THE CASE FOR CATHOLICISM
Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections
By Trent Horn
Ignatius Press, 2017
342 pages, $19.95
To order: ignatius.com or (800) 651-1531
For readers interested in a thorough and scholarly rebuttal of common Protestant beefs with Catholic teachings, Trent Horn has produced an on-point work in The Case for Catholicism.
From the belief of Scripture alone (sola scriptura) to challenges against papal infallibility, the priesthood, the Eucharist and purgatory, Horn leaves no stone unturned in laying out well-evidenced refutations to common Protestant claims. The work may be particularly appealing to Protestants discerning a potential conversion to Catholicism and to Catholics interested in better understanding this divide, as well as the scriptural and related underpinnings of our faith.
The core of the book consists of Horn dissecting common Protestant objections by linking Catholic dogma to Scripture or early Church teachings and demonstrating how Church teachings developed in a systematic manner rooted in the apostolic teaching and further refinement by Church Fathers.
Horn notes the inconsistencies and flaws of sola scriptura: that without additional teaching and guidance, passages of Scripture can be intentionally or unintentionally misinterpreted or taken out of context: “The lesson we learned from our investigation of sola scriptura bears repeating: Relying on subjective feelings in order to establish a rule of faith only produces a ‘blueprint of anarchy.’”
One of the criticisms Horn addresses early in the book are Protestant charges against inclusion of certain books within the New Testament and the blurring of distinction between a work being inspired and being canonical. He addresses a complex topic by focusing on some core arguments: that the canon was developed over the first centuries of the Church and that such decisions were not arbitrary.
Perhaps not surprising, given the legacy of Protestant objections to the papacy, Horn devotes two chapters to addressing this topic. This section includes a thorough explanation of papal infallibility and what it is and is not:
“First, infallibility does not include impeccability, or protection from sinning in general. Every pope has been a sinner, and a few were notorious for the grave sins they committed during their pontificates. Instead, infallibility means the pope will be kept from binding the Church to doctrinal error in spite of his moral failings.”
Horn also notes that papal infallibility applies to when the pope teaches ex cathedra in matters of faith and morals.
To really dig deep into this topic, Horn focuses on four popes during the fourth through seventh centuries often held out by Protestants for being fallible and presents counterarguments to these claims:
“God uses men who possess a mixture of virtue and vice to serve the Church as pope. However, God promises to strengthen these men, like he strengthened Peter, and in spite of their weaknesses, he will use his divine power and limitless grace to ensure that neither they nor anyone else will cause the gates of Hades to prevail against the Church.”
Horn also devotes two chapters to the topic of justification. Approaching a Protestant view of justification occurring at a single point in a person’s life, Horn presents the ample scriptural evidence that an ongoing commitment, including the practice of good works, is necessary to achieve this state, which can be forfeited if one falls into a state of sin.
Toward the end of the work, Horn addresses several topics that are frequent targets for Protestant criticisms, including purgatory, veneration of saints and Marian devotion. With each topic, he systematically works through objections by presenting the common Protestant viewpoint and then turning to Scripture or other Church teachings to justify the dogma.
The Case for Catholicism is accessible, but it is not for the faint of heart.
Pen or highlighter would be apt companions for taking notes or emphasizing content, particularly in some of the more detail-laden chapters.
Interested readers should be prepared to dig into the nearly 350 pages, hopefully coming away with a stronger and clearer understanding of the faith.
Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.