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Quotes About Apologetics

As well as these quotes about apologetics, I have also made a page with quotes showing just how the early Christians spoke concerning heretics. They restrained their tongues only as much as Christian purity required!


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Ignatius, A.D. 110

Do not let those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, like an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of the noble athlete to be wounded and yet to conquer. (Letter to Polycarp 3)

Flee evil arts, but discuss them in public even more than you do. (Letter to Polycarp 5)

I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, entreat you that you use Christian nourishment only and abstain from herbage of a different kind. I mean heresy. For those mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit, like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine. (Letter to the Trallians 6)

I need to point out here that the denial of the resurrection by the gnostics is at the heart of this quote by Ignatius. They deny that the Eucharist is the body of Christ because they deny that Christ rose again. They were opposed to flesh and material creation in every way.

Thus, we are told to avoid people like them not only because they denied that the Eucharist was the body of Christ, but also because they denied the resurrection.

[The gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist [i.e.; the Lord's Supper/communion] and from prayer because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins and which the Father, out of his goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against the gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. It would be better for them to treat it with respect so that they, too, might rise again. It is appropriate, therefore, that you keep aloof from people like them and avoid speaking with them either privately or publicly. Instead, pay attention to the prophets and, above all, to the Gospel, in which the suffering of Christ has been revealed to us and the resurrection has  been fully proven. (Letter to the Smyrneans 7)

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

There are, and therefore there were, many who come forward in the name of Jesus and teach both to speak and act impious and blasphemous things. And we name these people after the men from whom each doctrine and opinion had its origin … We have nothing in common [with these men] since we know them to be atheists, ungodly, unrighteous, and sinful; confessors of Jesus in name only rather than worshipers of him. (Dialogue with Trypho 35)

Athenagoras, A.D. 177

The refutation of falsehood and the establishment of truth both have piety for their object: not, indeed, that they are absolutely one and the same, but the one is necessary, as I have said, to all who believe, and to those who are concerned about the truth and their own salvation, but the other proves to be more useful on some occasions, and to some persons, and in dealing with some. (The Resurrection of the Dead 11)

Irenaeus, A.D. 183 - 186

[The gnostics] gather their views by reading from things that are not Scripture. To use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand. They attempt to adapt the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles to their own peculiar assertions with an air of probability ... In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art of adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.

   Their behavior is like someone who takes a beautiful image of a king, constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels, then separates this likeness of the man into pieces, rearranges the gems, and fits them together into the form of a dog or of a fox—and that but poorly executed. They then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skillful artist constructed. They point to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but which have now been transferred by the latter artist, with bad effect, to the shape of a dog. In this way they exhibit the jewels and deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a kingís form was like, and they persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. (Against Heresies I:8:1)

Whatever remarks may yet be made in the following books, I apply against the heretics at large. The more moderate and reasonable among them you will convert and convince, so as to lead them no longer to blaspheme their Creator, Maker, Sustainer, and Lord ... but the fierce, terrible, and irrational you will drive far from you, that you may no longer have to endure their idle talkativeness. (Against Heresies II:31:2)

[Polycarp], coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus, caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles—that, namely, which is handed down by the Church.

   There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus and seeing Cerinthus [a gnostic heretic] within, rushed out of the bathhouse without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bathhouse fall down because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion—who met him on one occasion, and said, "Do you know me?"—"I do know thee, the first-born of Satan."

   Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth. It's as Paul also says, —A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sins, being self-condemned— [Tit. 3:10] (Against Heresies III:3:4)

Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches … It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection.

