Arguing in defence of the faith is not about winning a debate, but walking with Jesus in the relationship that he wants us
to have with the Father.
This was the message of Australian Catholic apologist Matt Fradd to the young people who attended his talk on “How to win an argument without losing a soul”, hosted by the Auckland Catholic Tertiary Chaplaincy on May 27.
Mr Fradd is an author, blogger and podcaster and the executive director of “The Porn Effect”, a website aimed at helping men and women break free from pornography. He is based in Georgia, USA.
“If we can take away anything today, it is: Walk with the Lord in this relationship with the Father that he wants us to have.
It’s an interactive ongoing experience,” Mr Fradd said. “It’s not just about assenting to the right proposition. It’s about engaging with the Father who loves us, who likes us despite all the arguments we have for why he shouldn’t.”
Mr Fradd said to always keep 1 Peter 3:15 in mind (“But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you . Yet, do it with gentleness and reverence”.)
“If we love the Father, if we have a relationship with Christ, then there is a joy in our lives. We don’t have to fix anything. This journey is a beautiful adventure. And that joy will inspire people. And they’ll ask us questions,” he said.
“And when they ask us questions, we should realise that we have a rational defence for our faith. That the Church is [a] champion of reason. And that we should be able to give a defence. If we aren’t able to, then we should look at ways to be able to do that.”
He suggested five strategies for constructive discourse. These include: 1) listen to the person you are engaging with; 2) ask questions to understand what the other person is really saying; 3) prudence in evangelisation; 4) admitting when you don’t know the answer, look it up and come back with the right response and 5) realise that you can’t change someone’s mind.
“The people who we’re engaging with aren’t our enemies. The people we are engaging with, they are people that Jesus died for and that he loves. And so we should pray and look on the message,” he said.
In the question and answer time, Mr Fradd said there is a new term, “apatheism, the idea that there is a God, but I don’t care”.
He said philosopher Blaise Pascal faced the same kind of apathy in a very secular and atheistic France in the 17th century.
“[Pascal] said one of the reasons why we’re so apathetic is we’re entertaining ourselves to death. If that was true in the
17th century, it’s probably true today,” noted Mr Fradd.
The reason for wanting the distraction, he offered, is that we don’t like ourselves.
“You plunge headlong into distractions, thereby fragmenting your interior life and, as a result, you won’t have to be with you. So, just be honest and say you love Netflix more than Jesus. Just say it and repent of it. Just say you love porn more than you love Jesus,” he said.
“I like listening to podcasts in the car. A lot of times, I’m just consuming it like I’m consuming junk food. Because I’m bored and I want happiness. And you’re exactly like me. You’re an idiot. I am, too,” he said.
But if we want to have deeper relationship with Jesus, he said, we have to stop distracting ourselves.
“My point is, before we call other people out for apathy, we should call our own. And fight ruthlessly against the tyranny of hurriedness,” he said.
Mr Fradd suggested that sometimes, one needs to back off an argument.
“The Lord is calling you to do a lot of things. You might decide prayerfully, it might be best if you cease this conversation. This is especially true when you begin arguing online and when you sense that the other person doesn’t have good will and that they are mocking you or they are mocking your faith,” he explained.
Mr Fradd said although he keeps arguing for the same issues, he never gets tired of doing it.
“The person in front of me is a person who is loved by God and should be a Catholic. And if I can help remove some stumbling blocks along the way, it’s a great honour,” he said.
Mr Fradd also spoke at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary alongside Bishop Stephen Lowe on May 28 about Mary. Another talk was at Holy Family parish in Te Atatu, Auckland on May 29 about “Porn: Seven Myths Exposed”.