Keating's book provides an impressively researched and eminently readable defense of Catholicism against the critical attacks of fundamentalists. The prospective apologist needs thorough preparation, both in answering specific questions and in preparing a stronger general foundation for his own faith. The books discussed in this chapter will transform an average Catholic whose gut feelings are right into one who not only knows the answers to the questions that used to stump him, but now can pass on his newfound learning in a way that others, far more confused than he ever was, can understand. These books are not the only ones worthy of study, of course, but they have proved particularly useful in the specialized task of dealing with fundamentalist attacks on the Catholic religion. In what order these books will be read will depend largely on one's predispositions. Some can be taken up and put down at leisure; reading in snatches is quite sufficient.
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Keating's book provides an impressively researched and eminently readable defense of Catholicism against the critical attacks of fundamentalists. The prospective apologist needs thorough preparation, both in answering specific questions and in preparing a stronger general foundation for his own faith. The books discussed in this chapter will transform an average Catholic whose gut feelings are right into one who not only knows the answers to the questions that used to stump him, but now can pass on his newfound learning in a way that others, far more confused than he ever was, can understand.
These books are not the only ones worthy of study, of course, but they have proved particularly useful in the specialized task of dealing with fundamentalist attacks on the Catholic religion. In what order these books will be read will depend largely on one's predispositions. Some can be taken up and put down at leisure; reading in snatches is quite sufficient. Others need to be read in a more sustained fashion not in one evening necessarily, assuming that is even possible for people not afflicted with insomnia, but over a short period of time.
One needs to set aside time daily so the first chapter is not forgotten by the time the last is reached. Just as the story line can be lost if one puts down a novel for any length of time, so the overall picture some of these books were designed to give will not be apprehended if one dallies in reading them.
Some of the material will have to be gone over more than once you will want to read some things several times, just for your own enjoyment and even then, after all this work, you will still need access to other, more detailed works, such as the Catholic Encyclopedia the preferred edition, available through Catholic used-book dealers or the New Catholic Encyclopedia edition, inferior in coverage but adequate.
The Catholic unsure of his intellectual stamina should not be scared off. He does not have to try to devour the whole pie. Much good can be done, both for oneself and for non-Catholics, by getting the basics, by reading only the key works.
Anyone who would read the whole of an encyclopedia is an undiscriminating pedant and would never make it as an apologist! Keep in mind that it is not enough to have absorbed general overviews of Catholicism, however good they might be. That will not prepare you to withstand a barrage of criticism.
You will wilt under the onslaught of specific and often surprising questions, each of which needs to be handled if people confused about the Faith are to have their doubt cleared up.
The trouble is that writers of surveys of Catholicism do not ask tough questions or put you on the spot. That is not their purpose. They presume you are predisposed to the Faith and are seeking to broaden your knowledge generally. That is admirable and necessary, but you can have a general grasp yet be unable to say anything sensible to fundamentalists when they question you, because their questions throw you for a loop.
You will rarely guess correctly how they will phrase their accusations, because your presuppositions are different. It takes a Catholic considerable training and a long tenure in the school of hard knocks to begin to think like a fundamentalist, to pose the kinds of questions fundamentalists pose. To get a feel for what you would be up against, particularly if you want to do apologetics work on a serious basis, you need to see just what fundamentalists say about the Church and in their own words.
Write to anti-Catholic organizations see the Appendix for addresses and request sample literature. Some Catholics hesitate doing this.
They cannot bear giving professional anti-Catholics a penny. They think doing so is almost treasonous. The feeling is understandable, but it is a matter of false scruples. If you were a military commander and your counterpart on the other side had written a book outlining his tactical theories, you would be wise to let him have the royalties and get a copy of his book into your hands as soon as possible.
You would owe it to your cause. So write away for anti-Catholic literature, study it, and learn on which topics you need help, but do not limit yourself to acquiring tracts.
No collection of anti-Catholic material would be complete without a copy of Loraine Boettner's Roman Catholicism. Although a fat hardback, it is cheap, and some fundamentalist and evangelical bookstores carry it at a good discount over the already-low cover price, perhaps a prime reason it has been disseminated so widely. The core of many arguments, historical or otherwise, will be the Bible, and the apologist needs to be at ease with it.
