The foolish apologist

Here are the 10 pitfalls of the foolish apologist.  (H/T Mere Comments)

That was painful to read–I must be guilty of at least 8 of these.  I need to just shut up and go on a year-long penance.  Anyway, those of you who are interested in spreading the Christian faith (which should be all of you who are Christians) might find it helpful.  These are very easy pitfalls to fall into.  Believe me.

6 Responses

  1. 8 out of 10?!? haha, oh well, 2 out of 10 is better than nothing!

  2. I’d add a further one – though it’s perhaps covered in number 3, and I guess 5 as well – which is that apologetics isn’t about winning arguments. There are no prizes for having a cleverer argument than your opponent. If you like debate and argumentation, become a trial lawyer and you can get paid for it. Number 7 is key too.

    I’d say that the greatest apologetic anyone can give is their life. If you live your life in such a way that people look at you and say “Hmm, maybe there’s something in this Catholicism thing”, you’re most of the way there already before you’ve even opened your mouth. Sadly, most of us fall far short of this.

  3. I think Reggie is correct. My conversion began with a desire to be more like some of the Christians I knew. Their lives were better than mine, apparently more satisfying and obviously more admirable. Apologetic literature didn’t exactly convert me, but it did assure me that I wasn’t being a fool to let conversion happen. We should think of an apologist as a midwife: he just eases the delivery of something that already exists and will very likely emerge with or without him.

  4. In case you haven’t noticed, Corey Robin has mentioned your post on his blog:

  5. I think some distinctions are in order, courtesy of Vin Lewis, who would be judged a very poor apologist by the standards given in that link. Here are the distinctions:

    1.) Evangelization: Getting someone else interested in the Faith who wasn’t before. The ancient name for this genre is “protreptic.”

    2.) Instruction: Once the person is a *willing student,* you instruct. Also known as catechesis.

    3.) Apologetics: You defend when the other person *attacks.*

    As apologetics by definition entails an argument, an argument *started by someone else,* success in apologetics *requires* you to win the argument. By definition there has been an objection that requires dismissal.

    As for getting other people to convert by living your life well, that is correct *but it isn’t apologetics.* It’s evangelization. So many people confuse these modes. If this is the first time someone’s hearing something, be a good pitchman. If that person invites you back, instruct. If that person objects, refute. Apologetics is messy, sometimes hostile, because by definition it does not start until the other person objects. And objections to the Faith require refutation; otherwise they stand. Refutation itself need not be nasty, but by definition there is an argument under way and lots of people (including prospective converts) are incapable of arguing without hostility. I suspect that some people who object to “nasty apologetics” would have walked away from St. John the Baptist or Our Lord when they condemned the Pharisees as “white-washed sepulchres.” Yes, there are such people, there is a fight, and the fight must (at times) be fought.

  6. This is a good point. Foolishness invites scorn. Indeed, as you note, Christ Himself treated those who were foolish with great scorn, so we have some evidence that it is the appropriate response. If a person repents of his foolishness (and your scorn may well compel him to), then shift to a different tone.

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