Catholic Encyclopedia

A theological science which has for its purpose the explanation and 
defence of the Christian religion. Apologetics means, broadly speaking, 
a form of apology. The term is derived from the Latin adjective, 
apologeticus, which, in turn has its origin in the Greek adjective, 
apologetikos, the substantive being apologia, "apology", "defence". As 
an equivalent of the plural form, the variant, "Apologetic", is now and 
then found in recent writings, suggested probably by the corresponding 
French and German words, which are always in the singular. But the 
plural form, "Apologetics", is far more common and will doubtless 
prevail; being in harmony with other words similarly formed, as ethics, 
statistics, homiletics. In defining apologetics as a form of apology, 
we understand the latter word in its primary sense, as a verbal defence 
against a verbal attack, a disproving of a false accusation, or a 
justification of an action or line of conduct wrongly made the object 
of censure. Such, for example, is the Apology of Socrates, such the 
Apologia of John Henry Newman. This is the only sense attaching to the 
term as used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, or by the French and 
Germans of the present day. Quite different is the meaning now conveyed 
by our English word, "apology", namely, an explanation of an action 
acknowledged to be open to blame. The same idea is expressed almost 
exclusively by the verb, "apologize", and generally by the adjective, 
"apologetic". For this reason, the adoption of the word, "Apologetics", 
in the sense of a scientific vindication of the Christian religion is 
not altogether a happy one. Some scholars prefer such terms as 
"Christian Evidences", the "Defence of the Christian Religion". 
"Apologetics" and "Apology" are not altogether interchangeable terms. 
The latter is the generic term, the former the specific. Any kind of 
accusation, whether personal, social, political, or religious, may call 
forth a corresponding apology. It is only apologies of the Christian 
religion that fall within the scope of apologetics. Nor is it all such. 
There is scarcely a dogma, scarcely a ritual or disciplinary 
institution of the Church that has not been subjected to hostile 
criticism, and hence, as occasion required, been vindicated by proper 
apologetics. But besides these forms of apology, there are the answers 
that have been called forth by attacks of various kinds upon the 
credentials of the Christian religion, apologies written to vindicate 
now this, now that ground of the Christian Catholic faith, that has 
been called in question or held up to disbelief and ridicule.
Now it is out of such apologies for the foundations of Christian belief 
that the science of apologetics has taken form. Apologetics is the 
Christian Apology par excellence, combining in one well-rounded system 
the arguments and considerations of permanent value that have found 
expression in the various single apologies. The latter, being answers 
to specific attacks, were necessarily conditioned by the occasions that 
called them forth. They were personal, controversial, partial 
vindications of the Christian position. In them the refutation of 
specific charges was the prominent element. Apologetics, on the other 
hand, is the comprehensive, scientific vindication of the grounds of 
Christian, Catholic belief, in which the calm, impersonal presentation 
of underlying principles is of paramount importance, the refutation of 
objections being added by way of corollary. It addresses itself not to 
the hostile opponent for the purpose of refutation, but rather to the 
inquiring mind by way of information. Its aim is to give a scientific 
presentation of the claims which Christ's revealed religion has on the 
assent of every rational mind; it seeks to lead the inquirer after 
truth to recognize, first, the reasonableness and trustworthiness of 
the Christian revelation as realized in the Catholic Church, and 
secondly, the corresponding obligation of accepting it. While not 
compelling faith -- for the certitude it offers is not absolute, but 
moral -- it shows that the credentials of the Christian religion amply 
suffice to vindicate the act of faith as a rational act, and to 
discredit the estrangement of the skeptic and unbeliever as unwarranted 
and culpable. Its last word is the answer to the question: Why should I 
be a Catholic? Apologetics thus leads up to Catholic faith, to the 
acceptance of the Catholic Church as the divinely authorized organ for 
preserving and rendering efficacious the saving truths revealed by 
Christ. This is the great fundamental dogma on which all other dogmas 
rest. Hence apologetics also goes by the name of "fundamental 
theology". Apologetics is generally viewed as one branch of dogmatic 
science, the other and chief branch being dogmatic theology proper. It 
is well to note, however, that in point of view and method also they 
are quite distinct. Dogmatic theology, like moral theology, addresses 
itself primarily to those who are already Catholic. It presupposes 
faith. Apologetics, on the other hand, in theory at least, simply leads 
up to faith. The former begins where the latter ends. Apologetics is 
pre-eminently a positive, historical discipline, whereas dogmatic 
theology is rather philosophic and deductive, using as its premise data 
of divine and ecclesiastical authority -- the contents of revelation 
and their interpretation by the Church. It is only in exploring and in 
treating dogmatically the elements of natural religion, the sources of 
its authoritative data, that dogmatic theology comes in touch with 
As has been pointed out, the object of apologetics is to give a 
scientific answer to the question, Why should I be Catholic? Now this 
question involves two others, which are also fundamental. The one is: 
Why should I be a Christian rather than an adherent of the Jewish 
religion, or the Mohammedan, or the Zoroastrian, or of some other 
religious system setting up a rival claim to be revealed? The other, 
still more fundamental, question is: Why should I profess any religion 
at all? Thus the science of apologetics easily falls into three great 
 	First, the study of religion in general and the grounds of 
 	theistic belief;
 	Second, the study of revealed religion and the grounds of 
 	Christian belief;
 	Third, the study of the true Church of Christ and the grounds of 
 	Catholic belief.
