Thursday, May 11, 2006

Do You Know What An Apologist Does?

An Apologist Doesn't Apologize for the Church's Actions.

An Apologist Defends the Faith of the Catholic Church and its Interpretation of Holy Scripture!

Would You Like to Become a Good Apologist?


John Martignoni at the Bible Christian Society is an apologist and has a free newsletter that gives instructions on how to be a better apologist when you feel called upon to defend the Church when you hear someone say or write something that is incorrect.

John's instruction system makes a lot of sense. He prints a question that he has received; then he explains how a question like that should be handled; and then then he gives his answer. If you would like to be better able to speak confidently about your Catholic faith, why not visit John's web site and subscribe to his newsletter. He also has audio tapes that he will send you for free (he will accept a free will offering, though).

Here is an example of the information he sent in today's newsletter:

Introduction

This email came to me from the folks at EWTN. I am the "official" apologist for Life on the Rock and every so often they send me some of the questions they get in from viewers. The email below is one of those questions. I replied, obviously, but have not yet received a return reply to my email. If I get one in the next few days, that will be Issue #10. If I don't hear from her, I'll run with something else.

Her email is short, so I'm putting it in its entirety at the outset, and then I'll divide it up and put my responses in the gaps.

Challenge/Response/Strategy

Hello,

Thank you for reading my question.

Why doesn't the Catholic Church do the alter call to have people accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior since it says that you must make this declaration to be Born Again?

I see my sister Ellen and her husband going to church Sunday after Sunday with no clue to this...and know that they will not go to Heaven unless they receive the Lord with the prayer and that they must repent from their sin. I have had my sister become saved but haven't been able to approach my brother in law as of yet.

Isn't this absence doing a dis-service to the people?

Thank you...

Karen


Hello Karen!

My name is John Martignoni. I'm the "official apologist" for the Life on the Rock program...which is just a fancy title that means I'm the guy that answers a lot of the questions that come in.

There are a lot of misperceptions and misunderstandings out there about the Catholic Church and Catholic teaching, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to clear up some of them. I'll take your questions one at a time, and I also have a few questions for you that I hope you can answer for me. Your questions will be in typewriter style font:


Strategy: Letting her know up front that there are a lot of misunderstandings and misperceptions about Catholic teaching...and the clear implication being that she's bought into some of them, and that there isn't really a problem with Catholic teaching, when properly understood and practiced.

Also, letting her know that I'm more than happy to answer her questions, but that I've got a few of my own for her. Practicing the "Being (Aw)fensive Without Being (Uh)fensive" strategy...asking questions of the person you're dealing with and getting them to defend their position.

Why doesn't the Catholic Church do the alter call to have people accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior since it says that you must make this declaration to be Born Again?

The Catholic Church does indeed, in a sense, make an altar call at every Mass. When people approach the altar to receive Communion, they are indeed accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, as they accept His body and blood into their bodies. Jesus says in John 6, verses 51 and following, that unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you have no life in you. If you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you will have eternal life He says, and He will raise you up at the last day.

He repeats Himself on this matter like He does nowhere else in Scripture. Catholics take Jesus' words literally...we believe what He says. That is why we believe we receive His actual body and blood during Communion (or the Lord's Supper as you might call it). I won't go into this any further here, but if you have questions on this, please do not hesitate to ask.

My question to you, however, is where does it say that someone must make a declaration in which they "accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior" in order to be Born Again? Nowhere does the Bible say that. In fact, the Bible says that one is born again by being baptized. John 3:3-5 says that unless one is born of water and the Spirit (baptism) one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And it is through water and the Spirit that one is born again. All Catholics, by virtue of their baptism, are Born Again Christians. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that one shouldn't make a declaration of Jesus being their Lord and Savior, but the Bible does not say that one is "born again" by making a verbal declaration of acceptance of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. And, I assume you want to go by what the Bible says don't you?

Strategy: Explaining Catholic teaching using some of her own terminology..."altar call." Whenever you can use the other guy's terminology to explain something about the Catholic Faith, have at it. And, whenever you can, throw in a Scripture verse or two to back up what the Church teaches. And, I usually try to present the verse in a way that I'm assuming it should be obvious to anyone who reads it that it presents exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. For example, John 6...eat my flesh and drink my blood. "Mr. or Ms. Protestant, it's pretty straightforward and obvious that verse teaches exactly what the Catholic Church teaches."

I don't go into John 6 more deeply at this point, because I don't want to overload her. I'm hoping she'll respond and then I can draw this out a little bit, or a lot, more.

