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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Debating Catholics - Part 1

A number of years ago, on a now defunct blog, I posted an entry on the topic of debating Catholics. It was born out of numerous frustrating conversations with Catholics in regard to their faith. If it is not known, I am a former Catholic. I was very devout. I was educated in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under the auspices of John Cardinal Krol. I went on to be be active in high school, college and eventually serving as an acolyte and Religious Education teacher and youth conference speaker.

I do not list these things to present myself as an expert, but rather to show that my knowledge of both the doctrines and culture of the Catholic Church (CC) come, in part, from inside. I also readily note that my experiences in the CC were almost universally positive. I have very fond memories of my years in a CC school: serving as an altar boy, being active in the youth group and as part of the Newman Center in college. Certainly, personal relationships with Catholic family and friends was overwhelmingly positive.

But positive doesn’t make something true nor does it negate the realities of Catholic doctrine.

Remember, something isn't true merely because it is old; or because it is held by many people; or because it is declared by some ecclesiastical body.

Obviously, on a blog, I will not be dissecting 1500 years of Catholic dogmas, decrees and declarations (only as appropriate in context of my topic). To be sure, although educated as a Catholic in a conservative Catholic parish and after serving as an altar boy, acolyte and Religious Education teacher and youth leader, I can safely say I have learned more about the bulls, encyclicals and catechisms (etc.) of the Catholic Church after leaving her. (In my debates I use only Catholic sources when possible.) It is my experience that most Catholics are wholly unfamiliar with their own history or with the teachings of their own church..

I have found over the last quarter century that most of my efforts among Catholics have been mostly fruitless, although not completely so (and who knows what the Lord may have done with any seed sewn?). I turned my attention to teaching the individual responsibility of all men to seek truth for themselves, with a prayerful and honest heart. And that applies to those within and without Christendom.

But lately it has been impressed upon me that I need to renew my warning to those who may want to engage Catholics in discussion or debate. This will serve as simply a warning as to what you are up against (and what the strategy of the greater CC is). It is a gigantic (monstrous?) entity which appears unknowable, mysterious and complex. However, many of its doctrines were so clearly declared by Popes and Councils that we need not get caught up in the purposefully complex debate in which many Catholics want to engage. Trying the explain the clear with the complex is a fool’s errand.

Before moving on, I would suggest to those who feel insufficient either in their grasp of the totality of scripture or the vastness of the dogmas of Rome, that you teach and live grace. The centrality of the cross and the resurrection is the starting point of all true faith. From there, one can only add or subtract from the accomplished work of God himself. And, when understood, all “adding” is merely “subtracting” from his glorious gift and his all-sufficient work. In short, it is prideful blasphemy.

We rest on the only foundation which can be laid, because there is only one sacrifice for sin (complete and eternal).
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
-1 Cor 3:11
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
-Hebrews 10:9-14

In Part 2 I will briefly list the type of arguments you will probably see. Again, I will not be exhaustively refuting them, rather I will be alerting you to the methodology of most of the Catholics you will encounter. As with all witnessing, if you can see only argument and no seeking, prepare to  shake the dust from your feet and move on.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.
-Titus 3:9
When someone starts to contradict one of his own core premises in order to salvage a pronounced conclusion, such a one probably has no interest in truth, only in argument. 

From such, turn away. 
Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
-2 Tim 3:5
Part 2 can be read HERE