January 26, 2009

The Limits of Apologetics

Having never heard any Catholic apologetics as a kid growing up in Catholic schools (we weren't even taught the term 'apologetics'), there was later a sense that some of the Church's doctrines were embarrassing or at least extraneous. That there were sound reasons for the doctrines I didn't know until Ott and Keating, and moreoever I couldn't have imagined then how much light and consolation many of these "extraneous" doctrines afforded some of my brethern. But I was more focused on Christian unity with non-Catholics (seeing how all my friends have been Protestants).

One such friend, Ham o' Bone, said something very interesting after I sent some apologetic material his way a few years back. He said something like "if any church doctrine is false then the whole thing is false". And the Marian doctrines in particular seemed false to him. But of course one could apply the same standard to the Bible, and many atheists and agnostics have. They believe they've found something in the Bible that is contradictory and false and so they can discard the whole thing.

The missing ingredient is faith, be it faith in the truth of the Bible or the Church. I remember going so far as to send Mark Shea's "By Whose Authority" book to an anti-Catholic Baptist radio preacher; call me naive but not late to dinner. I was naive in thinking that apologetics, even good apologetics, are in any sense sufficient. Faith is always required.

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