Journal directory listing - Volume 11-20 (1966-1975) - Volume 13 (1968)

Philosophical Thought of Early Apologist Fathers of the Church
Author: Chao Ya-Po


Christianism in itself is a religion, not a philosophy. But in this religion, there are quite a lot of problems which are the same as in philosophy. Hence, the early Christian writers and thinkers's contributions embody the wisdom, both religous and philosophic.
Christstian philosophy can be divided into two periods one is patristic philosophy, and the other is the scholasticism.
There are three steps in patristic philosophy, we deal, in this sum-mary, only with early apologist philosophers, beginning with the second century until the mid third century, including the Greek Apologists, the Alexandrines and the Latin Apologists.
These thinkers are called Fathers of the Chunch, for they deserved well of the Church, both in fournishing her in laical development, solid basis, and in making the Christian doctrine understood, a method that we can call today the maieutic method or dialog.
This does mean that apologist Fathers did create a new philosophy, no, but they did only prepare the constitutive materials of a Christian philosophy. The most eminent Greek apologist is Justin Martyr. Justin himself has told the story of his conversion, in a narrative somewhat arranged to literary purposes, but whose substance exhibits the marks of historicity. We have learned, Jussin says, the Word enlightens every man who comes into this world; but we also know, that the Word is Christ.
The Word is, presented in the First Apology and restated in the Second Apology, likened unto a "seminal reason," that is a germ, or a seed, of which all men are partakers in different degrees, so that each philosopher spoke the truth according to his share of this seed and his ability to perceive its implications. Hence Justin's famous statemet: "Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians".
Tertullian, one of the outstanding Latin Apologists, opens the long series of Christian writers born in Nothern Africa. His treatise On Presc-ription Against the Heretics shows the situation was then different from what it had been at the time of Justin. Instead of addressing the emperors on behalf of the Christians, he addresses the heretics; his apologies are in favor, not of the Christians, but of Christianity.
In the fifth chapter of his treatise On the Flesh of Christ, Tertullian did not hesitate to write: "The son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible." Nobody has even written the often quoted formula: Credo quod absurdumest: Tertullian himself has written: credo quia ineptum; and it must be conceded that, in this case, ineptum really means absurd.
Clement and Origen are the most famous representatives of the Alexandrines.
The Exhortation of the Greeks is closely related to the works of Justin, not indeed by its content, but by its spirit. The main intention of Clement is less to defend the Christian faith against its opponent, than to teach it to unbelievers or, at least, to persuade them to accept it.
The Principles of Origen were written fer those who, although per-suaded that Christ is the Son of God, and that they should learn truth from himself, still felt hesitant on important points related to the nature of God or of his creatures. The only way to settle these difficulties is to begin by stating the principles, that is to say, the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, by which alone all its interpretations can be judged. To him, Greek philosophy is neither good nor bad in itself; it can become either one according as we make a good or bad use of it.

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