Book Review: A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary

De Chirico, Leonardo. A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God

Point: The Roman Catholic teaching about Mary ultimately leads one’s attention and heart away from Jesus and the Gospel.

Path: De Chirico, in this concise work, walks the reader through the Biblical teaching of Mary, the Early Church’s teaching about Mary, a historical theology of the Catholic belief of Mary, and the current developments in Mariology. He then highlights the crucial problems and points us back to a biblical view of Mary.

Sources: The author cites numerous councils, sermons, commentaries, and prayers within the Catholic faith.

Agreement: This was a very helpful resource to see the basic view of what Catholicism teaches, not necessary what every Catholic believes. I think the two essential components for me were: 1) What we pray we eventually believe. And 2) the summary of the principles of singularity, fittingness, eminence, and analogy or likeness to Christ. Those two concepts were worth the read.

Personal App: I must recognize how liturgy fashions belief, in my friends who are Catholics, and in my own.

Favorite Quote: “Is there a way to bring all these Mariological strands together? Condensing entire libraries of books, and distilling centuries of reflection and observation, here is a list of principles that need to be taken into account if one is to understand the logic of Mariological development. They are provided by Gabriel Maria Roschini (1900–1977), a Roman Catholic professor of Mariology, author of a four volume standard Mariology in Latin, and a twentieth century leading authority in this field of study. Here they are: Being the Holy Virgin an altogether singular creature, belonging to a specific order in herself, she rightly claims altogether singular privileges that are precluded to any other creature (principle of singularity). All those perfections which are fitting to the dignity of the Mother of God need to be attributed to the Holy Virgin provided that they can be somehow traced from revelation and are not contrary to faith nor reason (principle of fittingness). All the privileges of nature, grace and glory given by God to the other saints must have been given also to the Holy Virgin, being her the Queen of the saints (principle of eminence). Privileges analogous to the various privileges of the humanity of Christ are possessed correspondingly by the most blessed Virgin and according to the condition of the one and the other (principle of analogy or likeness to Christ).21 Singularity, fittingness, eminence and analogy to Christ. Each on its own terms, and interwoven together, they form the Mariological quadrilateral that moved the development of the combination between devotion and doctrine.”

Stars: 4 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

has come out of Catholicism

Is interested in what Catholicism teaches

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you’ll be doing mission. It’s not that meals save people. People are saved through the gospel message. But meals will create natural opportunities to share that message in a context that resonates powerfully with what you’re saying.” (Chester, A Meal With Jesus)

“There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 9

TURNABOUT Defending against Columbo

Summary: When others ask questions, determine what the purpose is before you fall into a trap that they might be laying. This is done by seeking clarification and by being willing to think about it.

“There should be no risk when someone asks us either of the first two Columbo questions. We welcome the opportunity to clarify our views and then give our reasons for what we believe. The danger we need to guard against is the misuse of the third application of Columbo—leading questions meant to make a point against us.” (Location: 1,957)

Note:Clarifying questions are good. We should accept and encourage them. The difference between leading questions meant to trap and clarifying questions meant to make a point is the intent behind it. Are you trying to encourage a thoughtful consideration of one’s beliefs, or are you trying to confuse and belittle?

“Someone once said if you word the question right, you can win any debate. Dr. Chopra’s challenge was a classic case in point. A simple yes would have been the correct answer (properly qualified1) but would have sent a distorted message, as you’ll see in a moment. Further, Chopra’s words subtly suggested that I thought hell was the punishment people deserved for disagreeing with me.” (Location: 1,977)

Note:In cases when a short, truthful answer will confuse even more, it is better to not answer the question until it is clarified.

“The moment you feel like the questions might be designed to manipulate you, stop the conversation and ask for clarification before you go any further.” (Location: 2,028)

“For example, “What gives you the right to say someone else’s religion is wrong?” can be restated as, “No one is justified in saying one religious view is better than another.” “Who’s to say?” means, “No one could ever know the truth about that,” or, “One answer is just as good as another.” “Who are you to say?” usually means, “You’re wrong for saying someone else is wrong.” This last one is obviously contradictory, but you might not notice that problem if the claim remains hidden behind a question mark.” (Location: 2,113)

Note:Answering a statement as though it were a question isn’t helpful to either party.

“If you remember only one thing from part 1 of this book, remember this: whenever you get in a tough spot, always ask questions.” (Location: 2,187)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“There is an entire psychological substructure that, due to the fall, is a near-constant manufacturing of relational leveraging, fear-stuffing, nervousness, score-keeping, neurotic controlling, anxiety-festering silliness that is not something we say or even think so much as something we exhale. You can smell it on people, though some of us are good at hiding it. And if you trace this fountain of scurrying haste, in all its various manifestations, down to the root, you don’t find childhood difficulties or a Myers-Briggs diagnosis or Freudian impulses. You find gospel deficit. You find lack of felt awareness of Christ’s heart. All the worry and dysfunction and resentment are the natural fruit of living in a mental universe of law. The felt love of Christ really is what brings rest, wholeness, flourishing, shalom—that existential calm that for brief, gospel-sane moments settles over you and lets you step in out of the storm of of-works-ness. You see for a moment that in Christ you truly are invincible. The verdict really is in; nothing can touch you. He has made you his own and will never cast you out.” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly)

“There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came . . .” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . .” (Luke 7:34). The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.” (Chester, Meal with Jesus)

“Lord, you have given us your Word for a light to shine upon our path; grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching, that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Jerome

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 8


Summary:Being thoughtful and reasonable in dialogue with others over differing views is not something that comes naturally, but we can practice! And that practice will move our discussions along in a better direction.

