Apologetics for the Masses #240 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

Bible Christian Society

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General Comments

Hey folks,

After a summer of not getting any of the things that I had planned on getting done this summer done, I'm back.  I had planned to take some time off from the newsletter, but not actually this much time...so, my apologies.  The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry...as the poet says.  Anyway, I'm back at it and hope to get out these newsletters on a weekly basis for at least the next several weeks to maybe catch up a little bit for time lost the past couple of months.  Actually, though, I did get one really good thing that I planned this summer done - it was a luncheon here in Birmingham that featured Dr. Scott Hahn.  It was awesome.  We had nearly 500 folks - Catholic and non-Catholic alike - who heard Scott talk about the New Evangelization.  It was a relatively short planning period between the time Scott consented to do it and the time it occurred, so that was actually one of the big reasons I missed getting some issues out in June and July.  So, I was working on evangelization, just not via this newsletter. 

And, just so you know, for you folks in North Alabama and Southern Tennessee, I am going to be putting on a luncheon in Huntsville on Tuesday, September 16th, featuring Patrick Madrid.  If you are interested in attending that, shoot me an email and I'll give you the details.  

I hope all of you had a happy, healthy, and holy summer!  

Introduction

Okay, in this issue, I am going to pull a Star Wars on you.  I'm going to give you the prequel to the chapters I've already written and shared with you here from my book, Blue Collar Apologetics.  After taping the episodes of the Blue Collar Apologetics series I did for EWTN television (which will hopefully air in March), it occurred to me that I needed to insert my apologetics strategies into the book at the beginning, rather than at the end, which is where I was originally planning on having them.  I was going to introduce them at the end by saying, "Okay, that's the information you need, now here's how you can use it in real world situations..." But, after taping those television episodes, I thought about it and decided it would be better to introduce the strategies in the beginning and then show how they can be used with each topic that I discuss in the individual chapters.  So, even though I've already given you two chapters - on authority and on Sola Scriptura - before moving on to the chapter on Sola Fide (salvation by faith alone), I'm going to give you the "strategies" chapter. So, this will actually be chapter 1 of the book.  Here is the first part of it...

Blue Collar Apologetics, Chapter 1

Common Sense and Simple Logic

“Where in the Bible does it say...?”  “Where does the Bible say anything about...?”  “Why do you confess your sins to a man, instead of going straight to God...where is that in the Bible?”  “Where does it say anything about Mary’s Assumption in the Bible?”  “Where does the word Purgatory ever appear in the Bible?”

Have you ever had to deal with a question like that?  Have you ever found yourself face-to-face, or maybe email-to-email, with someone who questioned, or even attacked, your Catholic Faith?  Maybe it was a family member, or a friend, or a co-worker?  “Where in the Bible is Purgatory?  Where in the Bible is the Pope?  Where in the Bible is infant baptism?  Where in the Bible is this?  Where in the Bible is that?”  Did you know what to do?  Did you know how to answer them?  Would you like to know what to do, and how to answer them?

Well, I’m going to show you exactly what you can do and say in a situation like that.  And, not only am I going to show you how to deal with questions like that - questions that a lot of us Catholics face sooner or later, but I’m going to show you how to turn the tide and start asking the other guys questions about the Bible - questions that I guarantee you they won’t be able to answer.   Questions that I guarantee will stop a lot of folks in their tracks and make them really have to think about an answer.  Questions that will cause them to really examine what they believe and why they believe it.

In this book, I’m going to teach you how to be a Catholic apologist.  That’s right, I’m going to teach you...yes, you...how to be a Catholic apologist. I’m going to teach you how to explain and defend the faith, to anyone - and I mean anyone.  I’ve been involved with evangelization and apologetics for about 20 years or so, now, and in that time, I’ve met a lot of people who were very shy, for any number of reasons, about sharing their faith with others.  One of the main reasons they were hesitant to share their faith, though, was because no one had ever shown them how to do it, and they were afraid of getting embarrassed or of making a mistake.  For example, what if you have an Evangelical brother-in-law and it seems like he has at least half of the Bible memorized, while you maybe have trouble finding Genesis?  How could you possibly evangelize this guy?  I mean, if you try, he’s going to start talking Bible and you are going to get left in the 2000-yr. old dust of ancient Israel, right?  

