No Apology Apologetics Book Summary

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Title: No Apology
Author: Karl Keating

TLDR: “No Apology” tackles the challenges of defending Catholicism, exploring effective apologetics, dissecting flawed arguments, and celebrating the faith’s enduring power through historical narratives and personal reflections.

Chapter 1: Answering an Absolutist

This chapter, presented as a letter to an unnamed individual, dives into the core of effective apologetics. Keating critiques the absolutist approach of the recipient, who attributes all conversions away from Catholicism to a conscious embrace of sin. Keating argues that this view is overly simplistic and fails to account for the complexity of human motivations and the role of grace in conversion.

Keating emphasizes that apologetics, the reasoned defense of the faith, is not about arguing people into belief. Instead, its purpose is to clear the path for grace by removing intellectual stumbling blocks that hinder acceptance of God’s offer. He stresses that faith is a gift freely accepted or rejected, often influenced by various factors beyond just a conscious choice for or against sin.

The author challenges the absolutist claim that anyone leaving the Church was never truly “in” it, arguing that this dangerous argument echoes the Donatist heresy. He clarifies that baptized infants are Catholics, even without an explicit act of faith, and that individuals who lapse in practice without formally rejecting Catholicism remain Catholics. Only when someone actively embraces another faith or explicitly rejects Catholicism do they cease to be Catholic.

Keating further criticizes the absolutist’s analogy to Fundamentalism’s concept of an absolute assurance of salvation. He argues that claiming a true Catholic can never fall away, regardless of their actions, necessitates an impractically narrow definition of “Catholic.” He points out that even St. Paul, after his dramatic conversion on the Damascus Road, expressed concern about losing the faith, highlighting the possibility of even devout Catholics faltering.

While acknowledging that sin can play a role in departures from the faith, Keating insists on considering other factors. He cites examples of individuals leaving Catholicism for perceived moral improvements in other faiths, seeking a deeper relationship with Christ elsewhere due to a lack of intellectual nourishment within Catholicism, or simply succumbing to persuasive arguments due to inadequate catechesis.

Keating concludes by rejecting the absolutist’s assertion that those who leave Catholicism do so with the intention of abandoning God. He stresses the importance of dialogue and reasoned engagement with those who have left or are considering leaving the faith, emphasizing that overcoming misconceptions and clearing paths for grace requires patient and charitable interaction.

Chapter 2: When Not to Turn the Other Cheek

This chapter explores the challenging dilemma faced by apologists and public figures who are subjected to public attacks and accusations. Using the example of John Henry Newman’s response to Charles Kingsley’s scathing critique, Keating examines the tension between the Christian virtue of turning the other cheek and the need to defend one’s reputation and the integrity of the faith.

Keating recounts Kingsley’s infamous accusation that “Truth, for its own sake, has never been a virtue with the Roman clergy,” using Newman as a prime example. He details Newman’s initial reluctance to engage with Kingsley, noting that Newman typically ignored or addressed criticisms privately. However, Kingsley’s attack, published in a prominent magazine and targeting the Catholic priesthood in general, demanded a response.

Keating highlights the significance of Newman’s “Apologia Pro Vita Sua,” arguing that through a meticulous and introspective defense of his own religious journey, Newman successfully defended the Catholic priesthood and the Church as a whole. He quotes Newman’s explanation: “I must give the true key to my whole life; I must show what I am, that it may be seen what I am not, and that the phantom may be extinguished which gibbers instead of me.”

Keating then shares a personal anecdote, detailing a public attack he experienced from another Catholic speaker. He describes the speaker’s unfounded accusations and his own internal struggle with deciding how to respond. He admits to succumbing to defensiveness by writing a letter to the pastor of the parish where the attack occurred, an action he later regrets.

Drawing from both Newman’s example and his own experience, Keating concludes that deciding whether to turn the other cheek or respond to an attack requires prudent judgment. He argues that when the attack is solely directed at an individual’s reputation, ignoring it is often the wisest course of action. However, when the attack extends beyond the individual and poses a threat to the faith or the well-being of others, a measured response becomes a duty.

The chapter emphasizes the importance of discerning the scope and potential impact of the attack, arguing that apologists and public figures have a responsibility to defend the faith and protect the innocent from being misled or scandalized by remaining silent. It suggests that the nature of the attack ultimately defines the appropriate defense.

