How Did the Early Church Do Apologetics Among the Greek Polytheists?

Clement of Alexandria Early Christian Church had a very similar context to the current Indian context. Religiously, there was a plurality of gods where the uniqueness of Jesus was considered as offense. Politically, there was a severe persecution for most of them. Socially, most of them were from poor background. Culturally, they were accused of abandoning their age old traditions of their fathers and therefore were considered as traitors. Sakshi Research Team looks at the apologetics approach of the early Church fathers. Legacy of the Towering Apologists: 

Persecution in Orissa was a rude wakening call for many of us. We are determined to carry the mission of evangelical apologetics while helping our brethren physically. We searched for books and websites on apologetics to Hinduism and could only find a few. We have taken this task and God willing; we will be producing literature to close this gap. What should be our approach? If our apologetics approach is an approach of contrasting the Christian and Hindu scriptures or critically evaluating the Hindu scriptures, would that be valid? Or is it a divisive and erroneous approach?   

The questions in front of us are-  

  • Should we critically evaluate the Hindu pantheon of gods from their own scriptures, and if found to be of creations of men and women argue that they are no gods at all? Or is it wrong to do so as a few Christians would argue?
  • Should we consider the morality of the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddess, and if found to be of unacceptable morality argue that they could not have been gods at all? Or is it an un-Christian provocation as a few Christians would argue?
  • Should we consider the morality of the Hindu culture as prescribed by the Hindu scriptures and if found to be inhumane argue that they could not have been from the true God? Or is it a divisive, biased/hate approach as some Christians themselves may argue?

Review of the Earlier Literature Produced by Christian Apologists: Early Christian Church had a very similar context to the current Indian context. Religiously, there was a plurality of gods where the uniqueness of Jesus was considered as offense. Politically, there was a severe persecution for most of them. Socially, most of them were from poor background. Culturally, they were accused of abandoning their age old traditions of their fathers and therefore were considered as traitors. In other words, it looks very similar to the current context of India. How did they do apologetics? What was their approach? It must be admitted that their approach though in the short-term caused much persecution, in the long-term was immensely beneficial. Both Christians and Pagans were able to see clearly the difference and make a decision accordingly.  These excerpts are not an exhaustive analysis but only a samples of their works.  

Here are the excerpts from the works of a few pre-Nicene, Nicene and post Nicene Church fathers. It must be remembered that all of these Church Fathers were excellent expositors of the scriptures as much as defenders of faith. We will be primarily quoting only from their works to Greeks as our concern is how we should address the Hindus. 

Justin Martyr (A.D. 100–165)  Justin Martyr was one of the excellent apologists of the Christian Church. Justin Martyr had written highly acclaimed works proving the Christian doctrine from philosophy, history and logic. In his book Hortatory Address to the Greeks, Justin Martyr analyzed topics such as Opinions of the school of Thales, Pythagoras and Epicurus, Plato and Aristotle, disagreements between Plato and Aristotle, inconsistencies of Plato's doctrine, the antiquity of Moses proved by Greek writers, history of the Septuagint etc.  Some of his other works include: 

  • The First Apology addressed to Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the Roman Senate;
  • A Second Apology addressed to the Roman Senate;
  • The Discourse to the Greeks, a discussion with Greek philosophers on the character of their gods;
  • A Hortatory Address to the Greeks;
  • A treatise On the Sovereignty of God, in which he makes use of pagan authorities as well as Christian;
  • A work entitled The Psalmist;
  • A trea

    tise in scholastic form On the Soul; and

  • The Dialogue with Trypho

 In his Discourse to the Greeks, Justin Martyr writes: 

“Do not suppose, you Greeks, that my separation from your customs is unreasonable and unthinking; for I found in them nothing that is holy or acceptable to God. For the very compositions of your poets are monuments of madness and intemperance. For any one who becomes the scholar of your most eminent instructor, is more beset by difficulties than all men besides.  

For first they say that Agamemnon, abetting the extravagant lust of his brother, and his madness and unrestrained desire, readily gave even his daughter to be sacrificed, and troubled all Greece that he might rescue Helen, who had been ravished by the leprous shepherd. But when in the course of the war they took captives, Agamemnon was himself taken captive by Chryseis, and for Briseis' sake kindled a feud with the son of Thetis. And Pelides himself, who crossed the river, overthrew Troy, and subdued Hector, this your hero became the slave of Polyxena, and was conquered by a dead Amazon; and putting off the god-fabricated armour, and donning the hymeneal robe, he became a sacrifice of love in the temple of Apollo.

