Apologetics-low level scholarship

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amarischuk

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Hello everyone,

Before I get into the titled purpose of this thread, allow me a brief introduction please. My name is Adam Marischuk, and I am a very messed up person. I recently withdrew from a seminary near Chicago where I was studying philosophy as a associate (I received a BA from a Canadian University in Medieval History and Medieval English Literature so I only required more philosophy credits).

I used to frequent internet apologetics sites but gradually became disillusioned with the often superficial character of the scholarship (there is a great deal of irony in my posting this rant). Not that apologetics on the internet was/is useless, quite the contrary. I learnt an enormous amount from in the internet regarding my Catholic faith and developed a key ability to formulate an argument. However, thanks (name removed by moderator)art to a study stint in Europe, I developed a passionate interest in actually reading scholarly books instead of spending countless hours roaming the net. Hilair Belloc went out the window (I still read Chesterton, having read in no particular order: St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, St. Francis Assisi, Everlasting Man, Brave New Family, Heretics, Orthodoxy, Do We Agree? (with GBS), The Thing, The Innocence of Fr. Brown, Autobiography) and I began to read more scholarly authors like Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Frederick Copleston, Josef Pieper, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Josef Jungmann, Theodor Klauser.

But this scholarship did not lead me to a great respect for the faith. To be honest I have all but lost my faith. Perhaps I am the only agnostic Thomist on earth. I am not really looking for an argument here but a quiet ear, some helpful reading suggestions and hopefully I will encourage some people to move beyond the internet for information on their faith.

Perhaps here is a good opportunity to bring in Mr. Karl Keating (whose only book that I have read was Controversies, which I would gladly recommend). Unlike Mr. Keating’s repeated claims of a dawning “new spring” for Catholicism in his e-letters, I am much more pessimistic. At the seminary (where truly the number of “conservative” vs. “liberal” students weighted only slightly more towards the “conservative” side than did the representative priestly population) my experiences have not led me to a great appreciation of the futur.

As the reader can clearly tell, I am dancing around the central issue so please allow me to spell it out:

Apologetics= shallow scholarship → conservative Catholics
Academia=deeper scholarschip → faith crisis

Now this formula does not hold fast in all cases, infact some of the most remarkably stupid people I ever met where at University (including professors). However, especially regarding some “hot topics” such as contraception, the place of Thomistic philosophy, the state of marriage or the liturgy I have taken a remarkably “liberal” and often agnostic position (St. Puis X’s Pascendi being a remarkably enbarrasing piece of literature).

I am afraid that Catholic scholarship will disappear with this new wave of conservativism. Gone are Lord Acton and John Henry Cardinal Newman, Etienne Gilson, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx and worst of all, it seems that no one is rising to take their place. The rise of the sedevacantist and traditionalist movements, even those connected to the Church such as Opus Dei (of which I had two years of contact and during which I lost nearly all respect for the traditional Catholic movements) is to me a clear indicator of the bankrupcy of Catholicism and the now seemingly very real threat that Catholicism will become another fundamentalist denomination fighting battles long over, reminiscient of the Scopes Monkey trials.

Thank you for hearing my rant and I am interested in hearing other people’s opinions on the subject. Perhaps this doesn’t belong in “apologetics” but then again, perhaps apologetics itself needs an apologist.
 
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amarischuk:
Hello everyone,

Before I get into the titled purpose of this thread, allow me a brief introduction please. My name is Adam Marischuk, and I am a very messed up person. I recently withdrew from a seminary near Chicago where I was studying philosophy as a associate (I received a BA from a Canadian University in Medieval History and Medieval English Literature so I only required more philosophy credits).

