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Bringing the Gospel of Luke to Life: Insight & Inspiration. By George Martin. Our Sunday Visitor, 2011. 697 pages, paperback. $24.95.

St. Jerome tells us that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). To know God we must know His Word. As Christians, our Bible should never sit on the shelf gathering dust. Our Bible should be the most read book in our possession; it is most certainly the most important book in our possession. Yet, unfortunately many Christians remain personally ignorant of its contents. Many people set out with very good intentions to read the Bible, but often get only a few chapters or few books into it before giving up. They quickly become overwhelmed with unfamiliar people, places, and happenings. This is where a good Bible commentary comes in handy. It allows us to “walk along” with someone more familiar with the Bible as he leads us through it, helping us make sense of what was once terra incognita.

George Martin’s book, Bringing the Gospel of Luke to Life, is exactly this sort of “walk along” with an expert. He takes us verse by verse through the Gospel of Luke, helping us better understand every word of the Evangelist. Each chapter of the book corresponds to the same chapter in Luke. We are presented with a brief “Orientation” which highlights key points of a group of passages. This is followed by “Preface” consisting of several verses of Luke along with Old Testament references and where applicable, New Testament parallels. Next is a verse by verse commentary on the verses in the “Preface.” The end of the book contains a brief essay situating Luke within the canon of Scripture.

Overall, this commentary is excellent and quite useful. However, there are a few minor critiques. First, the commentary uses the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms text. The NAB is an “idea for idea” translation, meaning the translators attempt to capture the “essence” of the original passage. On the other hand the RSV-CE is a more “word for word” translation, meaning the translators attempted to preserve as best as possible the actual wording of the original passage. A translation like the NAB is sometimes easier to read, but since it’s the “essence” of the original, we are left with someone else’s interpretation of what the original author meant, not necessarily with what he actually wrote. The vast majority of serious Bible scholars rely on “word for word” translations. The second minor critique involves a lack of maps and charts/outlines. At least a basic map would have been helpful. Also, having a basic chart or outline of the Gospel would have been helpful as well. These minor criticisms aside, Bringing the Gospel of Luke to Life is an great commentary and “guided tour” of the Gospel of Luke.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Bringing the Gospel of Luke to Life . The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your family Advent activities and supplies this year, such as Advent wreaths and calendars for kids, as well as Christmas decorations such as nativity scene sets and religious Christmas gifts for the whole family.

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"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Ah, yes, Christmas, that time of year with a winter nip in the air (unless you live in parts of Florida where record highs in the 80s are forecast this weekend) and the time of year when the thoughts of old school Protestants (meaning those few Protestants who still find the need to base their beliefs on a militant anti-Catholicism), New Age “pagans,” and militant atheists turn yet again to the supposed “pagan” origins of Catholicism. Along with Easter and Halloween, the Feast of Christmas is yet another of those celebrations we are told “prove” the pagan origins of Catholicism. After all, everyone knows Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular are nothing more than “dressed up” paganism. It’s just too bad everyone is wrong…

Instead of merely reposting my piece on the true, non-pagan, origins for the December 25th date of Christmas, I share this link to a wonderful piece by Rev. Dwight Longenecker which does an excellent job of explaining (yet again) once and for all the true background of the Christian celebration of Christmas on December 25th.

Allow me to highlight a few points from Rev. Longenecker:

1. The “pagan origin” claimants begin with the capital mistake of assuming that mere resemblance proves causality. Simply because two things resemble each other does not mean one is the cause of the other. Two things can be strikingly similar yet share absolutely no causal relationship what-so-ever. Simply because Christians and pagans observed certain feasts at similar times throughout the year does not mean one automatically caused the other.

2. The Roman feast most often associated with Christmas by the “pagan originists” is Saturnalia, a Roman feast for the god Saturn which was held from December 17 to 23. However, this feast, while occurring on the wrong date (if Christianity “co-opted” this feast, why not make the date of Christmas December 17th to really sock it to those pagans?), also had nothing to do with the imagery of the solstice and the return of the sun. The focus of this feast centered more on the theme of sacrifice-to-appease-the-gods-for-a-good-harvest.

