Monday, June 27, 2005

Building Fox Holes

The Death Mask of Blaise Pascal

When I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, when I regard the whole silent universe and man without light, left to himself and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island and should awake without knowing where he is and without means of escape. And thereupon I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into despair. I see other persons around me of a like nature. I ask them if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around them and seen some pleasing objects, have given and attached themselves to them. For my own part, I have not been able to attach myself to them, and, considering how strongly it appears that there is something else than what I see, I have examined whether this God has not left some sign of Himself. (Blaise Pascal, Pensees)

If we could come to perceive the reality of the human situation would there exist one apathetic soul in the world? We all to some extent ignore our predicament. We chase distraction through entertainment and pleasure so that we do not have to face reality. Maybe this is why, “fear of the Lord” is considered a virtue in Scripture. It is being in touch with the reality of our smallness in relation to the universe, not to mention our utter dependence on God. Can we reveal our situation to those who chase distractions? Will the atheist have the courage to face the reality of our predicament? Can we get past the noise of Modern Culture? Can we communicate our blindness and wretchedness in relation to God? I don’t know, but I believe that we are called to try.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Martyrdom and Apologetics

In the end, of course, only the saints and the martyrs make converts in any number. I see now what is meant when it is said that the seed of the Church is the blood of the martyrs. If the heart hath reasons that reason knoweth not of, then it must be said that the best apologetical approach to the non-Catholic is martyrdom, for the economy of the Incarnation is the begetting of love in loving unto death, in dying that others may live. Then, too, there is another thing. There are the doubting Thomases, with their congenitally curious fingers. There must always be fresh wounds for the satisfaction of these doubting digits.

Ah, yes, asks the Catholic, but have there ever been so many doubting Thomases as there are in the world today? Perhaps not, replies the non-Catholic, but have there ever been so few martyrs? But viewed from their point of view or ours, the fact stands-the world is agonizing in spiritual starvation. Can the soul of man best be fed with Catholic apologetics? Or with the Word of Love?

“And my speech and my preaching were not in the persuasive words of human wisdom,” said St. Paul, “but in showing the Spirit and the power” (1 Cor. 2:4) (Clare Boothe Luce)

The one thing necessary for effective apologetics is being a saint. If we are saints then the rest will follow. This is basically what I am learning. I really should change this blog from The Art of Apologetics to The Art of Sanctity. We can have arguments that move mountains but without sanctity what does it profit? May God give me the Grace.

"Though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but, the more such things happen, the more do others in larger numbers become faithful." (St. Justin Martyr)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Apologetics in Community

An interesting question to ponder as an Apologist is why do people believe what they do. What mechanism does God use to reach those without faith? Typically, in apologetics the tool that is most often used and focused on is rational arguments. In reality, faith is rarely the result of rational arguments, although it does play a part. The key instrument that God uses for conversion is sanctity in community. Jesus said the following…

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

People will know that we follow Christ if we have love for one another. In Jesus’ prayer to the Father he asked the following…

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)

The love and unity in the body of Christ, through the Spirit, to the Father will produce belief. I would think that the inverse is also true, that our lack of love and unity produces skepticism in the world. If community is important to belief, then apologetics cannot be done in isolation. For online apologetics this is a challenge. How do we bring nonbelievers into the Christian community when the Internet is a barrier to authentic community? At the very least we must go out in pairs (Luke 10:1-12) to do apologetics if not with a close community of online Catholics who have the unity of Christ’s love for one another.

In our apologetic efforts, when possible, we should first invite the nonbeliever to be a part of the Catholic community and then from within this context teach and defend the Truth. This would make it possible for others to see the love and unity that we share. This has to work better than the direct approach of trying to argue someone into the faith and never getting to the point of witnessing to the unity and love we share in the body of Christ.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Indirect Approach Tradition

It is interesting to trace back the origins of an idea. I first came across the indirect approach when I picked up the book, Strategy. I bought the book to see if I could glean anything from the military strategy of war that would apply to the spiritual battles of the Kingdom of God. Strategy takes major military battles of history and looks for common factors that determined victory or defeat. The main premise of the book is that the more indirect an attack, the higher the likelihood of success. This principle, played out in history is fascinating and I quickly applied this concept to online apologetics.

The indirect approach is not a new idea in apologetics. It has been used throughout history to win over hearts and minds. Kierkegaard coined the term indirect communication and used this strategy in his writings. He wrote the following about his approach…

No, an illusion can never be destroyed directly, and only by indirect means can it be radically removed. If it is an illusion….and if there is anything to be done about it, it must be done indirectly,.... There is nothing that requires such gentle handling as an illusion, if one wishes to dispel it. If anyone prompts the prospective captive to set his will in opposition, all is lost. And this is what a direct attack achieves, and it implies moreover the presumption of requiring a man to make to another person, or in his presence, an admission which he can make most profitably to himself privately. This is what is achieved by the indirect method, which, loving and serving the truth, arranges everything dialectically for the prospective captive, and then shyly withdraws (for love is always shy), so as not to witness the admission which he makes to himself alone before God—that he has lived hitherto in an illusion (Kierkegaard, The Point of View for My Work
as an Author
, p. 24ff).

Kierkegaard wrote philosophical stories, under a pseudonym, to demonstrate his ideas. Many of his stories did not provide answers, this would be a direct attack. Instead, his stories brought forth questions that pointed to Christ.