In the first of these divisions, the apologist inquirers into the 
nature of religion, its universality, and man's natural capacity to 
acquire religious ideas. In connection with this the modern study of 
the religious philosophy of uncultured peoples has to be taken into 
consideration, and the various theories concerning the origin of 
religion present themselves for critical discussion. This leads to the 
examination of the grounds of theistic belief, including the important 
questions of the existence of a divine Personality, the Creator and 
Conserver of the world, exercising a special providence over man; man's 
freedom of will and his corresponding religious and moral 
responsibility in virtue of his dependence on God; the immortality of 
the human soul, and the future life with its attendant rewards and 
punishments. Coupled with these questions is the refutation of monism, 
determinism, and other anti-theistic theories. Religious philosophy and 
apologetics here march hand in hand.
The second division, on revealed religion, is even more comprehensive. 
After treating the notion, possibility, and moral necessity of a divine 
revelation, and its discernibility through various internal and 
external criteria, the apologist proceeds to establish the fact of 
revelation. Three distinct, progressive stages of revelation are set 
forth: Primitive Revelation, Mosaic Revelation, and Christian 
Revelation. The chief sources on which he has to rely in establishing 
this triple fact of revelation are the Sacred Scriptures. But if he is 
logical, he must prescind from their inspiration and treat them 
provisionally as human historical documents. Here he must depend on the 
critical study of the Old and New Testaments by impartial scriptural 
scholars, and build on the accredited results of their researches 
touching the authenticity and trustworthiness of the sacred books 
purporting to be historical. It is only by anticipation that an 
argument for the fact of primitive revelation can be based on the 
ground that it is taught in the inspired book of Genesis, and that it 
is implied in the supernatural state of our first parents. In the 
absence of anything like contemporary documents, the apologist has to 
lay chief stress on the high antecedent probability of primitive 
revelation, and show how a revelation of limited, but sufficient scope 
for primitive man is compatible with a very crude stage of material and 
aesthetic culture, and hence is not discredited by the sound results of 
prehistoric archeology. Closely connected with this question is the 
scientific study of the origin and antiquity of man, and the unity of 
the human species; and, as still larger subjects bearing on the 
historic value of the sacred Book of Origins, the compatibility with 
Scripture of the modern sciences of biology, astronomy, and geology. In 
like manner the apologist has to content himself with showing the fact 
of Mosaic revelation to be highly probable. The difficulty, in the 
present condition of Old Testament criticism, of recognizing more than 
a small portion of the Pentateuch as documentary evidence contemporary 
with Moses, makes it incumbent on the apologist to proceed with caution 
lest, in attempting to prove too much, he may bring into discredit what 
is decidedly tenable apart from dogmatic considerations. However, there 
is sufficient evidence allowed by all but the most radical critics to 
establish the fact that Moses was the providential instrument for 
delivering the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage, and for teaching 
them a system of religious legislation that in lofty monotheism and 
ethical worth is far superior to the beliefs and customs of the 
surrounding nations, thus affording a strong presumption in favour of 
its claim to be revealed. This presumption gains strength and clearness 
in the light of Messianic prophecy, which shines with ever increasing 
volume and brightness through the history of the Jewish religion till 
it illumines the personality of our Divine Lord. In the study of Mosaic 
revelation, biblical archeology is of no small service to the 
When the apologist comes to the subject of Christian revelation, he 
finds himself on much firmer ground. Starting with the generally 
recognized results of New Testament criticism, he is enabled to show 
that the synoptic Gospels, on the one hand, and the undisputed Epistles 
of St. Paul, on the other, offer two independent, yet mutually 
corroborative, masses of evidence concerning the person and work of 
Jesus. As this evidence embodies the unimpeachable testimony of 
thoroughly reliable eye-witnesses and their associates, it presents a 
portraiture of Jesus that is truly historical. After showing from the 
records that Jesus taught, now implicitly, now explicitly, that he was 
the long expected Messiah, the Son of God sent by His Heavenly Father 
to enlighten and save mankind, and to found the new kingdom of justice, 
Apologetics proceeds to set forth the grounds for believing in these 
claims: the surpassing beauty of His moral character, stamping Him as 
the unique, perfect man; the lofty excellence of His moral and 
religious teaching, which has no parallel elsewhere, and which answers 
the highest aspirations of the human soul; His miracles wrought during 
His public mission; the transcendent miracle of His resurrection, which 
He foretold as well; the wonderful regeneration of society through His 
undying personal influence. Then, by way of supplementary proof, the 
apologist institutes an impartial comparison of Christianity with the 
various rival religious systems of the world -- Brahminism, Buddhism, 
Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Taoism, Mohammedanism -- and shows how in 
the person of its founder, in its moral and religious ideal and 
influence, the Christian religion is immeasurably superior to all 
others, and alone has a claim to our assent as the absolute, divinely-
revealed religion. Here, too, in the survey of Buddhism, the specious 
objection, not uncommon today, that Buddhist ideas and legends have 
contributed to the formation of the Gospels, calls for a summary 
Beyond the fact of Christian revelation the Protestant apologist does 
not proceed. But the Catholic rightly insists that the scope of 
apologetics should not end here. Both the New Testament records and 
those of the sub-Apostolic age bear witness that Christianity was meant 
to be something more than a religious philosophy of life, more than a 
mere system of individual belief and practice, and that it cannot be 
separated historically from a concrete form of social organization. 