3. The Roman feast associated with the solstice was Dies Natalis Sol Invictus. The only problem here is the inconvenient fact that this feast wasn’t instituted until around AD 278, well after the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, and for quite some time remained a rather minor feast with a small cult. Further, we find no evidence that Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25th until AD 360 – decades after Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in AD 315. In fact, the promotion of the feast was due to the influence of Julian the Apostate who attempted to turn back the tide of Christianity sweeping the Empire. Huh, so that means Sol Invictus was used by the Roman authorities in an attempt to “win back” Christians to paganism, not the other way around.

4. The “pagan origins” nonsense completely ignores the fact that thousands (some sources say millions) of Christians lost their property and in many cases their lives over their complete refusal to, as Rev. Longenecker puts it, “offer so much as one grain of incense to the pagan gods.” Yet, the “pagan originists” would have us believe the very people who were giving their lives over refusal to participate in anything even resembling paganism suddenly decided to “co-opt” pagan festivals.

5. If we actually take time to read the historical record provided us in the writings of the early Church Fathers, we find a clear answer as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. As early as AD 386, we find a sermon by St. John Chrysostom linking the date of Christmas to the date of the Annunciation (the day the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus). The wording of his sermon suggests this linking was already a long-accepted tradition within the Church. We need to remember early Christians were primarily Jewish converts and thus the roots of Christianity are in Judaism, not Romanism. The Jews believed the world began on March 25th. They also believed great men died on the same date as the date of their conception. Therefore, we find the early Christians believed the date of Jesus’ conception was March 25th. Let’s count nine months and see what we find: December 25th.

So, just as I pointed out last time, the date of Christmas has nothing to do with Romans or paganism, but everything to do with early Jewish belief and the dating of Jesus’ conception by early Christians.

Merry Christmas!

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St John Chrysostom (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

We cannot Serve God and Money

In today’s Gospel, our Lord tells us what we should understand as a self-evident truth: we cannot serve two masters. Specifically, He says we cannot love God while at the same time loving money. This is not to say that money or wealth is inherently evil, however when we worship it as a god, it always leads to our doom. As St. Paul warns us, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plague men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

How often do we deny money is our god, yet our actions reveal otherwise? Whenever we desire the latest fashion, the latest electronic gadget, the newest car, the fanciest house, do we not through our very actions worship money as out god? When we seek fame and fortune for its own sake, we forsake our one and true Lord and Master.

To put it plainly: when we make money our lord and master, we are in mortal danger of banishment from the service of Christ. God is infinite and perfect love, yet true love is not easy and what we are called to return to God in love is not easy. St. John Chrysostom clearly tells us this when he writes, “I now say again to you, what I am always saying: that Christ urges His hearers to obedience to His words, both by means of what is profitable to them, and by what is painful; like a good physician, pointing out the disease that comes through neglect, and the good health that will come through obedience to His directions.”[1]

What does it profit us more as we are being eaten with the cancer of sin: to believe everything is fine and we should not trouble ourselves with it or to understand we are inflicted with a painful and deadly disease? Is it not better to know of the disease, no matter how painful, so that we might recognize it and fight it? Our Lord tells us the Truth: if we pretend there is no disease, we condemn ourselves to the fires of hell – for we must never forget that it is not God who sends us to hell, but we ourselves who do so through the actions and choices of our own free will. No, God does not send us to hell, but it is He alone who reaches out His hand in friendship and love to pull us up from the abyss of our own damnation. Without Him we have only death, but with Him we have only life.

Again, it is not wealth itself which is our enemy; it is our relationship to money which can make us master over it or slave to it. St. John Chrysostom recalls to mind here the example of Job:

Job was indeed rich. But he was no slave of mammon. He possessed riches and ruled them, as a master, not a slave. He held all he had as though he were the steward of another man’s riches. And not only did he not rob others of what belonged to them, he gave what was his to those in need…And so he did not grieve when he lost them. But the rich now are not like this, but rather in a state worse than any slave, and as though paying tribute to some tyrant. For the minds of such men become a sort of stronghold, held by money; and from there each day money sends out its commands, commands that are fulfilled by the violation of justice, and decency; and there is no one who does not obey.[2]

Our Lord implores us to take heart: “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” Now, Jesus is not calling on us to be lazy and slothful, with a “the Lord will provide” attitude; instead He reminds us that God provides all that we are and all that we ever will be. We must trust in Him for our ultimate nourishment and our ultimate life comes from a life in, through, and with the Holy Trinity.

