Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Evangelization: Rational or Seductive?

Seductive evangelization, now there's a phrase you don't hear thrown around much. So let me begin by defining the words “Evangelization “, “Rational”, and “Seductive” as I'll be using them:

Evangelization: To make the Gospel known
Rational: Consistent with reason and intellect.
Seduction: Something that attracts, especially with the promise of reward.

I see currently two trends amoung people in the Church to make the Gospel known (evangelization).

The first is through biblically and theologically based apologetics. The popularity of organizations such as Catholic Answers or authors such as Akin, Ray, Hahn, and many others testify to this fact. This method is based on convincing a person of the truth of the faith using reason and intellect.

The second is through a more relational and expressive manner. A rise in the popularity of small groups, Contemporary Christian Music, CRHP, etc. confirm this trend. Here the objective is to make known the attractiveness of the faith life. Its aim is not so much to satisfy the reason and intellect, but to offer a way for a person to experience the faith in a personally meaningful, deeply emotional way.

The first method aims for the “head”, the second for the “heart”. That's not to say that the first doesn't address the "heart" and that the second pays no attention to the "head" they do, but to a lesser extent. From the outside, each seems to paint a very different picture of the Church. One immovable truth, the other irresistible grace. In a Church that has produced Saints as different as Thomas Aquinas and John of the Cross, maybe an argument can be made that there’s a need for the existence of both groups.

But there is a theoretical third group – not so much found between the two but a combination of both. A group arguing that you can’t really know the truth without to some extant experiencing it, and that you can’t really experience it without to some extant knowing it. I say theoretical because I’m not so sure it really exists. The first and second group will each claim that they really fit in this “third” category, but only at the protest of the other. Each has a tendency to over emphasize one aspect of the faith at the expense of the other. It’s this “third” category that the Church badly needs to form.

We are all called to evangelize by virtue of our baptism. But how should we evangelize? Is there a right and a wrong way? And how do we decide which is “right” and which is “wrong”? Do numbers count? Does it change over time? Does it depend on the individual? Does this third category exist? Is there a need for it? Have I asked enough questions?

[How many Saints can you see in the picture above? How many can you name?]

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