Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The Opening Act: the second century
There were 2 groups of theologians who emerged after the demise of the last of the apostles in the second century, and they brought about many changes in theChristian thinking about God and salvation. These 2 groups are the apostolic fathers and the apologists.
The apostolic fathers "sought to keep some semblance of order and unity in the church and began the fight against heresies such as Gnosticism, they also tended to present the Christian gospel as a message about morality." The influencing apostolic fathers were Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, including 2 extant anonymous works, The Didache and The Epistle of Barnabas.
The apologists "turned their faces towards the hostile world outside the church and attempted to explain the Christian worldview and lifestyle to sophisticated, powerful leaders of the Roman Empire in an intelligible and appealing way. In the process they prevented Chrisitianity from becoming just one more secretive mystery religion of the empire, carved out a niche for Christian thought quite distinct from Jewish theology and worship, and related Christian belief to the wider world of Greek philosophy." They include Justin Martyr, Athenagoras of Athens and Theophilus of Antioch.
We have much to thank for them. In the most crucial turn of the century, when there were no more apostles, they were there to explain the way to the believers when the way was new and when it was under attack by heresies; they were there to defend the faith to the outside world, responding intellectually and philosophically to educated and articulate Roman orators. The Christian faith and belief is serious business and not to be relegated to myths and superstitions. Just imagine how it would be like had they not been around. God definitely has a plan when he chose to have it all happen in that milieu of a time and place.
Picture by Timi az en vaok
Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology, Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform, (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP): 79