Aug 112016
 

There is certainly a wealth of book regarding apologetical arguments to use with Protestants. Some that help you get across these arguments at the personal level. Devin Rose’s new book Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith combines both of these aspects.

I really enjoyed how this book was laid out. The first chapter addresses the fact that Protestantism in not monolithic in any way. So it is important to have at least a general idea of the beliefs of the major branches of Protestantism. One branch of Protestant theology might be at odds with a specific aspect of Catholicism while will either practice or be close to the same belief. So when talking to someone you have to have some idea where they are coming from and what their specific nuances are.

Most importantly one of the underpinnings of this book is being in relationship with people. He describes several of his experiences with co-workers in getting to know them. It was only in getting to know people that he was able to decide when to broach subjects regarding religion or whether to broach the subject at all. While reading this I was thinking of the phrase used in apologetics “Win an argument, lose a soul.” This book is very aware of that pitfall and he references conversations he had over a period of time. There is always the pratfall of Biblical ping-pong slinging verses back and forth and point-scoring. So there is also prudence involved in knowing a conversation just is not going to be fruitful for either party.

Along the way the book builds on fruitful avenues when working with Protestants and some of the typical blindspots. Lots of solid apologetic material. Again though the strength of this book is relationships and how to have conversations on these subjects that actually brings light instead of heat.

Aug 082016
 

Whenever Trent Horn of Catholic Answers releases a new book I am always eager to read it. This time around he writes about Bible difficulties taking a systematic approach to approaching these difficulties and hard sayings.

Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties

I have read some books in this area, but as Trent Horn notes there is generally little by Catholic on the subject in recent times. I read and enjoyed Free from All Error: Authorship Inerrancy Historicity of Scripture, Church Teaching, and Modern Scripture Scholars from the late Fr. Most. Still this is an area that continuously needs to be addressed especially as the new atheism takes a fundamentalist jab at scriptural passages.

What I most like about this book is that it builds up a series of rules to use in interpretation and then recaps these 16 rules at the end. This book does not start out at the gate at looking at “campaigns of genocide”, but starts out looking a the Catholic view of scriptural interpretation. This is a necessary start which flows to the rest of the book. Understanding the canon of scripture and how it developed along with the various genres scripture uses.

This book does not attempt to go through every supposed difficulties but develops the rules using many well-known difficulties and the paths to resolve them. As is often the case there often multiple paths in understanding scripture and ways to resolve what at first seem to be stumbling blocks. Using these rules you are provide a template in resolving apparent contradictions. This does not mean that you might personally come up with a solution to such passages that you will perfectly satisfying. But it does help to see more in such paths to understanding.

So I found this book excellent by providing a rule based methodology to understanding Scripture from a Catholic perspective which can aid you into going deeper and building on this with the traditional understanding of the four senses of scripture.

Jul 052016
 

Deep Adventure

Listening to EWTN I have heard conversations with Bear Woznick a couple of times and found what he had to say interesting. At the time I knew nothing about him, but found that he is a two-time Masters World Champion Surfer. He mixes his experience in this and other sports with wisdom from the Greek philosophers and the treasury of the Church.

I found his new book Deep Adventure: The Way of Heroic Virtue to be fairly worthwhile and a good read. As you would expect there are a lot of sport metaphors in regard to living the spiritual life as a Catholic. St. Paul started this trend so this is something new. Sport metaphors work quite well when done right. I once remember a book that used Hockey to good ends in this regard.

Surfing is a sport I know next to nothing about, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying what he had to say. He takes you into this world in such a way that you can really see the attraction of it. He writes about his own spiritual struggles and coming to grips with truly living his faith in contrast to the lessons he learned from trying to master sports. This all works rather well and doesn’t feel contrived at all or attempting to illustrate to much out of his surfing examples.

In addition in between chapters is a story of a rescue he performed and this makes a nice narrative thread throughout. At times I was waiting between chapters to find out what happened next.

So if extended sports metaphors don’t put you off, this is some solid spiritual reading.

The Soul’s Upward Yearning

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. is such a geek and I mean this is the best way possible. He has currently finished the third book of a four book set. I previously reviewed the first book in the series Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence). This time I have gotten around to The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason: 2 (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence).

