Apologetics for the Masses #242 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

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General Comments

Hey folks,

A couple of things:

1) Twice before in the last 10 years or so, I let you guys know about a family that was in a particularly difficult situation and could use your help.  I'm going to do that one more time here in this newsletter.

Doug Pearson has stage IV esophageal cancer. Doug is a friend of mine. He is a husband and father. He is a good and kind man, and he has honored God with the way he has lived his life. He has been dedicated to evangelization through Catholic radio and has helped get dozens of Catholic radio stations all over the country on the air, including the one here in Birmingham that I run. His airing my talks on Immaculate Heart Radio's four stations back in 2002, when he was their General Manager, played an important role in enabling me to go full-time as a Catholic apologist/evangelist back in January of 2003.  

So, I ask you to prayerfully consider supporting him and his family in this time of need.  First and foremost, they need your prayers.  Secondly, they could use your financial support - whatever you are moved by the Spirit to give.  To find out more about Doug and his family and his situation, and to make a donation to support them if you are so moved, please click on this link: http://www.gofundme.com/e1gcus  (When you get to the page, scroll down just a little bit and you'll see a picture of Doug and all of his family.)

2) For those of you in the Lafayette, LA, area, I will be at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Beaux Bridge on Friday and Saturday, October 31/November 1.  It will be the first time I will be giving my new Apologetics Seminar.  I hope you will put it on your calendar and will plan on joining us!

Introduction

Continuation of my book, Blue Collar Apologetics...

Blue Collar Apologetics, chapter 1 (cont'd)

How to Be Offensive Without Being Offensive

The 2nd of these apologetics strategies is called, “How to Be Offensive (Aw-fensive), Without Being Offensive (Uh-fensive).”  In a nutshell, this strategy is about learning to ask questions of the other guy rather than always being the one answering the questions.  Catholics seem to always be on the defensive when it comes to talking about the Bible or about religion in general.  “Where is infallibility in the Bible?  Why do you confess your sins to a man rather than going straight to God?  Why do you believe you can work your way into Heaven?  Why do you believe in the Immaculate Conception?  Why do you baptize babies?”  “Where is that in the Bible?”  And on and on and on.  We are always answering questions.  We need to start asking the questions instead of always answering them - we need to take the offensive instead of always being on the defensive.  

But, when we go on the offensive, we don’t want to do it in such a way that we will offend someone or that will cause their defensive walls to go up or that will scare them away from further discussion.  Most non-Catholic Christians are simply not prepared to deal with a Catholic who can answer their questions - I mean, why should they be, it’s only a relatively small percentage of Catholics who know how to do defend their faith - so, when they come across a Catholic who knows how to defend their faith, it kind of throws them for a loop.  They quite often don’t know how to handle the situation and their tendency can be to just back away from the conversation.  You don’t want that to happen.  

Or, they might get offended by what you have to say in defense of your faith and refuse to discuss the matter any more.  Sometimes that cannot be avoided.  After all, truth is offensive to a lot of people...just look at what happened to Truth itself...He offended people...they crucified Him.  Truth can also be very scary to people.  

However, if you can avoid causing offense and if you can avoid scaring them away, then you want to do so.  You want to keep them engaged, you want them to come back for more, so that you have the chance to plant as many seeds with them as possible.  So, how do you do this?  How do you be Aw-fensive without being Uh-fensive?  Simple.  You...let them...evangelize you!  

Whenever someone starts coming at me with questions about the Catholic Faith or attacks on the Faith, I just let them have at it.  I want them to try and “save” me.  I want them to evangelize me. I want them to ask me questions about Catholicism.  Why?  Because what’s the number one principle in Judo?  Use your opponents force against him.  That’s what I try to do.  I try to use someone else’s zeal to evangelize me, to actually evangelize them.  

When someone starts talking to me about Catholicism and asking me questions and telling me that the Catholic Church is wrong about Mary, about the Pope, about Purgatory, about works, and so on, I might say something like this:

“Listen, Scripture tells me that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  I believe that.  I want to know the truth, because to know the truth is to know Jesus Christ!  The more truth I have, the more Jesus Christ I have.  You’re telling me that the Catholic Church is not giving me the truth.  Well, I’m open to hearing what you have to say about  the Catholic Church because I’m searching for truth...I want truth in my life...and if the Catholic Church doesn’t have it, then I want to know that.”

