Book Reviews2 A Strong Defense

The past decade has seen a boom in resources relating to the field of apologetics, or defense of the Catholic/Christian faith. Those interested in learning and explaining the faith now have a vast assortment of reliable books, magazines, and recordings from which to choose. Many Catholics, especially those who were not well-catechized, are often ill-prepared to respond to questions about the faith posed to them by non-Christians, non-Catholics, and even fellow Catholics. Reading and studying books such as the following can keep those opportunities from passing by.

Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald K. Tacelli have compiled the Handbook of Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press), which is packed with answers to the major arguments against Christianity. Though the authors are Catholic, their book does not deal with issues unique to the Catholic faith but restricts itself to the core beliefs common to all Christians, in the manner of C. S. Lewis. The encyclopedic range of topics in this 400-page volume makes it a very handy reference. While not every subject is covered in great depth—most sections are in outline form with numbered paragraphs—the sheer number of topics gathered in one place makes this a valuable and unique resource. As stated in Chapter 1: “Most apologetics books make ten points in fifty pages. This book aims to make fifty points in ten pages.”

The authors, both philosophy professors at Boston College, wrote the book at the request of their students, who asked them where they could find such a book—it didn’t exist! In a format loosely patterned after St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, the book summarizes—as a “summa” is meant to do—the reasons behind Christian beliefs, as well as responses to objections. The arguments are carefully built step-by-step so the reader can follow the logic behind them. This is a valuable guide for those looking to have a better understanding of Christian beliefs, and for those who want to be able to convey those beliefs convincingly to others. A condensed version of the book, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, is also available.

Patrick Madrid, publisher of the apologetics magazine Envoy and host of several series on EWTN, has produced a trilogy of books, published by Our Sunday Visitor, to help Catholics respond to difficult questions about the faith. In the first book, Where Is That in the Bible?, Madrid presents numerous scriptural references that support the doctrines of the Catholic Church. To emphasize the importance of having a correct understanding of the Bible, he presents an exercise that shows how a simple sentence can have many plausible interpretations. While the book is not an exhaustive study, it does enable the reader to easily find Bible verses on many topics relating to Church authority, doctrines, the sacraments, customs and practices, moral issues, and non-Catholic beliefs.

The second book of the series, Why Is That in Tradition?, provides a similar treatment of Catholic beliefs, this time focusing on those that are not explicitly found in the Bible but which nevertheless can be traced back to the earliest Christians. Madrid offers the canon of the Bible as an example of an extra-biblical tradition that is accepted by all Christians—after all, the Bible’s table of contents is not found in Scripture itself.

Answer Me This!, the final book of the series, is composed of answers to fifty common questions and objections to the Catholic faith. The thorough text provided by Madrid will equip Catholics with solid responses to offer when asked these or similar questions, and also will impart a greater depth to the reader’s own understanding of these teachings. As in all his books, Madrid stresses the importance of charity and patience when discussing the faith with non-Catholics.

St. Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). These books will help you fulfill this exhortation.

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