Monday, August 27, 2007

Response to Josh Strodtbeck's Tired Anti-Apologetics Rantings

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Here is his entire recent post, followed by my point-by-point responses:

Chemnitz vs the "Professional" Apologist

Dave Armstrong attempts to critique Chemnitz here [links to an article of mine], but ends up mostly whining about how mean-spirited early Lutherans were. Read it--some things practically write their own satirical commentary. I for one couldn't read this without a running satire popping up in my head every 7th word or so.

On a related note, I used to think if you were a "professional apologist," meant you were acting on official behalf of the Vatican as a salaried representative or something. For those who assumed the same thing, I have a little insight: "Professional apologetics" is actually a subculture of post-Protestants within Catholicism. They by and large are not scholars who do critical analysis of primary texts; rather, their main audience is other Catholics and they often self-publish. One could psychoanalyze them all day, but I'll skip that and say that mostly their arguments are 1-liners for the easily amused or the simple. That's because they aren't part of Catholic academia or the Magisterium; they're part of American Catholic pop culture and as such should be taken about as seriously as glow-in-the-dark statues of Mary.

* * * * *

1) "On a related note, I used to think if you were a "professional apologist," meant you were acting on official behalf of the Vatican as a salaried representative or something."

Not necessary at all. It means you are an apologist making a living from that profession. The Vatican highly encourages lay apologetics efforts, as I have documented on my site. Much ado about nothing. Steve Hays of Triablogue fame tries to make the same emptyheaded argument. You guys simply don't know what you're talking about with regard to how the Catholic Church regards lay apostolates.

And for that reason these accusations are never substantiated with any official statements. They just sort of hang there, like urban legends.

2) "For those who assumed the same thing, I have a little insight: "Professional apologetics" is actually a subculture of post-Protestants within Catholicism."

Well, that is the oft-heard charge, but it has no substance, if you can't prove that we are somehow smuggling Protestant notions that are contrary to Catholic dogma into the Catholic faith. You think you can do that in my own case? Be my guest. It would be nice to actually see some substance and rational argument back up your sophomoric blustering.

Catholic apologetics has always had a close relationship to converts (Newman, Knox, Benson, Chesterton et al), because converts tend to have more interest in defending the faith (presumably in many cases because their own situation requires them to defend, due to all the questioning from Protestant friends and family).

I should add, too, though, that this is a rank insult to the many lifelong Catholics who are doing apologetics, too; in fact, many of the more well-known and good apologists out there; folks like Karl Keating, Pat Madrid, Gary Michuta, Phil Porvaznik, Fr. Peter Stravinskas, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, and many others. To say the whole enterprise is simply "post-Protestant" is sheer stupidity.

3) "They by and large are not scholars who do critical analysis of primary texts . . ."

So what? This is irrelevant. An apologist need not be a scholar (though many are). The two things aren't identical. Why the need to keep acting as if they were, so that non-scholars (like myself and many others) are somehow regarded as second-class citizens or operating under some unsavory pretense? I've always marveled at this.

In point of fact, many of the greatest and most influential apologists, both Protestant and Catholic, were amateurs, in terms of theological education. G.K. Chesterton had no degree at all. C.S. Lewis had no theological training, as far as I know. He was an English professor. Peter Kreeft is a philosopher. Thomas Howard is an English professor. Malcolm Muggeridge was a journalist. Etc., etc.

So if you must, lash out ignorantly at the non-formally trained professional apologists like myself. But be consistent and go after Chesterton and Lewis also. If you want to "argue" for a dumb position, at least be consistent.

4) "rather, their main audience is other Catholics . . ."

This I agree with. Most apologetics (Protestant or Catholic) is paid attention to far more by existing partisans than by outsiders. But that is the nature of the beast (and human nature). That's fine with me, though. I see a large part of my task as building up the faithful and helping them have more intellectual confidence in their beliefs.

5) ". . . and they often self-publish."

Sometimes. Most of the known Catholic apologists I know of, however, are published by reputable publishers. Steve Ray is with Ignatius. Scott Hahn is with Doubleday, etc.

How about myself? As I have stated over and over (because others have implied that I am only self-published), I have three books published with Sophia Institute Press. Two have been consistent bestsellers in the Top 100 on amazon for Catholic theology. They even often appear on the general Christian apologetics Top 100 list. I also have The New Catholic Answer Bible and a popular pamphlet published with Our Sunday Visitor: the largest Catholic publisher.

Say what you will about me, but I am not simply self-published.

6) "One could psychoanalyze them all day,. . ."

Yeah, I know. That's about all you seem capable of, with imbecilic posts such as this one.

"but I'll skip that . . ."

That would be nice, but it's about all you do!

7) "and say that mostly their arguments are 1-liners for the easily amused or the simple."

Why don't you refute them, then, instead of only talking a good game?

8) "That's because they aren't part of Catholic academia or the Magisterium"

No one ever claimed to be the latter, and no non-scholar apologist I know has ever, to my knowledge, falsely claimed to be a scholar.

9) "they're part of American Catholic pop culture and as such should be taken about as seriously as glow-in-the-dark statues of Mary."

What does that make you, then? A former Lutheran seminarian with a blog and a big mouth, who spends most of his time running down other Christians (and often his own denomination) and making smart ass remarks. Anything you say about folks like myself, and my apologist friends, only comes back to make you look all the more ridiculous. You have no authority. You're no scholar. Why should anyone pay any attention to you? You're not only not self-published, but not published at all, as far as I know (if I'm wrong, I'll be happy to be corrected). Yet you feel that you can sit and take ignorant potshots at others. Don't you have better things to do with your time?

At least we're out here trying to do something constructive and helping other human beings grapple with issues of faith, instead of just shooting our mouths off, as if Christianity were some juvenile game of one-upsmanship.

I've dialogued with many Lutherans for whom I have much respect (and far more educated and credentialed than you). But one can't even get to first base with you.

Jim writes in comments:
At the very least, a 'professional apologist' would need to make his living from it.

I mean, it'd be sort of funny to go around claiming to be a "professional football player" while admitting that you can't support yourself or your family by playing football.
Indeed. Since December 2001 when the company I was working for went out of business, I have had other jobs in addition to my apologetics for exactly two years and eight months. The rest of the time (three years and one month) I was doing full-time apologetics and no other kind of work. Sometimes I do the tentmaker model. Most of the time I have done apologetics I have done that. But I have also lived solely from income produced by apologetics.

Is that good enough for you? Or are royalties not legitimate income? I have supported my family of six since that time primarily with income generated by apologetics. And we are homeowners and my wife doesn't work outside the home (she homeschools our four children). We even have great vacations every year (not cruises paid by someone else but paid for entirely by ourselves).

I received royalty checks in August totalling over $4700. You think that is easy to do? Okay; go out and write a book, get it published and see how many copies you can sell. Best wishes! And my royalty figure above was just from Sophia. I also received $1280 from Our Sunday Visitor in July. Sounds pretty "professional" to me. Yet you want to put the word in quotes.

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