I used to frequent internet apologetics sites but gradually became disillusioned with the often superficial character of the scholarship (there is a great deal of irony in my posting this rant). Not that apologetics on the internet was/is useless, quite the contrary. I learnt an enormous amount from in the internet regarding my Catholic faith and developed a key ability to formulate an argument. However, thanks (name removed by moderator)art to a study stint in Europe, I developed a passionate interest in actually reading scholarly books instead of spending countless hours roaming the net. Hilair Belloc went out the window (I still read Chesterton, having read in no particular order: St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, St. Francis Assisi, Everlasting Man, Brave New Family, Heretics, Orthodoxy, Do We Agree? (with GBS), The Thing, The Innocence of Fr. Brown, Autobiography) and I began to read more scholarly authors like Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Frederick Copleston, Josef Pieper, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Josef Jungmann, Theodor Klauser.

But this scholarship did not lead me to a great respect for the faith. To be honest I have all but lost my faith. Perhaps I am the only agnostic Thomist on earth. I am not really looking for an argument here but a quiet ear, some helpful reading suggestions and hopefully I will encourage some people to move beyond the internet for information on their faith.

Perhaps here is a good opportunity to bring in Mr. Karl Keating (whose only book that I have read was Controversies, which I would gladly recommend). Unlike Mr. Keating’s repeated claims of a dawning “new spring” for Catholicism in his e-letters, I am much more pessimistic. At the seminary (where truly the number of “conservative” vs. “liberal” students weighted only slightly more towards the “conservative” side than did the representative priestly population) my experiences have not led me to a great appreciation of the futur.

As the reader can clearly tell, I am dancing around the central issue so please allow me to spell it out:

Apologetics= shallow scholarship → conservative Catholics
Academia=deeper scholarschip → faith crisis

Now this formula does not hold fast in all cases, infact some of the most remarkably stupid people I ever met where at University (including professors). However, especially regarding some “hot topics” such as contraception, the place of Thomistic philosophy, the state of marriage or the liturgy I have taken a remarkably “liberal” and often agnostic position (St. Puis X’s Pascendi being a remarkably enbarrasing piece of literature).

I am afraid that Catholic scholarship will disappear with this new wave of conservativism. Gone are Lord Acton and John Henry Cardinal Newman, Etienne Gilson, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx and worst of all, it seems that no one is rising to take their place. The rise of the sedevacantist and traditionalist movements, even those connected to the Church such as Opus Dei (of which I had two years of contact and during which I lost nearly all respect for the traditional Catholic movements) is to me a clear indicator of the bankrupcy of Catholicism and the now seemingly very real threat that Catholicism will become another fundamentalist denomination fighting battles long over, reminiscient of the Scopes Monkey trials.

Thank you for hearing my rant and I am interested in hearing other people’s opinions on the subject. Perhaps this doesn’t belong in “apologetics” but then again, perhaps apologetics itself needs an apologist.
Interesting,
The Pope, Mitch Pacwa, Karl Keating, Peter Kreft, Scott Hahn, et all, catholic conservative all, whom would you say suffered from poor scholarship…
 
Hi Adam,

I hope you don’t mind a little advise from a confessional Protestant. But what you need to do is get your head out of the books for a while. Go read the Nicene Creed. If you want to read anything deep read the scriptures or Church Fathers. But by all means let the basics help you to clear you head. The ivory tower has a way of creating an intellectual vacuum that is bad for the soul. If you are going to bury yourself in scholarship take a bit of C.S. Lewis’s advise and spend an equal amount of time or greater reading a classic novel, some poetry, shallow fiction or whatever. But it sounds like you have let your mind become imbalanced by focusing in one direction. It is the direction of eggheads. Not to say that you are but it is what those who spent all their time out of the real world become by age 50.

Better yet go get your hands dirty at a soup kithcen or become a big brother or something else that will get your mind off of you. The Christian life is to be lived outward not inward.

In other words simplify your life by balancing it out. Oh yeah, excercise is always important. If you don’t already do it is amazing how a little physical excertion can change your outlook.

For what it’s worth.