We are called to take heart and to not lose our faith amongst the anxieties of the world: “If then God takes such care of the creatures He has made for our sake, how much more will He not provide for our own needs? If He cares for the servants, how much more will He not care for the masters? … He did not say we are not to sow, but that we are not to be solicitous. Neither did He say we were not to work, but that we must never be fainthearted, now wear ourselves out with anxieties. He commanded us to eat; but not to be over-concerned about it.”[3]

Our Lord calls us, in love, to follow Him on the difficult path: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk. 9:23-25)

Yet, our Lord, in His infinite and perfect love, understands we cannot instantly become Christ-like. We approach Him as pilgrims on a journey, some faster and some slower than others, yet all on the same path. As we see this message in today’s Gospel, St. John Chrysostom writes of Christ’s lesson to us:

For you now however, it is enough to learn not to be grasping, that almsgiving is a beautiful thing, to know also that you must give to others a share of what is yours. If you do this well, Beloved, you will soon go on to higher things…Meanwhile therefore let us put away all excessive luxury, and be content with what is fitting and moderate; and let us learn to acquire by honest labour all we are to possess…

Therefore keeping before our mind those degrees of self discipline which have been set before us, let us strive to attain at least to those midway on the road, so that we may be delivered from the wrath to come and, drawing ever nearer, may come at last to the very crown of all blessings; and may it be given to each one of us to attain to this, by the grace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.[4]

+JMJ


[1] M. F. Toal (ed), The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 102.

[2] Ibid., 103.

[3] Ibid., 105.

[4] Ibid., 107.

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Parable of the Good Samaritan

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord teaches us points critical to our salvation. First, we see clearly we are called to love our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and with all our mind. Further, we are to love our neighbor as our self. Jesus then goes on, in the Parable itself, to clearly define our neighbor: he is, quite simply, every other human being, known or unknown, friend or foe. Our fellow man is our neighbor and we are called to love him. Yet, what does “love him” mean?

We would do well to read this Parable carefully since our Lord makes some salient points regarding how we express our love for our fellow man. Clearly, we do not simply pass by like the priest and the Levite. Instead, we must act like the Good Samaritan. But what does he do? Does he see someone in need and call the government to demand they “do something?” Does he bemoan the fact there’s not a social program to “take care of” the injured man? Does he simply summon the “authorities” so they can “do something?” Does he go find others, and either through bribe or coercion, demand they “do something?” No!

The Good Samaritan shows us the way through his direct action in caring for his fellow man. Keep in mind, at the time Jesus spoke this story, Jews and Samaritans were enemies and did not associate with each other. Jesus teaches that despite this rivalry, the Good Samaritan himself comes to the aid of his fellow man. He does not push off that responsibility onto someone else or onto some sort of government social program.

Not only does the Good Samaritan reach out himself to aid his fellow man, at the Inn he reaches into his own pocket to pay for the injured man’s stay. He doesn’t demand the “rich” Inn Keeper pay out of his pocket for the injured man, nor demand the government pay for support of the injured man. No! Once again, we see our example: We, our selves, with our own time, talent, and treasure are called to care for our fellow man. Our Lord clearly expects us to jump in and “get our hands dirty,” not sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to “do something.”

Reach out in love to your fellow man no matter where you might find him.

+JMJ

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Light of the World

I’m very saddened, but unfortunately not surprised, to see the liberal media bandwagon spinning and twisting the Pope’s comments on condoms.  The reality is the Church continues to rightfully teach that the use of artificial contraception in any form is dangerous due to the “de-humanizing” such practices have on human sexuality – and by extension the human person.  Despite the “spin” on the Pope’s comments by the liberal media and progressive liberal “Catholics,” nothing has changed in Church teaching.  Neither the Church, nor the Pope, approves the use of condoms or other artificial conception in any case.

