I just finished reading two separate books on “Apologetics.” Before going any further I probably should provide a definition of what “apologetics” is. Patrick Madrid in his book How to Do Apologetics: Making the Case for Our Faith (Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington, IN. 2016) writes, “Apologetics is a practical way of using logic and facts to help others lift their eyes from base, inconsequential distractions and gaze upward to contemplate the truth in all its beauty” (14). He goes on to say, “Apologetics accomplishes this task by offering those who will listen rational explanations and defense of the truth, the highest and most important of all including the truths that God exists, He loves you” (14).
To put it in my own words, “apologetics” is not about presuming we are always right and others should take what we say in matters of faith just because we say so. Apologetics calls us to use logic and reason to show that the teachings of our faith make sense (cf. Madrid, 19).
Madrid goes on in his book to talk about the tools of logic and how they can be used to help reach out to people who do not believe in any notion of God. This comes in a chapter on “Natural Apologetics”. He then offers a chapter on “Christian Apologetics” leading to a chapter specific to “Catholic Apologetics” and why we believe in the Real Presence and our understanding of Mary. In all of this he reminds us, “Don’t allow yourself to slip into the mode of thinking that you are the “orthodoxy police” or imagine it’s your duty to root out theological error wherever you can find it” (57).
As I was saying before, our goal in Apologetics is to help them see that we have sound reasons for our faith.
Madrid offers some good insight into what Apologetics is and how to go about it. Yet I realize that many of you aren’t looking to be apologists. You just want to be able to talk with others and answer their questions.
Here I turn to the second book I just read, How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civic Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues (Revised and Updated) by Austen Ivereigh and Kathryn Jean Lopez (Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington, IN. 2015).
They discuss how “The Church’s role in news stories is usually that of an institution that coerces, oppresses, and imposes, while on the other side are ranked the vulnerable individual and victims’ groups of many kinds… Only by reframing can we escape those roles” (20). Here they offer a method of discussing our faith that is consistent throughout their book. To “reframe” is to change the perspective at how we look at the issues. Many people look at what we are against as Catholics. Ivereigh and Lopez help us to change the discussion to what we are for. This turns the discussion to a more positive perspective and helps us show what our faith and Catholic Church is all about.
I’m not going to try to summarize their entire book. Instead, if you are interested in learning more about what our Catholic Church says (and how to share it with others) on sexuality, contraception, religious freedom, marriage, abortion, the sex abuse scandal, assisted suicide, and the role of women, I am going to encourage you to read the book for yourself.
Before concluding I want to share ten principles Ivereigh and Lopez offer on pages 22-26. What I offer now quotes their lists of the ten principles and their first sentence on each (they offer much more if you read the book):
- Don’t get mad. Reframe. To recap: Rather than consider the arguments you are going to face, consider the value(s) they appeal to.
- Shed light, not heat. The purpose of our communication is illumination.
- Think in threes. A time-honored way of preparing for any discussion is to boil your messages down to three key ones.
- People don’t remember what you said as much as how you made them feel. The best communication takes place when people feel valued and safe.
- Show, don’t tell. This foundational principle of good writing applies to communication generally.
- Remember to say “Yes.” This is a baseline communication principle, and doubly important when we are making the Church’s case- as so often in contemporary society – against
- Compassion counts.
- Numbers aren’t everything. Statistics can appear abstract and inhumane, or a spin.
- It’s about witnessing, not winning. People who come to a new way of seeing the world find that a prejudice or preconception is challenged, or even reversed.
- It’s not about you. Your fear, self-consciousness, and defensiveness are products of a protesting ego. Think of John the Baptist – a fearless communicator; his strength came from knowing that he was the door through which others could come to Christ.
I hope this helps you think about what you can do to know and share our faith. Before concluding I will just point you to two pages on my website:
- “How We Talk about God”
- Video Presentation “Talking About God: Sharing Our Faith”