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This is the ONLY book out there which understands the real problem of Evangelization,
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This review is from: How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps (Kindle Edition)
The biggest issue I came across when studying modern Western Religion was Cognitive Dissonance. Why is that relevant?
Because nearly all religious people today in the West (Protestant/Catholic/Muslim/Jew who are 'Westernised') are unaware of, or just live with, the complete disconnect between their introjected Post-Enlightenment/Seculo-Protestant cognitive frame of reference, and what they 'believe' in their 'religion' ('content'). They call their 'resolution' of that gap, or dissonance, 'Faith', but have no way to resolve it fundamentally as they're like oil-and water within that context. Faith, for them, is a 'leap' across a chasm of incompatibles, and people like Bill Maher love making fun of just how dissonant it is. In short, what most Christians in the Post-Enlightenment West do is simply hold the 'square peg' of religious belief and 'round hole' of Modernity together with this 'Faith'.
In a real sense, they are not to be held responsible for this as it's caused by the cultural water they swim in. They don't know of any other way of looking at truth than what Secular Education has taught them (even if they attended 'Christian' Schools). But what they can be held accountable for is putting their heads in the sand, ignoring it, in the hope the problem will just go away.
What is Smith's point?
People usually assume that the only requirement in changing, or getting, 'religion' (from Atheist to Christian or Evangelical to Catholic) is to have a shift in the content of beliefs, whereas, in fact, the key is a change in one's complete frame of reference, one's way of thinking about and assenting to the truth content itself at a foundational level.
It is very much a 'second order' concern but, even if one wants to really understand the problem of Islam we have in the West today, one needs to be able to see things in the terms Smith advocates.
Without the ideas Smith advocates, people try to resolve the disconnect/dissonance in one of two ways:
A) Buy into the Post-Enlightenment view of religion (Pluralism/Relativism),
B) Reject the Post-Enlightenment view of religion (Westboro Baptists to Al-Qaeda).
C) Hold the two apparently incompatible things together. (The well-meaning, default position.)
The solution is not a case of 'switching off one's mind', 'going back to the dark ages', or 'sticking one's head in the oven' - what is perceived as the 'opposite' of applying (the Enlightenment categories of) reason - but something 'supra-rational'. That doesn't, again imply 'mystical' or 'flakey', but bringing real questions to bear on what one believes, one's presuppositions that one's likely to have a blind spot about in order to keep what one calls 'faith'.
He argues (correctly) that the key is a 'paradigm shift' - a metanoia - in the way one looks at truth itself. Postmodernity sees the problem with the text, Smith sees the problem as the lenses through which one views 'the text' (Bible). (See his excellent book on 'Biblicism' to see this approach used in concrete terms.)
In essence, there's not only a 'hermeneutic of continuity' in the Church but a 'continuity in the hermeneutic' itself, and one needs to recover that to see Religion aright. Post-Enlightenment thinking, if not completely dismissive, sees religion and reason as mutually exclusive by the very nature of the framework/paradigm/lens upon which it is predicated.
What Smith shows isn't so much the rightness of Catholicism (he is extremely charitable about his roots as an 'Evangelical'), as that the Catholic paradigm - the Catholic 'lens' or frame of reference through which to view and assess the validity of any religion - accords the most closely with reality in philosophical and psychological terms. That is, it closes the 'gap' of 'blind faith' between two incommensurables (content and lens) - cognitive dissonance - where faith becomes a thing of an assent to something one knows is real and completely consistent and coherent. In other words, coming to a Faith which isn't a 'leap' or glue between two incompatibles, but an integrated whole, or gestalt. One gets to a position of being able to say: 'Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.', as Newman put it.
Although he uses Thomas Kuhn's notion of the 'Paradigm Revolution', one can find thinking along similar lines in Blessed John Henry Newman and the notions of the 'illative sense' and 'real assent', and taken forward in the work of Bernard Lonergan in his works, 'Insight' and 'Method in Theology', and his terms 'self-appropriation', 'heuristic structure', 'virtually unconditioned', in particular.
If you want Evangelize effectively and deeply, Smith shows a change in one's complete worldview as well as 'denomination' is required, and this is the huge strength of this book because it's not just about comparing and contrasting doctrines or 'proof-texting' to see which ones one likes best or is more 'reasonable', but the one that coheres, or resonates, in a real sense at the core of one's being.
Being 'relevant', appealing to teens with electric guitars and drums, etc., is an attempt to get converts without changing their mindset (what I'd call proselytism). It 'gets bums on seats'. But what Smith is advocating will result in far more robust disciples able to cope with the storms and pressures of being a person of faith in a very concrete and practical way.
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