Apologetics and evangelization go hand in hand. Always have since the very beginning of the Church. Why?
Eternal life and death is at stake.
In the years after I was received into the Church, I’ve gained experience in the fields of apologetics and evangelization. I hope that sharing this experience will help my fellow Catholics.
What I’ve learned is that our most likely opponents will be progressive liberals and Protestants. Progressive liberals I consider as the more dangerous between the two.
The worst nightmare for a progressive liberal and/or a Protestant is a Catholic with a strong and lively faith who lives it, who’s loyal to the Church; who knows his Catechism, Scripture, Tradition, the theological/philosophical/intellectual tradition of the Church, the Magisterium, the Church Fathers, Church history, uses common sense/critical thinking skills and has a solid philosophical grounding enabling him to cogently and clearly demonstrate the truths of the Faith.
A Catholic who’s lukewarm, weak and ill informed in his faith, especially if he’s had a bad experience with the Church; is meat on the table for progressive liberals and Protestants. Especially if they don’t feel the love from their fellow Catholics. Again, they’re like predators. They can sense vulnerability. Look out for and shore up your fellow Catholics who are vulnerable like this.
Progressive liberals advocate positions that the Church teaches are grave moral evils: Abortion, LGBTQ, transgenderism and gender identity. Many are outside of the Church and many are inside the Church.
The basic MO of the progressive liberal is a twofold strategy of misinformation and manipulation.
The outsiders will try to use science against the vulnerable among the faithful. Such tactics depend on the error that faith and science are somehow opposed. Just remember Saint Thomas Aquinas says: Faith and reason cannot contradict each other. I’ve even seen openly LGBTQ advocates use Scripture like “ Judge not “, love thy neighbor “ ; as examples against us. Manipulation is often used by them: Using compassion, the fear of being seen as intolerant and the fear of social rejection as tools to pressure weak Christians into accepting their positions. Progressives can also employ misconceptions of Catholic history to ensnare the unwary.
Those within the Church, or from among the Protestants; misunderstand or even will try to twist Scripture like the outsider progressives and even claim that Scripture supports their positions. Treat them as you would heretics.
Remember: With both the progressive liberals and the Protestants: Don’t be afraid, stay calm, stand your ground. Stay in the fight and keep it charitable. It’s like with predators: They can sense fear and vulnerability. Stand up, show no fear and don’t give in. They’ll eventually sense they can’t and won’t be able to get you; so they’ll leave you alone.
How I would counter the progressive liberal goes like this: If I’m facing the atheistic outsider, I’d rely on reason and natural law. Use good, solid reasoning and common sense to pick apart and take down the inconsistencies in their reasoning and logic. Expose these to this type of opponent. If I’m facing one who claims to be a Christian, I’d cite Scripture and explain the Catholic meaning to them in order to counter their Scripture claims and employ good, solid reasoning to pick apart, take down and expose the inconsistencies in their reasoning/ conclusions and common sense like I would with the outsider.
Progressive liberal ideologies have, at their roots; many flaws, errors, inconsistencies and bad science in their reasoning and logic. That’s their jugular. Go for it.
Protestants have a strange understanding of Scripture. Their approach to reading Scripture is a bad mix of emphasis on exact wording and reading Scripture in the way they want Scripture to fit. Scripture is the only authority they respect. The more effective Protestants are well versed: Not only in Scripture; but also in the Church Fathers, Church history, even the Catechism itself and they often know their Greek and Hebrew. One tactic I’ve seen used by them is trying to get the Catholic to read a Scripture verse backwards in the original Greek in order to try to prove their point. Like the progressives, Protestants often use misconceptions of Catholic history to ensnare the unwary.
The best way I know to counter a Protestant is to use common sense, to know your Scripture in the plain sense/face value reading, know your Church Fathers, the Catechism and Church history. Protestantism cannot hold against the historical record and you should use it against them. Use reason and logic against their conclusions. Put them on the defensive and put the burden of proof on them as theirs is the innovation. We have 2,000 years of Tradition and history on our side. Avoid a tit for tat exchange of Scripture proof texts back and forth. It only bogs you down in an useless back and forth that goes no where.
Stay above the proof texting exchange and go straight for their jugular and debunk their core teachings of faith alone and Scripture alone.
Don’t be intimidated. The Bible isn’t their book; it’s ours. Compiled by Catholics; for Catholics. Heck, the New Testament was written by the first Pope and the bishops in communion with him! Once you begin to study and know it, quickly you’ll realize that Scripture supports us and refutes them.
Remember: Protestant errors are based on misinterpretations of Scripture, misconceptions of what the Church is and what she teaches and of her history. Most people hate what they misunderstand the Church to be; not the way she really is. So, you’re going to have to debunk a lot of ignorant anti Catholic polemics in your engagements with Protestants. Another way I understand Protestants is the way I heard a Deacon once say to me: A baptized Protestant is a Catholic with burning misconceptions of the Faith.
Evangelization is best done by practicing what you preach: Living a good and faithful Catholic life of faith completed in works of charity in the world and answering questions from our opponents and the curious when they arise. Saint Francis of Assisi puts it best: Preach often and sometimes use words.
In evangelization, my approach is like Bishop Barron’s: Show them the beauty of the Faith first. Once they get the beauty of the Faith, then the goodness and then the truth follows and then you explain the rules.
It’s also a heart thing; not a head thing. Only rarely, do intellectual arguments produce conversions. You have to go relational: Show them that the Faith is about a relationship with God. It’s a spiritual connection with the divine.
When doing apologetics/evangelization, remember Archbishop Venerable Fulton J. Sheen: “ You can win the argument, but you can still lose a soul. “
So, be charitable and show them that you love and care for those you’re engaged with. We have to show them that we practice the Faith of love and we love better than the world can. Don’t press the argument too hard or too harshly or worry over much if you’re doing it right. It’s God that does the conversion: We’re only stating the case.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of integrity in example and words. If your example and your words don’t match; people will notice it and use it against you. Jesus has a serious mad on with hypocrites.
Remember: The Catholic Faith isn’t a just any old set of beliefs. It’s the way of life leading home to heaven.
In apologetics and evangelization, we should see past the faults and offenses of others, not allow ourselves to be provoked into sin and see the Image of God in them, help free it from error and share the Faith with them. So: let’s defend it, prove it and share it with others, so they can go home to heaven too.