APOLOGETICS

 

Thomas Russell Wingate  

March–April 2012

 

 

                   1

 

Apologetics is not theology.

 

The first is parallel to rhetoric; the second, to philosophy.

 

Tradition and authority guide them both.

 

                   2

 

An apology is an intellectual (not emotional) argument in favor of a faith already held by some but not by others. The apologist hopes that his apology will change and govern the minds of those who hear it or read it.

 

John Henry Newman, James E. Talmage, and C.S. Lewis were superb apologists.¹

 

Apologetics is the crafting of apologies, just as an architectural drawing is the crafting of a building.

 

To explain further: in American political discourse it is fruitful to contrast The Federalist Papers to the Pledge of Allegiance.

  

3

 

Pro propaganda fide: for the propagation of the faith.

 

Before the collectivist movements of the twentieth century polluted it, the Latin word propaganda was not used to include political hysteria, shameless  lying, and the techniques of commercial advertising adapted to regimentation.

 

Propaganda (quoth Hitler) should always be directed toward the least intelligent of those one intends to convince.

 

Apologetics aims at the most intelligent.

 

                   4

 

A doctrine which has a permanent core will come to find that elements have attached themselves to that core like barnacles to a ship. It comes to be thought—or accepted without thought—that the barnacles were intended by the shipwright. The addenda are given slight weight, then greater weight, then predominant weight when the permanent core has grown old.

 

Catholics call this the Deposit of Faith. It includes the Bible but also much more. Catholics defend the whole that has come down to us.

 

Judaism and Islam have added to their permanent cores. The addenda, it is held, would have been written by prophets or angels if only more time had been available. Much ingenuity has been applied to the exposition of this position. It comes to be culturally prized that ingenuity has no higher purpose.

 

                   5

 

In Western Christendom—and nowhere else—an enduring and governing idea has been that the ship sails better without barnacles.

 

How to identify the barnacles has been difficult. Is Saint Augustine to be applauded, discarded, or reinterpreted in light of present objectives?

 

To remove barnacles from a ship, one must place her in dry dock. But how does one do that with a religion—step outside its strictures and mappings?

 

                   6

 

We must distinguish between testimony and apology.

 

Testimony takes the form: JKL happened and I was there and I saw it.

 

Apology takes the form: JKL is in dispute, so let us put our most sober heads together and come to a settlement of our differences—not a compromise, but a clearly settled understanding, for not all points of view have merit.

 

                   7

 

The New Testament would be easier to understand if it were arranged to start with its only apology, Epistle to the Hebrews.

 

Hebrews was crafted under Paul’s supervision and released upon (unstated) apostolic authority. Its intended audience: persons of Hebraic descent who were interested in what was being said about their prophesied inheritance. 

 

It is the only “letter” of Paul’s which does not name him and cite his authority.

 

Of course not: it is an apology, not a directive or a sermon or a testimony. It has to stand on its argument, not upon its propounder.  

 

The New Testament does not directly state that the majority of persons deemed to be Jews by themselves or by others were outside Eretz Israel. Neither Persia nor Yemen nor Malabar received Luke’s attention.

 

Paul of (sophisticated) Tarsus traveled a lot. Jesus of (nowhere) Nazareth didn’t.  

 

                   8

 

An endonym is what a people call themselves.

 

An exonym is what a people are called by outsiders.

 

Endonyms: Catholic / Roman Catholicism

 

Exonyms: papist / Romanism

 

Endonyms: Muslim² / Islam

 

Exonyms: Mohammedan / Mohammedanism

 

                   9

 

Exonyms can become endonyms.

 

In the New Testament, we find Christian(s) in only three places: Acts 11:26, 26:28, and I Peter 4:16.

 

Christians nowadays usually know not what else they might call themselves.

 

We find saints fifty-nine times in the Old Testament and thirty-seven times in the New Testament.

 

We find disciples once in the Old Testament and 231 times in the New Testament.

 

Saints and disciples seem to have been used interchangeably in the New Testament.

 

                   10

 

Saint has acquired additional luster in certain Christian bodies and cultures.

 

Patrick (fifth century) was a saint of the Celtic Christian Church, which submitted (in theory) to the Roman Catholic Church in 664. The Catholic Church has not seen fit to canonize him.

 

England and France have each had one king canonized by a pope: Edward the Confessor (died 1066) and Louis IX (died 1270). Spain must rest content with Ferdinand III of Castille (died 1252).

 

The Church of England canonized Charles I (deposed, beheaded, 1649) and discontinued canonization.

 

Nicholas II (deposed 1917, shot 1918) was canonized twice by different Russian Orthodox Churches.  

 

The Catholic Church carefully confers lesser titles (which may be replaced by higher ones).

 

Persons recently proclaimed “Blessed” (two syllables) include Mother Teresa of Calcutta (died 1997), Pius IX (died 1878), John XXIII (died 1963), John Paul II (died 2005), John Henry Newman (died 1890), and Karl I, the last Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, and (titular) King of Jerusalem (deposed 1918, died in exile 1922).

 

Pius XII (died 1958) was recently proclaimed “Venerable.”      

 

Wikipedia lists patron saints (some decreed, some not) of occupations, countries, diseases, and much else. (Bureaucrats and voters get by without one.)

 

In 1969 Paul VI made it known that Saint Barbara had never existed. Californians joked that Santa Barbara had become Señora Barbara.

 

Isidore of Seville (died 636, canonized 1598, made Doctor of the Church 1722) is the popular saint of computer users and the Internet. 

 

Images of Nuestra Señora (La Virgen) de Guadalupe, declared in 1999 by John Paul II to be Patroness of the Americas, Protectress of Unborn Children, are instantly recognized throughout the New World. (Over centuries, papal attention has built upon popular reverence; see Wikipedia. The New World has not yet produced a pope.)

