Why are Apologetics and Debate Necessary?

Does it change minds?
Seriously, give me your reasons.


Read the conversion story of Scott Hahn or Steve Ray. Both of them set out to prove the Catholic Church wrong once and for all.

Both became Catholics as a result of their deeper study of the issues.

Sometimes people need to know WHY we believe what we believe.

My purpose is to sort of play devil’s advocate. :wink:
So I’ll bite.
If the purpose of debate is to convince, then is there also a cross-effect of debate? People dig their heels in deeper and find new reasons for their positions. Happens on both sides, Catholic and Protestant. People get angry too, which we’ve seen numerous times on this forum. If they feel they are losing a debate, the claws come out. NCR used to be populated with tons of Mormons, now it’s rare to find one.

My purpose in apologetics is not debate or to convince. My purpose is to present what the Church really teaches in order to correct misconceptions. I leave it to the Holy Spirit to convince. I don’t think debate is necessary but being able to give an answer for what one believes, while not absolutely necessary, is helpful in bringing people into the Church.

When I discuss, defend etc my faith, it causes me to take a deep look at it, and really come to terms and own what I believe.

I’m in these discussions for selfish reasons.

I agree, most of the time you aren’t going to convince the person you are debating that Catholicism is true.

But debates are helpful for the person watching who might be on the fence. They are able to hear the best argument each side has for their belief. I know William Lane Craig says when he debates an atheist, he’s not expecting to change the atheist’s mind, but the audience member who really is searching for the truth. That’s where I think debates are the most useful.

I wouldn’t be Catholic without it. It was the rigorous apologetics and debate on here and many other sources that answered my questions about the faith. I saw that the Catholic faith answered every question, welcomed every question, and lined up best with the truth.

Without the debate and seeing both sides of the argument, I was able to see the truth.

Of course many people do dig their heels in, but we have to hope that eventually they soften their hearts and join the Church.

I find that rarely can you convince. But still, apologetics is necessary, because it can plant seeds. You will never likely see the fruits of your labour in this life, but who’s to say that God won’t water those seeds in due time?

I myself was on the verge of slipping away from the Church when good apologetics got me back on track.

Of course.

But consider this: folks like to feel that they “have it all figured out” and that their belief systems explain everything, right? That desire actually sets up opportunities for conversion, because if they are confronted with that one fact, that one question that nags at them…that they can’t explain or get out of their minds…they dig and dig for the answer eventually finding that the Catholic Church is legit.

In the case of my friend, he couldn’t let go of the 30,000 Protestant denominations problem.

Say what we will about the actual number, it was recognition of the idea that there shouldn’t have been any number greater than one that eventually cleared the way for him to re-consider Catholicism.

I too believe in explaining but not arguing about the Faith, because St Peter tells us we should be ready to do so :slight_smile: Sites like this a great for learning not only the facts but seeing how others present them.

I just came across this example a moment ago:

As an M.Div. student at Westminster Theological Seminary I was asked to write an essay on the development of the papacy from a Roman Catholic perspective. It seemed like a waste of time. I knew that it would be a circular argument based on Tradition, which of course I did not accept as an authority alongside Scripture. So I quickly gathered some sources to bang out a response. **As I skimmed some texts, I was stopped in my tracks. The arguments were cogent, even compelling. **It was like a hush came over that library carrel. A door was opened that day. I still could never see myself becoming a Roman Catholic, but I had a new respect for the Catholic Church. And I was willing to learn more.

Fr. Scharbach is now a Catholic priest.


Does the Center Hold? The Story of Fr. Albert Scharbach’s Journey from Westminster Theological Seminary to Catholic Priest

I think its important for Catholics also. There’s various degrees of understanding and it just can’t but help.

The apologetic debates on CAF seem more oriented toward extreme positions that don’t reflect current religious relationships. I see very little benefit and wonder why some posters bother to post replies, especially those who overtly degrade and distort the Christian faith of others. Maybe this is a problem with CAF because I don’t encounter this same level of animosity on other religious forums.

I’ll add my testimony to this thread.

My husband and I were faithful and uber-involved Evangelical Protestants for the first four decades of our lives.

Then we were kicked out of our Evangelical Free Church for a trumped-up reason. (The accuser was fired for lying a year after we were ousted.) There was a tribunal, consisting of many church officials who didn’t know us and had never met us. We were asked to leave. It was horrific, and for almost two years, I refused to read the Bible because that tribunal used the Bible to “prove” their case against us. I saw for myself how the Scriptures alone can be twisted to mean almost anything, and as I was leaving that church (we ran across the parking lot to get to the safety of our car), I had a vision of a gigantic Bible shearing into pieces like a giant slab of mica.

For several months, we had nothing. All our lives had been spent in church or at home doing preparation for church activities. We had never seen Wednesday evening television.

Then one Saturday evening, I told my husband that I was going to the Catholic Mass in the church up the road from our house. I knew that the Bible said that Christians are not supposed to forsake assembling themselves together, and I believed that Catholics were real Christians. So my husband and I both went to Mass.

It was utterly strange to us . Keep in mind that this is a OF parish built in a contemporary style. The music was contemporary, but we had never heard any of the songs (St. Louis Jesuits, and we like these songs!). The ONLY thing we understood in that Mass was the Lord’s Prayer.

