Saturday, May 26, 2007

Are My Books Difficult or Easy to Read? An Objective Standard at Amazon . . .

By Dave Armstrong (5-26-07)

I ran across this tonight in my usual scanning of the amazon lists of bestselling books. I've always said that my books (and writings in general) probably require a high school education to have the most impact on a reader.

Secondly, I've reiterated that I am trying to challenge and "stretch" readers to expand their horizons in the theological realm. I resist at every turn, calls for "dumbing down" or simplifying, because I think it is important to show people that religious matters can be mind-challenging and intellectually stimulating, rather than infantile speculations for the gullible, as is often charged by agnostics and atheists. The more we Christian writers "dumb down", the more that false impression is fostered.

Thirdly, I have said that oftentimes I feel like I am writing in a "zone" that is somewhere between undergraduate college and academia. I think that I use probably an above average number of "big words" and that I tend towards longer sentences (actually, the latter is seen below to be not as much the case as I had thought).

My three books for Sophia, all now have, by the way, the "Search Inside" capability, as listed on amazon:

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

The Catholic Verses

The One-Minute Apologist

"Search Inside" for The Catholic Verses, however, has less features than for the other two books. I think the reason is because it was only recently added to the other two, and as amazon has developed it, more (rather interesting and fun) things have been added. One of the cool new aspects of this search and "analysis" capacity is called "text stats." I've never seen anything like it. First it offers three measuring criteria for "Readability" (my emphases):
The Readability calculations estimate how easy it is to read and understand the text of a book.

The Fog Index was developed by Robert Gunning. It indicates the number of years of formal education required to read and understand a passage of text.

The Flesch Index, developed in 1940 by Dr. Rudolph Flesch, is another indicator of reading ease. The score returned is based on a 100 point scale, with 100 being easiest to read. Scores between 90 and 100 are appropriate for 5th and 6th graders, while a college degree is considered necessary to understand text with a score between 0 and 30.

The Flesch-Kincaid Index is a refinement to the Flesch Index that tries to relate the score to a U.S. grade level. For example, text with a Flesch-Kincaid score of 10.1 would be considered suitable for someone with a 10th grade or higher reading level.
Then there is the "Complexity" criterion: percentage of "complex words" (three or more syllables), syllables per word, and words per sentence. Then, for both broad standards, one can compare a book with all other books, or other books narrowed down into more specific categories. So let's see how my books rate:

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism [link to stats]:

Readability Compared with books in All Categories
Fog Index: 14.1
61% are easier
39% are harder
Flesch Index: 51.9
47% are easier
53% are harder
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 10.9
57% are easier
43% are harder

Complex Words: 16%
55% have fewer
45% have more
Syllables per Word: 1.6
48% have fewer
52% have more
Words per Sentence: 19.8
70% have fewer
30% have more

It's interesting that when one compares A Biblical Defense of Catholicism to others in the Catholic theology category, that it becomes (relatively) considerably easier to read. The first criterion then gives percentages of 36%, 34%, and 35%, and the second 43%, 40%, and 42%: quite statistically significant differences.

Here are the stats for The One-Minute Apologist [link]:

Readability Compared with other books
Fog Index: 12.9
51% are easier
49% are harder
Flesch Index: 54.4
43% are easier
57% are harder
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 10.1
48% are easier
52% are harder

Complex Words: 14%
50% have fewer
50% have more
Syllables per Word: 1.6
47% have fewer
53% have more
Words per Sentence: 17.9
59% have fewer
41% have more

All indications here are for a simpler book, which is to be expected, due to the summarizing, compact, "Reader's Digest" nature of the book (two pages for each sub-topic). Only the syllables per word remained the same. The education levels required are what I would expect: two years of college for Biblical Defense ("BDC") and one year of college for One-Minute Apologist ("OMA"): according to the fog index. But according to Flesch-Kincaid, only an eleventh-grade and tenth-grade education are required. If we average the two, it comes out to a half year of college for BDC and halfway through 12th grade for OMA.

And then averaging these averages for the two books (i.e., adding up the four measures and dividing by four), it comes out to exactly a high school education (12.0): precisely as I have said for years. I shall use this method to compare my books with others. Using the same averages for complexity, we arrive at the following "master readability index" for my (two) books:
Readability: 12.0 (high school education; roughly 54 percentile; a little bit above average for all books)

Complex Words (three + syllables): 15% (just about average for all books)

Syllables per Word: 1.6 (also just about average)

Words per Sentence: 18.85 (roughly 65 percentile: 35% of books have more)
Now let's have a lot of fun and make some comparisons with other writers:

Scott Hahn (A Father Who Keeps His Promises + The Lamb's Supper):

Readability: 11.95

Complex Words: 13%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 20.6
So compared to Scott, my writings require one-twentieth of a year more education to properly understand, have 2% more complex words, have .1 more syllables per word average, but 1.75 less words per sentence average. This is fascinating, since Scott Hahn is a professor, and I have a BA in sociology with a minor in psychology and no formal theological education. I would say, then, that he is deliberately making his material simpler to read (which is, I think, very good for an academic to do, so he is not just writing to other scholars), and I am not trying to do that at all, making our two "readability" indices come out about the same.