Chapter 3: I Think Therefore I Am (I Think)

This chapter offers a thought-provoking critique of secular philosophical discourse, contrasting its often sterile and inconclusive nature with the richness and depth of the Catholic faith. Keating recounts his experience attending a meeting of the “Philosopher’s Forum,” a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals who gather to discuss philosophical and social issues.

Keating describes the diverse personalities present, highlighting the group’s shared anti-theistic bias and their tendency to engage in unproductive intellectual sparring. He observes their reliance on convoluted logic and their apparent inability to reach any meaningful conclusions or provide satisfactory answers to the questions they raise.

The author draws a parallel between the group’s futile discussions and the experience of a law school professor struggling with the ethics of abortion. He recounts how the professor’s logic led him to endorse infanticide, despite his deep revulsion for the idea, demonstrating the limitations and potential pitfalls of abstract reasoning detached from moral foundations.

Keating argues that the group’s sterility stems from their rejection of God and their reliance on flawed presuppositions. He criticizes their survey, which presented members with options for opposing churches, theology, and religious beliefs, revealing their narrow focus and hostility towards faith.

Contrasting the Philosopher’s Forum’s unproductive intellectual exercises with the intellectual and spiritual fecundity of the Catholic faith, Keating concludes that genuine answers to life’s profound questions can be found only within a framework that acknowledges God. He implies that while the group members may revel in their endless debates, they ultimately lack the grounding and direction offered by faith.

This chapter subtly underscores the inadequacy of secular philosophy to address the deepest human longings and the necessity of grounding intellectual pursuits in a transcendent reality. It suggests that while intellectual exploration is valuable, it ultimately requires a foundation of faith to provide genuine meaning and purpose.

Chapter 4: No Apology from the New Apologists

This chapter addresses criticisms leveled against the “new apologetics” movement, a primarily lay-led effort to explain and defend Catholicism in contemporary society. Keating challenges accusations of intellectual shallowness, anti-ecumenism, and triumphalism, arguing that the new apologists are deeply engaged in promoting the Catholic faith with intellectual rigor and charitable dialogue.

Keating begins by tracing the history of the term “new apologetics,” noting its use in various contexts throughout Church history. He clarifies that while the term can simply refer to the latest form of apologetics, it is often used pejoratively by those who oppose the movement’s approach and methodologies.

He summarizes common criticisms of the new apologetics, including accusations of an unsophisticated understanding of Catholicism, an aversion to modern theological scholarship, and a detrimental impact on ecumenical relations. He directly responds to these criticisms, arguing that the new apologists actively engage with contemporary theological scholarship while remaining discerning and critical of its shortcomings.

Keating defends the use of theological arguments in apologetics, citing his experience with Fundamentalist converts who came to the Catholic faith through reasoned engagement with doctrinal issues. He emphasizes that while arguments alone cannot compel faith, they can remove intellectual barriers and pave the way for grace to operate.

He criticizes the tendency among some theologians to rely on questionable statistical methodologies and to cling to hypotheses lacking solid evidence, using the example of the supposed “Q” document in biblical scholarship. He argues that the new apologists are not inherently hostile to contemporary Catholic theology but are rightfully skeptical of poorly reasoned or heterodox positions.

Keating addresses accusations of “triumphalism,” noting the term’s ambiguous and pejorative nature. He argues that if rejoicing in the Church’s ultimate triumph, welcoming returning Catholics, and desiring the fullness of faith for all Christians constitutes triumphalism, then it is a sentiment shared by all faithful Catholics throughout history.

He concludes by emphasizing the importance of grounding apologetics in right belief, arguing that effective evangelization requires adherence to Catholic truth and a willingness to engage in open and charitable dialogue with those who hold different views. He suggests that true ecumenism involves encountering others on their own terms and respectfully addressing their genuine concerns.

Chapter 5: Breaking Ranks on the Synoptic Gospels

This chapter delves into the complexities of the “synoptic problem,” the question of the literary relationship between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Keating challenges the long-held scholarly consensus of “Markan priority,” which posits that Mark’s Gospel was written first and served as a source for Matthew and Luke.

Keating traces the history of scholarly attempts to solve the synoptic problem, beginning with the traditional Augustinian hypothesis, which assumed the Gospels were written in the order they appear in the Bible. He details the rise of the Markan priority hypothesis in the 18th and 19th centuries, culminating in the “two-source theory,” which postulates Mark and a hypothetical “Q” document as the primary sources for Matthew and Luke.

