9 Books I Read While Discerning Catholicism: #2 40 Reason's Why I'm Catholic by Peter Kreeft
This is Day 2 of “9 Books I Read While Discerning Catholicism”. No matter what belief system you hold, you can be sure to find some book with the title “X Reasons Y is True”. They also tend to not be the most rigorous intellectual argumentation for a given position. For example, see reason #32 in Forty Reasons I am a Catholic, “I am Catholic…Because of The Movies”,
Hollywood knows that the alternative to secularism and materialism and skepticism and agnosticism and atheism and nihilism is Catholicism.
Whenever they make a serious movie and religion is in it, it’s always a Catholic church and a Catholic priest that they use. — Kreeft, Forty Reasons., 107.
Not the greatest reason to become Catholic.
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How It Affirmed My Perspective
Anglicanism, while not Catholic in its theological doctrines, is Catholic in its liturgical expression. For example, Anglicans believe Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine, but they do not submit to the Magisterium. But Catholics believe they are the only ones with the apostolic succession, i.e. authority, to consecrate a host into the actual body and blood of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine. This mimics the incarnation: Christ appeared as merely a man, but he was actually God-incarnate
So for some protestants when Kreeft says he wants Christ present in the bread and wine (see #3), it will probably feel like another author is trying to drown you in the Tiber. But for Anglicans who are considering swimming the Tiber, it’s not a shock to the system because they are under the impression they are basically doing the same thing as Catholics. But for Catholics, everyone else is just consuming bread and wine.
The Reasons that impacted me the most, were #27, #20, and #39. My plan is to highlight a key point from each of them, and briefly explain what stuck out to me.
#27 - Because Catholics still do metaphysics
Catholicism is inseparable from metaphysics. Its fundamental claims are metaphysical…Luther clearly confessed that he could not do metaphysics because he was a Nominalist. Nominalists reduce all universals (like justice, or substance, or being itself) to names (nomina), mere words. Luther called them a flatus vocis, ‘a fart of the voice’…The fundamental claims of Catholicism are all metaphysical.” — Kreeft, 92-93.
So, after five years in “smells and bells” Anglicanism, Thomism and the Anglican liturgy had solidified my belief that Philosophy and Theology were married together. If they were divorced, the disciple would end up in superstition or apathy. An individual could have philosophy without theology (atheism), but a theologian or pastor cannot do Theology without philosophy, specifically metaphysics.
I had already recognized that it was impossible to read your Bible without using philosophical categories derived from nature or your culture because it was philosophical categories that made the Bible, or any other text, intelligible. Those that deny this are the equivalent of a person who says they can eat ice cream with a fork rather than a spoon. They might be fine at first, but the longer they speak or exegete the more the theological ice cream is going to melt and fall through the spaces in the fork.
By the time I picked up Kreeft’s little book, the theological and philosophical trenches that are hurdles for so many others, had already been traversed. Thomism had provided me the principles for reality, and Anglicanism had shown me the way they could be incorporated through tradition. So when I read the chapter, “Because Catholics still do metaphysics", Kreeft was speaking my language.
#20 - Because of my friends and my family—my spiritual family.
I had once (before I became a Catholic) listed the twenty-five authors in fields of religion, theology, spirituality, and religious philosophy whom I loved and admired the most; and only two Protestants and two Orthodox authors were among them…Arrayed against them were twenty-one Roman Catholics...All of these were waving to me from [an] ark and asking me why I had not come aboard to be with them and share their wisdom from its source rather than ungratefully consuming it from outside. I had no answer. My body and my mind said: Jump! — Kreeft, Forty Reasons., 70.
I didn’t have as many “friends in the ark” as he did, but I decided to take stock of the thinkers that were most influencing me. The ones that I really wanted to be like were all Catholic. This prompted me to say to Lindsey at one point, “Ya know, if I were to ask Thomas Aquinas, ‘How was it that you were able to write and teach the way you did?’, I don’t think he would say he was merely gifted or he just had to study more. I think he would say it was because he had access to Christ in the Eucharist.” This would later be affirmed by more reading, and is one of the reasons why its absurd to say that Thomas would be a protestant if he was born after the reformation, but that’s a side note.
