Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Fathers Speak - Letter to Diognetus

The Fathers Speak – Letter to Diognetus

          The Letter to Diognetus is a second-century work addressed to a high pagan dignitary.  Though the identities of neither the author nor the recipient are known for certain, it is an interesting apologetic work from the early Church.
          In the excerpts below we will find a common identity with the early Christians and their struggle to be “in the world, but not of the world,” particularly in a world they found very hostile.  There is also some treatment of the Trinity that we might find a useful apologetic tool.

          Like all others [Christians] marry and beget children, but they do not expose their offspring.  Their board they set for all, but not their bed.  Their lot is cast in the flesh, but they do not live for the flesh.  They pass their time on earth, but their citizenship is in Heaven… They love all men, and by all they are persecuted… They are put to death, and they gain life… They are poor, but make many rich… When they do good, they are punished as evil-doers; and when they are punished they rejoice as if brought to life.

          He sent the very Designer and Creator of the universe Himself, through whom He had made the heavens, and by whom He had enclosed the sea within its own bounds… But did He send Him, as one might suppose, in despotism and fear and terror?  Not so.  Rather, in gentleness and meekness He sent Him, as a king sending a son.  He sent Him as King, He sent Him as God, He sent Him to men.  He sent Him for saving and persuading, but not for compelling.  Compulsion, you see, is not an attribute of God.

          When you know what is the true life, that of Heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it – then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world.