It doesn’t have to be that way.  The reason I call what I do “Blue Collar” apologetics, is because it is something that is for pretty much every man, woman, and child out there.  It is for the average Catholic in the pews.  I don’t care if you’re 8-yrs. old or 80-yrs old or anywhere in between.  I can teach you how to be a Catholic apologist.  I’ve had moms tell me that their 8 or 9-yr old kids listen to and learn from my materials, and even on occasion use them to evangelize their friends.  Imagine, 9-yr olds evangelizing their 9-yr old friends.  It can and does happen!  I’ve also had grandmas and grandpas, who have been Catholic all their lives, use the information I’m going to be discussing in this book, to evangelize life-long friends.

Again, pretty much anyone can use Blue Collar Apologetics to share, explain, and defend their faith with others.  That’s because Blue Collar Apologetics are based on common sense and simple logic.  You don’t need a Ph.D., or Master’s degree, or Bachelor’s degree, or anything like that in order to do what I’m going to show you how to do.  (In fact, I have seen any number of instances where folks with Theology degrees make absolutely awful apologists.)  This stuff is for the young or old, the rich or the poor, those with advanced degrees, those with no degrees, for men or women, for laity and clergy, for Catholic and non-Catholic alike.  That’s right, I’ve had lots of non-Catholics get ahold of my materials - sometimes it helped bring them into the Church, sometimes not - but it always helped give them a better appreciation and understanding of what Catholics believe and why we believe it.  I guess what I’m trying to say, is that there is something here for everyone. 

Okay, that’s the “Blue Collar” part of the title of this series - you don’t need an advanced degree to do this stuff, it’s for the average Catholic out there in the pews every Sunday.  What about the other part of the title, “apologetics”  In ancient Greece, an “apologia” was the case a lawyer would make on behalf of his client.  So, just as a lawyer builds a case for his client, apologetics is about building the case for the Faith.  And one important point to always remember here: apologetics is about presenting the evidence for our faith, it’s not about trying to “prove” anything.  We present the evidence, we plant the seeds, but it is up to the Holy Spirit to make those seeds grow and bear fruit.  Both faith and reason are involved.  We offer the evidence - build the case - throw out the seeds, and then let the Holy Spirit work on the heart and mind. It is the Holy Spirit who tills the soil and makes the seed grow and bear fruit. 

Open the Cage Door

That explains why I’m calling this book Blue Collar Apologetics.  What I want to do now, is give you a brief overview of four apologetics strategies that I have found to be very useful in my ventures in apologetics and which I will be coming back to time and time again throughout this book.  I use one or more of these four strategies pretty much every single time I engage with someone in a discussion about the Faith.  I teach these strategies to others as well, and many have used them to successfully evangelize family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.  

Everything I’m going to be discussing here is based on a simple principle.  I once heard it said that the Catholic Faith is like a lion in a cage, you don’t need to defend it, you simply need to open the cage door.  That’s what I want to do in this book...I want to teach you how to open the cage door.  I’m going to give you some techniques, or strategies, which will enable you to engage in apologetics and evangelization - which will enable you to open the cage door - with pretty much anyone, even if...even if...you don’t really know the Bible all that well.  Although, as we go through this book, your knowledge of Scripture is going to grow.  

Blue Collar Apologetics is simply about being able to explain and defend the faith in a common sense way.  It uses common sense techniques and strategies that are pretty easy to remember, because they’re just basic common sense.  And it also uses simple logic and, of course, the Bible.  And, if you’re concerned you might not know the Bible well enough to engage in a discussion about the faith with folks who call themselves “Bible Christians,” don’t worry about that - I’ve got you covered.      

