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Responding to the Inner Ache

Fr. Thomas Dubay is well known, or at least should be, to the readers of
Homiletic & Pastoral Review because of his excellent articles which have appeared over the years, especially on religious life, Canon law, and the problem or vocations.

In Faith and Certitude he turns to an important subject which has been very neglected since the Vatican Council-the matter of apologetics or showing the reasonableness of Christian faith. Perhaps apologetics is more needed now than ever before.

One thing lacking in much contemporary discourse, whether scholarly or not, is the clear definition of terms. Without that it is just about impossible to have a coherent discussion or argument with another person. Regularly Fr. Dubay defines his terms so that the reader knows exactly what he is talking about at each stage in the journey through the book.

In the first two chapters Duhay speaks about the need the human being has for certitude, while the modern man finds himself immersed in a sea of skepticism. Chapters three and four cover quite extensively the prevailing subjectivity and sensuality that offer many obstacles to clear thinking. Next he defines certitude, truth and faith. Chapter seven is entitled "How We Attain Certitude."Here he shows that there is more to it than sheer logic, relying heavily on John Henry Newman and his "convergence of evidences."

The next three chapters are dedicated to scholars and scholarship. He shows how and why scholars are often in error and advises us not to take them too seriously, especially when they contradict known certain natural or revealed truths. He is brilliant in showing the strengths and weaknesses of Biblical Criticism, especially the historial-critical method. He comes down firmly for the Catholic position that the study of the Bible must take place in the Church community, that is, in the light of tradition and always subject to the authentic magisterium of the Church.

In chapter eleven he discusses how a person attains truth. One of his main themes is that the will must be committed to the good as a prerequisite for the intellect to really see and embrace the truth. In this regard he quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar to the effect that "sin obscures sight" (p. 56); his own formulation of the same truth is that "the taproot of truth is in the will" (p. 201).

Chapter twelve deals with the massive problem of contemporary atheism. He explains why it is a dogmatism, why it leads to idol worship, usually of either the self or the state, and why it ultimately leads to meaninglessness. Could this be the reason for the increase of suicide, especially among teenagers? Chapter thirteen deals with theism and shows how belief in God, especially as revealed in and by Jesus Christ, corresponds to the transcendence of the human spirit-the "inner ache" for the infinite and the eternal. Dubay concludes with a collection of letters he wrote to an athiest in the, as it turned out, vain attempt to prove to him the reasonableness of faith and the absurdity of atheism.

The book is highly recommended for apologetic purposes. It is well written, easy to read, and the various points are exemplified with concrete examples. I would not hesitate to give it to an educated inquirer who is searching for the truth but who is intellectually confused due to the dominant subjectivism, skepticism and relativism. For one who has serious intellectual and moral difficulties with the faith, it would be good to give him or her this book to read before beginning to explain the creed, commandments and sacraments.

-Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.,
Homiletic and Pastoral Review
October 1986.

Version: 6th October 2008

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