To Light a Fire on the Earth by Robert Barron and John L. Allen (Book Review)

 To Light a Fire on the Earth:

Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age

I am not and never have been an Evangelist.  My own path and journey has been too rocky, my criticisms to jaded, my mistrust too high.  And yet if asked I would defend the main precepts of deep theological thinking of Catholicism – not the garden variety type superficial institutional media presentation of the human side of Catholicism (or perhaps in many cases the lack of humanity that is expressed by fellow believers in God’s name).

I do not know Bishop Barron.  This book fell into my orbit from a reference from one of my meanderings in theological and prayer seeking Catholic literature and forums.    Apparently he has many books and a large social media imprint.

Below is an excerpt review portraying Barron as a torch holder apologist.  Fascinatingly Christian Apologist is a branch of theology whose mission is to defend the faith – not apologize for it which in current day can easily be misconstrued.    This book takes a rather easy high road view on how to be an effective evangelist – of which I have no interest!  However, it in the process lingers just enough on every criticism and caveat of controversy the church faces today and expounds on a deeper theological understanding, the superficial errors of both modern-day clergy and lay people, and the history of human tragedies that have so scarred the church.

There was a lot to like in this book even though it was heavy on his broader mission for “Word on Fire” series.  Sometimes a light read without a very deep dive into theological documents, church history, interfaith comparisons, and ethical implications while living in a secular society is the way to go.  Don’t worry, when you emerge out of the bubble all the tragedies, evils, and suffering will be awaiting you – if not interrupting your read.

Two lessons he stated I think we could all take a close look at and reflect on our own search for continuing to grow towards a sanctified life.   He stressed no one can defend the faith without reading, lots of reading.  The second was he used a phrase that intrigued me – post liberal.  No that is not meant to be a liberal turned conservative!  I will leave it there for us to ponder if we have become enslaved to superficial political parties (democrat or republican) or even within the church conservative or liberal and how damaging our loss of an internal compass contrasted against christocentric doctrine.

Perhaps a third lesson is the Catholic Church aim is to provide what it thinks is the road to living a sanctified life – to being a saint!  The cultural wars of today are so out of alignment and amplified with self-pious believers,  money driven false prophets, and political influences that the core of Christianity gets lost in the shuffle.   Every one of us will fall short of the mark (at least everyone I know already has).


Our country would benefit from a cultural revolution that demands intelligent and thorough ethical, moral, secular, philosophical, religious, economical, and political analysis that goes beyond the “self”  interest and expands past geographical borders.  Catholicism is only one angle that is in active reform – and much-needed reform as an institution.

Here is a review on-line of this book:

“He’s opposed to what he calls a “beige Catholicism,” a bland and watered-down faith that he says becomes virtually indistinguishable from the “beige” versions of other religions. He firmly believes that if people are attracted by the beauty of Catholicism or by the goodness of the lives of its saints, they’ll begin to look for the truths that underlie this beauty and goodness. Allen and Barron also cover debates about the relationship between religion and science and how Catholicism must confront a sexualized culture. They demonstrate the ways that the beauty, goodness, and truth of the faith fit in with modern science, but take a predictably conservative approach to dealing with sexual impulses. These illuminating, easy-to-read, and genial conversations reveal Barron’s passion for his faith and zeal for introducing it to others. (Nov.)”

Publishers Weekly

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