Sunday, April 05, 2009

Why Folks Are Buying the Bestselling New Catholic Answer Bible / Clueless Anti-Catholic Attacks On It

Certain anti-Catholic Protestant apologists have lately been waxing ridiculously about how this volume is sending a mixed message to its poor, pathetic readers. I made a passing remark about the "notoriously liberal" (1970) footnotes for the New American Bible (the translation used) which has been seized upon for the purpose of a wholesale attack on the supposed massive uncertainty in Catholic dogmatic theology, as if no one can figure out what the Church teaches regarding any given doctrine (and as if footnotes of but one translation carry any sort of magisterial authority).

It's utterly obvious, exactly what the attraction of this Bible is: why it is selling well, and consistently in the Top Fifty in its category; often in the Top Ten (as I write today it is #18,780 sales rank on amazon, which is very good; placing it at #28 in the Top 100 in the "Catholic" category).

The attraction is the collection of 88 "apologetic inserts," written by myself and Dr. Paul Thigpen (half of them each: to see many of the ones I did, see the original Catholic Answer Bible, which were my notes alone). There are a million different Bibles on the market. For one like this to sell so well, clearly the inserts are causing people to purchase. No one buys a Bible for its footnotes, unless it is a "study Bible" with very extensive ones. I've certainly never done that myself, and I own some 30 or more different Bibles. Yet these critics insist that Catholics who purchase the Bible are thoroughly confused by the "mixed messages" being sent.

It's all a bunch of hot air. So there are some theologically liberal errors to be found in some of the notes; big wow. That's not why readers have (and buy) the Bible in the first place. Most probably don't even read the footnotes. They want the apologetic notes. That's how the Bible is promoted on the back cover and on its book description and purchase pages on the web (amazon, OSV, Fireside Publishers, The Catholic Company, Google Book Search, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.), which never mention the brief footnotes that are included, as with almost any Bible. The latter source states, for example:
The NEW Catholic Answer Bible is available in two editions - Large Print and Librosario®. Both editions feature 88 of the most common questions Catholics are asked about their faith.
Likewise, all of the 25 customer reviews on amazon (23 = 5 stars, 2 = 4 stars) without exception discuss the inserts:
1) "The authors examine many difficult or controversial teachings and for each one, give a clear explanation for why we believe what we believe. This in and of itself is extremely useful." [10-12-08]

2) "this answer Bible offers brief sections every few pages that explains certain Catholic beliefs with Biblical references." [10-3-08]

3) "This Bible contains a lot of information about the history of the Bible that I believe a lot of people don't know. It also contains helpful, relevant information & comprehensive answers to questions asked about Church doctrine." [8-23-08]

4) ". . . about every sixty pages a section of questions and Catholic answers is given. With these questions and answers, specific scriptural references are given that can easily be referred to." [4-30-08]

5) "I purchased the New Catholic Answer Bible to seek answers to many of the tenets of the Catholic faith. This Bible has greatly exceeded my expectations. It is so well organized that I can read the passages of the Bible and then quickly go on to the explanatory notes with ease." [2-19-08]

6) "There are many inserts in the Bible that explain specific beliefs that reference the Bible. This is a great tool for reading God's Word and learning about the Catholic faith." [2-8-08]

7) "This is a great Bible plus it answers a lot of questions for you about the Catholic faith. If you have ever wondered why Catholics believe or do something your questions will probably be answered here." [12-9-07]

8) "This Bible is a must for every home. The topic tabs with scripture resources are so helpful." [10-16-07]

9) "I have recommended it to the RCIA program and have refered it to the education leader at my Church. They are as excited about it as I am." [7-4-07]

10) "This book has the answers to questions about the church and they are easy to find. " [1-30-07]

11) "I love this Bible. It has a question and answer section." [1-10-07]

12) "The many explanatory pages are helpful in understanding Catbolic teaching and its relationship to the Bible. " [11-10-06]

13) "Overall, I am pleased with the format and colored inserts and with most of the questions that are answered clearly and in the Catholic tradition. Excellent. " [11-3-06]

14) "This remarkable study bible answers many questions that many have asked about the ancient faith founded by Jesus Christ." [5-14-06]

15) "This Bible is great! I like the way that it answers common misconceptions of the Catholic Faith. A must for all Catholics!" [3-21-06]

16) "Being a recent convert to the Catholic faith, I have been verbally attacked numerous times (not surprisingly) by our non-Catholic brothers and sister on my Faith and sadly it will continue. Because of this I needed an easy, carry-around-wherever-you-go resource of my Faith to defend and explain her and that is where the New Catholic Answer Bible came in. It is a wonderful book! . . . with apologetic articles on countless subjects in between its pages. The articles are plentiful; 88 in all . . . and they are short and direct to the point in explaining what Catholics believe and why! . . . a junior apologist's dream! Every Roman Catholic should know and be ready to defend their faith PROPERLY and this Bible will help you do that. " [3-7-06]

17) "This is a must have version of the Bible for new or practicing Catholics. It is rich in its apologetic information and provides a history of written scripture that is invaluable."

18) "Every Catholic should have a copy of this wonderful Bible .Gives you a biblical foundation for your Catholic faith . I live in the bible belt where Catholics are few and are often challenged about the Catholic Church and its teachings .The New Catholic Answer Bible will increase your knowledge of the Bible and Catholic faith."
The last comment hits the nail on the head as to the real reason why the anti-Catholics are attacking this book. They hate the fact that Catholics are 1) reading the Bible, and 2) seeing (with the assistance of the inserts) that the Bible supports the Catholic faith. Catholics aren't supposed to read the Bible and love reading it unless they come out with a Protestant interpretation of it. They're supposed to be biblically illiterate ignoramuses that any Protestant worth his salt can make mincemeat of in discussion. If they are either "Protestant" or ignorant, then it is good and they are praised and lauded by their anti-Catholic overlords and superiors. But if they read the Bible and find that it supports Catholicism, then it's a bad thing and a naughty no-no. That's the last thing an anti-Catholic wants to see.

