A number of Catholics whom I encounter online or who send me scathing emails clearly have no idea of how to defend their heretical religion other than with emotionalism and rote recitation of what they may have from another Catholic who is as much in the dark as they are. Apologeticsis not about technique or style. It is not a process for protecting people from emotional distress resulting from exposure to doctrinal truth that does not agree with their own belief system. In fact, it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with feelings. My electronic dictionary defines apologetics in these terms:

1. The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.
2. Formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.
-- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1992 Houghton Mifflin Co. Electronic version lic'd from and portions © 1994 InfoSoft Int'l, Inc.

"Defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines." That is what apologetics is about. Doctrinal truth is the issue in apologetics; not feelings, not techniques, not promises nor even threats.

One of those who would have me use a less confrontational style in my writing used the analogy of housebreaking a dog to present his position. This was an innovative approach but the methods suggested, if applied, would have served the prince of this world far more than the Lord God Almighty. I hope to explain why that would be so, but first it may be appropriate to look at what I I had written that led this person to draw his analogy: I was responding to a criticism of my confrontational polemic:

If the message is to demonstrate that a particular Romanist teaching is heretical and cannot in any way be found to conform to biblical authority, what godly purpose would be served to dress it up in party clothes? Would God be served were the writer to so water down his text with politically correct generalizations and sweet words that the content would be lost in euphemisms? I find no instruction in Scripture telling me to carefully choose my words in order that those of whom and to whom I am speaking might not be offended. Quite the contrary, in fact.

The analogist, who gave his name as Frank, began his response by declaring his intention:

I would like to share my insights into this important task of sharing the Gospel message with Catholics.

It appears that Frank either had not carefully read the statement to which he was responding, or was so involved with his own agenda that accuracy was not an issue for him. My statement had nothing to do with ways to share the Gospel. Quite the contrary, my subject had to do with demonstrating "that a particular Romanist teaching is heretical and cannot in any way be found to conform to biblical authority."

Perhaps the difficulty lies in the Roman Catholic understanding of apologetics. One Jesuit 'apologist' offers these definitions:

Apologetics is the systematic defense of the Christian Revelation.
The Arguments in Apologetics are drawn from philosophy and history.
-- Francis X. Doyle, The Defense of The Catholic Church, Benziger Brothers, Inc (1927), p. xiii

Did you notice? The Christian apologist seeks to defend or prove the truth of Christian doctrines and the authority against which his efforts are measured is the Bible. The Catholic apologist, on the other hand, seeks to defend "Christian Revelation" by drawing arguments from history and philosophy. The Christian looks to God for truth. The Catholic looks to man. It seems to me that Doyle's reference to philosophy and history is simply another way of saying Tradition, that illusive and variable source of doctrine that Catholics consider to be on a par with Scriptures and the Teaching Authority of the Church.

95. 'It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.'[DV 10 # 3.] -- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, inc.

The Roman Catholic Church does like its Tradition, as one can see in just about every document that issues forth from the Vatican. Rare indeed is the encyclical, bull, constitution or motu proprio that is not liberally salted with citations from and references to the writings of the Early Church Fathers (Tradition). Did the Fathers all look to philosophy and history for doctrinal truth? Here's one example of the opinion of one of the Fathers on this matter:

I do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think that you must believe something because it is said by me; you should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if you do not see how true something is, or on the truth made manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly.
(Augustine (354-430): Fathers of the Church, Vol. 20, Saint Augustine Letters, 147. Augustine to the noble lady Paulina, greeting, Chapter 2 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1953), p. 171.)

Another of the Fathers had similar thoughts:

Sacred Scripture, though, whenever it wants to teach us something like this, gives its own interpretation, and doesn’t let the listener go astray. . . . So, I beg you, block your ears against all distractions of that kind, and let us follow the norm of Sacred Scripture.
(Chrysostom (349-407): Fathers of the Church, Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, 13.13 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 175.)

In my years o f interaction with wannabe defenders of Romanism, I have been provided innumerable examples of what appears to be a peculiarly Roman Catholic approach to apologetics or theological discussion. The Catholic apologist, regardless of his qualifications, is quite likely to be so involved with his own agenda or emotions that he will try to refute something that was not mentioned.

Frank continued:

With all due respect, I'd liken your approach to pushing a dogs face into his excrement and then throwing him out the door to wander around on his own. What I propose is showing them the paper first and encouraging them to go on that. Then as they go to use the paper, taking them out side to finish their task.


The analogy breaks down all most at once. While I certainly agree that Roman Catholic dogma and doctrine are, with but few exceptions, analogous to dog excrement, I cannot accept that my approach is to force the faces of Roman Catholic faithful into it. My approach is to show elements of RCC dogma and doctrine as what they are: dog crap. That is not sharing the Gospel, as Frank seems to think, nor is it apologetics. It is, quite simply, polemics or calling a spade a spade.

