Review of "A Biblical Defense of
Catholicism," by Dave Armstrong.
Donal Anthony Foley reviews A BIBLICAL DEFENSE OF CATHOLICISM, by Dave Armstrong.
This book sets out to be a defence of the Catholic faith through the Scriptures, and succeeds very well. It is not light reading, but perfect for anyone who wants to check on a particular point that may have arisen from a discussion with a non-Catholic, or who just wants to clarify something they aren't sure about.
It is also a necessary book because many Catholics are ignorant of the Bible and just how well supported Catholicism is in biblical terms - various "philosophies" are now floating around and claiming to be compatible with the Catholic faith, but there is always the danger of going astray if you rely on these. But with the Bible, providing it is read with "the mind of the Church," there is no danger of that, and in fact such reading greatly strengthens one's faith.
There are ten main chapters, and half a dozen appendices, covering areas such as the Bible and Tradition, Justification, the development of doctrine, the Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Papacy. There is also a very useful list of recommended Catholic works and a Scriptural index. A real index would have been a help, but generally speaking it is easy to navigate through the book and find what you are looking for.
As an ex evangelical Protestant, Dave Armstrong is very much a "hands-on" apologist who is providing practical advice for those engaged in evangelism, from the perspective of someone who knows all the arguments which can be raised against the Church, and is able to demonstrate their ultimate hollowness.
He is good at showing how biblical passages, which may at first sight seem to support the Protestant position, actually, on closer inspection, back up traditional Catholic thinking. He is critical of the false dichotomies which Protestantism puts forward in respect of the Bible, that is the idea that if, for example, one argues against the idea that the Bible is the sole criterion for living the Christian faith, then one is being critical and disrespectful of God's word. Instead of an "either/or" dichotomy, we are usually faced with a deeper and more subtle, "both/and" situation, in trying to understand the Bible.
This is not just an exposition of Biblical texts, though, rather there are numerous quotations from figures such as Karl Adam, St. Francis de Sales, Cardinal Gibbons, Fulton Sheen, G.K. Chesterton, and in particular Cardinal Newman.
All of this demonstrates that trying to correctly interpret the Bible outside of the Church's tradition is an impossible task. Similarly, the idea that the Reformers were, after 1600 years, able to rediscover the essence of primitive Christianity is shown to be completely false.
The chapter on the Blessed Virgin Mary is particularly good, and full of very useful references and interesting insights. It has a excellent discussion of typology, and demonstrates how the whole biblical tradition points towards Our Lady's immaculate conception and sinlessness.
Overall, then, this is a very good resource for anyone engaged in apologetical work, and a useful reference for those who just want to develop a more Catholic understanding of the Bible.
* 230 Pages / 6" by 9" quality paperback
* 18-page, double-columned Scripture Index (hundreds of references)
* 12-page Bibliography of Recommended Apologetics Books
* Scriptures (RSV) fully-cited, indented and italicized
* Foreword by the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., renowned catechist and theologian
* Conveniently cross-referenced to many specifically related passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Bible and Tradition: Maintain the Traditions . . .
2. Justification: Faith Apart From Works is Barren
3. Development of Doctrine: He Will Teach You . . .
4. The Eucharist: This is My Body
5. The Sacrifice of the Mass: A Lamb . . . Slain
6. The Communion of Saints: All Who Are In Christ
7. Purgatory: . . . Saved, But Only As Through Fire
8. Penance: . . . Share Christ's Sufferings
9. The Blessed Virgin Mary: Hail, Full of Grace
10. The Papacy and Infallibility: Keys of the Kingdom
Appendix 1: The "Perspicuity" (Clearness) of Scripture
Appendix 2: The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church
Appendix 3: The Historical Case for the "Apocrypha"
Appendix 4: The Biblical Basis for Clerical Celibacy
Appendix 5: A Dialogue on Infant Baptism
Appendix 6: A Dialogue on Liturgy and "Vain Worship"
Recommended Catholic Apologetic and Historical Works
Index of Scriptures
Theotokos Catholic Books - Book Reviews Section - www.theotokos.org.uk