In practice, the indirect approach has been used by some of the most influential people in history. Paul at times used the indirect approach. He became "all things to all, to save at least some”. Jesus taught mostly by way of parables, which is an indirect method. In fact, Jesus’ life itself was indirect. The King of kings did not come with riches and earthly glories but was born incognito in a manger to a poor humble family. He conquered sin and death, non-directly, by submitting to the will of the Father and laying down his life on the cross. Socrates would be another example. Socrates claimed not to have wisdom, but by asking questions he was able to bring people on the journey of truth.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Can I get a Witness!

Avery Cardinal Dulles

In a revealed religion such as Christianity, the key question is how God comes to us and opens up a world of meaning not accessible to human investigative powers.

The answer, I suggest, is testimony. Revelation, as God’s word, is a form of divine testimony. Faith is by its nature an acceptance of the word of God, the witness who can neither deceive nor be deceived. God’s word comes to us through human witnesses: the prophets and apostles, the inspired authors of Holy Scripture, and the tradition of the Church, which faithfully passes on and interprets what it has received from Christ and the apostles.

From its beginnings Christianity has been propagated through the living testimony of believers. (The Rebirth of Apologetics)

This is missing in a lot of online apologetics. To rely solely on abstract reason is limiting. It is only a small portion of the evidence that there is for the faith. Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” The reasons of the heart are vital because it is the intimate encounter with God that cannot be put into words. Cardinal Dulles is right about giving our testimony. To give our testimony is to share the reasons of the heart. It gives witness to the love of God we have through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Chronological Snobbery

Apart from the fact that CS Lewis died in 1963 and he was reflecting the thinking of the time.

Someone used this argument in response to a quote by C.S. Lewis that I used. It was ironic because C.S. Lewis coined the term “chronological snobbery” for this type of argument. He defined it as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” G. K. Chesterton had this to say about those who agree with “modern view” only because it is modern.

My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Prayer and Fasting: The Weapons

…his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:24-26)

I really enjoy thinking and debating about the faith. It is rather like a hobby to me. Prayer and fasting are things that are not as entertaining. It is a sad thing to admit; I am moved more by entertainment than by love. Prayer and fasting is what I need most. It would turn my faith from a trivial hobby into a love affair with God. Jesus, grant me this grace.

This has to be the foundation of any apologist. We are called to be saints. And without striving to give our whole hearts to Christ, we are just playing soldier. Our nation has this demon, the type that can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. Let us heed the call for Christ our King.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Alphabet of Thinking

Explain how a system based on 'belief' without evidence can possibly be called a system of thought.
I was asked this question when dialoguing with an atheist. This misunderstanding is common; that the Catholic faith is based on ‘belief’ and that their position (i.e. science) does not require a leap of faith. There is evidence for the Catholic faith, although the faith is not provable. Science is the same in this regard. Science, and all systems of thought, rests on premises that cannot be proven. Science itself does not pass by the standard of provability by which they reject the Catholic faith and we need to make this known. The following is a quote, from G.K. Chesterton, that explains the situation very well.

What modern people want to be made to understand is simply that all argument begins with an assumption; that is, with something that you do not doubt. You can, of course, if you like, doubt the assumption at the beginning of your argument, but in that case you are beginning a different argument with another assumption at the beginning of it. Every argument begins with an infallible dogma, and that infallible dogma can only be disputed by falling back on some other infallible dogma; you can never prove your first statement or it would not be your first. All this is the alphabet of thinking…Much of our chaos about religion and doubt arises from this--that our modern sceptics always begin by telling us what they do not believe. But even in a sceptic we want to know first what he does believe. Before arguing, we want to know what we need not argue about. And this confusion is infinitely increased by the fact that all the sceptics of our time are sceptics at different degrees of the dissolution of scepticism. Philosophy for the Schoolroom

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Indirect approach: Comic Art

Indirect approach: Comic Art

The anti-Catholic Jack Chick has been using them against us for years. Chick’s comics have been the source of a good laugh (I guess to keep from crying) but these comics have really done a lot of damage in promoting lies. We need to wake up and start to use all forms of art to give glory to God and defend the truth. Comics are a great indirect approach to apologetics. People do not question pictures and they just influence us in ways that words don’t. Although words are superior in portraying truth, we live in a very visual culture. Words go in one ear and out the other, but pictures seem to stay with us. Now I just need to learn to draw.

From the mainstream comic world there is not much in the department of Catholic super heroes. But there is one exception…


Granted, he is a former carnie, that looks like a devil, who did not have the strength to give up sex for Christ, but what do you expect. But there is something about him that is very cool.

As for real Catholic superhero’s there is the following;

St. Francis of Assisi Comic Book

I actually had this comic book on St. Francis when I was a kid. It really did have a positive affect on me. St. Francis was my favorite saint when I was growing up.

Padre Pio Comic Book

Pope John Paul II Comic Book

And here is a great example how comics and humor can defend in a very effective way against something as evil as the culture of death.

Pro-Life Comic Umbert the Unborn

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Confirmed to be a Soldier of Christ

I must rely on the supernatural to defend the faith well. Through the sacrament of Confirmation I received the strength to be a soldier of Christ. The Holy Spirit and His grace have been given to me, in a more complete way, to fight for the faith of Christ. I have been given the Holy Spirit like the Apostles at Pentecost. I have received the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Fear of the Lord

I need to walk in faith and confidence that the Grace that I received through the Body of Christ is sufficient to conquer the enemies of the Church. I have been marked with the permanent seal of the Holy Spirit and I must live this truth. I must fulfill my baptismal oath. I am a soldier of Christ.

Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts