Pity the poor Catholic apologist. Day after day, he must answer the same objections over and over again. In debates or forums, an angry atheist or feisty anti-Catholic protestant will regurgitate their own particular mix of propaganda and personal grievance, and the patient apologist must endure endless abuses of logic and basic etiquette and even offer some questions to guide these antagonists out of their misunderstanding. At best, they may move the person to a point of maybe not violently hating Catholics and religion. At worst, which is the usual result, the conversation goes nowhere and no one learns anything.
It remains to be seen whether the apologist wunderkind Trent Horn who works with Catholic Answers truly thrives on such work, or simply pays his dues so that he can move on to more interesting topics. In any case, doing this kind of work has certainly aged him—Horn, in his early 30s, has suddenly the vim and vigor of an octogenarian even when he wipes the floor with his opponents in debates over God’s existence. Nevertheless, the experience has honed his arguments and made him one of the premier Catholic apologists today, particularly for the many nonreligious millennials.
Horn has already written three books arguing for the faith, all of them meticulously researched, scrupulously polite, and clear as crystal—all the characteristics of his Thomist background. Although he makes it look easy, a careful reader can tell that he puts a great deal of time, love, and effort into presenting his subject fully, anticipating misunderstandings and objections, and faithfully referencing everything. Moreover, he teaches as he argues. Persuasive Pro-Life discusses the science behind reproduction as well as the tenets of utilitarianism; Answering Atheism introduces a person to the wild crazy world of cosmology along with the basics of deductive and inductive logic; and Hard Sayings examines the numerous rules of reading, interpretation, and analysis, and goes deep in examining the cultures of Ancient Mesopotamia.
Horn’s new book, Why We’re Catholic, while sharing many of the same qualities as his other books, feels a little reheated and rushed. One has the feeling that Horn collected his many notes from Catholic Answers and his old books, and decided to package them into a general book on Catholic apologetics. On one hand, this is immensely practical; for a person looking a for a one-stop shop to answer common objections to the faith, this book is ideal—even more than Peter Kreeft’s apologetic classic, Fundamentals of the Faith. On the other hand, its very practicality sometimes results in truncating or simply omitting fairly deep issues requiring a fuller treatment, particularly prayer, liturgy, and objective morality.
However, the virtues of the book easily outweigh its drawbacks. In little more than 200 pages, Horn presents a comprehensive defense of the faith that busy people with many questions but little time can appreciate. Starting with an opening chapter that argues why anyone should believe anything, he sets out reasons for God, Jesus, His Church, the Catholic position on current cultural issues, and finally the afterlife. Each chapter brings up an issue with an anecdote, lists common objections, notes important definitions, and finally presents the Catholic argument—Horn is still very much a Thomist in his method. Overall, the book serves as a great resource that answers many questions for the faithful and curious alike.
As with any apologetic book, the ones who benefit most from reading it are Catholics themselves. Because they live in a thoroughly secular culture saturated with falsehoods about religion, history, and human nature, even well catechized Catholics suffer insecurity about their faith. Why We’re Catholic supplies some necessary courage and strength for them. This does not mean that all Catholics should plunge into debates like Horn (which would be counterproductive and stressful), but it does mean that they should practice and learn about their faith seriously, and safeguard the truth for the sake of those around them.