And the Ithacan Ulysses made a virtue of a vice. And indeed his sailing past the Sirens gave evidence that he was destitute of worthy prudence, because he could not depend on his prudence for stopping his ears. Ajax, son of Telamon, who bore the shield of sevenfold ox-hide, went mad when he was defeated in the contest with Ulysses for the armour. Such things I have no desire to be instructed in. Of such virtue I am not covetous, that I should believe the myths of Homer. For the whole rhapsody, the beginning and end both of the Iliad and the Odyssey is— a woman.” 

Later he continues: “For Hercules, celebrated by his three nights, sung by the poets for his successful labours, the son of Jupiter, who slew the lion and destroyed the many-headed hydra; who put to death the fierce and mighty boar, and was able to kill the fleet man-eating birds, and brought up from Hades the three-headed dog; who effectually cleansed the huge Augean building from its dung, and killed the bulls and the stag whose nostrils breathed fire, and plucked the golden fruit from the tree, and slew the poisonous serpent (and for some reason, which it is not lawful to utter, killed Achelous, and the guest-slaying Busiris), and crossed the mountains that he might get water which gave forth an articulate speech, as the story goes: he who was able to do so many and such like and so great deeds as these, how childishly he was delighted to be stunned by the cymbals of the satyrs, and to be conquered by the love of woman, and to be struck on the hips by the laughing Lyda! And at last, not being able to put off the tunic of Nessus, himself kindling his own funeral pile, so he died. 

 Let Vulcan lay aside his envy, and not be jealous if he is hated because he is old and club-footed, and Mars loved, because young and beautiful. Since, therefore, you Greeks, your gods are convicted of intemperance, and your heroes are effeminate, as the histories on which your dramas are founded have declared, such as the curse of Atreus, the bed of Thyestes and the taint in the house of Pelops, and Danaus murdering through hatred and making Ægyptus childless in the intoxication of his rage, and the Thyestean banquet spread by the Furies. And Procne is to this day flitting about, lamenting; and her sister of Athens shrills with her tongue cut out. For what need is there of speaking of the goad of Œdipus, and the murder of Laius, and the marrying his mother, and the mutual slaughter of those who were at once his brothers and his sons?” 

Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (?-180 A.D.) 

We do not know much about Theophilus. This Theophilus may or may not have been the Theophilus to whom Gospel Writer Luke had addressed at the beginning of the Gospel According to Luke, and Acts of Apostles. While this Theophilus also lived in Antioch, he seems to have lived at a later stage and  was the Bishop of Antioch. In his apologetics book titled To Autolycus, he writes:  

Immoralities of the Gods.And, indeed, the names of those whom you say you worship, are the names of dead men. And these, too, who and what kind of men were they? Is not Saturn found to be a cannibal, destroying and devouring his own children? And if you name his son Jupiter, hear also his deeds and conduct— first, how he was suckled by a goat on Mount Ida, and having slain it, according to the myths, and flayed it, he made himself a coat of the hide. And his other deeds,— his incest, and adultery, and lust,— will be better recounted by Homer and the rest of the poets. Why should I further speak of his sons? How Hercules burnt himself; and about the drunk and raging Bacchus; and of Apollo fearing and fleeing from Achilles, and falling in love with Daphne, and being unaware of the fate of Hyacinthus; and of Venus wounded, and of Mars, the pest of mortals; and of the ichor flowing from the so-called gods.

And these, indeed, are the milder kinds of legends; since the god who is called Osiris is found to have been torn limb from limb, whose mysteries are celebrated annually, as if he had perished, and were being found, and sought for limb by limb. For neither is it known whether he perished, nor is it shown whether he is found. And why should I speak of Atys mutilated, or of Adonis wandering in the wood, and wounded by a boar while hunting; or of Æsculapius struck by a thunderbolt; or of the fugitive Serapis chased from Sinope to Alexandria; or of the Scythian Diana, herself, too, a fugitive, and a homicide, and a huntress, and a passionate lover of Endymion? Now, it is not we who publish t

hese things, but your own writers and poets. 