I'm curious about Peter Kreeft, since he is a philosopher by trade, and one of my favorite apologists (Catholic Christianity + Fundamentals of the Faith):
Readability: 10.73

Complex Words: 13.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 17.35
I find this very interesting also. Kreeft's two books require about a year and a quarter less education than Scott's and my books. His complex words are 1.5% less than mine and 0.5% more than Scott Hahn. He uses 1.5 less words per sentence than I do and 3.25 less than Scott. Clearly, again, he is simplifying, which is a good thing. When one is at the sublime level of intelligence and insight of a Hahn or a Kreeft, if one didn't simplify, few would either understand or benefit.

How about a well-known and beloved historic apologist like G.K. Chesterton? He did not have a college education, so cannot technically be considered an academic. But he was an undeniably great thinker and writer (Orthodoxy + The Everlasting Man):
Readability: 12.9

Complex Words: 12.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 23.05
What is most surprising to me here is the words per sentence figure. I think of Chesterton as a short sentence-writer. Yet for these two books (his most famous apologetics titles), he averages 4.2 more words per sentence than I do, and also surpasses Kreeft and Hahn. His readability requires a higher grade level, as I would suspect, since, according to my hypothesis, academics writing for the populace have to necessarily simplify their writing and expression.

Chesterton, being more like me in this regard (no theological degree) probably felt that he could write as he wished. Consequently, his works actually require more education by these criteria than those of the academics Kreeft and Hahn. He was also an exceedingly wise man, and that surely requires more complexity to convey in words. But, curiously, Chesterton uses fewer complex words. It's funny how all three average 1.5 syllables per word, but my average is 1.6.

How about my favorite writer, the great Anglican apologist C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity + Screwtape Letters)?
Readability: 11.47

Complex Words: 9.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.45

Words per Sentence: 22.25
Lewis is notable for considerably fewer complex words. I'm interested in seeing how different his stats are for a children's book and also for one of his strictly academic books, written to fellow scholars (and both scarcely "apologetic" at all, as are the above two books). If we examine his famous children's book (part of The Chronicles of Narnia), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we find exactly what we would expect of a children's book:
Readability: 6.7

[Flesch Index was 79.2, so that it is as easy to read as 95% of all books]

Complex Words: 5%

Syllables per Word: 1.3

Words per Sentence: 14.4
We see that it is suitable for a child in seventh grade to read, with far fewer complex words, words per sentence, and even less average syllables per word. But if we take a look at his scholarly works, we see, of course, a huge difference in the other direction. I shall average the results from five such volumes: The Discarded Image, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, Studies in Words, An Experiment in Criticism, and A Preface to Paradise Lost:
Readability: 12.06

Complex Words: 14%

Syllables per Word: 1.58

Words per Sentence: 19.56
This is interesting in that even the scholarly works are accessible to those with a high school education. Probably, Lewis' work as a popular lay apologist spilled over into his actual academic writing (which is a good thing, I think). He still uses 1 % less complex words than I do (I appear to be the king of three-syllable-plus words!).

That was fascinating. Now, I'd like to analyze John Henry Cardinal Newman's works, that are considered by many very "dense" and difficult to read (and, in my mind, known for very long , eloquent sentences): An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (the edition used here also includes three other related works), Parochial and Plain Sermons (considered by some the finest sermons in the English language), Apologia pro vita sua (his spiritual autobiography), and The Idea of a University:
Readability: 13.79

Complex Words: 13.75%

Syllables per Word: 1.53

Words per Sentence: 24.78
Some individual differences in Newman's writings are striking. Of these four titles, The Idea of a University was significantly less "readable": a remarkable 17.45 average, or the middle of thee second year of graduate school (!!!). Development came in second, with 13.6 (middle of sophomore year in college), while the other two were about equal: 12.0, or high school education. Idea also had far more words per sentence than the average: 33.1. Development had the most complex words: 17% and Sermons the fewest: 10%, with the others in-between.

How would St. Thomas Aquinas rank, then? His writing is often synonymous in many people's opinions, with difficult, dry-as-dust writing. Summa Theologica gives these statistics:
Readability: 9.7

Complex Words: 13%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 15.1
This is most surprising. Less than a tenth grade education is required, and there are relatively fewer complex words and long sentences. So it seems that the great Doctor uses simple words to get his extraordinary ideas across. His thought processes, and how he argues and utilizes logic, however, are something else again, and cannot be measured by these criteria.

I'm curious about the eminent Protestant philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Some of his more well-known straight philosophical works are Warranted Christian Belief, God and Other Minds, The Nature of Necessity, and Warrant and Proper Function. Here are the average stats:

Readability: 14.7

Complex Words: 16.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.63

Words per Sentence: 24.35
This is as expected for a modern analytic philosopher. He's the most difficult to read of anyone thus far: more than halfway through junior year of college, most complex words and syllables per word, and sentence length just slightly lower by average than the "long-winded" Cardinal Newman. Warrant and Proper Function is his most difficult book to read, with a 16.5 readability rating, 17% for complex words, 1.7 average, syllables per word, and 28.1 words per sentence.

A modern philosopher, Rene Descartes, shows very high numbers (Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy):

Readability: 18.95

Complex Words: 12.0%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 39.4
Descartes (in this one work) has the highest readability level of anyone on my list (almost three years of graduate school), which is interesting because I read this in a first year of college introduction to philosophy course (12 years of school). The strange thing is that his "big words" are a low proportion. He also wins the highest words per sentence, hands down.

