Michael Daniel

by Thomas Crean OP
(Family Publications, 2009, 186pp, ISBN 9781871217964.
May be available on the Internet)

In recent years there have been some serious attempts to debunk religion in general and Christianity in particular, some of which have achieved a degree of success amongst certain sections of the community.

Recognising this trend, the Church has responded with a range of evangelical strategies designed both to strengthen the faith of believers and to provide a sustained and reasonable challenge to the atheistic critique of religion.

A seminal facet of this evangelisation is the production of literature designed for the current mindset and a good example of contemporary apologetic literature is Letters to a non-believer.

Fr Thomas Crean, an English Dominican friar, who is a hospital chaplain and tutor for the renowned Maryvale Institute, has pitched this work at the general public. Written in the format of an anthology of letters, each 'letter' to a fictitious recipient addresses an aspect of the faith and presents a sustained and reasoned defence.

Crean begins with general topics about religion, such as whether God exists, and what type of being God is, before moving into more Christian topics, such as whether the Gospels are reliable. Just over one third of the letters look at topics that could be categorised as specifically Catholic, for example, recognising the true Church and the Papacy.

Unlike works of apologetics from previous eras, which tended to focus on beliefs that separated other Christians from Catholics, this is written with the premise that attacks on Catholic Christianity in the public discourse are no longer focussing on the distinctly Catholic teachings, but are being directed at every facet of Christian belief.

Few of the arguments that Crean presents are original. However, what is appealing about this work is the way he is able to explain Catholic belief so that the person of average intelligence can understand it, but like most good apologetics works, is able to present Catholicism as being reasonable and intelligent.

My only criticism of this work is that the author frequently does not cite the Scripture references to which he alludes, thereby not enabling the reader to follow through with the biblical references.

Letters to a non-believer would be ideal for someone who wants to 'brush up' on their faith or a non-Catholic who wants to find out more about the Church's teachings, with one proviso: the reader has to be prepared to be open-minded and consider the arguments on their merits.

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