Absurdities of Idolatry.Why should I further recount the multitude of animals worshipped by the Egyptians, both reptiles, and cattle, and wild beasts, and birds, and river-fishes; and even wash-pots and disgraceful noises? But if you cite the Greeks and the other nations, they worship stones and wood, and other kinds of material substances,— the images, as we have just been saying, of dead men. For Phidias is found in Pisa making for the Eleians the Olympian Jupiter, and at Athens the Minerva of the Acropolis. And I will inquire of you, my friend, how many Jupiters exist. For there is, firstly, Jupiter surnamed Olympian, then Jupiter Latiaris, and Jupiter Cassius, and Jupiter Tonans, and Jupiter Propator, and Jupiter Pannychius, and Jupiter Poliuchus, and Jupiter Capitolinus; and that Jupiter, the son of Saturn, who is king of the Cretans, has a tomb in Crete, but the rest, possibly, were not thought worthy of tombs. And if you speak of the mother of those who are called gods, far be it from me to utter with my lips her deeds, or the deeds of those by whom she is worshipped (for it is unlawful for us so much as to name such things), and what vast taxes and revenues she and her sons furnish to the king. For these are not gods, but idols, as we have already said, the works of men's hands and unclean demons. And such may all those become who make them and put their trust in them! 

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150 – 216): The New Testament Cannon Website notes: The writings of Clement disclose the amazingly broad scope of his knowledge of both classical and Biblical literature. On page after page of his treatises are copious citations of all kinds of literature. According to the tabulations of [Stählin], Clement cites some 359 classical and other non-Christian writers, 70 Biblical writings (including Old Testament apocrypha), and 36 patristic and New Testament apocryphal writings, including those of heretics. The total number of citations is about 8000, more than a third of which come from pagan writers. Furthermore, the statistics reveal that he quotes from New Testament writings almost twice as often as from the Old Testament.  After engaging in theological, ecclesiastical, and other disputes (e.g. concerning social justice and forms of Christian witnessing) for about 20 years, Clement was forced to flee Alexandria during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Severus in 201-202. His position at the school was assumed by his young and gifted student Origen, who became one of the greatest theologians of the Christian Church. Clement found refuge and employment with another former student, Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, with whom he remained until his death. In his book, Exhortation to the Heathen, he writes:

Zeus the King of Greek Pantheon of gods, and Others goddess like Fortune are no gods at all; Idols are worthless  Why should I linger over these, when I can point out to you the great deity himself, and show you who he was,— whom indeed, conspicuously above all, we hear to have been considered worthy of veneration? Him they have dared to speak of as made without hands— I mean the Egyptian Serapis. For some relate that he was sent as a present by the people of Sinope to Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of the Egyptians, who won their favour by sending them corn from Egypt when they were perishing with famine; and that this idol was an image of Pluto; and Ptolemy, having received the statue, placed it on the promontory which is now called Racotis; where the temple of Serapis was held in honour, and the sacred enclosure borders on the spot; and that Blistichis the courtesan having died in Canopus, Ptolemy had her conveyed there, and buried beneath the forementioned shrine. 

Others say that the Serapis was a Pontic idol, and was transported with solemn pomp to Alexandria. Isidore alone says that it was brought from the Seleucians, near Antioch, who also had been visited with a dearth of corn, and had been fed by Ptolemy. But Athenodorns the son of Sandon, while wishing to make out the Serapis to be ancient, has somehow slipped into the mistake of proving it to be an image fashioned by human hands. He says that Sesostris the Egyptian king, having subjugated the most of the Hellenic races, on his return to Egypt brought a number of craftsmen with him. Accordingly he ordered a statue of Osiris, his ancestor, to be executed in sumptuous style; and the work was done by the artist Bryaxis, not the Athenian, but another of the same name, who employed in its execution a mixture of various materials.  For he had filings of gold, and silver, and lead, and in addition, tin; and of Egyptian stones not one was wanting, and there were fragments of sapphire, and hematite, and emerald, and topaz. Having ground down and mixed together all these ingredients, he gave to the composition a blue colour, whence the darkish hue of the image; and having mixed the whole with the colouring matter that was left over from the funeral of Osiris and Apis, moulded the Serapis, the name of which points to its connection with sepulture and its construction from funeral materials, compounded as it is of Osiris and Apis, which together make Osirapis. 