Hence Catholic apologetics adds, as a necessary sequel to the 
established fact of Christian revelation, the demonstration of the true 
Church of Christ and its identity with the Roman Catholic Church. From 
the records of the Apostles and their immediate successors is set forth 
the institution of the Church as a true, unequal society, endowed with 
the supreme authority of its Founder, and commissioned in His name to 
teach and sanctify mankind; possessing the essential features of 
visibility, indefectibility, and infallibility; characterized by the 
distinctive marks of unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. 
These notes of the true Church of Christ are then applied as criteria 
to the various rival Christian denominations of the present day, with 
the result that they are found fully exemplified in the Roman Catholic 
Church alone. With the supplementary exposition of the primacy and 
infallibility of the Pope, and of the rule of faith, the work of 
apologetics is brought to its fitting close. It is true that some 
apologists see fit to treat also of inspiration and the analysis of the 
act of faith. But, strictly speaking, these are not apologetic 
subjects. While they may logically be included in the prolegomena of 
dogmatic theology, they rather belong, the one to the province of 
Scripture-study, the other to the tract of moral theology dealing with 
the theological virtues.
The history of apologetic literature involves the survey of the varied 
attacks that have been made against the grounds of Christian, Catholic 
belief. It may be marked off into four great divisions.
The first division is the period from the beginning of Christianity to 
the downfall of the Roman Empire (AD 476). It is chiefly characterized 
by the twofold struggle of Christianity with Judaism and with paganism.
The second division is coextensive with the Middle Ages, from AD 476 to 
the Reformation. In this period we find Christianity in conflict with 
the Mohammedan religion and philosophy.
The third division takes in the period from the beginning of the 
Reformation to the rise of rationalism in England in the middle of the 
seventeenth century. It is the period of struggle between Catholicism 
and Protestantism.
The fourth division embraces the period of rationalism, from the middle 
of the seventeenth century down to the present day. Here we find 
Christianity in conflict with Deism, Pantheism, Materialism, 
Agnosticism, and Naturalism.
(A) Apologies in Answer to the Opposition of Judaism
It lay in the nature of things that Christianity should meet with 
strong Jewish opposition. In dispensing with circumcision and other 
works of the law, Christianity had incurred the imputation of running 
counter to God's immutable will. Again, Christ's humble and obscure 
life, ending in the ignominious death on the cross, was the very 
opposite of what the Jews expected of their Messiah. Their judgment 
seemed to be confirmed by the fact that Christianity attracted but an 
insignificant portion of the Jewish people, and spread with greatest 
vigour among the despised Gentiles. To justify the claims of 
Christianity before the Jews, the early apologists had to give an 
answer to these difficulties. Of these apologies the most important is 
the "Dialogue with Trypho the Jew" composed by Justin Martyr about 155-
160. He vindicates the new religion against the objections of the 
learned Jew, arguing with great cogency that it is the perfection of 
the Old Law, and showing by an imposing array of Old Testament passages 
that the Hebrew prophets point to Jesus as the Messiah and the 
incarnate Son of God. He insists also that it is in Christianity that 
the destiny of the Hebrew religion to become the religion of the world 
is to find its realization, and hence it is the followers of Christ, 
and not the unbelieving Jews, that are the true children of Israel. By 
his elaborate argument from Messianic prophecy, Justin won the grateful 
recognition of later apologists. Similar apologies were composed by 
Tertullian, "Against the Jews" (Adversus Judos, about 200), and by St. 
