Required to Respond?


#1

Im at college, and, as usual, everyone is argumentative. If a topic is brought up, then everyone has an opinion or a thought on it. My question is: If I feel like I can’t adequetely defend a point on Catholicism or Christianity, should I rather just shrug my shoulders and preach by example, or should I answer to the best of my knowledge?

I ask this because I oftentimes feel like I am doing more harm than good when arguing on Theological matters. I feel like I am letting down God and the Church as a whole if I can’t explain something I feel like I should be able to defend.

On a sidenote, it’s often the most basic questions I have trouble answering because I never have had to really defend them. For example, Jesus not being Michael the Archangel, the Trinity, and Monotheism. I detest talking to New Age teens floating from one bogus religion to the next. I think it’s pretty sad when magik and old forms of paganism are brought up. Honestly, who believes that people can cast spells?


#2

[quote=Ianjo99]If a topic is brought up, then everyone has an opinion or a thought on it. My question is: If I feel like I can’t adequetely defend a point on Catholicism or Christianity, should I rather just shrug my shoulders and preach by example, or should I answer to the best of my knowledge?
[/quote]

It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and resolve all doubt.

You can do **FAR **more harm than good by trying to defend a position you’re not prepared to defend. But there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t agree with you, but I haven’t really given it much thought. Is it OK if I think about it a bit and get back to you?” Then give it some thought (or come here for help) and go back to that person (who has already, presumably, agreed to discuss the topic again).

Everyone finds themselves in this position from time to time. Someone will come to you and say, “Hey, Pope Miscelaneous the Second said that Jesus was really the devil - what do you have to say about that???” And you can simply say, “Gosh, that sounds pretty bad! [this is a bait] Well, I’m not really familiar with Pope Miscelaneous II. Can I look into it and get back to you?”


#3

[quote=Ianjo99]Im at college, and, as usual, everyone is argumentative. If a topic is brought up, then everyone has an opinion or a thought on it. My question is: If I feel like I can’t adequetely defend a point on Catholicism or Christianity, should I rather just shrug my shoulders and preach by example, or should I answer to the best of my knowledge?

[/quote]

If in a group, I’d perhaps listen to see where each person stood on the matter, but I would tend to remain silent.

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who make dissensions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.

2 Timothy 2:23 And avoid foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they beget strifes.

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law. For they are unprofitable and vain.

Titus 3:10 A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: 11 Knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.

Well, they can and do – by occult powers, which involves them in sorcery and other diabolical activities that pull them down to hell.

I recommend you arm yourself with sacramentals such as holy water and blessed medals, and pray the St. Michael prayer regularly (memorize it). Don’t use these superstitiously, though. Read up on their proper understanding.

hurst


#4

[quote=Ianjo99]If I feel like I can’t adequetely defend a point on Catholicism or Christianity, should I rather just shrug my shoulders and preach by example, or should I answer to the best of my knowledge?
[/quote]

When I was in college, I was an atheist, and I enjoyed knocking Christian’s legs out from under them. There was a real exhilaration in denouncing some Christian belief and not having anyone challenge me. It was like there was some kind of unanimous vote that I must be right, since no one challenged me. The only thing more thrilling was to actually have some naive Christian try to respond, only to bash them back down. There was a rush of adrenaline with these rare confrontations, and it all fueled my pride and ego.

From my own experience, I recommend several things: 1) Only speak up if you have a good enough understanding to at least make a point or two and not come off like an idiot. 2) Avoid responding in the presence of an audience. Try approaching the person after the group has broken up and ask if you can discuss more in private. 3) Brush up on your weaknesses. Perhaps you can’t answer someone on the Trinity now, but it would be nice if you can answer the next guy. (BTW, Frank Sheed’s “Theology for Beginners” is an excellent source for understanding the Trinity) 4) If you get stuck, promise to find an answer and get back to them. In addition to actually providing an answer (eventually), you’ll show that you are serious about your faith. Not getting back to them with an answer is an admission of defeat.


#5

[quote=forthright]When I was in college, I was an atheist, and I enjoyed knocking Christian’s legs out from under them. There was a real exhilaration in denouncing some Christian belief and not having anyone challenge me. It was like there was some kind of unanimous vote that I must be right, since no one challenged me. The only thing more thrilling was to actually have some naive Christian try to respond, only to bash them back down. There was a rush of adrenaline with these rare confrontations, and it all fueled my pride and ego.

From my own experience, I recommend several things: 1) Only speak up if you have a good enough understanding to at least make a point or two and not come off like an idiot. 2) Avoid responding in the presence of an audience. Try approaching the person after the group has broken up and ask if you can discuss more in private. 3) Brush up on your weaknesses. Perhaps you can’t answer someone on the Trinity now, but it would be nice if you can answer the next guy. (BTW, Frank Sheed’s “Theology for Beginners” is an excellent source for understanding the Trinity) 4) If you get stuck, promise to find an answer and get back to them. In addition to actually providing an answer (eventually), you’ll show that you are serious about your faith. Not getting back to them with an answer is an admission of defeat.
[/quote]

Hey, forthright! These are great points.

