Catholic Realism: A Framework for the Refutation of Atheism an the Evangelization of Atheists by Dr. Sebastian Mahfood and Dr. Ronda Chervin is a good guide for anyone trying to convert anybody. Their definition of “atheist” is broader than I’d typically go. They include anyone who does not believe in a personal deity, which would include many people who are New Age or influenced by Eastern Spirituality. This does make you reconsider the importance of the “personal” in personal God and makes you think about what that phrase really means. It was a bit unsettling for me because under their broad definition I was once an atheist although I would never have called myself that.
This guide is helpful in illuminating the atheist mindset and some of the reasons why people embrace atheism. It gives great pointers for evangelization in general such as:
- Meeting people where they are
- Being a beacon of light
- Converting people with our lives
The book definitely needed another trip or two to the editor’s desk. It wasn’t enough to be a distraction, but I did notice missing punctuation and some odd grammar, among of other little things. Again, it wasn’t bad enough to detract from the value of the book by a long shot, just enough to notice.
My only other concern was the second part of Chapter 6. In it, Dr. Ronda Chervin goes one by one through Church teaching on ethical issues. I think she provides a good summary that would be very useful in an RCIA class or for evangelizing fallen Catholics. With its heavy emphasis on magisterial teaching and the Bible, however, it would be completely unconvincing for an atheist. A little disappointing for me, as I was looking forward to that part of the book for a personal project of mine, but I think it would definitely be useful in other contexts.
Over all, I intend to loan this book out to a friend of mine who is active in St. Paul Street Evangelization. I think anyone involved in a ministry such as that would benefit from this book. As the authors of this book points out, however, we are all surrounded by atheists (especially with their broadened definition) all the time, so maybe we should all pick up a copy just in case.
Bethanie Ryan received a copy of this book for the purpose of review. A version of this review may also be found on her blog.