I have some extremely exciting news that I've been keeping under wraps for some time, and this morning it finally came out. At 9:00am ET, I launched StrangeNotions.com, a major evangelistic project which was two years in the making.
Strange Notions is designed to be the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. One implicit goal is to bring non-Catholics to faith, especially followers of the so-called New Atheism. As a 'digital Areopagus', the site includes intelligent articles, compelling video, and rich discussion throughout its comment boxes.
(If you can't see the video above, click here.)
Strange Notions gets its name from St. Paul's speech at the Areopagus in Acts 17:16-34. There he proclaimed the Resurrection to the intellectual elite of the ancient world, who responded by saying, "you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean." StrangeNotions.com helps those asking the same thing today. Open-minded atheists will encounter reasonable arguments for God and his Church, maybe for the first time in their lives, and like St. Paul's listeners they’ll leave intrigued by these strange notions.
I've gathered several top Catholic minds to contribute to the site. Right now we have over 30 on board, including Dr. Peter Kreeft, Dr. Edward Feser, Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. Robert Spitzer, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, Dr. Kevin Vost, Christopher West, Jimmy Akin, Jennifer Fulwiler, Marc Barnes, Leah Libresco, Stacy Trascanos, Mark Shea, Carl Olson, and many more. The project has also received several great endorsements including these:
"Brandon Vogt is at the cutting edge of using the Internet and social media as a tool for evangelization...I believe that his latest endeavor, StrangeNotions.com, is an excellent example.”
— Bishop Christopher Coyne, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
"Brandon Vogt brings his energy, enthusiasm, and prodigious intellectual gifts to the Catholic conversation and demonstrates how social media can be used effectively to advance the mission of the Gospel."
— Fr. Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries
This site is timely for several reasons:
- On May 12 the Catholic Church around the world will celebrate World Communications Day. Pope Benedict XVI, shortly before he stepped down, composed this year's official message which he titled, "Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith: New Spaces for Evangelization." This project embodies that theme as it uses social networks as "new spaces" to evangelize.
- Over the last ten years, the number of self-identified atheists in America has increased 500%. They're one of the country's fastest growing religious groups yet almost no Catholics engage them. Strange Notions is a frontier project in this needed effort.
- In the midst of the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization, this is a creative example of using "new ardor, new methods, and new expressions" to evangelize.
Any way that you could cover the site, either with a blog post, an interview, or by sharing the video trailer would be a huge help.
If you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please tell me what you think in the comment boxes!
"Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others." - St. Augustine
Since I've built up a large collection of extra books and resources, every week I give some away absolutely free, no strings attached.
Each giveaway lasts seven days with a new one beginning every Friday. You can enter any time during the week. Check out my past giveaways here.
One of the toughest parts about my Lenten blogging break was that I didn't get to reflect on the pontificate of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the only Pope I've known as a Catholic. There's just so much to say. Pope Benedict was a magnificent theologian, perhaps the greatest papal-theologian ever outside of Gregory the Great. He was remarkably prolific as a writer and preacher. People will still be unpacking his work hundreds of years from now.
Thanks to the good people at Eerdmans, this week's book giveaway will celebrate Pope Benedict's legacy. One reader will receive SIX books written by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI including:
by Pope Benedict XVI
Eerdmans, 192 pages, paperback
Released on September 15, 2009
At his Wednesday audiences during 2007 and 2008 Pope Benedict XVI gave a series of short talks on the Fathers of the Church. He devoted himself not only to such famous and influential Fathers as Augustine and John Chrysostom but also to figures not venerated as saints; one subject, Tertullian, even died outside the Catholic communion. This volume contains thirty-six of these inspirational teachings.
In these catecheses the Pope is not delivering academic lectures or preaching sermons. Rather, he is instructing Christian believers who want to have their faith confirmed and strengthened. Pope Benedict firmly believes that the Fathers of the Church still speak powerfully today, and his accessible presentations will make many readers eager to look further into the writings of these great early Christians.
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Eerdmans, 112 pages, paperback
Released on November 2, 1995
While the stories of the world’s creation and the fall of humankind have often been subjected to reductionism of one sort or another — literalists treat the Bible as a science textbook whereas rationalists divorce God from creation — Ratzinger presents a rich, balanced Catholic understanding of these early biblical writings and attests to their enduring vitality.
Beginning each homily with a text selected from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ratzinger discusses, in turn, God the creator, the meaning of the biblical creation accounts, the creation of human beings, and sin and salvation; in the appendix he unpacks the beneficial consequences of faith in creation.
Expertly translated from German, these reflections set out a reasonable and biblical approach to creation. ‘In the Beginning...’ also serves as an excellent homiletic resource for priests and pastors.
by Pope Benedict XVI
Eerdmans, 94 pages, paperback
Released on November 17, 2012
According to Pope Benedict XVI, "the liturgical year is a great voyage of faith on which the Church sets us out." The feast days in the Church's liturgical calendar follow the major events of Jesus' life as recounted in the Gospels. This cycle gives a rhythm to the life of the Church and helps Christians better understand the divine mystery. Especially in our secularized society, liturgical practices guide and deepen our path, centering our focus on Christ and teaching us how to live.
