Thursday, October 4, 2007

Learning from Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr is the most famous of second-century apologists, writing spirited letters defending the faith. He debated many philosophers and probably died after one, soundly defeated in a dispute, turned Justin in to the Roman authorities.

Justin Martyr was monumental in helping explain Christianity to unbelievers in the 2nd century Roman Empire. Misunderstandings were clarified, practices accounted for, beliefs made clear. His courage and stout commitment were inspiring.

What can we learn from these early defenders of the faith? Here are some possibilities:

  • We must learn to speak Latin for debating and study Greek philosophers. Justin was highly skilled in both and we should return to his disciplines.
  • Debate must be taken seriously. Surely Justin was called, whereas I feel no similar call to debate, apologetics or martyrdom.
  • There is no need to defend the faith today. Justin did a superb job and we’ll send people to his writings to get them straightened out.
  • There is no need to defend the faith today. People no longer accept logical explanations such as Justin used in his debates. They are into feelings, not rationality today. Apologetics is dead, or dying.

What do you think?

Justin’s genius was in defending Christianity using well-known philosophical terms. He showed the rationality of the new belief, and why there was no need to fear it as a corrupting factor in society. He used the terminology and understanding of his day to make Christianity understood.

Can we do the same in our culture? When some media groups compare Christians to terrorist groups, when some politicians label committed Christians as dangerous, we must explain and defend as Justin did – in understandable language.

We won’t debate in Latin or write about Greek philosophies. But we can use many platforms – from the internet to newspaper letters – to explain the basis of our faith in clear terms. If you’re a blogger, blog with zest to reveal the grace of Jesus. If you’re a musician, write songs that will witness to God’s mercy and power. An artist can reveal eternity with a pencil and brush. And a friend, over coffee, can make known the mysteries of the universe.

Our duty, like Justin’s, is to witness to God in ways that others can understand.

The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.

Acts 22:14-15

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