Apologetics is the part of the theology that seeks to explain what we believe and what we do as Catholics, and also exposes the mistakes that go against the Catholic faith to protect the integrity of the faith. This “theological” subject had its splendor during the time of the great controversy, both against the enemies of the Church as against the heretics. After Vatican II it was relegated almost to oblivion, thinking that there was no need for it, in an era marked by dialog. However, the attacks of the sects, on the one hand, and of leical secularism on the other, have once again shown their usefulness. This is not to argue aggressively against anyone, not even against those who are against us, but to know how to give a rational and coherent response of the truths we believe in.
What is apologetics?:
As has been said, Apologetics is the defense of the catholic faith and morals from a theological perspective and, therefore, argumentative. By extension, it could be considered an apologetic to other initiatives, such as to defend the Church taking to the court those who injure or to those who insult Christ and the Virgin. However, as far as this treatise is concerned, we are going to consider the Apologetics from its first meaning: the intellectual defense of the truths of the faith and of the ethical rules inspired by the Gospel.
The nature of the Apologetics makes it eminently defensive, which gives it a character that to some may seem unattractive. It is not a branch of theology intended to propose the truths of the faith, such as the Dogmatic, Marian, Moral or biblical disciplines. However, as is logical, it is based on them to take the arguments that are going to be needed to defend and justify the teachings of the Church. But, in addition, and in any case, appealing to other external sources, even to theology, to provide data and arguments that demonstrate the intellectual strength of the positions of the Church – for example, when it comes to biology to confirm that the embryo is a true human being. Its defensive nature makes the Apologetics seem restricted to the defense of the themes that are focused on the dispute, which leaves plenty of others untreated (today, for example, there is no need to justify the rejection of the Church to slavery, because, theoretically, the whole world rejects it). Apologetics is not, therefore, a good way to get to know the whole of the truths of faith or of Catholic morality; it is a synthesis of the same, a sort of catechism summary to be able to offer to those who are interested in Christianity; it is a defensive treatise, intended to demonstrate the rationality and the intellectual and moral validity of our approaches and, if possible, to convince others to adhere to the same.
We must make it clear that although the Apologetics has the objective to defend, in no way has the mission of attacking the principles of anyone. The Church does not attack ever. It defends against attacks that it receives and explains in a purposeful way its own convictions, but without this proposition having the nature of an attack or aggressiveness that we are the object of, by both the sects as by the laicism. The Church explains their faith and moral principles and calls for freedom to do so and freedom for those who wish to accede to them and to integrate into the Catholic community can do so, but neither requires nor aims to discredit the beliefs of others thinking that their disappointed faithful will fill the pews. The proposition that the Church makes of its own convictions, even though it is sometimes made in comparison to the beliefs of others – for example, when we talk about the idea of God between us and the idea of the god in Hinduism, or when speaking of the monogamous marriage as compared to polygamous in other religions – tries not to hurt anyone’s feelings, because it is clear that, if not in all cases if in many, in other religions there are elements of truth that deserve respect, for there is not the full truth in them, which is found only in the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, who is the Truth.
How to make Apologetics?:
The Apologetics, due to its defensive nature, has a difficulty of origin: the danger of aggressiveness. To respond to those who attack without resorting to their methods is not easy, however, and therein lies much of the catholic strength: Do not do evil to those who do evil to us, do not respond with insults to those who insult us, do not pay anyone with the same currency of hatred with which they pay us. Apologetics, therefore, has to always be dominated by peace, by peaceful and reasoned arguments, by facts, testimonies, and of life experiences. As in all defense – it is enough to think about a football game, your first goal is that faithful Catholics do not have the impression that their approach to faith and morals are ridiculous, outdated and even irrational – to return to the simile of the football game, the first objective is that you don’t get goals-, thus preventing the escape of those faithful to the sects or atheist leicists. Only with a second time – to ensure success, will you try to convince the one who attacks that our approach is better than yours – will attempt to score a goal to the opposing goal. Thus, the Apologetics has two objectives: one addressed to our own Catholics, to strengthen their convictions and help them to defend them with the necessary intellectual resources, and the other directed to the enemies of the Church to make them see that they are wrong and that the approaches of the Church are more correct, more human, more real than theirs.
