Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #109

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

No newsletter last week because, even though the Bible Christian Society and Queen of Heaven Radio are both non-profits, they still have required tax filings. So that’s what I was doing last week – monthly, quarterly, and annual tax stuff for the local, state, and federal governments for both the Bible Christian Society and Queen of Heaven Radio. Quite a pain in the tookis.

I will be in Dixon, CA next weekend, February 15th, speaking at a Knights of Columbus event being held at the Dixon Fairgrounds. The talk is in the afternoon, 3:00 PM I believe. If you’re in the area and would be interested in attending, you can contact Alex Playford (707-678-0693) for more information.

Two weeks after that, I’ll be in Borger, TX, outside of Amarillo. I’ll be giving two talks – one on Friday night (the 27th) and one on Saturday morning – at St. John the Evangelist parish. For more information, contact the parish directly.


I want to thank all of you for the feedback you gave me on the “Introduction” to my book. I’m sorry that I can’t respond personally to each of you who took the time to send in your comments, but there were a few hundred of you who did so. I did read all of the comments and a number of them will be reflected in the revised “Introduction.” I moved some paragraphs around, shortened some sentences, re-phrased some things, and, of course, changed “they’re” to “their.”

So, again, thank you to each and every one of you who responded, your comments were of great help. Below is Chapter 1, “Introduction to Apologetics.” Any and all comments concerning spelling, grammar, sentence structure, content, and so on will be greatly appreciated.

Also, I would love to hear your suggestions for end of chapter study questions and such. I hope to make this book useful for apologetics study groups, homeschoolers, and the like and want, therefore, to include some study questions, suggested study topics, and things of that nature at the end of each chapter.


Chapter 1

Introduction to Apologetics

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’" Isaiah 6:8

The word "apologetics" is derived from an ancient Greek word, "apologia," which means: an apology. As everyone knows, the current meaning of the word, "apology," is to say you’re sorry for something. To, in essence, "fess up" for being wrong about something. 

In ancient times, however, the word "apology" referred to the case a lawyer would make on behalf of his client. And it is this ancient meaning which we find being applied to the word "apologetics." Apologetics is about building the case for something the way a lawyer would build a case for his client. In other words, apologetics is about making a reasoned explanation or defense on behalf of someone or something.

When it comes to Christianity, there are essentially 3 types of apologetics that one needs to be familiar with: 1) natural apologetics; 2) Christian apologetics; and 3) Catholic apologetics. (I have further broken Catholic apologetics into two subdivisions which I will talk about a little later on.)

Natural apologetics builds the case for truths that we can know from the "natural" light of reason. To know these truths does not require any special divine revelation. Truths that can be explained with natural apologetics include: the existence of God, the existence of the human soul, the objective reality of right and wrong, and so forth – truths which the articles of our Faith rest upon and build upon.

St. Paul touches on natural apologetics when he says in Romans Chapter 1:, "Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." In other words, Paul is saying that the existence of God can be known through the observance of nature, even without any particular divine revelation.

Christian apologetics, on the other hand, builds the case for divinely revealed truths. One cannot know these truths by reason apart from faith. Truths that can be explained with Christian apologetics include: the Trinity, the reality of biblical miracles, the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection, just to name a few.

Catholic apologetics encompasses all of Christian apologetics – since Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity – but Catholic apologetics tends to focus on building the case for those truths of Christianity that are not generally believed by non-Catholic Christians. Truths such as: the Catholic Church having been founded by Jesus Christ; the papacy; apostolic succession, the Sacraments; the Assumption of Mary, and others.

Okay, that was a brief overview of apologetics and of the three main types of apologetics: natural, Christian, and Catholic. From here on, I want to focus on Catholic apologetics. My former bishop in Birmingham, Bishop David Foley, used to write a regular column in the diocesan newspaper. In one of those columns he gave a very good definition of Catholic apologetics. He said,

"There comes a time when we, as Catholics, have to be able to defend and explain certain teachings of our Catholic Faith…Our faith is based on reason and logic. The explanation of what we believe and why we believe it, is called Apologetics."

Now, you might be saying to yourself that this apologetics stuff is fine for priests or theologians or university professors, but what does this have to do with me? Well, in the statement I just read from Bishop Foley, he wasn’t talking just to priests and theologians and university professors, he was talking to all Catholics. He was talking to you and to me. He said that we, as Catholics, have to be able to defend and explain our Catholic Faith.

