Justin’s First Apology, ch 6-8

There’s no doubt about it, the early church firmly believed in a day of judgment.  I’m finding that premise sprinkled all through Justin’s writings.  But it wasn’t just the early church.  Justin will point to Plato’s theology, and his views on a day of judgment in the afterlife.  While I certainly don’t side with those who are saying that the preaching of hell is the most effective way to reach the lost…I definitely can’t embrace the new wave of universalism that’s sweeping the emerging church (‘sweeping’ may be a bit strong of a term…I should say ‘the latest fascination’).

There is no way around the fact that the early church, and I would say even the ancient world, believed in a day of judgment.  What does that say to us today?

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Chapter VI.-Charge of Atheism Refuted.

When it comes to the Roman gods, we’ll admit it, we are atheists.  We don’t believe they are gods at all.  But we’re not atheists concerning the one true God, who is the Father of everything that’s right and true and good.  We’ve been taught to believe in Him through the Son who was sent from Him, and through the messengers who follow Him and are being made like Him.  These things have been taught to us by the Spirit, through oracles and illuminated teachings.  We are worshipers of this God, whom we believe to be the origin of all truth.  We have nothing to hide in this; we’ll share this knowledge with anyone who wants to hear it!

Chapter VII.-Each Christian Must Be Tried by His Own Life.

Now, we’ve heard  this scenario proposed:  “We’ve arrested some who claim to be Christians who turned out, as we investigated their lives, to be involved in criminal activity.  If Christians are such good folks why are we finding criminals in their midst?”

Listen, we have said again and again, investigate our lives.  If you find individuals among the large number of people you’ve been arresting that are guilty of criminal activity, put them in jail!  We aren’t asking that they be set free.  They’re criminals; they should be convicted as criminals.  But that’s the point, isn’t it?  As we’ve said, just because a person is labeled “philosopher” it doesn’t mean he really is one, or at least a good one.  There are those who may claim the title ‘Christian’ whose lives don’t match the teaching of our faith.  That’s why we are demanding that you investigate our lives, judge us on the basis of how we conduct ourselves, not on the mere basis of a name.  If a person is guilty of committing crimes, let him be punished for that, not for having the name Christian.  Being called a Christian is breaking no law that I’m aware of.

As for any counter demands of asking for punishment for those who have falsely accused us, we will require no such action.  It’s our belief that a hopeless, rotten life outside the knowledge of God is punishment enough.

Chapter VIII.-Christians Confess Their Faith in God.

This unwarranted prejudice has compelled me to write to you and set the record straight.  We have the option to deny that we are Christians in order to save our skins, but if you knew anything about our faith, you’d know that we strive to live in honesty.  In fact, our whole goal in life is to live in a way that characterizes the goodness and righteousness of God. We do this because we love Him.  That is the motive and the ethic that guides us.  This is what Christ instructed us to do in His teachings.

Plato taught that Rhadamanthus and Minos would judge those who lived selfishly and without concern for what’s right.  We believe the same thing; it’s just that we believe the true judge of all mankind will be Christ.  In fact, we believe the consequences of rejecting God’s way will be eternal ones, unlike Plato who thought a thousand years would be the limit of suffering for those judged as wicked.  We do believe there is a judgment day coming.You may pass this off as nonsense, that’s your right.  It’s what we believe. If it’s not hurting anyone else, how is it any of your business what we believe in?

3 comments

  1. wow…keep them coming. This is great stuff! We thought that the questioning of these issues is something new…but really it’s been around for a while, otherwise Justin wouldn’t have had to make any of these cases.

  2. Too true, Phillip!
    One thing we know…after 2,000 years of church history, we still don’t have everything figured out…and very little has changed in our quest to understand. We still puzzle through the same concepts and wrestle with human logic vs divine impetus.
    Glad your liking the paraphrase!

  3. On Universalism: One of the pastors at the church here in Hong Kong noted a few Sundays ago how the modern church has changed God into a God of grace – or even more so, a god of Grace. Though grace is a powerful and wonderful aspect of God, it is certainly not his only aspect. He is a terribly just God, or otherwise he would not have needed to die to forgive us. He is a God who delivers vengeance as well as one who gives forgiveness. He is equally frightening and beautiful.

    Also, there is absolutely no indication in what Jesus says that indicates he really meant: “By the way, you don’t really have to follow me, everyone gets a free heaven ticket anyway. So if Buddha floats your boat, it’s fine by me. After all, all gates and paths lead to heaven… Oh, and all the Hell stuff was kind of joke, sorry…”

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