It is just astounding the various areas he covers in this book. Various studies on the history of religion and what this can teach us regarding the numinous experience. Epistemology and what we can learn from how we learn and how this points to God. Our desire for truth and how we naturally expect that there are answers and that the world is intelligible. Proofs for the transphysical and a look at what is called the “hard problem of self-conciousness”. Along the way there is plenty of philosophy and physics. Some of this is summarized from his book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy.

This is not exactly light reading. Fr. Spitzer though is good at explaining his material and provides the right amount of repetitiveness to help you to remember and to grasp the content. Still you certainly have to put some effort into reading this book to get the most out of it. I was able to grasp most of it so that pretty much means most people will also be able to do so. This series of books is quite geeky and covers a large range of human knowledge. I just loved how this particular book swamps you with lots of things to consider regarding our transcendent nature.

Jun 142016
 

So I had noticed a social media acquaintance had published a book, and so bought it in the interest of friendship. When it comes to self-published books I have lost some of my prejudice towards them as I have found some exceptionally good ones.

Specifically I am speaking of Vikings at Dino’s: A Novel of Lunch and Mayhem by William Duquette who blogs over at Cry ‘Woof!’.

The initial premise is that when Michael Henderson goes to lunch a band of Vikings trash the place performing all kinds of mayhem, and this happens every time he goes out to lunch. He starts with a Douglas Adams quote which sets the tone. Now I do enjoy when a funny premise is taken advantage of and that is certainly done here. The comic tone of Michael as he deals with these unpleasant intrusions of murderous Vikings was pretty funny at times.

What I did not expect that the story would evolve to a extremely good Science Fiction story. He brought the premise out of the comic realm into believable situation. This was expertly done. Even better he took what might have had average time travel elements and did something new with them. Done in a way that time travel paradoxes had nothing to do with the story at all.

Being aware that William Duquette is both a lay Dominican and a programmer I was not surprised to find some elements of that in the story. So there is some philosophical treatment of understanding the mechanics of what makes this a SF story. The central protagonist also being a programmer provides a partial problem-solving worldview in dealing with this odd situation. This aspect is totally integrated into the story and make it a better story. As a programmer myself, it certainly made me smile at times.

This was just an excellent novel that fired on all cylinders. That took basic tropes and built upon them developed characters. There was much in this novel I did not expect, but nothing I did not immensely enjoy. I really really hope this novel develops into sequels since it is easily one of the best things I have read this year. So for selfish reasons I urge you to obtain this book, because I want more!

Jun 052016
 

I recently finished a new collection of short stories from various authors I have not read before.

Between the Wall and the Fire edited by Russell S. Newquist, who also provides three stories.

“Between the Wall and the Fire – A collection of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories celebrating family devotion, including the stories”

If you have not come across the term superversive before, it describes a literary movement with an informal mission statement.

The goal of the Superversive is to bring hope, where there is no hope; to bring courage, where without courage, hope would never be manifested.
The goal of the Superversive is to be light to a benighted world.
The goal of the Superversive is:
To tell the truth.

So no stories where Captain America is actually a Hydra agent all along.

Now this statement combined with a theme of family could provide some trepidation of syrupy message fiction. Hammering in the point that “Family is important” like the endless “Holiday” movies on the Hallmark channel.

That is totally not the case and the collection of stories within Between the Wall and the Fire are excellent stories on their own in the genre of SF and Urban Fantasy. I enjoyed all the stories, but some stood out against even a solid collection.

The collection starts out very strong with “Edge” by Russell S. Newquist. The story starts with some explanation of motorcycle physics and introduces the main character a P.I. You start to get the feeling of some SF noir and then the action ramps up, and ramps up again. The situation gonzo as you start to find out about the inhabitants of this world. I really enjoyed how this was layered and that for a short story a definite beginning/middle/end. Like most good short stories you are satisfied with it while at the same time wanting more. In this case I could not have thought of a better ending. Just perfect.

“On the Bayou’s Edge” by Morgon Newquist was another story that left me perfectly satisfied. A grandmother protecting her family from things in the swamp. Serious things in the swamp that you need protection from, but that most people are unaware of. The story escalates when Maw Maw runs into a creature more powerful than what she has run into before. I just loved this character and the writing was crisp enough so that you had a nuanced look at the character without much exposition. It developed with the story. It also reminded me of the best of the Harry Dresden elements.