Cyprian, "Three Books of Evidences against the Jews" (about 250).
(B) Apologies in Answer to Pagan Opposition
Of far more serious moment to the early Christian Church was the bitter 
opposition it met from paganism. The polytheistic religion of the Roman 
Empire, venerated for its antiquity, was intertwined with every fibre 
of the body politic. Its providential influence was a matter of firm 
belief. It was associated with the highest culture, and had the 
sanction of the greatest poets and sages of Greece and Rome. Its 
splendid temples and stately ritual gave it a grace and dignity that 
captivated the popular imagination. On the other hand, Christian 
monotheism was an innovation. It made no imposing display of liturgy. 
Its disciples were, for the most part, persons of humble birth and 
station. Its sacred literature had little attraction for the fastidious 
reader accustomed to the elegant diction of the classic authors. And so 
the popular mind viewed it with misgivings, or despised it as an 
ignorant superstition. But opposition did not end here. The 
uncompromising attitude of the new religion towards pagan rites was 
decried as the greatest impiety. The Christians were branded as 
atheists, and as they held aloof from the public functions also, which 
were invariably associated with these false rites, they were accused of 
being enemies of the State. The Christian custom of worshipping in 
secret assembly seemed to add force to this charge, for secret 
societies were forbidden by Roman law. Nor were calumnies wanting. The 
popular imagination easily distorted the vaguely-known Agape and 
Eucharistic Sacrifice into abominable rites marked by feasting on 
infant flesh and by indiscriminate lust. The outcome was that the 
people and authorities took alarm at the rapidly spreading Church and 
sought to repress it by force. To vindicate the Christian cause against 
these attacks of paganism, many apologies were written. Some, notably 
the "Apology" of Justin Martyr (150), the "Plea for the Christians", by 
Athenagoras (177), and the "Apologetic" of Tertullian (197), were 
addressed to emperors for the express purpose of securing for the 
Christians immunity from persecution. Others were composed to convince 
the pagans of the folly of polytheism and of the saving truth of 
Christianity. Such were: Tatian, "Discourse to the Greeks" (160), 
Theophilus, "Three Books to Autolychus" (180), the "Epistle to 
Diognetus" (about 190), the "Octavius" of Minucius Felix (192), Origen, 
"True Discourse against Celsus" (248), Lactantius, Institutes (312), 
and St. Augustine, "City of God" (414-426). In these apologies the 
argument from Old Testament prophecy has a more prominent place than 
that from miracles. But the one on which most stress is laid is that of 
the transcendent excellence of Christianity. Though not clearly marked 
out, a twofold line of thought runs through this argument: Christianity 
is light, whereas paganism is darkness; Christianity is power, whereas 
paganism is weakness. Enlarging on these ideas, the apologists contrast 
the logical coherence of the religious tenets of Christianity, and its 
lofty ethical teaching, with the follies and inconsistencies of 
polytheism, the low ethical principles of its philosophers, and the 
indecencies of its mythology and of some of its rites. They likewise 
show that the Christian religion alone has the power to transform man 
from a slave of sin into a spiritual freeman. They compare what they 
once were as pagans with what they now are as Christians. They draw a 
telling contrast between the loose morality of pagan society and the 
exemplary lives of Christians, whose devotion to their religious 
principles is stronger than death itself.
The one dangerous rival with which Christianity had to contend in the 
middle ages was the Mohammedan religion. Within a century of its birth, 
it had torn from Christendom some of its fairest lands, and extended 
like a huge crescent from Spain over Northern Africa, Egypt, Palestine, 
Arabia, Persia, and Syria, to the eastern part of Asia Minor. The 
danger which this fanatic religion offered to Christian faith, in 
countries where the two religions came in contact, was not to be 
treated lightly. And so we find a series of apologies written to uphold 
the truth of Christianity in the face of Moslem errors. Perhaps the 
earliest was the "Discussion between a Saracen and a Christian" 
composed by St. John Damascene (about 750). In this apology he 
vindicates the dogma of the Incarnation against the rigid and 
fatalistic conception of God taught by Mohammed. He also demonstrates 
the superiority of the religion of Christ, pointing out the grave 
defects in Mohammed's life and teaching, and showing the Koran to be in 
its best parts but a feeble imitation of the Sacred Scriptures. Other 
apologies of a similar kind were composed by Peter the Venerable in the 
twelfth and by Raymond of Martini in the thirteenth century. Hardly 
less dangerous to the Christian faith was the rationalistic philosophy 
of Islamism. The Arabian conquerors had learned from the Syrians the 
arts and sciences of the Greek world. They became especially proficient 
in medicine, mathematics, and philosophy, for the study of which they 
erected in every part of their domain schools and libraries. In the 
twelfth century Moorish Spain had nineteen colleges, and their renown 
attracted hundreds of Christian scholars from every part of Europe. 