First, one must understand, as many do not, that the Pope is allowed to express personal opinion on any matter he wishes – just as we all have that right.  Despite what some think, Catholicism does not hold that whatever the Pope says is automatically “official” teaching of the Church.  The Doctrine of Papal Infallibility only applies to teachings related to faith and morals, and even then, it must be specifically and clearly invoked.  Most people don’t know that the popes have very, very rarely exercised this authority, despite their voluminous writings from audiences, homilies, letters, etc.  To make an infallible statement on the teachings of Jesus Christ is a very serious process and never something done in mere casual conversation with a reporter.  In this situation, namely an extended interview with a reporter, the Pope’s comments are personal opinion, not “official” Church teaching.  Even so, again despite the “spin” put on his words, what the Pope said is consistent with Church teaching and actually shows tremendous charity on his part.

Second, most people, including many Catholics, completely fail to understand Church teaching on human sexuality.  Briefly, the Church teaches that since God is infinite love and created everything out of His infinite love, all His creation is good.   It is actually a very old heresy going back to the early days of Christianity to claim the body and sex are somehow “bad” or inherently evil.  We must also understand God created not because He had to create, but because He wanted to create out of His free will and His infinite love – which again reinforces the very goodness of His creation.

When it comes to humans, not only are we part of the goodness of God’s creation, we are even more special since we are created in His image.  How are we taught to treat gifts of great value, like a special family heirloom?  We’re taught to treat it with great care as a sign of respect to the giver of that gift – we honor the person by cherishing the gift he or she gave us.  Our humanity, which includes our sexuality, is the greatest gift we can ever receive, for it is only because of that gift that we exist.  Therefore if we truly desire to love, honor and serve the Lord, we must treat His gift, our humanity, with the absolute greatest respect.  Consequently, we must refrain from doing things which “dehumanizes” or goes against the nature of humanity – which includes things like promiscuous sex, unmarried sex, engaging in homosexual acts, abortion, artificial means to prevent the gift of human life and so forth.  All these things work to destroy our human nature – we need only look to today’s society for abundant proof of this fact.

Pope Benedict XVI, as anyone who reads his writings comes to know, is a very intelligent, scholarly and intellectual person.  While on one hand, this is very good as one can gain very deep insights by reading his work, on the other hand his is not writing which lends itself to the short sound-bites so many rely on as their sole source of information today.  As we see in this situation, one comment in a book-length interview, before the book is even released, is taken out of context and twisted to mean something else.  A society fed on nothing but sound-bites eats it up and never bothers to discover the truth for themselves.

All the headlines completely ignore this line from the Pope’s comments: “[The Church] does not regard it [use of condoms] as a real or moral solution.”  Saying it’s not “a real or moral” solution means it is not the right choice, not an “acceptable” choice and not a moral choice – in other words, it is bad and immoral.  If one bothers to read the Pope in context, he makes it clear up front that he does not approve of condom use by anyone.

However, and here’s where the charity I mentioned comes into play, the Pope goes on to say that if someone infected with a STD uses a condom to prevent disease transmission that fact (again, while not the right choice or moral choice) might indicate the beginning of a proper understanding of human sexuality in that person.  He’s really saying the first step to fixing your problem is the recognition you have a problem in the first place.  If we never recognize we have a problem, especially a moral problem, we can never begin taking steps to resolve that problem.  Only if we begin taking personal responsibility for our actions can we begin moving into the light of understanding and Truth.

Unfortunately, in all the media “spin,” we completely fail to grasp the Pope’s real message, a message applicable to all of us.  For far from being an affirmation of condom use, the Pope’s message is actually an affirmation of hope.  The hope we should all share as Christians that even the greatest sinner will eventually recognize his sins, open his heart to God, beg forgiveness and redemption and thereby gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  That is the Pope’s real message.  The headlines should actually proclaim:

“Pope says Hope of Redemption Possible for even the Greatest of Sinners”

Here are some links which further expound on the Pope’s true message:

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/11/excerpt-pope-benedict-xvi-discusses-condoms-and-the-spread-of-hiv.html

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/11/what-does-the-holy-father-really-say-about-condoms-in-the-new-book-janet-e-smith.html

