September 29, 2005

Apologetically Speaking

I'm currently reading A History of Apologetics by Cardinal Dulles, and in it Dulles observes that there are many different apologetic approaches, some of which don't appeal strictly to the intellect but all of which are complementary rather than oppositional.

He also quotes Cardinal Journet, who
"regarded Teilhardianism as a misguided apologetics --able for a time to attract some devotees of science but tending in the long run to seduce them away from Orthodox Christianity."
Jacques Maritain writes bluntly in the "Peasant of the Garonne":
"Is it the function of apologetics to lead minds to the truth by using seductions and approaches of any error whatever...or do apologetics have to lead us to the Truth via the truth?"
Uh, well, you can't use a bad means to a good end, right? I have difficulties respecting people who hold other religious beliefs. Not Protestants - Calvin was a genius and developed a systematic approach to Christianity which fit the Scriptures although was inorganic (i.e. it was grown artificially, in a hothouse, rather than having developed over the centuries as Catholicism did). Even Hilaire Belloc gave Calvin his due. I greatly respect Jews: There's a book from Roy Schoeman called "Salvation is from the Jews" and he talks about the Messianic propheies in Jewish Scripture but using the same scriptures there's a book by David Klinghoffer that is a powerful apologetic for Judaism, such that even the Christian Michael Poterma said in "National Review" that Jewish parents who want their children to remain Jewish should read this book as it is very convincing.

No, what I don't understand, and concerning which I can scarcely be charitable, is not only Islam, but sects like Jehovah Witnesses and others. It makes me want to read their literature in hopes of lessening my disgust. Yet millions and millions of people can and do accept them, such that I begin to wonder what is the point of apologetics, or even what place rationalism has in religion. It certainly plays up the point that conversions require heavenly assistance and that Christian unity is not up to us. Perhaps that's precisely the point. And it's also true that if Satan wanted to inspire credible false prophets he could do so, given his superior intellect, with the greatest of ease running rings around our retarded capabilities (though even without the devil's help, juries are often swayed by an excellent, but mistaken, attorney).

I know that apologists do necessary work but only from the standpoint of saying "this is reasonable" and preventing unnecessary defections. The rest is up to God. And yet I consistently ignore that when talking to family members, acting as if it is up to me to make a persuasive case and/or to overcome years of deficient catechetical training.

Dulles refers to Balthasar who thinks that the apologetics of the last century has
"attempted to prove either too much or too little. Either it persuades people to believe on the basis of natural certainty, which is not Christian faith, or it asks them to believe on the basis of mere probability, which makes faith irrational."
UPDATE: I've amazed at how many good bloggers there are out there now. Back when I started (effect hoary ol' man voice) it was slim pickins. So I think my job is done, I can go home now. :-) Anyway, excellent response from Dennis at Ephemeris:

What is baffling is the human need to believe, even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. Having been once convinced by a plausible, though false, system of thought we are all prone to cling to it despite all evidence to the contrary. Chesterton writes about what we now call the Fundamentalist Christian almost admiringly, particularly their stubborn refusal to concede defeat (intellectually). And I confess to admiring the JW’s when they come to the door. It takes a certain kind of courage to endure the abuse they must receive.

Perhaps relationships are the most important thing in convincing us of the truth of things. The Muslim has the Umma (community) to sustains him, the JW has the Fellowship. These satisfy a deep need to belong, that, in the case of converts to these religions, wasn’t being met elsewhere.

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