Herein lay a grave menace to Christian orthodoxy, for the philosophy of 
Aristotle as taught in these schools had become thoroughly tinctured 
with Arabian pantheism and rationalism. The peculiar tenet of the 
celebrated Moorish philosopher Averroes was much in vogue, namely: that 
philosophy and religion are two independent spheres of thought, so that 
what is true in the one may be false in the other. Again, it was 
commonly taught that faith is for the masses who cannot think for 
themselves, but philosophy is a higher form of knowledge which noble 
minds should seek to acquire. Among the fundamental dogmas denied by 
the Arabian philosophers were creation, providence, and immortality. To 
vindicate Christianity against Mohammedan rationalism, St. Thomas 
composed (1261-64) his philosophical "Summa contra Gentiles", in four 
books. In this great apology the respective claims of reason and faith 
are carefully distinguished and harmonized, and a systematic 
demonstration of the grounds of faith is built up with arguments of 
reason and authority such as appealed directly to the minds of that 
day. In treating of God, providence, creation and the future life, St. 
Thomas refutes the chief errors of the Arabian, Jewish, and Greek 
philosophers, and shows that the genuine teaching of Aristotle confirms 
the great truths of religion. Three apologies composed in much the same 
spirit, but belonging to a later age, may be mentioned here. The one is 
the fine work of Louis VIV s, "De Veritate Fidei Christianae Libri V" 
(about 1530). After treating the principles of natural theology, the 
Incarnation, and Redemption, he gives two dialogues, one between a 
Christian and a Jew, the other between a Christian and a Mohammedan, in 
which he shows the superiority of the Christian religion. Similar to 
this is the apology of the celebrated Dutch theologian Grotius, "De 
Veritate Religionis Christianae" (1627). It is in six books. An able 
treatise on natural theology is followed by a demonstration of the 
truth of Christianity based on the life and miracles of Jesus, the 
holiness of His teaching, and the wonderful propagation of His 
religion. In proving the authenticity and trustworthiness of the Sacred 
Scriptures, Grotius appeals largely to internal evidence. The latter 
part of the work is devoted to a refutation of paganism, Judaism, and 
Mohammedanism. An apology on somewhat similar lines is that of the 
Huguenot, Philip deMornay, "De la vérité de la religion chrétienne" 
(1579). It is the first apology of note that was written in a modern 
The outbreak of Protestantism in the beginning of the sixteenth 
century, and its rejection of many of the fundamental features of 
Catholicism, called forth a mass of controversial apologetic 
literature. It was not, of course, the first time that the principles 
of Catholic belief had been questioned with reference to Christian 
orthodoxy. In the early ages of the Church heretical sects, assuming 
the right to profess allegiance and fidelity to the spirit of Christ, 
had given occasion to St. Irenæus "On Heresies", Tertullian "On 
Prescription against Heretics," St. Vincent of Lérns, in his 
"Commonitory", to insist on unity with the Catholic Church, and, for 
the purpose of confuting the heretical errors of private 
interpretation, to appeal to an authoritative rule of faith. In like 
manner, the rise of heretical sects in the three centuries preceding 
the Reformation led to an accentuation of the fundamental principles of 
Catholicism, notably in Moneta's "Summa contra Catharos et Waldenses" 
(about 1225), and Torquemada's "Summa de Ecclesiâ" (1450). So to a far 
greater extent, in the outpouring from many sources of Protestant 
ideas, it became the duty of the hour to defend the true nature of the 
Church of Christ, to vindicate its authority, its divinely authorized 
hierarchy under the primacy of the Pope, its visibility, unity, 
perpetuity, and infallibility, along with other doctrines and practices 
branded as superstitious.
In the first heat of this gigantic controversy the writings on both 
sides were sharply polemic, abounding in personal recriminations. But 
towards the close of the century there developed a tendency to treat 
the controverted questions more in the manner of a calm, systematic 
apology. Two works belonging to this time are especially noteworthy. 
One is the "Disputations de controversiis Christianae Fidei" (1581-92), 
by Robert Bellarmin, a monumental work of vast erudition, rich in 
apologetic material. The other is the "Principiorum Fidei Doctrinalium 
Demonstratio" (1579), by Robert Stapleton, whom Döllinger pronounced to 
be the prince of controversialists. Though not so erudite, it is more 
profound than the work of Bellarmin. Another excellent work of this 
period is that of Martin Becan, "De Ecclesiâ Christi" (1633).