Now, you can stop there, but I usually go on further by saying:  “And, if you can prove to me that the Catholic Church is wrong on any of its doctrines, any single one, then I will renounce my Faith and I will be fellowshipping and worshipping side-by-side with you this Sunday in your church.”  

And I mean that when I say it! I don’t say that just to be blowin’ smoke.  If anyone can ever convince me that the Catholic Church is wrong on any one of its doctrinal teachings - just one - then I would leave the Church.  It wouldn’t make any sense to stay. I mean, if the Church is wrong on even one of its doctrines, then that means it could be wrong on any or all of its doctrines.  

Did Jesus Christ found a church so that it could teach error?  Did Jesus Christ give the Holy Spirit to guide the Church He founded into error...any error?  No!  A church that teaches error, in even one of its doctrines, cannot be the church founded by Jesus Christ.  So, if you can prove to me that the Catholic Church is wrong, on any single one of its doctrines, I will no longer be Catholic.

Now, what I don’t tell this person I’m talking to is that I believe they have about as much chance of proving the Church wrong on any of its doctrines, as they have of proving that 1+1 does not equal two.  In fact, they have a better chance of proving 1+1 does not equal two, than they do of proving the Church wrong.  In other words, they cannot prove the Church wrong.  Even if they can confuse you or befuddle you or aggravate you or twist your arguments around...they cannot now, nor will they ever, be able to prove the Catholic Church wrong.  

Remember folks, from a doctrinal perspective, there is nothing in the Bible contrary to the Catholic Faith and there is nothing in the Catholic Faith contrary to the Bible.  People have been trying to prove the Catholic Church wrong for 2000 years, and they haven’t done it yet, and they never will!

So, what have you accomplished by saying these things?  By telling them that you are searching for truth and that you are open to hearing their arguments that the Church might be wrong?  Essentially, you’ve done three things: 1) You probably have them champing at the bit at the opportunity to “save a Catholic” from the clutches of the Roman Catholic Church.  In other words, you’ve almost guaranteed that they will engage you in dialogue.  2) You’ve basically said, “Teach me, I’m an ignorant Catholic (which overlaps Strategy #1).”  In other words, you have elevated them to the role of teacher, and lowered yourself to the role of student.  And, what does a good student do?  He asks questions.  3) You have conveyed the feeling that you are willing to hear them out - which you are - and that you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.  

And all of these things...all of these things...lead to one very important result.  You have gotten them to lower their defenses.  The Trojan horse is inside the city walls.  You have made them think that they are on the offense, that they are evangelizing you, that they are in control of this dialogue, that they are about to pluck you out of the Church...when actually the exact opposite is true.  You are on the offense, you are evangelizing them, you are in control of the dialogue, and you are about to expose them to truths that they may never have considered before.  You are about to plant some seeds.  You are about to open the cage door.

You’ve also done something else.  You’ve changed the dynamics of the dialogue.  It is no longer you vs. them.  It is no longer Catholic vs. Baptist or Catholic vs. Evangelical or anything else like that.  You’ve made this a discussion of, “What is the truth?”  Which is what the discussion should always be about: What is the truth?  And you’ve made it very clear that you want to follow the truth wherever it leads...and you do!  And you hope that they are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads.  

And, again, you’re not going to broadcast that you know exactly where the truth leads - the Catholic Church.  You’re going to let them find that out on their own, with just a little guidance from you throwing those seeds out there, and through the workings of the Holy Spirit.  Remember, your mission is to plant those seeds.  Your mission is to open the cage door.  It is the Holy Spirit who converts the hearts of men.

