Anglican Apologetics

Lancelot Andrewes Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) was a learned and able apologist for the Church of England.

Justification of the Faith

The term "apologetics" comes from the Greek word, ἀπολογία, meaning "defense" or "plea."  Perhaps the most famous apologia of the ancient world was The Apology of Socrates, in which the great thinker defended himself against charges of corrupting the youth of Athens.  Ever since, the word has been used to describe a sustained and sytematic defence of a particular position, either philosophical or theological in nature. 

The Apostle Paul used the term in his trial before Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26.2), and in the speech that followed, provided an example for later theologians and evangelists.  In the Greek East the Apostle's mantle was taken up by such men as Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Alexandria, while in the Latin West, one could point to Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyon.  The height of Christian apologetics in the ancient world came at the beginning of the 5th century when Augustine of Hippo composed his great De Civitate Dei Contra Paganos, commonly known as The City of God

In the Middle Ages, the focus of apologetics shifted from defending the Church against non-Christian systems of belief to defining doctrine  Perhaps the most significant contribution in this area was made by Thomas Aquinas, who in his Summa Theologiae, laid the foundation for much subsequent Church teaching.  During the Reformation, and for much of the modern era, apologetics meant defending one's confessional position against that of other Christians, as one sees in the great debates between Protestants and Catholics or Calvinists and Arminians. 

While explaining differences in belief is still important to Christians today, with the rise of atheistic scientism and other modern systems of thought, apologetics has come full circle.  Like their ancient counterparts, Christians today have had to turn their attention outward, and defend against those who seek to discredit the teachings of the Church.   Some of the better known apologists of the early-twentieth century include G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Dorothy Sayers.  Their work is continued today by such figures as William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, and Peter Kreeft.

The Anglican Position

Though the Church of England sprang from a Reformation milieu, historically Anglicanism has tended to be defined in a positive fashion (i.e. not as a "protest" movement, but as a constituent branch of the Catholic and Apostolic Church).  It owes much of this irenic character to such figures as Richard Hooker, whose Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie continues to influence Anglican theology and thought.  Much the same could be said about the Caroline Divines, the Cambridge neo-Platonsts, and the leaders of the Oxford movement in subsequent centuries.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Anglicanism enjoyed an overall reputation as a comprehensive and learned approach to the faith, but like most of modern Christianity, it was deeply affected by the crisis in confidence that was the result of economic depression and two World Wars.  By the middle of the twentieth century, much of the Anglican Communion began to embrace secular values that were contrary to the catholic faith.  As a result, orthodox believers have had to place a renewed emphasis on apologetics. 

In recent years, much fine work has been done, both in the pulpits of the ACC and in various publications and pamphlets.  Many of these are available from the Anglican Parishes Association Book Publisher.  More recently, one can point to traditionalist blogs such the ones linked in the Online Resources section of this site. Much of the what is contained in this section stems from efforts such as these. 

Questions or comments on topics addressed in this section may be directed to the Archbishop's Assistant for Ecumenical Relations, Father Matthew Kirby.