I was listening to EWTN’s Life on the Rock tonight. During the discussion someone mentioned the explosion of apologists and apologetical works. Hearing this I thought “Wow! That’s a great collective noun; an explosion of apologists!” It seems fitting since many apologists seem to be on the verge of exploding much of the time!
Let me ‘splain. St. Peter in 1 Pt 3:15-16, a favorite of apologists, talks about always being ready to give people a reason for your hope. We all need to understand our faith well so we can explain to others the reasons we believe, not just apologists. Notice that St. Peter talks about a reason for our hope. This is more than just intellectual faith. It speaks to our emotions as well. Not only that, but hope gathers all we believe and are and entrusts it into the hands of a God who is love. That hope then lifts up to heavenly places with Christ where we have an inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven” for us (I Pt 1:4).
I believe that it is especially because St. Peter is referring to hope, that he reminds us to explain the reason for it “with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear (1 Pt 3:16a). We are dealing with people’s deepest emotions here.
Yet some apologists seem to get the idea of explaining but miss the gentleness and reverence. In the heat of defending the faith, there can be rudeness rather than reverence and a kind of greediness in having the truth rather than gentleness in reasoning from it.
When people bring up these attacks on others rather than defending the faith, a common reply is that they are just being honest and to-the-point. They say that St. Paul could be a bit prickly. Even Jesus woe-ified the Pharisees, calling them whitewashed tombs. So they see their lambasting as a legitimate strategy.
To which I say when you are as brilliant as the apostle Paul, you can be as bombastic as he; when you are the Son of God like Jesus, you can be discourteous to the sons of men.
Until then we must all practice that gentleness and reverence as we give an explanation to anyone who asks about the reason for our hope.