Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Comparison of the Old and New Catholic Apologetics

Apologetics is the art of giving reasons for faith. An apology, in the Christian sense, doesn't mean "I'm sorry", but instead means "I can prove that I am right". Many religions do not employ apologetics, though; those that are tied specifically to a ethnicity or nationality have no desire to convert outsiders: those who intermarry into this kind of group are just expected to convert.

Catholics, and many other Christians, claim that Faith and Reason do not contradict each other, for God is the author of both. Interestingly, some religions reject reason, and these are the religions that tend to "convert at the point of a sword". And many Christian denominations reject faith: their reason is purely secular and their religion seems to be just a respectable window dressing. But for most Christians, apologetics has an importance greater than elsewhere in the world.

Here is a table of comparisons between the apologetics used by the Catholic Church before and after the Second Vatican Council. These changes have not only affected the Church, but has influenced Protestants and society as a whole, with great consequence. The old apologetics emphasizes reason in the tradition of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, while the new apologetics emphasizes the personalism and subjectivism of the whole modern project, which started with Descartes.

A comparison of the Old and New Catholic Apologetics.

Old ApologeticsNew Apologetics

PhilosophyReason based on objective truth.Impersonal and abstract.Personalistic, appeal to individuals. Theology of the Body.Could lead to subjectivism and relativism.
Reason vs. feelingsIntelligent and respects reason.Can be rationalistic.Appeals to the heart.Could separate heart and reason; emotionalism.
TeachersConcrete, authoritative teachings.Could lead to authoritarianism; priority of authority over reason.Universalistic, lay-run apologetics.Could lead to antinomianism, or to the "cult of the new".
EmphasisSupernaturalistic. Does not dumb-down the faith.Could be seen as irrelevant or not related to the human condition.Holistic, grace perfects nature.Naturalism, secularism.
InstitutionDistinctively Catholic.Arrogance and triumphalism.Humble and ecumenical. Indifferentism, syncretism.
FidelityTrue to the Faith without compromise.Legalism.A growing and living Faith.Dissent (heresy); tends to view others as reactionaries.
TrinitarianismTheocentric. God Centered.Ignores man.Christocentric.Emphasis on man, perhaps even opposed to God.

The structure of this table is derived from lectures given by Peter Kreeft.

It seems that many of our contemporary problems in the Church can be blamed directly on this New Apologetics: emotion and feelings ruling action, widespread heresy, the thought that all religions are the same, the loss of morality, pantheism, Gnosticism, and an endless stream of error all seem to derive from this change. And it seems to have emptied our churches, rectories, monasteries, and convents, in favor of Fundamentalism, the numerous "nondenominational" big-box churches, and various New-Age cults. And mainly, many former Catholics now live secular, immoral lives.

However, there is another another trend that comes from the New Apologetics: mainstream liturgical churches, such as Methodists, Anglicans, and Lutherans, and even some Pentecostals, are quickly converging back into the Catholic fold, rediscovering tradition and catholicity. The use of the Rosary by Protestants is remarkable and until recently, unthinkable. The people that are coming back are of good will, have solid faith, and recognize their roots. For many, the Church is no longer the enemy, but is seen as the only major institution that still stands for faith and virtue. This type of solid ecumenism was unheard of in the past. Even some Orthodox are reconsidering the need for formal unity. The Church has made common cause with other religions, particularly those who value morality and a society that is good. This has been done by reference to the rationality of the Old Apologetics, but with the New Apologetic style.

We live in remarkable times. The alliances in the war are shifting.

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