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Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith (Sheed & Ward Books)
Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith (Sheed & Ward Books)
by Peter Kreeft
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.73
66 used & new from $9.70

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, Witty, and Warm Engagement with Atheism, September 4, 2014
This collection of letters from Dr. Peter Kreeft to a fictional young atheist is sort of a reverse "Screwtape Letters." In both cases, you only read one side of the conversation (Kreeft leaves out the atheist’s letters just as C.S. Lewis eschews Wormwood’s replies to Uncle Screwtape.) But imagination fills in the gaps.

When Kreeft first connects with the young man, the boy is struggling with doubts. Clearly well-versed in philosophy and science, the skeptic parrots many common slogans associated with the New Atheism: religion is based on myth and wishful thinking, science has disproved God’s existence, you don’t need God to be good, etc. Kreeft responds to each objection firmly, with compassion and understanding, but also with confidence and a bit of challenge. He wants to lead the boy to truth through the boy’s own reasoning.

In the end, Kreeft’s letters demonstrate how to have charitable, fruitful dialogue with non-believers. Kreeft covers all the famous arguments for God’s existence, including Aquinas’ Five Ways and the arguments from desire, morality, fine tuning, and Big Bang cosmology. But he does so with refreshing friendliness. The letters lack the polemical and turgid prose seen in many other books on atheism. His book is sharp, witty, warm, and one of the first books I’d recommend to atheist friends or family members, or anyone struggling with doubts.

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It
Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It
by Jennifer Fulwiler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.55
54 used & new from $13.42

146 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent! A "Confessions" for the Twenty-First Century, April 29, 2014
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In Augustine's "Confessions," the first Western autobiography ever written, we discover the probing journey of a brilliant man, traveling through a maze of philosophies before emerging into the light of Christianity. The destination brought him to tears for though he sensed Christianity to be true, it was the last place he expected to turn.

Years later, when Oxford professor C.S. Lewis embarked on his own pursuit of truth, he too ended up at Christianity, converting with great hesitancy: "I gave in, and admitted that God was God ... perhaps that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

And then there was Jennifer Fulwiler. When Jennifer stood in a Catholic Church on Easter 2007, preparing to become Catholic, there was hardly a more unlikely convert. Born and raised in a skeptical home, which valued Carl Sagan more than Jesus, Jennifer developed an ardent atheism. She rejected God, mocked religion, promoted abortion, and chased happiness above all through pleasure, work, money, and partying.

But then she met Joe. Joe was brilliant. He had multiple degrees from Ivy League institutions and was rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. Yet, strangely, he identified as a Christian. "How could such a smart man believe something so ridiculous?" Jennifer wondered.

That led her to rigorously examine the claims of Christianity, if only to prove them wrong. She gorged on books. She frequented online comment boxes and discussion boards. She even started a blog which invited Christians to counter her atheism. This painstaking research, combined with difficult questions about meaning, death, and existence, slowly led Jennifer to believe that God existed, and even more that Jesus was God in the flesh. Though obviously troubling, she could have accepted this "mere Christianity" and moved on. But after exploring many Protestant churches, she distressingly realized that the evidence was pushing her toward a far more unsettling destination: the Catholic Church.

Like Augustine and Lewis before her, Jennifer recounts her compelling journey of conversion through a colorful and stirring memoir, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It. The book's deep soul, humor, and addictive readability help explain why Dean Koontz admitted to enjoying the entire book in just one sitting.

Smart, inspiring, and absorbing, Jennifer's book will go down as one of the best spiritual memoirs since "Mere Christianity." It will lift her to her rightful place alongside Augustine and Lewis, troubled converts, talented memoirists, and courageous intellects who each followed the truth to its beautiful and unsettling conclusion.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2015 6:10 PM PDT

Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and St. Thomas Aquinas
Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and St. Thomas Aquinas
by Matthew J. Ramage
Edition: Paperback
Price: $36.90
40 used & new from $30.79

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheds Considerable Light on the Dark Passages, April 11, 2014
In his pivotal 2010 exhortation, "Verbum Domini", Pope Benedict XVI devoted an entire section to the so-called "dark passages" of the Bible:

"In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, [we must consider] those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult . . .

[W]e should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective, which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.

I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ." (VD, 42)

The Pope's request could not be more timely. When we combine the perennial difficulty of these "dark passages" with the heightened attacks by contemporary atheists, who wield them as daggers against the Church, it's clear we need a renewed focus on these troubling verses.

Thankfully, many Catholic scholars have stepped up to the plate. One of those experts, Dr. Matthew Ramage, assistant professor of theology at Benedictine College, has authored an important new book titled "Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and St. Thomas Aquinas" (The Catholic University of America Press, 2013).

Dr. Ramage examines three troublesome themes in Scripture: its apparent endorsement of polytheism, the Old Testament's disconcerting violence, and what seems to be the rejection of an afterlife. If the Scriptures are truly inerrant and inspired by God, how can it contain these passages?

