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Litmus test

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6.29

Justin Martyr (c.100 - 165) emerges out of the post-apostolic era as a pioneer in apologetics (justifying faith in the teeth of opposition and oppression). Though raised in a Gentile family in what is now the city of Nablus in Samaria, it was Justin's philosophical adventures in pursuit of truth which led him commit to Jesus - a faith which eventually cost him his life. But not before making an appeal to the Roman Emperor in support of his fellow believers, which survives in Apologies 1 and 2.

Justin argues that true believers share three characteristics. First they reject other gods in favour of worshipping the God revealed in Jesus only; curiously; this earned Christians the reputation of being atheist - because of their rejection of the pantheon of Graeco-Roman deities. Secondly, Justin interpreted the God of the Christians in terms of being the divine Logos (God's Word) revealed most completely in Jesus but active since before creation; thus he is able to include Abraham and Moses as "Christians" and, really stretching his point, Socrates and Plato as well! His third determining factor is lifestyle; not the self-indulgent, over-ambitious behaviour exhibited so widely in the Roman Empire, as it is in our own day, but a desire to prioritise the needs of others and, sofar as possible, to live peaceably.

Taking inspiration from Justin Martyr, how would you distil authentic Christian faith into three defining characteristics? On that basis would there be sufficient evidence to condemn you to martyrdom?



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