Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Faith Brief: A Lawyer's Argument for Why Faith Prevails Over Doubt

by Patrick M. Garry - published by Kirk House, 2013
A Book Review by Father John McCloskey
It is clear that what was once known as the West—let's say Western Europe and North America—has largely abandoned its Christian roots and fallen into apostasy. In fact, it has succumbed to neo-paganism—a practical atheism that, similar to 18th-century Deism, relegates God (if he exists) to a peripheral role in one's life. Increasing numbers do not believe it is rational to believe. The gods of technology, medicine, material security, and entertainment have largely replaced American denominational Protestantism, which fell victim to the cultural explosion of the Sixties. Since then denominational membership has plummeted year after year. Evangelical Protestants cling with good will to their Bibles and born-again encounters but are not stable. They have revolving ministers, no sacraments except Baptism, and no solemnity of worship, often congregating in what appear to be jet aircraft hangers. Such churches give no sign of the potential to create a culture whose hallmark is Beauty, a sign of God's presence.
Law professor and novelist Patrick M. Garry, however, has written a book explaining why. Entitled: A Faith Brief, A Lawyer's Argument for Why Faith Prevails Over Doubt, it is published by Kirk House.
Garry writes, "This book is about faith. Actually it is a book about finding faith despite an immersion in a life and culture of doubt, and about by first finding a way to dispel the doubt."
His book is nondenominational in its approach, relying predominantly on philosophical and reasoned arguments to plead his case. Even though the book-jacket blurbs all seem to be Catholic, Garry's book does not work to convince the reader by authority or Revelation; rather his aim is to detach the reader from a state of skepticism. As the author puts it:
This book is about the struggle to detach oneself from doubt, as well as the rewards and realizations that occur when that detachment is made. It is also a book about experiences—the experience of realizing that doubt is a false god: of finally seeing when the blinders are removed. The experience of finding faith and knowing the truth when it is found.
The author walks the reader through the steps of overcoming religious doubt with lawyerly precision in order to make the case that if we seek God, he will make sure we find him. He rightly suggests the importance of prayer—and not only rote or formula oral prayer but silent contemplative prayer, mental prayer. And he emphasizes learning how to listen. He explains that, "God is not going to speak as a person. He is not like my first-year contracts professor whose loud voice made not listening an impossibility, but he cannot speak to us through if we do not believe in God." He quotes C. S Lewis, "the more we get what we know how to put ourselves out of the way and let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become."
The only way to find out if Garry's "Faith Brief" can win the case for belief is to purchase the book and try what he suggests with a family member or friend who is an atheist, cynic, skeptic, or non-believer. I myself have played a small role in the conversion of dozens of people to Catholicism, all of them intelligent and well educated. Most important, however, was their openness to believe given the evidence that had been presented to them, their willingness to accept the veracity of the Gospels, and of course the millennia-long history of saints who each in their own way imitated Christ. For men to believe in a benevolent God, they need to see serious Christian peers whose love of God has impelled them to follow him heroically.
This book is a fine primer for anyone open to God and Christianity. It admirably prepares the ground for refugees from doubt to move on to the heavyweights—including Newman, Pascal, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Ronald Knox. Finally, let's not forget the newly Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, whose trilogy on Jesus is perhaps the best and most accessible work to make the case for Christ to be who he claimed to be, God.

No comments: