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The Road Once Travelled: Fresh thoughts on Catholicism

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  1. Note from the author and publisher Review / Tip by Mark Gilbert/Ian Carmichael

    Cath - Thanks for taking the time to make these comments. It is clear that you have great faith in the Catholic church as you suggest that I would have my faith deepened by continuing as a Catholic. I was educated in the Catholic Church for 13 years - over 2000 religious education lessons. For 30 years I attended Mass every Sunday. I received the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. However in the end I put my faith in Jesus as he reveals himself in the Bible rather than in the Catholic Church. You can read the story of how this happened for me and how this has happened for other Catholics here:

    In the end I think the most important thing is not which church you attend but whether you put your trust in Jesus as he reveals Himself in His word - above everything else, even your Church. It can be hard for people when they feel like their religion makes them feel guilty or lets them down or seems irrelevant. The 2006 study by the Catholic Church quoted in this book shows that many Catholics have these feelings. Rather than telling them that they are wrong, I try to point them to Jesus who frees us from guilt, never lets us down and is never irrelevant. In the end that's what will matter.

    Mark Gilbert

    Note from the publisher:
    As publisher, we don't accept the assertion that the book is riddled with errors, but we are very happy to hear from you on any specific things you believe to be wrong so we can correct them (if validated). Please be kind enough to use the contact details/form on this web site to pass on details of any errors to us at Matthias Media. If there are errors, we will make sure they are corrected. As a publisher we strive to speak only the truth. (Posted on 30/05/2013)

  2. Riddled with errors about Catholicism Review / Tip by Cath

    As a convert to the Catholic church, I can testify that this book is riddled with errors and misunderstandings about the Catholic church. It is clear that the author was not educated in the faith and made no effort to learn the faith and so propagates the misunderstandings. I am pleased that the author has received the gift of faith, and that he has deepened his relationship with Jesus (which could have be deepened even further in the Catholic church, had he learnt the faith), however I am concerned that Matthias Media persist in printing these books that are so easily falsifiable.. with the authors not bothering to check the most basic Catholic beliefs.. To find out what Catholics *actually* believe, see the link below

    (Posted on 14/05/2013)

  3. A sympathetic exploration of the Catholic Church emphasising the fundamental centrality of Jesus Christ Review / Tip by Jess

    The Road Once Travelled: Fresh Thoughts on Catholicism is a thoughtful testimony of a man’s struggles with sin, guilt and meaning (or, rather, meaninglessness) in a church that failed to preach Christ crucified. Mark Gilbert recounts not only his own struggles with sin with a frank assessment of the heretical teachings that occur when Christ crucified is no longer the central message. He outlines the key beliefs of such a church in the innate goodness of humanity and the possibility for humans to attain righteousness through their actions, contrasting this with his personal experience. Perhaps most compellingly, Gilbert includes within his testimony and reflections, thoughts and statements from other members of Catholic churches across the country. This emphasises the way in which his personal struggle was, and perhaps still is, indicative of a wider mood of unfulfilment and un-absolved guilt when the crucified Christ is removed from the focus of faith.

    Gilbert’s testimony (for it is more testimony than book) provides great insight into the way that churches where the emphasis has shifted from the gospel to ritualistic services and to church attendance, as opposed to individual growth of participation, emphasises works and behaviour patterns over belief and the object of one’s faith. In this way, it is both a critique of churches which have shifted their focus from the gospel, and an urgent call that applies to Catholic and other Christian churches alike: refocus your sight on Jesus Christ, for only He can save, and only He gives meaning and life.

    At this point, I feel compelled to mention that Gilbert does not provide a ringing condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church in and of itself. He writes of the great discrepancy between what the Catholic Church officially stands for, and what is taught in local churches, and he even acknowledges that some statements from other Catholics reveal that it is possible in the Catholic Church for people to find and depend upon Jesus for salvation, grace and righteous living.

    What Gilbert does acknowledge, with refreshing openness, are the flaws that have come from the way that the Catholic Church has assumed the authority that ought to lie in the Bible, as God’s word. He addresses the spiritual authority assumed by the Pope as dangerous, and also condemns the manner in which the Catholic Church has often abused its authority to cover up the numerous child sexual abuse scandals. However, I find it significant that Gilbert does not then go on to use this as an argument against the Catholic Church itself; what he attempts in this testimony seems more like a call for reformation, a call for the Catholic Church to refocus its gaze solely on Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible.

    “The Road Once Travelled” is a critique of the Catholic Church for its failure to preach Christ crucified, and for failing to reach out to its individual members (particularly children) by emphasising ritual over rigorous study of the Bible as the Word of God. But ultimately, and most fundamentally, it is a rallying call to seek the heart of Christianity. It is a call to search to know Jesus Christ as He is revealed in God’s holy word, the Bible, and hence to come to an individual knowledge of the saving grace He has offered through His sacrifice on the cross; to experience the joy and freedom that flows from His resurrection from the dead. (Posted on 14/12/2011)

  4. Book review; What it does, doesn't, and what to expect. Review / Tip by Alex M

    The title of this book, as well as the byline on the front cover; “Fresh thoughts on Catholicism” had me anticipating something very much along the lines of Ray Galea's “Nothing in My Hand I Bring”, the reasoning and theological concepts behind the author's conversion from their hereditary Catholicism, toward a more evangelical strain of Christianity.

    I was expecting, therefore, something that was going to really highlight the differences between the doctrine of the Catholic and Evangelical churches. It turned out to be quite different to my expectation.

    Before I go any further, I'll give you a hint. Whilst I have a lot of good things to say about it, this is not the book to read if you are looking for something along the lines of what I was expecting (i.e. something that will fill you in on differences in thought, theology and practice between Catholic and Evangelical churches, and talk about the risks involved with the Catholic approach).

    Why do I say this? Because that's what I expected, and it didn't do heaps for me. I, however, am not someone who has grown up in the Catholic Church, or been involved with the Catholic Church at some stage in my life. I am, quite simply, not the target of the author.

    If you are from the Catholic tradition, but you are feeling that there might be something you are missing, your church life feels static and not spirit-filled, or you are just wondering why the church doesn't seem to give you the answers, then this book IS for you.

    Mark Gilbert grew up in the Catholic church, and as he highlights, he is very fond of his Catholic heritage. He knew God was there, he knew he could pray, and he felt extremely secure.

    This book, rather than warning against possible traps in the Catholic faith, comes from a very sympathetic perspective; from someone who has been there, and who is very humble about it. Gilbert uses stats and examples from real people to illustrate what he is talking about, from quite an extensive study that relates to the decline in popularity of the church. I found this very interesting; there was a significant body of people who became disenchanted with the Catholic church for similar dissatisfactions; it wasn't providing the answers.

    Whether due to boredom, dissatisfaction with church leadership, a feeling of guilt and inadequacy when it came to sin, a domineering or seemingly pretentious approach to the bible, or a bunch of other reasons that Gilbert talks about, the fact is that the Catholic church is not managing to satisfy people.

    Gilbert doesn't try to tell people they are in the wrong, or come across as condemning of the Church. He does, however, point it back to Jesus.

    He talks about how it is not the background you come from, or the church you go to, or anything else, but Jesus, that is at the heart of the gospel. And it is therefore to Jesus (and his revelation in the bible) that people must look if they want to find solutions. What was, for me, the crux of the book, was his argument that explained how Jesus is the solution to “boring, irrelevant religion”.

    Along the way, Gilbert deals with other issues; Papal infallibility, misconduct by church leaders, the catholic approach to sin and confession. At some stages I felt there was room for a little more biblical reference: when talking about how people expect a lot from leaders, for example, I felt there could have been a bit of elaboration or discussion about characteristics in leadership, for example in 2 Timothy 3, and James 3:1-2. It took a little while for the biblical references to get going, but then they really started flowing.

    Once again; for someone in my situation, who hasn't been involved in the Catholic church, or even a form of “hereditary Catholicism”, this book is not particularly helpful.

    As a book written for it's audience, I imagine this would be quite a helpful guide, and very practical in the end stages. It is not presumptive, and does not try to bend people to follow Gilbert's own transition to the Anglican church (a fact he mentions only in passing at the very end of the book). Instead, it establishes a common experience, and then suggests a solution; look in the Bible, look towards Jesus. Gilbert simply encourages his reader to delve into the Bible for themselves, to weigh it up, to enquire, and to treat following Jesus in accordance as their highest priority. (Posted on 11/08/2011)

  5. Useful, but not for everyone Review / Tip by Joel A Moroney

    The Road Once Travelled
    By Mark Gilbert with Cecily Paterson

    I grew up Catholic. My parents had me baptised in a Roman Catholic Church when I was a baby. The priest tried to baptise me as "John" because Joel wasn't Christian enough. I attended a Catholic primary school, where I also served as an altar boy at the church attached to the school. Putting on a robe, carrying a candle, and helping the priest do communion was preferable to sitting through the service. Even back in those days I was easily bored.