The first thing I want to do, is to stress that all I’ll be using in this book is common sense, a little logic, and the Bible.  And the reason I focus on the Bible, is because whenever we, as Catholics, talk about our Faith with Protestants, or Evangelicals, or Baptists, or non-denominationalists, and so on,  the number one most frequently asked question is, “Where is that in the Bible?”  Or, we are told over and over again that this or that teaching of our Faith isn’t in the Bible.  Whether the topic is the Pope, Mary, Confession, Purgatory, the Eucharist, Works, Tradition...it doesn’t matter...it always comes back to, “Where is that in the Bible?”  These folks don’t care what the Pope says, or what the Catechism says, or what Vatican II says, they want to know what the Bible says...period!  

So, if you, as a Catholic, are not prepared to answer the question, “Where is that in the Bible,” you may not get very far when it comes to a religious dialogue with most Protestants.  Well, what if you, as a Catholic, don’t know where it is in the Bible?  Are you dead in the water?  And, what if...it isn’t in the Bible...at least, not directly?  The Catholic Church’s teachings on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, for example, are not found directly in the Bible.  What do you do when you’re asked, “Where does it say anything about the ‘Immaculate Conception’ in the Bible?”  What do you do?!  Are you helpless?  Should you look for somewhere to hide?  Should you say, “Look!  What’s that over there?”  And when they turn to look, you take off running in the other direction?  What do you do?

It is my contention that many Catholics today are afraid to discuss their Faith with non-Catholic Christians because quite often they don’t know how to deal with the question, “Where is that in the Bible?” Many of us have probably had a Baptist, or an Evangelical, or a Fundamentalist - whoever - someone has probably beaten us over the head with the Bible at least once in our lifetimes.  Which may have made us a little gun shy, and which has led many Catholics to hold to the mistaken notion that just about any and every Protestant knows the Bible better than we do.     

Well, let me tell you...they don’t.  They may have more Scripture passages memorized than you, but memorizing more Scripture is not the same thing as knowing the Bible better.  As Catholics, we have the Magisterium of the Church as our guide when we open up the Bible.  The Magisterium, which is the Pope and the bishops in union with the Pope, has the apostolic authority with which to give God’s people an authentic interpretation of Scripture.  The Magisterium has, in essence, laid down the parameters within which we are free to interpret Scripture.  

Non-Catholic Christians - whether they call themselves Protestant, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, and such, have no such authentic guide for interpreting Scripture.  They have their own personal, fallible, interpretations to rely on.  They have no boundaries within which to properly interpret Scripture.  And let me tell you, there is some outright craziness going on out there when it comes to folks interpreting the Bible. 

In the past few years, I’ve dealt with something called “Right Division” of Scripture, that seems to be running through a lot of non-denominational and Fundamentalist congregations all over the place.  Right Division of Scripture, in a nutshell, says that Jesus came for the Jews, as Scripture says, and that Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, as Scripture says, therefore, since we are Gentiles, not Jews, we need to listen to Paul and not to Jesus.  We need to focus on what Paul says.  What Jesus said in the Gospels isn’t meant for us.  It’s meant for the Jews.  Well, let me tell you...that’s nuts!  But, that’s what happens when you don’t have an authoritative guide who can lay down some boundaries for you.

Rules of Engagement

The goal here, again, is to outline some techniques and strategies which will help you in dealing with folks who might be able to quote more chapters and verses than you can.  I want to outline some techniques and strategies which will help you in articulating your Faith...in explaining your Faith...to others. Some techniques and strategies that will help you to open the cage door.  But, before I do that, let me very quickly go over what I call, the Rules of Engagement, for when you step out and start evangelizing. 

