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How Pithy Can Your Apologetics Get?
When a child asks “Where do babies come from?” he may just be wondering if the new one can be exchanged, or he may need a simple reassurance that he came ‘from Mommy’ and not from toxic slime as his older brother insists. Experienced parents know what he probably does not want is a long, technical explanation accompanied by slides and illustrations.
Restraint is often the better part of apologetics as well. When an evangelical Christian, who really cares about these things, asks “Do ya’ll worship Mary?” the answer is “No.” If you go into the definition of worship, the historical veneration of Mary, and the different types of worship, he will hear one thing only: “Yep, they do–look at him try to weasel out of it!”
It may be frustrating to you that they don’t want to know the Whole Truth. Especially if you were an evangelical yourself and searched with great zeal for the big ‘T’. Give it up. Anyone with that goal in mind will keep asking questions. You’ll get your chance. Often these questions are trotted out as a ‘gotcha’ or a ‘dare’. They know we worship Mary and plan for you to be mighty uncomfortable being forced by their challenge to admit it.
You must discern when “Do Catholics offer Christ in sacrifice at every Mass?” really means “Do you think Christ’s one death wasn’t enough?” The answer is “No.” Keep to yourself all the rhetoric about un-bloody sacrifice and re-presentation of the one sufficient sacrifice. If you blurt it all out, they’ll hear one thing: “Yep, they think He has to die again every week–look at him try to weasel out of it!”
Here are some other pithy answers to ‘dare ya’ questions:
“Do you pray to dead people?” — “No.” (If you define the word pray, or explain the Church Triumphant, he’ll hear one thing: “Yep, they do–look at him try to weasel out of it!”)
“Is the pope perfect?” — “No.”
“Do Catholics think all of us other Christians won’t go to heaven?” — “No.”
“Did the Catholic Church add books to the Bible?” — “No.”
“Do Catholics worship that bread and wine?” — “No.”
“Do you guys have to earn your salvation?” — “No.”
“Do you worship saints?” — “No.”
“Is there any mediator besides Christ between God and man?” — “No.”
“Do you think saying a formula prayer over and over works better than just sharing your heart with Jesus?” — “No.”
“Do you have to believe all those wild apparitions?” — “No.”
You may need to convert their question into one you can answer concisely. Try to get to the core of their concern in your restatement of the question. Translate “Do you believe Mary is up there answering prayers and working miracles?” by saying “Does the power to work a miracle come from Mary? No!”
Convert “You think I need a priest to stand between me and God?” into “Does everyone have a direct, personal relationship with God? Yes!”
Change “Do you really believe I can say certain prayers or do some good works and then God is obligated to reward me?” to “Does anyone obligate God? No! He rewards good works and answers prayers however He sees fit.”
This refusal to bandy many words is not meant to be a withholding from others of the gift of your apologetics. It is based on careful assessment of your audience and your determination that you are dealing with someone who is daring you to admit what he already knows and considers proof positive against the Faith. He is not asking to hear answers, but an admission of guilt. Wordy answers will only prove things in the Catholic Church are as bad as he suspected. Your pithy ones may surprise him into digging deeper.