    By the time I was 15 I was preparing myself to walk away from the Roman Catholic Church. My experience of the church didn't match with my experience of the world. I began to feel that Jesus was a fictional story and that the church existed as a quaint little throwback that stood in the way of me discovering the truth behind the universe. I started to explore new age beliefs. Until one day, when I was 17, a friend introduced me to the Jesus of the Bible. Not long after this, I welcomed Jesus as my saviour and joined a Protestant church.

    I share my story with you because the book I'm reviewing is on a subject that is close to me. The Road Once Travelled by Mark Gilbert (with Cecily Paterson) is written for people within the Roman Catholic Church who are feeling disillusioned. The aim is to address their concerns and point to the real Jesus of the Bible as the answer to their problems. This is the kind of book that is theoretically aimed right at 17-year-old Joel. So in reviewing The Road Once Travelled, both 31-year-old Joel and 17-year-old Joel will weigh in with their views.

    Gilbert identifies two main issues for disillusioned Catholics. The first issue is a sense of guilt that comes from the institutional frame-work of confessional booths and penance. Because of this system, there is no assurance that sin is ever dealt with. The second issue is disappointment with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Because of abuses in the church, there is a lack of confidence in the leadership. This manifests in a frustration that the system holds the Bible back from people. Gilbert points people to the death and resurrection of Jesus as the answer to guilt and personal Bible reading as the way to overcome barriers and discover this Jesus.

    This book is written with a lot of love and patience. Rather than attacking the Roman Catholic reader, Gilbert takes the reader by the hand and walks with them. The reader is "reintroduced" to Jesus, pointing to Biblical stories they may already be familiar with and then showing how these stories give us assurance of forgiveness for sins. Most importantly, this assurance doesn't come from a fallible, human leader. It comes from the reliable, approachable Word of God.

    There is a clear presentation of the gospel in this book. However, both 31-year-old Joel and 17-year-old Joel had some problems with this book.

    31-year-old Joel is a Christian pastor. And the issue I have is "what next?" The reader of this book has been encouraged to read their Bible. That's great. But what do they do after that? Because the book finishes here. This is not a book you should give to someone and then walk away. The Road Once Travelled is a book you give to someone as an invitation to join your Bible study group. Then followed up by an invitation to visit your Bible believing and preaching church. Thoughtful consideration should be given to who you give this book to and how you use this book. It's not a book that stands self-sufficient.

    Similarly, this book needs to be properly introduced to the person you're giving it to. There is nothing on the book cover or in the introduction that suggests that this book is written by someone who has walked away from the Roman Catholic Church. This fact is only revealed as an aside on page 31. There is a danger that a Catholic reader may feel lied to or deceived if this is not made clear.

    The problems that my perceived 17-year-old self had with this book are of a different nature. The problems that I experienced as a young Catholic were not addressed in this book. I wanted to know if God actually existed. I wanted to know how the church could enable me to understand the nature of reality. I felt that the church got in the way of this pursuit. Therefore this book would have missed the mark with me. I would not have engaged with this book.

    I don't bring this up because I think I represented the average Catholic youth. I really doubt I do. I bring this up because I'm beginning to think that we, as Protestant observers have made some assumptions about our Roman Catholic friends that over-simplify who they are. Not all Catholics are the same. Not all Catholics experience the church in the same way. Not all Catholics are struggling with the same issues. There is a danger with this book that Roman Catholic people are all bundled into the same small box, regardless of if they fit into it. We think we know how to talk to them, which buttons to push to get an evangelistic in-road. And we preach to this hypothetical Catholic instead of actually listening to people and getting to know them. This is especially true of younger Catholics. 15 years ago, I feel like my Catholic friends would not have responded to this book. When I spoke to my 25-year-old brother, who is a practicing Catholic, about this book, he did not find these issues relevant to his experience. There are also Catholics from all kinds of cultural backgrounds where their faith is closely tied to their national identity. Challenging their faith also challenges who they are as a person and as a member of a cultural family. It's time to stop reading books about reaching Catholics and actually talk to some Catholics and find out what they're really struggling with. And then reach them with the gospel.

    Would I recommend The Road Once Travelled to anyone? Yes, I would. I think this book would be helpful for Catholics from an Anglo background, especially if they're a bit older. Someone raising their own family. Someone who grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, but has stopped regularly attending or is only Catholic when it comes time to fill in the census. Someone you are in a relationship with and you want to use this book as part of your ongoing efforts to reach them with the truth of God's Word. Because this book is not a blanket work for all Catholics. Prayerfully consider who you will give this book to. And follow them up! And most of all, encourage them to follow Gilbert's lead and discover the real Jesus through the reading of the Bible. (Posted on 3/08/2011)

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