How to defend the faith with imperfect knowledge?

As of late, I’ve heard a number of adverse comments about Christianity in general from my own circle of non-Christian or non-religious/atheist friends. Often I find myself keeping quiet and letting the comments pass due to my self-admitted lack of knowledge on spirituality and Catholic dogma/doctrine. I do not want to come across as a “it’s true just because it’s Christian” or “it’s true because the Bible says so” which are both useless answers to people with science backgrounds. I do not feel that I MUST win the debate (after all, we are given free will to choose what we believe in). But at times like these, I feel I have an obligation to defend my own faith as a Catholic.

Things that particularly make me uncomfortable (i.e. because I know they are false presumptions or wrong conclusions) are:

  1. Christians do not question (and so they just believe everything the Bible says etc).
    I’ve looked up answers for this and I now know that the Catholic church has the role to protect the integrity of our faith and thousands of years of prayer and study have gone behind the believes we hold true. But an answer like this would be countered by its own set of dissenting questions (e.g. how can prayer help decide what the truth is, how do YOU know that your truth is THE truth?, every religion claims to be the true one etc)

  2. There are instances in the Bible where modern culture cannot explain. I know science does NOT have to explain or prove God because that would be judging God by human standards (i.e. human understanding). One example is how Noah can live >900 years. Another one I can think of is the ‘supernatural’ parts of the Bible (e.g. parting of the Red Sea etc). To me personally, these are not pre-suppositories of my faith. Just because Noah may not have lived to >900 years old, it does not mean that the Bible should be taken as merely fiction. Put plainly, I do not know the answers to such questions nor am I able to explain in contemporary terms how such things could have happened. But what would be the best way to deal with such questions?

For these questions and all other questions that I may not be able to answer, what is the proper way to defend the faith? Honestly, I feel that I am failing my obligation as a Catholic when I let these things pass and not stand up for what I believe in.

Put plainly, how do I defend the perfect Truth of the Church with an imperfect understanding of the Truth?

A very wise priest once told me, “The best way to defend the faith is to live it. Live it fully. Live it devoutly. Live your life full of the love of Christ.”

I don’t know if I do that well enough. I try. I certainly don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of the faith. But I hope the people around me and close to me can see the power of faith by how I try and live it. So my thanks are to Father Dave, for some of the best advice I’ve ever been given in my life. Hope it helps!

I like this Catholic site defending the faith, it doesn’t explain Noah though. Heard that some speculate that in those days years went according to moon phases.

  1. “I don’t know why the Church teaches X because I’m not a theologian. If you like I can find an article/book by someone who is a theologian so that you can learn the Church’s reasoning behind what it teaches from an expert on the subject.”
  2. Science can’t even address religion or morality, let alone prove or disprove an aspect within either. Trying to use science to prove or disprove religion is like trying to use a wrench to rewire your house. It’s the wrong tool for the job. The correct tools would be philosophy and theology.
  3. The Church doesn’t hold the Bible to be a history book or a science book. The closest parallel to a non-religious text would be a book on a philosophical system.
  4. Use sites like this one to further educate yourself on the common “I don’t like religion/your religion so I’m going to use an uneducated argument against it and claim its false if you can’t give me a PHD level response” attacks.

If you are sure of your answer, then answer them.

If you are unsure, tell them you are unsure, but can get the answer for them. Get their precise question, and do some research to find out the correct answer. That can be through the Catechism, this website, or other sites that are proven correct. I believe that is how a well known convert (Jimmy Akin, maybe?) was drawn into the Church; his friend patiently answered his questions, researched them when he didn’t know, and shared it with him. I’m pretty sure it was Akin that I heard on the radio sharing that.

Conversely, Romans 1:20 affirms that God’s existence is “clearly perceived in the things that have been made”, similarly to how a painting is proof that there must have been an artist who painted it. As the Bible explains, when we scientifically analyze “the things that have been made”, we find God’s fingerprints all over them. Atheists espouse exclusive believe in science. Notwithstanding science is an investigation of the natural world, they seem to refrain from applying such principals for investigating the existence of God. It’s certainly not for lack of evidence, in as much as an unwillingness to proceed in the direction that science leads them. Unbelievers abandon the pursuit of genuine truth, in place of a manic quest of finding unattainable naturalist explanations. Atheists make audacious claims that there is no evidence to support a Supreme Being, as though these were universally accepted prognoses, but stop short of supporting their conclusions with any form of rational evidence. It is not difficult to scientifically establish planning, design and the existence of a Supreme Being, however some of these proofs can be complex. This is why Intelligent Design is typically met with immediate dismissal by nonbelievers, as it requires intellectual contemplation.

And this itself is also science stepping outside what it can do. Science can explain the “how,” but it can’t address the “why.” Religion and philosophy explain the “why,” but they can’t address the “how.”



I’d suggest you not get too far down in the weeds, so to speak.
Keep it simple.
It’s not necessary to explain everything.

It’s ok to say “I don’t know how to answer that, but my faith is about a relationship with God, and catholicism brings me closer to Him. I don’t find it necessary to have every detail explained…that’s why it’s called faith. And some details don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things…like the parting of the Red Sea or Noah’s age…whether they’re literal, or metaphors or artifacts of how people wrote doesn’t really change my relationship with God”.

Also recognize that sometimes those challenges are put to you for insincere reasons.
Mostly these are questions that really can’t be answered (only argued about)…or whose answer doesn’t matter.

Good luck. :wink:

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