At this point, if you have a Christian role model and you don’t go to their church, you should probably ask yourself a few questions. If I wanted to be like these guys, but wasn’t willing to take their advice, then what was the point of wanting to imitate them?
#39 - Because I value reason
I mean two things by this. One is that my reason impels me to be a Catholic…The other deeper, and more important thing is that Catholicism broadens my reason. For the object of modern “reason” is not being, not reality, but Cartesian “clear and distinct ideas” and arguments. — Kreeft, 127.
You may read that and think, “You don’t want clear and distinct ideas?” But this is not a rejection of clear thinking. It’s a rejection that to be reasonable is to be a computer, not a human. When a man is asked, “What is 2+2?” he must calculate the number, which is 5. Just kidding ;).
What Kreeft is getting at here is something that I have been railing on for years. If I were to ask now, “Is Jake a good dad?” you have to make a judgment, not a calculation. There is no logical syllogism to tell you if Jake is a good dad or a bad dad. You don’t even know if Jake has kids. The former question is one one of reason. But dads require us to consider being or the nature of the thing in order to make the judgment, “Jake is a good dad.”
For years, I had been making comparisons between Descartes, modern Christianity and Sola Scriptura, and our current cultural demise. Kreeft demonstrated here that we evangelical Thomists weren’t the only ones to see the parallel between Descartes, modernity, and the decline in western religion. The Catholics had already known, and already written a lot on it. For example, the Theology of the Body by St. John Paul II opens up with a criticism of Cartesian thought.
Again, Kreeft was not just speaking my language; he was singing my song!
How It Changed My Perspective
At this point I wanted to visit a mass. It was Christmastime, and I figured that it wouldn’t hurt anything because I could go and hear some amazing music. And I did. Having attended Catholic churches now for the last year, Catholics know how to do Christmas and Easter better than any other denomination out there. Not even close.
But the thing that struck me the most, was his comments in #3.
#3 - Because Jesus is present in every consecrated Host.
Do you doubt that He is there? If so, I have an experiment for you to do, not just think about doing…Just go into a Catholic church sometime when nobody else is around to see you, and kneel in the front pew or at the Communion rail, and pray, with all honesty:
“God is that You? Are you really there? If not, please don’t let me believe that lie. Don’t let me be a Catholic. Because I want to know and live the truth, whatever it is. And if you are there, please draw me there. Send Your Holy Spirit to inspire me to believe, so that I can be where You are. Make me a Catholic. For the very same reason: because I want to know and live the truth, whatever it is.” — Kreeft, 13.
This is what I did. I went to a Catholic parish on Christmas eve. The music was great. I invited a friend who came with me. They left shortly after the incense caused a sinus headache. But I distinctly remember the Bishop giving a homily that included C.S. Lewis and Thomas Aquinas. It was excellent.
After reading Kreeft’s reasons, I decided to write in my journal about which Protestant views I no longer held onto. Was Sola Scriptura the only one I had abandoned? Were there others? After Christmas that year, I decided to open the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), and start studying it. I also decided to attend another mass in January on a Saturday evening.
Not many people were there. During the mass as the Priest elevated the Host, I prayed, “God are you there? If you’re there, show me.” Then all the sudden, lightning flashed, the power went out, and as soon as it kicked on…Ok, none of that actually happened. Mass continued as normal. It still looked like the Host that we had at our Anglican Parish, and I left unchanged.
But I began studying the CCC on the regular. After about a month or two into studying it, I decided that my wife and I should enroll Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).
For those that just want the list, here it is. I attempted to put them in the order I purchased and read them, not necessarily by order of significance. If you decide to purchase them, please use my affiliate links here below 👇 . That way I get a kick back 😇.
Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn
40 Reasons Why I’m Catholic by Peter Kreeft
Faith and Reason: Philosophers Explain Their Turn to Catholicism by Brian Besong and Jonathan Fiqua
The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn
This is My Body by Bishop Barron
Persecuted from Within by Joshua Charles and Alec Torres
Saint Maximilian Kolbe: A Hero of The Holocaust by Fiorella De Maria
Honorable Mention: The Case for Catholicism by Trent Horn