It is very important to always keep in mind 1 Ptr 3:15 which says, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you...”  Always be prepared Scripture tells us! So, how can we “always be prepared” to make a defense of our Faith?  

Rule of Engagement #1: Pray.  Pray to the Holy Spirit that He give you the courage to share your Faith and the wisdom to choose your words carefully and profitably.  You pray before you ever talk with someone, you pray while talking to them,  and you pray after you’ve talked with them.  You and I don’t convert anyone, folks, it’s the Holy Spirit that changes the hearts and minds of men.  Our job is to plant the seeds, and then we pray for the Holy Spirit to help those seeds grow and bear fruit.  We have to be people of prayer.

Rule #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 it all the way through, or just pick one topic at a time and read about it.  However you want to do it.  Read books on or by the Saints.  Listen to CD’s and mp3 downloads, read books, attend conferences.  Keep watching EWTN Television and if you have EWTN Radio in your area, make sure to listen while you’re in your car.  Learn a little bit at a time.  As you do, God will bring you into situations where you can share your faith with others.

Rule #3: Luke 5:10, “Do not be afraid, henceforth you will be catching men.”  Jesus said this to Peter, but He’s also saying it to us.  Will you make mistakes...will you get into tight spots...when you start sharing your Faith with others?  Of course you will, but Peter made mistakes...he got into tight spots.  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 Christ with others...then Jesus will find a way to make good come out of even our mistakes. 

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, again, 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.

Rule #4: Always view a question about your Faith, or even an attack on your Faith, as an opportunity - an opportunity to share the truth.  Do not get angry!   Never get angry!  Just stay calm and stay determined to bring light into darkness.  Whenever someone questions or attacks your faith in front of you, that ought to cause you to get a big smile on your face, because you know that God has just opened a door for you...so don’t get angry.  If you get angry, it might cause that door to shut...do not let that door shut!  

Rule #5: Don’t get frustrated.  Quite often Catholics get frustrated by what I call the doctrinal dance...you get asked a question about Purgatory, and then when you start to answer that question, you get asked a question about  Mary.  When you start to answer that question, you get asked a question about  the Pope. When you start to answer that question, you get asked a question about the the Sacraments...all in rapid-fire succession.  Before you can answer one question, you’re asked another.  Before you can answer that question...you’re asked another...and on and on it goes.  The doctrinal dance.  Just keep gently, but firmly, guiding the discussion back to one topic until you’ve said all that you want to say...then move on.  

Rule #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.” Never give it your “best guess.”  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!  

Those are six Rules of Engagement.  If you commit those to memory, and practice them, just those six rules will make you more comfortable and confident when you share your faith with others.  

Four Strategies

Now I’m going to give you four strategies, or tactics, or techniques, whatever you want to call them, that you can use when engaging in apologetics.  You can use them individually, all at the same time, or any combination of them.  If you learn these, if you adapt these to your particular situations, if you make these strategies your own, I guarantee you that you will be surprised with what you are able to do in the realm of apologetics and evangelization.  You’ll be out planting seeds the seeds of the Catholic Faith all over the place.  

These 4 strategies or techniques are: 1) The Ignorant Catholic; 2) Being Aw-fensive Without Being Uh-fensive; 3)It’s the Principle of the Thing; and 4) “But That’s MY Interpretation”.  I’ll get into each of these in more depth as we go through this chapter, but I want to first mention that these four strategies rest on a two-layered foundation.  Two things that these 4 strategies rest upon and depend upon.  And, you must not just “know” these two things, you’ve got to have them seared into your minds, hearts, and souls!  

These two things are: 1) The Bible is a Catholic book!  The Catholic Church gave it to the world as we have it today.  It’s ours, folks!  So, you can rest assured that there is nothing...nothing!...in the Bible, from a doctrinal standpoint, that is contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith and there is nothing...nothing!...in the Catholic Faith that is contrary to anything in the Bible.  If you ingrain that fact into your psyches, into your very beings, then you will have the confidence to go out and evangelize anyone.  

