Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review - "Something Greater Is Here" by Kenneth J. Howell

Dr. Kenneth Howell's conversion story, Something Greater Is Here, is an absolute page-turner. (It arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon and, once I started reading, I couldn't go to bed before reaching the conclusion.)

You are undoubtedly familiar with Dr. Howell from his work with the Coming Home Network and Catholic Answers, as well as the courageous stand he took for academic freedom as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois. Here, however, Dr. Howell recounts the many graces that readied him to serve God in this capacity. In a tightly-written narrative that feeds the mind and heart, Dr. Howell carefully leads readers through the penetrating series of questions - and their unexpected answers - that moved him to resign his position as a Presbyterian minister and seminary professor to seek the fullness of Christian life and faith (the "something greater") in Christ's Catholic Church.

Conversion stories typically focus upon a few key issues - e.g., Scripture and Tradition, the Papacy, the Eucharist. What stands out about Dr. Howell's story is the vast range of issues it allows him to explore with readers: the necessity of faith and reason; the Catholic Church's appreciation of scientific method; the absence of a biblical hermeneutic within the texts of Scripture (and subsequent need for Tradition); the sacrificial reality of the Eucharist and Christ's substantial presence therein; apostolic succession and the ordained priesthood; the ongoing nature of justification; the papacy; and redemptive suffering.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar said that theology is best done on one's knees, best done in prayer. It is an apt description of Dr. Howell's journey. He is a man of true spiritual depth, a quality arrived at through decades of sharing Christ's prayer in Gethsemane. I was completely unaware that his wife's conversion to Catholicism came years after his own; that they cared for their oldest child through a protracted illness; or that in 1995, while teaching a course at Indiana University, Dr. Howell was shot (and the shooter never apprehended). I consider the peace that permeates Dr. Howell's writing a proof of the power of Christ, crucified and risen; it should instill hope in each of us.

In times like ours, when relativism is the creed of the majority, and persecution seems perched on the horizon, Dr. Kenneth Howell reminds us that Something Greater Is Here - Christ in the midst of His Church - and that the powers of hell cannot prevail against them.


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