SUMMARY OF APOLOGETICS
by Fr. William Most
There are wild attacks made on Scripture today. Some say
Jesus said hardly anything of the words the Gospels give for Him,
that He worked no miracles, that after being crucified He was
given a criminal's shallow burial, and the wild dogs ate His
Can we do anything about these wild claims? First, we can
answer briefly but well: what fools would the
Apostles be to preach a man who was just criminal, no
resurrection, no miracles. How could they convert people to that,
especially with no miracles? And what of St. Paul going into
sophisticated Greece? If he had nothing but his own unsupported
word, no miracles, he would have converted no one.
But there is a fuller and in a way better answer. There is
much more we can do. We need a careful rational process called
apologetics. We called it rational, since it does not at all
appeal to faith - faith comes in later, at the end.
There are two phases, first some preliminary checking on the
Gospels, which we look on temporarily as just ancient documents,
not as inspired. Second we find 6 vital points which show what we
need to know.
The first phase, the preliminaries look for three things
about the Gospel writers, whoever they were. We need not insist
on the four traditional names, for it was common then to use as
pen names the names of famous men.
First question: these writers, did they try to get the
facts? Of course. They believed their eternal fate hung on the
truth about Jesus. That is plenty of reason. And St. Ignatius of
Antioch, one of the first Bishops there after St. Peter, was eaten
alive by wild animals in the arena. Yet on the way to Rome he
wrote to the Roman Christians asking them not to try to get him
off - he wanted to die for Christ. Let us get a copy of that
letter, read it by the lions' den at the zoo, and ask: How
creative was he? How much did he just make up?
Second, did they have anywhere to get the facts? There is a
whole litany of sources. First Clement I, elected pope probably
in 88 or 92, wrote to Corinth around 95 AD. In that letter he said
Peter and Paul were of his own generation. They died about 66 or
67, so likely he had heard them preach. If not, there were
hundreds in Rome who had heard them. Then there is St. Ignatius of
Antioch, whom we mentioned already. He came from where Peter had
preached not long before, where Paul made a sort of headquarters,
going in and out of there most of the time on missionary trips.
There is also Quadratus, writing around 123, who reports that in
his day, there were people alive who had been cured by Christ, or
raised from the dead by Him. We need not push that to 123, but it
surely covers the decade of 80-90, when the leftists want to say
Matthew and Luke wrote. And besides all of these, there would
have been teenagers around when Jesus taught and died. Think of a
few of them 50 years later. Not so many made it to 65 then, but
enough did. At 65 they would be in the year 80, when Matthew and
Luke were supposed to have written. They could supply more than a
few facts about one so striking as Jesus.
Thirdly, can we get any report that is not marred by
subjectivity? For it is said: There is no such thing as an
uninterpreted report. Now there is much truth in that charge. But
if we look closely, it does not cover everything. A leper stands
before Jesus asking to be cured. He says: I will it. Be cured.
The structure of that incident is so simple, there is just no
room to insert subjectivity.
So if we can get for our 6 points things that simple, we
have a basis. And we do, as we can see as we run through the six.
First, there was a man named Jesus. Even pagan historian
Tacitus testifies to that. Second, he claimed to be sent by God -
this is obvious all over the Gospels. Third, He proved he was
such a man by miracles, and not just miracles, but miracles
worked with a tie between the claim and the miracle, as when he
cured the paralytic let down through the roof to prove he had
forgiven sins. Fourth and fifth are things we would just expect:
In the crowds he had a smaller group to whom he spoke more.
Clearly, the Twelve. He told them to continue His teaching - we
see that easily. Finally, once we know what sort of person He is,
what credentials He has, it is not at all surprising if he says,
on many different occasions such things as: "He who hears you,
hears me". This is a simple statement. It amounts to: God will
protect their teaching. The Gospels, which we find are good for
at least a few simple things, and the group He chose, both
testify that He said such things. So He promised God would
protect their teaching. Any messenger sent from God with such
miraculous powers would be so apt to provide that.
Then we see in front of us a group, can call it a church,
with a commission to teach from someone God sent, with a promise
of God's protection. Then we not only intellectually may, but
must believe what they teach. This gives us a bypass around the
foolish quibbles of the the follish writers we mentioned at the
start, and others like them. This group or church can tell us the
Gospels are inspired - if we did not prove that we would have no
right to quote them as inspired. They can tell us that the one
sent from God is really God. They can tell us that there is a
Pope - for we had not mentioned him, and they can tell us what
the pope can do. And they can answer other questions about the
content of the Gospels.
So we are not basing ourselves on Cloud nine, but on
careful, tight reasoning that does not depend on faith. No other
sect or denomination can make such a closely reasoned proof of
its divine commission. So the answer: Better believe it!