One of the gripes academia has with Catholic teaching around the turn of the last century was that it was too structured. The content of the Faith tended to be reduced to outlines and manuals instead of a synthesis of material. That may be true, but something should be said in favor of manuals. True, they are not the most exciting read and they present the Faith in bits and pieces. However, they are extremely useful at least as a starting point for research and at providing summaries of Catholic doctrines and beliefs.
I have a large library (over a thousand books) and one of the first resources I pick up whenever I want to study a doctrine of the Faith is a manual. I would like to share with you one of my favorites. It is Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine: A Course of Religious Instruction for Schools and Colleges by Archbishop M. Sheehan D.D.. (M.H. Gill and Son / Ireland), 1949. I like it because it is compact and readable. The footnotes contain a lot of information and Rev. Sheehan gives concise solid arguments spanning all three areas of apologetics (Natural, Christian and Catholic). Although the book is out of print, it can be had easily from on on-line used book seller.
I try to make it an annual tasks to read through a manual, such as Sheehan’s work, every year just to keep things fresh. If you are an apologist, perhaps working through a manual once a year may make a good New Years resolution for 2007.
Happy New Years Everybody!
Five days to Christmas and about two and a half months before the release of my new book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger. While preparing for the release, I received some very generous feedback from friends and colleagues in the field of apologetics. What do you do with such nice words? Set them to music of course! The Hands On Apologetics website now features an video to hopefully pique interest in WCBB. Check it out!
Here’s a question. What ancient Christian hymn and popular Christmas carol contains a verse that is based upon a deueterocanonical book? No, it’s not Rudolf the Deuterocanonical Reindeer. It’s O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. The second verse is:
“O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
This verse is based upon Wisdom. 8:1, 3, which reads, “She [Gods wisdom] reacheth therefore from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly
For it is she [Gods Wisdom] that teacheth the knowledge of God, and is the chooser of his works.
The words to this hymn come from the 12th century and it has found a home within many Protestant hymnals, which is no surprise since the Deuterocanon (or what Protestants call the Apocrypha) was once considered part of the Protestant Bible. As these books began to be disparaged and eventually dropped from Protestant Scripture, the hymn lived on. Today, most people sing this hymn without the slightest awareness that verse two comes from a book that once occupied a place in the Protestant Bible.
Keep this in mind next time you go caroling with non-Catholic Christians and use it as an opportunity to re-introduce them to one of the lost books of the Protestant Bible.
In case you forgot the melody, here is a link with music and lyrics.
I personally don’t trust the press. Their primary reason for writing is to make money, not to report the truth. For this reason, I’m not altogether sure I trust two articles that have appeared concerning the Church of England endorsing a policy of infanticed for deformed or handycapped children. It’s possible that this is true, but it’s difficult to believe. Here are the links:
At its inception, the Church of England (founded by King Henry VIII) has rejected essential Christian doctrines beginning with the Papal primacy and the priesthood. In recent years, the rejection of other core Christian doctrines have been accelerating in pace and these changes has caused much trouble in the Episcopalian Church.
The allowance of what is called “passive euthanasia” is only the beginning. We’ve seen what has happened in this country. Extraordinary means becomes dumbed down to include food and water. Moreover, what are the implications of a religous body saying that some life isn’t worth saving?
If these reports are true and the Church of England is going to endorse infantice, we need to keep them (and all the innnocents that will lose their lives) in our prayers.
I don’t take much stock in polls. The questions asked are often leading. I especially don’t trust poll during an election cycle (for obvious reasons). However, this little poll came out and there are a number of ways on can interpret it.
The poll breaks down certainty of God’s existance by religions. Only 64 percent of Catholics responded that they were “absolutely certain” God exists as opposed to 76 percent of Protestants and 30% of Jews. Check out the poll for yourselves.
At first, I was shock to think that anyone would join a religion without believing in God. What’s the point? Then I realized that this question was a bit more qualified. It asked whether these people were absolutely certain God exists. People may have said no just because absolute certainty made have sounded too much like “demostrated” or “proven.” Unfortunately, it would have been nice to know how many people (especially broken down by religious affiliation) would say that the are “absolutely certain” God does not exist. But why not just ask people whether they believe God exists? Why probe people’s certainty? Is there a point to this poll? I don’t know. there are other questions. I’m not really sure what do make of this poll. I’d love to hear your feedback.
The news broke today that the United States has reached the 300,000,000 mark. I often reflect on the effectiveness of Catholic apologetics and evangelism. When I grew up (late 60’s and 70’s) there were few orthodox Catholic publishers still in business. There were even fewer Catholic radio stations (none in my area) and no television networks. The late 80’s sparked a renewed interest in apologetics and evangelism. Radio stations (even networks) began to spring up. More and more orthodox publishers started their presses. The Eternal Word Television Network began to be beamed throughout the country. Indeed, EWTN is now seen around the world. Catholic media outlets have produced tons of books, tapes, CD’s and DVD packed with great Catholic material and I don’t even need to mention what’s happening on the Internet.