Following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI, Dr. Ramage applies fresh hermeneutical principles to this question. By wedding the historical-critical method, favored by modern scholars, to the patristic-medieval approach, which the Church Fathers and scholastic theologians preferred, Dr. Ramage analyzes each dark theme and reconciles it with Church doctrines concerning the nature of God, biblical inspiration, and inerrancy. The result is a tremendously helpful book.

The Power of Daily Prayer: The Way to Experience God's Love
The Power of Daily Prayer: The Way to Experience God's Love
by Bert Ghezzi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.46
52 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guidebook on prayer from an experienced pray-er, November 1, 2013
When someone writes a book on prayer after praying daily for forty-five straight years, it deserves attention. Bert Ghezzi is just such a man, and his latest book, "The Power of Daily Prayer", summarizes decades of his experience with this spiritual discipline. The book helps solve the frustrations and dullness that often plagues our prayer times, not through five-easy-steps but with the help of personal anecdotes from Bert's life and wisdom from ancient spiritual masters.

"The Power of Daily Prayer" reveals that prayer is more than just a way to get things from God. Instead, it is primarily a path toward intimacy with the Lord. Bert exhibits this reality through numerous stories. Whether through a tangible experience of the Holy Spirit, a fresh insight during `lectio divina', or a sensing of God's voice, Bert shows how God constantly draws toward us in our daily prayers.

The book also transmits Bert's love for the saints. His saintly friends can't help but make cameos throughout his latest writing. St. Bonaventure explains how to pray with Scripture, Aelred of Rievaulx shows how to pray with others, and Julian of Norwich teaches how to pray in the midst of spiritual dryness. The book is full with many Saints who offer beautiful lessons on prayer.

"The Power of Daily Prayer" is written for anyone who wants to pray more, better, or even at all. Beginners and advanced students alike will benefit from the book. Despite Bert's vast history of prayer, he never writes condescendingly, never chastising inconsistent prayer habits. But he also refrains from taking a frivolous approach. He encourages Christians to take prayer seriously and to make it the foundation of each day. His gentle sternness is the advice you would expect from such an experienced pray-er.

Overall, Bert's book makes it easy to get sucked into the adventure of daily prayer. The book shows how difficulty is enlivened by faithfulness, and dullness is invigorated by fresh types of prayer. From the ancient advice of saints to Bert's own personal stories, it is hard to put this book down unmoved to pray.

(Full disclosure: Bert is one of my dearest friends, and I'm also featured a couple of times within the book. I tried not to let my bias influence the review.)

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning
The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning
Price: $4.99

24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, down-to-earth guide to NFP, October 11, 2013
G.K. Chesterton once said, "A thing worth doing is worth doing badly." And anyone practicing Natural Family Planning knows what he means (hence the appropriate verb: practice.) In this excellent and witty book, Simcha Fisher unveils the joys, benefits, and inconvenient difficulties of Natural Family Planning. Refreshingly honest and joyful, the result is a desperately needed resource. All couples should read this book.

Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics)
Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $9.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent introduction to Christianity, September 2, 2013
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C.S. Lewis' classic primer on Christianity covers deep ground with simple steps, taking us from who God is, to objective morality, to living the Christian life. This is the first book I recommend to any agnostic or new Christian.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2014 4:17 AM PDT

Praying in Rome: Reflections on the Conclave and Electing Pope Francis
Praying in Rome: Reflections on the Conclave and Electing Pope Francis
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $1.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, breezy walk through Pope Francis' election, July 17, 2013
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Cardinal Dolan had a front row seat to the events that led up to, and culminated in the election of Pope Francis. In this delightful short eBook he shares firsthand anecdotes and behind-the-scene accounts of what it was like in Rome. If you've ever wondered what happens in and around a conclave, you'll love this book.

Consuming the Word: The New Testament and The Eucharist in the Early Church
Consuming the Word: The New Testament and The Eucharist in the Early Church
by Scott Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.74
75 used & new from $10.16

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The New Testament is sacramental, May 30, 2013
If you walked into a first-century church and asked to see a copy of the New Testament, you'd get a bunch of confused looks. What do you mean a copy? The Bible didn't yet exist. For the early Christians, "New Testament" was a sacramental phrase. It wasn't a book; it was the Eucharist.

In "Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church" (Image, 2013), renowned biblical scholar Dr. Scott Hahn explains that for the Biblical writers, the words "testament" and "covenant" were interchangeable. Both the Greek word for "testament" (diatheke) and the Hebrew equivalent (b'rith) are most accurately rendered in English as "covenant." Therefore when Jesus offered a cup of wine to his disciples at the Last Supper, saying "this cup is the new covenant [he kaine diatheke] in my blood" (1 Corinthians 11:25), the Jews would have understood him to say, "this cup is the new testament in my blood." Thus the New Testament was a sacrament at least a generation before it was a document.