My question to you is, "Can you do that?" If a Baptist were to ask you for scriptural reasons for the Catholic belief in Purgatory would you be able to give him an answer? Could you answer a Presbyterian’s question on where in Scripture does it say anything about the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Can you explain to a person from the Church of God that praying the Rosary is not equivalent to worshipping Mary as a god?

And going beyond what Bishop Foley said, listen to what Scripture says: in 1 Ptr 3:15 God tells us, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you." "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you!" The Bishop, in his column, was simply echoing what God, through the Sacred Scriptures, is saying to us – we must be prepared to defend our faith! And God would not command us to do something that we are incapable of doing.

But why? Why is it so important that we, as Catholics, be able to defend our faith? Why do we need to learn apologetics so that we can explain and defend our faith? Because our Catholic Faith contains the fullness of God’s revealed truth. Our faith and only our faith. To be sure, there is truth in other faiths, but not the fullness of truth that is contained in the Catholic faith. We must, therefore, be equipped to explain and defend it so that others may come to believe in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But again, why? Why is it so important that people know the truth? In 1 Tim 2:4 it says, "[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God desires it! In John 8:32, "and you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free". Man needs it to be set free! God desires that all men know the truth; man needs to know the truth to be set free. God desires it; man needs it! What will your response be? God desires that all men be saved and He wants you and me to participate in the process. What will your response be?

Oh, sure, there are those who have plenty of rationalizations for not learning more about the faith, and about passing up opportunities to explain and defend the faith. I’ve heard people say things like, "I’m not all that concerned about doctrine, I just want to show people the love of Jesus Christ". Well, the love of Jesus Christ, is the truth of Jesus Christ! In John 18, Jesus says that "the reason I came into the world, is to testify to the truth. Anyone committed to the truth hears my voice." You need to be committed to the truth in order to hear Jesus’ voice!

We need to realize that doctrines and dogmas are nothing more than the truth given to us by Jesus Christ! They are lampposts lighting the path that leads to Christ. When you put all the Scripture passages on truth together with one another, it becomes very clear that if you want to truly share the love of Jesus Christ with someone, you have to share the truth of Jesus Christ with them. We need to understand that truth is not a concept that each person can bend according to their individual whims – truth is a Person! Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6)! And Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8)! And the fullness of revealed truth that rests in the person of Jesus Christ resides in the Catholic faith.

Given that, then if we truly love our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, would we not want to do everything…everything!…in our power to see that they have the fullness of truth that is Jesus Christ?! Knowing that God wants all men to know the truth, and knowing that the truth sets us free, would we not want to do everything in our power to see that our non-Catholic brothers and sisters have the fullness of the truth that God wants them to have and that they need to be set free?!

If we really love our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, wouldn’t we want them to share with us in receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? Wouldn’t we want them to share in the graces we receive from the Sacrament of Confession? Wouldn’t we want them to be able to have Mary and all the angels and all the saints as their prayer partners? If we don’t do what we can to open the eyes of non-Catholics to all of the wonderful treasures that are available to them in and through the Catholic Church, can we say we truly love our neighbor as ourselves?

How will they know about these wonderful treasures of the Catholic Church if we who have daily access to these treasures are afraid to share our faith with them? You’ve probably heard it said that a man’s character can be measured by what he would do when no one is watching. I read somewhere that an even better measure of a man’s character is what he is willing to do when everyone is watching! That is the true challenge of conscience and courage – what are you willing to do when everyone is watching? Are you willing to publicly share your faith? Are you willing to offer yourself up to scorn and ridicule by publicly sharing your faith? Are you are a member of the Church Militant…or of the Church Milquetoast?

Now, does publicly sharing our faith mean that we have to go around beating people over the heads with Catholicism to get them to convert. No! Let’s look again at 1 Ptr 3:15, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account…". That’s not telling you to stand on the street corner preaching the Good News, although you can if you want to. It’s not telling you to alienate all of your friends or co-workers by shoving Catholicism down their throats. It’s simply telling you to be prepared when someone comes to you. And let me tell you something: you do not have to go looking for people to convert to Catholicism. All you have to do is let it be known that you are a Catholic, and they will come to you. The more you live and practice your faith, the more opportunities God will give you to defend it.