And the second part of the foundation is this: there is an answer for every “intelligible” question you receive about the Catholic Faith...you might not know the answer to a question, but rest assured that there is an answer...you just have to go looking for it.  And with all the resources we have easily available to us through the internet these days, and organizations like EWTN, and Catholic Answers, and the Bible Christian Society, and many others, there is no reason not to go looking for it.

That’s the foundation that those four apologetics strategies rest upon and build upon.  Building upon that foundation, I am going to explain each one of those strategies for you.  And, not only am I going to explain those strategies for you, but as we go through this book, I am going to demonstrate how to use them in real world situations.  The various chapters of this book will tackle various apologetics topics. I’ll have a chapter on Mary, on the Pope, on Confession, on Purgatory, and so on.  At the end of each chapter, I’ll go through one or more of these strategies, and give you real world examples of how to use them to discuss that particular chapter’s topic and I’ll also talk about why the strategies are so effective.  

In other words, I’m not going to just talk to you about the “what” of apologetics and evangelization, I’m going to talk to you about the “how” of apologetics and evangelization.  I’m going to teach you how to do apologetics in a simple and logical way, that is easy to remember, easy to learn, easy to understand, and, best of all, easy to duplicate.  You will be able to take what you learn by reading these chapters and apply it directly in your life in a way that works best for you.  And, as with anything, it might take a little practice to get comfortable with them, but the thing is, they are so easy, and actually fun to use, that you will want to go out and start evangelizing just so you can practice using them.  

Here's a quick summary of the four strategies before going in whole hog: 1) The Ignorant Catholic - this is the same as Rule of Engagement #6. All this is, is not being afraid to say, “I don’t know” when asked a question about your faith.  But, always follow “I don’t know,” with “but I will find out and get back to you.”  

2) How to Be Aw-fensive Without Being Uh-fensive.  This is all about learning how to ask questions.  Catholics are always answering questions, always on the defensive when it comes to our Faith and to the Bible.  This strategy is about learning how to be take the offensive and learning how to ask questions that will cause the other guy to stop and think.

3) It’s the Principle of the Thing.  This strategy involves learning how to pull Catholic principles out of Scripture and use those principles to explain the various teachings of the Church.  You could say it’s about learning how to talk Bible to Bible Christians.

4) But that’s MY Interpretation!  This fourth principle is about scriptural interpretation.  Who has the right to interpret Scripture?  What authority does any given person have to interpret Scripture?  Is one person’s interpretation necessarily better than another person’s interpretation?  I’ll teach you how to use the answers to these questions to not only hold your own in any discussion about the Catholic Faith and the Bible, but to also plant some seeds with folks  that will cause them to really have to sit down and examine their belief system.

Before I expand on each of these strategies, I want to say something to all of you folks who might be saying to yourselves that this apologetics stuff is fine for priests or for ex-Protestant ministers like Scott Hahn and Tim Staples and Jeff Cavins and folks like that - you know, people who really know the Bible - but you just know that you can’t do this kind of thing.  

Let me tell ya, nothing could be further from the truth.  Yeah, it would be great if folks like Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins and Tim Staples and others like them could spend a few hours talking Bible and the Catholic Faith to every one on the planet.  But they can’t. They can’t reach the people you reach.  Do you realize that God has put someone, and maybe more than one someone, in your life who you have the opportunity to evangelize in a way that no one else does?  Someone who you have the opportunity to share the truths of the Catholic Faith with? 

In 1 Tim 2:4 it says, “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  If God desires, then we need to desire it, too.  In this book, I’ll be giving you some common sense tools you can use to bring the knowledge of the truths of the Catholic Faith to all those who come across your path.

(to be cont'd)

Summary

I hope all of you have a great week!  Please keep the Bible Christian Society in your prayers and please know that my family and I keep all of you in ours every day...

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Apologetics for the Masses