As an example, I was curious to look at a technical scientific work. How about The Elegant Universe, by physicist Brian Greene (that I happen to have in my own library)?:

Readability: 15.5

Complex Words: 18%

Syllables per Word: 1.7

Words per Sentence: 24.2
Not surprisingly, Greene breaks the record in the first three categories, with the readability rated at halfway through the senior year of college.

I'm curious about someone like John Calvin, who writes in a pretty "high" and (some would say) quite dry style. Here are the stats for his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Readability: 10.2

Complex Words: 14%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 15.9
Like St. Thomas Aquinas, I think the ratings here are surprising, in the more "readable" direction. But again, complete thoughts are not able to be measured, so that a writing may use relatively simpler words in the service of relatively more complex ideas. I think that is true of both Aquinas and Calvin.

As for Catholic theologians, it is said that Hans Urs von Balthasar makes for very difficult reading. I'll do an average of his (Explorations in Theology: I. The Word Made Flesh, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics: III, and Elucidations):
Readability: 16.83

Complex Words: 15.33%

Syllables per Word: 1.57

Words per Sentence: 30.77
Balthasar's Explorations in Theology, I comes in the highest level of readability: 18.25 years of education, or third year of graduate school! He also has the highest average for readability, by quite a margin (almost one year of graduate school), and the highest average for words per sentence, by far (remarkably, twice as much as both Aquinas and Calvin). So, yep, he is definitely difficult to read. No question, by these stats.

And of course we ought to include Pope Benedict XVI (The Spirit of the Liturgy, Introduction to Christianity, God is Near Us: The Eucharist: the Heart of Life, The Nature and Mission of Theology, Principles of Catholic Theology, and Truth and Tolerance):
Readability: 14.49

Complex Words: 16.17%

Syllables per Word: 1.62

Words per Sentence: 24.42
The Holy Father rates high in difficult readability (middle of third year of college), and has the highest percentage of three-syllable plus words of anyone except for philosopher Alvin Plantinga). He is also just o.o1 less average syllables per word than Plantingaand ranks fairly high in words per sentence.

Lastly, I'd like to see how my books compare in this regard with some of my fellow apologists. First, Patrick Madrid (Where is That in the Bible + Pope Fiction):
Readability: 12.93

Complex Words: 14%

Syllables per Word: 1.55

Words per Sentence: 22.1
Pat comes in high for readability: almost a year of college (and almost a year more than my average). He comes in slightly less than I do in the next two categories and with three words plus more per sentence, average, than my writing.

Karl Keating's three best selling books (Catholicism and Fundamentalism, What Catholics Really Believe, and The Usual Suspects), come out this way:
Readability: 11.85

Complex Words: 14.33%

Syllables per Word: 1.6

Words per Sentence: 18.93
This is quite close to my rating in all respects: the closest of anyone surveyed yet: just slightly lower in the first two categories, the same in the third, and slightly higher in the fourth.

How about Steve Ray (Crossing the Tiber and Upon This Rock)?
Readability: 13.18

Complex Words: 15.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.6

Words per Sentence: 21.6
Steve tops Pat Madrid in difficult readability, with a year in college and a bit more, uses slightly more "big words" than I do, and almost three more words per sentence.

Where does Jimmy Akin (The Salvation Controversy, Mass Confusion) come down on the spectrum?:
Readability: 14.78

Complex Words: 16%

Syllables per Word: 1.6

Words per Sentence: 25.35
Jimmy's readability is high (third year of college), but part of that is accounted for, I think, by technical terms that would be necessary for his book on the Mass (which averaged 15.95, whereas his other book averaged 13.6). He also writes a lot of words per sentence than anyone thus far, even Cardinal Newman.

Mark Shea is an apologist who majored in English. I think that certainly makes for better writing, but does it lead to more complexity too? Well, let's see, using his two bestselling books (By What Authority? and Making Senses Out of Scripture):
Readability: 13.7

Complex Words: 13.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.55

Words per Sentence: 24.5
Mark's readability quotient comes in pretty high, while (curiously) his use of complex words comes in low, while words per sentence are very high. Perhaps English majors, then, like long, complex sentences (perhaps with more difficult syntax), while not necessarily using more "big words."

Following this line of thought, I am particularly curious about Thomas Howard, an English professor who writes excellent, eloquent books about Catholicism (semi-apologetic in nature). I think of Howard as having a fabulous vocabulary. I shall average his books, Evangelical is Not Enough and On Being Catholic:
Readability: 11.75

Complex Words: 12.5%

Syllables per Word: 1.5

Words per Sentence: 20.6
This is a bit surprising. Howard requires less than a high school education (but then, I suppose, professors are used to simplifying in class), and has a low complexity rating. This means to me that, though he uses many words that I never heard before, he also must use a lot of simpler words overall.

