Friday, 15 August 2014

The Faith Understood: An Introduction to Catholic Theology, by Mark Zia

The Faith Understood: An Introduction to Catholic Theology, by Mark Zia, 2013 Emmaus Road

You definitely get the impression that this book is aimed at Evangelicals contemplating the claims of Rome. I think it if were intended to introduce Catholic theology to non-religious people or liberal Protestants, it would be written quite differently. It is written in the language of Christian orthodoxy for people who see themselves as orthodox (small O, of course). And given that context, a book like this is of vital importance. As an Evangelical approaching Catholicism, I find Catholic theology bewilderingly alien.

Mark Zia provides a helpful introduction to the main themes of Catholic theology, sin, redemption, the Trinity, divine revelation and others. The chapter on Mariology will be of great interest to Evangelicals who find Marian dogmas and devotion terrifyingly exotic. On the subject of Scripture, Zia affirms that the Roman Catholic Church teaches the inerrancy of the Bible. He sadly acknowledges, that much Catholic Biblical scholarship lacks this commitment, despite Vatican II's affirmation of Biblical authority.

For me, the problem of this book is that it is far too short. Zia offers a nice summary of Catholic doctrinal themes, but does not go beyond the milk of these teachings. While he provides a bibliography to explore, he offers no guidance as to where a person wanting to go furher into Catholic theology should look next.

A book I would really like to see is a Catholic equivalent of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. As an Evangelical I have been immensely critical of Wayne Grudem's one-volume text book, not just for some of the doctrinal positions he advocates, but also for the way in which he dumbs down and oversimplifies so many theological issues. I have found it really depressing hearing Evangelicals boasting that they have read Grudem's Systematic Theology and expecting others to be impressed at their theological depth. Yet as a newcomer to Catholic theology, I realise the value of such a work. Maybe there is such a book, but I have yet to see it. Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma covers some of that ground, but is not quite aimed at the modern reader and uses a lot of technical language likely to confuse somebody like me who is schooled in Grudem and Charles Ryrie.


  1. I would suggest Fr. James Socias's "Introduction to Catholicism for Adults":

    All the best.

    1. It's out of print, but I ordered a second-hand copy.