How to Answer Protestants Forum: Progressive Involvement
Progressive Involvement QUESTION from Louis July 26, 2001 Troy,
Could you please explain or comment on progressive involvement tactics often used by non-catholic church members to get unwary catholics involved. I think many catholics are trying to be nice by taking those Jehova Witness magazines or other small offerings from other groups, yet do not realize that this is considered acceptance of evangelization overtures and an opening to further efforts to get us involved. Also how can we best fend-off these often seemingly innocuous contacts?
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on August 1, 2001 Dear Louis:
Thank you for your question, often when we try to be nice we can open ourselves up to being influenced by people and forces we have no business talking to (I have always wondered why Adam and Eve were even talking to the Serpent – maybe they were being nice).
I recommend that most Catholics politely refuse the literature pushed by these groups and by other door-to-door evangelizers and avoid getting into long discussions with them. Frankly, most Catholics have not been well trained enough to defend their faith adequately from the distortions offered as truth by someone who claims to be able to interpret Scripture better than the Catholic Church.
That being said, this don’t ask, don’t tell stage should be very temporary. Every Catholic has an obligation to learn the faith well and be able to present the teachings of the Church clearly to anyone who asks. I long for the day when faithful Catholics take to the neighborhoods with Bibles in hand and share the Faith with people in their homes and on the street corners. We have been given a Great Treasure and will be judged on how we use this gift for the greater glory of the Kingdom of God (see my previous answer on Judgement and read Matthew 25:14-31).
Now you know that you need to DO something, but what? Take for your mission a quote from a letter I call the first papal encyclical:
Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for your hope, be ever ready to reply, but speak gently and respectfully. Keep your conscience clear, so that, whenever you are defamed, those who libel your way of life in Christ may be shamed. 1 Peter 3:15-16.
One of the most important ways to witness for the faith is to live true to the Faith – Mother Teresa never gave a homily but lead many to Christ by her life.
How do you give a reason for your hope? Study the faith. Read your Catechism and Bible daily, start with the Mass readings and a few sections from the Catechism. Just reading the daily Mass readings every day you will have read most of the Bible in a three-year cycle. Never forget that the Roman Catholic Church is THE Bible Church, she not only collected and preserved the writing of the Apostles through the 16 centuries before Protestantism; she lives and breathes Scripture in everything she does. You will not find another Church that reads the whole Bible in its proper context – the liturgical assembly. Once you have mastered the daily readings, find a good CATHOLIC Bible study. Don’t join an ecumenical or non-denominational Bible study; they either will force their misinterpretations on you or they will water-down the teachings so much that it will waste your time. Don’t let them fool you: no one who is honest can give a non-denominational study, they will naturally slant any teachings towards the doctrines they believe. I have been asked in the past to present a non-denominational Scripture study and had to honestly admit that I could not: I am Catholic and will only teach Catholic doctrines and interpretation of Scripture.
I recommend a study that I have been involved with for a couple of years. It is written by Dr. Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins and can be found at Catholic Exchange . They recently made this study free and it always has been great quality and very faithful to the Church and Scripture.
As I said, read your Catechism. Centuries from now, our generation will be called blessed because we were given a great gift in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The doctrines are presented clearly and with great Scriptural references. This should be in every Catholic home and should be referred to often.
Next, read books. Good starters are Fundamentals of the Faith by Peter Kreeft, Straight Answers by Fr. William Saunders, What Catholics Really Believe by Karl Keating. I especially recommend starting with a wonderful booklet: Beginning Apologetics I by Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham from San Juan Catholic Seminars. I have used this booklet for teaching apologetics classes and have found it a gem that everyone can understand and learn from. They also have a version specifically for defending against Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. They can be found at www.catholicapologetics.com.
There are also many resources on the Internet, though caution is necessary. I can recommend two faithful sites (in addition to this one!) that I am very familiar with: Catholic Exchange , and Catholics United for the Faith . Both have archives of clear and faithful Church Teachings, namely Scripture Pages and Faith Facts respectively. For those who don't read much, get tapes. Two great sources are The Mary Foundation and St. Joseph's Communications.
Again, before you start charging into the battle, be sure you have been through this basic training. If you get a chance, practice with a group of faithful friends to make sure that you can present and defend the teachings of the Church clearly and with charity. Remember, you are not trying to win arguments, you are trying to win souls for Christ and His Church.
Pax Christi, Troy Martz
P.S. Also note that though you Jehovah's Witness friend may take material from you, they will NEVER read it -- they are forbidden by their organization from reading material from other groups.
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