When people say that the OF Mass is “too Protestant,” they are NOT talking about Evangelical Protestantism, which is what the vast majority of Protestants are in the United States. We were completely lost in that Mass.

So we made an appointment to talk to one of the priests and get an explanation of what was going on in the Mass. He kindly explained the various parts of the Mass, and then recommended that we join the parish’s Apologetics Class.

That class was the reason why we and several others converted to Catholicism. The Holy Spirit was able to use the various apologies taught in the class to convince both my husband and I that the Catholic Church is THE Church that Jesus Christ established.

It took three years, but we converted, and have continued to love and honor the Catholic Church.

So yes, yes YES, Apologetics and Debate are NECESSARY. Evangelical Protestants are taught the Bible from the very earliest days of their lives (even in the womb!). They KNOW that Bible–do not buy the silly argument that some Catholics give that Evangelical Protestants only know a small number of Bible verses. That isn’t true! Many of us Evangelical Protestants have memorized entire books of the Bible, and most of us have done Bible studies on almost every book in the Bible. We KNOW that Bible backwards and forwards, and we KNOW all the Evangelical Protestant theologies that are supposedly “Biblical.”

So the apologetics and debates are necessary for Evangelical Protestants (the majority of Protestants in the U.S.) to understand what Catholicism is.

The Holy Spirit can certainly convict people without any apologetics, but God works THROUGH people, not around them. E.g., He chose to become a human being through a real live mother, not by just “materializing” as a human being. And He chooses to send missionaries and pastors to do the evangelizing, rather than just “convincing people through their own thoughts.” (He COULD do that! But He doesn’t.)

He uses US to do His work, and He chooses apologists and teachers to teach about His Church rather than just teaching us directly through our thoughts.

You mean the thousands of protestant sights whos sole goal is to devalue the Catholic faith to promote their own?

You know, honestly, I think you make a good point. But I don’t think honestly is an issue. It may be unfounded and illogical but still honest. But your right maybe all protestant groups ought to teach their own take on faith, and avoid their view on Catholics? Course this is where one states they are “catholic” and the Catholics are wrong.

Other forums are somewhat different and somewhat restrictive in areas of faith. We spoke of this here and I see no reason to show by proof examples to prove my point and critique other forums or specifics of their faith. Easily one can google just about any Christian sight and you’ll hear what they don’t believe about the Catholic Church.

However, that said, I don’t see this as altogether wrong. If its limited to the points and the unwarrented comments and conversation is avoided then why is it people can’t search for the key of their own denial should they remain charitable and honest?

I think that’s just the nature of the internet, it attracts extremes. Let’s face it, the occasional wide-eyed fundamentalist or rad-trad Catholic are far more entertaining than “normal” posters. They don’t last long because they have no clue how to debate and when confronted they overturn the chess board and walk away, or the mod makes them go away.
But I’m talking about those here who are perfectly capable of mature debate and discussion.
How does it help? Does it change minds?

Let’s be honest with one another, nobody “debates” with any effect by intentionally demeaning and distorting the faith of others. Does one really think that there is some value or benefit in that? And how can one reach out to others and justify “debate” when using vitriolic and provocative put downs? It is clearly a competition for a number of Catholic posters on CAF even though their approach is so contrary to how the Pope expects Christians to interact with others.

As a Lutheran who reads the endless and often incriminating attacks on Luther and Lutherans on CAF there is no choice but to seek web forums that don’t, in-fact, allow this type of discourse. The irony of being ecumenically-inclined on this forum is that it is pointless and discouraging.

There may, in-fact, be more offensive website forums that, all-the-more reflect the worse instincts among some Christians.

A read of the “Which Church?” thread illustrates my point:

My time in these forums has given me a clearer understanding about the doctrines of not only the Catholic faith but also the perspective of many Protestants.

I have appreciated those who have posted respectfully in answer to one another and to those who have done so with my questions and comments as well.

I came here specifically to find out what the early Church Fathers taught and what I’ve learned has made me spend time reading their writings.

What I’m learning does not change the fact that I know that Jesus died on the cross and rose again and promised that He will come back for us. While that has NOT changed how my walk with Him is changing.

Thanks to all for these debates!

That 's an excellent point . I have found the more I debated a topic, such as baptism, Peter or the Magisterium, I grew deeper in my theological and scriptural understanding of the subject.

I wanted to use this thread as an opportunity to address this.
Mods walk a fine line in debates, we don’t want to interfere, because that drives people away. At the same time we have to keep a handle on people who simply do not know how to debate properly. To some extent we rely on posters to ‘self moderate’, which is what you are doing when you call out someone on their harsh style. As long as you are doing that, we stay out of it.
Some posters want the mods to sort of ‘silence the opposition’ to help them in debates. Both sides do this, and it only becomes a problem when they fill up the complaint board. We get accused by both sides of favoring the other, that’s the territory.
Debate and apologetics are like being in a boxing ring. It’s not about your strength, it’s not about how ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ you think you are, it’s about how you perform in the ring. If you go in swinging your fists, you’ll get creamed by the more skillful opponent. If you feel you are starting to lose a debate, that doesn’t mean you get a folding chair from the stands and crack someone over the head. :eek:
Most posters on NCR, Catholic or otherwise do a good job and respect one another. But don’t blame your bad boxing skills on the referee. :wink:

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