Consequentialism and Why I Don't Engage in Formal Apologetics

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I have stated in the past and will continue to state my unequivocal admiration and respect for Tom of Disputations. And here, while I'm away he's posted two points that I would really like to comment on more completely, but find myself restrained by an extremely slow computer/interface. So let me make my little attempt and I'll fill out what is missing somewhat later.

Here he makes a profound point about consequentialism. All I really wanted to say about this is that I respect and admire people who can identify these faults in reason and give them their proper names. I am all-too-often guilty of thought like this (though, I suspect in this case, I would be guilty of the extreme opposite of consequentialism, assuming it has an opposite). Nevertheless, I am profoundly humbled every time I encounter something like this. At one time I used to think I was pretty hot stuff intellectually. Interaction with such people hasn't diminished my own respect for arenas in which I am capable of reasoned discussion, but they have presented to me the fact that those arenas are not all possible subjects of discussion and I need to accept this limitation. In some matters I am a better spectator than participant. And I think that brings up another point--apologetics. Many people who practice rigorous, argumentative apologetics seem to think that everyone is capable of it. I rush to point in that I could parrot the arguments of Keating, Akins, and others, but without any real effect because I would be repeating their words without their knowledge. Even had I their knowledge, my mind does not work in this way of formulation. I would become hopelessly flustered and mired in the labyrinthine paths of those who reach beyond their capacity.

However, there is another form of apologetics--not so much an argument as a way of life. It is in this form that most of us can succeed--assuming, of course, that we are living the life required by such a mode of argument. If we live a life embued by grace, love, peace, joy, humility, obedience, patience, meekness, and prayerfulness and we surrender to God in all of our ways, our lives become a form of apologetics. Even if we are not raised to the honors of the altar, we function in our capacity as messengers of God's love. While many of us can defend this or that proposition, most of us do not have the rigor of intellect and the disposition to properly argue a point of doctrine or dogma. If someone wants to know more or better, I am inclined (depending on the person) to hand them Karl Keating, Donald Currie, Stephen Ray, Mark Shea, or James Akin and say--here it is, they say it better than I could, read away. And after you've read, come to me and let's talk about how it is lived--because that is something I can start to show you. Obviously, I can't show anyone the fullness of the faith, nor even the complete and integral practice of it. But I can show some things, and that is part of the mission of evangelism. I may not be able to argue the truth of the Catholic faith, but I can argue the truth of the Catholic life in the way that I live and the life that results. That, for many of us, is I suspect, the greatest argument for or against our faith.

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Yar, I say.

Because of pride, people forget (or don't realize) that apologetics serves evangelization. And is less important overall. And less difficult. I think I could more easily memorize the Summa Theologica than live the life of its author.

I made the same mistake when I began apologetics, but a little real-life experience showed me that complete evangelization is the better way ("... use words if you must."). Some people don't realize their mistake, and fall in love with being right rather than fall in love with Truth, and rather than seek other ways to guide lost sheep, just assume they're doomed to the wolves and leave them behind.

Ah, well, I guess I'll take your advice and just say Michelle Arnold says it better than I could, in that link I just provided.

"I may not be able to argue the truth of the Catholic faith, but I can argue the truth of the Catholic life in the way that I live and the life that results. That, for many of us, is I suspect, the greatest argument for or against our faith."

Well said!

I see apologetics now completely in the mode of "it is reasonable to believe because of this..." rather than persuasive on its own right.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 6, 2005 9:48 AM.

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