My friend, Al Kresta, a great talk show host, wrote a book of apologetics entitled Why Are Catholics So Concerned About Sin? Here are its stats:
Readability: 13.35

Complex Words: 15%

Syllables per Word: 1.6

Words per Sentence: 22.1
Now, a comparison chart compiling all we have learned: each one from more complex (and longer sentences) to less complex:

Readability (years of education required):

Descartes (Discourse on Method . . .) 18.95
Balthasar, Explorations in Theology, I 18.25
Newman - Idea of a University 17.45
Balthasar (3) 16.83
Plantinga, Warrant & Proper Function 16.5
Brian Greene (physicist) 15.5
Jimmy Akin (2) 14.78
Alvin Plantinga (4) 14.7
Pope Benedict XVI (6) 14.49
Cardinal Newman (4) 13.79
Mark Shea (2) 13.7
Newman - Development 13.6
Al Kresta (1) 13.35
Steve Ray (2) 13.18
Patrick Madrid (2) 12.93
G.K. Chesterton (2) 12.9
C.S. Lewis (5 academic works) 12.06
Dave Armstrong (2) 12.0
Scott Hahn (2) 11.95
Karl Keating (3) 11.85
Thomas Howard (2) 11.75
C.S. Lewis (2 apologetics) 11.47
Peter Kreeft (2) 10.73
John Calvin (Institutes) 10.2
St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) 9.7
C.S. Lewis, Lion, Witch & Wardrobe 6.7

Complex Words (3 or more syllables; percentage):

Pope Benedict XVI, The Nature and Mission of Theology 20%
Pope Benedict XVI, Principles of Catholic Theology 19%
Brian Greene (physicist) 18
Newman - Development 17
Plantinga, Warrant & Proper Function 17
Alvin Plantinga (4) 16.5
Pope Benedict XVI (6) 16.17
Jimmy Akin (2) 16
Steve Ray (2) 15.5
Balthasar (3) 15.33
Dave Armstrong (2) 15
Al Kresta (1) 15
Newman - Idea of a University 15
Karl Keating (3) 14.33
Patrick Madrid (2) 14
John Calvin (Institutes) 14
C.S. Lewis (5 academic works) 14
Cardinal Newman (4) 13.75
Peter Kreeft (2) 13.5
Mark Shea (2) 13.5
Scott Hahn (2) 13
St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) 13
G.K. Chesterton (2) 12.5
Thomas Howard (2) 12.5
Descartes (Discourse on Method . . .) 12
C.S. Lewis (2 apologetics) 9.5
C.S. Lewis, Lion, Witch & Wardrobe 5

Words per Sentence:

Descartes (Discourse on Method . . .) 39.4
Balthasar, Elucidations 34.8
Newman, Idea of a University 33.1
Balthasar (3) 30.77
Plantinga, Warrant & Proper Function 28.1
Jimmy Akin (2) 25.35
Cardinal Newman (4) 24.78
Mark Shea (2) 24.5
Pope Benedict XVI (6) 24.42
Alvin Plantinga (4) 24.35
Brian Greene (physicist) 24.2
G.K. Chesterton (2) 23.05
C.S. Lewis (2 apologetics) 22.25
Patrick Madrid (2) 22.1
Al Kresta (1) 22.1
Newman, Development 21.7
Steve Ray (2) 21.6
Scottt Hahn (2) 20.6
Thomas Howard (2) 20.6
C.S. Lewis (5 academic works) 19.56
Karl Keating (3) 18.93
Dave Armstrong (2) 18.85
Peter Kreeft (2) 17.35
John Calvin (Institutes) 15.9
St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) 15.1
C.S. Lewis, Lion, Witch & Wardrobe 14.4

Syllables per Word:

Alvin Plantinga (4) 1.63 (highest average)
Pope Benedict XVI (6) 1.62
Dave Armstrong (2) 1.6 (tied with Keating, Ray, Kresta, & Akin for highest average among apologists)
C.S. Lewis (2 apologetics) 1.45 (lowest average for non-children's books)
C.S. Lewis, Lion, Witch & Wardrobe 1.3 (lowest average)

Readability (current-day Catholic apologists only):

Jimmy Akin (2) 14.78
Mark Shea (2) 13.7
Al Kresta (1) 13.35
Steve Ray (2) 13.18
Patrick Madrid (2) 12.93
Dave Armstrong (2) 12.0 [12.5 for Biblical Defense alone]
Scott Hahn (2) 11.95
Karl Keating (3) 11.85
Thomas Howard (2) 11.75
Peter Kreeft (2) 10.73

Complex Words (current-day Catholic apologists only):

Jimmy Akin (2) 16
Steve Ray (2) 15.5
Dave Armstrong (2) 15 [16 for Biblical Defense alone]
Al Kresta (1) 15
Karl Keating (3) 14.33
Patrick Madrid (2) 14
Peter Kreeft (2) 13.5
Mark Shea (2) 13.5
Scott Hahn (2) 13
Thomas Howard (2) 12.5

Words per Sentence (current-day Catholic apologists only):

Jimmy Akin (2) 25.35
Mark Shea (2) 24.5
Patrick Madrid (2) 22.1
Al Kresta (1) 22.1
Steve Ray (2) 21.6
Scottt Hahn (2) 20.6
Thomas Howard (2) 20.6
Karl Keating (3) 18.93
Dave Armstrong (2) 18.85 [19.8 for Biblical Defense alone]
Peter Kreeft (2) 17.35

Conclusions About My Own Writings Compared to Other Apologists Today:

I use big words: a lot of syllables per word average (tied for highest), and lots of three syllable plus words (surpassed only by Akin and Ray and tied with Al Kresta).

