Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Cyprian of Carthage on Pointless Apologetic Exchanges

I’ve recently been reading through Cyprian of Carthage’s On the Church: Select Treatises in the Popular Patristics series from SVSP and was struck by Cyprian’s exasperation in the treatise “To Demetrian” in dealing with the pagan apologist:

You often come to me with an eagerness for making a case against me rather than with intentions to learn anything. On such occasions you prefer, sounding off shouted insults, to press your own case more repeatedly and indecently rather than to listen to ours tolerantly.

It seems silly to engage with you when it would be easier and less effort to quell the billowing waves of a stormy sea with cries of protest than to restrain your rage by means of arguments. It is definitely a pointless task, and not liable to success, to present light to a blind man, speech to a deaf one, wisdom to one irrational, when the irrational man cannot think, nor the blind allow in light, nor the deaf hear (pp. 68-69).

Who has not felt the same when dealing with those who only care to build and knock down straw men? Let the reader understand.


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