“The Ivory Domino” – Book Review by Gary Summers

Gary W. Summers

Anyone who begins reading this book will likely want to continue with it to see what will happen next. For a few pages, one might wonder, “Why should I care about this teenage youth who is so enamored with the Catholic religion that he would never even consider anything else?” The answer is that he is challenged to do so in a way he never thought possible (10). And it occurs in the midst of normal high school situations, such as playing on a successful football team. The previous season had been rather inglorious, but this season looked promising—maybe even a championship. Would the expectations be thrillingly fulfilled or result in agonizing disappointment?

The Catholic connection proved to be very strong; the author’s mother, “grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins” were all members of that institution (6). In assessing his religious stance at that time, the author states:

It was the original Church begun by Jesus and His apostles, it has the pope, and we were 660 million strong. It was the right church, and if I had not been in it, I would have joined it. I wanted to be in the right! (7).

Does this young man seem to be a likely candidate for conversion? One might imagine that he had a close friend who somehow was able to reason with him, but that was not the case. Some of them were Catholic also. Perhaps some young lady caught his fancy, and in the process of dating her, he was persuaded to abandon his Catholic faith? Wrong again! Maybe he experienced a near-death calamity, or someone close to him died. No, that didn’t happen, either. Nevertheless, over a period of time, he began to question the Catholic heritage he was born into, of which he was so proud.

An experiment in probability by a young woman started the ball rolling (14-15). The result of her illustration showed that the Bible cannot be the product of men. A wager between her and the author involved the outcome of the next football game. She won the bet because of a fluke that occurred. She graciously offered to release him from his obligation, but he just as graciously insisted on keeping it. The author’s punishment for losing was to visit the place she worshiped.

His initial reaction was negative. Among other things, he noted to himself that the building was plain—“Just walls. No statues of saints. No images of angels. No stained-glass windows. No candles. No cross. Just walls. Plain walls” (20-21). After two pages of complaints about everything that was wrong with the worship, the author consoled himself by saying that he had fulfilled his debt and would never have to endure such craziness again.

And that should have been the end of it. When the young woman asked him about his visit to worship, he gave a negative response, but he made a fatal mistake (fatal to maintaining his status quo); he asked her one question. Unable to answer it, she talked with her Bible class teacher, who agreed to take the next whole Sunday class to answer the question. He told her that such an arrangement was not something that he was willing to do, but she outfoxed him for a second time; so he went (27).

The author was stunned by the reception he received and with the answer that was given him. He anticipated a flimsy reply based on tradition or mere preference; what he received was an answer found in the Scriptures. The answer was in the Bible, but it was not what Catholics practiced. Now he wondered why his religion did not do what the Bible taught; he decided to ask his priest.

The priest reminded the teenager that their Catechism taught that “God gave the church another source of authority, not just the Bible alone” (33). “Oral tradition was as valid as the Scriptures themselves” (34). This explanation totally satisfied the author, but once again he decided not to leave well enough alone; he determined to take this information back to the Bible teacher, Mr. Babbitt.

Finding him in the parking lot before class, the author told him firmly that since he (Mr. Babbitt) went only by the Bible and left out Tradition, “what you would say would be wrong. So there’s no sense in my listening to you” (37). How would most of us respond to such a statement? Would we become a little angry? Would we say, “Is that so? Well, let me tell you something”? Or would we just sigh and walk away from what appeared to be a hopeless situation?

The teacher asked if Catholics believe the Bible is God’s Word and received an affirmative answer. He wrote a passage on a piece of paper and handed it to the football player and told him he might want to consider what those verses taught. He snatched the piece of paper and departed, thinking, “That will be the last I see of him!” (37). But with more than 300 pages to go, it was not to be.

The author’s desire to prove the Catholic Church correct led to examining various issues further. He studies from his own Catholic version, the church’s own Catholic Encyclopedia, Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church (recommended by the Catholic Encyclopedia), and a Catholic Dictionary. What he learns and what he does with the knowledge comprises the remainder of the book, and it is all worth reading. Every bit of information is documented—and vital, with many applications. The author effectively combines doctrine with story-telling. The reader will be blessed.

Note: To purchase a copy of this book, contact: GaryHensonbooks@gmail,com

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