But I don't use long sentences (less than everyone except for Peter Kreeft).

With the big words and shorter sentences, I'm about in the middle for "readability" -- a high school education, as I have said for years; ironically, I placed above the three professors and Karl Keating, who has a degree in law, but lower than five strictly lay apologists (less formal education and none or far less in theology). Of the ten listed, only Scott Hahn actually has an advanced degree in theology (doctorate).

I have the most divergent ratio regarding lower level of education required (12 years) compared to the highest percentage of "big words" (15%). This, combined with the shorter sentences (ninth lowest of ten) makes my "profile" perhaps the most unique of all ten current apologists, producing a graph with great peaks and valleys (apart from possibly Mark Shea's, which is similar in divergence but in a different fashion). That's not to claim that my writing is "better"; only that it is different in its qualities in these respects from most of the others. Karl Keating's "profile" is the most similar to mine, judging by all three categories.

Related to the above, most of the authors tend to be either high or low in all the categories, and to maintain a similarity across the three major categories (with the lowest numbers being more complex and lengthy):
Jimmy Akin 1-1-1
Mark Shea 2-8-2
Al Kresta 3-4-4
Steve Ray 4-2-5
Patrick Madrid 5-6-3
Dave Armstrong 6-3-9
Scott Hahn 7-9-6
Karl Keating 8-5-8
Thomas Howard 9-10-7
Peter Kreeft (2) 10-7-10
One might average these three figures for the "Master Complexity Quotient":
Jimmy Akin 1.0
Al Kresta 3.67
Steve Ray 3.67
Mark Shea 4.0
Patrick Madrid 4.67
Dave Armstrong 6.0
Karl Keating 7.0
Scott Hahn 7.33
Thomas Howard 8.67
Peter Kreeft (2) 9
Ironically again, it is the three professors and lawyer who score lower for complexity and higher for readability, then myself, and then the "lay apologists". I have interpreted this as meaning that academics are better acquainted with the effort to simplify one's thoughts for the function of educating students. I don't really try to do that (except deliberately in my latest book, The One-Minute Apologist and in The New Catholic Answer Bible, due to strict demands for brevity); the result being that I come out in the middle overall, compared to other apologists. That's fine with me; I rather like that.

Jimmy Akin leads all four categories (i.e., more difficult and complex compared to others, at least judging by words alone).

Mark Shea's writing requires a high education (13.7 grade level) while using less complex words (13.5%), but Karl Keating requires less education (11.85 years) and uses bigger words (14.33%).

After Jimmy Akin's three 1's, Al Kresta is most consistent across categories, followed by Pat Madrid and Thomas Howard (tied for second).

Style, rhetoric, argumentative technique, use of humor, sarcasm, hyperbole, polemics, analogy, exaggeration, logical points, use of citations, structure of sentences and chapters and books, and the like, are all factors not at all included in these analyses. How they could be measured is a fascinating question, and probably unanswerable, in the same way that people's tastes in, e.g., classical music and its performances and recordings, can hardly be quantified by any measure that is objective across the board (which makes it all the more fun and challenging to discuss). Variety is definitely the spice of life, in apologetics, as in literature, generally-speaking, and the wider arena of all the academic fields and the arts

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Out of the Mouths of Babes": My Five-Year-Old Daughter on Heaven and Salvation

By Dave Armstrong (5-24-07)

Yesterday I was going about my business and overheard my ten-year-old third son and my one daughter (five) -- who were born on the same date exactly five years apart -- talking about heaven at the kitchen table. I started to listen in a bit and then got the idea of taking down (and sharing with you) what my daughter was saying, in the same way that I once posted thoughts from my oldest son (nine at the time) on God.

What follows is verbatim. I recorded it as it was happening. My "drawing-out" questions are in blue. Remember, my daughter has not even yet received first communion, and most people would consider her to be below the "age of reason." But I think you'd agree that she is very charming, and in excellent spiritual shape, for her place in life at this time (the lion's share of the [human] credit for that goes to my lovely wife Judy, for her home-schooling efforts).

Beyond all that, I believe that God puts knowledge of Him (real knowledge, not just abstract conceptions) in all human beings, from a very young age, if not from the very beginning. We're made in His image, after all, and baptism is not without its profound spiritual effects.

I found her remarks to actually be astonishingly good theology, as to the purpose and nature of heaven (better than many supposedly theologically-educated adults), and salvation, as well (though I would fully expect her to not grasp all the subtleties there: most Christian adults do not, either). I could write a long treatise, launching off of her words about heaven in the first section (where she hits upon God being a light, the extraordinary knowledge of the angels, the Beatific Vision, the lack of suffering and sin in heaven, eternal bliss, the resurrection body, God's never-ending love, etc.):


Lots of lights.

Lots of food.

Angels know all about God.

You see God every day.

You can't get cut; it's like a cushion.

You can't be sad; you can't be mad; you have to be just right.

You're happy all the time.

You never get tired.

God will always love you.

He will always be with you.

There's never any badness.

There has to be no sins because God doesn't allow it.


I dunno; you know how God threw Satan into hell; that's why. You don't have to do anything for anybody except your mom and dad.

How come?