What I provide are examples of the inconsistencies and heresies that are so much a part of Roman Catholic theology. In doing this, I do not state my opinion and rest my case, as it seems just about all Romish apologists are wont to do. In preparing my case against a particular Catholic doctrine or practice I support my argument with with citations from RCC documents, the writings of Catholic theologians, church historians and others. I may also draw upon the writings of Christian researchers and theologians and even secular writers. In all cases, I am careful to identify my sources so that the serious reader might go to them and read in context what I have cited. When I declare that a Roman Catholic dogma that is to be believed by all Roman Catholics de fide definita cannot be supported from Scripture, I am not forcing anyone's nose into anything. What I am doing, quite simply, is stating fact. A fact is just that, a fact. A fact of itself has neither positive nor negative connotation. It simply is. Period.

For example, one dogma of the Roman Catholic Church is that:

Adam's sin is transmitted to his posterity, not by imitation, but by propagation (or descent).
(Ludwig Ott, "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma," 4th Ed., Tan Books:Rockford (1960), p. 109f)

That this indeed is a dogma of the RCC, defined by the Council of Trent in the Decree on Original Sin (1546), can be verified by reading Denzinger 789-91. (BTW, I use the 30th Edition of Denzinger -- the last edition not corrupted by the addition of material that is neither authoritative nor universal)

I have no trouble at all with this dogma of the RCC, for it indeed can be supported from Scripture:

Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"

1 Corinthians 15:21-22, "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

When I direct my readers' attention to the inclusive modifier "all," I am forcing no one's nose into excrement. Quite the contrary, I am asking people to read what God's Holy Scriptures say. And, so far as I have gone, there is no reason why even the most devout Roman Catholic should object to reading Scripture that his own cult leadership cites in support of this dogma. All I have done thus far is accurately quote a Roman Catholic dogma, providing source data and two supporting passages from Scripture. Just facts.

However, everything changes, when I examine another dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that all Catholics must assent to de fide definita:

Mary was conceived without stain of original sin.
(Ludwig Ott, "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma," 4th Ed., Tan Books:Rockford (1960), p. 199); Pius IX, bull Ineffabilis Deus, (1854); Denzinger 1641)

When I point out that this Marian dogma cannot be supported from Scripture, something even respected Roman Catholic theologians admit, I am uncovering that excrement of Frank's analogy but I am not forcing anyone's face into it.

"The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture..."
(Ludwig Ott, Op. cit., p. 200)

So what do we have now? We have one RCC dogma that tells us Adam's sin is transmitted to his posterity by descent, calling upon two passages of Scripture that clearly tell us all men have inherited that sin and its consequence, which is spiritual death. And then we have another Catholic dogma, of equal weight with the first, that tells us that not all Adam's posterity -- specifically the vessel used of God to incarnate Messiah -- bore the stain of Adam's sin. When I point out that the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception not only conflicts with Sacred Scripture but also Roman Catholic dogma, I perhaps am pointing to excrement, but not rubbing anyone's nose in it. I am doing nothing the Apostle Paul would not have done:

Simply put, the apostle addressed Doctrinal Deviation head-on. Paul didn't mince words. He refused to back down from controversy. He also was not afraid to call names and be specific with the nature of error. Throughout his letters he made it clear that the way to silence error was to teach doctrine and to instruct. By the power of the Holy Spirit and sound words, Paul felt the mind had to be changed by the input of new spiritual truth.
Mal Couch, The Doctrines That Cannot Be Compromised, Tyndale Theological Seminary (1996)

After pointing out the excrement of RCC dogma to the Catholic faithful, do I then throw them out the door, leaving them to wander on their own? I sincerely hope not. I often close an article by referring my readers to the Sacred Scriptures. If pointing my readers to the written Word of God can be characterized as leaving them to wander on their own, then I plead guilty. If God's Word is not sufficient guide for the reader, then I suggest he is submitted to his flesh and not to God.

Those who know me even a little know that I rarely 'evangelize' online. I do not consider the Web to be a tool that I personally am able to use to that end. When I share the Gospel, I do it eyeball-to-eyeball. I am not saying this is the only way to share the Gospel, or even the best way. What I am saying is that I prefer to open the Gospel to someone in a situation where I am able to observe his reaction and respond to his doubts and questions at once. This is what works for me. Something else may work better for others.

On the other hand, I believe the Web is the ideal medium for doing what I do: laying bare the many heresies and blasphemies that make up the dogma and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. By having time to research and write, I am able to present an accurate document, complete with source citations so that readers might verify my claims. For those who do not wish to know the truth, I imagine some of my postings can be very bitter pills indeed. That is not my problem, but theirs.

