The Old Apologetic In Theology -- By: Jesse Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 082:325 (Jan 1925)
Article: The Old Apologetic In Theology
Author: Jesse Johnson


The Old Apologetic In Theology

Jesse Johnson

In this article the word apologetic is used to denote not defense only, but construction and defense. The sub-title of the late Professor Bruce’s book on Apologetics, Christianity Defensively Stated, will express the idea briefly. A good theologian is the best apologist. He builds, building is his chief interest; but he tries to build so that the structure will be impregnable, and look so to both friend and foe. The apologetic which we mean is not apologies for particular doctrines that may be under attack now and then, nor even a general defense all along the line, but the steady attempt made by the mind of the Church to present Christian fact and truth as a system, with inwrought defense. And the old apologetic will mean that which seeks to construct, ever more perfectly, the old historic faith of the Bible, and to defend it against attack possible and actual.

Paul showed the way. In the Epistle to the Romans he is primarily a builder, but he is all the while looking right and left for objectors. He teaches that Jews as well as Gentiles are sinners and need a Savior. But some Jew will object, “Then there is no advantage in being a Jew.” Paul answers that (3:1). To his teaching that God’s righteousness shines more clearly on the background of our sin Paul had heard the objection that God should not punish our sin if it enhances His glory, and he answers (3:5–6). The same teaching is slandered by some who draw a false inference from it like this, “If my lie makes God’s truthfulness shine more gloriously, I ought to lie,” and he answers that (3:8). After a positive statement of the great thesis of salvation in Christ by grace through faith, two chapters (6 and 7) are devoted to the careful consideration of difficulties. Some of these were probably doubts and cavils which the Apostle had met in his teaching, and some were questions which, from his knowledge of himself and other

men, he knew would arise in the minds of alert and thoughtful readers.

Athanasius followed the same method. The chief aim of his book De Incarnatione Verbi Dei is to set forth the doctrine of the Incarnation as a positive account of a great thing that had actually taken place. But he is at pains also to show that the Incarnation, being fact and truth, is unassailable from any side. “One might ask,” he says, why then Christ did not die privately. “One might say” that it would have been better for Christ to have hi...

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