Apologetics, History of

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The term apologetics is an almost exact transliteration of the adjective πολογητικóς used substantively. The root verb, πολογε[symbol omitted]οθαι, meaning to answer, to account for, to defend, or to justify, gives an indication of what apologetics has actually been and what one may expect it to be, no matter what the technical definition. In the large sense of giving an answer, accounting for, or defending, the Judeo-Christian tradition has a rich apologetic history reaching back to the very earliest records of God's intervention in human history.

Old Testament. To give an account of Yahweh's great deeds is the purpose of the Old Testament itself. As has been so often noted, the narration is not simply the detached recital of past acts, though the Old Testament is sometimes this, but rather the theologically interpreted account of Yahweh's activity in relation to His chosen people. Thus there is, in the broad sense of the term, an "accounting for" God's actions, or what might be described as an apologetic concern. To cite an instance, Yahweh's covenant relation with the Israelites is central to the OT experience. "I will be your God and you shall be my people" (Jer 7.23). This covenant bond literally founds the religious experience of Israel. [see covenant (in the bible)]. Obedience to the Mosaic law, loyalty to the covenant relationship, is always related to the history of Yahweh's choice of Israel. The apologetic element that one finds in most of the OT and especially in covenant history is precisely the attempt of the authors and of those who stood behind the tradition to render Yahweh's activity in history both comprehensible and credible. The activity and demands of Yahweh are not presented primarily for study but for acceptance. Thus when the Israelites find themselves in exile and their temple destroyed, the Deuteronomist explores various explanationsthe word of god as a promise to the Patriarchs, the Word considered in the covenant, which allows the possibility of a curse, the Word as prophetic and therefore giving hope for the future. In 2 Kings ch. 17 the Deuteronomist reflects mournfully on the exile, for he has not solved the problem of the exile except to affirm that the ways of Yahweh toward men are just. He is thus giving "an account of," or "answering for," or "justifying" Yahweh's activity in history, an activity that man is to embrace and accept in faith. In this type of event and in its portrayal by the Deuteronomist one sees an essential demand for faith.

New Testament. The historical evidence of the NT indicates that Jesus worked miracles and that His words and deeds led His disciples to believe that He was the Christ, the Son of God. Hardly anyone would deny that the tradition of the above occurrence was formed and written with some, in the large sense of the term, apologetic intent. Hence the very structure of the gospel may be considered to be apologetic in the sense that the thinking from within faith from which the Holy gospels emerged was again a thinking and a witnessing that directed itself to religious persuasion, to giving an account of God's activity in Christ (see witness, chrisian). Very clear indications of apologetic intent can be seen in Markprobably the least apologetic of the four Gospelswhich apparently intends to answer evident questions that would occur to early Christian readers. If Jesus performed so very many miracles, how is it that the Jews refused to believe in Him? If Jesus were the Son of God, could He not have saved Himself from the Crucifixion? To these questions Mark proposes the fact that people in general did accept Jesus, and in Jerusalem people listened gladly to Jesus. In fact, Mark narrates, it is this very success with the people that induced the leaders to arrest Jesus by stealth and have Him crucified very shortly after. And in ch. 8, 9, and 10 Mark gives the three prophecies of the Passion, death, and Resurrection in which Jesus affirmed the necessity of His suffering and dying. Thus the Passion and death did not come on Jesus by surprise but rather as part of His redemptive task.

This same general notion of apologetics in the NT is found in 1 Pt 3.15, where the writer asks that the believer be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, a procedure that is exemplified in the Lukan accounts of the very first preaching. In an analysis of this first preaching in Acts, one sees OT quotations used apologetically. An analysis of Acts on the basis of form criticism discloses a further apologetic intent in the very structure of the speeches and of the narrative material, e.g., the account of Cornelius. Thus an apologetic concern is deeply involved in the intention, the structure, and the contents of the NT.

Early Apologetics. The Greek apologists of the 2d century defended Christianity through four arguments. The first argument was from the moral effects of Christianity, especially from the exercise of Christian charity. Justin Martyr, writing about 150, pointed out how Christianity made men change from the practice of magic to the worship of the good God, changed a craving after wealth to a common possession of goods and a sharing of wealth with the poor and needy, altered hatred to charity, self-gratification to self-restraint, selfishness to generosity. Second, the apologists argued from the predictions of both Christ and the Prophets. The third argument was the proof from antiquity. This argument emphasized the coherence and unity of the Old and New Testaments, for the prophetical books of the OT received their highest fulfillment in the NT. Thus, Christianity was not a new religion, one that had come on the scene only lately, but a religion that went back to Moses, who lived before the Greek poets and sages. The fourth argument, the one least used, was the proof from the miracles of Christ. Miracles were not widely used as apologetic proofs because at that time there were wandering magicians and pseudo-Christs, who seemed able to perform wonders, apparently through demonic assistance.

