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Theophilus:  An Apology All Christians Can Use

Christians were attacked in the Second Century. And when I say attacked, I mean both physically and religiously. They were physically attacked by the Roman Empire when persecutions took the lives of many Christians. They were religiously attacked by those who did not accept Jesus as the Son of God and wrote against Christianity. As for persecutions, there was little to do but to hide, flee, or die. But Christians could respond to the religious attacks: they could defend their faith in writing.

Those Christians who did write in defense of Christianity are known as Apologists and their writings are known as Apologies. Used in this way, the word "apology" means "I am defending this point of view." So, a Christian Apologist is one who defends Christianity. You might be familiar with a popular Christian Apologist from the last century: C.S. Lewis. In the Second Century, one of the most popular Apologists was Theophilus.

Theophilus (died in the late 100s) was both an Apologist and a Bishop of Antioch. He wrote several Apologies, yet only one Apology exists today, titled "Against Autolycus." Apparently Autolycus wrote a letter to Theophilus in an attempt to prove Christianity wrong; we do not have that letter. What we do have is Theophilus’ response in three books. If you would like to read this response you can find it by typing in Theophilus Autolycus into Google and then following the link to the site of www.ccel.org. Now for a couple of quotes from Theophilus’ letter

The second sentence in his letter states: "Since, then, my friend, you have assailed me with empty words, boasting of your gods of wood and stone, hammered and cast, carved and graven, which neither see nor hear, for they are idols, and the works of men’s hands; and since, besides, you call me a Christian, as if this were a damning name to bear, I, for my part, avow that I am a Christian, and bear this name beloved of God, hoping to be serviceable to God."

Book One, Chapter Five states: "For as the soul in man is not seen, being invisible to men, but is perceived through the motion of the body, so God cannot indeed be seen by human eyes, but is beheld and perceived through His providence and works. For, in like manner, as any person, when he sees a ship on the sea rigged and in sail, and making for the harbor, will no doubt infer that there is a pilot in her who is steering her; so we must perceive that God is the governor [pilot] of the whole universe, though He be not visible to the eyes of the flesh, since He is incomprehensible. For if a man cannot look upon the sun, though it be a very small heavenly body, on account of its exceeding heat and power, how shall not a mortal man be much more unable to face the glory of God, which is unutterable? For as the pomegranate, with the rind containing it, has within it many cells and compartments which are separated by tissues, and has also many seeds dwelling in it, so the whole creation is contained by the spirit of God, and the containing spirit is along with the creation contained by the hand of God. As, therefore, the seed of the pomegranate, dwelling inside, cannot see what is outside the rind, itself being within; so neither can man, who along with the whole creation is enclosed by the hand of God, behold God. Then again, an earthly king is believed to exist, even though he be not seen by all; for he is recognized by his laws and ordinances, and authorities, and forces, and statues; and are you unwilling that God should be recognized by His works and mighty deeds?"

©2007 Mark Nickens

Questions/comments contact Mark at drnickens@triad.rr.com.

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