Atheist convert Leah Libresco is well-known for her sharp mind, dogged curiosity, and fresh perspective on faith. Arriving at Amen puts those gifts on full display. Her reflections on prayer and the spiritual journey are brilliant, unique, and utterly refreshing. With this book, Leah hasn’t just arrived at Amen; she’s arrived as one of the premier young Catholic writers today.
As Catholic converts know, the fullness of faith isn’t the same as the perfection of practice. We have much to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters on living out the Gospel. Shaun McAfee, a convert himself, shows how we can turn to Protestants and “test everything and retain what is good” (1 Thess 5:21). From evangelization and personal testimonies, to hospitality and memorizing Scripture, his advice is clear and practical. Any Catholic who wants to live a more fruitful spiritual life will follow his direction.
Recent years have seen a slew of books defending the existence of God. Some of the best include Dr. Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition, Stephen Barr’s Modern Physics, Ancient Faith, Fr. Robert Spitzer’s New Proofs for the Existence of God, and David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God. Each of those titles are tightly written and brilliantly argued, but they can also be a bit intimidating for people with no background on the subject. Last year, Trent Horn released a more accessible introduction to these arguments in his book, Answering Atheism. But a new book by Steven Hemler, The Reality of God, makes the arguments even more palatable.
The book is arranged in three parts. Part I focuses on cosmic evidence for God’s existence and covers the Big Bang and the fine tuning of nature. Part II examines biological evidence for God, both in evolution and genetic information. Part III studies human evidence for God by exploring whether consciousness, our moral sense, and our ability to reason all serve as signposts to the divine.
Hemler’s stated goal is to help ordinary Christians articulate objective reasons why God exists. In that he succeeds well. Most of the book is breezy and clear, making this an ideal introduction to the arguments for God. I would now recommend The Reality of God to most Christians before tackling any of the previously mentioned books.
However, the book does get needlessly technical in the section on genetic information, at least more than is necessary for beginners. A novice doesn’t need to understand the complexities of how nucleotide bases in DNA correctly sequence to join amino acids together to make proteins. One other gripe is that Hemler often cites DVDs, and quotes from DVDs, to support his points. It would have been more helpful to follow the lead of other introductory books and cull from advanced texts on the topic (such as those above), pointing interested readers to higher level materials rather than other popular-level presentations.
Those small criticisms aside, this is a clear, helpful introduction that is simple without being simplistic. It doesn’t wade too deeply into the philosophical arguments for God—such as Thomas Aquinas’ five ways, the argument from contingency, or the ontological argument—but that may be beyond the purvey of an introductory book like this one. What it sets out to do, it does well, and for that reason I recommend it as the first splash in a deeper well.
This new book, which is an expansion of a chapter in Paul Copan’s bestselling book, Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker, 2011), is the most careful, scholarly examination of this prickly issue. Catholics might not embrace the authors’ “Divine Command Theory” of ethics, but it’s nevertheless a clear analysis of the most troubling “dark passages” of Scripture.