“In any encounter, there are two times when the pressure is off: before the conversation begins and after it’s over. Those are perfect times to focus on improving your technique. Peter reminds us to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). There are three things you can do to ready yourself to respond. You can anticipate beforehand what might come up. You can reflect afterward on what took place. And in both cases, you can practice the responses you think of during these reflective moments so you’ll be prepared for the next opportunity.” (Location: 1,773)

Note:If I want to love my neighbor to the best of my ability, it is worth my time to think about our conversation after the fact in order to evaluate how I might be more clear in my questions or comments in our next interaction.

“When I ask myself about the three skills of an ambassador—knowledge (an accurately informed mind), wisdom (an artful method), and character (an attractive manner)—I have something specific to focus on. Did I know enough about the issue, or do I need to brush up on something for next time? Could I have maneuvered with more tactical wisdom in the conversation? Was my manner attractive? Did I act with grace, kindness, and patience?” (Location: 1,802)

Note:Good review of the first chapter.

“Sometimes I practice this way when I’m alone in the car, listening to talk radio. After hearing a few comments by the host or a caller, I turn the volume down and then pretend it’s my job to respond to what was said. It’s almost like being on live radio, except if I say something foolish, no one hears.” (Location: 1,814)

Note:Or with books. If we take time to stop and try to respond to an author, we can begin to think for ourselves.

“As a general rule, go out of your way to establish common ground. Whenever possible, affirm points of agreement. Take the most charitable read on the other person’s motives, not the most cynical one. Treat them the way you would like others to treat you if you were the one in the hot seat.” (Location: 1,912)

Note:This is all part of loving the other person, which is extremely hard to view when we feel as though we are being attacked, not our views. One of the reasons we have gotten to such a point as unable to have reasonable dialogue in our current situation is because we have not enabled a culture of interacting with ideas. We need to offer this to others, explaining that we can disagree with them and their ideas but not hate them.

“In this chapter, we focused on refining your tactical effectiveness as a Christian ambassador by exploring three ways you can improve your skill at Columbo. First, try to anticipate objections you might face, and then think of questions in advance. This allows you to formulate responses before the pressure is on. Second, take some time for self-assessment after each encounter. Ask how you could have phrased questions more effectively or conducted yourself differently in the conversation. Enlist a friend in the process, especially if he was with you during the dialogue. Finally, if you think of anything new, work out the details in advance. Write your ideas down, construct a tactically sound dialogue, then role-play your response—and potential pushbacks from the other side—out loud, by yourself or with a friend.” (Location: 1,936)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“Resting in the love of God doesn’t squelch ambition; it fuels it with a different fire. I don’t have to strive to get God to love me; rather, because God loves me unconditionally, I’m free to take risks and launch out into the deep. I’m released to aspire to use my gifts in gratitude, caught up in God’s mission for the sake of the world. When you’ve been found, you’re free to fail.” (Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine)

“O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in. It is ruined, O repair it! It displeases your sight; I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, or to whom shall I cry but unto you? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare your servant from sin.” Augustine

“Lord Jesus, you are light from eternal lights. You have dissolved all spiritual darkness and my soul is filled with your brightness. Your light makes all things beautiful. At night you give rest to our bodies. By day you spur us on to work. May I work with diligence and devotion, that at night my conscience is at peace. As I lay down on my bed at night, may your fingers draw down my eyelids. Lay your hand of blessing on my head that righteous sleep may descend upon me.” Gregory of Nazianzus

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 7

Chapter 7 COLUMBO STEP 3 Using Questions to Make a Point

Summary:With a target in mind, we can ask questions which will help both parties understand the issues at stake and realize the truth about our own beliefs.

“In the third step of our game plan, you are going to use questions to make a point. Think of yourself like an archer shooting at a target. Your questions are your arrows. The point you want to make is the target you want to hit. The target is key. If you’re going to use questions to make a point, then you must be clear in your mind on what point you want to make.” (Location: 1,431)

“In each of these situations, every time you ask a question and get a favorable response, your question accomplishes two things that a mere statement cannot. First, the person is telling you he understands the point. Second, he’s telling you he agrees with it, at least provisionally, and is taking a step forward with you in the thinking process.” (Location: 1,438)

Note:Getting agreement along the way will help us deal with the real issue (the target at which we are aiming). Thinking far enough ahead to ask the right questions is hard though!

