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 3_THE LATIN APOLOGISTS OF THE THIRD CENTURY [pp.38-45]

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After considering some of our Eastern Apologetic Fathers, a look at some of the Latin apologists reveal men who were very practical most likely because most of them were converted Lawyers.  Among them was Marcus Minicius Felix [p.39-40] who was well versed in classical philosophy, letters and expresses himself in a pleasant Ciceronian manner.  There are more prominent ones, which we will consider.

Perhaps the most famous of these men is Tertullian a prominent speaker for the Carthaginian Church at the beginning of the 2nd century.  He was converted about (AD 193) and wrote profusely in defense of Catholicism until his lapse into Montanism (AD 207).  He was a skilled lawyer in the practice of the Roman courts.  [Pp.40-43]

The Apology (AD 197) is perhaps his finest work where he employs his juridical skills to defend Christianity raising questions like: “Why are Christians exclusively convicted for their name without a trial?”  In it he also notes how absurd charges brought against Christians of infanticide, sexual promiscuity, and atheism, issues of which he refutes with wit and sarcasm.  After refuting the charges that Christians are evil, he proceeds to demonstrate their goodness.

This book is the most powerful and moving of its kind, it throbs with a fierce love of truth and virtue, it’s filled with intensely passionate and searing argumentation that’s biting and clearly this African raised the Roman court to new heights of eloquence.

In his work Prescription of Heretics reveals his forensic talents, arguing that Christ gave over His revelation to the Church so that it may be taught by its authorized spokesmen.   For Tertullian getting at the truth equaled being at a Church that could claim to have continuity with the Apostles.  Heretics are not entitled to appeal to Scripture, because those were given to the Church.  This shows that he was a Papist whose hermeneutics were exclusive.

Concerning the issue of Faith and Reason he viewed the latter as foe not a friend because he wanted to liberate Christianity of the straightjacket of all metaphysical systems whenever God’s revelation was in danger of being trumped by human speculation.

This stalwart of the Faith is to be highly commended for his faithfulness to his convictions and the Church.  Agree or disagree with his ecclesiology, Tertullian is a serious thinker worthy to be read.

Cyprian of Carthage was its Bishop who wrote several works: [pp.43-45]  On the Vanity of Idols (247) where he seeks to apologetically demonstrate that idols are not divine, and that there is only one God; On the Unity of the Catholic Church (251) which is pastoral in its tone and directed against schism, not unbelief.  Here he mentions the moral miracle of the Church’s universality, it’s inner cohesion and marvelous fecundity.  In his Testimonies are three books which best typify the literature of the early Church.

The Writers of the 3rd Century were exceptional, energetic and talented.  Their focus and genius was on the practical rather than on the speculative aspects of apologetics.  This again is instructive for too often the apologetics being practiced don’t aim at winning the affections, but purely the intellect.  To make Disciples of Christ we are called to do both [P.45].