Not long after the era of the apostles, a group of dedicated Christian thinkers arose to defend the Christian faith from various critics. We call this group of thinkers the apologists; not because they were sorry for anything. The word came from Greek, apologia, which means a defense or answer, such as arguments that a lawyer gives at a trial. Through written and verbal defenses, these thinkers attempted to answer the accusations of those who challenged the Christian faith and, at the same time, pointed out the weaknesses of accusers. They hoped that their efforts would help to change public opinion about Christianity and lead people to conversions. But often, they ended up sacrificing their life and died a martyr. They might be called the first “theologians,” but for them theology was not an abstract and academic claims so much as a way of life and death.
One of the most well-known apologists was Justin Martyr, who lived in the second century, around 103 to 165 AD. As a young man, Justin was not a Christian. He searched energetically for truth in a variety of philosophical schools. He was exposed to the teachings of Stoicism, Pythagoreanism and Platonism. But none of them satisfied him. There was, however, something of the Christian faith that intrigued him. One day, while meditating alone by the seashore, an old man came to him. During their conversation, Justin realized that this stranger had exposed the weaknesses of his philosophical thought. When Justin asked for the source of the stranger’s wisdom, he received a simple answer: the Bible. Justin went home, read the Bible and became a Christian. Later he confessed that the simplicity in the Christian faith, and yet the high level of morality and commitment to Christ were the primary arguments for the truth of Christianity. Justin witnessed with his own eyes the courage and loyalty of Christians who died as martyrs. Their trials and executions made an overwhelming impact on him. The purity and childlike trust of the Christians to their God had pierced through the hardness of his heart and brought him to Christ.
But Justin remained a philosopher throughout his life, or one must say, a renewed philosopher after his encountered with Jesus. Justin was one of the earliest theologians to introduce within the Christian tradition the idea that Christianity was a philosophy. If to do philosophy was to live in accordance with the law of reason (Logos), then the Christians were philosophers, since they lived in conformity with the law of the divine Logos, according to Justin. In other words, Justin considered Christianity a philosophy in opposition to other philosophies. He did not, however, consider Christianity to be just one philosophy among others; he thought of it as the philosophy. He believed that thoughts and ideas which had been scattered and dispersed throughout various philosophies had been fulfilled and perfected in Christian philosophy by the Logos himself who became man. Each philosopher, he argued, had posses only a portion of the Logos, whereas the Christians were in possession of the Logos itself, or being possessed by the Logos,the incarnate Christ Jesus himself.
For Justin, to be possessed by the Logos meant to have courage to say the truth, even in the face of persecution and suffering.Justin died as a martyr at the age of 62.