The 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.