 

Eighty popes—30% of 265 so far—have been declared saints. We find fifty-two (96%) of the first fifty-four listed. The remaining twenty-eight end with Pius V (died 1572, canonized 1712) and Pius X (died 1914, canonized 1954). Intervals of 399 years and 242 years separate these culminations. 

 

  

▬ In March 2013 the Atlantic was crossed in a strange way. Francis, an Argentine Jesuit of Italian descent, replaced Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, a German, who had succeeded John Paul II, a Pole. Has the papacy remained an “Italian” institution? Argentina’s population is far more Italian than not. (See Europe and the West 13 and New World 12 on website.) The Society of Jesus, long influential in the New World, has been suppressed and restored by popes more than once. The Jesuits have seen it all.    

 

▬ In April 2014 papal sainthoods recommenced with flair after sixty years. John XXIII (died 1963) and John Paul II (died 2005) were canonized on the same day by Pope Francis, in the presence of Benedict XVI, in televised Latin. John Paul II canonized more persons than all his predecessors combined.

 

▬ This website will keep no further track of popes. 

 

 

11

 

Hebrew began as an exonym. Only one person in the Bible is called by that term: Abram—before his name was divinely changed.

 

Hebrew is used twenty-six times in the entire King James Bible. 

 

Not until Jeremiah 34:9 do we find Hebrew and Jew used interchangeably.

 

Jew is used ten times in the Old Testament; eight of those times are in Esther.

 

Jew is used twenty times in the New Testament; twelve of those times are by Paul.

 

It is striking that Christ is not recorded as having used Jew or Hebrew at all.

 

He did mention the House of Israel twice (Matthew 10:6, 15:24).

 

Children of Israel is used in the King James Bible more than 600 times. House of Israel is used in 282 verses.

 

12

 

To winnow the Deposit of Faith, a principle was proclaimed by the most disaffected: sola scriptura.

 

Problems arose with it.

 

Who can keep count of how many Protestant bodies there are? Do not leave out “non-denominational” and “interfaith” canopies.³

 

                   13

 

Sola scriptura has not welcomed novae scripturae, for who is to do the welcoming?

 

The Book of Mormon anticipates (II Nephi 29) its own rejection.

 

Nothing new in that.

 

                   14

 

The “new religion” has insisted all along that it is the reincarnation and replica of the Earliest Church. It takes no cognizance of creeds proclaimed centuries after the “former days.”

 

A bland and forgettable name was in use at the start (New York, 1830). Vivid exonyms—Mormonism, Mormons, the Mormon Church—came into being almost at once. Their users fancied that they held and could keep the high ground.   

 

                   15

 

The exonym has become an endonym.

 

We can speak with perfect sense of “the Jewish people” and “the Mormon people.” Both are farflung; both are adamant about belonging to the House of Israel.

 

A recorded revelation (Missouri, 1838) provided a new, exact, and permanent ecclesiastical nomenclature: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

It is in the sense of the New Testament that Mormons call themselves saints, not in the sense that the Roman Catholic Church calls Francis and Clare of Assisi saints.

 

The LDS Church never speaks of “Saint Brigham Young” or “Saint Moroni.”

 

In Mormon art, which spares us nudity, angels have no wings and not even Christ has a halo.

 

16

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expresses in its name a comprehensive identity and description.

 

Call it a perfect apology.

 

  

17

 

Apologetics does not require words.

 

The exterior of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City has enormous carven outlines of Earth’s hemispheres. Their projections are subtly centered on two meridians. One (35° 14´ E) is Old Jerusalem’s. The other (94° 21´ W) is that of Independence Temple Lot in Jackson County, Missouri.

 

No sign explains this. No pamphlet points it out. It seems very safe to say that 99% who notice the relief continents are blind to those peculiar longitudes. (Here I must plead guilty through decades.)

 

To Latter-day Saints the New World is a Holy Land more important than the Bible’s. Christ will return to Jerusalem but reign from Jackson County.

 

                   18

 

Mormon Christianity is depicted by outsiders as a product of the nineteenth century.

 

Mormon Christianity presents itself as an intrusion into these times—and future times.

 

It has been strenuously rejected because it comes from Somewhere Else. Its people don’t, but its formative doctrine does.

 

The Standard Works of the Church (which include the Bible) follow—often in minute detail—the rhetorical model of the King James Version.

 

Doctrine and Covenants speaks of saints ninety-six times, of Christians not even once. The Pearl of Great Price speaks of saints four times, of Christians not even once. The Book of Mormon speaks of saints thirty-seven times and of Christians four times: once (Alma 46:15) as an endonym, thrice (Alma 46:13-14, 48:10) as an exonym.

 

A tip for Americans: Christian does not mean Protestant, orthodox does not mean familiar.

 

 

                    19

 

In July 1977 President Spencer W. Kimball made an address you may read on the Internet: “The Gospel Vision of the Arts.” He exhorted the Saints to go beyond accepted giants—Shakespeare, Wagner, Goethe, Michelangelo, Handel—and produce their superiors. Art is a religious duty, not a cultural frivolity or happenstance.

 

 

 

NOTES

 

 

 

1 See Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg.

2 Since Islam denies the very concept of Christhood,

   Muslims call Christians “Nazarenes.” (Arabic

   Nasrani, closely related to “fish”—the original

   Christian visual symbol.)

3 Be aware that most Christian bodies claiming

   connection to the first four centuries speak in

   their careful moments of the Church Catholic,

   which does not mean the Holy Roman Catholic

   and Apostolic Church (to use her correct name).

 

 


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