Apologetics for the Masses #223 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

Bible Christian Society

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General Comments

Hey folks,

A couple of things:

1) My apologies for no Balaam's Ride radio program yesterday.  We had an equipment failure that kept us from being able to go live.  Same piece of equipment did that to us a few weeks ago.  We sent it off to be "fixed," but obviously the fix wasn't good enough.  It looks like we're going to have to get some new equipment, but it is going to cost around $1000, so we're exploring all of our options before we go that route.  Hopefully, it will be back on the air either this coming week or the following.  I'll send out an email to let everyone know.

2) Here are a few upcoming speaking engagements:

a) Pell City, Alabama - Sunday, November 3rd, Our Lady of the Lake parish, 9:45 AM.

b) Tyler, Texas - Friday and Saturday, November 8/9, at the Fullness of Truth Conference.  Also speaking will be Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler and Jesse Romero.  For more details: www.fullnessoftruth.org.

c) Tuscaloosa, Alabama - Wednesday, November 13th, Theology on Tap at Glory Bound Gyro Co., 7:00 PM.  Topic: Does God Want Everyone to Be Catholic?

d) Birmingham, Alabama - Sunday, November 17th, St. Peter the Apostle Adult Ed Class, 9:45 AM.  Topic: Genesis and Evolution: What Does the Church Teach?

Introduction/Chapter 1

This week I am continuing my attempt at writing a book: "Blue Collar Apologetics."  Haven't decided on a subtitle, but it will be something along the lines of: "How the Average Catholic Can Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith to Anyone."  And, yes, for the folks who wrote to suggest I not use the word, "Apologetics" in the title, I am keeping it in the title of my book, because while many Catholics do not know what that word means, there are still many that do and I am counting on them reading the book and, through word of mouth, recommending it to those who don't.  I'm looking at it as a "catechetical moment" for folks who are not familiar with the term.

When reading this, and subsequent chapters, please keep in mind that this is an unedited first draft.  It's not quite a stream of consciousness thing, but I have so many things in my head on any given topic, that I'm just trying to get them down on paper in some semblance of order, after which I will go back and take a hard look at how everything is organized to see if it could be better (which I have no doubt it can be).

Below is the beginning of my "Definition of Terms" page and the first part of chapter 1.  Some of these installments may be just a few pages, as this one is, some may be more. 

Blue Collar Apologetics - Definition of Terms; Chapter 1

Definition of Terms:
[Note: I will put these in alphabetical order once I've completed the list, which will be after I’ve written all of the chapters, as I expect it will need to contain several more words.]

Apologetics - the explanation and defense of something or someone.  In ancient Greece, the word "apologia" described the case a lawyer would make on behalf of his client.  So, Catholic apologetics is about explaining and defending the teachings of the Catholic church, or, you could say, about building the case for the Catholic Faith.

     a) Natural apologetics - builds the case for truths that we can know from the “natural” light of reason, truths that are able to be known without any divine intervention.  Truths such as the existence of God, the innate spirituality of the human soul, the objective reality of right and wrong - truths which the articles of the Catholic 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.  
     b) Christian apologetics - builds the case for divinely revealed truths...truths that cannot be known by reason apart from faith...truths such as the reality of biblical miracles, the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection among others.
     c) 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 directly by Jesus Christ, the papacy, the Sacraments, Purgatory, the Immaculate Conception, and so on.  

Anti-Catholic - someone who tells a Catholic what they believe, even if that is not what the Catholic believes, and will not accept any explanation or evidence to the contrary.  For example, an anti-Catholic would say to a Catholic, "You worship Mary."  When the Catholic responds that he in fact does not worship Mary, and explains that he honors and loves Mary just as her son Jesus did, and shows them in the Catechism where it says that Mary has a human nature, not a  divine one, the anti-Catholic responds, "You do too worship Mary!"  In other words, they wish to impose their understanding of our belief on us, no matter how much their understanding of our belief is shown to be false.  Simply being opposed to Catholic teaching and practice does not make one an anti-Catholic.


Chapter 1


Oh yeah?!  Says who?

When talking to a non-Catholic Christian about the Faith, the question of authority is, bar none, the most fundamental and important question in apologetics.  It is basically the question of who gets to decide what is, and is not, authentic Christian doctrine, morality, and practice.  Does the Church founded by Jesus Christ get to decide these things, or does each individual reading the Bible on their own get to decide these things?  It doesn't matter what topics related to Church teaching you may be talking to someone about - Mary, the Pope, Confession, the Eucharist, Purgatory, contraception, the priesthood, celibacy, homosexuality, prayer to the Saints, etc. - they can all be boiled down to one issue: authority.  If you understand that, and keep it in mind when engaging in a discussion about the faith, it will keep you from wasting a whole lot of time on topics that can drag you far off into the weeds and away from the good soil where you might be able to plant some seeds.  

This is why I always advise people that, no matter where they might start a conversation, they need to always take it to the question of authority as soon as possible.  For example, someone might ask you, "Where in the Bible does it say Mary was assumed into Heaven body and soul at the end of her life?"  (Do you know the answer?)  The correct Catholic answer is: “Nowhere; at least, not directly.”  But, can you say that to a Baptist or Evangelical or Presbyterian or whoever without confirming for them that the Catholic Church teaches doctrines contrary to the Bible?  Indeed you can.  

