I want to ask a question that, to me, goes beyond the realm of traditional apologetics. Then again I might very well be wrong! Let me preface by saying that, it seems to me at least, Catholic apologetics has the “basic” issues pretty well covered. Any Catholic who does 1 hour of homework can explain, convincingly, our doctrine of justification or why we pray to Mary or why we have the Eucharist. The basic objections against Catholicism are ultimately easily refuted once you “get” the logic you are trying to explain. Again, this is what it seems to me. Now obviously, the person one is talking to may or may not be open to what you are trying to say. If they ARE open, these basic apologetics go over quite well. If not, I’ve noticed in my short experience that the argument just goes in circles, with each of us repeating the party line with ever more clarity or examples. At that point, the best thing to do is part ways with kind words and exhortations to be open and never stop seeking truth.
So all that leads up to my question: I’ve been in discussions lately with Protestant ministers and students that quite frankly just leave me shocked. The specific issue I want to ask you all about is the nature of the human person. A Protestant I know insists, based on the line from 1 Thessalonians 5 and especially Hebrews 4, that a human being is a composite of a body (fleshly nature), a soul (mind, intellect, will), and a SPIRIT. This third part is the most important part of the person, the part that was saved when he was born again (he actually says “when my spirit was born again”), the part that sits mystically at the right of Jesus (he says “now I am in Christ and can never lose the status of being ‘in Christ’ - not by sin, at least”), and the part that guarantees his salvation. In this life, he can go on sinning, but he believes his spirit will talk to God’s spirit and eventually renew his mind and his flesh and he will be truly walking according to the Spirit.
You have no idea how frustrating it is talking to him about this. “The bible isn’t a book of biology!” I say, and “not all books of the Bible are created equal . . . what Paul says is important but he is not God, therefore, since Jesus never talks about our ‘spirit’ Paul must have just been trying to explain things theologically!” All to no avail. He is convinced that the spirit is the really real part of him, and he thinks that all books of the Bible are equally important (except the OT, which may as well not matter anymore since we are not under the Law in Christ. He actually believes that Jesus’ ministry before his death was incomplete, because, since Jesus ministered in the time of the Old Covenant to those under the Law, what he spoke about does not always apply to Christians since, when he died and rose, a new order was created!! So what Jesus said before he died has to be filtered through our New Covenant lenses and discarded or manipulated as necessary).
This notion of spirit undergirds this man’s entire Christianity, and I cannot even get through the basic teachings of the Catholic church without always coming back to this. Do you have any suggestions or ideas or solutions for this dilemma?? It just seems like so many Protestants aren’t going to hear our basic apologetics because they are operating out of an entirely different worldview! Thanks for your help and God bless your ministry.