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Carl Olson recommends Dave Armstrong’s 1-Minute Apologist
BY CARL E. OLSON
THE ONE-MINUTE APOLOGIST
Essential Catholic Replies to Over Sixty Common
by Dave Armstrong
Sophia Institute Press, 2007
145 pages, $12.95
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. 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
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 E. Olson writes from