“Brotherly Envy” by S.D. McPhail is sort of an extended parable regarding two brothers where one brother is being praised for the powers that came to him. I found this story very thoughtful regarding the traps of envy, especially when you both envy and have come to despise the other.

“Negev” by Joshua M. Young explores a group of colonists who have left Earth because of religious persecution and are trying to make it on their own on a new planet as their skill set is rapidly lost. They are then found by representatives of “posthumanity” which provides the collision of cultures in the story. As the colonists are Jewish you can see allusions to the problems the Jewish people experience in their exodus and what they can take and reject from cultures they collided with.

“Knight of the Changeling” by Rusell S. Newquist was another one I greatly enjoyed. What happens in the genre of urban fantasy when a changeling is discovered and you try to recover the switched-out child? First off I just loved how the changeling was detected. Mostly I enjoyed the dangers of fairy land and then how it was all resolved.

In the interest of being brief I will stop the story synopsis, but really could easily go on since I liked all the stories so much.

Still I have to give final mention to “Life Began at Thirty-Three” by Verne Luvall. This is actually not fiction, but a short biographical reflection on life by Morgan Newquist’s grandfather. I am glad they included this, since I was rather moved by it and it topped off the theme of family perfectly.

Jun 022016
 

The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories is a new book put together by Abby Johnson, the former manager of a Planned Parenthood in Texas. She told of her conversion into the pro-life cause in Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line which was an exceptional book.

Since leaving the abortion business she started And Then There Were None, a registered nonprofit organization that exists to help abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry. Her new book is a collection of stories from former abortion clinic workers.

The book starts with an excellent quote to put things into perspective.

“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that the other set of people are human.”

Aldous Huxley, The Olive Tree, 1937.

The abortion industry has been very effective in making a whole class of persons non-entities and simply “products of conception”, tissue mass, etc. But for pro-lifers there can be a similar temptation to dehumanize abortion workers. At first thought it is hard to imagine working in such a clinic day in and day out considering the horror within. This is why a book such as this is important.

These are not simply conversion stories of such workers detailing what occurred to make them see the reality of abortion and their subsequent struggle to leave. These mostly anonymous stories tell of specific events and set the context of those events. They are more of a snapshot of events and many of these chapters are fairly short.

I must admit that many of these stories were heart-wrenching and hard to read. There is some familiarity in their experiences. These women really thought they were helping other women. Some had qualms at the start, but put them away to provide what they thought of as a valuable service. I know a time or two I fleetingly thought “how could you justify what you were doing?”, and then I remember how familiar self-deception is to me. If you are not well acquainted with self-deception you haven’t looked very closely at yourself.

In many of these stories there is a pinnacle event that challenges the worker and makes them reexamine their assumptions. The stories of some of the women that came into the clinics are also are heart-wrenching. You see the tragedy examined through the eyes of the workers. You often wonder what the further stories of these women are and if they found healing later? You can see the same feeling in these workers whose intersection with these women who came in for abortion is very short.

I read this book over a month ago and yet I am still affected by the stories told. You also get a feeling for the callousness that develops for clinic staff and how abortion becomes a product to be pushed and sold for economic reasons. That often appearances were more important than the actual health of the women. That a medical emergency becomes bad publicity and steps are taken to hide it. This aspect is not present in all of the related stories, but it certainly appears in some of them. Especially chilling is the description of the POC (Products of Conception) technician whose job it is to count up parts to make sure there are no parts left in the patient.

There are also many reason that people will continue to work in such clinics even when they start having qualms. This is why Abby Johnson’s work with abortion workers is so important. They need encouragement and support to be able to leave and to heal from their experiences.

One of the things I love about being Catholic is that we really do believe in repentance and forgiveness. That our many sins can be forgiven by Jesus if we repent of them. That Dr. Bernard Nathanson an early abortionist and co-founder of NARAL, who presided over 75,000 abortions, could be welcome with open arms into the Church after his conversion. Abortion workers don’t need our contempt, but our prayers and real encouragement.

Thank God for Abby Johnson and the mission of And Then There Were None and I pray that we can hear more stories like those contained in this book.