I dunno. Cuz in the world mom and dad say "go do this or go do that. Go clean your room."

Will you get along with your brothers in heaven?

Yeah, I'll have to.

How come?

Because if you don't do it, you have to go to hell.

Once you get to heaven, you can't go to hell.

You never get bad dreams; you'll always get good dreams forever.

How do you get to go to heaven?

God chooses, I think.

How does God make the choice?

For hell, you have to be bad; for heaven you have to be good. That's about it.

How about Jesus dying for us?

Jesus dies for our sins.

Doesn't that have something to do with going to heaven, too?



Cuz . . . I dunno.

If you pray, He'll help you.

You have to pray to make good things happen.

We can go to heaven because Jesus died on the cross?

Yeah; uh-huh. I'm very detailed in this stuff.

How come?

Because I have bad dreams and stuff. Hell is just like a bad dream.

So you figure that heaven is like a good dream?


Do you try to follow God every day?


How do you do it?

Controlling myself from the bad things.

Does God help you do that?

Yeah, a little bit. God built us to have some friends, too.

Is it good to go to church?


How come?

Because you learn all about God.

Is God up there in front of the church?



In this little cage thingey.

How could God be in there?

I dunno.

Do we receive Him when we go up front?


How do you know that God is good?

Cuz I heard a story about it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"The One-Minute Apologist": Source Documentation for End-of-Section Quotations, Plus Additional Contexts

By Dave Armstrong (5-20-07; updated on 19 February 2012)

My publisher chose to not include the documentation for all the quotations I was asked to provide for each two-page section of my just-released book. This information was included in my manuscript, and so I shall provide that information here. Blue sections are continuations of quotations that were edited out of the published version, and green sections preceded existing book citations in my original manuscript:

* * * * * 

Martin Luther [p. 5]

(in the year 1532; from Protestant Luther biographer Roland H. Bainton, Studies on the Reformation [Boston: Beacon Press, 1963], p. 26; primary source: WA [Werke, Weimar edition in German], XXX, 552; bracketed comment is Bainton’s own)

Robert McAfee Brown (Protestant scholar) [p. 7]

“Much of this may be due to faulty reading and faulty listening. But it cannot all be explained so simply. It can be explained only by recognizing honestly that Protestants do not rely on sola Scriptura in quite the pure way that Reformation Sunday sermons would suggest.”

The Spirit of Protestantism, London: Oxford University Press, 1961, 215-216)

F.F. Bruce (Protestant Bible scholar) [pp. 9, 11]

(The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 79-80; discussing St. Athanasius’ Festal Letter [No. 39], written in 367)

(The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 41, 50, 280-282)

James Gairdner (Protestant Church historian) [p. 13]

(Lollardy and the Reformation in England, Vol. 1 of 4, 1908, 105, 117)

Philip Schaff (Protestant Church historian) [p. 17]

". . . and the accounts of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Jerome, that the same apostle nominated and ordained Polycarp (with whom Irenaeus was personally acquainted) bishop of Smyrna."

(History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970; from the 5th revised edition of 1910, 135-136)

John Calvin [p. 19]

" . . . [Matt. 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation, as Isaiah [Isa. 37:32] and Joel [Joel 2:32] testify . . ."

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill; translated by Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960, IV, 1, 4; Vol. 2, p. 1016)

Philip Schaff (Protestant Church historian) [p. 21]

(History of the Christian Church, vol. 3: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974; from the revised 5th edition of 1910, 396-397)

James D.G. Dunn (Protestant New Testament Scholar) [p. 23]

(Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, London: SCM Press, second edition, 1990, 192-193; glossalalia is the Greek word for tongues)

Bertrand Conway [p. 25]

"Neither excommunication nor anathemas imply the Church's condemning anyone to hell. That is the prerogative of God alone. Excommunication is a Church law, excluding a notorious sinner from the communion of the faithful (Canons 2257-2267). Its purpose is to warn the sinner of the danger he runs of incurring eternal ruin, unless he repent of his sin. The "delivering of the sinner to Satan," which we find in the Roman Pontifical, is based on the words of St. Paul, who delivered the incestuous sinner to Satan, "that his spirit might be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 5:5; cf. 1 Tim. 1:20)."

(The Question Box, New York: The Paulist Press, 205)

Ronald Knox [p. 27]

(University and Anglican Sermons, London: Burns and Oates, 1963, 63)

H. Richard Niebuhr (Protestant Theologian) [p. 29]

(The Social Sources of Denominationalism, New York: The World Publishing Co. / Meridian Books, 1957; originally 1929, 25)

The Catholic Encyclopedia [p. 31]

(Vol. VI, 1909, “Galileo Galilei,” John Gerard)

James D.G. Dunn (Protestant Bible scholar) [p. 35]

(Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 2nd edition, 1990, 385; cited in agreement by Bruce in the work above, pp. 42-43)

The New Bible Dictionary (Protestant reference work) [p. 37]

(general editor: J.D. Douglas; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1962, “Power,” section III: “The Power of the Keys,” by R.N. Caswell, pp. 1017-1018)

R.T. France (Anglican Bible commentator) [p. 39]