Fundamentalists often work on the principle that the Bible is such a straight-forward book that any literate person can pick it up and, without much trouble, find the correct interpretation of any passage, presuming he has been born again.
Those not reborn, in the fundamentalists' sense of the term, have no guarantee they will arrive at the right understanding. Fundamentalists think the intervening centuries have not made the Bible any more confusing for us than it was for people who lived in New Testament times, and they think that way although they do not realize it because they begin, not with the Bible, but with an accepted set of beliefs, which they then substantiate by searching the Scriptures.
The truth is that the Bible is both an easy and a difficult book. It is easy in its language no jargon or bureaucratese here but it is difficult in that it is not really one book, but six dozen books composed over centuries for a variety of reasons and audiences.
No sacred writer thought, as he sat down with pen and papyrus, that he was adding the nth chapter to a single book in the way that, some years ago, there was a fad among writers of detective stories to compose books each chapter of which was by a different author and was built directly on the chapters preceding.
The New Testament alone has several kinds of writings: four partially overlapping biographies, something at once a history and a travelogue, private letters written to individuals and open ones written to small communities, and an example of a peculiar kind of literature, the apocalyptic. The same goes for the Old Testament, which contains still other kinds of works: law codes, prophetic utterances, poetry, even an extended love song.
The Catholic needs to read the Bible, of course, and to read it regularly, but that is hardly enough. He needs also works that will make up for time lost, that will give him insights that he might reach only after decades of assiduous and prayerful reading of the sacred text, and he needs an appreciation of the background of the Bible, of the kinds of works it contains, and of methods and theories of interpretation.
Only when he has this will his Bible reading turn truly fruitful. The first thing, then, after securing one or more translations of the Bible itself, to buy is a commentary.
Still available from used-book dealers is A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture , 5 published in Britain in and using the Douay-Rheims translation. The editorial committee was headed by Bernard Orchard, and contributors included such men as B. Butler, Thomas Corbishley, C. Martindale, E. Messenger, and Hugh Pope. About a fifth of the original edition was carried over, as were several of the original contributors.
The new edition is superior in some ways for example, it takes into account real advances in biblical scholarship , but it may not appeal to everyone in other ways. As a substitute or supplement one should consider The Jerome Biblical Commentary , 8 first published in and since updated and stocked by most Catholic bookstores. Although this American commentary is not as trustworthy as its British counterparts, it is still worth having, and the orthodox Catholic can skip the more tendentious essays.
After all, when it comes to comments on individual books of the Bible, as distinguished from article giving overviews of the Pentateuch or the life of Christ, there is little room for foolery. In any event, do not be put off by being unable to locate an ideal commentary, since there is no such thing.
Newer than the latest commentaries is William G. Most's Free from All Error. In this book, which is not a replacement for but a fine addition to a commentary, he devotes separate chapters to Genesis, the infancy narratives, apocalyptic books, and wisdom literature. He examines the historical-critical method of scriptural interpretation, the prejudices of form and redaction critics, and how we determine which books are inspired and belong in the Bible and which are not and do not.
It considers the history of exegesis in the ancient, medieval, and modern periods and biblical antiquities, which include sacred places such as the temples of Solomon, Zorobabel, and Herod , sacred persons, sacred rituals, and even sacred seasons, and it closes with a chapter on the geography of the Holy Land.
There are two problems here. First, most of the ecclesiastical history fundamentalists know is wrong, being little more than vague prejudices mixed with scraps of pseudolearning. Few of them, though, have any reason to doubt that what has been handed down to them part of their tradition, in a way is the real story of the Catholic Church. The second volume covers the Old Testament, while the third covers the New. Each book of the Bible is considered, but not in the manner of a commentary.
Steinmueller does not use a verse-by-verse approach. Typically, after giving a bibliography, he presents an outline of a book, then devotes a few paragraphs to its author, origin, intended audience, and special aims. In the third volume each book of the New Testament is given more space than could be given in the second volume to each of the Old, and there is a fine analysis of the synoptic problem and a useful, if unhappily too short, life of Christ.
