Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Modern Day Apologetics ... Has the Game Changed?

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15)


 The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip by Sustris

When I first looked into Catholic apologetics about 15 years ago I was having a reversion of faith and did not understand the teachings of the Catholic Church when questioned by other Christians.  This was mostly evangelicals who were questioning Marian theology or the communion of the saints.  Since that time those attacks have seemed to subsided at least in my circles.  I still enjoy the occasional discussion with the Jehovah's Witness at the door.  I do not argue but emphasis our similarities, state my beliefs and usually end up agreeing to disagree.  It is important to know your faith and not get trampled on and twisted about what your own faith teaches.

I see the new battleground is not being rooted in the Bible and how Catholics understand it different than some protestant denominations.   The most recent attacks of the Catholic faith are not coming from within Christianity, but coming from the secular world.  They do not have a bible backing, but a belief that the Bible is a two thousand year old text that is no longer valid in today’s world.  It seems the apologetics arena has shifted from a scriptural battle to a battle about natural law.

This puts many defenders of the faith at a disadvantage, while they have been exposed to scripture in church they have a much smaller exposure to teaching of natural law and even less of an ability to articulate an argument based on it.  While we hear Catholic doctrine explained in homilies on Marian and saint  feast days, when was the last time the teachings of Thomas Aquinas were talked about more than passively in a homily? 

There have always been battle against moral relativism, where there are no absolutes in regard to morals and a God if he exists makes no rules in regards to what I can or cannot do.  They follow that “I am in charge of my own destiny and create my own moral code as I see fit”.  The Catholic Church has been battling this since before Descartes uttered “I think therefore I am.”  Which is as self centered as you can get with attributing your very being to the fact that you can think.  

Pope Paul VI warned against some of this in regard to human sexuality in his encyclical Humanae Vitae.  Many of his predictions have come true in the since it was written in 1968.

It seems that sexuality and birth control are just the tip of the iceberg that critics feel should be wiped away as Catholic teaching that are outdated and need to be “modernized”.  Every time the Pope says something mildly related to sexuality.  The Media jumps on it to say “The Church is coming around to our way of thinking.” or something to that effect.  The Church does not change her core principles, nor should she.  The Church does not follow with society and change morality based on a what the trendy thing to do it, nor should she.

If the Church just implemented all the changes that secular world wanted, it would cease to be the Church, it would be a hodgepodge of individual morality that have no basis in anything besides a persons individual idea of what they want to do.  

So what is the basis of this new morality?  Anything?  Do they have any guidance at all other than what they want?  Where is the moral line drawn and what is the standards for not crossing it?  

The Church has a mission and cannot be dragged along as society with a basis of nothing concrete.  They want to keep moving the line forward on what is acceptable and it changes with a “hot button” issue every few years.

The Church has its basis in the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Bible and 2000 years of tradition.  It has not always been popular, but it has always stood by its convictions.  But even more so the Church is able to articulate its teaching if anyone looks deeper than a simple soundbite.  The catechism explains why the Church believes what she believes and backs it with more documents.  The Church has two thousand years of teaching on the topic of natural law by the likes of Augustine, Aquinas and Bonaventure.   

All the studies of the apologetics from years ago with an understanding of the biblical basis of Catholicism are no longer pertain to the current fight to defend and explain the faith.  Our new battle is that of attacks on us as being insensitive to those who want to do at they please and there is no overarching moral authority and everyone makes their own decision on morality, does what they would like and if you disagree you are “intolerant”.  

As Catholics(and Christians in general) we can’t sit by silently and be fed this bill of goods and told to stand by idly.  If the those who promote the idea that they can do anything they like can bring it to the public square, we need to be in the square too.  It won’t be popular but it will be a slippery slope to the next thing that the “People” decide is OK.

If everyone is afraid to offend some other group then everything becomes insignificant and everything no longer has meaning.

The new battleground for Catholics to defend the faith is more than understanding that we don’t worship Mary.  We need to come to a deeper understanding of natural law, theology of the body and the roots of Catholic moral teachings.  Aquinas, Bonaventure and even John Paul II are a difficult reads for most people.  Luckily we have resources like Christopher West and Scott Hahn that can articulate some of this to more digestible information that can inform our faith and help us understand why some of the messages coming out of popular culture are wrong and what we can go to argue against it.  

Some helpful resources for further study on this topic:
The original theology of the body by John Paul II (very dense read)  

A couple of other resources that are a little more readable 
Christopher West 

Natural Law book by Charles Rice

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