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.

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Summary of Chapter 4: FROM THE SIXTEENTH THROUGH THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES_Part 1

imagesThe sixteenth century saw primarily religious controversies within Christendom.  Protestants and Catholic controversies were over the Mass, indulgences, purgatory, the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.  The primary apologetical issue was the credibility of the Faith.

The seventeenth century saw much skepticism and religious indifferentism largely due to the Christian disunity.  The main apologetic focus (for Protestant and Catholic) was to show Christianity’s importance and relevance.

The eighteenth century manifested blatant attacks contra Christianity due to the Enlightenment’s appeal to the sciences in history to prove their case.  Hence, Christian’s apologetic focused on scientific historical evidences and also on the role of metaphysics in the debates.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS [Pp.113-116]

Martin Luther (A.D. 1483-1546) constructed no formal system of apologetics, although polemicized with the Jews.  Saw reason in two spheres.  The first sphere: reason is a a proper guide when used properly to sharpen man’s natural prudence and might even lead to a sort of civil righteousness.  In the second sphere: reason is incompetent and arrogant when concerned with divine things, it’s “the devils whore”.  Luther understood that reason prior to faith can only be used to raise objections and engender doubts.  But if it was submitted to faith, then reason was a useful handmaid to faith.  For Luther, the problem of faith and reason was not epistemological (i.e. how we know what we know), but rather soteriological (i.e., how one can be saved and know it).

Philipp Melanchthon (A.D. 1497-1560) was Martin Luther’s Systematizer.  In his Loci communes (A.D. 1521) he adopted a negative view of the autonomous use of reason and philosophy.  But philosophy was not only a great servant of the faith; it is also a propaedeutic device (I.e., preliminary instruction) for leading men to the gospel.

John Calvin (A.D. 1509-64) was the most systematic of the sixteenth century reformers.  In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (completed definitively, A.D. 1559), he saw several things:  First, by contemplating creation, man could arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence, wisdom, life, power, etc.  But man’s inherited depravity, unless aided by positive divine revelation, leads him only into idolatry.  Second, the witness of the Spirit is the primary and sufficient reason for admitting the origin of Scripture.

THE COUNTER REFORMATION AND BAROQUE SCHOLASTICISM [Pp.116-120]

Whereas those responding to Luther were mainly in Germany and the Low countries, Catholic apologetics in a more traditional style continued to be in Italy and Spain.

Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola (D. 1533) in the footsteps of his uncle Giovanni inveighed the philosophical errors of the Epicurean Aristotelians.

St. Robert Bellarmine (A.D. 1542-1621) was an Italian Jesuit and the greatest Systematizer of Catholic polemics against the Protestants. He wrote Disputations Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith against the Heretics of this Age.

Cardinal Caesar Baronius wrote Ecclesiatical Annals, intended to offset the propagandistic of the Lutheran account of Church history.

Francisco Suarez s.j. (D. 1617) wrote on the motives of credibility, putting primary emphasis on the inner qualities of Christian doctrine, its purity, and its efficacy in leading men to a higher moral life.

FRANCE BEFORE 1650 [Pp.120-123]

The chief apologetical questions focused on the dangers and values of doubt, tolerance, and religious indifference.

Philip du Plessis-Mornay (A.D. 1549-1623) was the leading Protestant apologist and Hugenot of the sixteenth century.  In his treatise On the Truth of the Christian Religion, he specifically emphasizes as method; one must find common ground by arguing from principles that are accepted by your adversary.

Moise Amyrut a Hugenot author, wrote A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which Accounts All Indifferent (A.D. 1631).

Catholic apologetics after Montaigne combines skepticism and fideism to pave the way for faith by exposing the feebleness of reason.

J.F. Senault in his L’ Homme criminel (1644) grounds his apologetic from an anthropological stance and prepares the way for Pascal’s existential logic of the heart.

FRANCE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY [Pp.123-133]

Blaise Pascal (A.D. 1623-62) after making breakthrough discoveries in mathematics and physics, he became convinced that the certainties of faith are unattainable, except to the heart that loves.  In his Pensées he covers many issues.  First, the psychological fabric of man mingled in a paradox of our pride and feebleness.  Second, he makes no effort to ground the faith metaphysically.

He thought even if one can prove God’s existence, all these arguments at best leads one to deism.  He instead proved the existence of God by referring to man’s unhappiness until he finds happiness in God (a la Augustine).

Third, Pascal makes an inventory of the various philosophies and religions, profoundly analyzes the relationships between faith and reason, and as Augustine, he finds a unity of the two in diversity.

Fourth, his biblical apologetic is profoundly Christocentric, arguing from miracles and prophecies.  For Pascal prophecies are the greatest proofs of Jesus Christ.  He also demonstrates a keen understanding of the human heart and a deep Christian spirituality in his apologetic.  His apologetic work outshines most in helping unbelievers come to the faith.

