Monday, July 02, 2007

Apologetic Mission in Asian Context (2)

Apologetic Mission in the Patristic Period

In order to understand the Apologetic mission one must turn to the works of the apologists in the early centuries. The apologists had played a great role for the expansion of Christianity. To defend Christianity from the various attacks they developed the Christian thoughts and arguments that became influential and informative to the non-Christians. The apologetic mission can be understood as the defense of the Christian faith both from the internal and external threats. The internal threats had to do with ideological attacks and the external threats have to do mostly with persecution and moral accusation against Christianity. The most prominent of the apologists were Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus of Lyons Clement of Alexandria and Origen.2 Their defense of the church convinced the pagans and the emperors that Christianity was not a threat to the empire, but a catalyst for the wellbeing of the empire because Christians were not like others but had virtuous lives. Some of them, like Origen, tried to express Christianity in pagan philosophical terms, making Christian thoughts comprehensible to the pagans, and leaving it open for the later theological
development. It is said:
Many of the later debates continued to follow lines of reasoning first articulated by Irenaeus, Justin, Clement, Origen and others. If Origen was correct, that the apostles did not say all that was to be said regarding Christian truth" in order to leave room for later generations to bring their own resources to the task, then the apologists were as much engaged in a missionary task as the original apostles.
The works of the apologists may be exclusive or inclusive, but they were contributing to the growth of the church. By the end of the apostolic age Christians were still the minority who were the objects of persecution. The rapid growth of the Christianity from an unrecognized stage to the stage of imperial religion, however, took place during the patristic period. The work of the apologists, therefore, was an effective mission model for the spread of Christianity.

No comments: