The prolific philosopher Peter Kreeft has a new book out titled: “Jacob’s Ladder: Ten Steps to Truth”
Like some of his previous books it is set around a dialogue between two characters. This time both characters are fully fictional and set in the year 1977. Libby Rawls is a young women that is a nominal Christian and a skeptic. The other is “Mother” an older mixed-race women who is willing to lead Libby along these steps of a Jacob’s Ladder. Each day they discuss a subject where the subjects build on each other leading to further truth. These two characters are also involved in his novel “An Ocean Full of Angels.”
This book takes a building block approach to understanding the faith and starts at what might seem to be an odd first step of “passion.” While common philosophical ideas are discussed it is also not standard apologetic fare and mostly deals with natural theology. The conversational dialogue mostly adds to the book and the back and forth between the two women helps to illustrate points. Some of the use of coincidences in the book are a bit heavy-handed at times. Also evident is Kreeft’s playful humor which was used at times and contributed to the banter between the two women.
There is also a both/and approach in these steps climbing the ladder appealing to both reason and heart. Of building on what we know instinctively. I was reminded of Blaise Pascal’s “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of …” I don’t remember if he referred to this specifically, but certainly parts of the Pensées were quoted within. The combination of head knowledge and heart knowledge is certainly an approached used before such as with C.S. Lewis and there are echoes of Lewis’ approach here.
As the Ignatius Press site references here are some of the topics discussed.
- Do you have the passion to know?
- Does truth exist?
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is love, and why is it so important for our lives?
- If there is a God, what proof is there for his existence?
- Has God revealed himself to us in a personal way?
As you would expect the character is taken through all the common philosophical errors that are so prevalent. The refutations of these common arguments and world views flowed quite well and even within these ten steps there are plenty of mini-steps being taken. I found almost all of the chapters to be quite strong and worthwhile. Although the chapter on God did not satisfy me as much as the other chapters.
So what is the target audience for this book? The light conversational tone with serious answers appealing to reason might make it useful for a skeptic working through the idea of faith. The idea framework of the book also makes it a good apologetics approach when you are dealing with the big questions with someone.
Two of Mr. Kreeft’s books really helped me out at the beginning of my investigation of the Church. Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith and Yes or No?: Straight Answers to Tough Questions about Christianity. This book incorporates aspects of both of these books while presenting it in a way that might be more appealing for some.