Got a Minute?
BY CARL E. OLSON
August 26 - September 1, 2007 IssueTHE ONE-MINUTE APOLOGIST Essential Catholic Replies to Over Sixty Common
by Dave Armstrong
Sophia Institute Press, 2007
145 pages, $12.95
To order: 1-800-888-9344
I first heard of Dave Armstrong 12 years ago when I read Surprised By Truth, a compilation of testimonies by 11 converts to Catholicism, most of them from Protestant backgrounds.
Armstrong had spent time in a number of Protestant denominations — Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and evangelical — before entering the Catholic Church in 1991.
I soon came across Armstrong again, this time on the Internet, where he was busy building one of the first Catholic apologetic websites, then called Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, and now titled Cor ad Cor Loquitur (Heart Speaks to Heart), a phrase taken from one of Armstrong’s heroes, Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Armstrong’s site and writings have grown steadily ever since; he has engaged in numerous written debates with non-Catholics on just about every topic imaginable, often at great length and in substantial detail.
As he notes in the introduction to The One-Minute Apologist, “I’ve been known, in some Internet circles, for writing lengthy tomes on my website and blog.” But, he adds, writing this new book has helped him to “more fully appreciate the importance and utility of short treatments as well.”
In fact, this book is commendable for being pithy and precise while never being either simplistic or dense, an indication of how well Armstrong knows his subject matter and his audience. In fact, this is the sort of book that could only be written by someone who has spent countless hours studying, articulating and discussing the Catholic faith, to the point that he knows how to accurately answer questions and clearly correct misunderstandings.
Two previous books by Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism and The Catholic Verses (both published by Sophia), were lengthier and more theologically involved works. This new book is meant for those who are looking to get their feet wet (and set) in responding to what Armstrong calls “garden-variety” objections to Catholicism.”
Sixty-one such objections are addressed in two pages each, with topics including Scripture, the Church, the papacy, the priesthood, the sacraments, salvation, God, Mary, and the Saints.
Most of the objections are the sort often voiced by fundamentalists or conservative Evangelicals: the Catholic Church added illegitimate books to the Bible, Jesus did not make Peter the leader of the apostles, baptism is merely a symbolic rite, and so forth.
Others come from the other end of the theological spectrum, and some are from pseudo-Christian groups such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians. These include objections made against the dogma of the Trinity, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, the Incarnation and the existence of hell.
Each topic is addressed in a four-part format: objection, reply, follow-up objection, and counter-reply, followed by a citation on the topic, often from a Protestant source.
My only criticism of the book is the absence of citations for these excellent concluding quotes. [I didn't like that, either, and wrote a post to provide this information that was in my manuscript], Most of the replies contain appropriate quotes from Scripture, in addition to numerous other citations that readers can explore further on their own.
When necessary, the content of authoritative Church teaching is explained by referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church councils and papal documents. There are also quotes from Protestant leaders and theologians, indicating the range of disagreements within Protestantism as well as how far many contemporary Protestants have moved from the beliefs of Martin Luther, John Calvin and other Protestant fathers.
The writing is punchy but never pugnacious. For example, responding to the objection that “formal ritual is opposed to vibrant spiritual life,” Armstrong begins by stating: “If formal worship or religious ritual were always opposed to a sincere, heartfelt adoration and praise of God, then certainly God wouldn’t have commanded it in the Bible.”
He then shows where, when, and why God did indeed command formal worship and ritual.
Accessible and substantial, The One-Minute Apologist will help readers in need of timely answers. And, just as important, it should serve as an inviting introduction to the richness and fullness of the Catholic Faith.
Carl Olson is the editor of the online magazine IgnatiusInsight.com and moderator of the Ignatius Press web log, the Insight Scoop blog. He is the author of Will Catholics Be “Left Behind? A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today's Prophecy Preachers (Ignatius Press, 2003) and co-author (with Sandra Miesel) of the best-selling The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code (Ignatius Press, 2004). He has also written a number of book reviews, mostly for This Rock and National Catholic Register, does a monthly column on apologetics for National Catholic Register, and regular feature pieces for Our Sunday Visitor.