"Jesus now sums up Peter’s significance in a name, Peter . . . It describes not so much Peter’s character (he did not prove to be ‘rock-like’ in terms of stability or reliability), but his function, as the foundation-stone of Jesus’ church. The feminine word for ‘rock’, ‘petra’, is necessarily changed to the masculine ‘petros’ (stone) to give a man’s name, but the word-play is unmistakable (and in Aramaic would be even more so, as the same form ‘kepha’ would occur in both places). It is only Protestant overreaction to the Roman Catholic claim . . . that what is here said of Peter applies also to the later bishops of Rome, that has led some to claim that the ‘rock’ here is not Peter at all but the faith which he has just confessed. The word-play, and the whole structure of the passage, demands that this verse is every bit as much Jesus’ declaration about Peter as v.16 was Peter’s declaration about Jesus . . . It is to Peter, not to his confession, that the rock metaphor is applied . . . Peter is to be the foundation-stone of Jesus’ new community . . ."

(in Leon Morris, general editor, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, vol. 1: Matthew, 254, 256)

The New Bible Dictionary (Protestant reference work) [p. 41]

(Organizing editor: J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962; article “Peter,” written by A.F. Walls, 973)

John Henry Newman [p. 43]

(An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1845, Part I, Ch. 2, Sec. 3)

Patrick Madrid (Catholic Apologist) [p. 45]

(Pope Fiction, San Diego: Basilica Press, 1999, 161-162)

St. Augustine [p. 49]

(The City of God, translated by Henry Bettenson, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972, XX, 10; p. 919)

Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) [p. 51]

(Menti Nostrae, 23 September 1950)

C.S. Lewis [p. 53]

(“Priestesses in the Church?” From: God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, 235-236; originally published as “Notes on the Way,” in Time and Tide, vol. XXIX: 14 August 1948, pp. 830-831)

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) [p. 57]

(Summa Theologica, III, Q. 66, Art. 11)

Blaise Pascal [p. 59]

Pensees (no further documentation given)

St. Augustine [p. 61]

(The City of God, translated by Henry Bettenson, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972, XXII, 10; pp. 1048-1049)

F.F. Bruce (Protestant Bible Scholar) [p. 63]

(Israel and the Nations, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963; reprinted 1981, 41)

St. Ignatius of Antioch (d.c. 110) [p. 65]

This one is a blatant typo in the book. My concluding words were mistakenly listed as a citation from St. Ignatius (!!!). I'm honored and humbled by the "compliment", but here is my intended citation:

"Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, Who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man and Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live for ever in Jesus Christ."

(Letter to the Ephesians, 20)

Martin Luther [pp. 67, 69]

(Large Catechism, 1529; Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1935; section 230, p. 165)

(Large Catechism, 1529; Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1935; section 234, p. 167)

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. [p. 71]

(Modern Catholic Dictionary, Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, 1980, “Limbo,” p. 320)

Blaise Pascal [p. 73]

Pensees (no further documentation given)

C.S. Lewis [p. 77]

(Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, 129-130)

John Wesley (Founder of Methodism) [p. 79]

(A Farther Appeal, 1745, Works, London: 1831, VIII, 68 ff. / Working Out Our Own Salvation, 1788, Works, VI, 511 ff.)

John Calvin [p. 81]

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill; translated by Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960, IV, 1, 3; Vol. 2, p. 1015; cf. IV, 1, 8; IV, 12, 9)

. . . [II Tim. 2:19]

(Ibid., IV, 1, 2; Vol. 2, p. 1013)

John Henry Newman [pp. 83, 85]

(Lectures on Justification; no further documentation)

(Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. 5, Sermon 14: “Transgressions and Infirmities” – from Newman’s Anglican period: 1840)

G.K. Chesterton [p. 87]

(All Things Considered, 1908; New York: Sheed & Ward, 1956, 140-141)

C.S. Lewis [p. 89]

"Though Our Lord often speaks of Hell as a sentence inflicted by a tribunal, He also says elsewhere that the judgement consists in the very fact that men prefer darkness to light, and that not He, but His 'word,' judges men. We are therefore at liberty – since the two conceptions, in the long run, mean the same thing – to think of this bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is. The characteristic of lost souls is 'their rejection of everything that is not simply themselves.'”

(The Problem of Pain, New York: Macmillan, 1962, ch. 8, 122-123)

Fr. Ray Ryland [p. 91]

The Church speaks of "implicit desire" or "longing" that can exist in the hearts of those who seek God but are ignorant of the means of his grace. If a person longs for salvation but does not know the divinely established means of salvation, he is said to have an implicit desire for membership in the Church. Non-Catholic Christians know Christ, but they do not know his Church. In their desire to serve him, they implicitly desire to be members of his Church. Non-Christians can be saved, said John Paul, if they seek God with "a sincere heart." In that seeking they are "related" to Christ and to his body the Church . . .

(“No Salvation Outside the Church,” This Rock, Vol. 16, No. 10, December 2005)

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [p. 93]

(De Civ. Dei [City of God], xxi. 13, and xxi. 24)

(F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, editors, Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 1983, 1144-1145)
John Henry Newman [p. 95]

(An Essay on the Grammar of Assent, 1870, 10)

C.S. Lewis [p. 99]

(“The Poison of Subjectivism,” 1943; later included in Christian Reflections: New York: Macmillan: 1967)

Romano Guardini (Catholic Theologian) [p. 101]

It is in him, the Third Person of the Trinity, that Father and Son are powerfully individual, yet one.

