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Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter's Questions About God Paperback – July 1, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Michael Novak, theologian and award-winning author, sets out to answer the religious questions of the twentysomething generation, he finds himself with not only a formidable task but a fabulous opportunity. The book is set in a question-and-answer format, a dialogue, actually, between father and daughter--a young woman who is coming to grips with the questions of a generation. She is clearly serious in her challenges--pushing, probing, grilling, trying to understand what propels one into religious faith and why it even matters.

Fortunately for her, and for all who have ever questioned facets of their faith, Novak is not only grounded in biblical truth but passionate about it. While some parts are related specifically to Catholicism (as Novak says, there was nothing to be gained in avoiding his particular heritage), he broadens the perspective in such an open and pleasing way that those who will disagree on certain points feel satisfied that their views are nonetheless fairly represented.

Tell Me Why book leaves the reader with a sense of having drawn closer to God. It will challenge not only twentysomethings and those who are open to musing about religion, but also those who are fervent in their faith and want to put words to their beliefs. --Ann Weinheimer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This book all started with a fax. As the prolific author of numerous titles (The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism; Business as a Moral Calling; etc.), former politician and theologian Michael Novak is no stranger to answering challenges regarding his faith in relation to the world of politics and philosophy. However, when he receives a lengthy fax from his recent college graduate daughter, Jana, this father's skill in communication is put to the test. Jana Novak, a writer and poet, ponders the deep issues of faith in modern society. She relates questions and concerns to her father through candid, sincere requests for evidence in helping determine what part God and religion will play in her life. The book, written in a Q&A format, allows both Novaks to bring forth fresh insights and beg the reader to consider the difficulties of living out one's faith in a cynical, amoral society. Jana poses her faxed questions by focusing first on the foundations of religion in general. Why, she asks, "Does religion matter?" "Why so many different religions?" "What is God like?" Michael Novak's second series of responses stresses the particulars of religious experience. Jana wonders, "Why is our family Catholic?" "Must I take the Bible literally?" Finally, Jana considers the practicalities of faith. "What is Christian sexual love?" "What about abortion?" and "Do I need to be a Mother Theresa?" Interspersed throughout this dialogue between father and daughter are the writings of C.S. Lewis and other Christian writers who address the struggle between faith and doubt. Although Jana's questions about life, faith and God are often difficult to answer in simple statements, Michael Novak does an excellent job of creating a "learning atmosphere" for his daughter by providing her with a solid foundation of biblical principles and Catholic traditions to contemplate.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671018868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671018863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,708,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Novak, retired George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy from the American Enterprise Institute, is an author, philosopher, and theologian. Michael Novak resides in Ave Maria, Florida as a trustee and visiting professor at Ave Maria University.

Ever since The Open Church hit shelves in 1964, Michael Novak has been a voice of insight on American and Catholic culture. Author of more than 45 books on culture, philosophy, and theology, Novak continues to influence and guide right thinking. Winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize, Novak's Westminster Abbey address remains as instructive it was two decades ago. As a founding director of First Things and writer for many publications, Novak has sought to build up our institutions.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have never before written to an author about one of his books, but I wrote to Michael Novak to thank him (and his daughter) for having written "Tell Me Why," one of the most personally meaningful books I've ever read. Having recently been involved in an argument with an atheist mathematician who resolutely denies that faith can be reasonable at all, I particularly was taken with Novak's clear explanation of the intimate relationship between faith and reason (see also the Pope's most recent encyclical, "Fides et Ratio" for more on this subject). Though Novak is Catholic, "Tell Me Why" is NOT an apologia for Catholicism (though it does do a fine job of explaining many things about the Church). Novak's knowledge and basic sense of fairness allow him to deal even-handedly with other faiths and with those who have no faith. In brief, he explains why he feels that religion and belief in God should matter to us. The discussion includes the existence of God, the meaning of faith, and the meaning of doubt. It addresses the relationship between faith and reason. It touches on questions like abortion, family structure, marital fidelity, "organized" religion, even some Church history. It asks why religion matters at all, why so many different religions came into being, and whether they're all part of a greater truth. It also asks how being religious is supposed to affect our everyday life. And, perhaps most importantly, it blends all the answers together in a marvelously expressive dialogue of love with his daughter which makes the whole thing especially effective. "Tell Me Why" reminds me somewhat of C.S. Lewis's work, though updated and Americanized.Read more ›
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By A Customer on September 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
I would have given "Tell Me Why" four stars instead of five, because of all the issues left only half-explored or totally unexplored by Michael and Jana Novak. (For instance, barely anything was said about Eastern religions.) However, this book's shortcomings are not half as important as what this book can do for people.
"Tell Me Why" can start debate among believers and non-believers alike. It can inspire critical thinking among the most complacent readers. It can even bring about new joy and enthusiasm to those who need a boost to their faith.
Other reviewers have complained that the discussion "degenerates into Catholic dogma." Being Catholic, I can assure other Catholics that this is a great book to read--and tell believers of other faiths that this is a book that will set them thinking about their own religious and spiritual beliefs. "Tell Me Why" covers abstract issues, such as how to choose a religion and why it is important to believe in a Higher Power, and practical points, such as abortion and ritual--all explosive topics in their own ways.
To its credit, "Tell Me Why" does not merely lay down Catholic doctrine and leave the reader, who may be unfamiliar with Catholicism, floundering for answers; it presents the philosophic background of each teaching. Doing so requires a lot of intellectual meandering, which is why Michael Novak can take over ten pages to answer a simple Yes or No question. (Of course, problems still crop up when Michael Novak explains something to daughter Jana's content, but not to the reader's.)
The text is sprinkled with quotes and prayers from figures such as C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and other philosophers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always struggled with the concept of religion - I come from a relatively intellectually and politically liberal family with oddly devout roots in the Catholic Church. When I read the jacket to this book, I said ahhh - NOW I will get some answers. Alas, I was disappointed. I began with an open mind and heart, wanting desperately to find the reasons to believe that have escaped me for the last 20 odd years. Although I disagreed with some- and honestly couldn't follow other- arguments, I pressed onward, determined that somewhere I would find a truth. Instead, I encountered the same flowery rhetoric I could have gotten for free from my parish priest. The premise of the spontaneous faxes between father and daughter intrigued me, particularly in light of my own father's jaded view of the Church. But many times I found the dialogue contrived and forced, with circular arguments. Often I felt that Michael Novak did not answer Jana's questions, period; he recited the Church line and told her to pray. I was particularly devastated to find, directly after a passage saying that issues like abortion and homosexuality have become politicized and religion and politics should be separate, blatant references to both major political parties. So much for nonpolitical discourse. I will say, however, that the attempt was worthy. I know countless 20-somethings that are looking and asking, but are not finding answers. I honestly feel, however, that this is more of an affirmation for the believers rather than a guide for the doubters.
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