Beginning with Advent and concluding with the feast of Christ the King, Pope Benedict's Holy Days presents excerpts from selected homilies that he has given over the course of the liturgical year in Rome. The book is organized by season and feast days, with brief introductions. This short devotional volume will be a welcome resource for priests and parishioners seeking to focus their minds in preparation for worship.
by Pope Bendict XVI
Eerdmans, 224 pages, paperback
Released on February 22, 2010
The Unity of the Church brings together a captivating collection of articles—previously published in Communio—by Pope Benedict XVI. The essays deal with various issues facing the church in the world today, including what divides and unites denominations, the growing crisis facing peace and justice, technological security, and the necessity of ecumenism in the growth of the church.
“Pope Benedict XVI rarely writes on any churchly matter that does not manifest its implications for man and culture, and vice versa,” notes David Schindler in the introduction. This collection is a brilliant expression of that tendency toward interconnectivity.
by Pope Bendict XVI
Eerdmans, 207 pages, paperback
Released on January 30, 2013
In this second volume of Joseph Ratzinger in Communio, Pope Benedict XVI speaks to various issues relating to humanity today -- conscience, technological security, the origin of human life, the meaning of Sunday, Christian hope, and more.
As editor David L. Schindler notes, "Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) rarely writes on any churchly matter that does not manifest its implications for man and culture, and vice versa. Indeed, this indissoluble linking is one of the main distinguishing features of his theology." This is the second of three volumes; the first deals with themes relating to the Church, and the third volume is to focus on theological renewal.
Edited by William G. Rusch
Eerdmans, 173 pages, paperback
Released on March 15, 2009
Few persons of the theological stature of Joseph Ratzinger and with such a developed corpus of theological works have been elected Pope. There is no question that his pontificate will be extremely influential for the Roman Catholic Church and the world. But the question is In what ways?
This volume, published on the fourth anniversary of Benedict's election as Pope, offers considered insights into that key question. William Rusch has pulled together an ecumenical gathering of viewpoints Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed, and Roman Catholic. Coming from this spectrum of Christian traditions, the authors examine how the life experiences and theological reflections of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will likely influence the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
I'm using Rafflecopter to help with the giveaway, which is cool because it gives you multiple entries for commenting, posting on Facebook, sharing on Twitter, etc. Click below to enter:
(If you're reading this through email or RSS and don't see the giveaway widget, click here.)
The winner will be randomly selected next Friday and the books will be sent out, free of charge, shortly thereafter.
(Since I'm covering the shipping costs, only residents within the continental United States are eligible to win.)
In the midst of my blogging break, I wanted to share an interview I did this past weekend on NPR. It aired on the New York edition of "All Things Considered" and featured a back-and-forth with Annie Selak, author of a controversial Washington Post op-ed about the next pope.
In the interview we described what the papacy means to us, how the next pope can be more "relevant," and what kind of leader we expect the next pope to be. Listen below!
(If you're reading this through email or RSS reader, click here to listen to the audio.)
I promised the NPR staff that I'd link back to their website, where they invite further discussion about the interview. So head over there and share your thoughts on the next pope.
By now, you've likely heard the big news that Pope Benedict XVI is retiring on February 28. I was recently asked to share my thoughts on the Pope's legacy in 300 words or less. Here's what I wrote:
As an Evangelical Christian in 2008, “God’s Rottweiler" worried me. From what I knew he was a cold and stodgy disciplinarian with a hyper-traditionalist streak, more likely to crack a whip than save a soul.
But then I became Catholic. After devouring his books and studying his addresses, I discovered a much different man. Three traits particularly stuck out, and they remain keys to understanding his legacy:
First, his commitment to reason. In the Pope’s important Regensburg lecture in 2006, he noted, “Even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary…to raise the question of God through the use of reason.” Throughout his pontificate Pope Benedict affirmed that faith and reason are not enemies; they’re friends. He’s shown that the mind is a road to God.
Second, his evangelical focus. In a recent speech to Filipino prelates, Pope Benedict summed up the Church’s mission: “to propose a personal relationship with Christ.” That’s what Catholicism is all about—friendship with the Risen Lord. And it’s why Pope Benedict has poured himself into the New Evangelization, an effort to re-propose this relationship to a distant world.
Third, his embrace of the new media. From launching a new Vatican website, to using an iPad, to tweeting to millions of people in eight languages, the Pope is no stranger to technology. “Without fear,” he told a group of bloggers, “[the Church] must set sail on the digital sea.” Yet who pictured an octogenarian Pope leading the way? Over the years, the Pope has keenly recognized that most people are online, so that’s where he’s steered the Church.
We don’t know who the Holy Spirit will choose as his successor. We don’t know what travails lie ahead. But we do know that Pope Benedict has charted a sure future for the Church, one that is eminently reasonable, deeply evangelical, and firmly committed to new methods of evangelization.