So, I answer her question, using her terminology and Scripture, and then I ask her a question based on what she had said. The question basically is, "Where is that in the Bible?" Which is the #1 question Catholics get. We need to ask that question even more often than we hear it. She won't be able to give me an answer, because it's not in the Bible.

I see my sister and her husband going to church Sunday after Sunday with no clue to this...and know that they will not go to Heaven unless they recieve the Lord with the prayer and that they must repent from their sin. I have had my sister become saved but haven't been able to approach my brother in law as of yet.


Where in the Bible does it say that someone will not go to Heaven unless they pray a certain prayer? You cannot give me a single verse of the Bible that says that.

Yes, people must repent of their sin to go to Heaven. Does your sister or her husband ever go to Confession? Have you asked them? Confession, or Reconciliation (being reconciled to God), is one of the 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church. So, yes, it is necessary for your sister and her husband to repent of and confess their sins. But, it is also necessary for them to forgive others (Matthew 6); to do the Father's will (Matthew 7); to keep the Commandments (Matthew 19); to feed the hungry and clothe the naked (Matthew 25); to love others (1 John); to care for their family (1 Tim 5); to strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14); to do good works (Romans 2); to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man (John 6); to be baptized (John 3 and 1 Peter 1:20-21), and so on.

It is vitally important to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for us as Catholics, but saying one little prayer does not necessarily establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That's why we have the Sacraments, and all the other things that we have in the Catholic Faith...it's all about bringing us closer to Christ. It's all about preparing our bodies and souls so that Jesus can be formed within us. And, there is no more personal relationship that one can have with Christ than to receive Him in the Eucharist (Communion). It is even more intimate and more personal than anything that occurs between husband and wife in a marriage.


Strategy:
One's first response might be, "Who are you to judge your sister and her husband as ready for Hell?" But, resist the urge to chastise and simply do your best to explain and engage.

Again I ask, "Where is that in the Bible?" Don't let folks present things as biblical "facts" without asking them exactly where that is in the Bible. And, when they answer, make sure to read the verse or verses they give you and match it to what they are saying...usually the two don't match up. Make sure to point that out. For example, someone might say that Romans 3:28 teaches salvation by faith alone. Well, it says we are saved by faith, but that word "alone" isn't to be found anywhere in that passage. Big difference between being saved by faith and being saved by faith alone.

I agree with her about confession of sin, but then take her even further into Catholic teaching about faith and works both playing a role in one's salvation, although I don't directly say that, but I simply give her Scripture passages which back up what the Church teaches on that.

Finally, don't be afraid of embracing the phrase, "personal relationship with Jesus." But, make it mean something much deeper than what most Protestants think it means by bringing in the Eucharist.

Isn't this absence doing a dis-service to the people?

Again, there is no absence in the Catholic Church in regards to bringing people to Christ. Everything in the Church is about bringing people to Christ. When your sister and brother-in-law receive Communion, they are accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, even if they have never said some sort of sinner's prayer.

Now, it is entirely possible that they are going to church every Sunday and not living lives that are pleasing to Christ...in other words, they could be on the path to Hell, but that is not the Church's fault. Again, everything in the Church is designed to foster one's relationship with Christ and His Body, the Church. If one ignores what the Catholic Faith offers, it is their fault, not the Church's.

And I would ask you to look into the Catholic Faith a little more deeply than you have. You are making assumptions about the Catholic Church that are based on a lack of knowledge about the Church. I'm not asking you to convert tomorrow, but I am asking you, out of a sense of fairness, that before you speak about the Church, you know something about the Church. Again, there are a lot of misperceptions and misunderstandings out there about the Catholic Faith. I always tell people that if you want to disagree with what I believe...fine. But, please disagree with what I really believe, and not with what someone has told you I believe. I think all of us, as Christians, have a duty and responsibility to treat differing faith traditions with honesty and respect.

Again, if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Strategy: Explain and challenge.

God bless!

John Martignoni

Born Again Christian

Strategy: Never let someone claim for themselves a title that can be properly claimed by Catholics. Born Again Christian. Bible Christian. Member of the Church of Christ. Etc.

In Conclusion

Please share this newsletter with your friends, fellow parishioners, co-workers, etc. And please let them know that they can sign up for the newsletter by going to our website: www.biblechristiansociety.com and clicking on the "Newsletter" page.

One more thing, in addition to all of the free apologetics tapes and CD's that are available at the website, we now have free downloads of all of our talks available. Onward and upward!

And, as always, we appreciate any and all feedback regarding this newsletter. I may not have the time to answer your email, but it will be read and taken into consideration.




Post a Comment