Spring 2014

Introduction: Apologetics


Apologetics is the Church’s perennial task of making evident the reasonableness of the faith. This task belongs to the very identity of the Church not only because of her mission to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth—a mission that includes presenting reasons for the faith—but, even more fundamentally, because of the obligation simply to make manifest the truth of faith and thereby show forth the glory of God. Though the task is perennial, it is one that must be renewed in response to the particular challenges presented to the Church in each age.

Paolo Prosperi, in “The Witness of the Martyrs in the Early Church,” asks why “the martyr [is] the supreme and most paradigmatic witness of the truth of God’s love.” It is the martyr whose handing over of himself images and therefore manifests and witnesses to Christ’s death and Resurrection in the most complete way. The martyr is not merely a Christianized version of the Greek mythological hero, says Prosperi, because the martyr “is given to become a hero at the very moment of his suffering and death, a witness he would never be able to give without the active presence of Christ in him.”

D.C. Schindler’s “On Reason’s Authority” explores the metaphysical underpinnings of apologetics. “Philosophical truth,” he writes, “does not seem to require any authority because it can speak for itself—indeed its dignity lies in doing so.” But truth requires someone to tell it: the question then is “whether and to what extent personal witness has significance for the truths of reason.” It is indeed essential, Schindler insists, for “personal involvement in the manifestation of the meaning of things reveals that there is no created truth that is not mediated by the ‘subjective’ aspect of freedom, no matter how ‘objective’ the truth may be.”

In “‘Faith is Obvious’: The Apologetics of Creation,” Mary Taylor ponders the sense in which the world has lost its self-evident character—as creation. Taking as her starting point Péguy’s statement that, “in order not to believe, you would have to do violence to yourself,”1 Taylor sets forth several “violent” modern ideologies regarding the natural world. She looks to Edith Stein for assistance in explicating a fuller understanding, showing the martyred saint—St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross—to be a concrete witness to the experience of beauty in creation as well as to the catholicity of reason. In contrast to the common view of apologetics as, above all, the constructing of arguments, Taylor shows that creation itself is a manifestation of the truth of God when we receive it as a gift in the spirit of the child.

Randall B. Smith’s “‘If Philosophy Begins in Wonder’: Aquinas, Creation, and Wonder” presents an extended reflection, in terms of wonder, on the apology creation offers not only for herself but also for her creator. “The authentic Christian sacramental theology of creation,” writes Smith, “provides the sort of pre-philosophical worldview that can nourish, and equally importantly continue to sustain, the wonder necessary for philosophy,” and thus for the humanum itself.

In Retrieving the Tradition, we offer Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 1977 symposium address on “The Primacy of the Pope and the Unity of the People of God.” In this paper, Ratzinger highlights the sense of papacy as a symbol of personal and particular witness to the Cross of Jesus Christ, or what he calls the “martyrological structure” of papal primacy. Ratzinger unfolds his argument in relation to the theological treatise of Cardinal Reginald Pole written in the mid-1500s, in which Pole rejects Henry VIII’s proposed remarriage along with his claim on behalf of Royal Supremacy and thus the supremacy of state power. According to Pole, “the majestic titles pertaining to Christ as God by nature” are received by Christ in his humanity “only after his humiliation, and this is true analogously for the pope as Christ’s representative.” How is it, then, that the Chair of Peter upon which the Vicar of Christ sits is similar to the Cross to which Christ was nailed? Ratzinger cites Pole: “During his entire pontificate [Peter] never descended from (the Cross), but rather, ‘exalted with Christ’ according to the spirit, his hands and feet were fastened with nails in such a way that he wished, not to go where his own will urged him, but rather to remain where God’s will guided him (cf. Jn 21:18). . . .”

In a word, says Ratzinger, “attachment to the Word and will of God because of the Lord is what makes the sedes a cross and thus proves the Vicar to be a representative. . . . Professing the Lord’s death and Resurrection is his whole commission and personal responsibility, in which the common profession of the Church is depicted as personally ‘binding’ through the one who is bound.” Only in the obedience of the Cross does the Vicar abide as “repraesentatio Christi in the age of this world,” keeping his powerless power “present to counterbalance the power of the world.”

1. Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005), 9.