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/11/the_pope_condoms_and_confusion.html

http://www.jimmyakin.org/2010/11/new-developments-on-the-pope-and-condoms.html

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The Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Penance are arguably the three most important Sacraments in the life of the Church.  Without these three Sacraments, according to Jesus, it’s impossible to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Baptism makes us adopted children of God and ushers us into His family.  The Sacrament of Penance removes the stain of sin, thereby allowing us to die in a state of grace worthy of a life in heaven. The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist gives us new life through the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet, we cannot approach the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist if we are in a state of sin; in sin we quite literally cut ourselves off from the Body of Christ. To find life in Christ, we simply must have ready access to the Sacrament of Penance.

Jesus is quite clear – if we die in a state of mortal sin, we’re out, all the way out.  Once we depart this life, there are no “second chances.”  There is no do-over.  We die and our soul receives final, eternal judgment.  To this, consider as well how easy it is for one to fall into mortal sin in today’s “anything goes” secular society which routinely promotes absolute perversion as “good.”  Perhaps more than any other time in history, temptation abounds.

While it’s not wise since it generally arises from being over-scrupulous, there is no theological barrier of which I’m aware that would prevent someone who doesn’t regularly partake in the Eucharist (but attends Mass) from gaining admission into Heaven (provided of course the person satisfies the Precepts of the Church which includes receiving the Eucharist at least once a year during Easter).  Yet, we very clearly risk non-admission into the Kingdom of Heaven by forgoing the Sacrament of Penance – not to mention the additional sinfulness of receiving the Eucharist while in a state of sin, especially mortal sin.

Give all this, why is Sacrament of Penance the least available and least promoted of the Sacraments?  If the parishioners are lucky, the average “Catholic” church today offers the Sacrament of Penance for perhaps thirty minutes in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.  Oh, sure, these churches often claim it’s available anytime – by advance appointment only, please.

Multiple “performances” of the liturgy are available all weekend with morning, matinee and evening shows all designed to work around your busy schedule – no advance reservation required, walk-ins welcome.  If you’re lucky, along with an ad-libbing MC (formerly known as a priest), in some cases, they might even throw in some clowns or “liturgical dances” for your “theological” entertainment.  But need someone to hear your confession?  Not likely.  Besides, once you do get in for your face-to-face wrap session (after all, Confessionals with partitions are so pre-Vatican II) with Father Friendly, he’ll probably tell you your sins aren’t really considered sins anymore, so don’t worry, be happy!

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

These churches often defend this lack of access to the Sacrament of Penance by claiming not many people show up on Saturday anyways, so it’d be a waste of time to offer it more often.  The majority of Catholics today suffer under pitiful “catechesis” inspired by the false “Spirit of Vatican II” – a “spirit” completely unsupported by the actual documents of Vatican II.  The average pew sitter is woefully misinformed about the Truths of the Faith.  Is it any wonder they’re not showing up at the confessional – especially when it’s in the middle of Saturday afternoon, which is the one day most families actually get some time in today’s hectic world to spend time together?  Frankly, I’m surprised anyone shows up at all.

However, I believe the movie line applies here, “Build it and they will come.”  Offer the Sacrament of Penance on a regular, accessible basis, teach the faithful about its importance and they will come, for if they truly desire salvation and unity with the Lord, they must come.

Every Mass offered by priests of SSPX and FSSP, to give but two examples, offer the Sacrament of Penance before the Mass – in addition to offering it at other times as well.  Quite a novel concept – the faithful show up at the church, participate in the Sacrament of Penance and then actively participate in the Mass with clean souls!  The Sacrament of Penance is offered on a regular, accessible basis and all the faithful participate.  Why is this process so difficult for regular “Catholic” parishes (or “communities” or “worship spaces” or whatever they’re calling themselves today) to implement? [Note: SSPX is mentioned here as an example to show that even a group with questionable standing in the Church at least understands the great importance of access to the Sacrament of Penance.]

Why, fathers and bishops, do so many of you insist on denying, or at least making very inconvenient, access to the Sacrament of Penance?  Sacred Scripture teaches that you are responsible for the souls of the faithful.  With responsibility comes accountability: You will be held to a higher standard than the un-ordained laity.  Stand up and follow many of your Holy Brethren by breathing new life into the Sacrament of Penance and leading the faithful into active participation in this live-saving and life-giving gift of God.

