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Horn brings winsome apologetics to Men’s Conference

By Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Well-known Catholic apologist Trent Horn drew a crowd for the sixth annual Men of Faith conference, held at Marshall School March 4. The attendance — the highest since the inaugural event — was 380, with about 50 walk-ins.

Trent Horn
Well-known radio apologist and author Trent Horn, despite battling a cold, gave Catholic men a healthy dose of apologetics March 4 at Marshall School in Duluth. (Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

And it’s safe to say that despite the speaker coming down with a cold, the crowd got what it came for: A host of straightforward answers and strategies for the common objections people raise to the Catholic point of view.

Horn is a convert to the faith with a graduate degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville who is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy from Holy Apostles College, but whatever the academic pedigree, his arguments and strategies are formed in the popular debate trenches, first as a pro-life activist and then as a Catholic apologist who is a frequent guest on Catholic Answers Live and the author of two apologetics books for Catholic Answers Press.

The four titles of his talks — “Refuting Relativism,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Why Be Catholic,” and “Answering Atheism” — give a sense of the ground and issues Horn covered.

He began by addressing three kinds of relativism — metaphysical, moral, and religious — which relate, respectively, to the question of truth in reality itself, in matters of moral right and wrong, and in the truth claims of different religions.

“The cardinal sin in the world today is telling someone they’re wrong,” he quipped.

Horn said that in moral matters, children are often taught an incorrect view of the distinction between facts and opinions, equating facts only with that which can be proved by science. But he countered that there are moral facts and that just as humans have a sense of the passage of time or where their body parts are, their innate moral sense is getting at something real.

“There are things that are really right and really wrong,” he said.

He also noted that for all the talk of moral relativism, it’s not really the way its proponents act.

“People can preach relativism, they can speak it, but it’s almost impossible to live it,” Horn said.

Likewise, he argued that many people have decided at the end of the day, what religion you are doesn’t matter. But “different religions are contradictory,” he said. They can’t all be right.

“Religion, gentlemen, is not like picking shoes or picking how you cook your steak,” he said.

Rather, people should ask, “What does this religion do to me? What does it do to my soul.”

Horn’s second talk, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” — delivered twice, each time giving half the audience the opportunity to go to confession — focused on his approach to talking to people who disagree with the faith and its moral teachings in a convincing and effective way.

He noted that there are two extremes that men often fall into in conversations like that — Mr. Tough Guy, who is argumentative and harsh, and Mr. Nice Guy, who avoids conflict and disagreement at all costs.

He said it’s important to destroy bad arguments, but with “smart weapons,” doing so in love. Comparing himself to the fictional TV detective Colombo, he said the best strategy is asking questions most of the time — “What do you think, and why do you think that?” — instead of making statements.

Horn’s subsequent talks focused on reasons to be Catholic, including covering his own conversion story, and answering atheist objections to faith, such as the problem of evil. The day also included Mass with Bishop Paul Sirba, a host of vendors, and a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration.

The date for next year’s seventh annual Men of Faith Conference has been set. It will be at Marshall School Feb. 17.

Correction: The print version of this story had the date of next year's conference listed incorrectly. It has been corrected in the online version.