone can be a steward, only he who is “trustworthy” which implies that many are not and as a result, can’t be stewards (i.e., the Corinthians).  This is emphasized because the Corinthian’s seem to have questioned Paul’s legitimacy as an authority to heed.

Paul explains to these believers that their view of him and especially his apostleship is insignificant because he knows that God the Judge will have the last word on such matters and will rightly approve or disapprove of his work on the final day.  Do we realize the weight of this understanding?  Can we appreciate the profundity of this reality that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and be rewarded for our service and receive our praise from God?

Paul thus commands these believers to withhold their judgment because the day approaches when our works and motives fueling said works will be exposed by the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-wise God who perfectly and without bias judges.

We all long for praise, it seems, especially when we do something well because of our skill set.  This brings a measure of satisfaction, nevertheless, longing for the creatures praise is too short sighted, since they too only see our actions through the “key-hole” of life.  Paul is wisely pointing the Corinthians and us to look for God’s approval, praise and reward for its’ worth has an infinite texture to it that our creaturely praise can’t compare.

(SDG)

1 Corinthians Chapter 3: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BOAST IN GOD ALONE? (Vvs.9-23)

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After correcting the Corinthians on the erroneous bent to make much of men and by default little of God (Vvs.1-8), Paul gives the reason for why they are to boast in God for gospel fruit and not their favorite ministers:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Paul first accentuates that the players are the apostles (the builders) and the Corinthians (the building, the field, the tabernacle of God by the Spirit’s indwelling).  Both are needy, both comprise the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and both have differing tasks according to the wisdom and knowledge of God.

If these believers were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then Paul could not affirm that they are the building of God.  That is, the fact these believers are the temple of God points to the divinity of the Spirit who is God and who is also the author of the gospel message preached by Paul and the other ministers.

Paul continues to explain that this building’s foundation is Christ (the foundation which has been laid down by the apostle) and like a wise master builder was built through Paul because of the grace of God.  Building upon the foundation which is Christ requires great care (a metaphor for edifying and growing people on and in the gospel message).  Here’s where some obscurity arises.

When the work of ministry is performed in accordance to the gospel message, lasting fruit will be borne and its genuineness will be revealed by the All-wise God’s furnace of truth: determining what is acceptable to Him and what is not, purifying what is acceptable and destroying what is not (vv.10-15).  Reward and the loss thereof are at stake here for the workers on God’s field/house, not salvation (as I understand it).  Paul now turns his focus off the workers and onto God’s building, His temple and exclaims to the Corinthians:

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.  18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”

The apostle Paul pricks the Corinthians pride (their “altar of knowledge”) and finds it desperately wanting.  Their boasting in men reveals the ineptness of their capacity to judge righteously (something Jesus commanded his followers to enact) that they are in fact “God’s temple” by the Spirit’s indwelling.  Now Paul warns the perpetrator that “to destroy God’s temple”, will result in their own destruction.  How is God’s temple destroyed in the context?

It’s not destroyed by food, drink, illicit sex or a host of other sins.  Contextually, what destroys God’s temple (His people, His church) is pride revealed through their boasting in the creature (e.g., Paul, Cephas, Apollos, etc.) instead of the Creator (i.e., the source of all the good gifts they enjoy and derive tremendous benefit from).  When we make much of the creature, we tend to make little of the Creator and when this occurs, deception is occurring, demonic activity is raging and we are the tools being used.

Remember that the comparison between this world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom in the cross of Christ is made so that those who fancy themselves to be clever will humble themselves to accept the foolishness of the cross.  Paul’s warning the Corinthians who claim to know God, that if they are operating under the world’s wisdom (see chapter 1-2) then they can’t belong to Christ.  And if they in fact do belong to Christ, then their boasting is not based on God’s wisdom and knowledge, a knowledge that is simple yet profound, easily understood yet incapable of being fully grasped.

So Paul concludes this thought by commanding the Corinthians never to boast in men because they belong to God who is their greatest treasure, supreme good and delight.  To boast in the creature is an act in futility (this is not addressing the command elsewhere to give honor to whom honor is due) because we are finite, needy and utterly dependent on God who is infinite, self-existent and kind to us through the foolishness of the cross of Christ.

To boast in God alone then means to make much of God, and little of man.  It means that our praise is properly placed according to the worth of our object.  It means that we are rightly appraising what is true, beautiful and good.  It means here that we recognize that any gospel fruit is sourced in God alone, never in the minister.

(SDG)

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.

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.