The suggestion that my approach is comparable to forcing a dog's nose into excrement and then shoving him out the door to figure things out on his own having been dealt with, let us now turn our attention to the second part of Frank's analogy. Here, Frank suggests that one first show them (Catholic faithful?) the paper and encourage them to use it. Once 'them' starts to "go to use the paper," they are to be taken outseide to finish their task.

Is it indeed kinder to stand by idly, knowing that someone is bound to a false doctrine? Is it gentler to permit someone to hold heretical or blasphemous beliefs in order not to injure their sensitivities? Is it godly behavior to see someone walking the path that leads straight to Gehenna and do nothing? I think not. In fact, I think it the cruelest of acts toward the lost -- to stand back and watch them drowning in the muck of false doctrine without doing anything to help them cast off the ballast that is dragging them under.

It has been said of one of the popular "conservative" evangelical writers in the area of spiritual warfare that reading his books is like eating steak laced with arsenic. The steak tasted great and makes up the major portion, but the arsenic, imbedded throughout, will kill you. I can't think of a better analogy of what is going on in evangelicalism today. "Speaking the truth in love" is no longer "popular" or "politically correct" so many in the evangelical world have lost their taste for it. Thus, one of Satan's most effective weapons against Christ's Church is tearing away at the very core of Biblical Christianity. That weapon being, teach a lot of truth and mix in a little bit of error. Once we have developed a taste for error the dosage can and will be elevated!

One of the problems is that we have bought the lie that to confront error is not showing love. We have redefined love! In the context of Scripture it is not the one who allows his brother to continue in sin and error who is showing love but the one who confronts is showing love (Matt. 18:15). Love and truth can no more be separated than can God, who is Love and Truth by His very nature!
Mal Couch, The Doctrines That Cannot Be Compromised, Tyndale Theological Seminary (1996)

Apologetics is not a performance art. One does not prepare to become an apologist by studying such things as drama, public speaking, sales technique or marketing. In order to be an effective apologist, one studies God's truth, the Sacred Scriptures. One practices apologetics when he defends or proves the truth of Christian teaching. The final authority against which his efforts are measured is Holy Writ. There are no points for difficulty or performance as in a gymnastic competition.

If the apologist has done his work well, he will have shown that the doctrine under examination is both true and biblical, and he will have done so from the Scriptures. In the process, he might make use of his understanding of the original language of the passage or doctrine under study. He may call upon his knowledge of the people and culture to whom the passage was originally given. He may draw on other resources, but in the final analysis, it will be Scripture that ultimately will define and either sustain or invalidate the doctrine under study.

That certain skills are required in apologetics and that some of these skills can be learned is beyond question. I suppose that one might even describe those skills, when applied, as 'techniques.' One of the principle 'techniques' involved is the science and methodology of interpretation. When sound hermeneutics is applied to Scripture, the result is a critical explanation or analysis of the passage -- which is absolutely indispensible when defending a doctrine derived from a particular passage.

Isn't the point conversion of Catholics?

No, the 'point' of apologetics is defending or proving the the truth of Christian teaching. What you are describing is called evangelizing:

1. To preach the gospel.
2. To convert to Christianity.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1992 Houghton Mifflin Co. Electronic version lic'd from and portions © 1994 InfoSoft Int'l, Inc. All rts rsvd.)

My correspondent provided additional evidence that he did not understand what apologetics is when he compared it to pacification projects during the Vietnam War.

When I was in the Army during the Vietnam War, our unit did a lot of pacification projects, "winning the hearts and minds" stuff. Even though we knew that Ho Chi Minh and the Cong were evil, we didn't demand that villagers accept that instantly and we used lighter tactics to bring them over. And we did bring them over. And they realized how evil Ho and that bunch were. Honey not vinegar...

I don't know whether he was a rear echelon commando or a troopie in the Ia Drang Valley. What I do know is that he apparently has as little understanding of the effectiveness of the pacification program in 'winning the hearts and minds' of the target people as he does of apologetics. The claims he makes for the success of the pacification program and his suggestion that similar methods "just might also work with Catholics" merit a closer look.

I have some personal knowledge of and experience in area pacification, having spent 20 years of my military career in the intelligence business. I served a number of years in special operations, in the field and at headquarters level. I was helped plan a few pacification projects, spent some time in the villes implementing them and evaluating their success. For the record, I did the Vietnam thing in '66 and '69. I spent '72 and part of '73 working out of northern Thailand.

I suppose one could get away with comparing pacification efforts with evangelization. After all, both programs are aimed at converting the target population, but it is a loose comparison at best. In Southeast Asia, life was hard, especially in rural areas. Paddy farmers and fishermen worked all day, every day, to make a living. Much of what they managed to grow or catch was taken as tax or tribute by local and national government agents or foraging troops on both sides of the conflict. Villagers' sons and daughters were frequently conscripted into either government or Communist units and terrorism was rampant. Hamlets might be uprooted and the villagers moved to another province almost without warning. Throughout the area, people were dying due to starvation, disease, terrorism, collateral or accidental shelling or bombing, etc. Life indeed was hard.

