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Apologetics on Auto-Pilate

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jan 24, 2004

The current issue of America has a solemnly condescending article by Richard Gaillardetz dealing with those he calls the "New Apologists": Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics, Karl Keating, Mitch Pacwa, S.J., Peter Kreeft, and Patrick Madrid. In a feeble effort at evenhandness, Gaillardetz provides a list of their strengths (passion, conviction, media skills), but his real interest is in their shortcomings:

  • they use proof-texting
  • they ignore the "hierarchy of truths"
  • they're not ecumenical
  • they discount the historical background of dogma
  • they forget that God became Man to close the School of the Americas

OK, I made the last one up. In the long run, it won't matter much, since Gaillardetz's proposals for an "authentic" apologetics are very much like Hillary Clinton's suggestions for "responsible" talk radio -- they ignore the fact that, given a choice, people will listen to what is really important to them, as opposed to what their betters have decided should be important to them. In what might serve as a museum-piece of liberal imperviousness to irony, Gaillardetz comes up with a program guaranteed to act on his conversation partner like a tranquilizer dart, and then calls it "dialogical."

A dialogical apologetics will not shy away from enthusiastically presenting an account of the Catholic faith, but it will do so with an openness to genuine dialogue and an eschatological modesty that acknowledges that the church does not so much possess the truth in its doctrinal formulations as it is possessed by it.

We all remember that famous exhortation to the Corinthians given by the Father of All Apologists, when he'd been asked whether one should follow the cult of Demeter, the laws of the Jews, or the commandment of love in the New Covenant:

"Woe to me if I fail to employ condign eschatological modesty in acknowledging that the church does not so much possess the truth in its doctrinal formulations as it is possessed by it!"

And of course we all remember the Corinthians' response:


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  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jan. 24, 2004 5:15 PM ET USA

    Yes, I can certainly see willingly being tortured, having my hands and tongue cut off (ala Maximus the Confessor) and martyred for a church that is possessed by its doctrinal formulations.

  • Posted by: AveMaria580 - Jan. 24, 2004 2:30 PM ET USA

    The problem may be that the "New Apologists" use the word apologetics in the traditional sense of explaining and defending the faith. Gaillardetz, however, uses the word apologetics in the re-defined liberal sense of apologizing for the faith and removing anything that might offend their over-sensitized politically correct consciences. The "New Apologists" follow the classical model of grammar, logic and rhetoric. Gaillardetz & Co. ship grammar and logic and mistake sophistry for rhetoric.

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