The high point of 2d-and 3d-century apologetics was probably reached by Origen (c. l85c. 254) in his Contra Celsum (246248). Origen used all the four arguments listed above. But he went on to point out that the greatest miracle is that of the Resurrection, and he stressed the demonstration of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit to demonstrate and persuade one of the credibility of Scripture and its contents. In general, the highly gifted Origen employed a tremendous variety of arguments sufficient to answer the individual difficulties brought up by Celsus. Particular arguments for Christianity were virtually unlimited, especially in the hands of skillful dialecticians. Tertullian, for example, on occasion used the argument that Christian teachings were quite similar to those of pagan poets and philosophers. The effort was to relate the Christian demand for faith to the concrete man as be existed in a well-determined set of historical circumstances.

Medieval Period. In the Summa contra gentiles Aquinas began with principles that he knew his opponents would acknowledge, the principles of Aristotelian philosophy. In the light of these mutually acknowledged principles Aquinas sought to answer objections to the faith. Aquinas further evolved the argument of the superiority of Christianity over another religion that would win its adherents by promising carnal delights, for instead of carnal delights Christianity offered only spiritual benefits and, indeed, suffering. Thus the enigmatic fact that Christianity existed at all was a proof, really, that miracles did take place and did, therefore, guarantee the truth of Christian revelation. On the other hand, a fully developed apologetic in the modern sense of the term did not really exist in the medieval period because people born into a Christian community assumed that faith was the normal status of man and was a communal possession. Thus the medievals did not grapple with the problem of the nonbeliever coming to the faith, for the medieval community was a social entity in which it was connatural to believe.

Reformation. The Reformation generated a polemic apologetics largely limited to an apologetic of the Church. Bellarmine, de Sales, and others explained the necessity of the Church in opposition to the reformers, who believed in Scripture but not in the external Church as it existed in the 16th century. The treatise on the Church that emerged at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century proceeded from the marks of the Church to a proof that the Roman Catholic Church was the true Church, and as the true Church had the right and the authority to judge controversies. The 16th century was the period when apologies abounded. Religious divisions and the antipathies aroused among the contenders turned the apologetic arguments into a form of attack and counterattack. The argument from authority remained basic. Scripture was a quarry from which theologians and apologists could hew quotations to use against each other. In general, because of the climate of controversy, polemic intruded into the area of theological understanding.

After the Reformation. descartes (15961650) greatly, though unintentionally and unknowingly, influenced apologetics. His scientific criterion of not accepting anything as true unless it is perceived to be evident by the knowing subject was transferred to theology. And Descartes's basic principle was that all nature is intelligible through a disciplined scientific method and the proper use of reason. True in itself, this principle was incorporated into a book, Forma verae religionis quaerendae et inveniendae (Naples 1662), written by Miguel de Elizalde. [Some writers find the beginning of the manual form of apologetics in Hugo Grotius (15831645) and his book De veritate religionis christianae, published in 1627.] The basic premise of the work was that Christian faith should be justified by a speculative, articulated, and antecedent knowledge of the fact of divine revelation. At this point a new factor enters Christian apologeticssome anterior certification for the future commitment and knowledge of faith. After de Elizalde, treatises on De vera religione multiplied and were dominated by the Cartesian mentality, viz, that there must be a clear, precise, and ascertainable reason for everything, as is so in mathematical procedure.

deism, which began with J. Toland in 1696, is largely a consequence of the use of Cartesian method in the sphere of the religious. The 18th-century Encyclopedists in France, the Aufklärung in Germany, and an atmosphere somewhat less acrimonious than that of Reformation days continued and developed an increasingly rationalistic apologetic.

