Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In these two short apologies, Justin offers a very broad summary of the Christian creed, code, and cult. This is aimed foremost at decrying the injustice of persecution of Christians and making an appeal for freedom of conscience and religious belief and practice. He seeks to disabuse detractors of Christianity from the false charges brought against the religion, and so he summarizes the Christian theological understanding of God, especially as revealed in the wisdom and works of his son Jesus, the redeemer, born of a virgin, who suffered, died, was buried, and then rose from the dead and ascended into eternal glory. The creed of Christians calls them to worship God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and to keep the commands of Jesus, which fulfill all truth that has ever been discovered by human philosophical reasoning or revealed and fulfilled in the holy Scriptures, which are completed in the redemptive work of Jesus. This belief must be lived out in practice, and so the Christian is obliged to obey the moral law, to seek virtue, and to avoid vice. The law of charity obliges the Christian to forgive others and to love God and neighbor in complete and fervent charity. To strengthen one’s faith and love, the Christian must worship God with his brethren, being nurtured and spiritually fed by the Eucharist to become an instrument of God’s grace in the world. Thus, through prayer and sacraments, such as baptism, the remission of sins, and Eucharistic communion in Christ, the Christian goes forth to spread God’s love. Faith combined with charity then gives rise to the hope of eternal life, so that death itself is no longer counted the supreme evil but rather as a great doorway into the long-promised reward of eternal life made possible through the redemptive sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

Justin’s apologies and other writings provide deep insight into the wisdom, works, and worship of the very early Christians, and in them can be seen the seeds and structure of many Christian doctrines, moral teachings, and liturgical practices that have marked Christianity down through the ages.