Another new deity was added to the number with great religious pomp in Egypt, and was near being so in Greece by the king of the Romans, who deified Antinous, whom he loved as Zeus loved Ganymede, and whose beauty was of a very rare order: for lust is not easily restrained, destitute as it is of fear; and men now observe the sacred nights of Antinous, the shameful character of which the lover who spent them with him knew well. Why reckon him among the gods, who is honoured on account of uncleanness? And why do you command him to be lamented as a son? And why should you enlarge on his beauty? Beauty blighted by vice is loathsome. Do not play the tyrant, O man, over beauty, nor offer foul insult to youth in its bloom. Keep beauty pure, that it may be truly fair. Be king o

ver beauty, not its tyrant. Remain free, and then I shall acknowledge your beauty, because you have kept its image pure: then will I worship that true beauty which is the archetype of all who are beautiful. Now the grave of the debauched boy is the temple and town of Antinous. For just as temples are held in reverence, so also are sepulchres, and pyramids, and mausoleums, and labyrinths, which are temples of the dead, as the others are sepulchres of the gods. As teacher on this point, I shall produce to you the Sibyl prophetess:—  Not the oracular lie of Phœbus, Whom silly men called God, and falsely termed Prophet; But the oracles of the great God, who was not made by men's hands, Like dumb idols of Sculptured stone.

 Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D 293 – 373) Athanasius of Alexandria suffered a lot and debated with Arius to defend the doctrine of Trinity. He also produced scholarly works on pagan religions. Excerpts from the Book Against the Heathen: 

Human origin of the Greek gods, by decree of Theseus. The process by which mortals became deified. But this custom is not a new one, nor did it begin from the Roman Senate: on the contrary, it had existed previously from of old, and was formerly practised for the devising of idols. For the gods renowned from of old among the Greeks, Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Hephæstus, Hermes, and, among females, Hera and Demeter and Athena and Artemis, were decreed the title of gods by the order of Theseus, of whom Greek history tells us; and so the men who pass such decrees die like men and are mourned for, while those in whose favour they are passed are worshipped as gods. What a height of inconsistency and madness! knowing who passed the decree, they pay greater honour to those who are the subjects of it.
 
2. And would that their idolatrous madness had stopped short at males, and that they had not brought down the title of deity to females. For even women, whom it is not safe to admit to deliberation about public affairs, they worship and serve with the honour due to God, such as those enjoined by Theseus as above stated, and among the Egyptians Isis and the Maid and the Younger one , and among others Aphrodite. For the names of the others I do not consider it modest even to mention, full as they are of all kind of grotesqueness.
 
3. For many, not only in ancient times but in our own also, having lost their beloved ones, brothers and kinsfolk and wives; and many women who had lost their husbands, all of whom nature proved to be mortal men, made representations of them and devised sacrifices, and consecrated them; while later ages, moved by the figure and the brilliancy of the artist, worshipped them as gods, thus falling into inconsistency with nature . For whereas their parents had mourned for them, not regarding them as gods (for had they known them to be gods they would not have lamented them as if they had perished; for this was why they represented them in an image, namely, because they not only did not think them gods, but did not believe them to exist at all, and in order that the sight of their form in the image might console them for their being no more), yet the foolish people pray to them as gods and invest them with the honour of the true God.
 
4. For example, in Egypt, even to this day, the death-dirge is celebrated for Osiris and Horus and Typho and the others. And the caldrons at Dodona, and the Corybantes in Crete, prove that Zeus is no god but a man, and a man born of a cannibal father. And, strange to say, even Plato, the sage admired among the Greeks, with all his vaunted understanding about God, goes down with Socrates to Peiræus to worship Artemis, a figment of man's art. 

The deeds of heathen deities, and particularly of Zeus. But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said , The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life. For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be for ever. For the vainglory of men they entered into the world, and therefore shall they come shortly to an end. For a father afflicted with untimely mourning when he has made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god which was then a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices. Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law. And graven images were worshipped by the commands of kings. Whom men could not honour in presence because they dwelt afar off, they took the counterfeit of his visage from afar, and made an express image of the king whom they honoured, to the end that by this their forwardness they might flatter him that was absent as if he were present. Also the singular diligence of the artificer did help to set forward the ignorant to more superstition: for he, peradventure, willing to please one in authority, forced all his skill to make the resemblance of the best fashion: and so the multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took him now for a god, which a little before was but honoured as a man: and this was an occasion to deceive the world, for men serving either calamity or tyranny, did ascribe unto stones and stocks the incommunicable Name.

