Navigating the Tiber (Book Review)


Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith

Devin Rose’s follow-up to The Protestant’s Dilemma is titled  Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith. This time, Rose offers less of a polemic against Protestantism as a guide to helpfully engaging those who question the Catholic Faith. Following a naval metaphor, Rose gives great advice for helping those eyeing the far shores of the Tiber River get across safely.

Rose introduces the book with a list of basic strategies for faithfully and fruitfully entering into conversations with non-Catholics. In the first section (“Setting Sail”) he then proceeds into a helpful summary of the major groups one might encounter in the bewildering world of denominational Christianity. This is an important but missing component in many Catholic writings – one cannot simply speak of “Protestantism” without numerous qualifications, and Rose does a good job of surveying the landscape. he then moves into the primary issues that a Protestant must face when confronting Catholicism – namely, the biblical canon, “Bible-Only” Christianity vs. Apostolic Tradition, faith-alone salvation, and basic Bible interpretation. What I love about Rose’s approach is that although he gives solid replies to the most common objections, he does not wallow around in them as if they are guaranteed to win the argument. Rather, Rose continually points out to the reader that the very existence of plausible counter-interpretations of history and Scripture point to the need for a living religious authority (something Protestantism lacks and, indeed, eschews).

In the next section (“Making Headway”), Rose moves to a more positive posture. Here he demonstrates how to introduce the reader’s Protestant interlocutor to the problems facing their view. He shows that the idea of biblical perspicuity (that the Bible is clear in its main teachings) is often a non-realized ideal, and that the Church Fathers are clearly not Reformed Theologians. Rose keeps it personal even here though – including chapters on helping Protestants deal with these facts in a gentle but stout manner, and giving a preview of the kinds of reactions the Catholic will likely run into, as well as advice for dealing with each type. (Having personally been one of Devin’s Protestant skeptics in the past, I can attest that he truly knows his stuff here – seeing Devin’s demeanor in action is worth the price of the book.)

In the final section (“Surveying the Rapids”), Rose turns to the Big Protestant Problems with the Catholic faith. He shows how to respond lovingly to criticisms of the Pope, Mary, the Crusades, the Inquisition, alleged pagan influence, loss of salvation, marital ethics . . . (phew!) . . . and concludes with a chapter on issues one might not expect, find important, or perhaps even be able to fathom. This is another oft-missing contribution of rose’s to Catholic apologetics. Sometimes people get bothered by weird things – and these need to be taken as seriously as the “Big” ones one typically runs into.

Like the Introduction, the concluding chapter of Navigating the Tiber is not one to be missed. Here Rose breaks the act of conversion into various phases – each of which is different and requires its own special handling. Rose teaches the reader how to recognize which phase a given Protestant is in, and how to approach them at each phase.

 As if all this were not enough, Rose peppers the book with interesting personal stories, wonderful side notes, situation-specific prayers a Catholic can say with a Protestant friend, and helpful resources keyed to each issue (rather than just a bibliography). All this in less than 200 pages? Yes – because the fluff factor is low and Rose knows what really counts in conversations. he knows what works, because he’s been on both sides himself and has had several make the crossing.

If you are looking for a seasoned guide to help others navigate the tricky Tiber – or, better, want to become one yourself – this book is a must-have.