   But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the apostles, and allows us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, are conversant with the same commandments, preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. Undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and stedfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world. For to her is entrusted the light of God; and therefore the wisdom of God, by means of which she saves all men. (Against Heresies V:20:1)

Tertullian, c. A.D. 200

We … are not permitted to cherish any doctrine after our own will, nor to choose that which another person has introduced from their own private fancy. In the Lord's apostles we possess our authority. Even they did not choose to introduce anything from themselves, but faithfully delivered to the nations the discipline which they had received from Christ. If, therefore, even an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel, he would be called accursed by us. (Prescription Against Heretics 6)

Origen, AD 203-250

Today, under the pretext of gnosis, the heretics set themselves up against the holy Church of Christ, and multiply the volumes of their commentaries in which they pretend to interpret the evangelical and apostolic writings. If we ourselves keep silence, if we do not oppose them with true and sound doctrines, they will attract famished souls who, in the absence of healthy nourishment, will seize upon these forbidden foods which are indeed impure and abominable... In your own case, it was because you could not find masters capable of teaching you a higher doctrine, and because your love for Jesus could not abide an unreasoned and common faith, hence you formerly gave yourself up to those doctrines which subsequently you condemned and rejected, as was right. (Origen to Ambrose. Cited by Coptic Orthodox Church Network. 1998-2014. "Origen's Writings." Web. Retrieved May 15, 2017 from

I don't normally highlight parts of quotes, but I think the following quote is very important. The issue I want to emphasize is not that we should avoid arguing with heretics, though I would listen to Tertullian on that issue. I want to emphasize the fact that heretics—that is, opinionated men who teach against the truth—are not Christians. We do not have to leave divisive men in our midst, nor go through "procedures" in order to reject them.

Paul says they can be—indeed, must be—rejected after the first or second admonition.

It's important for me to assert my opinion here, based on Scripture and proven effectiveness, that we will never get out of our division and worldliness until we reject opinionated and divisive men as Scripture commands.

Our faith owes deference to the apostle, who forbids us to discuss questions, to lend our ears to new-fangled statements, or to consort with a heretic "after the first and second admonition" [Tit. 3:10]—not after discussion.

   He has inhibited discussion by designating admonition as the method of dealing with a heretic—and the first method, too, because he is not a Christian. This is so that he would not seem to require correction again and again and before two or three witnesses as though he were a Christian. He ought to be corrected for the very reason that he is not to be disputed with.

   In addition, this is said because a controversy over the Scriptures can, clearly, produce no other effect than help to upset either the stomach or the brain. (Prescription Against Heretics 16)

Regarding the man for whose sake you are beginning a debate about the Scriptures, hoping to strengthen him when he is afflicted with doubts: will it be to the truth that he will lean, or heretical opinions? Influenced by the very fact that he sees you making no progress, and the other side having equal footing in their denying and defense … he will go away confirmed in his uncertainty by the discussion. He doesn't know which side to judge heretical.

   There's not any doubt that [the heretics] are able to speak out about us. It is a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions, are introduced by us rather than them; since, they, no less than we, maintain that the truth is on their side.

   Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures. Nor should you allow controversy on points where victory will be impossible, uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a Scriptural controversy is not going to turn out with both sides being equal; nonetheless, the natural order of things requires that this be proposed first, which is now the only one which we must discuss:

   With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong? From what and through whom and from when and to whom has been handed down that rule by which men become Christians? For wherever it is apparent that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof and all the Christian traditions. (Prescription Against Heretics 18-19)

Tertullian and "Heretics"

It's important here to explain the quote from Prescription 36-37.

The Greek word for "heresy" originally meant "choice." It came to mean "opinion," and in the church it carried the connotation of an opinion that was against the church and caused division.

So Tertullian argues here that the heretics are properly called heretics because they pursue their doctrines based on their own choice and not on the traditions handed down by the apostles. Since they choose, they are rightly called heretics, and they have to admit they are heretics, not Christians.