Along come the Americans, offering food, medical treatment, weapons, military protection, a 'secure' place to live and sometimes even cash money. All the beleaguered people had to do to gain these benefits was profess the correct political alignment and, perhaps, move into a fortified village or area under the protective umbrella of American artillery or airpower. Once they had embraced the pacification program, village men often became coolie laborers while their wives went to work cleaning American living quarters or washing American uniforms. Sons who were not conscripted into one or another military unit either became mercenaries or 'Ruff-Puffs." Or they cleaned American boots and web gear. Daughters? Americans provided employment for many a villager's daughter as well.

But who taught the 'newly-converted' villagers about democracy or truth, justice and the American way? Who taught them civics and political science? Who helped them to develop and grow in the new political and social system in which they now found themselves? In almost every instance the answer was: No one.

The pacification program was effective in disrupting village life to the degree that some cultures, such as the Montagnard and the Hmong, were virtually destroyed, to be replaced by a system of servile dependence virtually devoid of family-friendly social and moral values.

Who benefited from the 'hearts and minds' programs? I do not doubt that the military and political geniuses who came up with the idea derived great personal satisfaction and career advancement from the quantifiable results of their pet projects (number of villes re-located, souls displaced into fortified camps, etc.). The pacification program was a cash cow for military and CIA financial planners and budget proposal writers. The liberal press loved the programs and devoted a lot of ink to reporting on them -- at least until other issues about the war came to be more interesting. John Wayne and his partners built a movie around the concept. Charitable-minded people in the States probably got warm feelings for having collected money, food, clothing and medical supplies for the villagers that never made it off the Saigon docks before being grabbed off by thieves, black marketeers and corrupt government officials. And, of course, all the REMFs who donated an afternoon every now and then to participating in a pacification project within safe commuting distance of their air-conditioned offices or billets likely derived a lot of personal satisfaction -- along with some great Polaroids -- from their efforts to make the world a better place for people who really only wanted to be left alone.

Frank suggested the possibility that the methodology of the area pacification program might work with Catholics and, in so doing, again demonstrates that he does not distinguish between apologetics and evangelization.

Maybe, just maybe it might also work with Catholics. I see that Mr. Loeffler. . . hasn't already and easily converted his family. Will he be able to do it? I certainly think so, but even an excellent apologist like he can't produce results overnight.

Is this how Frank views apologetics (evangelization)? Are we to make nice to the lost, luring them to embrace 'Christianity' with sweet talk and promises of better things to come. How long are we to continue our efforts to seduce the lost before we speak to them in truth and love? Is it an act of love to watch them going under for the third time in the turgid swamps of their pagan beliefs while we concern ourselves with political correctness? Or is it an act of love to show people that the system to which they are looking for their salvation is built upon the shifting sands of heresy? For me, this is a no-brainer, but Frank appears to see things differently.

Maybe it's like peeling an onion overcoming Catholic resistance. Layer by layer - and then resistance is gone and they accept the truth.

Once again, it seems that he was confusing apologetics with evangelization. The apologist does not have as his purpose "overcoming Catholic resistance." He does not have as his purpose causing Catholics to accept the truth, whatever that might be. The apologist is concerned only with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrine. Sharing the Gospel has to do with evangelization, not apologetics. Leading people to accept the truth, biblical truth is the work of the Holy Spirit. In my considered opinion, far too many people these days seem to have bought into the idea that it is within their power to bring people to salvation, thereby arrogating to themselves the power, authority and mission of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to take the Gospel to the nations; what happens after that is in the hands of the Lord.

John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."

1 Corinthians 3:5-7, "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."

In closing, my recommendations to folks who wish to defend the Christian faith are:

1. Spend a little time and effort to learn the meaning of the terms you toss about with carefree abandon and to learn something of the science of hermeneutics;

2. Look for doctrinal truth in the Sacred Scriptures, not in feelings, emotions, social considerations, philosophy or history. Study the Scriptures diligently. Seek help from the Holy Spirit in coming to understanding what they tell you. This is what the men of the Magisterium do, and they claim to be able to infallibly interpret Scripture to the masses -- though Heaven knows they have infallibly interpreted precious few passages in the RCC's 1600-year existence. The truth lies in God's Scriptures, not man's philosophy.

Once you have some famililarity and understanding of Scripture, then, perhaps, you will be ready to engage in activities to defend and prove the truth of Christian doctrines. Even the well-equipped apologist, however, must realize that not everyone he seeks to convince of doctrinal truth will understand or even pay heed to what he has to say.

1 John 4:6, "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."

James 5:19-20, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."

Home | Apologetics | Catholic Stuff | Email | PTG Forum