How does an apologist learn how to talk with people about religion?


#1

Is being an apologist as special gift? I ask this question for two reasons. First, I do not see myself as gifted in this way often finding myself lost for answers when the need arises no matter how much I study. Second, I also do not feel especially close to Christ when I get into these type of discussions. Once again, I probably feel this way because I am not good at being an apologist. However, it seems at times as if we lose the gift of grace and love in arguing too much over religious issues. How do you maintain the balance and not seem too overbearing and unforgiving?


#2

[quote=joe h]Is being an apologist as special gift?
[/quote]

In some ways, yes; in some ways, no. In that not everyone has the calling, temperament, and/or skills necessary, one could say that apologetics takes certain gifts from God. In that those who do feel a calling can learn the skills and work on their temperament, no.

[quote=joe h]I do not see myself as gifted in this way often finding myself lost for answers when the need arises no matter how much I study.
[/quote]

Take heart. It is rare that an apologist knows the answer to every conceivable question about the faith off the top of his head. Here at Catholic Answers, callers are asked to leave their questions on voice mail for an apologist precisely so the apologist will have time to research the question and find for the caller a complete answer. Questions answered here on the Ask an Apologist forum also usually require research before the answers can be drafted. So, when you find yourself stumped for an answer, just tell the person, “That’s a very good question. I’ll do some research on it and we can discuss it soon, okay?”

[quote=joe h]Second, I also do not feel especially close to Christ when I get into these type of discussions.
[/quote]

As long as you are doing the best you can to meet your obligations to Christ through obedience to his Church and participation in the sacraments, you don’t have to feel an emotional closeness to Christ in order to be an effective apologist. Feelings do not determine reality, and the reality that you are close to Christ through obedience and the sacraments is not negated by a lack of emotional closeness. St. Therese of Lisieux, for example, made her greatest strides toward sanctity during the last eighteen months of her life, a time when she felt so distant from God that she was plagued with temptations to despair.

[quote=joe h]It seems at times as if we lose the gift of grace and love in arguing too much over religious issues. How do you maintain the balance and not seem too overbearing and unforgiving?
[/quote]

A good rule of thumb is to be as strict with yourself as reasonably possible, but to give others every benefit of the doubt. Keep telling yourself that most people do not consciously know and reject truth; often, they rather honestly believe that what they understand to be true is true. Also, apologist Frank Sheed’s maxim of arguing to explain rather than arguing to win is the aim of the apologist. As he liked to say, you can win an argument and lose a soul, either your own through lack of charity or another’s by presenting the faith in such a manner that it cannot be accepted.

Recommended reading:

How do I become an apologist?


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