This question came up recently, in response to my last post. Instead of laying out the case for the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18, it was an explanation of why the Protestant interpretation was wrong. On Facebook, a reader responded, “You should rename your blog from Catholic Defense to Here's Why Your Religious Beliefs Are Wrong, Heathen.”
So let me give three reasons why I think an important part of defending Catholicism involves pointing out where alternative or contrary belief systems are wrong:
Reason # 1
|E-5 Candidates taking a standardized quiz.|
An important part of defending Catholicism involves showing why this faith has a better explanatory power than alternatives. To fail to do that would be to leave the argument half-done. To put it in debate terms, I’m making an affirmative case for Catholicism; but that includes showing why Catholicism is preferable to the various counter-plans (Protestantism, Mormonism, Atheism, etc.). If I didn’t believe that it was preferable, I wouldn’t be Catholic.
If you prefer, think about it in terms of a standardized test: you use the process of elimination to eliminate the wrong answers. What remains is the right answer.This is very clear in the context of the debate over Matthew 16:18, since there are generally only two options put forward. The Protestant website GotQuestions? framed in way:
The debate rages over whether “the rock” on which Christ will build His church is Peter, or Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). In all honesty, there is no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct.The Catholic interpretation makes sense, works Scripturally, and finds Patristic support. But if the Protestant interpretation also works, then there’s “no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct.” But if we can show, as I think I have in the prior post, that the Protestant interpretation doesn’t work, then the matter is settled. Through the process of elimination, we’ve eliminated one of the two choices.
Reason # 2
In showing what Catholicism doesn’t teach, the affirmative teachings of the Church are better delimited and elucidated. This is a basic reality. Almost any affirmative statement is open to misinterpretation. Through a process of negation (“No, I don’t mean THAT by this statement”) the meaning of the original statement is made clearer.
If you want to see this truth in practice, read a little Church history. Core doctrines, like the Trinity or the Dual Natures of Christ, are seminally present from the very beginning. But it’s in response to heresies that these doctrines are more clearly elucidated. That’s why, for example, the original Nicene Creed ended with a series of Anathema clauses, condemning specific heretical interpretations of the Creed. The Church was making it abundantly clear what was meant, by explaining what wasn’t meant.
Reason # 3
|Domenico Fetti, Archimedes Thoughtful (1620)|
Of course, the approach that I’m taking assumes that people are capable of rational thought, and aren’t just clinging to their religion or belief system irrationally. But this is an assumption that, even on this blog, has been vindicated several times. Conversions do happen, and while they’re the work of the Holy Spirit, He deigns to use human instruments to create the openings through which He works.
So those are my thoughts. Of course, I’d love to hear your feedback: do you think that this approach works? Do you think that the right balance is struck? Anything that you’d particularly like to see more (or less) of?