(A) From the Middle of the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century
Rationalism -- the setting up of the human reason as the source and 
measure of all knowable truth -- is, of course, not confined to any one 
period of human history. It has existed from the earliest days of 
philosophy. But in Christian society it did not become a notable factor 
till the middle of the seventeenth century, when it asserted itself 
chiefly in the form of Deism. It was associated, and even to a large 
extent identified with the rapidly growing movement towards greater 
intellectual freedom which, stimulated by fruitful scientific inquiry, 
found itself seriously hampered by the narrow views of inspiration and 
of historic Bible-interpretation which then prevailed. The Bible had 
been set up as an infallible source of knowledge not only in matters of 
religion, but of history, chronology, and physical science. The result 
was a reaction against the very essentials of Christianity. Deism 
became the intellectual fashion of the day, leading in many cases to 
downright atheism. Starting with the principle that no religious 
doctrine is of value that cannot be proved by experience or by 
philosophical reflection, the Deists admitted the existence of a God 
external to the world, but denied every form of divine intervention, 
and accordingly rejected revelation, inspiration, miracles, and 
prophecy. Together with unbelievers of a still more pronounced type, 
they assailed the historic value of the Bible, decrying its miraculous 
narratives as fraud and superstition. The movement started in England, 
and in the eighteenth century spread to France and Germany. Its baneful 
influence was deep and far-reaching, for it found zealous exponents in 
some of the leading philosophers and men of letters -- Hobbes, Locke, 
Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, d'Alembert, Diderot, Lessing, Herder, and 
others. But able apologists were not lacking to champion the Christian 
cause. England produced several that won lasting honour for their 
scholarly defence of fundamental Christian truths -- Lardner, author of 
the "Credibility of the Gospel History", in twelve volumes (1741-55); 
Butler, likewise famous for his "Analogy of Religion Natural and 
Revealed to the Constitution of Nature" (1736); Campbell, who in his 
"Dissertation on Miracles" (1766) gave a masterly answer to Hume's 
arguments against miracles; and Paley, whose "Evidences of 
Christianity" (1794) and "Natural Theology" (1802) are among the 
classics of English theological literature. On the continent, the work 
of defence was carried on by such men as Bishop Huet, who published his 
"Démonstration Evangélique" in 1679; Leibnitz, whose "Théodicée" 
(1684), with its valuable introduction on the conformity of faith with 
reason, had a great influence for good; the Benedictine Abbot Gerbert, 
who gave a comprehensive Christian apology in his "Demonstratio Veræ 
Religionis Ver que Ecclesiæ Contra Quasvis Falsas" (1760); and the Abbé 
Bergier, whose "Traité historique et dogmatique de la vraie religion", 
in twelve volumes (1780), showed ability and erudition.
(B) The Nineteenth Century
In the last century the conflict of Christianity with rationalism was 
in part lightened and in part complicated by the marvelous development 
of scientific and historic inquiry. Lost languages, like the Egyptian 
and the Babylonian, were recovered, and thereby rich and valuable 
records of the past -- many of them unearthed by laborious and costly 
excavation -- were made to tell their story. Much of this bore on the 
relations of the ancient Hebrew people with the surrounding nations 
and, while in some instances creating new difficulties, for the most 
part helped to corroborate the truth of the Bible history. Out of these 
researches have grown a number of valuable and interesting apologetic 
studies on Old Testament history: Schrader, "Cuneiform Inscriptions and 
the Old Testament" (London, 1872); Hengstenberg's "Egypt and the Books 
of Moses" (London, 1845); Harper, "The Bible and Modern Discoveries" 
(London, 1891); McCurdy, "History, Prophecy, and the Monuments" 
(London-New York, 1894-1900); Pinches, "The Old Testament in the Light 
of the Historic Records of Assyria and Babylonia" (London-New York, 
1902); Abbé Gainet, "La bible sans la bible, ou l'histoire de l'ancien 
testament par les seuls témoignages profanes" (Bar-le-Duc, 1871); 
Vigouroux, "La bible et les découvertes modernes" (Paris, 1889). On the 
other hand, Biblical chronology, as then understood, and the literal 
historic interpretation of the Book of Genesis were thrown into 
confusion by the advancing sciences -- astronomy, with its grand 
nebular hypothesis; biology, with its even more fruitful theory of 
evolution; geology, and prehistoric archeology. Rationalists eagerly 
laid hold of these scientific data, and sought to turn them to the 
discredit of the Bible and likewise of the Christian religion. But able 
apologies were forthcoming to essay a conciliation of science and 
religion. Among them were: Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Wiseman, "Twelve 
Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion" 
(London, 1847), which, though antiquated in parts, is still valuable 
reading; Reusch, "Nature and the Bible" (London, 1876). Others more 
modern and up to date are: Duilhé de Saint-Projet, "Apologie 
scientifique de la foi chrétienne" (Paris, 1885); Abbé Guibert, "In the 
beginning" (New York, 1904), one of the best Catholic treatises on the 
subject; and more recent still, A. de Lapparent, "Science et 
apologétique" (Paris, 1905). A more delicate form of scientific inquiry 
for Christian belief was the application of the principles of historic 
criticism to the books of Holy Scripture. Not a few Christian scholars 
looked with grave misgivings on the progress made in this legitimate 
department of human research, the results of which called for a 
reconstruction of many traditional views of Scripture. Rationalists 
found here a congenital field of study, which seemed to promise the 
undermining of Scripture-authority. Hence it was but natural that the 
encroachments of Biblical criticism on conservative theology should be 
disputed inch by inch. On the whole, the outcome of the long and 
spirited contest has been to the advantage of Christianity. It is true 
that the Pentateuch, so long attributed to Moses, is now held by the 
vast majority of non-Catholic, and by an increasing number of Catholic, 
scholars to be a compilation of four independent sources put together 
in final shape soon after the Captivity. But the antiquity of much of 
the contents of these sources has been firmly established, as well as 
the strong presumption that the kernel of the Pentateuchal legislation 
is of Mosaic institution. This has been shown by Kirkpatrick in his 
"Divine Library of the Old Testament" (London-New York, 1901), by 
Driver in his "Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament" 
(New York, 1897), and by Abbé Lagrange, in his "Méthode historique de 
l'Ancien Testament" (Paris, 1903; tr. London, 1905). In the New 
Testament the results of Biblical criticism are still more assuring. 
