Justin’s First Apology, ch 4-5

It’s interesting to read Justin’s defense.  He was living in a pre-modern world, where a metaphysical argument carried as much weight as an argument of empirical evidence.  He can glide between judicial logic and theories about demons in one breath, and not be dismissed as a ‘fanatic’ because of it.  Yet when I think about what’s at stake for him, it causes a certain amount of introspection on my part.  Justin’s words are bold and uncompromising in his loyalty to Jesus.  He faced the sentence of death yet loudly proclaimed his faith.  I face a little bit of name calling, and sometimes shrink away from praying out loud or admitting to my place in the church. 

I still ask thequestion….what can Justin say to us from the mists of history?   -R.


Chapter IV.-Christians Unjustly Condemned for Their Mere Name.

The labels we have in society don’t really define us, unless that label is describing some sort of behavior that’s unlawful or detrimental to society as a whole.  Yet the name, or label, we go by is that of a good, law-abiding Man, which should then, by implication, make us good, law-abiding people.

But we’re not asking you to acquit us based on a name.  Our life and behavior in society should be the basis of any judgment of us.  If we engage in criminal activity, it doesn’t matter what name we go by, we deserve punishment.  To convict us solely on the basis of a name is inconceivable, yet that’s the only evidence you use against us. Unlike any other person accused of a crime, you dole out punishment on us as soon as you hear the name; we don’t even get to be convicted in court first. How is it reasonable to be prejudiced against a group of people just because of the name they identify themselves with?  It’s more reasonable to prosecute those who are stirring up trouble against us just because we are known as Christians.

On the other hand, if someone recants, and denies that he’s associated with the name Christian, you acquit him saying you have no evidence against him.  Because of a name!  But the moment someone says he is a Christian, you say you have the evidence you need, and condemn him.  It’s ludicrous.

Please, I’m asking you to be reasonable.  You have to observe how a person acts, how they behave, what their history is to really know what kind of person they are.  Have you investigated the lives of those who bring accusations against us?  What kind of people are they?  Just because they are opposing Christianity they seem to have credibility with you, but how is that fair?  How is it right to condemn us simply because we don’t see things the same way you do?  Look down through history!  There are a lot of differing ideas about life and death and the gods, yet all those who wrote on these subjects are all called by the name ‘philosopher’.  They don’t all agree with each other.  Some you accept and some you reject, some are good philosophers and some are hacks, but you allow for their differing opinions.  In the field of entertainment you have a great deal of leniency. Some of the latest comedy writers even mock the gods and religion of Rome, but they’re winning awards and getting big salaries, they aren’t being thrown in prison or killed.  How is this inequity justified in your minds? 

Chapter V.-Christians Charged with Atheism.

To set the record straight, we actually acknowledge the gods of Rome, but we don’t see them as something to be worshiped.  We believe they are real, but part of an evil rebellion against the one true God of heaven.  We consider the gods to be representations of fallen angels, the force of evil that does all kinds of destructive work in the earth.  We think they really did manifest themselves to mankind. We think these encounters frightened people so badly they considered these demonic manifestations to be the gods.  Socrates saw it this way too, and tried to introduce these same concepts to the philosophy of his day, but was put to death for his efforts.  He was accused, like we have been, of being an atheist and of introducing new religions.  We believe the same evil forces that stopped him from bringing the truth to light are working against us, the Christians, now.

God was trying to reach the Greeks through Socrates.  He was trying to speak through him, to reveal His Word through him.  But God’s loudest word to set the record straight came from among the people you call Barbarians.  The Word, Reason Himself, took shape and came to earth as a man, whom we call Jesus Christ.  Because of what we’ve learned from Him, we not only deny that the gods of Rome are really gods, but we believe that they are a force of evil in the world today. We substantiate our claims based on the contrast between the goodness of Jesus and the depravity of the Roman gods.

3 responses to “Justin’s First Apology, ch 4-5”

  1. Wow! How intriguing! It’s an interesting thought – whether or not Socrates was acting on God’s behalf. Justin is certainly a man more qualified than myself to look on Socrates’ actions and words (as defined by Plato, naturally) and for him to find no qualm in him – at least to the degree that he notes “God was trying to reach the Greeks through Socrates” – which brings about the interesting thought of “will I see Socrates in heaven?”

    Such a proposition today almost sounds radical – a non-Christian and non-Jew in heaven, but the Bible itself does indicate many instances of God communicating with people who were at the time outside the reach of the faith.

    I think about Dante’s Inferno where in Hell there was this first purgatory sort of level where guys like Socrates were allowed to go. At the time I was upset to consider pagan people such as him receiving reprieves for merely being boisterous thinkers (of course, at the time I was more familiar with Greek culture than Socrates teachings) but now I’m confronted with Justin’s analysis of Socrates. I don’t know and I’m certainly not privy to God’s judgment of men, but it’s an inexorably intriguing comptemplation.

  2. I suppose it’s Justin’s position of acceptance, rather than rejection, of the philosophy of his day that informs his conviction about Socrates. Since he considered philosophy to be an ally of the gospel, instead of a substitute like many of his peers, I think he probably felt God was trying to speak through all the philosophers he agreed with.
    I’m not sure that Justin was hinting that Socrates was saved though. Later in his discourse we’ll find him making some pretty adamant and specific statements about how our faith is lived out, and I doubt that he ascribed that sort of lifestyle to Socrates. I think his statement carried more the sentiment that God, being sovereign, was trying to speak through Socrates to point the Greeks in the right direction…not that Socrates was a willing spokesman for God’s truth, but God’s truth was found in parts of his philosophy.
    That’s my take anyway.

  3. Indeed, I agree with you wholeheartedly on your sentiments about Socrates. I am much more prone – even upon my own limited knowledge of Socrates’ life – to be inclined that Socrates was merely a tool of God for some specific purpose rather than a “willing spokesman of God.”

    What I was trying to say, but perhaps failed to communicate effectively in the rush of my epiphany, was that I had already condemned the Socrates sort in my mind. But it is no doubt true that I am not privy to what God was really doing in his life, so who am I to say that I won’t find Socrates, Plato and (very slightly possibly) Confucius in heaven? Of course, I am disinclined to believe such things as their words and their actions were not mirrors of the things God has aspired for us to be, but neither were David or Solomon’s life.

    Of course, all I intend to say and divine from this analysis is simply: I don’t know who was and is saved, so I shouldn’t act like I do.

    As way of disclaimer: Naturally, even if I do find Kong Fu Zi (ol’ Confucius) and Plato up in heaven sipping lattes and digging on God’s greatness, I am still disinclined to dive into their precepts and ways of life – for why would settle for definitively fallen models and partial truth when I can rest my knowledge on the wholeness that Jesus presented?

    (I say this because Confucius and Plato both developed their own post-mortem spin-of sort of religions and I don’t want to confuse myself with any of that riff-raff.)

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