Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What am I doing here?

I've said before that I'm not an apologist, and I still mean that. And yet I have spent an awful lot of time discussing or arguing (depending on the occasion) stuff with Protestants, and on many another occasion I've discussed issues that I've learned about or identified myself with regard to Protestantism. So I suppose if someone were to describe me as an apologist, there would be a lot of evidence to support that claim, and I can't deny that there have been occasions where my purpose has certainly been to defend the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith. But I would still dispute being described as an "apologist."

First of all I would deny it on grounds of qualifications: I lack the expertise, tools, time, and temperament for it. But I would also deny it in terms of my intent: it is not normally my purpose to act as one at all, save perhaps in one or two significant respects.

For one thing, just because we are Christians we are supposed to "be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you" (1Pe 3:15). But I think there is a more immediate reason for it in my case, and that is to be found in the fact that I am a Catholic convert. Conversion is a lifelong thing, but even moreso, I think, for the adult convert: he has learned habits of thought from a life of being non-Catholic, and if he's serious about thinking as a Catholic, and if he has the means and opportunity to do so, he will want to invest time in learning to do so. And part of that means "answering" for himself the things that he formerly believed. That's an inevitable part of renewing one's mind.

So that's a primary reason for the frequency with which I refer to Protestantism and its errors on this blog: completing my own conversion. I am quite sure that if my experience had been other than it was - if, for example, I had been raised Mormon, or Hindu, or something - the focus of my "apologetic" posts would be upon that tradition rather than upon Protestantism. The purpose would be the same: to "fix" what is broken in the way that I think by understanding how it is broken, and how I ought to think instead, and to instill Catholic habits of thought in my small brain. And like any habit, that takes repetition to establish.

So why not keep this sort of stuff to myself? Why blog about it? Because I can :-) Seriously though, there are a variety of reasons. Although I don't consider myself to be gifted to be an apologist, it does seem that I have some measure of ability as a teacher - something that has been affirmed by others. I enjoy teaching, and so one significant reason why I write here is to hopefully produce something that will be useful or helpful to others. If blog comments are any measure, God has seen fit to bless that purpose in some small way, and that's justification enough to me for continuing to make the effort of posting here.

A secondary reason is that by writing, I force myself to think through things more clearly and with more discipline than if I just sat here with stray notions rattling around in my head like a pachinko game.

And a third reason is that by posting here, rather than saving everything solely on my computer or in a filing cabinet, the stuff I've written has a better likelihood of being preserved. These posts serve as expanded notes to myself as well, and it would be disappointing (to say the least) if I lost access to what I've already written.

And of course it would be silly to overlook or deny the fact that it's fun to blog. :-)


Mike Burgess said...

Loved this post. Sorry I've been a bit scarce lately, I'm spending the last few days of vacation with spring cleaning, personal projects, etc. I'll have at least 3 more Maritain posts up on Syzygus this weekend, plus a lengthy response to a thread where GeneMBridges is calling me out to the playground after school from James Swan's blog. I don't know why that guy has been so antagonistic to me from the very outset, probably I came across gruffly or something and he responded in kind, but I want to take some real time and carefully address a whole host of issues he's blasting at me.

You've been putting up some terrific stuff. I much appreciate it.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Mike,

I'm glad to hear from you again!

I wouldn't take Bridges' apparent attitude too personally; I can't remember having seen him treat any Catholic courteously, unfortunately. :-(

I've been waiting with bated breath for your Maritain posts :-)

Thanks as always for your encouragement.