The attempt of the Tübingen school to throw the Gospels far into the 
second century, and to see in most of the Epistles of St. Paul the work 
of a much later hand, has been absolutely discredited. The synoptic 
Gospels are now generally recognized, even by advanced critics, to 
belong to the years 65-85, resting on still earlier written and oral 
sources, and the Gospel of St. John is brought with certainty down to 
at least A.D. 110, that is, within a very few years of the death of St. 
John. The three Epistles of St. John are recognized as genuine, the 
pastoral letters being now the chief object of dispute. Closely 
connected with the theory of the Tübingen School, was the attempt of 
the rationalist Strauss to explain away the miraculous element in the 
Gospels as the mythical fancies of an age much later than that of 
Jesus. Strauss's views, embodied in his "Life of Jesus" (1835), were 
ably refuted, together with the false assertions and inductions of the 
Tübingen School by such Catholic scholars as Kuhn, Hug, Sepp, 
Döllinger, and by the Protestant critics, Ewald, Meyer, Wieseler, 
Tholuck, Luthardt, and others. The outcome of Strauss's "Life of 
Jesus," and of Renan's vain attempt to improve on it by giving it a 
legendary form (Vie de Jésus, 1863), has been a number of scholarly 
biographies of our blessed Lord: by Fouard, "Christ the Son of God" 
(New York, 1891); Didon, "Jesus Christ" (New York, 1891); Edersheim, 
"Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" (New York, 1896), and others.
Another field of study which grew up chiefly in the last century, and 
has had an influence in shaping the science of apologetics, is the 
study of religions. The study of the great religious systems of the 
pagan world, and their comparison with Christianity, furnished material 
for a number of specious arguments against the independent and 
supernatural origin of the Christian religion. So, too, the study of 
the origin of religion in the light of the religious philosophy of 
uncultured peoples has been exploited against Christian (theistic 
belief) on the unwarranted ground that Christianity is but a 
refinement, through a long process of evolution, of a crude primitive 
religion originating in ghost-worship. Among those who have 
distinguished themselves in this branch of apologetics are Döllinger, 
whose "Heidenthum und Judenthum" (1857), tr. "Gentile and Jew in the 
Court of the Temple" (London, 1865-67), is a mine of information on the 
comparative merits of revealed religion and the paganism of the Roman 
world; Abbéde Broglie, author of the suggestive volume, "Problèmes et 
conclusions de l'histoire des religions" (Paris, 1886); Hardwick, 
Christ and other Masters" (London, 1875). Another factor in the growth 
of apologetics during the last century was the rise of numerous systems 
of philosophy that, in the teaching of such men as Kant, Fichte, Hegel, 
Schelling, Comte, and Spencer, were openly or covertly in opposition to 
Christian belief. To counteract these systems, Pope Leo XIII revived 
throughout the Catholic world the teaching of Thomistic philosophy. The 
many works written to vindicate Christian Theism against Pantheism, 
Materialism, Positivism, and Evolutionary Monism have been of great 
service to apologetics. Not all these philosophic apologies, indeed, 
are scholastic. They represent several modern schools of thought. 
