Thoughts on Catholic Apologetic Works


#1

I just finished yet another Catholic apologetics book, Home Sweet Rome. In my oponion, it is very well-written and has some excellent insights into Catholic doctrine. It poses challenging questions to Protestants, and it is indeed a book that will benefit many who desire to know the truth of Catholicism.

In reading this book I have noticed several similiarities with other Catholic apologetic works that I alo have recently read, such as Four Witnesses, Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic and Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism. While the similiarities I list are not necessarily bad, I do have some concerns, at least concerning what is portrayed, how it is portrayed, and what is omitted.

  1. Protestant beliefs simplified and not fully represented.

It is understandable that a Catholic apologetics book should explain Catholic belief more than Protestant belief. However, when the books mention Protestant beliefs they seem to do so only in a cursory way–and often use generalizations to which I would imagine many evangelicals object. Oftentimes I read about a past conversation between the Catholic author and an heavy-weight evangelical scholar; and would you know it, the evangelical scholar is always presented as acknowledgly being on the losing side of the argument, or is left speechless by his Catholic adversary. Somehow I think that arguments are presented a little too simplistically, and that there really is more basis for (however ultimately unfounded) and thought put into, evangelical beliefs.

  1. Roman Catholic **v. Orthodox not covered well enough. **

I can understand that a Catholic apologetics book has two primary audiences: Catholics and those non-Catholics who might come to better understand Catholicism and possibly convert to it by reading the book. Since a large portion of the people who become Roman Catholics by choice are evangelicals, the focus of the average apologetics work is on the relationships and differences between evangelical churches and the Roman Catholic Church.


#2

(continued from above post)

However, I think that if someone is looking for truth, the Orthodox should be better represented in these books. So it is shown that the evangelical beliefs for the most part have no basis in Scripture. If the evangelical churches are proven wrong, does that prove the Roman Catholic Church right? In most of the books I read the tendency is to turn to Rome once one sees problems with evangelical beliefs. What about the Orthodox Church? Scott says about two paragraphs about his research into the Orthodox Church. I don’t remember how much Currie spends on the matter. Not a whole lot of words. Overall I wish Catholic apologists would spend much more time in their books on the Photian controversy in particular and the Great Eastern Schism in general, since these strongly affect our understanding of which church remained in conformation with ancient Tradition, and therefore remains the Church.

  1. Making decisions without more varied study and questioning the ways and means by which one comes to understand truth.

This is highly tied in with the last two points. Although I’m sure that the ex-Catholic apologists conducted a serious and varied search for truth, this fact generally does not come out clearly in the books. Generally I get the sense that the authors used primarily Roman Catholic books when searching for the truth (as when Hahn purchases the library of a closed Catholic seminary). I do not get the impression that they fully considered Orthodox or other non-Catholic, non-evangelical sources. I feel that their search for the truth was done with “Western” works alone and with a Western mentality, to the exclusion of other works and ways of thinking about the Christian faith. In short, I instinctively feel as though something in the writers’ search for truth has been overlooked.

Anyhow, these are just some similiarities I’ve noticed in the Catholic apologetic works I’ve read. I believe that all the books above listed are published by Ignatius Press. I hope that you don’t get the impression that I think these are bad books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them, especially *Four Witnesses, *which is an exceptionally well-narrated work. I am just curious if others reacted the same way as I did to some peculiarities of the works that I believe can be done away with or improved.

Any comments would be great :slight_smile:


#3

Madaglan,

For a pretty in depth look at Catholic vs. Protestant, I would suggest Robert Sungenis’ three book series (I think the titles below are correct):
Not By Faith Alone
Not By Scripture Alone
Not By Bread Alone

They are a little more in depth than say the Home Sweet Rome book you recently finished.

Sincerely,

BD


#4

I agree with some of the points you make.

I don’t like it when people paraphrase a complex doctrine or belief of their opponent. It may be necessary because of space restraints, but generously quoting an opponent is preferable.

Anecdotes that describe some exchange that occurred in the past aren’t very helpful either. At best they simply prove that that particular person didn’t have a very good argument.

The worse out of all of them, though, is the ‘illustrative’ dialogue or scenario. It’s just too difficult to convincingly do a dialogue without minimizing your opponent’s arguments or, at worse, making them look stupid.

Anyhow, that’s just my opinion. :thumbsup:


#5

I cannot speak for the converts who wrote the books, but I do know when many people convert, the other rites in Catholicism and the Orthodox are usually not on people’s radar screens. So they just think in terms of the western half of the Church (not even knowing it is “half”), and they don’t consider the Orthodox either. I didn’t really even know there was an Orthodox Church when I converted, much less rites.

So if the authors of the books are doing a historical presentation of how they converted, I suspect those subjects will get small treatment because either they didn’t think much about it as they converted or they expect their audience won’t think much about it so they omit it for space.


#6

Interesting points. I’ve only read Home Sweet Rome, so I can’t comment on the others.

If it’s a conversion story, they are telling their story. So, I think your complaint that Scott Hahn didn’t spend enough time on the Orthodox Church is kind of like asking Anne Frank why she didn’t write about the experience of WWII Jews in France. He was obviously drawn in his research to the Roman/Latin Rite - who knows why? My guess is it’s because his own Faith before conversion, Presbyterian (mine too), was a result of the Reformation - a split from Rome.

Maybe a conversion story of someone from Orthodox to Latin Rite or Orthodox to Eastern Rite would cover those differences.

Just my :twocents:

God Bless,

Robert.