Since the anti-Catholics fail every time in substantive theological encounters with real Catholic apologists, they have to nitpick and engage in obfuscation, obscurantism, and sophistry (exemplified by the current attacks on The New Catholic Answer Bible), try to make up problems in Catholicism that aren't there, or exaggerate real problems a million times over, while ignoring the same sorts of problems in their own domain. Or else they distort the nature of Catholic authority. They are masters of a thousand rhetorical and sophistical tricks. I give them credit for cleverness and (a desperate) inventiveness at least, if not for knowledge and wisdom and logic, or any particular acumen in biblical interpretation.

Anything but actually argue theology head-to-head with an informed Catholic . . . They fear that like the plague because they will lose every time. That's why seven well-known Internet anti-Catholics turned down a debate with me, live in a chat room, with the proposed topic being the definition of Christianity. They wanted no part of that. At that time (well over a year ago now), I decided I would no longer (after 12 years of trying) spend any of my time attempting ""dialogue" and debate" with these clowns: if they didn't even have the guts and basic intellectual confidence to defend their first premises (in this case: their goofy, beyond-silly notion that Catholicism somehow isn't Christian).

Anti-Catholics are a small fringe group of Protestantism (maybe 2-3% of the whole, if that much). They don't represent mainstream, historical evangelical Protestantism (a group I have a great deal of respect for). They make no attempt to even understand the viewpoints they regularly mock and trash. They can't accurately portray that which they disagree with to save their lives. So they don't deserve any serious attention, as far as I am concerned. I can certainly understand why apologetics-oriented folks would want to do so, because error must be rebuked and some people are being harmed by the misinformation and lies that are regularly cranked out by these carnival barkers. But they've have been answered so many times now, in articles and books, that there really is little need to waste our valuable time dealing with them anymore. We should just stick to positive efforts at defending our faith (as in the method of these Bible inserts).

Converts are flocking to Catholicism by the multiple thousands. And they are generally from the ranks of the highest caliber of evangelical, whereas converts away from Catholicism are usually of the lowest caliber of Catholic: people who scarcely understood Catholic doctrine in the first place. It's highly appealing to the anti-Catholics, to snatch ignorant, nominal Catholics out of the Catholic Church. They know they'll have no fight to put up, and will be easy pickin's. But let an informed, experienced Catholic apologist approach them, and it's all high-tailing it for the hills, mockery, sophistry, personal attack (for example, I was recently described by Baptist pastor David T. King as a "filthy, foulmouthed Romanist").

That's all they've got. So let them prattle on and stew in their own juices. That sort of thing won't appeal to people in the long run: at least not people who are serious about theology and the demands of Christian charity and conduct. We Catholic apologists will keep presenting our positive case, which easily prevails when it is truly considered side-by-side with Protestant alternative answers. There is nothing like the power of theological and spiritual truth.

1 comment:

Tim J said...

"So there are some theologically liberal errors to be found in some of the notes; big wow. That's not why readers have (and buy) the Bible in the first place. Most probably don't even read the footnotes. They want the apologetic notes..." Oh really? There are many of us who read the footnotes. The apologetic inserts are quite good for defending the faith but the footnotes and introductions to Testaments/books are inconsistent with, and subversive to the sound doctrine of the inserts. On p. 7of the intro to the Book of Genesis, we read: "How should modern readers interpret the creation-flood story in Gn 2-11?" The explanation of why reading it as "Myth" is an unsuitable term is satisfying but then we read that reading it as "'History' is equally misleading, for it suggests that the events actually took place." Reading this intro optimistically, I expected this statement to be followed by a followup comment explaining that although the creation did actually take place, it need not have occurred literally as its presented in Gn. 1-2.. but no such qualifying statement follows; the reader is left wondering why the answer to how to read the Creation account is that it didn't actually take place. Who wrote this subversive comment? Further, how/why did this receive the nihil obstat? What about the actual Gen. 1 chapter commentary? It's bad enough that "Spirit of God" in 1:1 is translated as "mighty wind" but what about the footnote? Not the slightest suggestion that the Holy Spirit is spoken of. What we read is, "literally, 'spirit or breath of God'" w/ no elaboration. Note the lowercase spelling of "spirit" - that says it all.
How about the New Testament? Let's look at the comment on the Trinitarian baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19.. "it may have been the baptismal formula of Matthew's church." Just maybe? This is called sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of the faithful, and remember, we're not all theologians or Bible scholars; for many this will be the first reading of commentary on this verse and perhaps the last. What's worse is that the comment calls into question whether Jesus actually said these words suggesting rather that Matthew interpolated them because they were "the baptismal formula of Matthew's church." Or worse, perhaps Matthew composed the words himself. Think I'm going too far, well let's look at another comment on one of the parables. Here's the comment on Matthew 20:1-16: "This parable is peculiar to Matthew. It is difficult to tell whether Matthew composed it or received it as part of his traditional material..." Didn't Jesus compose his own parables or did Matthew make it up? What basis does this commentary offer us for boldly asserting the words of Christ as His actual words? This commentary is subversive to the faith. The net result is that we receive mixed messages: there is the bold encouraging proclamation/defense of faith found in the apologetic inserts and then there is the deeply subversive commentary. We are supposed to be "ONE" Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is not the picture we are given in this Answers Bible unfortunately. Once more, why did it receive the Nihil Obstat? And what does it is mean to give the Nihil Obstat and then claim "No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the content, opinions or statements expressed." Huh? Then why grant it to begin with?