TIP of the day: Defensive apologetics with Logos

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Mar 6 2016 5:22 PM

Note: I am sketching out the use of Logos not actually defending a position. I simply had to select an example to deal with. I chose one from https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=944&topic=77 I do not (deliberately) know what tradition they represent.

1. Read the article carefully noting everywhere where you see:

  • a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of your tradition
  • presentation of their view that differs from your own
  • possible misunderstandings because a term is not used in the same way in both traditions
  • weak logic

If the paper you are critiquing is in Logos you can use Notes to hold and highlight your observations. If it is not I like using the comment function of Word.

As you are on the defensive, many small or peripheral issues are apt to be marked. Select a major issue or two where you position is attacked and mark them "Major defensive issue". Select a point or two where the author presents a critical position with which you disagree and mark them "Counterattack".

2. Unless you know other's position very well, it is better to start with the defensive position which you know than to but your foot in your mouth on what you don't know. It is also best to choose a starting point in which you have much common ground. Here I'll start with the two apparent differences:

  • if faith is infused, man is compelled to act
  • faith is an act of man not a gift from God

To make sure we are using the term "faith" in the same way, I would normally run a Logos search on faith against a collection of my theological dictionaries. Here, however, because the author refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  I use the table of contents to go to the glossary to look up the definition of faith. If I did not know that there was a Glossary in the back, I would have done an inline search on faith.

Okay, the definition includes faith being both a human act AND a gift from God, so the author and I agree that it is a human act. It now falls on the author to prove the charge of "compelling" which is the author's addition to what the CCC actually says. and on me to prove that faith is a gift of God.

3. I genuinely don't know if "infused" has any technical meaning or whether it is just the common vocabulary. Running a search on "infused" against my theological dictionaries does not turn up anything to imply that "infused" is a technical term. I find that across the traditions represented by my dictionaries "infused" pretty much means "gift of God" and is therefore unlikely to be the cause of any misunderstanding beyond the author's association of it with compulsion which does not appear to be a common view.

4.So at this point the argument stands as:

  • the author of the article needs to show the element of compulsion
  • I as defender need to show the element of gift

Because of the author's use only of Biblical references, I need to make my case based solely (or at least primarily) on Biblical references. I begin by copying the entire article into the clipboard and then making a passage list from the clipboard.

5. Looking through the verses, I remove the one duplicate, ignore verses I deem irrelevant, and review the remaining verses only to decide that the two verses the author focused on as erroneously interpreted are likely key passages. So I run a Passage Guide on them and review the Systematic theology section to see how these verses are generally interpreted. I am in for a surprise as Matthew 16:16-17 yields almost no results and Ephesians 2:8 yields no Catholic results.

6. So I run a search against all my resources for (gift NEAR faith) OR (infused NEAR faith). Unfortunately this results in > 4000 resources being selected - too many to even scan the titles carefully for items of potential interest. But pretending that the list was more reasonable in size, I scan the list using mouse over and expand to identify resources I may be interested in pursuing. I give emphasis to resources in apologetics and theology.

As you can see, I have plenty of work ahead to gather the required scriptural references ...

7. As is often the case, in working through my resources I came across information that would have been useful to know earlier (in this case for a forum thread) or may be of use later once I get the author past the misunderstandings and into the real differences. Take the time now to tag it appropriately so you can find it again .... otherwise you will be in the situation I was this morning until I found the resource via the History tool ... "I know I read something interesting on Thomas Aquinas and theosis yesterday ... what was I viewing that was about Aquinas ... or was it Aquinas himself ... or was it an apologetics text ... or ..."

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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