#7

Originally Quoted by rlg94086:

If it’s a conversion story, they are telling their story. So, I think your complaint that Scott Hahn didn’t spend enough time on the Orthodox Church is kind of like asking Anne Frank why she didn’t write about the experience of WWII Jews in France. He was obviously drawn in his research to the Roman/Latin Rite - who knows why? My guess is it’s because his own Faith before conversion, Presbyterian (mine too), was a result of the Reformation - a split from Rome.

You’re right: It is *their *story of conversion. And for this reason I can understand why they might not include the Orthodox or any other Christian faith of the East.

I just am a little concerned that their conversion story might lead others to convert without first looking at all the different Christian faiths, what they teach, and how valid is each faith’s claim to truth. Many of these conversion stories are a story of one’s journey of finding truth, which each author ultimately finds in the Catholic Church. I just think that since the story really involves a discernment of truth, that all major Christian faiths should be represented. Then again, that’s ideal, not necessarily practical for publication.

I understand where you’re coming from though.


#8

[quote=Madaglan]You’re right: It is *their *story of conversion. And for this reason I can understand why they might not include the Orthodox or any other Christian faith of the East.

I just am a little concerned that their conversion story might lead others to convert without first looking at all the different Christian faiths, what they teach, and how valid is each faith’s claim to truth. Many of these conversion stories are a story of one’s journey of finding truth, which each author ultimately finds in the Catholic Church. I just think that since the story really involves a discernment of truth, that all major Christian faiths should be represented. Then again, that’s ideal, not necessarily practical for publication.

I understand where you’re coming from though.
[/quote]

Conversion stories like Home Sweet Rome, I believe, are not really meant to be treatises on religious beliefs and doctrines. They don’t possess the thoroughness or theological rigor of papal encyclicals or curial documents, but rather are meant to share with us their personal journeys towards the faith. It was meant to be inspirational rather than instructional.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#9

[quote=Madaglan]You’re right: It is *their *story of conversion. And for this reason I can understand why they might not include the Orthodox or any other Christian faith of the East.

**I just am a little concerned that their conversion story might lead others to convert without first looking at all the different Christian faiths, what they teach, and how valid is each faith’s claim to truth. ** Many of these conversion stories are a story of one’s journey of finding truth, which each author ultimately finds in the Catholic Church. **I just think that since the story really involves a discernment of truth, that all major Christian faiths should be represented. ** Then again, that’s ideal, not necessarily practical for publication.
[/quote]

I think then that you are looking for a book about comparative religion, rather that a conversion story or work of apologetics. They are different things.


#10

Originally Quoted by Fidelis:

I think then that you are looking for a book about comparative religion, rather that a conversion story or work of apologetics. They are different things.

Yes, perhaps you are correct. I think I’ll take a look at some of Sungenis’ books. :yup:


#11

Has anyone searched Scott Hahn’s biblical website to see if there are any articles on Orthodoxy? (salvationhistory.com)

I remember that the subject was covered on the Kris Franklin interview on Journeys Home (EWTN). She was a Protestant missionary in a Latin country; her story is in Surprised by Truth 2.

I considered Orthodoxy, but not for long. My reasons for rejecting it are on the thread by that title. The Orthodox approval of contraception, of divorce and remarriage, and the ethnic and political divisions were enough to turn me away. They need a Pope.

Personally, I don’t see why converts to Catholicism have any obligation to say anything about Orthodoxy – either publicly or privately – whether they considered it or not. If one is convinced of the necessity of the petrine ministry, and I and all converts to the Catholic Church (presumably) are, Orthodoxy is out of the picture.

JMJ Jay


#12

Conversion stories are not meant to take on each theological issue in great detail that is for in depht apologetic books like Sugenis works.

Conversion stories like Hahn’s or the Suprised by Truth series are more personal stories that touch on theology and give reasonble reason but not a treatise. I mean how in the world could you read something like that as a conversion story? I would fall asleep.
Conversion stories strength is the personal story they have to tell it should lead one to look at the issues they touch upon more in depth but that is the objective touching on the issues not a novel on debates verses catholicism and protestantism.
The Orthodox and Catholic argument is not as clearly defined as the Catholic and Protestant one because I think they agree on most major issues and Orthodox over-blow the differences between the two communions. In the end the debate on that is the Papacy in addition to that in many parts of the country Orthodoxy isn’t an option as there are sometimes few Orthodox churches in Red State America. Plus the xenophobia turns off many when they visit these churches and have many on the Catholic/orthodox question falling on the side of Rome because if one is not Greek or Russian you feel like a gentile going to the synagogue your just not Greek or Russian enough to be Orthodox.


#13

want some really deep apologetics work that doesn’t cut corners one bit, try out the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas.

might take you a little while to read, hehehe.


#14

I am also seeking a greater understanding of the differences between Eastern Rite Catholicism and Orthodox churches. I feel like a moron, but I only recently learend that the two are separate entities. Part of the reason, was that where I grew up, I found it a challenge to locate even a Roman Catholic church. I have never visited an Eastern Rite Catholic church, and I erroneosuly thought the division was Roman Catholic or Orthodox; largely because my mother too had a (false) understanding that Roman Catholic was “the only official” Catholic church. Her parents were a first generation from Polish immigrants, and thought that other Cathlic churches were independent (like the Polish Catholic church) and did not know that such a variety existed in communion with Rome.

It wasn’t until a few years agao, while working on relief programs for conflict zones, that I came into contact with people who were raised Maronite, and asked my mother how are these people Catholic too (okay, I should have asked a priest, but my instinct still says to me make a fool of yourself in front of mom first and then if she can’t answer your question, make a fool in front of others), that I began to learn more about the “left lung of Catholicism.”


#15

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