Mel
 
Amarischuk,

Unfortunately, I can’t help you. In fact, I agree with much of what you wrote regarding apologetics, though this site is changing my opinion–people here seem both extremely knowledgable, and good apologists. But, I want to tell you that I know exactly what you’re going through. A large part of me wants to chuck the whole thing–ever since I left Franciscan University, as a matter of fact. To quote Homer, (Simpson), Christianity at times seems to be a lot of well-meaning rules that doesn’t work out in the real world. But you, like me, are here now, so there’s hope. Faith seems to have died, but we’re still here.

I read recently that Mother Theresa struggled with crippling doubts almost immediately after she took her vows. I don’t know if that makes you feel any better, but at least you’re in good company.

Like I said, I can’t give you much good advice, and in fact I’m probably the worst person to chime in on this, but there seems to be some value in sticking to it even when it seems insane. I think that’s what faith is–even after all the feelings are gone, and even after the intellectual pursuits all lead to dubious conclusions, we persevere.

Hang in there, buddy.

Chris
 
amarischuk,
But this scholarship did not lead me to a great respect for the faith. To be honest I have all but lost my faith. Perhaps I am the only agnostic Thomist on earth. I am not really looking for an argument here but a quiet ear, some helpful reading suggestions and hopefully I will encourage some people to move beyond the internet for information on their faith.
Of course it didn’t lead you to a greater respect for your faith. Those scholars often raise more questions then they do answers; it’s called skepticism and speculation; anyone can do it and even look scholarly while they’re going about it, but actually answering the questions is a whole other matter which “conservative” apologists have been working on.

Exactly what in those writings has impressed you so much as to grant them the title of scholarly? And what have those authors written that has made you lose the faith?
St. Puis X’s Pascendi being a remarkably enbarrasing piece of literature
Yes; modernist and liberals aren’t too found of that apostolic letter (Some of the authors you’ve quoted actually are categorized as modernists and liberal “Catholics”).

Interesting, that this same Pope said Modernism ultimately leads to apostasy (total loss of faith).
I am afraid that Catholic scholarship will disappear with this new wave of conservativism. Gone are Lord Acton and John Henry Cardinal Newman, Etienne Gilson, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx
I think Catholic scholarship can do very well without those above theologians. In fact, it may even keep the faithful…you know, Catholic?
The rise of the sedevacantist and traditionalist movements, even those connected to the Church such as Opus Dei (of which I had two years of contact and during which I lost nearly all respect for the traditional Catholic movements) is to me a clear indicator of the bankrupcy of Catholicism and the now seemingly very real threat that Catholicism will become another fundamentalist denomination fighting battles long over, reminiscient of the Scopes Monkey trials.
How would Catholicism going back to the traditional rout be “fundamentalist”? What’s your definition of the term and how would Catholicism be bankrupt with the raise of the traditionalist movement?

I think the rise of these conservatives and faithful Catholics is a great sign of the Church’s members (especially the youth) wanting to return back to its original roots (doesn’t sound like bankruptcy to me at all).

As “scholarly” as those theologians above are made out to be, their influence and thought have affected Catholicism greatly especially after the Second Vatican Council and look what has happened to the Church? Look what has happened to you? The lost of faith has been the outcome of the direction you, and many other “scholarly” professors/theologians/teachers have gone into.

There is true Catholics scholarship out there; ask yourself, if it’s truly genuine Catholic scholarship, would it produce such a loss of the Catholic faith in you? Or maybe it’s just heresy and apostasy disguised as “Catholic” scholarship (God knows how many there are of those in academia)?

Miguel.
 
Adam,

You’re too self-absorbed. Get out and help other people, and pray, pray, not only for yourself, but for others, and especially for the unflrtunate “liberal” seminarians.

Cornelius of Kilrush, NY
 
John 6:66-69
  1. As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
  2. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
  3. Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
  4. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
 
amarischuk,

I have some very intelligent friends that I went to school with (i.e. high school seminary). Interestingly enough, I left the seminary before novitiate while many of my peers continued on through college. Only one person in my class was ordained a priest.

A number of the most intellectually gifted and best educated of my classmates have abandoned the faith and are, by their own admission, probably agnostic. Most of the rest of us received good educations and have had respectable careers, but we have not dumped the faith.