France has furnished a number of able apologetic thinkers who lay chief 
stress on the subjective element in man, who point to the needs and 
aspirations of the soul, and to the corresponding fitness of 
Christianity, and of Christianity alone, to satisfy them. This line of 
thought has been worked out in various ways by the lately deceased 
Ollé-Laprune, author of "La certitude morale" (Paris, 1880), and "Le 
prix de la vie" (Paris, 1892); by Fonsegrive, "Le catholicisme et la 
vie de l'esprit" (Paris, 1899); and, in "L'action" (Paris, 1893), by 
Blondel, the founder of the so-called "Immanence School" the principles 
of which are embodied in the spiritual writings of Father Tyrrell, "Lex 
Orandi" (London, 1903), "Lex Credendi" (London, 1906). The continued 
opposition between Catholicism and Protestantism in the last century 
resulted in the production of a number of noteworthy apologetic 
writings: Möhler, "Symbolism", published in Germany in 1832, which has 
gone through many editions in English; Balmes, "Protestantism and 
Catholicity Compared in their Effects on the Civilization of Europe", a 
Spanish work published in English in 1840 (Baltimore); the works of the 
three illustrious English cardinals, Wiseman, Newman, and Manning, most 
of whose writings have a bearing on apologetics.
It is out of all these varied and extensive studies that apologetics 
has taken form. The vastness of the field makes it extremely difficult 
for any one writer to do it full justice. In fact a complete, 
comprehensive apology of uniform excellence still remains to be 
In addition to the works already mentioned, the more general treatises 
on apologetics are as follows:
CATHOLIC WORKS. SCHANZ, A Christian Apology (New York, 1891) 3 vols. An 
improved edition of the original, Apologie des Christentums, was 
published in Freiburg (1895) and an augmented edition was in 
preparation in 1906. PICARD, Christianity or Agnosticism?, tr. from the 
French by MACLEOD (London, 1899); DEVIVIER, Christian Apologetics, 
edited and augmented by SASIA (San José, 1903) 2 vols.; ed. in one vol. 
by the Most Rev. S. G. Messmer, D.D. (New York, 1903); FRAYSSINOUS, A 
Defence of Christianity, tr. from the French by JONES (London, 1836); 
HETTINGER, Natural Religion (New York, 1890); Revealed Religion (New 
York, 1895), both being adaptations by H. S. BOWDEN of HETTINGER'S 
German Apologie des Christentums (Freiburg, 1895-98) 5 vols.; 
HETTINGER, Fundamental-Theologie (Freiburg, 1888); GUTBERLET, Lehrbuch 
der Apologetik (Münster, 1895) 3 vols.; SCHELL, Apologie des 
Christentums (Paderborn, 1902-5) 2 vols.; WEISS, Apologie des 
Christentums vom Standpunkte der Sitte und Kultur (Freiburg, 1888-9), 5 
vols., French tr. Apologie du christianisme au point de vue des m urs 
et de la civilisation (Paris, 1894); BOUGAUD, Le christianisme et les 
temps présents (Paris, 1891) 5 vols.; LABEYRIE, La science de la foi 
(La Chapelle-Montligeon, 1903); EGGER, Encheiridion Theologi Dogmatic 
Generalis (Brixen, 1893); OTTIGER, Theologia Fundamentalis (Freiburg, 
1897); TANQUERY, Synopsis Theologi Fundamentalis (New York, 1896). 
Periodicals valuable for apologetic study are: The American Catholic 
Quarterly; American Ecclesiastical Review; New York Review; Catholic 
World; Dublin Review; Irish Ecclesiastical Record; Irish Theological 
Quarterly; Month; Tablet; Revue Apologétique (Brussels); Revue pratique 
apologétique (Paris); Revue des questions scientifiques; Mus on; La 
science catholique; Annales de philosophie chrétienne; Etudes 
religieuses; Revue Thomiste, Revue du clerg français; Revue d'histoire 
et de littérature religieuse; Revue biblique; Theologische 
Quartalschrift (Tübingen); Stimmen aus Maria-Laach. PROTESTANT WORKS. 
BRUCE, Apologetics (New York, 1892); FISHER, The Grounds of Theistic 
and Christian Belief (New York, 1902); FAIRBAIRN, The Philosophy of the 
Christian Religion (New York, 1902); MAIR, Studies in the Christian 
Evidences (Edinburgh, 1894); LUTHARDT, The Fundamental Truths of 
Christianity (Edinburgh, 1882); SCHULTZ, Outlines of Christian 
Apologetics (New York, 1905); ROW, Christian Evidences Viewed in 
Relation to Modern Thought (London, 1888); IDEM, A Manual of Christian 
Evidences (New York, 1896); ILLINGWORTH, Reason and Revelation (New 
York, 1903). Many excellent apologetic treatises are to be found in the 
long series of Bampton Lectures, also in the Gifford, Hulsean, Baird, 
and Croal Lectures.
Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter

From the Catholic Encyclopedia 
Copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. 

Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Provided courtesy of New Advent Supersite to:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210