Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Ancient Apologetics and the Disinterest of the Modern Age
After getting a recommendation from… I don’t remember whom/which book, I picked up Apologetics in the Roman Empire to explore some of the early controversies with apologetics from the perspectives of Pagans, Jews, and Christians. The book is a collection of essays centered around these apologetic controversies. I was struck however, by the editors’ note on the disinterest of the modern age in these works as actual apologetics. After tracing the use of ancient apologetics from the earliest period through the Reformation and into our times, the editors note that these ancient works have fallen out of most people’s interest:
[T]he style of the ancient apologists has estranged them further from practical apologetic than their contents did in any previous century… The only modern scholars, therefore, to whom the [ancient] apologists [like Justin Martyr, Josephus, Tatian, and the like] mean anything are those who take a sympathetic interest in the culture and the interplay of religious traditions in the Roman Empire… (13, cited below)
Thus, according to the editors of this volume, the “only” reason that anyone would be interested in these works in the modern era is because they wish to explore the cultural understanding of the religious traditions in Ancient Rome.
That makes me quite sad, to be honest! As one who is deeply interested in the study of historical apologetics, it seems clear that much of what is discussed in this volume is actually of interest to modern apologists, those interested in church history, and many others. Of course the editors are perhaps merely speaking only of the interest which they have found for their subject, which speaks of the sorry state of how we modern apologists have abandoned our historic roots. Perhaps these words can serve as a rallying cry to raise us from our stupor of historical ignorance and realize the vast, untapped wealth of historical apologetics.
I have written to that end in a post in which I discuss the lost defenses of Christianity. Explore, take, and read!
The book itself has much appeal for those interested in historical apologetics. I’m about halfway through right now and have found it to be quite excellent.
Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I have written on how we may discover these enormous resources historical apologists have left behind for us. Take and read!
Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price, eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford, 1999).
I heartily suggest Emil Brunner’s Truth as Encounter, which provides a much-needed balance that Greek thought tends to ignore. You see, the Greeks preferred mind over heart. In contrast, the ancient Israelites had no conception of such a dichotomy. When Ps 119:32 says “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”, it means entire being by ‘heart’. See Jewish Encyclopedia: heart: “The seat of the emotional and intellectual life.” Two excerpts from Brunner help critique the Greek way of thinking, which we have inherited:
Might I suggest that a failure to focus enough on loving God with our heart, soul, and strength is part of the current antipathy toward apologetics? For more on the topic, I suggest Peter Enns’ 3-part series by Randy Hardman: On Being an Ex-Apologist. A sad summary of Hardman’s time as an apologist: “I didn’t know Him despite knowing all about Him.”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
Thanks J.W. for this review.
What a sad assessment that book made! I think another stream of interests I would like to explore more sometime (when I have the time) is the relationship of the early apologist to Judaism; in particular, Justin Martyr.