Ronald Knox a New Apologetics

If you don’t know about Msgr. Ronald Knox I suggest you do a quick internet search. The man was brilliant, he translated the entire bible himself into what is known as the Knox Translation. He converted from the Anglican faith to Catholicism and his experience is well documented in his many writing often in apologetic topics. One of his final works, Proving God: A New Apologetics, offers some valuable insights into the purpose and nature of how we can change someone’s view on Vatican II. There is a dynamism between logic and heart, between image and reason, between conversion and love. We have to be careful to meet people where they are. The best way to be a great apologist is not always in having the most logical and sly arguments. You need to have reach the heart.

“Young men see visions; they discover an idea that gives them a clue to the riddle of life. Everything must be seen in the light of this idea. ‘If it is to retain its spell over him, it must at all costs be coherent; he is less concerned to discover whether it corresponds with the facts of the world outside’ (Proving God: A New Apologetics, 9) But with old age can come tolerance, the ability to see value in another’s point of view. ‘The world is no longer divided into angels who agree and devils who disagree with experience has softened the hard edges of his affirmations. If I may use words in a grossly unphilosophical sense, what he demands now is not so much truth as reality. (Proving God: A New Apologetics, 10)” (From Ronald Knox: As Apologist Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed by Milton Walsh)

I think the young man story of the above quote can happen a lot for why people reject Vatican II. It is not so much about the council itself, rather it is about upholding the view or system of thought that they think will give them holiness. This system for young men who reject Vatican II is pre-Vatican II thought. Hence, they seek to defend their view by showing anything else to be false. It is venerable in what they are trying to achieve but the larger reality is missed. The desire to find a perfect system can make one blind enough to set the system up against anything which threatens it. In this blind reaction sometimes the real truth of reality is set aside to uphold the truth of a made up system. Weak arguments are believed instead of stronger ones that show the pinholes in your views.

I think that many young people can also accept Vatican II as a program for holiness in an ridged way as well. Yes, we need to be obedient to what was given by the Holy Spirit through the ordinary magisterium guarded from grave error but that does not mean everything Vatican II taught was the absolute best thing ever. There can be levels of greatness. Perhaps somethings in Vatican II are only at a level 5 greatness when if we set aside the whole system idea in our minds we will be open enough to go for level 9 or 10 by dialogue with others.

The old man can see that reality is more complex than anyone program for holiness will admit. He is not seeking a truth system to shove the entire world into. He lets the world be as it is. He knows things are never perfect in any system so he does not jump into any boat before taking a while to think. What the old man wants is reality. Yes, follow Vatican II in obedience and religious submission owed to the ordinary magisterium – but not so in a way that when the world changes the old man is not able to say to Vatican II, ‘perhaps you can be better in this regard’. (which is different than saying there is error)

So when we dialogue with others about Vatican II we must always remember, go for the heart not just the head. Look at reality as a whole not just a string of truth statements. often a series of arguments in a St. Thomas fashion may convince a young man, but sometimes the older generation, after being convinced of something than proven wrong so many times in life, don’t get to caught up simply because you win one debate.

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