The Perils of Apologetics

I find much of contemporary apologetics embarrassing. It too often quickly goes from proof-texting to name-calling. I know Steve Ray to be a nice guy, but here and here something happened. Read his comments (and the lengthy comment he posted each time he deleted someone’s comments) and this lengthier response. Steve’s normally a genial apologist; his videos are well-done, and show him as a nice guy you’d want for a neighbor. But something happened here.

His argument defending the Assumption and Queenship of Mary is basically this: Catholics accept both Scripture and Tradition as authoritative; Catholics know of the Assumption and Queenship through Tradition; Catholics can then look back at Scripture and find examples that Catholics can see as types of the role they ascribe to Mary (e.g., the Queen Mother of ancient Judah). A Catholic apologist needs to realize that Protestants aren’t going to buy this, since they don’t accept the first premise. And usually Steve would do this.

But when you get caught up in the heat of battle, it is easy to lose perspective, and one’s cool. It happens to Catholics and Protestants. Can we all learn to do apologetics without apology …?

On one of the questions raised by Ray, the “Queen Mother” in Israel, is it possible for Protestants and Catholics to have a civil discussion? I think so. Consider this article: Niels-Erik Andreasen, “The Role of the Queen Mother in Israelite Society,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45 (1983) 179-94. It’s a Catholic journal … and the author is a leading Seventh-day Adventist theologian, currently serving as president of Andrews University.

Now, is Niels-Erik going to run off and accept the Assumption and Queenship of Mary? No, because he doesn’t accept the authoritative nature of Catholic tradition. That’s the key here. When I accepted the Catholic tradition as authoritative, I accepted (and defended) many things taught solely by that tradition. When my confidence in it fell, I needed a more solid foundation.

Since Catholics and Protestants both accept Scripture as divinely inspired and authoritative, Catholics really shouldn’t be offended when Protestants say, “Don’t just appeal to your own private authority; base your argument on that authority we share.”

4 thoughts on “The Perils of Apologetics

  1. Bill:

    Sorry you took offense at my response about the Assumption. Please understand two things: 1) there is a history here that many may not be aware of; 2) often skirmishes take place not with the opponent in mind, but with the faithful in mind– for those who are sometimes intimidated and bullied.
    By the way, you look familiar, as is your name. Have we met.

  2. Hi Steve, yes, we’ve met, when you were in Houston once. And you have a good point with #2, we do speak differently when we are rallying the troops as opposed to when we are speaking to “the opposition.” Here’s a Jewish example, from a rabbi friend of mine; it is a page written for Jews who may be targeted by Christians, and is different from the approach he takes when he’s speaking to a Christian audience.

  3. I have seen some exasperations on both parties. In one fundamentalist blog I saw, RCs are banned, in Ray’s blog, Prots are banned, fair enough.

    I find no value in interacting with Catholic e-apologists as a rule….simply because they do not speak for the Magisterium.

    Their opinions do not count cause the real interpreters of the Magisterium is the Magisterium itself.


  4. Can I clarify something [someone] said which is NOT the case. … I do not ban Protestants from my blog. There are many who have posted messages and they are welcome. I DO ban rude people and those who post endless questions and arguments. However, these people are welcome on my Message Board which is a better forum for such discussion. I provide two forums, each for very different purposes.

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