Entering the World of Apologetics

We now turn our attention to the season of Advent in 2007. Due to my encounter at Newman Hall, I found my entire perception of the world turned on its head, and I hadn’t figured out what that meant. For several weeks I found myself floating along, trying to figure out what it all meant. I found my poetic spirit stirred, and started to compose more verse in my spare time trying to capture the essence of my dilemma.

Christmas rolled around, and I spent some lovely time with my family, both immediate and extended. I got a gift certificate for Borders, and used it to buy a book that I had heard good things about, “What’s So Great About Christianity?” by Dinesh D’Souza. Though I don’t particularly care for all the man’s politics, D’Souza is a lucid and erudite Apologist. His arguments were well formulated throughout the book, and I found myself agreeing with him all along the way. Then towards the end of the book, things got very interesting. He turned his arguments away from a general defense of Christian beliefs in the modern world, towards a vigorous intellectual defense of traditional Catholicism. And again, I found myself unable to disagree with him, or disprove his defenses.

I was shocked to find a rational defense of Catholicism. Though I had a mystical encounter in a Catholic parish that powerfully persuaded me of the spiritual dimensions of the Catholic Church, and had interacted with Catholics who lived out a Christian life, I still maintained the belief that the Church had no intellectual, historical, or Biblical foot to stand on in comparison to the rigorous Protestant faith. This book effectively challenged this, my last bulwark against the Papist tide.

To get to the truth, I started scouring the Internet for Apologetics, for and against the Catholic Church. Reading the articles at Catholic Answers, I was utterly shocked to discover that most of the reasons my father had taught me to distrust the Catholic Church which I had accepted wholesale (“Call no man ‘Father'”, the Sacraments, veneration of Saints, Marian devotion, Purgatory, the OT Canon, Whore of Babylon, Authority, etc, etc, etc…) were very handily refuted by the writers there. I desperately searched for counterarguments that would show the Protestant position to be the correct one. What I found caused me great consternation. Good, faithful, loving Protestant Christian thinkers who loved Jesus invariably failed to actually address the points Catholic apologists raised, content to rely on ignorance and hearsay to casually dismiss the Catholic Church. It concerned me to find no solid, rational arguments for the Protestant position over and against the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, the only arguments I could find that met the Catholic positions head on were from the rabidly Anti-Catholic fringe, like Dave Hunt and James White. While they would claim to refute the Catholic positions, all they did was rant and rave and commit horrible logical fallacies, or fabricate elaborate conspiracy theories about the ancient pagan origins of the Cult of Mary. There was reason to be found in their arguments, but of a twisted and nasty variety that was simply not true, indeed proved laughably easy for Catholic opponents to refute in turn. They repelled me and served as an excellent argument for the Catholic Church.

So it was that as I was reading an article written by Jimmy Akin defending some contentious point of doctrine or another, the full intellectual realization of my path hit me. I must repent and become a Catholic. In the name of the Truth, of all things Holy, and most especially in order to follow Jesus Christ wherever he leads, I must become Catholic. I had no other choice spiritually, experientially, logically, or Biblically. No weapon fashioned against the Church could stand in the light of the Truth.

I wasn’t sure whether I was ecstatically happy or miserably sad by this realization. At this moment, I had not yet crossed the Tiber over to full acceptance of the Church, but I had forded the Rubicon of faith. Alea iacta est, ‘the die is cast’. There was no going back.

it came to pass at this time that two of my oldest and dearest friends, from grade school through college, dropped by to hang out with me. My childhood best friend, Nathaniel, a Lutheran in background and thus lacking the full set of Fundamentalist prejudices I was raised with, had talked to me previously about my wrestlings with the Church, and he was cool with it.

My other friend, Mark, I had not seen for months, and wasn’t sure what he would have to say. Mark came from a similar background to myself, highly Fundamentalist Evangelical, and had often talked of going to seminary to become a Southern Baptist minister. I was very nervous, as I could not lie and say anything less than what I believed, but neither was I particularly eager for a heated argument.

The two of them arrive at my parents home, we exchange pleasantries, and retire to the kitchen to refresh ourselves. The first thing Mark starts talking about is how he’s starting to feel led towards the Catholic Church, both spiritually and intellectually. He didn’t know what to make of it, and didn’t understand it, but he could feel the Truth pulling him Rome-wards.

Needless to say, I was floored by the similarities in our paths, and the outlandish “coincidence” of the timing. We spent the evening discussing our explorations in theology and apologetics, including the discovery of our mutual love of Peter Kreeft. It was a great conversation, and came at a critical point in my journey home. Mark and I continue to talk about the Church, and have helped each other make some headway through our mutual problems. The workings of the Holy Spirit are truly wondrous to behold.

So, dear reader, we now find ourselves at the point where I consciously acknowledged and accepted the moving of the Spirit in my life. Such is only the beginning, however. In upcoming entries, we shall explore my adventures of actually begging to enter the social world the Catholic Church, starting with my experiences at the Walk for Life 2008.

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~ by Sam Urfer on June 21, 2008.

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