But why is that important? It reveals the deep connection between the New Testament books and the liturgy. These biblical documents were intended to be proclaimed within the context of the sacrament we call the New Testament. Unlike many Protestants, who focus exclusively on the Scriptures, Catholics dine at two tables according to Pope John Paul II: "one of the Word of God, the other of the Eucharist. The work that we take on ourselves consists in approaching these two tables in order to be filled."

Hahn's book offers many fascinating insights on this connection. However, some readers may find "Consuming the Word" uncharacteristically disjointed. The chapters don't flow with the same linear and breezy style of titles like "The Lamb's Supper" or "Hail, Holy Queen". Instead, the book reads more like a collection of related, but disconnected essays. Also, readers might find the title a bit deceptive. The book isn't so much concerned with the New Testament canon, or the development of Eucharistic theology, as it is with Christian semantics and the Bible's liturgical context.

Nevertheless, Consuming the Word effectively argues that to understand Christianity's most basic terms, we must see them as the early Christians did. And for them, the phrase "New Testament" was at once sacramental and biblical. It affirmed that the Bible's proper home was in "the heart of the Church." Today, we must follow the early Christians by communing with Christ through both letter and Spirit.

The Road Goes Ever on: A Christian Journey Through the Lord of the Rings
The Road Goes Ever on: A Christian Journey Through the Lord of the Rings
by A. K. Frailey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.95
37 used & new from $7.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Multiple lenses shed new light on Tolkien's masterpiece, December 20, 2012
With the recent Hobbit film release, dozens of news book have hit the market. Many examine Tolkien's Middle-Earth adventures through the lens of Christianity, and specifically its virtues, but few take A.K. Frailey's path.

Her new self-published her book, The Road Goes Ever On: A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings (iUniverse, paperback, 163), is anything but amateur. It carries an imprimatur from Bishop Thomas Paprocki and the interior layout is professionally designed.

What sets her book apart, though, is the interesting framework. The early chapters gaze on Tolkien's stories through the the theological virtues--faith, hope, love. She then she uses the four cardinal virtues, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the seven deadly virtues as alternate lenses.

However, my favorite angle comes in the final third of the book. Frailey pairs twelve of Tolkien's major characters to Catholic saints. She examines the courageous Frodo in light of St. Thomas More; the prophetic Gandalf in light of Moses; the broken Boromir in light of St. Augustine; and the bold Eowyn in light of St. Clare. Frailey uses Tolkien's fictional characters to point to real-life heroes who in turn point to Christ. When she compares Faramir to St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, she brings Christ-like purity into focus:

"Both the character of Faramir and the reality of Thomas show us different versions of a pure mind and heart that does not desire the things of this world. They are the examples we should look to first for they show us an uncorrupted path and they are the ones we should offer to the pure innocence of our children."

In Frailey's book, the journey into The Lord of the Rings spirals ever deeper with each new lens. By providing several angles through which to gaze on Tolkien's masterpiece, Frailey brings new color and life to Tolkien's perennial classic.

On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis
On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis
by Louis Markos
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.63
64 used & new from $2.92

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultivating virtue in Middle-Earth and Narnia, December 20, 2012
It's not surprising that Louis Markos likes C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. After all, millions of people admire the two Inklings. What is unusual is that he's also an English professor at a Baptist university. The two literary giants typically draw liturgical Christians and evangelicals. It's rare to find Baptists who admire both men. This isn't to say they're incompatible with Baptists, just that Tolkien's devout Catholicism and Lewis' high-Church Anglicanism usually rub Baptists the wrong way. Yet Markos is the rare example of someone who finds not just congruity, but suitability, but congruence.

I've been following Markos' work for years, including two excellent books on Lewis. He's become one of my favorite non-Catholic Inkling experts and his newest book, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis (Moody Publishers, paperback, 234), continues that trend.

Markos argues that the iconic works of both Tolkien and Lewis do more than entertain. They help the reader inculcate classic virtues like courage, valor, trust, and friendship. By following Frodo's moral development, for instance, our own courage and persistence are strengthened. The opposite is true, too.

By studying the villains throughout Middle-Earth and Narnia, we can detect sin in our own lives and destroy it. Tolkien's Sauron provides one example of sin, in this case pride, exposed through the Light of humility:

"The reason Sauron has not guessed the true purpose of the Fellowship is not that he is a fool or even that he is prideful, but that he simply cannot conceive that someone would willingly forsake power. He is completely blind to the ways and motivations of goodness; such Light is too bright for his darkened eyes to fathom."

Markos' primary focus in the book is on Tolkien's Middle Earth, but he closes each chapter with a brief sojourn in Lewis' Narnia:

"I believe that the most effective way to draw out of The Lord of the Rings its golden treasures is by holding The Chronicles of Narnia beside it as a sort of literary philosopher's stone."

This decision should delight Inkling fans who receive books on Tolkien or Lewis, but rarely both together.

As Peter Kreeft says in his Foreword, "Life is a story, and therefore moral education happens first and most powerfully through stories, e.g. through books." On the Shoulders of Hobbits will show you how to do that--how to stimulate your own moral development--through these powerful, enchanting stories.

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