by Patrick Coffin
If my interview with him wasn’t clear, I’m a huge fan of Patrick Coffin. Patrick is the witty host of “Catholic Answers Live”, the country’s most popular Catholic radio show. He’s a Canadian blend of Fulton Sheen and G.K. Chesterton sporting the former’s charm and the latter’s jest.
He’s also a sharp apologist, and that’s why I was excited to check out his new two-CD-set, “Getting Started in Apologetics” (Catholic Answers, CD, $14.95).
The two talks Patrick gives are designed specifically for beginners. He avoids weighty topics like the metaphysics transubstantiation or the grammatical subtleties of New Testament Greek. Instead, he focuses on “the least you need to know” to get started in Catholic apologetics—to explain your faith without becoming tongue-tied.
Patrick begins by quoting 1 Peter 3:15—”always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is within you” (NAB)—calling it “the heart of apologetics from a Biblical perspective.” This verse shows that explaining and defending the faith is no mere option; it’s a duty.
And the first CD roots that duty of defense in one area: authority. Patrick notes that when Catholics and Protestants disagree over the biblical basis for a specific doctrine, the dispute ultimately comes down to a single question: “what does the Bible mean in those passages, and according to whose authority?”
According to Patrick, Christ established the Catholic Church to play this role of ultimate arbiter. Without her interpretive authority, we’d be left with theological anarchy (a reality not foreign to the 30,000+ Protestant denominations out there). Through logic, history, and Scriptural references he makes a persuasive case for the Catholic Church’s authoritative role and the value of her Tradition. The best part is that he does this clearly, and step-by-step, so that you can easily remember the basic contours of the argument.
In the second CD, Patrick spends less time on the “what” of apologetics and more on the “how.” He covers the seven effective strategies to sharing your faith including precepts like “Do nothing, but be ready”, “Think with the Church”, and “Remember that we are God’s co-workers.” He also lists out his 16 recommended books on Catholic apologetics with short summaries of each. Longtime listeners of “Catholic Answers Live” will be familiar with many of the titles but the complete list is a real treasure and one of the most valuable elements of the CD set.
With just a couple hours of audio, “Getting Started in Apologetics” presents a clear, concise introduction to the strongest arguments for Catholicism. It’s not meant to exhaust the field of apologetics, nor address high-level questions like cosmology, morality, or the existence of God. It simply covers the basics, and does that well. Patrick sprinkles plenty of humor and one-liners throughout, which makes the CD set both fun and illuminating.