 2. The beginning and devising of the invention of idols having been, as Scripture witnesses, of such sort, it is now

time to show you the refutation of it by proofs derived not so much from without as from these men's own opinions about the idols. For to begin at the lowest point, if one were to take the actions of them they call gods, one would find that they were not only no gods, but had been even of men the most contemptible. For what a thing it is to see the loves and licentious actions of Zeus in the poets! What a thing to hear of him, on the one hand carrying off Ganymede and committing stealthy adulteries, on the other in panic and alarm lest the walls of the Trojans should be destroyed against his intentions! What a thing to see him in grief at the death of his son Sarpedon, and wishing to succour him without being able to do so, and, when plotted against by the other so-called gods, namely, Athena and Hera and Poseidon, succoured by Thetis, a woman, and by Ægaeon of the hundred hands, and overcome by pleasures, a slave to women, and for their sakes running adventures in disguises consisting of brute beasts and creeping things and birds; and again, in hiding on account of his father's designs upon him, or Cronos bound by him, or him again mutilating his father! Why, is it fitting to regard as a god one who has perpetrated such deeds, and who stands accused of things which not even the public laws of the Romans allow those to do who are merely men? 

Other shameful actions ascribed to heathen deities. All prove that they are but men of former times, and not even good men. For, to mention a few instances out of many to avoid prolixity, who that saw his lawless and corrupt conduct toward Semele, Leda, Alcmene, Artemis, Leto, Maia, Europe, Danae, and Antiope, or that saw what he ventured to take in hand with regard to his own sister, in having the same woman as wife and sister, would not scorn him and pronounce him worthy of death? For not only did he commit adultery, but he deified and raised to heaven those born of his adulteries, contriving the deification as a veil for his lawlessness: such as Dionysus, Heracles, the Dioscuri, Hermes, Perseus, and Soteira.  

2. Who, that sees the so-called gods at irreconcileable strife among themselves at Troy on account of the Greeks and Trojans, will fail to recognise their feebleness, in that because of their mutual jealousies they egged on even mortals to strife? Who, that sees Ares and Aphrodite wounded by Diomed, or Hera and Aïdoneus from below the earth, whom they call a god, wounded by Heracles, Dionysus by Perseus, Athena by Arcas, and Hephæstus hurled down and going lame, will not recognise their real nature, and, while refusing to call them gods, be assured (when he hears that they are corruptible and passible) that they are nothing but men , and feeble men too, and admire those that inflicted the wounds rather than the wounded?  

3. Or who that sees the adultery of Ares with Aphrodite, and Hephæstus contriving a snare for the two, and the other so-called gods called by Hephæstus to view the adultery, and coming and seeing their licentiousness, would not laugh and recognise their worthless character? Or who would not laugh at beholding the drunken folly and misconduct of Heracles toward Omphale? For their deeds of pleasure, and their unconscionable loves, and their divine images in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, we need not seriously expose by argument, since the facts are abominable in themselves, and are enough taken alone to furnish proof of the deception; so that one's principal feeling is pity for those deceived about them.  

4. For, hating the adulterer who tampers with a wife of their own, they are not ashamed to deify the teachers of adultery; and refraining from incest themselves they worship those who practise it; and admitting that the corrupting of children is an evil, they serve those who stand accused of it and do not blush to ascribe to those they call gods things which the laws forbid to exist even among men. 

The folly of image worship and its dishonor to art. Again, in worshipping things of wood and stone, they do not see that, while they tread under foot and burn what is in no way different, they call portions of these materials gods. And what they made use of a little while ago, they carve and worship in their folly, not seeing, nor at all considering that they are worshipping, not gods, but the carver's art.  2. For so long as the stone is uncut and the wood unworked, they walk upon the one and make frequent use of the other for their own purposes, even for those which are less honourable. But when the artist has invested them with the proportions of his own skill, and impressed upon the material the form of man or woman, then, thanking the artist, they proceed to worship them as gods, having bought them from the carver at a price. Often, moreover, the image-maker, as though forgetting the work he has done himself, prays to his own productions, and calls gods what just before he was paring and chipping.  

3. But it were better, if need to admire these things, to ascribe it to the art of the skilled workman, and not to honour productions in preference to their producer. For it is not the material that has adorned the art, but the art that has adorned and deified the material. Much juster were it, then, for them to worship the artist than his productions, both because his existence was prior to that of the gods produced by art, and because they have come into being in the form he pleased to give them. But as it is, setting justice aside, and dishonouring skill and art, they worship the products of skill and art, and when the man is dead that made them, they honour his works as immortal, whereas if they did not receive daily attention they would certainly in time come to a natural end.  

