From Evangelical to Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps

I am pleased to announce the publication of a new book by Notre Dame sociologist, Christian Smith.  Professor Smith, a life-long Evangelical, was recently received into the Catholic Church. In How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps (Cascade Books, 2011) Professor Smith takes the reader through just the sort of reasoning and reflection that resulted in his own reception into the Church. Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

American evangelicalism has recently experienced a new openness to Roman Catholicism, and many evangelicals, both famous and ordinary, have joined the Catholic Church or are considering the possibility. This book helps evangelicals who are exploring Roman Catholicism to sort out the kinds of concerns that typically come up in discerning whether to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church. In simple language, it explains many theological misunderstandings that evangelicals often have about Roman Catholicism, and suggests the kind of practical steps many take to enter the Catholic Church. The book frames evangelicals becoming Roman Catholic as a kind of “paradigm shift” involving the buildup of anomalies about evangelicalism, a crisis of the evangelical paradigm, a paradigm revolution, and the consolidation of the new Roman Catholic paradigm. It will be useful for both evangelicals interested in pursuing and understanding Roman Catholicism and Catholic pastoral workers seeking to help evangelical seekers who come to them.

Over a year ago Professor Smith sent me the manuscript version of the book. I was so impressed by its clarity, readability, and deep understanding of both Evangelicalism and Catholicism that I read large portions of it out loud to my wife at the dinner table the very evening that I had received it. It may be the best Evangelical-to-Catholic book in print. I would not hesitate to recommend it to either Evangelicals who have questions about Catholicism or Catholics who want to better understand their own faith as well as the cultural and theological paradigm under which American Evangelicals operate. Here’s my endorsement as it appears on the back of the book:

“While showing appreciation and respect for his evangelical patrimony, Christian Smith offers a careful, clear, and thoughtful path to the Catholic Church for those evangelicals who are entertaining Catholicism as they seek to walk more authentically in Christ. This is a truly unique contribution to the growing literature authored by former evangelicals who have found their way to St. Peter’s barque.”
-Francis J. Beckwith
author of Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic

The book is also endorsed by two other professors, both of whom are far more accomplished than me, Mark Noll and Thomas Howard:

“Christian Smith is correct in describing why it usually takes a ‘paradigm revolution’ for an evangelical to become a Catholic. The ‘anomalies’ he describes for evangelical life are mostly accurate and his presentation of Catholicism is attractive. But this intriguing book would have been even better if it had paused to reflect on why there are so many paradigm shifts in the other direction—of people born Catholic who become evangelical. Anyone—Catholic, evangelical, or a convert in either direction—who responds thoughtfully to the arguments of this book will be a better Christian for having made the effort.”
-Mark Noll
author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

“I expect that this book may turn out to be the definitive text (short of the Fathers only!) for evangelicals who are prepared to address themselves courageously to the ecclesiological question. Smith’s writing is brisk, starkly clear, challenging, and exhaustive (not exhausting!); he leaves no stone unturned. This is the best book I’ve seen on the topic.”
-Thomas Howard
author of On Being Catholic

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