He outlines the main arguments for Markan priority, including arguments from order, uniformity, originality, language, doublets, and the supposed Petrine origin of Mark. He meticulously analyzes each argument, highlighting their weaknesses and potential for circular reasoning.

Keating introduces several scholars who have challenged the Markan priority hypothesis, including William R. Farmer, Bernard Orchard, John A. T. Robinson, Jean Carmignac, and Claude Tresmontant. He summarizes their alternative theories, focusing on Farmer’s revival of the Griesbach hypothesis (Matthew, Luke, then Mark) and Carmignac’s and Tresmontant’s arguments for early datings and Hebrew originals for the Gospels.

He details Carmignac’s meticulous “backward” translation of the Gospels from Greek into Hebrew, which revealed linguistic features suggestive of early composition and reliance on Hebrew sources. He also examines Tresmontant’s historical and philological analysis, which led him to conclude that all four Gospels were originally written in Hebrew and date to within a few decades of Christ’s life.

Keating concludes by acknowledging the ongoing debate surrounding the synoptic problem and the growing body of evidence challenging Markan priority. He suggests that the coming decades may witness a significant shift in scholarly consensus as new evidence and approaches are considered.

This chapter demonstrates Keating’s willingness to question long-held assumptions and to engage with alternative viewpoints in biblical scholarship. It underscores the dynamic nature of scholarly inquiry and the need for continuous critical re-examination of established theories.

Chapter 6: The By-Your-Own-Bootstraps Heretic

This chapter explores the Pelagian heresy, a fifth-century theological movement that denied the doctrine of original sin and emphasized the human capacity for sinless perfection through free will alone. Keating delves into the life and teachings of Pelagius, highlighting the appeal and the inherent flaws of his theological system.

Keating provides a biographical sketch of Pelagius, a British monk who rose to prominence in Rome before the city’s sack in 410 AD. He describes Pelagius’s austere lifestyle and his reputation for moral rigorism, noting that these qualities contributed to the initial appeal of his teachings.

The author outlines the core tenets of Pelagianism, emphasizing the denial of original sin, the assertion of an inherent human capacity for sinlessness, and the view of grace as merely an external aid rather than a necessary gift for salvation. He explains that Pelagius attributed sin to the influence of bad examples and the development of sinful habits rather than to a fundamental flaw in human nature inherited from Adam.

Keating details the controversy surrounding Pelagius’s teachings, focusing on his interactions with Augustine of Hippo, who emerged as the leading defender of orthodoxy. He recounts the various councils and papal pronouncements that condemned Pelagianism, highlighting the complex interplay of personalities and theological arguments involved in the struggle.

He further explores the emergence of Semi-Pelagianism, a more nuanced version of Pelagius’s teachings that acknowledged the need for grace for salvation but maintained the possibility of an initial act of faith without grace. He notes the lasting influence of Semi-Pelagianism, which continued to be debated and condemned centuries after Pelagius’s death.

Keating concludes by emphasizing the importance of the Church’s definitive rejection of Pelagianism, arguing that it affirmed the essential doctrines of original sin and the gratuitous nature of salvation. He quotes Pascal’s observation that “undoubtedly nothing offends us more than this doctrine [of original sin]. And yet without this obscurest of all mysteries, we are the greatest of enigmas to ourselves.”

This chapter provides a clear and concise explanation of the Pelagian heresy, highlighting its enduring significance in understanding the Church’s teaching on grace, sin, and the human condition. It demonstrates the importance of careful theological reflection and the Church’s role in safeguarding the integrity of the faith.

Chapter 7: The Painted Word

This chapter examines the use of icons in the Greek Orthodox Church, exploring their theological significance and their role in conveying spiritual truths to the faithful. Keating recounts his experience touring a Greek Orthodox church with a young priest, who provides insightful explanations of the symbolism and meaning behind the church’s art and architecture.

Keating describes the iconostasis, the partition separating the sanctuary from the nave, noting its connection to the three-door stage design of ancient Greek tragedy. He details the various icons adorning the iconostasis, including images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, explaining their traditional placement and significance.