Ave Maria!

+JMJ

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The Consuming Fire

The Consuming Fire: A Christian Guide to the Old Testament.  By Michael W. Duggan.  Our Sunday Visitor, 2010.  686 pages, softcover.  $29.95

Reviewed by Steven Schultz, MA

I fear far too many Catholics operate under the mistaken assumption that the New Testament somehow replaced the Old Testament, or at least rendered it to relative unimportance.  This unfortunate notion causes many of us to give the Old Testament nothing more than a passing glance.  Not only is this notion unfortunate, it’s downright dangerous to our salvation.

The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Therefore in order to truly understand the New Testament, we must truly understand the Old Testament.  Reading the New Testament, we should be struck by the fact of how thoroughly everyone – Jesus, the Apostles, their fellow Jews – knew the Old Testament (or for them, the Scriptures).  Keep in mind, the Apostles were simple working people, yet they all intimately knew the Old Testament.  Why should we hold ourselves to any lesser standard?

Beyond this, the Old Testament is fundamental to our spiritual perfection as Christians and to our salvation.  We are called to live in Christ – to transform ourselves in Christ.  St. Irenaeus terms the process “recapitulation” in Christ.  Our Lord fulfilled and perfected the Old Testament. Therefore, in order to recapitulate ourselves in Christ, we too must live through His perfection of the Old Testament.  Like the Apostles, we too must know and understand the Old Testament to truly and fully live in Christ in light of the New Testament.

Since many of us have “lost touch” with the Old Testament, reading it can prove an intimidating task.  However, in The Consuming Fire, Michael Duggan provides us a great aid in taming this daunting process.  Dr. Duggan is an Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and the inaugural holder of the CWL Chair for Catholic Studies at St. Mary’s University College in Calgary, Alberta.

The first edition of The Consuming Fire was released by Ignatius Press in 1991.  It has long since gone out of print.  This near edition, appearing nearly twenty years later, is thoroughly revised and updated.  Significant Biblical scholarship has added greatly to our knowledge of the Old Testament since 1991.  Dr. Duggan incorporates this latest scholarship into the new version of The Consuming Fire.

Dr. Duggan sets the stage for our journey by providing introductory chapters on the development of the Old Testament, in particular the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) compared to the Septuagint (the Greek Bible), as well as background on the people, places and history of Old Testament times.  He then takes us through every book of the Old Testament, explaining and relating them not only to the other Old Testament books, but to the New Testament as well.  Each chapter concludes with suggestions for meditative reading along with an outline of the book(s) covered in that chapter.

I have only minor criticisms of this book.  First, I find the section of color maps to be of poor quality.  According to the copyright information, the maps apparently come from a 2005 do-it-yourself software program and they look like it.  Quality maps would have greatly enhanced this solid work.  Also, I take issue with the author’s use of “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant” instead of “Old Testament” and “New Testament,” along with his use of “BCE” (Before Common Era) and “CE” (Common Era) instead of “BC” and “AD.”  He claims to do so out of “respect” and an attempt not to “offend” others.  Frankly, I find this complete silliness.

The book is directed towards Catholics.  The terms cited above are standard, traditional Catholic terms.  I don’t expect other religions to alter their terms in order to not “offend” me.  I’m strong enough in my faith that, for example, hearing a Jewish person refer to the Torah or a Muslim talk about the Qur’an doesn’t shake my belief in Jesus as Messiah.

Instead of watering down our terms as a way of being “politically correct,” I believe much more profitable discussion and interchange of ideas takes place when we’re honest about our fundamental beliefs.  I’ve enjoyed extremely profitable discussions with people of radically different belief systems.  We never felt the need to resort to “politically correct” silliness in order to avoid “offending” and thereby appear “tolerant.”

Other than these relatively minor criticisms, I find The Consuming Fire an excellent and profitable book.  Through it, we can come to know more fully the Old Testament and thereby come to know more fully the New Testament and our obligations in Jesus as Christians.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Consuming Fire and be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts while you are there.

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