Thursday, June 16, 2005

Stan Williams' Review of "The Catholic Verses" Now Posted on Catholic Exchange / Review by a Liberal Reformed Protestant

Link. It looks great! Thanks again to my good friend Stan. You're a blessing, brother!

I also notice a new review on the amazon site for this book, by one E.T. Ashworth, who is a Reformed Protestant of (far as I can tell) somewhat "liberal" persuasion. A mixed review, to be sure, but he says some nice things. Here it is in its entirety:

And in this corner..., June 2, 2005

Reviewer: E. T. Ashworth "tompaine47" (Richmond, Virginia United States) - See all my reviews

I had to give this book three stars because we can't give 2.5. That would actually make more sense - Mr. Armstrong hits his mark about half the time. He misses on the Eucharist (come on - do even Catholics believe in transubstantiation anymore? I mean the REAL Catholics, not you Johnny Come Lately converts?), and penance, just to name two.

The real failure of this book is in the author's fondness for stuffing his own straw men to joust with, hanging those cute little card board signs around their necks with PROTESTANT writ large in crayon. I mean, shucks - Dave, Reformed folks moved on past Calvin a long time ago. We've had Barth, for goodness sakes! Even Catholic theologians liked Barth!

Dave Armstrong, like many RC apologists, strives hard for charity and respect. This is to be commended, even when he sometimes backslides into peevishness or sarcasm. Compared to some of his Protestant debate opponents (I'm thinking of one who shall remain nameless but shares this writer's Reformed roots) he is saintly indeed. Okay, maybe not saintly, but definitely not a jerk, (unlike the Reformed guy with the big web site).

One of the good things - perhaps the only good thing - about so-called Post-Modernism is the encouragement to move beyond labels and positions.

This alarms the Professional Apologist, of course, on either side of the aisle. If a person can feel comfortable, say, in his Reformed tradition, without a pope and unafraid of the spectre of Calvin or Luther, affirming some Catholic doctrinal positions (such as freedom of human will and participation in the process of Sanctification) why, we can.

If this is so, what need do we have of Armstrong and his ilk? This must be daunting to face - wholesale closing down of Blog sites, failing book sales, no one on the phone asking the apologist to come to town and debate with the local The Same Only Different Fellow resplendent with charts and graphs and notebooks crammed with pamphlets and order forms for cassettes. No, it hasn't happened yet, but it is coming. Dave, what will you do? Come back home from Rome and start writing "I left but came back" works?

One sad thing to ponder is that, unlike the pagan Roman practice, Christians seem to bring their own lions to devour one another these days. Wonder when we'll forget doctrinal differences (my wife reminds me often that there will not be a Systematic Theology pop quiz when we reach Heaven) and concentrate on reaching the wanderers?

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I found the second to last paragraph very amusing. This guy already would have me worrying about what I will do when my blog fails, and book sales dwindle, and no one "need[s]" apologists (my "ilk," as he endearingly phrases it) anymore. Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, right? LOL No sign of this happening is yet upon me, and I can honestly say that I haven't lost a moment's sleep over the fearful prospect. Though I haven't hit the Fortune 500 and don't expect to, my book sales continue to rise, and my blog gets about 450 hits a day. I don't even keep track of my website hits, but I have reason to believe that they are quite high as well. The apologetic revival in the Catholic Church continues to grow (slowly but steadily). Nor am I suffering in the "published articles" department. And (just for the record), I don't do oral debates and I don't sell cassettes, so that tidbit is irrelevant to me. I hardly do any public speaking at all. Obviously, whatever "success" I have achieved is not dependent upon that. I'm almost solely a writer.

When Postmodernist Utopia strikes humanity and we learn once and for all to "forget doctrinal differences" then I'll start worrying. The only problem with this is that there is no sign whatsoever of some massive liberal revival (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Theological liberalism (historically) can't sustain itself for more than one or two generations at the most. The next generation either leaves Christianity altogether (having tired of the insipid nature of liberal religion, such as in present-day Europe), or undergoes revival because (beyond God's Providence) they want the Real Thing, not the liberal counterfeit, which ultimately brings no peace and joy or fulfillment or meaning. G. K Chesterton hit the nail on the head as to why this is:

I suspect that we should find several occasions when Christendom was thus to all appearance hollowed out from within by doubt and indifference, so that only the old Christian shell stood as the pagan shell had stood so long. But the difference is that in every such case, the sons were fanatical for the faith where the fathers had been slack about it. This is obvious in the case of the transition from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation. It is obvious in the case of a transition from the eighteenth century to the many Catholic revivals of our own time . . . Just as some might have thought the Church simply a part of the Roman Empire, so others later might have thought the Church only a part of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages ended as the Empire had ended; and the Church should have departed with them, if she had been also one of the shades of night.

. . . At least five times, . . . with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.

(The Everlasting Man, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1925, 250-252, 254)

Catholic apologetics is (always has been and always will be) primarily for Catholics. It is to educate them and give them confidence, and to help them integrate faith with reason: theology and spirituality with intellect and the mind, and to deal with hostile ideologies and cultures and antagonistic individuals. As long as there are orthodox Catholics around who want to not only learn what they believe (catechesis), but why they believe it (apologetics), there will be a place for Catholic apologists like myself.

Some few Protestants will read Catholic apologetics too, but that will never be the primary readership. In that case, Catholic apologetics performs the function of "removing obstacles to Catholicism." No apologist ever converted anyone, in the full sense of that word. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Most folks read within their own paradigm, whether political, religious, or any other category. So, to paraphrase Mark Twain: "reports of the death of my apologetic career (or its demise in the near-future) are greatly exaggerated."

That said, I do sincerely thank Mr. Ashworth for reading my book and taking the time to write a review, and for the kind things included in it. Time will tell if his prognostications or mine (which are based upon 2000 years of past precedent) are more accurate.

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