Monday, August 23, 2010

Avery Dulles on the Purpose of Apologetics

Cardinal Avery Dulles lays out an excellent summary of what apologetics does and does not accomplish. Consider this quotation an appendix of sorts to my previous blog entry.

“In pressing the case for their discipline, apologists should keep in mind that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for salutary acts of faith. It is not necessary, for we all know people who have strong faith without having ever read a word of apologetics. It is not sufficient, because faith is a grace-given submission to the Word of God, not a conclusion from human arguments. Apologetics has a more modest task. It seeks to show why it is reasonable, with the help of grace, to accept God’s word as it comes to us through Scripture and the Church. Reflective believers can be troubled by serious temptations against faith unless they find reasons for believing. Converts, in particular, will normally deliberate for some time about the reasons for embracing the faith. … there are sufficient signs to make the assent of faith objectively justifiable. The task of apologetics is to discover these signs and organize them in such a way as to be persuasive to particular audiences. The arguments can never prove the truth of Christianity beyond all possibility of doubt, but they can show that it is reasonable to believe and that the arguments against Christianity are not decisive. God’s grace will do the rest.” (Dulles, Avery Cardinal. A History of Apologetics. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004, p. 367)

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