December 23rd, 2019
I was talking with a friend of mine who has recently retired. He was an civil engineer early in his life, and then he became a physician. Now he is trying to find a new path and purpose.
I asked him what he wanted to do. My friend said,
“I think I want to write Christian apologetics. I want to prove that Christianity is better than, say, Judaism or Islam.”
That put me into the devil’s advocate mode.
“So, how exactly are you going to do that? Based on my experience, Christians are not more ethical than anybody else.”
He replied, “That doesn’t matter. The truth is the truth. It’s like with a motor. Just because some of the motors don’t run well doesn’t mean that the design is wrong.”
I hate this kind of conversation.
I probably should have asked my friend who his target audience would be. Was he hoping to sway people who are not part of the Church? Most works of Christian apologetics are read solely by Christians. I told my friend that it sounded like he was trying to convince people who are already convinced. I could be wrong, but clever religious arguments don’t convert anybody. Actions do.
There is a quote from Tertullian, an early Christian apologist. He said,
“See how these Christians love one another.”
That’s the key. An outsider is not likely to read about Christianity on a whim. However, a non-believer may show some curiosity about the faith if he or she comes into contact with Christians who actually live the Gospel message. Such people do exist, and their lives speak more loudly than intellectual arguments. Think of Francis of Assisi.
I have read religious books by Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I read their books because I am impressed by their lives. Their words and actions totally matched. I would much rather read something from a person like that than I would read something from, say, Joel Osteen.
Faith is a gift, It is fundamentally intuitive. “Proofs” about Christianity are only effective if a person has already accepted a few key assumptions. A person needs to believe that there is a God, and that this deity is good, loving, and accessible. The physical evidence for all of that is ambiguous. We all live on the same planet, and yet we have billions of different ideas about God. We can all agree that gravity exists, but we differ concerning the reality of God.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I will go to Mass in the evening, and profess my belief that God came to earth in the form of a baby two thousand years ago. Does that make any rational sense? Probably not. However, it feels right. It feels very right. I’ll go with my gut.
There is a quote from Stuart Chase:
“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
I wish my friend good luck with his writing.