In the 19th century, Christian apologetics was directed to the defense of the supernatural and the historical reliability of Scripture against those who denied the supernatural and held that both the Bible and tradition were unreliable sources of historical truth. When David F. Strauss (180874) said Scripture was predominantly myth, and Joseph Ernest renan (182392) sought to diminish the mysterious and supernatural element in Christianity, apologists directed their attention to showing that supernatural revelation was possible, suitable, necessary (if God destines man for a supernatural end), and actually took place. The same emphasis was placed on showing that the Gospels are true historical documents and thus are to be believed. In the mid-19th century the general form of apologetics as it would be known for the next 100 years became fairly well settled. The pattern appeared in G. perrone's Praelectiones theologicae (183542), a series that went through 30 editions. His tract De vera religione determined the tone, content, and method of nearly all Catholic apologetics for the next century. From Perrone's time on, apologetic treatises began with the possibility of revelation, the necessity of revelation, the criteria of revelation, and the existence of revelation in the OT, in Christ and in the Church.

In the latter half of the 19th century Christian apologetics centered about the historical reliability of the Gospels, especially their testimony to the Resurrection and divinity of Christ. The divinity of Christ was, at times, established from the OT. After verifying the authenticity and veracity of the canonical Gospels in the historicist sense, the divinity of Christ was attested by His preaching, His miracles, and His prophecies.

During exactly this same period John Henry new man (180190) was writing about the primacy of conscience and its first principle that the world is governed by a providential Creator. From providence and creation Newman proceeded to the fact that all nature manifests both the intention and design of God. From this Newman went to the principle of analogy, primarily to refute objections to the supernatural. The accumulation of probabilities and the use of the illative sense made Newman's apologetic different from the one common in his day. Because Newman was well aware of the depths of the human mind, and the tortuous route it follows to religious truth, Newman's writings treat the human mind with great reverence. Nonetheless, Newman continually proposed the perennial problems: the existence of God, the relation of God to contemporary man, the development of doctrine, the identification of the Church of his time with the apostolic Church.

M. blondel (18611949) based his immanentist apologetic on the theory that Christianity does not come exclusively from the outside (see immanence apologetics). Some few other apologists paralleled the apologetic of Newman, as, for example, Jean Guitton, who considered the divinity of Jesus and the Resurrection of Jesus in the light of the rationalist, Protestant, and Catholic approaches and asked which opinion best explains all the data.

Modern apologetics is in a state of flux and tends toward versatility of approach. Most Catholic apologists feel that the modern option is between belief or non-belief. Thus apologetics is tending to ask questions about the basic orientation involved in either position. Modern apologetics is also attempting to formulate an ontology of the principles of natural and supernatural revelation. Theologians such as Karl rahner have attempted to exploit the openness of man, since he is spirit, to all being. Because revelation is essentially relational, both terms in the relation are undergoing scrutiny, and apologetics is becoming more subjective to offset the overly objective and extrinsicist apologetics of the mid-20th century. Apologists are likewise tending to view Scripture in the light of the latest research and as religious witness and testimony. Modern apologetics is emphasizing that since man exists in the temporal order, the apologetic approach must be in categories and patterns taken from that order. Because man is open to all being, the transcendent God can perpetually and permanently give stability within a very variable and volatile temporal order.

Bibliography: l. maisonneuve, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1950) 1.2: 151180. a. michel, ibid., Tables générales 1: 196206. h. lais and w. lohff, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 1: 723731. j. h. crehan, A Catholic Dictionary of Theology, ed. h. f. davis et al. (London 1962) 1: 113122. r. aubert, Le Probléme de l'acte de foi (3d ed. Louvain 1958); "Le Caractére raisonnable de l'acte de foi," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 39 (1943) 2299. a. dulles, Apologetics and the Biblical Christ (Westminster, Md. 1963). c. donahue, "Roman Catholicism," in Patterns of Faith in America Today, ed. f. e. johnson (New York 1957). r. knox, In Soft Garments (2d ed. New York 1953). j. levie, Sous les yeux de l'incroyant (2d ed. Paris 1946). b. lindras, N.T. Apologetic (Philadelphia 1961). a. richardson, Christian Apologetics (London 1947; repr. 1960). h. bouillard et al., "Le Christ envoyé de Dieu," Bulletin du Comité des Études 35 (1961) 303456. j. m. leblond, "Le Chrétien devant l'athéism actuel," Études 231 (1954) 289304, condensed in Theology Digest 3 (1955) 139143. r. x. redmond, "How Should De Ecclesia Be Treated in Scientific Theology," Catholic Theological Society of America. Proceedings 17 (1962) 139160. f. taymans, "Le Miracle, signe du surnaturel," Nouvelle revue théologique 77 (1955) 225245, condensed in Theology Digest 5 (1957) 1823.

