Arguments for pagans
Justin used some arguments especially designed for confrontations with paganism. One was his insistence on the moral superiority of Christianity. He uses many examples of the grossness of pagan culture—how unjustly they excuse their abominations and how hypocritically they accuse Christians of moral crimes of which they themselves are the true perpetrators. He writes, “We who once reveled in impurities now cling to purity” because we “consecrate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God” (Apology, 14). The skilled artisans who carve pagan gods are “licentious men . . . experienced in every known vice” who “even defile the girls who work with them.” What stupidity! The teachings of Christ, quoted abundantly by Justin, show the clear moral superiority of Christianity and also the absurdity of the false charges brought against Christians. The determination of Christians to escape worldly pollution and reverse the accepted standards of worldly cruelty and disregard for life, even though incurring the wrath of the world in the process, shows that their moral understanding is informed by eternal truth.
Justin also argued that Christianity excels in clarity of truth. He ridiculed the gullibility and criticized the inconsistency of Greeks who received, without proof, teachings that, when asserted about Christ with greater fullness and with historical demonstration, they indicted as absurd. Justin set himself to prove that the absurdity belonged to the pagans because the truth was in Jesus.
In Justin’s argument, proof consists of three elements: historical reality, fulfillment of prophecy, and superior arguments. First, Christianity revels in the irreducible reality of its historical events. No historical evidence or documentation exists for the fabulous tales told of Zeus, Jupiter, Minerva, and others. Even if historical evidence did exist, it would be useless since those deities do not inspire or redeem humanity but brutalize and debase it. The certainty of Jesus’ actions and words is beyond question, however, both as a matter of documentation and as an item still remembered in the Christian communities.
Second, Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy, as already mentioned, was pervasive, accurate, and impossible to fabricate. The world was prepared carefully for His coming through the Old Testament Scriptures. John the Baptist announced it immediately prior to His appearance, and Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of all the prophecies. These facts show that He gives us true knowledge of the One who created the world, sustains it, knows all things, and gives both eternal rewards and punishments in accordance with principles of ineffable justice.
Third, because Jesus is the historical manifestation of the truth, and there is no truth that He did not originate, everything that is true has its foundation in Christ. Justin argued that anything that was spoken well by philosophers came as a result of serious and difficult contemplation of “some part of the Logos.” Because they could not contemplate the “Whole Word,” even when they spoke well, they sometimes contradicted themselves and always knew that speaking of God was a difficult matter. Christ, however, spoke with fullness, absolute accuracy, and utter confidence. His words came from His own power, arising from intrinsic and divine understanding. No one is willing to die for Socrates or Heraclitus. But for Christ’s sake, not only the educated and philosophical, but the workmen, slaves, and uneducated not only scorn all glory but have no fear of death.