Book Review: How NOT To Share Your Faith – The Seven Deadly Sins of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization

In today’s world, Catholics should be able to cleverly and boldly defend their faith.  However, with relativism and religious confusion running rampant, Catholic apologists and theologians face seemingly greater challenges than ever before.  Christians, Catholics in particular, face higher levels of open hostility than in the past.

Mark Brumley sheds light on what not to do in How NOT To Share Your Faith: The Seven Deadly Sins of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization.  Brumley was raised with no religious upbringing.  He was introduced to Christianity via Evangelical Protestantism and received into the Catholic Church in 1980.  His unique perspective gives us valuable insights into the mistakes that apologists, both professional and amateur, make when spreading the faith.

I heard about this book on Catholic Answers.  I will say that even before reading it, I’d begun to develop an awareness of some of them.  It was a very humbling read for me because, to varying degrees, I am guilty of everything he highlights.  Unfortunately though, I’m not the only one who’s made these mistakes.  I’ve also seen them among some of my friends and family, on Facebook, and occasionally, even on the beloved Catholic Memes page.

The Seven Deadly Sins…

“Win an argument, lose a soul” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

The first three chapters are very intertwined with each other.  In the first chapter, he discusses what he calls “apologetical gluttony.”  Some apologists focus on reason (as they should), but almost too much.  For example, Brumely mentions a fellow apologist who claimed to be able to defend the Trinity through reason alone.  Brumely responded by saying it would make him question his faith.  Faith is a gift, a theological virtue.  A person with free will cannot be reasoned into believing, or else they do not have free will.  Next, he addresses reducing the faith to apologetics and apologetics to arguments.  In short, some think that defending the faith and the faith itself are synonymous, which is not always true.  The faith is what we believe and apologetics is how we spread and defend it.  Chapter 3 addresses thinking that the faith and arguments for it are one and the same.

The next four chapters address our general attitudes towards apologetics and how we interact with others.  He addresses “trying to ‘win’”, or putting the argument in higher priority than the salvation of a soul.  He talks about contentiousness, or arguing just to argue, which once again puts argument over salvation.  Chapter 6 may be difficult for some: “Friendly Fire”, focusing excessively (or exclusively) on differences between us and non-Catholics as well as those who share our faith in God, but not through Christianity.  Though we should be evangelizing to them, they are nonetheless our partners in the brutal culture war in which we currently find ourselves.  And above all, well…this previous post.

Finally, he addresses pride, which the Church teaches is the root of all sin.  Humans are selfish and prideful by nature, but the question is do we let it get the better of us?  We may be proud of our accomplishments, but for whom and do we do these things?  What is our end-state?

…and what to do about them!

After exposing the Deadly Sins of apologetics, he addresses whether calling them “Deadly Sins” is simply metaphorical or if they actually are sins.  In short, they very well could be.  A sin is an act that is contrary to the will of God and that is done with knowledge and consent of being so (CCC 1855, 1857).  One example he cites is a friend of his who said he loved going to Mass, but not to honor his Sunday obligation or give thanks to God.  He loved going to Mass because he was able to develop arguments in favor of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

He also notes that there have been some apologists who may deliberately misrepresent facts in order to place victory above salvation and education  All of this, including the previous example, involve love of self over that of the Church and of God.

In the final two chapters, he concludes by outlining and detailing the habits of effective apologists: prayer, study, dialogue, clarity, faith, hope, and charity.

“…Defend us in battle.”

Some of us feel as if we can take on any secularist, theological liberal, or the like.  We should always defend the faith with this kind of boldness and confidence.  However, we are only capable of so much.  There are situations that should be handled delicately.  Brumley’s book shows us exactly how to do so.

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