So, in order to be prepared to defend your faith – in order to become a Catholic apologist – what must you do? In reality, the only thing you need to do to be prepared to defend your faith – to become a Catholic apologist – is to each and every day…each and every day…learn a little bit more about your faith. Daily gain a greater understanding of your faith.

Please take note of the fact that I did not say that you have to have a complete understanding of your faith. The Catholic faith is deeper than the oceans, and no one, no one in this lifetime will plumb its depths. I also did not say that you have to have a Master’s degree in Theology or a Bachelor’s degree or anything else of that nature – I’ve had all of one course in Theology in my lifetime (and it was so filled with garbage that I called it anti-theology). You just have to have an earnest desire to learn more about your faith and then simply act…act on that desire.

Pray. Read Scripture. Read books on or by the saints. Read the Catechism, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. Go down to a Catholic bookstore and ask them for books and CDs on apologetics – if they don’t have them, they can get them. (Let me take a moment here to put in a plug for the free CD’s or mp3 downloads, as well as the free apologetics e-newsletters, that can be obtained at my website: www.biblechristiansociety.com.) Subscribe to Catholic periodicals…those that are loyal to the Pope and the Magisterium. Get pamphlets and booklets.

Again, to become a Catholic apologist, you simply need to have a desire to learn more about your faith and the will to act upon that desire. As you do so, God will bring you into situations where you will have the opportunity to share your faith, to explain it, and to defend it.

Now, there are some important points to remember whenever you use apologetics – whenever you enter into a discussion where you are having to explain or defend your faith with someone. I call these points the Rules of Engagement:

1) Pray. Pray before during and after you engage someone in a conversation on the Catholic Faith. You and I do not convert anyone, it is the Holy Spirit who changes the hearts and minds of men.

2) You don’t have to know everything right now. Just learn a little bit more about your Faith each and every day. Read Scripture. Read the Catechism. Read books on or by the Saints. Listen to apologetics CDs. Listen to Catholic Radio. Watch Catholic television. Learn a little bit at a time.

3) Luke 5:10, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." Jesus said this to Peter, but He is also saying it to us. Will you make mistakes? Of course, Peter did. Will you get into tight spots? Of course, Peter did also. Yet, Jesus told Peter not to be afraid. Why? Because if we are sincere in our desire to share the truth with others, to share Jesus with others, then Jesus will find a way to make something good come out of even our mistakes. He will bless our efforts.

But, you must be sincere in your desire. Do not become an apologist for your faith in the hope of winning an argument about Scripture with your Protestant friends or your Fundamentalist brother-in-law. Apologetics is not about winning arguments, it is about sharing the truth, it is about planting seeds. Study apologetics so as to win souls for Christ and His Bride – the Church. Study apologetics so as to deepen your own faith and spirituality. If you do that, then the next time the opportunity presents itself, you will not be afraid to speak out in defense of your faith.

4) Always look at an attack on your faith, or a question about your faith, as an opportunity. Most Christians who will say anything to you about Catholicism do so in good faith. Sometimes they are simply curious and want to learn more. Other times, they think you are going to hell because you are a Catholic and they want to save your soul from eternal damnation. That is a wonderful thing! They are practicing the love of Christ for you. That’s the kind of attitude – concern for someone’s soul – that Catholics need to have.

My public apologetics career started several years ago with a weekly Catholic apologetics radio program on an Evangelical radio station here in Birmingham. A weekly show on Evangelical radio which gave me an opportunity to share the Catholic faith with people who had never heard the Catholic version of our faith. But that never would have happened were it not for a vicious attack on the Catholic Church that was aired on that very same radio station several months earlier. I called to complain about that offensive program, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had my own Catholic radio program on that Evangelical station.

So view even the vilest attacks on the Church as an opportunity. When someone starts questioning your faith, or attacking your faith, instead of getting angry you ought to get a big smile on your face, because you should realize that God just opened a door for you.

5) Never get frustrated. You may be brilliant in your explanation of a particular doctrine or practice of the Catholic faith and the person you are talking to may just absolutely refuse to hear any of it. And they may say the most irrational and illogical things imaginable in response. That’s fine. As I said earlier, just think of yourself as planting seeds. You and I are not capable of converting anyone. It is the Holy Spirit Who changes the hearts and minds of men, not you, not me. You do what you can and then offer the rest to God.

