The first third of the course will focus on apologetic works written during the age when Christianity was illegal and in which Christians, on occasion, were persecuted without mercy. The apologists of this period were both defending Christianity against pagan accusations and trying to convince others to share their faith. 

The second third of this class will focus on apologetics during the Middle Ages and the Reformation. The Middle Ages is often called the Age of Faith: certainly a good description. However, it was anything but an era of blind faith.  Medieval thinkers were willing to question every aspect of their faith, trying (for the most part) to combine faith and reason.  The great Reformation thinkers (both Catholic and Protestant) likewise looked to reason in defense of their various versions of the Christian faith.

Please demonstrate your understanding of important class themes by writing an essay of 1000-1500 words that addresses one (1) of the following prompts.

1.  “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” asked Tertullian, suggesting that the opinions of the philosophers are nothing compared with the wisdom of sacred scripture.  But the works of the apologists of the first few Christian centuries (including the works of Tertullian himself) reflect an impressive mastery of pagan philosophy.  Discuss the ways in which the apologists of this period use the works/ideas of the philosophers to defend their faith.  Which seems most successful in blending philosophy and faith?   

2.  Some early Christians regarded Socrates as a “Christian before Christ.”  Compare Socrates’ Apology with one or more of the early Christian apologetic works.  How is Socrates’s defense similar to the arguments made by people like Justin, Athenegoras, Theophilus, Tertullian, Origen or Eusebius?  How is it different? 

3.  “I believe that I might understand” said St. Anselm, implying that, in order to use reason/philosophy effectively, one had to have the right heart-attitudes.  Discuss the ways in which the apologists of the ancient and/or medieval periods tried to balance head and heart.  Which, if any, seems to you most successful?
4.  “Philosophy is the handmaiden of theology” said Thomas Aquinas. To what extent did the medieval apologists find philosophy a useful handmaiden?  To what extent did the handmaiden threaten to usurp the position of the legitimate “wife”?

5.  Some literary works are valuable only within a limited historical context.  Others (like Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War) are “works for the ages.”  Of the apologetic works we have read so far, which would seem most relevant to today’s readers? Which seem more of purely historic interest?  Which, if any, are “works for the ages”?