Apr 182016
 

Jeff Cavins latest book When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding is aptly titled. Added to the well known “Death and Taxes” should be added “suffering” as something guaranteed for us. Jesus did not say “If you happen to have a cross, pick it up.” It is how we handle suffering that is the crux of the matter (use pun intended as always).

So how do we handle suffering without losing hope? The whole modern world seems to be aimed at eliminating suffering, but not dealing with suffering we can’t avoid. Often to eliminate the suffering they would eliminate the sufferer. Still in a Christian context there is much more to suffering than mere endurance.

For Catholics we will often hear “offer it up” and we might even have some grasp of what that means. Some of us might even be able to point to 1st Colossians 1:24.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking* in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God …

That somehow we can unite our sufferings with the redemptive suffering of Christ. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen use to speak about the tragedy of “wasted suffering” in hospitals. Yet even knowing some of this it is easy to have a trite understanding of this. Which is why I found Jeff Cavins new book to be very useful in explaining this and making the proper distinctions.

This review of the book puts this succinctly:

Cavins separates suffering into two categories: physical and moral. Physical is temporal, of this earth. It is temporary. Moral, on the other hand, can have eternal consequences and lead to the loss of eternal life. He also states that there are different purposes for suffering. Punitive is suffering as the result of sin. In a statement that many people today would be uncomfortable with, he maintains that God does punish us, but He does it for our good. However, not all suffering is punishment for sin. Some suffering is probative, or a testing of our faith. Other suffering is disciplinary, in which God is trying to educate us, once again for our benefit.

The impetus for this book was a period of serious physical pain that Jeff Cavins went through. No doubt he had a fairly good grasp of redemptive suffering before-hand, but the concrete often challenges our intellectual understandings. As a result his winsome writing on the subject delves into the intellectual understanding of the subject and the practical day-to-day aspects of living through suffering.

But if we can attach meaning to our suffering, if there is some value in what we are experiencing, we can endure anything.

There is a good deal I am tempted to quote from the book, but more to the point I think this book is a very useful guide to the subject. A book I will be keeping at hand myself.

Apr 112016
 

Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians by Jim Papandrea. Published by Catholic Answers Press.

There are plenty of Catholic apologetic books showing the falseness of the idea of Sola Scriptura. As a part of this the subject of Apostolic Tradition is often covered in part. This book goes more in-depth regarding Apostolic Tradition and charts some of the development of doctrine as these traditions handed down become concrete in Church teaching. This charting is done via the Early Church Fathers.

Each Chapter of the book addresses a specific topic and uses a “Featured Father” to illustrate what the Church teaches via that Father’s writings. A brief biography of that Father is given along with sections of their writings. Beyond this each chapter incorporated this aspect with a fuller explanation of the doctrine and the historical context fleshed out.

This is written in such a way to not just be citations from the Fathers, but a coherent look at how a Catholic doctrine was taught early on. Plus this is written in such a ways as to not be just a dry account, but more as a story. I enjoy this format as I have from other authors writing on the Church Fathers in recent years.

A worthwhile read and once again Catholic Answers Press delivers the goods.

I would also point you to this review of the book which provides a far better summary of the book.

Saints Who Battled Satan: Seventeen Holy Warriors Who Can Teach You How to Fight the Good Fight and Vanquish Your Ancient Enemy by Paul Thigpen. Published by TAN Books.

Really all you need to now is that this is a new book from Paul Thigpen and for me that is enough to want to read it. A couple of his daily mediation books like A Year with Mary: Daily Meditations on the Mother of God and A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God are daily companions. His book Manual for Spiritual Warfare published in 2014 is outstanding and it right drew applause. In some ways his new book is a followup to his book on spiritual warfare. I would guess his extensive research on the subject was an impetus to it.

This book takes the lessons of spiritual warfare and shows how it was concrete in the lives of the saints. Interestingly he starts with the story of Adam and Eve. A case in point that not all spiritual warfare is successful. Where pride rules, the battle is lost. Still it made perfect sense that the first saint he covers is Mary, the New Eve. As she is our solitary boast it is she of whom we should imitate and intercede to for protection. Next up is St. Joseph who has been called the Terror of Demons.

As we move into the life of St. Paul we start to see more solid examples regarding the spiritual life and concrete examples of spiritual warfare. Apt since St. Paul put into military terms this spiritual warfare. St. Paul gives us so many examples of the cross were are to embrace when we try to grow in holiness. Much to learn here in this chapter.

The book then starts to move on to the early martyrs, early church fathers, and other saints up to the present day. When I started reading this book I mentally made a list of the saints who would illustrate this the best. While the ones I really expected were referenced, I was surprised by other saints that I had not thought about in this connection. I also believed I was well-aware of stories regarding St. Teresa of Avila and was interested for find more.

One thing I found reading these stories is that it was easy to fall into a skeptical view regarding this as exuberant hagiographies. That was what I was thinking about such stories long in the past, then it dawned on me that I was not skeptical regarding very similar stories of saints in more modern times such as St. Pio or St. John Vianney. Stories regarding them are rather well-attested. So I realized my skeptical dividing line was rather arbitrary.

A fascinating read with lots of wisdom from the saints.

Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, And Evangelize the World by Matthew Warner.

This is a short but very annoying book on evangelization. I thought I had sufficiently immunized myself against personal evangelization efforts and this punched through my excuses. So if you had built up excuses why you don’t have to personally do this, then avoid this book. An enticing short read only makes it more dangerous.

Seriously though, I really like how he has taken Pope Francis’s “Make a mess” and provides a framework around it. While I understood what the Pope was getting at by this phrase, it was not a phrase I was particularly warm towards. I really liked how Matthew Warner has put this into context and provided good real world examples of when you have to make a mess before you can put something in order.

I was more open at the start to being a fool as St. Paul laid the groundwork towards being a fool for Christ (1 Cor 4:10) and saints such as St. Francis elaborated just what this means.

I totally enjoyed how this book could be both light-hearted, but not light on actual content. Really I wished parishes would buy this book in bulk to be given out.

Jan 212016
 

Usually reading history I feel rather detached from it. The skill of the writer can bring it more to life to me or at least make me interested in the people and events. The usual detachment is not what I felt at all reading The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam by Geoffrey Shaw. While the events detailed in this book happened when I was a young kid, the after effects of the Vietnam war were front and center as I was growing up.

One of the things I have heard the most is that it was not our military that lost the war, but our politicians. This might even be true, but not in the context usually meant. This book I think fairly well shows that our government effectively lost the war even before the major involvement of our troops. Another common thing you hear is how the American media undermined our effort there. This also appears to be true to some extent, but that this also happened very early on. The book gives some quite egregious examples of this.

This book relays a kind of history that can break your heart in more than the usual “what might have been” way. Projecting what might have happened is always fraught with problems. Especially since we rarely project what does happen.

The story of Ngo Dinh Diem along with his brother is pure tragedy. Raised in an affluent Catholic family as one of six sons along with three sisters. He slowly rose in his bureaucratic career and was known for his incorruptibility and his support of nationalism. His career might have grown even faster, but he would not be used by the French as he continually supported the cause of Vietnam as its own country. This aim for a time led him to live in the United States after he got some advice on how best to put forward this cause. While living at a Maryknoll Mission Society seminaries he developed political ties with Cardinal Spellman, various senators, then-Congressman John F. Kennedy, and others. While at the same time performing the same menial household chores as the seminarians. He obviously impressed many with his firm stand against both French Colonialism and Communism. He had studied both Marxism and Communism and what it meant for Vietnam.

Throughout you get the portrait of a man who was a devout Catholic and a man who saw himself as a servant with his involvement in government as a means to serve others. That he did indeed have leadership abilities and was resistant to falling to the pursuit of power over others. In a later crisis that precipitated the coup against him his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu shouted that he should have been a monk and not a president.

His time as president of South Vietnam was fraught with difficulties as he tried to steer his country towards democracy in the midst of Communist insurrections and every attempt to undermine any advancements. This was going on along with the sniping of some elites in Saigon. A very unstable political situation and one devastating to a fledgling democracy trying to find its way forward.

As bad as this situation was, American involvement pretty much made it worse. Having to deflect the charges of just being a puppet government to the U.S. along with getting the support it needed. This included the pressure for democratic reforms at a very quick pace as if nothing else was going on.

The real heartbreaking part of the book is what was going on in the Kennedy administration along with the various factions in the state department. So many competing plans were put into operation with no understanding of the Vietnamese culture and no real attempt to understand the situation on the ground for the most part. Although there were certainly people in the government, including the State Department, that were really trying to learn. Frederick Nolting who became an Ambassador to South Vietnam was certainly one of them, but he was later betrayed himself (in one of histories ironies by a man named Trueheart).

The factions in the State Department especially as led by ambassador-at-large W. Averell Harriman make for some frustrating reading. Administrations often have groups running with their own agenda and there were several cases here where they were in direct opposition to President Kennedy’s wishes. Still Averell plans for negotiating an agreement for neutrality with Laos was supported. This agreement as Frederick Nolting predicted was totally worthless other than to help the Communists continue to use Laos. This group was certainly responsible for the betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem and the setting up of a coup where he and his brother were savagely murdered. This was pretty much the intended outcome of supporting a coup and working with a general who had a grudge against Diem.

Also detailed in the book was how the American press undermined President Ngo Dinh Diem. Not surprisingly they had little understanding of the actual situation and were jumping on stories later discredited. The pinnacle event leading up to the eventual coup was the Buddhist crisis of 1963 and the iconic photos of monks immolating themselves. This book really sets the record straight regarding Ngo Dinh Diem and his actual record regarding religious freedom. Still the reporting in the U.S. put the blame totally on him especially after a battle between Buddhists and policeman that turned bloody. The United Nations eventually investigated whether the government was at fault, but as is usually with them by the time the report was completed the President had already been murdered. They did not find the Ngo Dinh Diem adminstration at fault, but since he was already dead – did not publish the report.

I could probably go on and on about this book, but this summary only scratches the surface. Mostly the lessons learned is that we never learn our lessons. Still as difficult as this book was to read from an emotional standpoint, I am really glad I did. Just learning about the man Ngo Dinh Diem was a good enough reason. Despite some of the villains of the story there are also some real heroes. The book makes the case that Ngo Dinh Diem plans did have a very good chance of succeeding and in fact were making progress. That the extent of the American military involvement would have been much smaller and there was a true path forward for Vietnam.

Interesting to me was a story when Ngo Dinh Diem was captured by Ho Chi Minh, who tried to convert him to the cause of Communism. He refused, but must have impressed Ho Chi Minh with his courage that he was released. This story was more interesting to me since after reading Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler regarding Josef Müller who had also been captured by a top Nazi official and released after showing his courage in resisting him.

Jan 122016
 

Jimmy Akin has written a commentary on the Gospel of Mark that is available through Logos. Logos is software used primarily for scripture study with a linked library of references and tools. Verbum is the Logos Bible Software with a library specifically for Catholics.

The Gospel of Mark usually doesn’t top of list as anybody’s favorite Gospel. The fact that it is the shortest and little apparently unique within it compared to the other Gospels. Not that any of the Gospels will ever be ignored.

The format of this commentary is not just to have the text of Mark with commentary by footnote. This is a more free-flowing commentary that goes through each chapter and delves into interpretations regarding the text. The format reminded me specifically of Pope Benedict XVI books “Jesus of Nazareth” which is sometimes quoted in this commentary. That is questions are explored with multiple possible interpretations from the current state of scripture study (Protestant and Catholic sources). Jimmy Akin at times will give weight to the interpretation he favors or thinks is the more probable. Still this commentary bring the reader into an exploration of the texts and is not meant to provide definitive interpretations. Exploration is a good term to describe this since you feel like you are indeed going on a journey with a tour guide marking (puns always intentional) the way.

This commentary had me thoroughly engaged over a period of nightly reading. If I had give short-shrift to the Gospel of Mark before, this is no longer the case. There really is so much to explore and tease out of the text. Plus there are intriguing aspects of Mark such as his intended audience down to the way he ordered information such as the fairly well-known Marcan sandwiches. As with most commentaries there is a good amount of comparisons with other scriptures, especially the Gospels. So often these comparisons help to come to a better understanding.

What I especially like about Jimmy Akin’s commentary and the general way he teaches is that possible interpretations are not presented as “pick one.” As he often notes throughout, that these interpretations are often not mutually exclusive. In Catholic circles we sometimes hear of the “both/and” approach and this is often the best approach

This study on Mark is actually a three volume set with the main volume being the commentary. Included is a “Liturgical Study Guide” that goes through this Gospel as it appears in the liturgy along with a verse-by-verse study guide intended for both further personal and group study.