If you ever engage a non-Catholic in any serious conversation about your faith, you will probably become familiar with what I call the "doctrinal dance". They will ask you a question about Purgatory and right in the middle of your answer they’ll say something like, "Yeah, well, why do you guys worship Mary?" As you start to respond to that they will say, "Why do you think the Pope can’t commit a sin?" As you start to explain papal infallibility, they will say, "Why do you confess your sins to a man instead of to God?" The doctrinal dance.

They switch the subject whenever you have an answer to their question. This can be very frustrating. Don’t let them do it. Stay focused and keep bringing the conversation back, in a gentle but firm way, to one main topic until you have said all that you want to say on that topic, then move on.

6) Very, very important: never be afraid to say, "I don’t know," when asked a question about your Faith. Don’t try to "wing it." However, always follow, "I don’t know," with, "But, I will find out and get back to you." And then make sure you find out and get back to them!

Okay, those are the "Rules of Engagement." If you keep those simple rules in mind when discussing your faith with someone, I guarantee the conversation will be much more productive and enjoyable for you than it otherwise would be.

What I want to do now is give you one quick example of apologetics to hopefully whet your appetite for what you will find in the rest of this book. Before getting to this example, though, I want to pick back up with something that I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter about how I have divided Catholic apologetics into two subcategories. Those two subcategories are: a)Catholic apologetics for non-Catholics and b)Catholic apologetics for Catholics.

Most of this book will be focused on explaining and defending the faith to non-Catholic Christians – Catholic apologetics for non-Catholics. I will, however, have a chapter in the latter part of the book dealing with Catholic apologetics for Catholics.

So this apologetics example I’m about to give will be an example of Catholic apologetics for non-Catholics, particularly non-Catholic Christians. When talking to non-Catholic Christians, you have to stick mostly to Scripture. Don’t let Scripture scare you. And do not be intimidated by any Protestant’s seeming knowledge of Scripture. The average Protestant has memorized maybe 20-30 Scripture verses to deal with Catholics. Most of these, if not all, they take out of context and misinterpret.

The average Protestant is in no way, shape, or form a Scripture scholar. They love Scripture, and they probably read Scripture more than the average Catholic (which is a lesson we need to learn from them), but they are not such Scripture juggernauts that you should be afraid to engage them in a discussion of Scripture.

Here is just one example of an argument, an apologetic, you can build just from Scripture to back the Catholic faith when talking to a Protestant, that demonstrates the fact that Protestants don’t actually know the Bible as well as many Catholics think they do:

Most Protestants believe that Baptism is merely symbolic – there is no washing away of sin, no infusion of grace, nothing of the supernatural. Well, what does the Bible say?

Ezek 36:25-27 – "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses…a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you…and I will put My spirit within you…" This is a foreshadowing of what is to come in the New Testament era and it shows that something really does happen at Baptism – cleansing from sin and the reception of the Holy Spirit – just as the Church teaches.

Acts 2:38 – "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." This verse simply repeats what we found in Ezekiel 36 – forgiveness of sins and reception of the Holy Spirit through Baptism, just as the Church teaches. Nothing symbolic here!

Acts 22:16 – "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins…" Again, the washing away of sins through Baptism.

1 Cor 12:13 – "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…" Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ, just as the Church teaches. What about this can be said to be symbolic?

Rom 6:3 – "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Again, Baptism as the entrance into the Body of Christ.

John 3:5 – "Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit [Baptism], he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Is Jesus talking about a symbolic entrance into the Kingdom of God? I don’t think so.

1 Ptr 3:21 – "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…" I don’t know how it can be any clearer. Nothing symbolic here!

In other words, the Bible clearly supports Catholic teaching on Baptism, while there is not a single verse in all of Scripture that states Baptism is merely a symbolic act, as most Protestants believe. 

You need to remember this fact – the Bible is a Catholic book! The Catholic Church gave it to the world! And you can rest assured, that the Catholic faith can be defended – on purely biblical grounds – much better than any non-Catholic Christian faith could ever be. So, do not be afraid to engage non-Catholics in a discussion of Scripture. But first read the rest of this book. 


In Conclusion

That’s it for Chapter 1 – Introduction to Apologetics. All feedback will be appreciated, and read, and taken into consideration.

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Apologetics for the Masses