(The Lord, translated by Elinor Castendyk Briefs, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1954, 433)

Sir Arnold Lunn (English Writer) [p. 103]

(Now I See, 1933)

Matthias Premm (Catholic Theologian) [p. 105]

The teaching of the Catholic Church is this: the unity in Christ did not result from the uniting of his two natures with each other, but in the union of each of them in the Person of the Son of God. The union is thus achieved in the Person (in theological terms this is called the hypostatic union), and not in the natures . . . both divine and human attributes can be predicated of him, although the two natures are separated by an infinite abyss. For example, I can say that Christ is omniscient (as God), but also that he does not know everything (as man); God is lying in the crib (that is, as a man); God is dying on the cross, etc.

(Dogmatic Theology for the Laity, Rockford, IL: TAN, 1967, 151-152)

St. Augustine [p. 109]

(On Nature and Grace [415], XXXVI, 42)

Martin Luther [pp. 111, 113]

(That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, 1523; LW: Vol. 45, 199, 206)

She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child . . . Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God . . . None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.

(Commentary on the Magnificat, 1521; in Luther's Works, Pelikan et al, volume 21, 326)

Heinrich Bullinger (Prominent Early Protestant Leader) [p. 115]

(in Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of all Christians, translated by Neville B. Cryer, New York: Herder & Herder, 1963, 197-198; from De origine erroris, 16, written in 1568)

John Henry Newman [p. 117]

The last clause in the published version was cut off, and a period put after "power," leaving an incomplete sentence at the end. The "Though then" at the beginning, shows that the grammar necessitates an additional clause, because it is a compare-and-contrast sentence. Obviously, inadvertent human error on my (all in all, excellent) editor's part . . .

Our Lord died for those heathens who did not know Him; and His Mother intercedes for those Christians who do not know her; and she intercedes according to His will, and, when He wills to save a particular soul, she at once prays for it. I say, He wills indeed according to her prayer, but then she prays according to His will. Though then it is natural and prudent for those to have recourse to her, who from the Church's teaching know her power, yet it cannot be said that devotion to her is a sine-qua-non of salvation.

(Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching, Vol. 2, § 5)

Martin Luther / Philip Schaff (Protestant Church Historian) [p. 119]

(Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, 1528, in Luther’s Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, vol. 37, 369)

(History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970; 5th revised edition of 1910, 603-604)

C.S. Lewis [p. 121]

[D]evotions to saints . . . There is clearly a theological defence for it; if you can ask for the prayers of the living, why should you not ask for the prayers of the dead? . . . I am not thinking of adopting the practice myself; and who am I to judge the practices of others? . . . The consoling thing is that while Christendom is divided about the rationality and even the lawfulness, of praying to the saints, we are all agreed about praying with them. 'With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven' . . . You may say that the distinction between the communion of the saints as I find it in that act and full-fledged prayer to saints is not, after all, very great. All the better if so. I sometimes have a bright dream of reunion engulfing us unawares, like a great wave from behind our backs . . . Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us.

(Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, 15-16)

Ronald Knox [p. 123]

The book edit fails to include ellipses [ . . . ] between "the faith" and "Yes, this man . . .", thus leaving the impression that Knox's original statement didn't include all the words in between them.

The attitude of our non-Catholic friends towards the Catholic saints; they always contrive to discredit, in one of two ways, their witness to the faith. Either they will say: “This was a very unpleasant, narrow-minded man, of ridiculous personal habits; and if that is what saints are like we would sooner hear no more of them”, or they will say: “Yes, this man was indeed a saint; but then he was not really a Roman Catholic. He was just a good Christian, as I and my wife are; he only happened to be in communion with the Pope because everybody was in those days.”

(Occasional Sermons, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1960, 115-116)

James Cardinal Gibbons [p. 127]

(The Faith of Our Fathers, New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, revised edition, 1917, 311)

Carryl Houselander (American Writer) [p. 129]

(Guilt, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1951)

Bertrand L. Conway [p. 131]

(The Question Box, New York: The Paulist Press, revised edition, 1929, 368)

Martin Luther [p. 133]

(Against the Heavenly Prophets, 1525, in Luther’s Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. 40, p. 96)

St. Thomas Aquinas [p. 135]

[D]ivine power works invisibly through visible signs…. Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author. These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified.

(Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, 56: “Of the Need of Sacraments”)

St. Augustine [p. 137]

(On Marriage and Concupiscence, 1,10[11]; A.D. 420, in NPNF1, V, 268 / Ibid., 1:17:19)

Bertrand L. Conway [p. 139]

(The Question Box, New York: The Paulist Press, revised edition, 1929, 331)

G.K. Chesterton [p. 141]

(The Well and the Shallows, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1935, 233)

Summary of Multiple Citations (62 Quotations in 61 sections)

Martin Luther: 7
C.S. Lewis: 5
John Henry Newman: 5
St. Augustine: 4
Philip Schaff: 3
F.F. Bruce: 3
Bertrand L. Conway: 3
G.K. Chesterton: 2
St. Thomas Aquinas: 2
Blaise Pascal: 2
John Calvin: 2
James D.G. Dunn: 2
Ronald Knox: 2
New Bible Dictionary: 2