Friday, October 1, 2010

The Perils of Intra-Christian Apologetics

That is the title of an essay of mine that was published today on The Catholic Thing, an online periodical for which I am a regular columnist. Here's how the essay begins:
"St. Paul in Athens," a window in Baylor's Robbins Chapel
In March 2006 one of my graduate assistants, a Baylor doctoral student, visited my office to discuss with me his personal journey in the direction of Catholicism. An alumnus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained Baptist minister, this student,  I’ll call him Joseph, told me that he and his wife were on the brink of choosing to seek full communion with the Catholic Church.  He wanted to know from me, President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, if I could give them any reasons why they should not make the move.  Much to Joseph’s surprise, I said “no.”  
Although I was a year away from my own Catholic moment, I had reached a point in my Christian journey where I began to see more peril than promise in intra-Christian apologetics. This is not to say that I did not believe, or do not continue to believe, that when one is asked about one’s faith that one should not offer reasons for why one is Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. I do not doubt that one has a responsibility, in the words of St. Peter, “to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15a). Thus, if Joseph had asked me to explain why I was a Protestant, I would have done so. But he did not ask me that. He asked me to give him reasons why he should not become Catholic. 
There is a question here that many Catholics eager to evangelize other Christian brothers and sisters may not appreciate. As someone who now has been on both sides of the Tiber, I need to explain precisely what I mean. I could not in good conscience provide what Joseph requested. For I did not know whether, at that time in his journey, Catholicism was becoming to him the only Christian tradition that he thought plausible to believe. Because he was a follower of Jesus and cared deeply about his walk with Christ, I had to treat Joseph’s inquiry with a certain delicacy, making sure that I did not place in his path a stumbling block.  Months after meeting with me, he and has wife were received into the Catholic Church, and I soon followed.
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Marco said...

Dr Beckwith,..

I appreciate this post very much. The fact of the matter remains that in beginning apologetics, one must take into account where the other person is coming from. You mentioned in your conversion story that you are a philosopher. Myself as a Catholic when I find myself faced with an overly zealous soul trying to 'convert me,' I'll simply state my position and outline the terms of his/her questioning. I start with metaphysical issues, trying to see if they can think critically, (in my experience, evangelicals shy away from philosophy,..) but asking them questions of whether or not gravity exists, will usually lighten the mood and get them to smile,..Next, I'll highlight what we share as Christians(Trinity, bodily Ressurection,..etc..) even if they don't consider me a Christian.

The key to all of it is respect, that ultimately we don't convert anybody, the Holy Spirit does and we are on His 'time,' not ours. On a side note once they become open to the idea that the Catholic Church is Christian, they usually come home, even after years of being away...

God Bless

Jackie Alnor said...

The only Protestants returning to Rome are those who are not born from above. Those who get born-again while in the RCC are convicted by the Holy Spirit residing in them to flee from Rome - the Mother Harlot of the little harlots - those apostate denominations who endorse her. While the RCC boasts of their "evangelical" converts, hoards of born-again believers leave her idolatrous cathedrals every day. Those who know the Master Jesus' voice won't follow the stranger - the voice of the false so-called vicar of Christ whose very name is blasphemy. Call no man father folks!

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Jackie Alnor:

I would sincerely like your advice for someone like me - and there are quite a few others in the same situation - who were Protestant, became convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church, became Catholics (in my case 15 years ago - you can, if you wish, read about it here). Advising me, as I suppose you may be inclined to do, to 'come out of her and be separate' won't really help, because I do truly believe that Jesus is there in His fulness; that I receive Him - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - when I receive Holy Communion - and indeed would be puzzled to explain what my wife and friends would testify to as the improvement in my character in becoming a Catholic - if, in fact, your analysis were correct.

I read the Bible through once a year, prayerfully - have read it probably fifty times - and I deeply believe the Holy Spirit has called me to Rome.

Yet if I understand what you said, you must believe me self-deceived. Can you give me advice as to how to un-self-deceive myself - supposing me to be in that state?


Jae said...

I might be wrong but I strongly suspect Ms. Jacie Alnor belongs to Seventh Day Adventist or sabbatarian sect.

Very anti-catholic.