So, I’ve accepted a debate invite with Dr. Sonny Hernandez. The topic is “Is Roman Catholicism Biblical?”. I am an aspiring apologist, but I’ve never done this before. He looks to be pretty light on his feet and aggressive but based on our conversation he’s open to having more of a constructive dialogue than a combative debate. He claims to be fluent in NT Greek and he’s a traditional Reformed Christian, raised Catholic.
Do you have any tips or resources that would help me out? Books to read? The debate is in April 2018, so I have plenty of time to prepare.
I’d be careful. You say that you’re an amateur apologist. Desiring to debate is great and all, but you have to remember that you are representing Catholicism, Christ’s Church on Earth, and the bastion of all Truth. You should only enter into this debate if you’ve had sufficient training, and a handful of months really isn’t enough…
I encourage what you’re doing insofar as engaging with Protestants to help show them the Truth is great, but be careful. You don’t want to be responsible for someone failing to come to the Truth.
As to your actual question about preparation, are you allowed notes? If so, I would prepare references and Biblical passages that point to the most common objections to Catholicism. I personally would focus on:
The establishment a central authority to lead Christ’s people, the primacy of Peter in the NT (Upon this Rock, by Steve Ray is an excellent resource for this)
The historicity and Biblical basis for a limited, sacramental priesthood, as opposed to a universal lay-priesthood like in Protestantism.
The authority to forgive sins being given to the Apostles and passed on through apostolic succession.
The Biblical support for the other sacraments.
Biblical support for praying to the Saints, and by extension for the Communion of Saints.
Most importantly, the Biblical support for the Eucharist as the True body and blood of Jesus Christ.
On the offensive side, I would focus on:
The lack of historical evidence in support of Protestantism’s claims of a “Great Apostasy,” and the unbroken chain of Catholic Dogma going back to teh very foundations of Christianity. (We have never reversed on a Domga. No Protestant ecclesial body can make that claim.)
The lack of Biblical support for the Protestant belief in Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide. (There is clear support for capital “T” Tradition in the Bible, considering that when Jesus commanded the Apostles to go forth and teach, there was no Bible. The Apostles also write about the believer following what they are TOLD, not what they READ. Also, show the clear support for salvation being something we can lose.)
The fragmentary nature of Protestantism, and the lack of cohesion among its adherents, despite the clear call for Christian unity throughout the NT.
The EXTENSIVE historical record of the Early Church Fathers, and the direct relationship between their witness of early Christianity and its correlation to modern Catholicism (since they are one in the same).
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are common talking points. Beyond that, I would listen to other Catholic vs Protestant debates on this subject and see what they generally try to pull to disprove Catholicism. There are many common threads of thought and misconceptions that underline most Protestant attacks against Catholicism. The role of authority in Christendom is a big one, as are the issues of Sola Scirptura and Sola Fide. I’ve heard Protestants try to claim that the Church is un-Biblical because they don’t believe those things, despite the fact that neither of those things is found anywhere in the Bible, and are in fact actively denounced by various passages throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Also, be careful of people who claim to be fluent in NT Greek. I’m not saying they’re not, but there is a load of trouble you can get into by mistranslating something, or translating it through a particular worldview. (i.e., how many Protestant Bible’s translate Gabriel’s blessing to Mary as something like “Hail, favored one,” when in actuality the closest translation is “Hail, full of Grace,” or “Hail, she who has been perfected in grace.” It makes a big difference.) I would keep some translations for the more important passages at the ready.
I appreciate your response and your caution. I have an MA in theology from Protestant University and I have spent the last 3 years studying Catholic apologetics. So, while I am green in the public debating world, I feel confident in my grasp of the Church’s teachings. Now I have an excuse to really get “in shape”, if you know what I mean.
I wish you great success. Catholic Answers has a handful of debates on their Youtube channel, and the individual apologists also have many of their debates on there as well if you go to their channels. They are a great source of knowledge and example.
One thing to keep in mind, go by what the Bible SAYS. Many times, especially with the topic of Sola Fide, Protestant Debators will say something like: “Yes, well, the text says this, but considering [this…], it actually means…” There is a great deal of nuance in the Bible, but there is also a lot of it that is straight forward. For instance, it clearly says in James 2:24 that “man is not saved by faith alone.” Literally, it’s right there in the text, and yet most Protestants sill subscribe to the Once-Saved-Always-Saved mentality. They can only do that by ignoring the straightforward passage, and twisting the nuanced passages.
I would actually argue against doing this. The point of this is to prove the Catholic Church is Biblical. The only reason they think it’s not Biblical is because we do things they disagree with. Playing up the shared beliefs would be a waste of time that could be spent showing the Biblical support those beliefs and practices which Protestants reject. It’s great to be nice and talk about what we have in common, but it’s not really the point of a debate.
Isn’t the premise itself faulty? Catholicism (not “Roman”) would exist even if the bible never did; Catholicism was established by Christ Himself. The Catholic Church is the Church of Christ. If one believes in Christ’s Church, then they must accept that the Catholic Church is that Church. One could far more easily prove this issue through history instead of the bible. Using the bible is only going to convolute things because of the protestant notion of subjective interpretation. You would do best by not participating at all because you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind.
I agree with Prodigal… if you’re an amateur you may do more harm than good and it’s rare that these debates prove much of anything. I’m a fairly decent amateur and there’s no way I’d do what you’re talking about.
Based upon his Youtube/Facebook page, he seems like a standard Protestant apologist, and not really that famous. So I wouldn’t build up this debate too much, and with it being nearly a year ahead of us, you’ll be missing out on a lot of interactions if you wait around for that time. Imagine if you get all worked up for a debate and he isn’t that strong of an opponent, then you’ll feel like you wasted your time.
I’d recommend just interacting with his Youtube/Facebook page over the next few months, since those interactions will be far more frequent, fun, and fruitful than a one-time debate in the distant future.** He seems to post new stuff daily, so just find a post that you think misrepresents Catholicism, and give a short response. If he (or his followers) interact with you, great. If they don’t interact or don’t give good responses, then you know you’re wasting your time with that ministry.
If this helps use it. All the internal links to resources mentioned are properly referenced.
While still a Protestant, John Henry Newman, made famous a quote
“to be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant”
It brought him to the Catholic Church
Re: Roman as the qualifier,
Ask your debate individual, who the book of Romans is written to. It’s to the Church of Rome. The Church has been called Catholic from the first century. It also happens that Rome is Peter’s last see. Therefore that is where Peter’s chair is for the entire Church. Pope Francis is 266th successor to St Peter in Rome.