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (A.D. 1607-1704) in his Discourse on Universal History, he relies heavily on historical apologetics, specifically using prophecy.  He uses a more questionable approach were the desolation of the Jews is an apologetic strategy. He also impugns Protestants for their lack of unity and stability in his A History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688) and concludes that Catholicism’s constancy in doctrine, is never contradictory, and thus built on the rock.

Pierre Daniel Huet (A.D. 1639-1721) was an erudite man who became Bishop of Avranches.  He wrote several philosophical works on faith and reason.  His major apologetical work,  A Demonstration of the Gospel to his Highness, the Dauphin.  He viewed that all the Biblical books were written at the times to which they are attributed to their commonly supposed authors.

Jacques Abbadie (A.D. 1654-1727) was a Hugenot pastor who wrote Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion, where he demonstrates extensively God’s existence, the necessity of religion, the truth of the Jewish religion, and the truth of the Christian religion.  He displays a defiant attitude toward all those who oppose Christianity in his Treatise on the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, especially towards Mohammedanism.

Summary of Chapter 3:  THE MIDDLE AGES Part 1_[PP.72-111]

 

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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.

Summaries__CHAPTER 2: THE PATRISTIC ERA [Pgs.23-71]

images The Patristic (Latin—Father) era of the Church historically describes the times and writings of the “Church Fathers”.  During this time we see the end of the Apostolic age (i.e., Christ’s apostles) and one where their first disciples make a mark on their generation.  Dulles points out that the main apologetic focus during this era tackled both the political and religious venues.

APOLOGISTS OF THE SECOND CENTURY [pp.24-31]

 First, there was the Preaching of Peter, an apocryphal fragment that exalts Biblical monotheism and ridicules idolatry.  This fragment differentiates between Jesus’ miracles and magic because Christians didn’t want their faith confused with pagan religions. [pp. 24-25]

Second, we have Aristedes, who was the most important apologist before Justin Martyr.  In his Apology addressed to the Emperor Hadrian (125 AD), Aristedes focuses on five groups of humanity in a sort of comparative religion excursion, these are; Barbarians, Greeks, Egyptians, Jews, and Christians.  When coming to Christians, he asserts that they surpass all the above because of their worship of the one true God, and their moral pure conduct.  This is a powerful apology for its brevity and cogency. [P.25]

Third, we have Justin Martyr [pp.25-27] who wrote several apologies. In his First Apology, Justin addresses the Emperor Antoninus Pius and Lucius Commodus and argues that Christians should not be condemned based solely on their name.  However, if they deserve condemnation for wrong acts, so be it.  In his Second Apology, much like in the first apology, Justin seeks to defend his brethren from unjust condemnations and in some parts he alludes to pagan philosophies that achieved similar insights Christians believe because of divine revelation.

In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he attempts to show that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament, that the New Covenant has abrogated the Old Covenant and that only Christians are in a position to properly interpret the Hebrew text, not the Jews.

The value of his writings consists of his sincere character, his frank and open esteem of pagan philosophers, and his respect for Jewish Theologians.

Fourth, there’s Tatian a disciple of Justin Martyr [p.27] who wrote a bitter polemic against the Greeks deploring: their immoral Olympian gods; the absurdities of their myths; the indecency of their public religious festivals; and the vices and contradictions of the philosophers.  Then, he advances the superiority of Christianity in his search for truth through the prophetic writings which superior to those of their philosophers.  He would take Moses’ writings over Homer’s texts any day.

Fifth, there’s Athenagoras of Athens [pp.27-28] who Johannes Quasten calls ‘unquestionably the most eloquent of the early Christian apologists’.  In his Embassy for the Christian, he pleads with the Emperors Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Aurelius (176-180) for civil toleration of Christians.  He demonstrates that the charges against Christians (E.g., atheism, cannibalism and promiscuity) were misguided.  He also produced an apologetic work On the Resurrection of the Dead.

Sixth, there’s Theophilus the Syrian Bishop of Antioch is impressed with Moses’ wisdom and of the creation account of Genesis as the only reliable guide to the origins of the universe.  For Theophilus, God is manifest to the soul who is open to the Spirit’s light, but God is hidden to the man who loves darkness. [P.28]

Seventh, in a Letter to Diognetus, whose author is unknown, is a text considered by many critics to be the pearl of early Christian apologetics.  The letter’s aim is: respond to what sort of cult Christianity is, to answer why Christians love each other so much, to answer why Christianity came about so late in the world’s history.  The letter reveals that the author was a brilliant rhetorician and that early Christendom was serious [pp.28-29]

There are however several Weaknesses of the Apologists [pp.30-31].  The following examples: they demonstrated certain excesses in exegesis; they exaggerated the Bible’s antiquity; they lacked any consistent view of classical literature’s value; unfortunately they too rapidly rejected Judaism (although at times it is warranted).  Moreover, they make too little of the Character of Jesus in their apologetic, they were often unclear between the relationship of reason and revelation.  Given that the church emerged from the catacombs, what the apologists did cover is to be lauded and their strength is worthy to be emulated.