THE NEED FOR CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS
by Griff Ruby
So often we hear of apologies being made these days for past events, we often forget that the true meaning of apology, in the Christian sense of that word, is not "to apologize," as if to say Iím sorry. If you thought this was to be about the art of saying "Iím sorry," then I must apologize for letting you down.
In his first letter to the Church Peter writes "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." (1 Peter 3:15)
That defense spoken of is literally called in Greek, an Apologia, from which we derive the word apology. It means a detailed attempt to explain why we believe what we believe. All too often, Christians, (Catholics included) have fallen into a pattern of thinking that it is enough to be good and get our own little soul into Heaven. Such a pattern is disastrous for the future of the Church.
Or else we may think it enough to win people without a word through our good conduct. Granted, our conduct does need to be good, but many other sorts of persons have good conduct. Do we convert to their religions because of their good conduct? Should we? The problem with that is that one can always find good people who believe all sorts of things. No, merely good conduct alone does not win souls.
Another thing people might point to is our peace and serenity, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to give us that peace and serenity. Again, certainly we should seek all the gifts of the Spirit to which we have access, but this still is not enough.
Still other people are impressed with signs and wonders. If we speak in an unknown tongue or interpret, or give prophecies or have visions, many are impressed, but these things too, may be faked by the Devilís believers.
The best and strongest conversions come not from those who like the atmosphere or the people or the entertainment value of the preaching, but from those who come to be convinced that being a Catholic is the right thing to do.
This leads us to the bottom line of why apologetics is so important. Why do we believe what we believe? Pity the poor person who can only say in response, "Well, I was raised that way. Iíve always believed that way." Donít get me wrong; one should be grateful for having parents or others who raised them in the Faith. What I am complaining about is allowing oneís life to pass without once giving the matter any thought.
Apologetics, then, is the art of proving that what we believe is the right thing to believe. We believe because we know it to be true; we know it to be true because we have proved it out to ourselves. What does the Bible say? What does history show? What holds up to true logic?
Looking into such things runs so counter to modern trends in religious thought. One sees more and more a denial that there exists any objective religious truth. Certainly it does not help when there are so many people running around pushing all sorts of other beliefs. But every belief except the true one is necessarily sold on good feelings, liking the people, or finding room for oneís own secret vice.
This got started when nations, such as the United States, began passing laws protecting everyoneís religious freedom, which really meant that anyone is free to believe anything they want in this country. That is their constitutional right. It sounds so noble, allowing all to have their religion, whatever it might be. The opposite sounds so barbaric, forbidding the teaching of any religion other than that of the Catholic Church. But is it?
A little history might help here. The reason the United States passed such a law was because of the violence which had torn up Europe over which religion was true, or so they thought! Really, if the "fight" had been about whether Christís Church is to be Protestant or Catholic, the proper thing for all to have done is to sit down and discuss the religious issues rationally and reasonably. Certainly the conclusions so arrived at would mean a great deal more than merely a military battle in which "might makes right."
It really is in such talking over the issues that all the great Councils of the Church solved many religious questions: Is Jesus Christ God? Has He one nature or two? What about the Holy Spirit? Is the use of images good or bad? All of these issues and many more were resolved peacefully in Council because the proponents of each side of each issue all sat down at the same table, brought out their documents and evidences, and argued out the case in the sight of all present.
An important point is that there has always been a clear answer which the evidence supports. The modern myth about religion being about people being free to believe anything which strikes their fancy is just that, a myth. Any honest and sincere person who takes the time and effort to study all the evidence and facts carefully and who meditates on that with clear and logical thinking must necessarily reach the same conclusions about what we are to believe.
One can see that the founding fathers of this country did not solve the problem of religious wars. All they did was to replace one problem, namely the tendency many had to go to war over ideas they never bothered to examine objectively, with another problem, namely the tendency to treat all possible religious affiliations as being of no importance. What that really amounts to is a disbelief in God. If it really didnít matter what a person believes about God, does that not imply that God is only a figment of that personís imagination?
We see now where the moral relativism created by the founding fathers of our country (and condemned by John Paul II in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor) has led us. To a point that social morals have utterly broken down, religious expression becomes something forbidden by the government, and this country is not far removed from the Atheistic ideal of Communist Albania. We are no better off than we were in the wars of the Europeans, except that now our millions of dead are hidden in the trash cans behind the abortion clinics rather than strewn all over the battlefields.
What was truly called for, and what would have put this nation on solid ground would have been a resolve to discuss the religious issues peacefully, as at a great Council. Actually, there already had been a Council before that time, the Council of Trent. The Protestants were invited to come and plead their cases, and guaranteed safe passage in and out, but none came. I think itís because they all knew deep down that their teachings would not stand up in the light of Scripture, reason, and history.
Had the founding American fathers agreed to debate the religious questions honestly and publicly, it would only have been a matter of time before America would have been Catholic, and a society solidly founded, because it would be founded on the Rock of Peter.
Apologetics then, is really a search for truth. The missionary who uses apologetics to teach the true religion learns as much from those he teaches. No, not religious truths, but often it is the outsider who asks the questions no one has thought of before.
The earliest Christians had not wondered about many of the questions settled in the great ecumenical Councils. Ask St. Paul or St. Ignatius whether Christ has one nature or two, and his response would have been, "I donít know!" The question, having never been asked before, had not as yet been answered by the Church. But there was an answer, and in the great Council of Chalcedon, the Church found it.
Apologetics is not just a missionary exercise, nor is it even just part of the search for truth, it is the prime source of the deepening of oneís faith. As long as we believe something without knowing why we should believe it, do we really believe it? I think not. Apologetics then, is the art of deepening our own faith. As we study the "whyís" and "whereforeís" of our belief, we deepen our belief and strengthen our faith so as to be able to stand up to the present evils. And, no matter how deep we dig, we only find more and more reason to believe what the Church teaches.
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