Saturday, February 4, 2012

Catholic Apologists: Do Some Of Us Need To Apologize?

I read a post at the Whole of the Hobbit where the blogger takes a look at Catholic apologetics in a way only a Protestant can. In her post "Parodies and Parables" she says:

"I can think of several blog articles with really solid and good [Catholic] material, but I can't share them with my protestant friends.  They would find it insulting to be portrayed in such a light.  Glaring titles such as "WHY PROTESTANTS ARE SO MESSED UP" hardly invite the average Baptist to read further.   I cringe at Jack Chick tracks -- I cringe at Catholic literature that takes a below-the-belt swing at a protestant, too." 

I've seen blogs and Catholic websites as she describes where a Protestant is considered pretty, darned near to being in hell, and out to get all Catholics while going there. I've also cringed, as she put it, at the way some Catholics seem too trigger happy to nuke a Protestant rather than invite and plant seeds of Catholic faith for them to consider. All vinegar and no honey. We need to ask whether our goal is victory, total capitulation of our supposed Christian "enemies", or a real genuine concern for our brothers and sisters that are not Catholics by providing them with the Truth.

To be sure, there are many Protestant blogs and websites also that take a less than charitable view of Catholics, but what of it? Are we to deal them a blow for blow or do we take the high road and try to show them, from their perspective and ours, why we believe in the Catholic Church as the one, true faith?

It's natural to want to defend what we believe as true and also to strike out when we are threatened, but is this the way to teach? Defense of our faith is a good and noble thing and should be sought by all Catholics but without the heavy handedness that at times accompanies such a defense. It just isn't Christian and certainly not at all Catholic. Take a look at the way the apostles were called by Christ. He invited them to follow Him. He didn't threaten them or call them idiots or morons. Come and see!

Protestants are no less called to the faith than we are and it is our Catholic responsibility and calling to be the light of the world. They are our separated brothers and sisters in faith and we are not starting from scratch with a Protestant. Most of them already have a deep love of Christ and try to live the Christian life in the best way they can, as we all do. They are not like the atheist where in a discussion, we have to not only defend the Church, but the whole idea that God does exist. Protestants are believers in Christ and the Word of God, so we have common ground on which to launch a discussion and help them see our side more clearly.

We are all called to be One in Christ, and we can't begin to do that if our discussion starts with  "Your an idiot but I love you anyway because the bible tells me so" attitude at the outset. Imagine entering the first grade with no knowledge of math and the teacher tells you on the first day, "What? You don't know that 1 plus 1 is 2? It's right there plain as day you idiot! What's wrong with you? You continue like this and you'll fail!". This is probably what we sound like when we aren't out to convert a Protestant soul to the Church, but rather, to dominate it and to scare the hell out of it.

I've learned alot about my faith in studying apologetics and applying it in defense of my faith. But the most important thing I learned was that I was defending my faith for the wrong reason without realizing it. I was trying to win a debate. I wanted to show the Protestants that they were wrong and I was right. I found myself training for a boxing match and not a 'tete a tete', or more appropriately, a heart to heart.

The way I see it, we have two options when it comes to apologetics, or the defense of our faith. We can begin in a confrontational, in your face way and probably lose their interest with our first words or we can do what St. Paul did in Athens. The firebrand and defender of the faith that he was, St. Paul knew how to entice others to the Truth. We see this in the Acts of the Apostles: 

 Acts 17:
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. 

Paul  could have launched into a tirade and could have told the Athenians they were bound for hell, but instead he praised them first for being a religious people. It is then that he mentions how he saw an alter to an unknown god and proceeds to teach them about how this "unknown god" has now revealed Himself and Paul was here to help them understand who this god was. Did he pique their interest? I'm sure he did and he did it without insulting or offending them, risking the chance of losing them before he even began to teach them his faith.

 Imagine being a Catholic all your life, then out of the blue you find out that everything you were taught and everything you believed was not true? Imagine then that you find out and learn that the Catholic Church is not the one, true faith as you were led to believe, but that another church was actually the true church? How would we feel about that? How would we feel finding out  that all this time we were not given the truth? This is what we are asking Protestants to do. We are asking them to give up what they were taught from the time they were born, from people that loved them, who themselves were taught the same thing they are now passing down to their children. We are asking them to reconsider what they believed their whole life without question. That is a frightful thing to ask of anyone.

Protestants are having a hard time right now. So many denominations are giving in to liberalism and those that are trying their best to follow Christ's teachings are finding themselves out in the cold with no place to go. These are fertile fields waiting to be sown with the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. We don't have to give up any tenets of our Catholic faith just to win them over. We don't have to make concessions just to "get along" and sing Kumbaya together. Protestants need to hear the Truth but some of us need to change the way we deliver that Truth.  I'll try not to use Jack Chick's sawed-off shotgun approach anymore, but rather, I'll learn St. Paul's way of charity and enticement.  It's the Catholic way.

3 comments:

  1. <>

    What great point...especially for Mormons...they are taught really flawed theology in the nicest way ever by people who live out family life a very committed way.

    We need t oset a good example and do it in service and kindness. I work in a secular setting where overly-overt comments of my faith would be looked down upon, so I serve the best way I can and there are times when people finally say "What ARE you?" trying to figure out the reason for my hope. It is a shame that when I say "Im Catholic" that they are so surprised.

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  2. Thank you. Your article hit a nerve with this Protestant. Although I am on my way into the Catholic Church, I am often confronted by near militant or combative Catholics that would rather fight than win an argument because of love. I often leave these confrontations thinking that this behavior would not have been exhibited or tolerated in my Protestant Church. Unfortunately, I think those Catholics who have questions about the Church also end up being assaulted by the same self appointed apologists to the point where these Catholics find getting answers is easier from Protestants.

    In my conversion, I have posted some questions I had on catholic.com. Big mistake. I instantly became a target for those with the club of truth in one hand and the dagger of argumentative argumentation in their other hand. I now see that other than the ad hominem attacks, many of the answers are technically correct but unnecessarily confrontational in response. At the time however, had it not been for the love of my Priest, these answeres were causiing me to reconsider my desire to investigate the Catholic Church.

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  3. I have had experiences similar to the anonymous poster above me. I'm in RCIA coming from Methodism, but I'm currently not sure if I'm going to convert yet. Many of the Catholic blogs I read (though definitely not all) take great enjoyment in bashing Protestantism and can come across as rather arrogant. Lately I've had to stop reading some blogs because I could feel that attitude and those stereotypes seeping into my thoughts, and I hated feeling that way. So I just very much appreciate this post. This issue has really been bothering me and is part of the reason for my uncertainty about conversion.

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