Digital Persecution and A Look at Early Christian Apologetics

I know  “Second Century Apologetics” seems like a pretty boring subject, but trust me, it is really just a mirror to our present day struggle with explaining and defending our faith to a society that doesn’t understand it. Give it a chance and you will see that not much has changed in 2,000 years.

Description of Christian Apologetics in the Second Century

I believe Christian Apologetics in the second century can be summed up in one word: proactive. They met the opposition head-on and without shame.[1] I fear the boldness these early pioneers displayed has been largely lost in the sea of PC-ness that saturates our modern society. Whereas in our times, it seems Christians are reactive, in the second century, they were proactive. They directly confronted detractors instead of cowering or pandering to them.

Accusations Against Christians

The accusations against Christians were somewhat of their own making. For instance, one of the charges brought against them was their aloofness.[2] They kept to themselves and were therefore seen as secretive, mysterious, and cultish. Since people fear what they do not understand, terrible misunderstandings and rumors circulated. Christians called each other, “Brothers and Sisters.” Therefore, rumors circulated that they were incestuous. The Eucharist involves “the body and blood of Christ.” Therefore, outsiders thought the Christians were literally cannibals. Another claim was that the Christians were atheists! Since the Greeks and Romans believed in many gods and Christians would not honor these gods with sacrifices or tithes, they were deemed, atheist. These all seem pretty ridiculous today, but in the second century many Christians were martyred over such trivial misunderstandings. They needed a good PR person! Or a Community Outreach Program to inform the public of their ways! Continuing to stay away from society did not help their cause.

Response of Second Century Apologists

Apologists like Justin Marty responded by trying to show how moral Christians were rather than immoral as had been suggested.[3] By lifting the veil (so to speak) of secrecy, Justin sought to inform those who were misinformed. He made the plea so often heard today, for “tolerance”[4] of Christian beliefs and values. He wrote many works defending his faith and ultimately, Justin gave his life defending it.

Apologetic Principles that Could Be Used in a Modern Context

Apologetic principles that could be used today in a modern context are ownership of our beliefs and a boldness to proclaim and defend them. As I mentioned earlier, many of the accusations brought against the early church could have been rectified through an Outreach Program of some sort. Knowledge is power and if people don’t know what you are doing and don’t understand it: they will fear it. Today, modern apologetics need to meet detractors head-on and supply information to help them understand why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe.

Digital Persecution

As I read this text, I couldn’t help but wonder what Justin would do if he were alive today. What would his Social Media look like? What would he tweet about? What Facebook posts would he make?

My guess is he would be doing about the same thing as he was in the second century. Defending his faith. Making a stand. Spreading the knowledge of the Good News.

The second century saw horrendous persecution of Christians. They gave up everything for what they believed. They were physically killed. Today, is it so different? It is such a strange time to be a Christian. We may not be physically killed (in this part of the world) for our beliefs, but we can be digitally killed. We can be digitally persecuted and bullied. We can be ostracized and labeled a hateful bigot for defending our faith.

And isn’t it ironic, how the very same people who fought for their tolerance are not very quick to dish it out to anyone else?


[1] Everett Ferguson, Church History Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 76.

[2] Ibid., 72.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 76.


Ferguson, Everett. Church History Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2 ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course CCHI 520: History of Christianity.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this!

    Interesting how Christians’ lack of communication on the gospel may provoke fear in others (because as you said, they don’t understand it if we are silent) but we as Christians often feel fear too, from sharing! Quite telling how the enemy uses fear in a big way here. In conjunction, isn’t it interesting then, how often God tell us “not to fear” in the bible? I bet there’s a pretty good reason for that!

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