Be a Good Student

Okay, what does all this mean in terms of hands-on, real life situations?  How do I put into effect the strategy of Being Offensive (Aw-fensive) Without Being Offensive (Uh-fensive)?  Well, step 1 of the strategy was telling whoever you’re talking to that you are searching for truth and are open to hearing whatever it is they have to say.  Step 2 is this: ask questions.  Be the good student...ask questions.  Stop answering all the questions and start asking a few of your own.  Answer questions with questions, just like Jesus did.  “Is it lawful to pay taxes,” Jesus was asked.  “Whose head is on the coin?” He answered.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about: “Why do you Catholics believe in confessing your sins to a priest, a mere man, instead of going straight to God?”  Catholic response: “Well, you probably know the Bible better than I do, so tell me, does the Bible say somewhere that we should not confess our sins to a man?  Does the Bible say that we should confess our sins straight to God, and God alone?”  Let them show you the direct Scriptural prohibition against a particular Catholic teaching.  They can’t do it.  Remember, the Bible is a Catholic book.

And, as your knowledge of Scripture increases, you could add something like this, “Well, if we’re not supposed to confess our sins to men, then I’m a little confused here.  Maybe you can explain this to me - you know Scripture better than I do - doesn’t James 5:16 command us to confess our sins to one another?  And, in Mt 9:6-8, it says that God gave the authority on earth to forgive sins to ‘men.’  It doesn’t say God gave the authority on earth to forgive sins to just one man, Jesus Christ, but it says He gave this authority to men - plural.  Can you explain those passages to me?  Why would God give the authority on earth to forgive sins to men, if we are supposed to confess our sins to God alone?”  And take them to Matthew 9:6-8, read it to them, and say, “What does that mean?”  

And when they start trying to explain these very Catholic verses, pay close attention to what they say, because it isn’t going to be very logical or very consistent.  As we go through each chapter of this book, I’ll give you a number of questions you can ask non-Catholic Christians that will cause them a lot of problems in terms of being able to answer those questions in a logically-consistent, and scripturally-consistent, way.

The fact is, any non-Catholic doctrine that they are trying to justify from Scripture, cannot be justified from Scripture.  At least, not when Scripture is interpreted in context and when you don’t add any words to it.  Remember, the Bible is a Catholic book.  Pay close attention to what they say, and pay close attention to what the Bible actually says - I guarantee that the two will not match.

But, this is where it is necessary to have it ingrained in your psyche  that there is nothing in the Bible that is contrary to the Catholic Faith and nothing in the Catholic Faith contrary to the Bible.  Nothing!  Because when you start asking your questions, you will get hit with Bible verse after Bible verse.  And a good habit to adopt is this: whenever someone puts a Bible verse in front of you that “proves” the Catholic Church is wrong...just slam your hand down on that Bible and say, “AMEN!!!  I believe it.  As a Catholic I believe 100% of the Bible...100%!  However, I do not necessarily agree with your...fallible...interpretation of that passage.”  

Whoa!  You just rocked their world.  You believe the Bible, but you don’t buy their faulty fallible interpretation of the Bible.  That will cause some folks some major headaches, because they will not be prepared for that coming from a Catholic. But, that’s a good thing, because that just means some seeds are being planted.

Oh, and one other thing, always keep in mind the “Ignorant Catholic” technique.  If you get into a conversation and then you start getting turned around, if you get confused, if you feel like you’ve gotten in over your head, simply back off and say, “You know, that’s a good point...I don’t know the answer to that.  I’ll have to think about it and pray about it and get back to you.”  And then go and do your research and get back to them.  Again, you’re out of a potential jam.

By asking questions of your “teacher”, you are simply being a good student...a curious student.  But, you are in fact the one doing the evangelizing.  You are, through your questions, hopefully leading this person to examine their position a little more carefully.  Protestant theology, where it differs from Catholic theology, is razor-thin.  There is no depth to it and it does not hold up well under scrutiny.  The problem is, many folks just accept it at the surface and never try to dive down under.  That’s what you should be attempting to do through your questions, getting the folks you’re talking to, to examine exactly what it is they believe and why they believe it. You need to remember, though, as with anything, it takes a little  practice...but this is something that all Catholics can be doing and should be doing.  Make the other guy defend their position just as much or more than he makes you defend your position.  I always recommend to people that for every question you answer about the faith, you need to ask one or more of your own.  It seems there are lots of people out there who want you to answer their questions, not quite so many, however, who are willing to answer your questions.

