A Brief History of Apologetics
Catholic apologetics is the science of explaining and defending Catholic teaching. From the very first Christian centuries, Catholics have presented to the unbelieving world various explanations and arguments in support of the mysteries of the faith. These have made use of Holy Scripture, the early Church Fathers, reason, history, prophecies, and miracles.
Christ Himself supported His teachings with quotations from the Old Testament and by performing miracles. The Gospel of Saint Matthew is, in part, an apologetic addressed to the Jews, meant to convince them that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies and is, therefore, the long-awaited Savior of Israel and the entire world.
In the mid second century, the layman and convert from paganism, Saint Justin Martyr, established schools for teaching the faith, wrote apologetical works, and engaged pagan philosophers in public debates. In fact, Justin was so effective in his work that the Roman authorities finally beheaded him, along with several of his disciples. The Church responded by making him the patron saint of apologists and philosophers.
During the twentieth century, the Catholic Evidence Guild – made famous by the apologetical work of Frank Sheed – regularly held outdoor talks on the faith in England and elsewhere. In Ireland, Frank Duff established the Legion Of Mary, which grew into an international army of Catholic evangelists. In America, former socialist David Goldstein founded the Catholic Campaigners For Christ, designed especially for evangelizing Jews, as well as for responding to the classic objections to Catholicism raised by Protestants, agnostics, atheists, and socialists.
Throughout the Church’s history (contrary to what many presume), lay people have directly participated in the Church’s teaching mission as catechists, evangelists, and apologists. In the early 1960’s, the Second Vatican Council further encouraged the laity to join in this work. Even more recently, the modern popes have persistently called the lay faithful to join in a “new evangelization,” both of the Church and of the world.
In spite of this long and noble history and recent encouragement from the Church’s highest authorities, Catholic apologetics fell into unpopularity in the immediate post-conciliar era. The new idealistic spirit of ecumenism and religious dialogue found the apologists’ methods and claims offensive. Mention of the “true Church’ or the “true faith” was shockingly regarded as arrogant and outdated. The Legion of Mary was even told its work was no longer needed. However, in spite of this modern spirit of indifference and absence of zeal for souls, lay catholics gradually began to resume their former mission. In 1979, Karl Keating established Catholic Answers, and soon after began to publish his famous This Rock apologetics magazine. Slowly but surely, new apologetical works by other authors began to be printed. In 1980, Mother Angelica founded her Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), and soon the explanations and arguments of the apologists were being aired far and wide by priest, religious, and layman. Since this revival, countless new apologetical books and recordings of varying quality have been made available, many only repeating in slightly different words what others have already written or said.
The modern world is very similar to the ancient world in which the Christian religion was first established. It is pagan, sexually perverse, religiously cynical, and aggressively anti-Christian. This makes it quite difficult to be a faithful Catholic and a public witness of Jesus Christ and His Church. In order to be such a witness, one must be motivated by the virtue of charity, which is the cause and foundation of the zeal for souls. However, one must also possess knowledge of Holy Scripture, doctrine, and morality gained through assiduous study that allows one to convincingly communicate the Catholic faith. To put it more simply: the apologist has one primary tool: TRUTH. But he or she must learn how to effectively use this tool in a world that ignores it, denies it, and often despises it. As Jesus warned,
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16).
Catholic Apologetics Course
The Fullness Of Truth Apostolate is a lay apostolate founded by Timothy O’Keefe and designed to equip Catholics with apologetical knowledge. Besides a twice-weekly radio program, a web site, and a blog, the apostolate also offers a four-year course called, “Catholic Apologetics.” This course examines the fundamental teachings of the Church, using the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and presents apologetical arguments in defense of these teachings. The entire course is four years long, but students are welcome to take only as much as they choose. It is presently offered in various locations in the southern New England area. Classes are generally held in the evenings from 7:00-8:30, but day classes are also possible. The cost is $10 per class per person, or $15 per family.
The “Catholic Apologetics Course” includes the following topics:
– The Existence of God
– The Soul
– The Problem of Evil
– The Origin of Catholic Morality
– The Resurrection
– The Charge of “Judgmentalism”
– The Fall of the Angels and Man
– The Seven Sacraments
– The Four Marks of the Church
– Natural and Supernatural Revelation
– The Bible
– The Marian dogmas
– The Invocation of the Saints and Angels
– The New Age
– The End Times
If you’d like to gain a deeper knowledge of the Catholic faith and learn the explanations and arguments unique to apologetics and essential to the new evangelization, then please consider taking this “Catholic Apologetics Course.” Classes are generally formed wherever interested students are found. They have been held in classrooms, boardrooms, and kitchens – wherever the true faith has been welcome.
You can contact Timothy O’Keefe at:
The Fullness Of Truth Apostolate
P. O. Box 2301
Evening classes are presently being held on Mondays at the Saint Joseph Residence in Enfield, CT, Tuesdays at Christ the King Parish in Ludlow, MA, and the first and third Thursdays of the month at Holy Trinity parish in Westfield, MA, from 7:00-8:30 pm. Classes do not meet during the summer.