I started doing Catholic apologetics professionally in the early 90’s. I’ve appeared on television and radio (both local and national). I’ve given talks to audiences of only a dozen people and I’ve given talks with over a thousand people in attendance. But if I added up all the people that I have addressed and all the people that other apologists and evangelists have addressed over the past couple of decades and put it all together, what would the number be in comparison with that 300,000,000 figure? Would it be a half? Quarter? Perhaps, it would only be a few percentage points.
Of course, fidelity to God is not measured in numbers. If all the radio networks and all the television stations, blogs and websites saved only one soul or brought one person back to the fold, the effort was worth it. Still, the 300,000,000 figure does provide us with a chance to reflect on how far we came and how much more needs to be done to bring God’s love to this nation. We can trust that God, who began this good work, will bring it to completion. 300,000,000… We’ve got our work cut out for us.
If you live in South-east Michigan and you are interested in some intense and informative classes designed to sharpen your knowledge of Catholic Apologetics, come to the New E.C.R.C. Center in Bloomfield Hills (corner of Maple Rd. and Inkster). We will meet every Saturday at noon. The first classes will cover the tools of the trade or what it takes to be a good Catholic apologist. Every four sessions or so we will move on to study in depth many of the most commonly attacked Catholic doctrine. For more information, visit the HOA home website (www.handsonapologetics.com) or contact the E.C.R.C. at 248-788-2460. Stay tuned to this blog for further updates on the classes and materials.
Sorry that I haven’t blogged in a while. Here is the update on my upcoming book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger. The manuscript is being polished by none other than Rod Bennett author of Four Witnesses (Ignatius Press). Rod has an excellent and approachable writing style, which is exactly what my book on a potentially technical subject needs. After Rod’s done with the manuscript, it will be laid out and printed. We want to release the book by next March if not earlier. I know that there are a lot of people interested in purchasing the copy and I am grateful for your patience. Please keep this project in your prayers. Keep posted to the blog for future updates.
Conversion stories are popular. They give Catholics a chance to look at the Church from a different viewpoint and they give Catholics a greater appreciation of other faith perspectives and the dynamics of conversion. There is a flip side for the Catholic apologist. More often than not, an apologist encounters fallen away Catholics who either lost their faith or join another church. One thing I always try to get a handle on is the mechanics that led to this change. What failures occurred within the Catholic community and what was the persons understanding of the Faith when they left? Usually, these failures fall into three catagories, (1) disengaged or nominal Catholic parents, (2) poor or no catechesis and evangelism, (3) the inability of some to provide an intellectually satisfying explanation as to why we believe what we believe (i.e. poor apologetics). There are others, but these seem to be the big three. That is why Im interested in conversion stories out of the Faith because they sometimes reveal areas that need attention.
One recent figure that has received a lot of headlines is Adam Gadahn, who is being sought in connection with possible terrorist threats against U.S.. Gadahn is an American who became a Muslim and his conversion to Islam is available at:
Although Gadahns connection with Catholics was extremely marginal, youll find these same three glaring failures. I believe his story only serves to underscores the need to continue Pope John Paul IIs call for the re-evangelization of the West along with the renewal in catechesis and apologetics.
If you want to defend the faith, you need to have good resources. A good apologist always has a good apologetic library. When I first started doing apologetics in a serious manner, there wasnt very many Catholic ministries out there to help me. As a result, I wasted a lot of money on books and tapes that didnt really fit my needs. You can avoid this problem and I can help. Periodically on this blog, Im going to give my book and tape recommendations on the best resources that I have run across. Some of them are in print and others will have to be purchased through used bookstores. All of my recommendations will be worth the effort. If you are going to discuss the Catholic Faith with Protestants, you ought to have a good handle on the history of Protestantism. The problem is that its history is very complex and no one book covers everything. Bossuets History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches is a good start. Bossuet (1627-1704) was a bishop and theologian who knew his history. His work chronicles the complex characters and events of the Protestant Reformation and how they interacted with one another. It is detailed and contains a lot of quotes from primary resources. The book is also very readable and it presents a good overview from a Catholic perspective. Another helpful feature is that, in its current format, each paragraph is numbered and headed with a short summary title. This is very helpful for locating people and events quickly. Trust me. There is nothing more frustrating that flipping through a thick history book trying to locate the passage where Luther denied Transubstantiation! Unfortunately, Bossuets History also suffers from a common drawback of books written during this era. The citations in the footnotes are cryptic and the assume that the reader is already familiar with the works cited. If you want to run down a quote, for example, youre going to have to do some legwork. I have read this book several times and have found Bossuet to be generally accurate and reliable. Outside of the cryptic footnotes, The History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches is a classic and it deserves a spot on every serious Catholic apologists bookshelf.Real View Books (www.grottopress.org) has reprinted Bossuets History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches. It can also be purchased at used book services.