Thursday, September 12, 2013

How NOT to do Apologetics

Way back in the day, I did apologetics. Even developed a bit of a following doing it. For a variety of reasons, I don't really do a lot of apologetics in public anymore, though I still do it on a one on one basis. I try to stay informed of the good arguments, and I still develop networks with apologists I like.

I'm reminded of this past because of what I heard on Catholic radio today driving into work. The show was asking specifically non-catholics to call in with their questions about the Catholic Faith. One was (going roughly off memory):
Can a Catholic who doesn't ever read the Bible, but goes to confession once a month and attends Mass every Sunday, and has a true relationship with Christ get into heaven?

The apologist responded in what could be viewed a standard response, that yes, such a person could and probably would be saved. "We aren't saved through literacy", and what matters most is having that relationship with Jesus, especially through the Sacraments. Sure, the Church promotes Bible reading, but Christ founded a Church, not a book club. This kind of answer isn't false. From a strictly technical standpoint, it is absolutely true. Yet if I were to give my opinion, I would say this is a classic case of what not to do when doing apologetics, especially towards Protestants.

The reason is simple. While the Bible isn't required, it is an incredibly important thing. Leo XIII stated that "Nowhere is there anything more full or more express on the subject of the Savior of the world than is to be found in the whole range of the Bible". St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church and the father of Biblical studies, states "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ". One can find a litany of quotes about this in the current Catechism. The Second Vatican Council even did a Dogmatic Constution on how important the Scriptures are.

The message of all of these texts is simple: even if reading the Bible isn't strictly necessary, do it anyway. If you want to grow in holiness, read the Scriptures. Don't just read them, become intimately familiar with them. If you don't read from the Bible everyday, reflect on a story of Scripture. If we are to bring Christ to the world, we aren't going to do so by only doing the bare minimum. If you listened to this guy, you'd be forgiven for not realizing that the Church (and many of her top thinkers and evangelists) encourage daily Bible reading. Once again, it doesn't matter if what he said was true. There is a difference between saying nothing wrong, and speaking the full truth.

I have to wonder what the Protestant who hears this show thinks. We Catholics have a stereotype of not caring about the Bible much. In most households to this day it is still a coffee table book. When a Protestant hears this radio show, they are going to be confirmed in those suspicions. They won't hear the "sure the Church promotes reading the Bible", they will hear the "we aren't saved through literacy, so we don't need to read the Bible" part. I honestly think this is why a lot of apologetics organizations are struggling financially. It isn't just the recession. It isn't the change in business model. They don't need to add another luxury cruise to hobknob with their rich donors. Catholic Radio is allowing a subpar product to be placed on the air, selling a false bill of goods to Catholics, and confirming the worst stereotypes in the minds of Protestants, giving them no reason to pay attention. There are a lot of good apologists out there. It just sucks their work is being damaged by the B team.

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