From the very beginning of Christianity there have been those who have misunderstood our faith. After the apostles passed off the seen with the death of the John the Beloved the persecution of the church was just ramping up. By the beginning of the 2nd century Christianity was widely misunderstood and misrepresented in the public square, and the continued persecutions gave rise to Christian Apologists. An Apologist is not one who says “I’m Sorry” instead the word is taken from the Greek word apologia, meaning “a defense.” These Christians would publically stand and give a defense for the Christian faith!
The Necessity of Apologetics
The reason apologetics became necessary is because the Roman Government had a very difficult time understanding this new group of people calling themselves Christians. To them, Christians seems obstinate because they refused to burn a little incense to the Roman Emperor and proclaim him to be lord. Christians were accused of being atheists because they refused to celebrate the traditional ceremonies of the Romans which included worship. They were also accused of cannibalism from the Romans misinterpreting the communion service that speaks of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ. Lastly they were accused of incest likely because the early church called one another brother and sister and would participate in daily meals together they called “love feasts.” All of these things brought on a public relations nightmare that gave rise to men like Justin Martyr.
The Example of Justin Martyr
Justin was a young Roman boy who grew up in Samaria where he was being trained in philosophy. By the grace of God he was introduced to Christianity and became a believer in Christ. As an adult he moved to Rome and opened a private school in order to teach Christian doctrine. In A.D. 156, upon the martyrdom of Polycarp, the beloved pastor of Smyrna, Justin boldly writes a letter to the emperor Hadrian to give a defense of the Christian faith; we call that letter 1 Apology. In the letter Justin fully addresses the accusations made about Christians and gives a very detailed explanation of baptism, worship services and Christian doctrine. He is neither angry and argumentative, nor indirect and secretive. He explained that they did worship Jesus Christ and that they believed the Roman gods to be demons. Though he lived to stand for the Christian faith for another 11 years, a run-in with a cynic philosopher named Crescens led Justin to his eventual fate of earning his honorary last name.
The Application to the Modern Church
The title of this post is very deceiving. It indicates that a true apologist stands harshly for his faith without any thought to the hearer. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Justin clearly expounded the Christian faith using contemporary philosophy, intellectual rational as well as the Scriptures. He seemed chiefly concerned with building a bridge to the hearer with the hope of being able to convince them of the truth of Christ. Oh that we as Christians would have the same attitude toward our society.
I would love for you to share your thoughts and comments below: