I've been a huge fan of Dave Armstrong's work since I first read The Catholic Verses a couple years back. I can't think of anyone working in the Catholic apologetics field today who does a better job at pointing out sources of Catholic doctrine in Scripture.
As Catholics we know that Scripture is actually part of Tradition, and not separate from it, but having Dave's work nearby ( better yet, having read it) is certainly handy when those pesky Protestants say “Oh, yeah? Well where is that in the Bible!?” Can't you just hear them? I also think that the work Dave does gives Catholics a better understanding of Scripture and will hopefully lead to more and more Catholics reading and studying the Bible, the Church's very own book. I hope that this sort of apologetics journey, in Scripture, will lead many to a deeper life in Christ.
A couple years back I was heading to a trade show and I was looking through the shelves to find something new, and perhaps different, to read. Obviously we have a massive selection of books at Aquinas and More, so there is an awful lot to choose from. This is not to say that my bookcase at home doesn't have a formidable selection, but I was really looking for something new. I wandered over to our Apologetics section and thought to myself ” I've never actually read an Apologetics book so maybe I should try one of those things.” Well, I picked up the Catholic Verses and started reading in on the plane trip the next day. I was hooked. I read it in the hotel room each night and I re-read it on the plane trip home. Apologetics became a whole new interest for me. Now, after reading many apologetics books over the past few years I think that Dave is the best. I know that Patrick Madrid is a forgiving man, and so he won't begrudge me this!
Great cover art, huh?
Dave and I have been emailing lately and I asked him to tell me why he wrote the new book. Here is his response:
“The aim of this book is very simple: to provide the biblical rationale for Catholic beliefs. My immediate goal is to simply present categorized Bible passages. My own commentary will be kept to a minimum. I have, of course, selected the passages and classified them. Insofar as I did that, I was engaging in “systematic theology”. In that endeavor it is necessary to locate the relevant biblical texts and to collect them for the purpose of illustrating that “the Bible teaches thus and so about this particular topic.” In that sense, this book is not just the Bible. My input and editing and orthodox Catholic presuppositions are present. But the central, essential focus is “just the Bible.” Holy, Sacred Scripture is thoroughly “Catholic”. Some Catholic teachings are less well-attested by direct scriptural indications than others. Yet I believe that those doctrines are also “soaked” in the spirit of the Bible. The comprehensive selection of texts herein repeatedly demonstrates this, in my opinion. A multitude of pointers can be as compelling as a single unambiguous signpost, to show us our way. Readers are free to decide the relative strength of individual textual evidence.”
I became Catholic 28 years ago, this past June. My background was Methodist but I spent some of my teenage years in youth groups with those so-called “Bible churches.” I've always been interested in learning more about Catholic doctrine as found in Scripture. Dave was a youth minister in one of those churches before he became Catholic and I asked him to tell me a bit more about himself and why he does what he does:
“I was called by God to do apologetics; to be an apologist. I knew this in 1981, as an evangelical Protestant (just as people experience a sort of “call” in many walks of life: musicians do this; artists, writers; any occupation, really). This came in the year after I experienced a spiritual revival and read some more apologetics beyond C.S. Lewis, whom I had read and liked in the late 70s. The purpose of apologetics is to explain and defend Christianity and (in my case) Catholicism in particular. The motivation is to remove roadblocks to faith and to the Catholic faith, and to provide answers to all the hundreds of criticisms that we hear. It is a fundamentally positive endeavor: to help the Christian become more confident in his faith and to understand that faith is harmonious with reason and stringent thought. The Holy Spirit leads as He wills. That's not my job. The Christian need not fear reason or science or philosophy. They are all our allies. I love dialogue and debate. I'm a Socratic, and that skill (whatever I have of it) is useful in defending the Catholic perspective and critiquing other views that claim to be superior to it.
I want to stress to the utmost that apologetics (properly understood) is not about ego or “kicking butt” or belittling how stupid people are, or those who believe differently. It's not about arrogance and superiority. If someone is arrogant and thinks he knows all the answers to everything, he has no business being an apologist. Our field doesn't need that kind of person. They give us a bad name. Obviously, apologists are human beings like anyone else. There are good ones and bad ones: hypocrites, insecure, obnoxious loudmouths, and people who were never fit for doing it (even privately, let alone publicly). But the endeavor ought to be judged by its best proponents, not its worst. Rational argument, thinking, or open-minded discourse and dialogue is altogether permissible; indeed, required of all Christians who wish to have a robust, confident, reasonable faith amidst the competing ideas and faiths of the world and academia. Our Lord instructs us to love God with our minds as well as with all our hearts, souls, and strength (Luke 10:27).”
Take it from me, any Catholic will benefit significantly from reading Dave's books. He has been given quite an awesome gift from the Lord. His website is pretty awesome too. A great introductory sample of his work is found in the 2008 release The One-Minute Apologist:
You'll enjoy this shorter work of Dave's and I am sure it will leave you wanting more.
Be sure to read Dave's “Desert Island Book List” on our Tiber River Catholic review site.
Please keep Dave and his family in your prayers! No one gets rich writing Catholic books, believe me. We need him to keep doing the work that he does on behalf of Christ and His Church. Now more than ever I think. These are troubled times we live in, full of confusion and a lot of hopelessness, despair even. Gifted Catholic authors like Dave are able to shine a kind of light into the terrible darkness and help to bring others to the Truth, in Jesus Christ, the Light Himself.