[p. j. cahill]

Contemporary Apologetics. Vatican Council II, reaping the fruits of a long theological renewal, has given (especially in its Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, ch. 12) a deep and rich understanding of revelation, its transmission, authentic interpretation, and acceptance in personal faith than any previous document of the magisterium. It thus has helped apologetics to discard certain one-sidedly rationalistic and individualistic models of the past and to ask the question of the credibility of revelation in all its dimensions.

Contemporary apologetics addresses itself primarily to the believer (or the believing community), reflecting on the reasons and motives that render faith intellectually honest, morally responsible, and existentially authentic. The believer, however, shares the insights and aspirations as well as the difficulties and anxieties of the men of today. Thus his reflection is at the same time an honest invitation to all men to seek and find the ground of their existence in that faith which he has responsibly embraced.

Since today there is no universally accepted philosophy (except where politically imposed), apologetics cannot take a philosophical system for granted but has to work out, in the light of faith and with a truly open and critical use of all available resources of reason, its own philosophical foundations.

Contemporary human beings, for all their (available) historical knowledge, are often skeptical and indifferent toward history (historical relativism). Thus apologetics has to awake man to his indebtedness to historic traditions and the peculiar nature and value of historical knowledge in order that he may realize the uniqueness of the historical revelation culminating in Jesus Christ. In this task a critical assimilation of contemporary hermeneutic philosophy, as for instance that of H. G. gadamer, could make a valuable contribution.

In the face of a new humanism preoccupied with the future of the human community in this world, apologetics has to show the relevance of Christianity for founding those ultimate values and hopes which alone can render all human decisions and endeavors meaningful. Thus the various theologies of hope and political theology are important elements in contemporary apologetics.

Parallel to and in reaction against the modern secularization process there are also signs of a new mystic quest, evident in such varied phenomena as interest in Oriental wisdom, drug mysticism, and the Pentecostal movement. Thus apologetics should not only make man aware of the "supernatural" implied in his everyday life (P. Berger), but also show how Christianity can fulfill his transcendent aspirations.

The "method of immanence," originally connected with the name of Maurice Blondel, has dominated recent apologetic reflection. Its most influential contemporary exponent has been Karl Rahner (Hearers of the Word ). According to the perspective, man is conceived as dynamically inclined toward the absolute horizon of being itself and the Christian message is presented as the ultimate word of God in Christ, demonstrating to man the de facto finality of all human tendency.

This existentialistically inspired transcendental Thomism has been criticized, however, from several points of view: that of a more traditional Thomism (E. L. Mas-call), of a radical and problematic program of de-Hellenizing Christianity (L. Dewart), of a political theology striving to overcome its alleged individualism (J. B. Metz), and in the name of a theology of "the self-authenticating glory of God's utterly free gift of love" (H. U. von Balthasar).

Bibliography: j. b. metz, "Apologetics," Sacramentum Mundi 1.6670. p. henrici, "II. Immanence Apologetics," Sacramentum Mundi 1.7072. h. u. von balthasar, Herrlichkeit, Eine Theologische Aesthetik I ff (Einsiedeln 1961); Love Alone (New York 1969). j. alfaro, h. brouillard, et al., "La théologie fondamentale à la recherche de son identité: Un carrefour," Gregorianum 50.34 (1969) 757776. g. baum, Faith and Doctrine: A Contemporary View (Paramus, N.J. 1969). p. berger, A Rumor of Angels (Garden City, N.Y. 1969). l. dewart, The Foundations of Belief (New York 1969). h. fries, Faith under Challenge (New York 1969). j. b. metz ed., "The Development of Fundamental Theology," Concilium 46 (New York 1969). k. rahner, Do You Believe in God? (Paramus, N.J. 1969); "Reflections on the Contemporary Intellectual Formation of Future Priests," Theological Investigations 6 (Baltimore 1969) 113138. j. schmitz, "Die Fundamentaltheologie im 20. Jahrhundert," Bilanz der Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert 2 (Freiburg 1969) 197245. a. dulles, A History of Apologetics (New York 1971). r. latourelle, Christ and the Church Signs of Salvation (New York 1972). b. lonergan, Method in Theology (New York 1972). e. l. mascall, The Openness of Being: Natural Theology Today (Philadelphia 1971).

[d. l. balas]