Defending the Church: Questions I Can't Answer

Every now and then somebody will ask me about Catholic beliefs. I’ve noticed it’s easier talking to Atheists than Protestants because Atheists seem more open whereas Protestants seem more steadfast. This post isn’t really about evangelization per-se, but rather apologetics so I’m not sure where I should post this.

I was talking with one of my bosses today (he’s an Atheist) who is always fun to talk to. We were discussing some science stuff when the tide drifted to religion. I remember telling him somewhere along the lines that Catholics don’t take the Bible literally, especially Genesis. I also ran into some blanks along the way. Some other questions that were difficult to answer were those along the lines of “the earliest forms of the religion seem the most logical (i.e. Judaism, etc.)”

I know we are to educate ourselves, but I have a poor memory and I can’t really recall stuff that well on the spot without having to study stuff, which I must admit is kind of boring.

What should I do in the future? I suppose trying to steer the conversation to another topic is an option.

I would say that is a good question. Then tell him that as you are on your spiritual journey you are finding there are many things you don’t know and this is one of them. Tell him that is a good question and you will do some research to find out and get back to him. Is a good opportunity to “nudge” him in his spiritual journey with your research.

You keep saying that you have a poor memory, yet you learned to play the accordian rather well and how to drive a car. Me thinks that you just don’t want to invest the time in learning more about apologetics or about the Church> Who ever told you that the Bible should not be taken literaly? They were wrong. While some parts or passages may be alogoric- or telling a story to make or clarify a teaching or a truism, do not ever think that the Bible is just a nice collection of stories of puff and fluff.

Your best bet is not to get into discussions about the Church that you don’t understand or have no grounding in. You could be doing more harm than good.

You need to stop making excuses such as you have a poor memory. Memories can be developed and sharpened, if you desire.

My suggestion is that you go to UTUBE and search for Apologetics Made Simple. Pick out the course you like and just listen-you don’t need to study. Just listen.

It pains me to see how poor your RICA instructions must have been. You can correct that on your own, but it will take a little time and industry on your part. I wish you well. Peace

The Handbook of Christian Apologetics or more specifically, the Handbook of Catholic Apologetics both by Prof. Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli.

Yes, but I don’t think he will buy either book, let alone read it which is why I suggested UTUBE. Peace

Thanks for the YouTube videos! I am not a good reader, but videos are very easy for me to get into. I was looking at the first video in the playlist and it seemed like the series is quite useful. :thumbsup:

Excellent post.

During my time in the Marine Corps one of my jobs was teaching Marines how to brief others, from the lowest ranks to the top generals. The single hardest thing to teach them was how to say “I don’t know”. For some reason people have an extremely hard time saying those three little words. They will guess, make things up, stand there and just look at you with that blank look, it is really very interesting, but lots of people can’t say those three little words. I guess for some reason we humans figure we have to know everything.

My suggestion is to say “I don’t know”.

This is the best advice you will ever get.

A few principles:

(1) I sincerely don’t believe I’ve ever run across a question, an objection, or a doubt with regard to the Catholic faith that lacks a reasonable answer;

(2) We don’t have to know all of those answers off the top of our head, we just have to know where to find them;

(3) To riff off the good Marine above, being open about what you know or don’t know is simple honesty, and it is honorable and even intellectual to state that you’ll do some research into a question and then come back with your conclusions;

(4) I don’t believe that folks are most impressed by your level of knowledge about your religion—and can even be skeptical of someone who seems too well-prepared—but they are impressed by your openness to common sense and thoughtfulness and intellectual honesty;

(5) Impressing people is important here, not because of our egos, but because it shows folks that a person doesn’t have to be a nut or belong to a cult in order to have faith in Christ, and this can help put them at ease;

(6) If you can’t answer a question on your own, give them a book if they’re interested;

(7) Always admit when you’re wrong.

Not everyone is called into apologetics. If it’s uncomfortable for you or you lack the desire or ability to pursue academic work in Church history or theology, then don’t do it. It is OK to move away from those conversations.

You are young in the faith, so it may be not only OK but necessary for you to move away from conversations designed to confuse you and plant seeds of doubt.

You don’t have to pursue every topic that is brought your way. Simply move on to another topic.


As I’ve gotten older I’ve found it much easier to say I don’t know. Also I think even as we learn things so that we do know and can explain things if we follow everything through we ultimately get to something we don’t know, or something that just is.

For all that just advise to say “I don’t know.” True, we don’t know everything, but we do need some grounding in our faith/Church. While not everyone can be an expert, a theologian or an apologist, we can not build our houses on sand, but need some stable foundation. There should b at least some basic understanding about the Church and it’s teachings. Consider it a life long endeavor, but do try to encourage one to build their “house on a firm foundation,” not sand. The really good thing about CA is that it does aid the searcher to cementing and building a house that will not fall down or wash away. Peace to all.

You are right. The full answer should most typically be ‘I dont know, but I will look into it and get back to you’. And as you point out CA is a great resource. Another somewhat common answer might be ‘we dont know but my opinion is…’. Sometimes we can’t know but only can speculate. This is true for a lot of ‘why’ questions.

If you’re not comfortable answering questions, point them to Catholic Answers

I would say all of us need to know as much about the faith as we can. And if we don’t know, know where to look to get the answer. No, not everyone is called to do certain things but as Father John Riccardo said to his men’s group: “If you’re not out there evangelizing, why not?”


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