4. Or how could one fail to pity them in this also, in that seeing, they worship them that cannot see, and hearing, pray to them that cannot hear, and born with life and reason, men as they are, call gods things which do not move at all, but have not even life, and, strangest of all, in that they serve as their masters beings whom they themselves keep under their own power? Nor imagine that this is a mere statement

of mine, nor that I am maligning them; for the verification of all this meets the eyes, and whoever wishes to do so may see the like.

 Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354 – 430) Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors, and the list of his works consists of more than a hundred separate titles.[22] They include apologetic works against the heresies of the Arians, Donatists, Manichaeans and Pelagians, texts on Christian doctrine, notably De doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine), exegetical works such as commentaries on Book of Genesis, the Psalms and Paul's Letter to the Romans, many sermons and letters, and the Retractationes (Retractions), a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessiones (Confessions), which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate Dei (The City of God, consisting of 22 books), which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410. His De Trinitate (On the Trinity), in which he developed what has become known as the 'psychological analogy' of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time.[1] 

Excerpt from the City of God: 

That the Worshippers of the Gods Never Received from Them Any Healthy Moral Precepts, and that in Celebrating Their Worship All Sorts of Impurities Were Practiced. First of all, we would ask why their gods took no steps to improve the morals of their worshippers. That the true God should neglect those who did not seek His help, that was but justice; but why did those gods, from whose worship ungrateful men are now complaining that they are prohibited, issue no laws which might have guided their devotees to a virtuous life? Surely it was but just, that such care as men showed to the worship of the gods, the gods on their part should have to the conduct of men. But, it is replied, it is by his own will a man goes astray. Who denies it? But none the less was it incumbent on these gods, who were men's guardians, to publish in plain terms the laws of a good life, and not to conceal them from their worshippers. It was their part to send prophets to reach and convict such as broke these laws, and publicly to proclaim the punishments which await evil-doers, and the rewards which may be looked for by those that do well.

Did ever the walls of any of their temples echo to any such warning voice? I myself, when I was a young man, used sometimes to go to the sacrilegious entertainments and spectacles; I saw the priests raving in religious excitement, and heard the choristers; I took pleasure in the shameful games which were celebrated in honor of gods and goddesses, of the virgin Cœlestis, and Berecynthia, the mother of all the gods. And on the holy day consecrated to her purification, there were sung before her couch productions so obscene and filthy for the ear— I do not say of the mother of the gods, but of the mother of any senator or honest man— nay, so impure, that not even the mother of the foul-mouthed players themselves could have formed one of the audience.  For natural reverence for parents is a bond which the most abandoned cannot ignore. And, accordingly, the lewd actions and filthy words with which these players honored the mother of the gods, in presence of a vast assemblage and audience of both sexes, they could not for very shame have rehearsed at home in presence of their own mothers.

And the crowds that were gathered from all quarters by curiosity, offended modesty must, I should suppose, have scattered in the confusion of shame. If these are sacred rites, what is sacrilege? If this is purification, what is pollution? This festivity was called the Tables, as if a banquet were being given at which unclean devils might find suitable refreshment.  For it is not difficult to see what kind of spirits they must be who are delighted with such obscenities, unless, indeed, a man be blinded by these evil spirits passing themselves off under the name of gods, and either disbelieves in their existence, or leads such a life as prompts him rather to propitiate and fear them than the true God. 

Of the Obscenities Practiced in Honor of the Mother of the Gods. In this matter I would prefer to have as my assessors in judgment, not those men who rather take pleasure in these infamous customs than take pains to put an end to them, but that same Scipio Nasica who was chosen by the senate as the citizen most worthy to receive in his hands the image of that demon Cybele, and convey it into the city. He would tell us whether he would be proud to see his own mother so highly esteemed by the state as to have divine honors adjudged to her; as the Greeks and Romans and other nations have decreed divine honors to men who had been of material service to them, and have believed that their mortal benefactors were thus made immortal, and enrolled among the gods. Surely he would desire that his mother should enjoy such felicity were it possible. But if we proceeded to ask him whether, among the honors paid to her, he would wish such shameful rites as these to be celebrated, would he not at once exclaim that he would rather his mother lay stone-dead, than survive as a goddess to lend her ear to these obscenities?  

