When contesting against heretics the early Church Fathers were combatting the earthly philosophical mindset seeking to rationalize or refute the Christian faith, and therefore emptying it of its revealed mystery, paradox, glory, and truth. In my view, this is what St. Paul warned us about when he said that we ought to remain guarded against the variety of philosophies that operate according to the worldly elements rather than Christ. In defeating these proposed heresies, Arianism for example, we do not witness a dumbing down of revealed truth concerning the divinity of Christ. To the contrary, we see a clearer articulation of the mystery without being concerned about whether or not the Incarnation fits neatly within the confines of the rationalistic, unimaginative, heretical methods of the sophistic pagan philosophers. Instead, we have a clearer articulation of what has been revealed, and what a follower of the Way must give assent.
Christianity is first and foremost a way of life. Better stated, it is the Way, the Truth, and the Life forever conjoined to our Lord Jesus Christ. Christianity was not then, nor is it now, a separate school of philosophy that is rationally systematized in order to present itself as another option for the world to consider according to the competitive dictates of the academy, or the investigations of the natural scientist. To be sure, there is such a thing as true Christian philosophy, which was perfected by the Angelic Doctor’s synthesis, and articulated in the Thomistic tradition of the Neo-Scholastics. The purpose of Christian philosophy, however, is to be a handmaiden to theology and not a mere option among other secular systems. With that being said, we must remember Christianity is a way of life committed to taking up your cross and following the Lord Jesus, participating in his mystical body through the sacramental life of His Church. The theological doctrines we are bound to profess were/are dogmatically defined so that we may assent to them in all of their mysterious wonderment in our pursuit of the beatific vision within the Mystical Body of Christ.
We do not assent to dogmatic declarations because they can be rationally truncated following analytic methodological investigations. We give assent because God has revealed these truths, which have been defined and defended by those whom the Holy Spirit indwells, that is, the Mystical Body of Christ.
The reality of the early Church, the elucidation of revealed truth against those theologians and philosophers looking to undermine the mysteries of faith, is far and away from the culture we currently find ourselves living within. The so-called Christian philosophers are now embodying the mindset the early Church was combatting. All one must do to see the truth of such a statement is to examine the manner in which mainstream apologetics is currently done. To defend the faith today requires a preemptive surrender to a fully secularized, godless methodology purporting to objectively and ‘neutrally’ examine the scientific evidence to see if it is reasonable enough to assent given a potential probability that God could exist. Following such measures, one is totally free to decide based on the probabilities allowable only by the scientific community. On this view, the weight of revelation is not the standard for assent – “has God spoken”; the standard is subordinated to that of God-hating materialists and their statistical measures of probabilistic epistemology. And if this “defense” doesn’t work out how one would want it to, we can shrink back into a subjectivist internal psychological feeling of “certainty” the Holy Spirit provides following a failure to recognize the objectively revealed reality of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Apologetics so construed is not a defense of the faith it is surrendering the faith.
– Lucas G. Westman