I do not believe that education or highly intellectual materials and pursuits guarantee anything. The area of apologetics is no different. There are many people that have pursued religious studies and have a tremendous knowledge of scripture, but they have no faith. We do not put our faith in our studies. We do not put our faith in our intellectual pursuits. We put our faith in the Lord.

I have read books on the reflections of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and although simple, her thoughts are spiritually profound. If you desire to read books by an intellectual giant and yet a highly spiritual catholic, then I would suggest reading everything you can find by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Above all, pray for humility and for the love of God that we must all have in order to have a lively relationship with the Lord. My pride has always been my greatest weakness and obstacle in my christian walk. Perhaps, this is something that you and I share.
 
Adam,

Many, if not all of the scholarly authors you mentioned were passionate pray-ers. This shows that it’s more than possible to marry profound scholarship with a profound love for Christ. Apart from a life of prayer, scholarship— whether deep or shallow— can lead to a life of aridity, apathy and even a rejection of Christ’s invitation.

No matter how deep the scholarship, we can’t afford to reduce Christ to be a mere object to be analyzed. He is a subject. In choosing to Love Him, we can know him even more deeply than the best academics divorced from a life of prayer can produce. Not that loving Christ does away with impeccable scholarship: Thomas Aquinas’s passionate love for Christ didn’t kill his drive for knowledge, it increased it (that is, unless one is given the Grace to take a peek at Glory as Thomas was given.)

Rather, the love of Christ can inform our scholarship to go farther and farther into his riches— as far as we can possibly go. Prayer can vivify our studies such that our love for Christ drives us to even deeper scholarship, and therefore, in knowing Christ more, we have more and more reasons for loving Him.
 
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amarischuk:
Hello everyone,

My name is Adam Marischuk, and I am a very messed up person.

I used to frequent internet apologetics sites but gradually became disillusioned with the often superficial character of the scholarship (there is a great deal of irony in my posting this rant).
Unless I’m mistaken, doesn’t the practice of apologetics spring from:

1 Peter 3: 15 But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.

By definition, it would seem that apologetics focuses on personal reflection, and not on high-brow scholarly treatments.

You’re looking for a bologna sandwich in a hardware store.

If there was undeniable proof out there for the faith we hold, there would be no reason for walking by faith. We would be walking instead, by natural deduction and logic.

Try the first apologist, Justin Martyr. Then work your way up from there. The early Fathers of the Church can provide wonderful support.

Oh. As far as losing faith, consider this:
2000 years ago, twelve fishermen were able to convert the world.

Today, with a billion Christians, and untold billions of dollars, we are unable to duplicate the task.

God is patient. It was Him who performed the task originally, or do you see that as a fluke?

You are in my prayers. Keep your heart open and Our Lady will lead you to her Son.

Peace in Christ…Salmon
 
I tend to follow the apologetical wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always and everywhere, when necessary use words.”
 
Adam and Chris,

I also second the remarks by Melchior and Pax. They both have some good advice that I think may be what you both need at this time in your lives (and all of us for that matter).

Prayer, work (especially physical), study, re-creation/exercise are all necessary for a healthy mental and spiritual life. From experience, I know that dwelling too much in the head, especially being absorbed in our own thoughts, can be unbalancing and distort how we view life, our faith etc.

But most importantly, we will all as humans disappoint ourselves and others and probably God at points during our lives. We still live in the flesh, even though it has been redeemed. But God will never change and never disappoint. Spend quality time daily with Jesus, listen to Him as well as speaking to Him, read His written word and meditate on it. Be willing to follow the will of God in your life, and always remember that the “joy of the Lord is our strength”! “Rejoice always, again I say rejoice”.

Try to stay away from the extremes as you see them for now----fundamentalists or liberals, and dwell in the center of God’s love for you and His perfect will for your life. Study and knowledge are important but they aren’t where we find God working in us—that is in the real world of space/time and other people.
 
