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Apologetics is the whole of the consensus of the views of those who defend a position in an argument of long standing. The term comes from the Greek word apologia (απολογία), meaning a speaking in defense.

Early Christian writers (c 120-220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists.

In modern times, apologists refers to authors, writers, editors of scientific logs or academic journals, and leaders known for defending the points in arguments, conflicts or positions that receive great popular scrutinies and/or are minority views.

Notable apologists

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian, (ca.155–230) was a church leader and was a notable early Christian apologist. He was born, lived and died in Carthagemarker. He was the first great writer of Latin Christianity, thus sometimes known as the "Father of the Latin Church". He introduced the term Trinity (Latin trinitas) to the Christian vocabulary and also probably the formula "three Persons, one Substance" as the Latin "tres Personae, una Substantia" (itself from the Koine Greek "treis Hypostases, Homoousios"), and also the terms vetus testamentum ("old testament") and novum testamentum ("new testament").

In his Apologeticus, he was the first who qualified Christianity as the 'vera religio' ("true religion"), and symmetrically relegated the classical Empire religion and other accepted cults to the position of mere 'superstitions'.

Early uses of the term (in the first sense) include Plato's Apology (the defense speech of Socrates from his trial) and some works of early Christian apologists, such as St. Justin Martyr's two Apologies addressed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

An additional early use of the term, is Augustus Caesar's apologia or defense of his accomplishments as Roman Emperor inscribed outside of his tomb, at his death in 14 A.D. on pillars of bronze, called the The Deeds of the Divine Augustus (in Latin: Res Gestae Divi Augusti). They were widely copied and distributed throughout the Roman Empire. It is regarded as one of the more important apologias of the ancient world.

Arngrímur Jónsson was an Icelandicmarker scholar who wrote the book Brevis commentarius de Islandia in Latin as a "defense of Iceland" where he criticized the works of numerous authors who had written about the people and the country of Iceland.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (February 21, 1801 – August 11, 1890) was an English convert to Roman Catholicism, later made a cardinal, and in 1991 proclaimed 'Venerable'. In early life he was a major figure in the Oxford Movement to bring the Church of England back to its Catholic roots. Eventually his studies in history persuaded him to become a Roman Catholic. When John Henry Newman entitled his spiritual autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua in 1864, he was playing upon both this connotation, and the more commonly understood meaning of an expression of contrition or regret.

Technical usages

The term apologetics etymologically derives from the Classical Greek word apologia. In the Classical Greek legal system two key technical terms were employed: the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia. To deliver an apologia then meant making a formal speech to reply and rebut the charges, as in the case of Socrates' defense.

This Classical Greek term appears in the Koine (i.e. common) Greek of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul employs the term apologia in his trial speech to Festus and Agrippa when he says "I make my defense" ( ). A cognate term appears in Paul's Letter to the Philippians as he is "defending the gospel" ( & 16), and in believers must be ready to give an "answer" for their faith. The word also appears in the negative in : unbelievers are αναπολόγητοι (anapologētoi) (without excuse, defense, or apology) for rejecting the revelation of God in creation.

The legal nuance of apologetics was reframed in a more specific sense to refer to the study of the defense of a doctrine or belief. In this context it most commonly refers to philosophical reconciliation. Religious apologetics is the effort to show that the preferred faith is not irrational, that believing in it is not against human reason, and that in fact the religion contains values and promotes ways of life more in accord with human nature than other faiths or beliefs.

In the English language, the word apology is derived from the Greek word apologia, but its use has changed; its primary sense now refers to a plea for forgiveness for a wrong act. Implicit in this is an admission of guilt, thus turning on its head the "speaking in defense" aspect of the original concept. An uncommon secondary sense refers to a speech or writing that defends the speaker or author's position.

Christian apologetics

Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views. Christian apologetics have taken many forms over the centuries, starting with Paul of Tarsus, including writers such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, and continuing currently with the modern Christian community, through the efforts of many authors in various Christian traditions such as C.S. Lewis and speakers such as Josh McDowell,Dr. Chuck Missler and Dr. Frank Turek. Apologists have based their defense of Christianity on favoring interpretations of historical/archaeological evidence, philosophical arguments, scientific investigation, and other disciplines.

Mormon apologetics

There are apologists who specialize in Mormonism, including several well-known Mormon apologetic Organizations, such as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (a group of scholars at Brigham Young Universitymarker) and Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (an independent, not-for-profit group), which have formed to defend the doctrines and history of the Latter Day Saint movement in general and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in particular).

Apologetics in other religions

As the world's religions have encountered one another, apologetics and apologists from within their respective faiths have emerged. Some of these apologetics respond to or fight back against the arguments of both Christianity and secularism; some do not.

Apologists for Islam have defended the Koran using rationalist and empiricist arguments, and using cosmological arguments to prove God's existence. Muslims have actually developed their own form of creationism, Islamic creationism. Islamic apologists have also challenged both Jewish and Christian beliefs. The late South African Islamic scholar, Ahmed Deedat, was a prolific popular writer who debated Christian evangelists by arguing over discrepancies in the Bible, and claiming the Gospel of Barnabas is the only authentic record of Jesus' life.

One of the earliest Buddhist apologetic texts is The Questions of King Milinda, which deals with ethical and intellectual problems. In the British colonial era, Buddhists in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) wrote tracts that challenged and rejected Christianity. In the mid-nineteenth century, encounters between Buddhists and Christians in Japan prompted the formation of a Buddhist Propagation Society. In recent times A. L. De Silva, an Australian convert to Buddhism, has written a text designed to refute the arguments of Christian evangelists. At a sophisticated academic level, Gunapala Dharmasiri has challenged the Christian concept of God from a Theravadan Buddhist perspective.

Hindu apologetics designed to counter Christian missions developed in the British colonial era. Richard Fox Young has collated examples of these early apologetic tracts.

In a famous speech called Red Jacket on Religion for the White Man and the Red in 1805, Seneca chief Red Jacket gave an apologist argument for American Indian religion.

Some pantheists have formed organizations such as the World Pantheist Movement and Universal Pantheist Society to promote and logically defend belief in pantheism.

The American Apologists

At the end of the 19th and the beginning 20th Century a group of arch conservative American economists and social scientists appeared who have been called the American Apologists. In spite of their different theoretical orientations they were apologists for the status quo and rose to defend the new industrial age and condemn the unions and populist causes.

They included Simon Newcomb at Johns Hopkins, John Bates Clark at Columbia, James Laurence Laughlin at Chicago, Charles F Dunbar and Frank William Taussig at Harvard, Arthur T. Hadley and William Graham Sumner at Yale, and controlled the American university system in the East. This was backed by the cleansing of American higher education from “socialist” reformers after the Haymarket affairmarker, an 1886 incident in Chicago.

See also


  1. "Apologists." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  2. A History of Christian Thought, Paul Tillich, Touchstone Books, 1972. ISBN 0-671-21426-8 (p. 43)
  3. Lewis N. & Reinhold M., Roman Civilization, vol ii, pp. 9-19, New York: Columbia University Press (1955)
  4. Red Jacket on Religion for the White Man and the Red
  5. The American Apologists History of Economic Thought Website at The Schwartz Center for Economic and Policy Research , New School University. Accessed January 2009

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