Is it possible that he who was of so severe a morality, that he used his influence as a Roman senator to prevent the building of a theatre in that city dedicated to the manly virtues, would wish his mother to be propitiated as a goddess with words which would have brought the blush to her cheek when a Roman matron? Could he possibly believe that the modesty of an estimable woman would be so transformed by her promotion to divinity, that she would suffer

herself to be invoked and celebrated in terms so gross and immodest, that if she had heard the like while alive upon earth, and had listened without stopping her ears and hurrying from the spot, her relatives, her husband, and her children would have blushed for her?  

Therefore, the mother of the gods being such a character as the most profligate man would be ashamed to have for his mother, and meaning to enthral the minds of the Romans, demanded for her service their best citizen, not to ripen him still more in virtue by her helpful counsel, but to entangle him by her deceit, like her of whom it is written, The adulteress will hunt for the precious soul. Proverbs 6:26 Her intent was to puff up this high- souled man by an apparently divine testimony to his excellence, in order that he might rely upon his own eminence in virtue, and make no further efforts after true piety and religion, without which natural genius, however brilliant, vapors into pride and comes to nothing. For what but a guileful purpose could that goddess demand the best man seeing that in her own sacred festivals she requires such obscenities as the best men would be covered with shame to hear at their own tables? 

That the Gods of the Pagans Never Inculcated Holiness of Life. This is the reason why those divinities quite neglected the lives and morals of the cities and nations who worshipped them, and threw no dreadful prohibition in their way to hinder them from becoming utterly corrupt, and to preserve them from those terrible and detestable evils which visit not harvests and vintages, not house and possessions, not the body which is subject to the soul, but the soul itself, the spirit that rules the whole man. If there was any such prohibition, let it be produced, let it be proved. They will tell us that purity and probity were inculcated upon those who were initiated in the mysteries of religion, and that secret incitements to virtue were whispered in the ear of the élite; but this is an idle boast.  

Observations:  

  • Justin Martyr had produced a list of vices of Greek religious scriptures as an argument for why he abandoned the Greek religion
  • Clement of Alexandria also showed the unworthiness of Greek gods and goddess and argued that such immoral gods and goddess can never be the one True God
  • Athanasius of Alexandria argued from human origin of the Greek gods, evil deeds of heathen deities, and particularly of Zeus, King of Greek pantheon gods, and the folly of idol worship to prove that Greek religion is a false religion
  • Augustine of Hippo argued from the religious immorality practiced by his society to argue against the pagan religion

 Apologetics Approach of the Church Fathers Revisited:  If the Church fathers had lived in our Indian society, how would they have approached Hinduism? Let us ask the questions that we paused at the beginning to see the probable answers: 

Question:
Should we critically evaluate the Hindu pantheon of gods from their own scriptures, and if found to be of creations of men and women argue that they are no gods at all? Or is it wrong to do so as a few Christians would argue? 
Probable Answer: Church Fathers (early Christian apologists) would have critically evaluated the Hindu pantheon of gods from their own scriptures, and if found to be of creations of men and women argue that they are no gods at all. 

Question: Should we consider the morality of the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddess, and if found to be of unacceptable morality argue that they could not have been gods at all? Or is it an un-Christian provocation as a few Christians would argue? 
Probable Answer: Church Fathers (early Christian apologists) would have considered the morality of the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddess, and if found to be of unacceptable morality argue that they could not have been gods at all 

Question: Should we consider the morality of the Hindu culture as prescribed by the Hindu scriptures and if found to be inhumane argue that they could not have been from the true God? Or is it a divisive, biased/hate approach as some Christians themselves may argue? 
Probable Answer: Church Fathers (early Christian apol

ogists) would have considered the morality of the Hindu culture as prescribed by the Hindu scriptures and if found to be inhumane argue that they could not have from the true God. It must be noted that most of the arguments that we could bring against this apologetics approach if someone practices it now, could have been brought against the Church fathers too as the context is similar.  

Conclusion: Historically, if one were to review the apologetics approach of early Church fathers, then apologetics approach of contrast could not be proved to be wrong. The only point where we should disagree with someone using this approach is when he/she uses falsehood or intentional misrepresentations to make the comparison. As we said at the beginning, this article is a sample of the early Church fathers’ apologetics works and not an exhaustive review of all apologetics materials.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*