Wednesday, January 17, 2007

First book reviews of the year

By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Tradition.
This book is fantastic -- funny, well-thought through, and written in an engaging style. I would consider it a "quick-er read," (simply because of his style) but NOT "light reading" by ANY means. In his attempt to answer modern Biblical "scholars" (such as the Jesus Seminar folks) who treat the Gospels as made-up stories, Mark Shea found himself making the incredible journey from an evangelical confident of Sola Scriptura to a man who came to believe in and accept the authority of Catholic Tradition (big "T"). I greatly respect his desire to follow the Lord at all costs, and the amazing amount of time and research that he devoted to seeking wisdom. He shares his bewilderment as he found himself getting closer and closer to the Catholic Church, which was something he never imagined happening. It was jarring and disconcerting for him to see several beliefs that he considered to be rock solid slowly start to tumble and fall:

I sat for some time drumming my fingers on my Bible in thought and prayer. Up till now such claims on behalf of tradition had always seemed bogus: a lot of Catholic theological fast talk for justifying unbiblical teachings. For years, I had envisioned the guys at Trent and Vatican II saying, "Okay, so purgatory isn't in Scripture! So what? It's in... uh... Tradition! Yeah! That's the ticket! Tradition!" Indeed, I had made little distinction between such Catholic Tradition and the modernist attempts at subverting Scripture.

but now, what with the threat of modernism's deconstruction of Scripture looming behind me and manifold evidence of a real live extra-biblical paradosis popping up not only in Scripture and Catholic theology but even in the everyday practice of my native Evangelicalism, it was dawning on me that I had perhaps been overhasty... As I prayed, I recalled again Paul's admonition to "test everything. Hold on to the good" (1 Thes 5:21) and asked nervously, "Even Catholic teaching, Lord?" The question seemed to answer itself.

I highly recommend this book.

No Price Too High
Wow. I knew I found find this book interesting (since I love conversion stories... don't you?), but I had no idea how much this book would affect me. Back to back, I had the opportunity to read the stories of two men whose deep desire to please the Lord and to follow Him wherever He would lead took them on a journey they never expected. Alex Jones was a Pentecostal pastor who desired to get as close as he could to the "early Church," and found through his prayer and studies that that led him, quite unwillingly at first, to the Catholic Church. The questions he asked himself as he struggled with converting -- such as "Why do this when God's presence is so plainly in this Pentecostal church?... We are growing and worshipping here. Why the need to change?.... Does this negate our faith/experiences in the past?... Why convert to Catholicism, when so many Catholics seem lukewarm at best?.... Isn't this a "step down" spiritually?" -- reminded me of my own questions and struggles when I came back (initially very unwillingly) to the Catholic Church.

What I especially liked, however, was his wife's story. Donna Jones struggled mightily with the path her husband was taking, and was quite vocal at times in her disagreement. It was only after the Lord showed her rather plainly that this was His will for her, that she was able to make that jump. I was thrilled to read how He explained the various "troublesome" doctrines of the Church -- Mary, the Saints, Purgatory, etc... through, as she wrote, "her good old KJV Bible."

I could go on and on about this, but I will simply say that this is another highly recommended book!

You know, some books speak to us at certain times of our lives, and others just don't.

This book definitely falls into the "just don't" category.

Please don't hate me.

I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I know it's a classic, and it has been used by God to reach so many people. Many people whose opinions I greatly respect hold this book in high regard.

And it's not like I can't handle "deeper reading." I'd like to think that I'm a fairly intelligent person, capable of enjoying (or at least appreciating) books written on a higher level than, say, People magazine.

C.S. Lewis? Love him.
Thomas a Kempis? Yep.
St. Therese? Again, check.
I even love St. Augustine's Confessions. I thought it was an amazing read.


But Orthodoxy just slammed me to the wall. I felt like I was back in high school, trying to slog through Conrad's Heart of Darkness or Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. Wow. All I could do was hope that it ended quickly and put me out of my misery.

So, to all those who are disappointed in me, I am sorry. If you like Orthodoxy, more power to you. You are a greater woman than I am, and my hat is off to you. God bless you.

I hope this doesn't put me on some sort of "bad Catholic blogger" list... sigh...


Julie D. said...

Orthodoxy. You and me both, sister! I've taken three (count 'em, THREE) runs at it and can't crack it. So I have given up. Welcome to the bad Catholic readers list! ha! :-D

Ouiz said...

I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one! I kept slogging through it, wondering (a) when it would get better and (b) what everyone else was seeing in this book that I wasn't!