The Sword of the Spirit covers the meaning, inspiration, authors, and canon of the Bible, biblical theology, the history of the Bible, and conflicting views in modern biblical scholarship. It might be read before turning to a commentary or the more daunting Companion. Steinmueller's pages on early English versions of the Bible will be a disappointment to fundamentalists who pick up The Sword of the Spirit , most of them having a sense that the King James Version was the first in English and some of them believing it was in fact the original version , because he shows English translations long predated the Reformation.
Catholics new to the history of the Bible will benefit from this discussion, although for the full story one needs to turn to Hugh Pope's English Versions of the Bible , 12 which examines at greater length than one might think possible all the translations to the twentieth century. Discussed are the class structure, personal cleanliness, arts and science, occupations, the Jewish family, the city of Jerusalem, and much more, in a text the cover blurb rightly calls a masterful synthesis of the complex array of the economic, political, and cultural currents of the pivotal era of human history.
It is the kind of book the apologist will want to reach for when his discussions with fundamentalists involve interpreting Scripture in light of its own time.
Fundamentalists do not argue against the Church merely from Scripture, limiting themselves to events of the first century. They also decry later Catholic inventions and what they consider to be the universally sorry history of the universal Church. The more knowledgeable among them bring up specific historical points the Inquisition, the bad Popes, abuses leading up to the Reformation and expect Catholics to be able to explain how such enormities could proceed from the Church Christ established.
The second problem is that, although some of the history they have is accurate, at least in the bare sense of dates and names, they have no grasp of what that history means. Their basic problem, of course, is that their own religion is frozen in apostolic times. They fail to see that the true Faith may alter its appearance, although not its content, as the centuries pass, and that later events can shed light on earlier, just as the New Testament allows a deeper appreciation of the Old; and they forget, it seems, that Christianity, although not of the world, is certainly in it.
From decades of refusing to examine events with a critical mind, their instincts have become antihistorical. Fundamentalists rightly note that priestly celibacy became mandatory only in the Middle Ages, but they have no feel for the process leading up to the rule and so conclude it was instituted out of the blue.
They know Constantine legalized Christianity in and they have been told his Edict of Milan precipitated the rise of the Catholic Church, but they know little of the shape of Christianity in the years immediately preceding or following Constantine's rule. They envision distinctively Catholic practices, such as auricular confession and the use of Latin, as popping out of nowhere, and this bothers them no end as it should, if their historical outlook were true. The only way to overcome these stumbling blocks and that is just what so much of Catholicism is when not understood in itself is for the Catholic apologist to be able to take each historical question and find an answer, putting the issue in context, first showing what really happened, then integrating the facts with what his fundamentalist questioner already knows, thus giving him the broad picture.
This can cause endless headaches, of course, and sometimes it is either impossible or not worth trying to accomplish, but often it is crucial. Most fundamentalists embrace only one or two historical squabbles with gusto, and, if their confusions about them can be cleared up and it may take very little effort to do that they will be open to learning about the Faith. They will then be receptive to talk about the other historical complaints they have, the ones on which they do not stake their reputations.
A few fundamentalists have so many questions and know so much that is not so, that one cannot hope to satisfy them, no matter how much homework is done, no matter how many citations are given, no matter how many pages from history texts are photocopied and sent off with explanatory cover letters. A hundred matters can be settled to their grudging satisfaction, but, hydralike, two hundred more will arise. These people can be touched only by grace, not by anything the Catholic apologist can do.
They revel in their confusion and would be lost if they did not have a full bag of complaints concerning the history of the Church.
Yet they are a small minority of fundamentalists, most of whom can be approached on the level of history, most of whom would welcome serious historical discussions which is not to say, by any means, that one needs to be a certified historian to speak with them.
To enter such discussions, whether on the lecture platform, in a Bible-study class, or around the cracker barrel, the Catholic needs, in addition to a thick skin, a good grounding in Church history. He does not need to have on the tip of his tongue an answer to every question, although there are a few standard complaints for which he indeed will have set replies.
He needs to be able to look up answers in handy reference works, ones that are really useful for his purposes.
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Karl Keating defends Catholicism from fundamentalist attacks and explains why fundamentalism has been so successful in converting Romanists. After showing the origins of fundamentalism, he examines The book I read is the abridged edition by Augustine Institute, having pages. I wouldn't give it a 4.
Catholicism and Fundamentalism
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