How about demonstrating some of that atheistic prowess of yours to show us how you came around to this side of the table?

Most of the time when challenged by atheists, fundamentalists, or cultists, we are speechless not because we don’t have an answer but because we have never framed the question the way it is being thrust at us.

Maybe start a new thread?


#6

These are always tough situations to be in. I think your response pretty much always depends somewhat on the situation.

  1. If you are certain the person is only baiting you to argue, and that they’re not interested in really learning about the faith, it is fine to answer succinctly or tell them you’ll talk to them later about it, if they’re still interested.
  2. If others are around who may be influenced by the question/response, I think you are much more obliged to answer. Simply shrugging your shoulders could give a very bad message to those other than the person baiting you that there is no answer.
  3. When encountering a “baiter”, it can be very effective if you respond with a question of your own. Ask them about the source for their information. Is it a website? Book? Did they hear it from someone else? You can divert them by questioning their reliance on the source. “How do you know that’s even true?” If it’s a website, ask for the url and check it out. You’ll have a good idea where the person is coming from and what other things they may dredge up.
  4. If the person seems genuinely curious, go ahead and give your best answer while admitting you’re no expert on the details. Offer to look stuff up with them.

*5) The biggest thing is do your best to never appear flustered by the question. Do your best to be as strong in your faith as possible, so that even if you found out that Pope Whomever I lived in an asylum for half his life, that doesn’t affect your relationship with God and Jesus one iota. Showing confidence in your faith, even if you don’t have an answer, goes a long way toward the impression you will make on everyone listening.

Hope some of this helps. Those are difficult situations.

Hurst’s response was also very good, though. Sometimes it is best to say “I don’t think you are really interested in my faith. If you really are, ask me more about it later.” If you find you are with a group of people who regularly demean and disparage your faith, without showing any real interest in it, then perhaps you need to find new circles to run in.

Peace,
javelin


#7

I think the best policy when asked a question you do not know the answer to is to say ‘I’m sorry I do not know, but I will find out’ then find out, then let them know!

:slight_smile:


#8

[quote=mercygate]How about demonstrating some of that atheistic prowess of yours to show us how you came around to this side of the table?
[/quote]

I’m not sure I can give specifics. Looking back I used some of the lamest arguments. Things like, “primitive people had to invent gods because they couldn’t take responsibility for their own actions,” or “the modern decline in religion and increase in psychotherapy show how people just need a place to unload their conscienses.” Also, many pagan religions “deified” their leaders (i.e. Alexander the Great, etc.), which atheists use to explain away Jesus’ divinity and resurrection. Another favorite of mine was asking people to explain Biblical contradictions. Contrary to Fundamentalist theology, the Bible is not clear on a lot of things and it doesn’t take much for someone to twist verses around and make the Bible look like a joke.

I’m not sure about Eastern religions, but for the atheist there is a lot of weight in being self-reliant and intelligent. Although I now admire those with a simple faith, atheists tend to believe you have to be a simpleton to have faith. Demonstrating that we don’t check our brains at the door when we enter church goes a looooong way.

As for how I “came around,” it is too long of a story for here. Suffice it to say that it was only by the grace of God. There was no single argument or individual who made all the difference. Which reminds me of one thing I forgot. . .

  1. Remember that it is the Holy Spirit that makes conversions. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t seem to make an impact.

#9

[quote=forthright]I’m not sure I can give specifics. Looking back I used some of the lamest arguments. Things like, “primitive people had to invent gods because they couldn’t take responsibility for their own actions,” or “the modern decline in religion and increase in psychotherapy show how people just need a place to unload their conscienses.” Also, many pagan religions “deified” their leaders (i.e. Alexander the Great, etc.), which atheists use to explain away Jesus’ divinity and resurrection. Another favorite of mine was asking people to explain Biblical contradictions. Contrary to Fundamentalist theology, the Bible is not clear on a lot of things and it doesn’t take much for someone to twist verses around and make the Bible look like a joke.

I’m not sure about Eastern religions, but for the atheist there is a lot of weight in being self-reliant and intelligent. Although I now admire those with a simple faith, atheists tend to believe you have to be a simpleton to have faith. Demonstrating that we don’t check our brains at the door when we enter church goes a looooong way.

As for how I “came around,” it is too long of a story for here. Suffice it to say that it was only by the grace of God. There was no single argument or individual who made all the difference. Which reminds me of one thing I forgot. . .

  1. Remember that it is the Holy Spirit that makes conversions. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t seem to make an impact.
    [/quote]

Thanks! That’s a great start.


#10

Thanks for the tips!

I will try to incorporate them into my life. It’s just pretty frustrating to remain silent knowing someone is not speaking the truth. I will keep learning though, so next time perhaps I’ll be more prepared.


#11

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.