I'll spend more time on this particular question in a later chapter on Mary, but suffice it to say, that after you admit to them there is no verse that directly states Mary was assumed into Heaven, you can simply ask them: “Does the Bible somewhere say that Mary was not assumed into Heaven body and soul?”  To which they will have to answer, if they are honest, “No.” 

“So,” you can say, “the Bible nowhere says Mary was assumed into Heaven, but the Bible nowhere says that Mary was not assumed into Heaven.  Since that is the case, why can’t I believe she was assumed into Heaven?”  Your non-Catholic friend might say something to the effect of, “Well, but if it’s not in the Bible, then as a Christian, you can’t believe it.”  To which you respond: "Oh yeah?!  Says who?"  When they say, "The Bible says so," you just ask them to point out the Scripture verse that says such a thing.  (Hint: there is no such verse in the Bible.)  There is no verse in all of Scripture that says, "If you don't find a particular doctrine or practice spelled out directly in this book, then it cannot be true and Christians should not believe it."  

Which means, they believe in something - something foundational to their faith - that is not in the Bible.  So, they started off telling you that something you believe isn't in the Bible, only to have it shown to them that something they believe isn't in the Bible; in fact, that two things they believe are not in the Bible.  Nowhere does the Bible say Mary was not assumed into Heaven, yet they believe she wasn’t, and nowhere does the Bible say that everything a Christian believes has to be found directly in the Bible, yet they believe it does.  This last belief is actually a humdinger of a logical inconsistency: The belief that if something is not found directly in the Bible then you shouldn’t believe it, is not found directly in the Bible.  In fact, it’s not even found indirectly in the Bible.  More on that later.

So, what did you just do?  In addition to subtly pointing out to them that nowhere does the Bible say what they think it says, and that there is a rather large logical inconsistency in their belief system, you've changed the question.  And that is exactly what you wanted to do.  It started off being a question about Mary, and you've pretty quickly turned it in the direction of being a question about authority.  When you start questioning what they believe and why they believe it, and you start showing them that things they believe are not actually in the Bible, you are actually questioning the authority behind what they believe.

Now, when they can't show you a verse in the Bible that answers your question, then the next logical thing to say is, "If I believe something that is not directly in the Bible - you tell me that I can't believe it.  But, if you believe something that is not directly in the Bible - you tell me that it's okay for you to believe it.  Isn't that being a little bit hypocritical?"

It is, of course, indeed being hypocritical.  But, the point is not to prove to them that they are being a hypocrite, the point is that you're trying to plant a seed with them that, just maybe, there is something they believe that, just maybe, doesn't quite make the sense they thought it made.  In other words, you're trying to get them to examine what it is they believe and why they believe it.  Socrates once said that the unexamined life isn't worth living.  I would suggest that maybe the unexamined doctrine isn't worth believing.  And this issue of authority is the best place to start when trying to get someone to examine what it is they believe and why they believe it.  It’s the best place to start because it’s the easiest place to show them that their entire theological system is not actually based on what they think it is based on, as I’ll explain momentarily.  Which is why, again, it is so important to always bring the discussion around to the issue of authority as soon as possible.  

Okay, by doing all of this you’ve started turning the question away from Mary and to authority, how do you keep going in that direction?  It’s easy, all you have to do is say, “Listen, don’t get me wrong, I agree with you that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God.  I disagree with you, however, on exactly what the Bible does and does not teach.  So, if you have two people who sincerely desire to know the truth as to what the Bible does and does not teach...and both of them pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance before picking up the Bible to read and discern what is said there...if these two people disagree on what the Bible says, then who, if anyone, has the authority to make a final decision?  

Now you are where you want to be.  Authority.  With just a question or two, you have taken the discussion from a side issue - albeit a very important side issue - to the main issue: authority. Do this one or two times in discussions with your Protestant family members, friends and co-workers, and you will start having more fun than you thought possible in these discussions.  You will start enjoying these conversations and looking forward to them rather than dreading them.  

This is because in most conversations between a Catholic Christian and a non-Catholic Christian, the Catholic is almost always on the defensive.  It’s not fun being on the defensive.  By turning the tables and taking control of the conversation and asking some questions of your own, you are now on the offensive.  It’s fun being on the offensive because you can see how your questions are making someone - someone who just knew how wrong the Catholic Church was - stop and think about what it is they believe and why they believe it.  It’s fun being on the offensive because you can see that seeds are being planted.  And that’s what it is all about: planting seeds.  Seeds of truth.  Seeds of faith. 



I'll be traveling next week, so I don't know if I'll get a newsletter out, but I'm going to try.  I'm finding that I need to be writing something every day if I'm ever going to get this thing really up and running, so that is my goal.  If I do, then maybe I can send something out on Thursday instead of Friday. 

Hope all of you have a great week!

Oh, in one of my previous newsletters, I signed off with a "Roll Tide," as I am an Alabama football fan.  I had someone email to tell me (and he was very serious), that by saying "Roll Tide" I was committing idolatry by "worshipping" the Alabama football team.  Well, needless to say, I reject that opinion.  Sometimes folks just have nothing better to do than complain (could he have been a Notre Dame fan?).  Although, as with any good thing, rooting for your favorite sporting team can be taken to unhealthy, and maybe even sinful extremes; however, just expressing support for that team with a two-word cheer, doesn't seem to reach those levels.  So, to that particular reader, Roll Tide! and lighten up, dude...

Apologetics for the Masses