REFLECTION: Apologetics for intellectuals PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 15:02

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

The first time I heard the word, apologetics, I thought it had to do with saying sorry over something. Thus, I was surprised when I learned ages ago that it actually means “the branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.”

I imagine it’s a theology that needs to be given all the time. Nowadays, it is even urgent. Christian faith, in a way, is under heavy and constant attack by intellectuals whose attitude toward the faith seems to be restricted in the confines of reason, intuition and gut feel alone. The impulses of the spiritual and supernatural are systematically rejected.
Of course, I am happy that basic catechesis continues to be given in many places. In Bohol right now, for example, a new catechism that attempts to bring the loftiness of Christian doctrine to the local culture has just been produced. This, to me, is a moving development.

But with the Internet, I get to have a good idea of the range of views and opinions in this regard, and, oh, how vast, complicated, exciting and challenging they can be! They are in the blogs where the comments can be lurid. Or in newspapers, like the New York Times, where the language can be educated, the arguments well-studied and persuasive.

Thus, if one is not strong in the faith, or would not know how to defend what he believes, then he can easily get lost and can fall into many possible scenarios—like losing his faith or falling into skepticism, relativism, agnosticism, atheism, cynicism, etc.

At best, he can just get satisfied with the sensation of cruising through life, opening himself to anything, and simply depending on human consensus arrived at from purely human and natural sources—biological, emotional, economic, social, political, etc.

This seems to be the current mindset, with many people saying it’s the best since it is the most “democratic.” It does not brand people according to some creed or ideology that, they say, often lead people to extreme, ridiculous positions. It fosters “openness” and a “sportive” outlook in life.

Sorry that I have to put those terms in quotes, since I have serious misgivings about describing that mindset that way. In fact, I believe, it is a mentality that is undemocratic, closed and unsportive. But this will take a long explanation that cannot fit in this article. We can tackle it some other time.

We have to unleash the full force of apologetics that would basically use reason to prove the reasonability of faith in our life. That’s how I understand apologetics. Our intellectuals are so attached to reason that any reference to faith is met with immediate scorn. We have to disabuse them from that trap, doing it with utmost delicacy, respect and gentleness.

The reasonability of faith can be proven in many, in fact, endless, ways. In the first place, because reason in itself is always in search for a firm foundation and a sure goal. By itself, it is incomplete, always under tension, restless, reminding us of what St. Augustine once said: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you, Lord.”

By itself, reason can just spin and spin, and without any clear foundation and purpose, it can spin out of control, then fall into an anomalous, irregular condition similar to a sickness. It can even enter into a state of invincible error where its pitiable state is considered correct, healthy, most human, etc.

Of course, we have to understand that apologetics should not just be an intellectual exercise. It has to be done and developed in the context always of prayer, sacrifice, interior struggle, recourse to the sacraments, etc.

The success of apologetics, for sure, will not just be a matter of intellectual enlightenment. It will require a conversion of heart for both the giver and receiver. And so, we just have to be generous in developing our spiritual life.

How could we ever convince a deep skeptic if we just use reason alone? Here, I’d like to remit a comment of a usual reactor to my views, to give us an idea of how complicated a skeptic’s mind works.

“One million planets the size of earth could fit inside the sun. The sun itself is no big giant. There are existing stars bigger than our sun.
“To think that on this speck of dust called earth, God created man in his own image and likeness...Could anything be more terrestrially ludicrous, if not celestially ridiculous?”