The defensive nature of the Apologetics requires, unless you want to go to a kind of an announced suicide – establishing minimum rules of the game in the debate. One of these is the rationality of the arguments and the exclusion of the aggressiveness. Another – for example, the dialog with the Sects – is the use of instruments accepted by all, as is the case of the Bible translations. At the same time, it must be made clear that the judgements of historical facts should be made in the light of the criteria of moral evaluation that there was when these events were produced and not in the light of the criteria that we have today – as when dealing with issues such as the Inquisition or the Crusades. We must also make it clear that the faulty behavior of some members of the institution must not be ascribed to all who belong to it, unless they come directly from their theoretical statements – if the church preaches chastity and a priest commits a sin of pedophilia, the Church is not responsible. At the same time, asking those who attack to accept that they can be, in turn, attacked – as when it proposes to a laicist who is making a mockery of the faith in denying the existence of God, the existence within himself of an incongruence of not being able to prove the nonexistence of God.
When do Apologetics?:
In the early centuries of Christianity, in that pagan or Jewish context in which our faith was unwrapped and developed, apologetics was exercised in the intellectual discussion forums – universities, academies, the synagogues – and only later – and with less ideological rigor- was extended to the rest of society – the family, work, friends…-. In our era, so similar to that time in many ways, we have to go back to retrieve the presentation of our faith in two areas: the new areopagus – the means of communication, universities, and the classics – from the household to the job site. Today is as necessary as it was then to form Catholics in the principles and basic arguments of apologetics, in part so that they do not doubt their faith and in part so they can try to convince others.
However, we must not forget that, on the one hand, Apologetics is “defense” and that determines the time you exercise it. You do not have to be the first to take the contentious issues, but wait for the others to begin the discussion, – and, on the other hand, that with arguments, which may very well be strong from an intellectual point of view, they may hardly convince anyone or will he enter the Church. The faith you can argue, justify and defend, but it is not usually the path which gets to the heart of man, and which produces conversion. That is why it is essential to accompany the Apologetics with prayer and with the witness of a life consistent with what is advocated.
On the other hand, and always with respect to “when to do Apologetics”, we must learn to distinguish the moments in which we are being attacked and what is behind those who attack us, in order to act in one way or another. For example, it is not the same to respond to criticism against the existence of God based on the existence of human suffering when that criticism makes it a coworker loaded with anti-clericalism, which when done by a person who is deeply hurt by the death of a child. In one case, it will be necessary to answer with arguments, and on the other it may be useful to keep a respectful silence or say that you are venting and that later we will talk about the matter.
The reasons to deal with those who attack the Church, our faith and our ethical principles, are essentially two: justice and gratitude.
Justice, although it has different surnames – distributive justice, commutative justice… – is essentially to give each what he is entitled to receive. In this case, we could say that we must defend the Church because she is entitled to do so, because it is the truth and the truth has the right to be defended from the attacks that it suffers. If we do not uphold the truth contained in the doctrinal and moral statements of the Church, we commit an injustice, because we let the truth be assaulted and humiliated by those who, not having it, if they have however the best allies that propagate arguments that are totally false or, at least, are partially. In addition, in this defense of the Church we are interested in ourselves, because we are part of it; as much as we think it has nothing to do with us or with our own, everything ends by affecting us; if we are silent because we do not want any trouble or want to take the time to put a stop to those who attack the church, it may be that we ourselves and not the church – or one of our own- will be the next victim.
The other reason is the gratitude. The Church is our Mother and in her we have found the living Christ. The least we can do for her is to go out in her defense when she is attacked from so many fronts, by -leicists – and others – the sects-. The best way to show God our appreciation for the gift that the Church represents, by the fact that in her we can find in the sacraments and she transmits to us faithfully the doctrine revealed by Christ, is to go out in her defense when she needs us.
These reasons should be enough to take Apologetics seriously. That means that we cannot claim to defend the Church without proper training. It is true that not all have at their disposal the possibility of taking several years of theology, but today there are many informative books, written at an accessible level, which can be read and in which you can find the basic arguments to address the most common attacks. These, on the other hand, do not cease to be only a handful, as most of those who attack the Church move in a narrow circle of topics and almost all of them have fewer arguments than we do, which with a simple reading, we can acquire. In addition, there is always the recourse to the “Authority” – as if you say: “I don’t know about that, but if you want I´ll introduce you to a priest with whom you will be able to discuss that topic if it interests you”, which we use when we do not have sufficient arguments, without which serves as an excuse for not acquiring them.
We cannot remain impassive to the attacks on the Church or to the blasphemies against God, the Virgin or the saints. Nor can we confine ourselves to move our head in regret, to criticize those that do, to say that someone has to intervene. That someone is God and He wants to do so, He needs to do this through us. He deserves that we make the small effort to prepare ourselves to succeed.