Heresies, too, come from our plant, although not of our kind; from the grain of truth, but, due to their falsehood, they have only wild leaves to show. Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be judged to belong to us—as many as walk according to the rule which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God—it is clear why we determine that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge with an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, outside of the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. Since they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue by their own mere choice. From that pursuit they incur and have to admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures (Prescription Against Heretics 36-37)

Minucius Felix, AD 160-230

If we Christians be compared with you, although in some things our discipline is inferior, yet we shall be found much better than you. For you forbid, and yet commit, adulteries; we are born men only for our own wives: you punish crimes when committed; with us, even to think of crimes is to sin: you are afraid of those who are aware of what you do; we are even afraid of our own conscience alone, without which we cannot exist. Finally,from your numbers the prison boils over, but there is no Christian there, unless he is accused on account of his religion, or a deserter. (The Octavius 35)

We despise the bent brows of the philosophers, whom we know to be corrupters, and adulterers, and tyrants, and ever eloquent against their own vices. We who bear wisdom not in our dress, but in our mind, we do not speak great things, but we live them; we boast that we have attained what they have sought for with the utmost eagerness, and have not been able to find. (The Octavius 38)

Eusebius, AD 323

In this passage, Eusebius is quoting Justin speaking against Crescens, a philosopher trying to imitate the Cynics.

For the man is not worthy to be called a philosopher who publicly bears witness against those concerning whom he knows nothing, declaring, for the sake of captivating and pleasing the multitude, that the Christians are atheistic and impious. Doing this he errs greatly. For if he assails us without having read the teachings of Christ, he is thoroughly depraved, and is much worse than the illiterate, who often guard against discussing

and bearing false witness about matters which they do not understand. (History of the Church IV:16)

Socrates Scholasticus, c. A.D. 450

Greek literature certainly was never recognized either by Christ or his apostles as divinely inspired, nor on the other hand was it wholly rejected as pernicious. And this they did, I conceive, not inconsiderately. For there were many philosophers among the Greeks who were not far from the knowledge of God ... By not forbidding the study of the learned works of the Greeks, they left it to the discretion of those who wished to do so.

     This is our first argument in defense of the position we took. Another may be put this way: The divinely inspired Scriptures undoubtedly inculcate doctrines that are both admirable in themselves and heavenly in their character: they also eminently tend to produce piety and integrity of life in those who are guided by their precepts, pointing out a walk of faith which is highly approved by God. But they do not instruct us in the art of reasoning, by means of which we may be enabled successfully to resist those who oppose the truth. Besides adversaries are most easily foiled, when we can use their own weapons against them.

     Should any one imagine that in making these assertions we wrest the Scriptures from their legitimate construction, let it be remembered that the apostle not only does not forbid our being instructed in Greek learning, but that he himself seems by no means to have neglected it, inasmuch as he knows many of the sayings of the Greeks. From where did he get the saying, "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow-bellies," but from a perusal of the oracles of Epimenides, the Cretan initiator? Or how would he have known " For we are also his offspring" had he not been acquainted with The Phenomena of Aratus the astronomer? Again, this sentence, "Bad company corrupt good manners," is a sufficient proof that he was conversant with the tragedies of Euripides. (Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus III:16)

George MacDonald, d. 1905

It is the one terrible heresy of the church that it has always been presenting something else than obedience as faith in Christ. (The Truth in Jesus [Minneapolis, MN: BethanyHouse; 2007] p. 62)

The impossibility of piercing the lovers of tradition in any vital part is a sore trial to the old Adam still unslain in the lovers of the Truth. At the same time, no discipline is more potent in giving patience opportunity for working her perfect work. (The Shepherd's Castle; Bethany House Publishers:1983; p.53)

Roderick Edwards, 2010

This is what is different with REAL heresies. While the Protestants loved the Church so much that they would rather die than see the Church destroyed, modern heresies, like the papacy are all too ready to disdain the Church and toss it aside so that the heresy can replace the Church yet still call itself "the Church". ... REAL heretics are all too ready to see the Church suffer so that they can get their "share" of being validated, whereas true Christians will suffer the loss of friends and acclaim so as to maintain the sanctity of the Church. (On the Councils and the Church: A Review of Martin Luther's Treatise)

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