Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Review: "What Catholics are Free to Believe or Not" by Fr. H.G. Hughes

I think it's very common to meet Catholics who are confused about what the Church requires of her children and what she does not. Do we need to believe that papal encyclicals are infallible or not? Are we only bound to believe what the popes and bishops have declared through ex cathedra pronouncements or conciliar decrees? Must you believe that Mary appeared at Fatima? Does the Church require daily recitation of the Rosary? 

Sophia Institute's What Catholics are Free to Believe or Not  (2016) is a short, concise guide to answering such questions. Originally published in 1906, I found it to be a trustworthy primer for instructing one in the difference between public and private revelation as well as private acts of devotion versus the precepts of the Church. If you are looking for an in-depth discussion of the levels of authority attached to different papal pronouncements (encyclicals, apostolic post-synodal exhortations, public addresses, etc.) you will need to look elsewhere; but if you want the general guidelines for distinguishing divine faith from pious opinion, then this is the book for you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: "God is Not Nice" by Ulrich Lehner

When I receive a book to review, I try to be timely about publishing my thoughts. That said, I've read this book once - the prerequisite for writing a review - but it is a book that I want to go back through at a later date to spend more time reflecting upon Dr. Lehner's thoughts. 

From the cover, you might expect God Is Not Nice to be a popularly written book, but Dr. Lehner has no qualms about challenging his readers to enlarge both their vocabularies and their libraries. The book is subtitled Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For, and that is exactly what you will find therein. Doctor Lehner mercilessly (and this is a true work of mercy) exposes the lie that God wants nothing more for us than that we feel happy. No, that is not the God who revealed Himself to Israel and took flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. This God is the Totally Other, the almighty creator who calls us to an uncompromising holiness, a holiness that may result in us being martyred in this world but resurrected to an as-yet-unimagined life in the world to come! This God is not "nice," but He is good and trustworthy, and the only "god" truly worthy of devotion.

Doctor Lehner covers a great deal of ground in 136 pages: therapuetic deism, the way that we so often try to "use" God as the means to a lesser end, the absolute necessity of grace to obtain salvation, interpreting the difficult passages of scripture, the revelational aspect of human sexuality, incarnation, repentance, and the surprising beauty of daily family life. There were one or two statements made along the way that I was uneasy with, but perhaps I was reading too much into them. As I said, I want to spend more time with Dr. Lehner's thought. On the whole, I truly admired his project; it was a very firm call to renew my discipleship under the greatest of Masters.

God Is Not Nice: Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For (Ave Maria Press, 2017)