THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN MARTYR
To the Emperor, Senate, and all Romans: I, Justin, native of Palestine, present this address and petition on behalf of those of all nations who are unjustly hated and abused, myself being one of them… a Christian. Those who are truly pious and philosophical should love what is true, not necessarily what is popularly stated. I write this that you may consider whether or not we Christians are what we are accused of being. Investigate us for yourselves. Punish us only if it is just.
First off, by no means should a group of people be condemned merely for their name. Why should the mere accusation that we are ‘Christians’ be enough to find us guilty? Innocence or guilt should be determined by actions! Of course, we could just deny that we are Christians when accused. But we refuse to live by telling a lie. Besides, we are proud to be labeled Christians.
Second, we are sometimes accused of atheism. It is true we do not participate in idol worship (why worship things we make?). Such idols are, at best, nothing and, at worst, representatives of demons. We make no apologies for not worshiping these virtue-less ‘gods’ (consider their lives!). We agree with Socrates (who was also accused of atheism for exposing the falsity of these gods). Reason (Logos) must prevail. And it has prevailed in Jesus Christ (who IS the logos)! We are monotheists, not atheists. And the one true God does not require the kinds of sacrifices these idols ‘ask’ for.
Third, we are sometimes accused of trying to set up a human kingdom in opposition to Rome. But our kingdom is of a different nature (otherwise, why would we be so willing to die?). Indeed, it is actually in Rome’s best interest that people become Christians. For those who believe in an all-seeing God who calls us to virtue will undoubtedly be good citizens of this earth (Jesus even commanded us to pay our taxes!). The only people who should be concerned about our existence, then, are the executioners (for their job security will be at stake if all become good!).
Here’s what we believe:
We believe there that there is one God, that Jesus (crucified under Pontius Pilate) is the Son of God, and that God has a prophetic Spirit. Many can’t fathom why we worship a man who was crucified. Let me tell you why… His word was the power of God and has transformed us into better people (there are countless examples!). We become pure of heart, even to the point of loving our enemies. We help those in need (even the children you leave exposed). Any who claim to be Christian and give no evidence of this transformation… do to them what you must.
We believe that God cares for people. In fact, the reason why God has not yet eliminated all evil has to do with this. He wants more people to be saved and knows they may yet be because He made us with freedom (otherwise we would not be accountable). When people reject the truth that God cares for His creation and grants genuine freedom, they end up either not believing in God at all or believing in a very immoral or inactive God. A good God cares by giving genuine freedom.
We believe in the virgin birth. You have similar tales. We believe Jesus is the Son of God. You believe the gods have many sons and daughters. We believe He was crucified. Your gods suffered too. We believe He did miracles. You believe your gods can do miracles. We believe in resurrection. The best of your philosophers have believed in life after death as well. Whole industries depend on the existence of a spiritual realm. We simply take this all one step further.
We believe the dead will get their bodies back. If this seems ridiculous, consider that fact that we all believe that our complex bodies come from a small drop of seed. The only difference between us and some of your best poets and philosophers is that we believe God is capable of more and we actually have evidence (Jesus’ resurrection) on our side. Given these many parallels, how are we alone guilty? Our beliefs are even more anciently rooted and presently attested. In fact, some of your best writers were Christians--in a sense--before Christ in that they absorbed the beliefs of the ancient prophets).
We believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. The timing of His coming, the virgin birth, and His miracle-ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension were foretold over many millennia by various prophets (Moses, David, Isaiah, etc.) as they were moved by the Spirit. It was also predicted that many of the Jews would reject their Messiah and that many of the Gentiles would be included into God’s family. And we are that Church—a body of believers made up of every nation on earth! It becomes more than reasonable to put one’s life in the hands of a crucified man if that man’s crucifixion was foretold and came to pass as predicted.
If all of these prophecies have come to pass in Christ’s first coming, then we have good reason to believe the prophesies of His second coming may be relied upon. We believe there will be eternal life for those in Christ Jesus. The demons knew that Christ was coming (from the Prophets) and, therefore, influenced less ancient writers to conjure up mythical tales so that the story of Christ could be said to be just one among many. The part not even the demons could imagine, though, was the suffering of the Messiah. But even after this surprise, the demons did not give up in trying to lead the world astray through false teachings (even some masquerading as Christianity—men like Simon, Meander, Marcion— I’ve written against their heresies already).
And here’s what we practice:
We practice baptism. When someone has been made new in Christ (as many have been), we pray and fast with them. They are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. By dying and rising again, Christ has conquered death. Baptism shows the new believer shares in this victory. We proceed to pray for this new believer and salute each other with a kiss.
We share the Eucharist together (our leader saying thanks to God on our behalves before the deacons distribute the bread and wine) as a family of faith. We share our possessions and lives.
We assemble in a special way on Sundays, for it is the first day of creation and the first day of new creation (Jesus’ resurrection!). We hear the Scriptures together. Our leader will challenge us with the truth of its words. We pray together. We have the bread and wine together. We make offerings to be disbursed to those in need via our leader.
I have shown that the accusations made against us are false. I have clearly stated our beliefs. I have made known our practices. What, in all this, is worthy of persecution and death? And yet, if you insist (which only brings about your own judgment), we are willing to die. If Roman soldiers are willing to die for their allegiance to Rome (which can promise them nothing beyond death), is it any wonder that we Christians will die for our allegiance to Christ (who promises everything!)?