An Apologetic, or an Apology, ecclesiastically speaking, is derived from the Greek word apologia and it means to "reply", "answer" or "defend".
- Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear - Source: I Peter 3:15
In Orthodox theology, term Apologetics is used in regards to defending the true faith against atheists, pagans, Jews and others. This defense, however, is done in a manner that is loving and in order to bear good fruits and should not be polemical or obsessive in manner, which in many cases is considered detrimental to the Apostolic Faith.
The earliest apologists were the Church Fathers. There apologies cover a wide range of topics including the Divine origin of the Church, Christ's Nature, Scripture, the Theotokos, miracles, Christian social interaction and the function of doctrine.
Orthodox Apologetics, however, has always tried to give an intellectual synthesis of both general and particular apologetic problems, using as a cornerstone the positive method of building the organically whole Christian worldview. The literature of Apologetics is unusually vast, diverse and almost boundless. But, from a strictly Orthodox point of view, a fully complete, whole and deeply absorbing textbook of Apologetics has not yet been prepared.
Modern Apologies and Apologists
The most recent and most controversial apologetic is that of Ecumenism and will not directly be addressed in this section. Among the various works on Apologetics written in the 19th and 20th centuries, worthy of note are:
- Ulrici (1806-1884), God and Nature;
- F. Hettinger (1819-1890), Apology of Christianity; and
- J. Ebrard (1818-1888), Apologetics.
The following chronolical list, are apologetic works written by various Church fathers:
- "The Fountain of Knowledge," by St. John of Damascus (7th-century).
Of the Orthodox Russian works in Apologetics, noteworthy are the classic work of:
- the Moscow Metropolitan, Macarius (Bulgakov), An Introduction to Orthodox Theology (6th edition, St. Petersburg, 1897);
- a remarkable two volume textbook for religious academies by Professor N. P. Rozhdestvensky, Christian Apologetics--A Course of Fundamental Theology, (2nd edition, St. Petersburg, 1893); and
- an original investigation of dogmatic theology from an apologetic point of view, by the Professor V. Rev. P. Y. Svetlov, Experiment of Apologetical Exposition of the Orthodox Christian Doctrine, Vol. I and Vol. II (Kiev, 1898).
These remarkable works have not lost their meaning even up to the present time.
Also deserving attention are some other Russian textbooks. For instance, Father Augustine's, A Manual of Fundamental Theology; Professor V. Rev. D. A. Tichomirov's, A Course in Fundamental Theology, St. Petersburg, 1887; Professor V. Rev. Kudryavtsev's, Short Course of Lectures in Orthodox Theology, (2nd edition, Moscow, 1898); Piatnitsky's, Fundamental Theology; Eleonsky's, Brief Report on Fundamental Theology; Petropavlovsky's, In Defence of Christian Faith Against Unbelief and several other works.
- Orthodox Apologetic Theology by Ivan M. Andreyev, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1995