He quotes Gregory the Great’s sixth-century defense of sacred images, arguing that they serve as “Scripture for those who are incapable of reading.” He contrasts this view with the iconoclasm of the Monophysites and Muslims, highlighting the historical tensions surrounding the use of images in Christian worship.

Keating’s guide emphasizes the pedagogical function of icons in the Greek Orthodox tradition, stating that they are “books to be read by uneducated people.” He contrasts this with the Catholic Church’s more decorative approach to religious art, suggesting that the absence of a clear pedagogical intention weakens the impact and meaning of images.

The priest explains the symbolism behind various features of the church’s design, including the elongated fingers of the Virgin Mary in the dome, the arabesque designs around the icons, the symbolic elements of the censer, and the portrayal of Christ on the crucifix. He stresses that “everything in our Church is symbolic,” revealing a deep appreciation for the spiritual meaning embedded in every aspect of the church’s art and architecture.

Keating concludes by sharing his guide’s enthusiasm for a seventh-century icon he purchased from a Russian refugee family, marveling at its intricate craftsmanship and its survival through centuries of iconoclasm and persecution.

This chapter provides a compelling glimpse into the profound theological significance of icons in the Greek Orthodox tradition. It highlights their role as visual expressions of faith and their power to convey spiritual truths in a tangible and accessible way.

Chapter 8: The Faith in Old Japan

This chapter recounts the dramatic rise and fall of Christianity in Japan during the 16th and 17th centuries, exploring the complex interplay of religious zeal, political intrigue, and cultural clashes. Keating describes the initial successes of Jesuit missionaries, the arrival of Franciscan friars, the growing suspicion of the Japanese authorities, and the eventual persecution and near-extinction of the faith.

Keating begins by describing the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in Japan in 1549, marking the beginning of a century of missionary efforts. He details the Jesuits’ initial strategy of converting the daimyo (feudal lords), whose subjects would then follow suit, leading to rapid but often superficial conversions.

The author outlines the political landscape of sixteenth-century Japan, highlighting the power struggles between the emperor, the shogun, and the daimyo. He notes the role of Buddhism, with its powerful monasteries and influence over the ruling class, as a significant obstacle to the spread of Christianity.

Keating describes the arrival of Portuguese trading ships, known as kurofune (black ships), which brought vast wealth to Japan and created a temporary alliance between the Jesuits and the shogun, who sought to control the lucrative trade. He notes the cultural sensitivity of the Jesuits, who adopted Japanese customs and dress in an effort to gain acceptance.

The author recounts the arrival of Franciscan friars from the Philippines, marking a shift in missionary strategy. He contrasts the Franciscans’ focus on converting the peasantry with the Jesuits’ emphasis on the ruling class, noting the friars’ more aggressive approach to suppressing native culture and their disregard for Japanese customs.

Keating details the growing suspicion of the Japanese authorities, fueled by reports of forced conversions, the destruction of Buddhist shrines, and rumors of foreign invasions facilitated by missionaries. He describes the first expulsion order in 1587, the martyrdom of twenty-six Franciscans and Japanese Christians in 1597, and the final expulsion edict in 1614, which led to the suppression of Christianity and the execution of those who refused to renounce their faith.

The author recounts the horrific persecution endured by Japanese Christians, including burning, water tortures, and the “pit” torture, a gruesome method of prolonged suffering designed to coerce apostasy. He describes the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637, a peasant uprising led by hidden Christians, which resulted in the massacre of the rebels and the expulsion of the remaining Portuguese traders.

Keating concludes by describing the survival of Christianity in Japan through a network of hidden believers who preserved the faith for over two centuries until the arrival of new missionaries in 1865. He notes the resilience of the Japanese Church, which emerged from the “Church of Silence” with a renewed appreciation for the faith and a deep commitment to preserving its traditions.

This chapter offers a compelling and often harrowing account of the early history of Christianity in Japan, highlighting the challenges faced by missionaries, the complex interplay of religious and political forces, and the enduring faith of those who faced persecution and martyrdom. It reveals the profound impact of Christianity on Japanese culture, even in the face of its suppression, and the remarkable resilience of faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

This chapter-by-chapter summary provides a comprehensive overview of the key themes and arguments presented in Karl Keating’s “No Apology.” It demonstrates Keating’s commitment to reasoned and charitable defense of the Catholic faith, his engagement with contemporary theological scholarship, and his appreciation for the historical and cultural dimensions of Christian belief and practice.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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