The Early Church Fathers and the Foundations of Dispensationalism -- By: Larry V. Crutchfield

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 02:7 (Dec 1998)
Article: The Early Church Fathers and the Foundations of Dispensationalism
Author: Larry V. Crutchfield


The Early Church Fathers and the Foundations of Dispensationalism

Larry V. Crutchfield

Professor of Early Christian History & Culture
Columbia Evangelical Seminary, Longview, WA

Part IV—Dispensational Concepts in the Apologists:
Justin Martyr

Introduction

In our last two articles, we presented evidences of the earliest signs of elementary dispensational concepts from the meager writings of the apostolic fathers. Mostly epistolary in nature, limited in scope, and primarily of local interest, these works serve principally as a literary bridge between the writings of the apostles and those of the apologists1 and others who followed. With growing attacks upon Christianity from both Judaism and the pagan Roman world, it fell first to the apologists to “demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated …”2 Out of this situation came a defense of the faith by converts to Christianity who had originally been educated in philosophy and rhetoric. The result was a body of Christian literature more precise in language and systematic in presentation than that of the preceding generation of church leaders.

The Apologists

The Nature of Their Writings

Schooled in the methods of Greek rhetoric, the apologists naturally employed the dialectic approach in their defense of Christianity. In language and methodology, it is obvious that they were children of the Hellenistic world. But in the Christian religion, they felt that they had found a philosophy far superior to any the Greeks had to offer.

According to Johannes Quasten, the apologists had three primary objectives.3 The first was to counter the false and malicious statements

then being circulated about the church. Particularly troublesome was the allegation that it posed a threat to the Roman state. The apologists attempted to refute the charge by showing that the ethical and chaste lives produced by this religion were a positive force for the good, not only for the Roman empire, but for the world in general.

Secondly, the apologists sought to expose the absurd and immoral nature of paganism and to demonstrate that only in the Christian religion can one find a correct understanding of the cosmos and the Divine. And finally, these early defenders of the faith endeavored to convince their detractors that while pagan philosophy at best could only attain fragments of truth interspersed with error, the Christian has absolute truth...

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