We are all (especially scholars and online apologetic messageboard junkies) searching for more knowledge of God. But we can’t forget that He is a mystery - we will never fully understand Him. That is not his primary goal for us - to fully understand him. It is to be in loving communion with him. Scholarship is something we are to use to grow closer to God or to bring others to Him. Beyond that, we may be idolizing knowledge. Are we at times trying to “eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?”

I’m no advanced scholar or apologist myself, but I do know of many intelligent scholarly Catholics who have lost much of their faith (although they might not admit to this). So I do sympathize somewhat with your feelings on that. With the people I know, it seems like they have decided that they ought to be able to understand everything - to wrap their minds around God’s mystery (again, worshiping knowledege and understanding, rather than God). Thus, they change their beliefs to fit what they can understand. I see this as prideful, and their lack of faith prompted their approach to scholarship - not the other way around.

It seems that those scholars who do not lose their faith, probably do not depend solely on their intellect for faith. My little faith tells me to ask God to grant me humility and wisdom to go along with my search for knowledge. We also have to ask him for to give us the gift of faith. All the knowledge in the world can’t make up for a relationship with Christ rooted in prayer and the sacraments.
 
Some of the greatest Saints were not ‘scholarly’ in any way, shape or form. Intelligence and intellect are not necessary to be holy, nor to gain entrance to heaven. As Padre Pio said, Pray, don’t worry.
 
Adam:

I have spent little time at internet apologetics sites, not so much because there is no high-level scholarship there (there is, in a few places) but for reasons of economy. It is more efficient to read books–provided they are the right books.

(It is so easy to waste one’s time with the wrong books; the problem is that one often doesn’t realize until much later which books were worthwhile and which were worthless. Many of the authors you list have written the first kind of book; others you list repeatedly have written the second. You may come to see this in the future.)

Most internet sites are aimed at the masses, not at the elite few. All of the apologetics sites I know of, whether Catholic or Protestant, hope to attract a popular audience. They look for intelligent viewers who need not have advanced degrees in theology. Their purpose is to spread and explain the faith to people who have everyday questions and concerns.

(I have yet to find a site devoted to distinguishing the circumincession of the Holy Trinity from the circuminsession of the Holy Trinity.)

You refer to my “repeated claims of a dawning ‘new spring’ for Catholicism.” I think you will see that I usually say that it is the Holy Father who has talked about the possibility of a “new springtime” for the Church, and I have said that he might be right. Of course, he also might be wrong. Any new springtime will be contingent on things happening today and in the next number of years.
 
Adam,

It sounds like you have an identity crisis. I’m sure some of us have struggled with these things, I know I have. But, if you don’t understanding the meaning of life, look at a crucifix. Take a look at Him. Take a look at yourself. Contemplate the cross, where all roads cross. There you will come to know the meaning of life and become who you are.
 
GK Chesterson may be a help, but my best advise would be to read the Bible while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I never fail to get guidance when I ask Jesus in His presence.
 
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Melchior:
Hi Adam,

The ivory tower has a way of creating an intellectual vacuum that is bad for the soul. Mel
Hear hear. The main problem I have with Catholics these days is that there’s plenty of “head knowledge” but little “heart knowledge”. I know that’s somewhat of a carryover from my dabblings in Protestantism (I’m a convert/re-vert), but I think it’s true to a degree. A lot of society’s ills were and are perpetuated by some of our most celebrated scholars (an example that comes to mind is the eugenics movement championed by Sanger now embraced by the likes of Bill Gates, etc.).

Some of the Church’s greatest saints weren’t all too intellectual, but still had profound thoughts about the nature and love of Christ. Just “be still and know that I am God”.
 
I remember John Vennari stating in a recent Catholic Family News article that he personally knew two people whose faith had been damaged by reading Karl Rahner. One of them left the Church and came back a traditional Catholic many years later. The other trashed her Rahner books and rescued her faith by reading the lives of the saints.

Read the lives of the saints. I guess that would be my advice. The Story of a Soul and The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena are both excellent.
 
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