On Christian Doctrine

Written by St. Augustine

(New City Press, 1996)

(Oxford University Press, 1999)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr


How do Catholics read the Bible, anyway? How did the saints? Do we do things differently today from what they did so many years ago, should we?

Mostly everything I have come to rely on about interpreting the Bible I learned from St. Augustine – his Confessions, City of God, his homilies, and this great work.

If I made a list of ‘the ten greatest books ever written’ at least half of them would be by St. Augustine. This one would make it within the top five. Sometimes the title of this work is given as ‘On Christian Teaching’ or ‘Instruction’ in English. ‘Doctrine’ conjures up a kind of formal didacticism which does not reflect what Augustine is up to in this work. That is why some editions chose not to transliterate doctrina as doctrine. The book is more about the process of discovering God’s teaching than it is about studying a predetermined set of doctrines. It is as much about a spirituality as it is about concrete facts. Continue reading

YOUCAT: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church

(Ignatius Press, 2011)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr


Despite some significant problems with various translations of the original German text – notably impacting the Italian, French and the English versions – this is a wonderful catechetical work, and deserves much more attention than, I think, it has so far received.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church was released in 1992. This was a moment as epochal as the release of the Catechism of the Council of Trent in 1556. No text, though, however great, is suited to all readers, and the CCC is, admittedly, technical; its language is much too complicated for young people. Rather than insist on a one-size-fits-all approach, the YOUCAT is an admirable attempt to make the teaching of the Church easier for young people to understand.   Continue reading

Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church

Written by D. Oliver Herbel

(Oxford University Press, 2014)

Reviewed by Adam DeVille


I spent the better part of a day reading and thoroughly enjoying a new book by the Orthodox priest and historian D. Oliver Herbel.

This is church history at its best: an outstandingly well written scholarly book that is carefully researched, crisply written, and free of polemics. It is not a romanticized founding mythology, and in fact it carefully and calmly skewers a few such mythologies on offer about American Orthodox history. While written by someone who is obviously himself Orthodox, and who therefore brings a sympathetic “insider’s” perspective to bear at certain points, the author has managed to be commendably objective and even-handed in dealing with issues and personages that are still today controverted for some. This is anything but a work of what another historian, Robert Taft, calls “confessional propaganda,” and we have every reason to be grateful to Fr. Oliver for that. His book reveals considerable scholarly acumen, but it is also something that the proverbial person in the pew could easily access, not least because it is (almost!) blessedly free of jargon and abstruse theorizing. Continue reading