Wednesday, May 19, 2010
St. Augustine on Apologetics
"If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth! If only it would, in its feeble condition, submit itself to the restorative medicine of sound teaching, until divine assistance, procured by devout faith, effected a cure! In that case, men of sound judgement and adequate powers of exposition would not need to engage in lengthy discussion in order to refute mistakes and fanciful conjectures. But as things are, the intelligent are infected by a gross mental disorder which makes them defend the irrational workings of their minds as if they were logic and truth itself, even when the evidence has been put before them as plainly as is humanly possible. Either they are too blind to see what is put before their face, or they are too perversely obstinate to admit what they see. The result is that we are forced very often to give an extended exposition of the obvious, as if we were not presenting it for people to look at, but for them to touch and handle with their eyes shut.
"And yet, will we ever come to an end of discussion and talk if we think we must always reply to replies? For replies come from those who either cannot understand what is said to them, or are so stubborn and contentious that they refuse to give in even if they do understand. In fact, as the Bible says, 'Their conversation is unrighteousness, and they are indefatibable in folly.' [Ps. 94:4] You can see how infinitely laborious and fruitless it would be to try to refute every objection they offer, when they have resolved never to think before they speak provided that somehow or other they contradict our arguments.
"For this reason...I hope that you and others, for whose benefit, in the love of Christ, I freely devote this labour of mine, will not be the kind of critics who always look for a reply when any opposition is raised to what is said in this book. I trust they will not be like 'silly women', of who the Apostle speaks, 'who are always being instructed, and never arrive at knowledge of the truth.'" [2 Tim 3:7]
--St. Augustine, "City of God", Book II, ch. 1
Although St. Augustine is speaking of the pagans of his time, especially those who are blaming the Church for the sacking of Rome a few years before, one can feel his frustration at trying to explain and defend the Church over and over to others. I know anyone who is in Catholic Apologetics, defending Christ's Gospel and His Church, knows this frustration and has probably said almost the very same thing about their opponents.