Okay, I hope these things have made some sense.  It might take a little pondering to fully realize what I’ve been saying here, but then again it might not.  Again, this Being Aw-fensive Without Being Uh-fensive is just basic common sense.  If someone is asking you questions about your faith, well, that gives you the right to ask them questions about their faith.  It’s just that simple.  

Some Questions

Now, I told you I would give you some questions for Protestants in each of the chapters of this book.  So, following are a few questions that I wanted to give you as examples of how you can cause someone some real difficulty in giving you consistent answers.  And pay close attention to how, with just one or two questions, you can make someone really have to stop and think about their beliefs.   Which is a good thing.  We should all be open to examining what we believe and why we believe it.

First question: And this question is aimed at people who believe in this dogma called Sola Scriptura, which means that if it isn’t in the Bible, then they don’t believe it - they go by the Bible and the Bible alone.  So here’s the question: “If everything that we need to know and believe about  Christian teaching is in the Bible, where in the Bible does it give us the list of books that are supposed to be in the Bible?”  You see, folks, there is no list, anywhere in the Bible, of which books should be in the Bible.  The Table of Contents is not inspired Scripture.  It’s put in the Bible by the publisher.  So, going by just the Bible alone, how do we know which books are supposed to be in the Bible, if there is no list, in the Bible?

If the Bible alone is what Christians are supposed to go by to know what is authentic Christian teaching and practice, but nowhere does the Bible tell you which books should be in the Bible, then how do we have our Bible in the first place.  How do you go by the Bible alone in order to get the Bible?  You can’t!  Hmmm...if you can’t get the list of what books are supposed to be in the Bible, from the Bible, then that means you have to rely on some authority outside of the Bible to have the Bible in the first place.  And, if you have to rely on some authority outside of the Bible in order to have a Bible, then you are not going by the Bible alone for all of your beliefs about Christianity.  Which means, this belief in the Bible alone as your authority on all things Christian, is a logical contradiction.

Another question: Do we need to love God in order to be saved?  Easy question, right? Ask that of a person who believes in salvation by faith alone - Sola Fide - and see what they say.  Think about it.  If we are indeed saved by faith alone - Sola Fide - then the correct answer is, no, we don’t need to love God in order to be saved.  Because if we need to love God in order to be saved, then we are not saved by faith “alone.”  It would be faith AND love that saves us. So, if we need to love in order to be saved, then Sola Fide is false.  But, the other option they have is to say we can get into Heaven without loving God, or without loving our neighbor.  Really?!  What Christian in their right mind would say you don’t have to love God or neighbor in order to be saved?  That doesn’t  make any sense.  Either way they go, they’ve got a problem.

Here’s another example of a question you can ask someone who believes in salvation by faith alone: If salvation by faith alone is the most central and most important Christian doctrine, then why does the phrase "faith alone" appear only once in all of Scripture, and that is to say that we are not justified, or saved, by "faith alone" (James 2:24)?  

Do you realize that?  The phrase “faith alone” appears in Scripture just once, and that is to say that we are NOT justified, or saved, by faith alone.  You will see some pretty fancy verbal and scriptural gymnastics as folks try to get around that one.  The Word of God says that we are not justified by faith alone; yet most Protestants believe that we are justified by faith alone.  Can you imagine what folks would say if there was a verse in the Bible that stated, very plainly and bluntly, the Eucharist is merely a symbol, but Catholics tried to say, “Oh, no, that doesn’t really mean what it says?”  I don’t think that would fly too well, but that is, essentially, what Sola Fide believers do.

Are you starting to understand the power of this How to Be Aw-fensive Without Being Uh-fensive strategy?  You put yourself in a position to ask some questions that can be very difficult for the non-Catholic to answer, if not outright impossible for them to answer.  These questions can really stop folks in their tracks and cause them to re-evaluate what they believe and why they believe it.

Summary

I hope all of you have a great week!  And please remember to keep Doug Pearson and his family in your prayers.  God bless!

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Apologetics for the Masses