“There are different ways this third use of Columbo works out in application. Generally, your leading questions will be used to inform, persuade, refute, or set up the terms of the discussion.” (Location: 1,447)

Here they are:






“If you are placed in a situation in which you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, use Columbo to turn the tables.” (Location: 1,488)

“You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views. So let me ask you a question first: do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person on issues like this? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for having convictions that differ from your own?” (Location: 1,492)

Note:I absolutely love this preface to a response. I need to use this more often because it helps both of us be honest.

“You’re intolerant.”

“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you think I’m an intolerant person?”

“Because it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. That’s intolerant.”

“Well, you’re right, I do think my views are correct. Of course, it’s always possible I’m mistaken, and we could talk about that if you like. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think your views are right?”2

“Yes, of course I think I’m right. But I’m not intolerant like you.”

“That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing here?”

Note:The intolerance of “tolerance” on display.

“The quickest way to deal with a personal attack is to simply point it out with a question. When someone goes after you rather than your argument, ask, “I’m a little confused at your response. Why did you change the subject? Even if you’re right about my character, could you explain to me what that has to do with this issue?”” (Location: 1,531)

“Since science only measures natural causes and effects, it’s not capable of ruling out supernatural causes, even in principle.” (Location: 1,582)

Note:As he will state later, you cannot prove that invisible men do not exist merely because you haven’t seen any. This is different than the Burden of Proof fallacy. That fallacy is when I say, “Invisible men do exist! You can’t prove they don’t exist, so they must!” Putting science in its rightful place is not the same. We are merely saying that science cannot measure what it cannot observe. The supernatural is, by definition, beyond nature and therefore not able to be measure within it. We need other tools in order to do that.


Note:The story that follows is a good example of asking questions instead of making assertions.

“Remember, an argument is like a house whose roof is supported by walls. In this step of Columbo, you want to find out whether the walls (the reasons or evidence) are strong enough to hold up the roof (the person’s point of view). Look, observe, reflect. Maybe your friend’s comments have tipped you off to some problem with his view. Is there a misstep, a non sequitur,14 a fallacy, or a failing of some sort? Can you challenge any underlying assumptions that might be faulty? Whatever flaw you discover, be sure to address the problem with a question, not a statement.” (Location: 1,659)

Note:This, for me, needs time. I need to listen, think, and then much later respond.

“We may spend hours helping someone carefully work through an issue without ever mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. This does not mean we aren’t advancing the kingdom. It is always a step in the right direction when we help others to think more carefully. If nothing else, it gives them tools to assess the bigger questions that eventually come up.” (Location: 1,679)

Note:This is loving our neighbor.

“One of the reasons this approach is so attractive is that it shows respect for the person you disagree with. First, you make an effort (with your first two Columbo questions) to understand her viewpoint. Next, you ask, “Do you mind if I ask a couple of questions about what you’ve told me?” or, “Would you consider an alternative or be willing to look at another angle if there were good reasons for it?” By soliciting permission to disagree, you make the encounter more amicable. You also stay in the driver’s seat.” (Location: 1,719)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“If you come to the end of yourself and wonder if there’s help and are surprised to find yourself at times hoping for a grace from beyond, it’s a sign that grace is already at work. Keep asking. You don’t have to believe in order to ask. Here’s the thing: You can ask for help believing too. Wanting help is its own nascent trust. The desire for grace is the first grace. Coming to the end of your self-sufficiency is the first revelation.” (Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine)

“Reading the greats ought to breed modesty, and he who spends time with these giants should sense what a clod he is. The reality, though, is that even the vaguest familiarity with a celebrity can induce the most cockeyed egotism.” (Reeves, Theologians You Should Know)

“…ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening. This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 6


Summary:When we get into conversations with others where we feel overwhelmed or manipulated, there are some tactics we can use which will help us have a more profitable conversation and charitable ending.

“The approach rarely works, because it violates a fundamental rule of engagement: never make a frontal assault on a superior force in an entrenched position. An unwritten law of nature seems to govern exchanges like these: the man with the microphone wins.” (Location: 1,285)

Note:The Professor’s Ploy is to switch the burden of proof on the student and demand a defense before the student has even voiced an opinion.

“There’s a better way. Don’t disengage. Instead use your tactics. Raise your hand and ask a question. For starters, you might ask, “Professor, can you give us a little more detail on what you mean? What kind of fable are you talking about? Do you think nothing in the biblical documents has any historical value? Is everything in the book a fanciful invention of some sort? What’s your opinion?” Notice that these are all creative variations of our first Columbo question, “What do you mean by that?”” (Location: 1,288)

“Instead when you find yourself facing any form of the you-prove-me-wrong challenge, politely shift the burden back where it belongs—on the person who made the claim.” (Location: 1,309)

Note:Again going back to, “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“The Professor’s Ploy is the attempt any person makes to shift the burden of proof for his claim onto someone else. The professor (in this case) demands that students defend views they have not expressed, sidestepping his own responsibility to give an account of his beliefs.” (Location: 1,316)

“Do not be afraid to question your professors. Challenge them on your terms, though, not theirs. And do it with grace, respect, and tact. You don’t have to be the expert on every subject. You don’t have to have all the answers. You can still be effective even when you know very little, if you ask the right questions.” (Location: 1,318)

“When you feel overmatched and overwhelmed in a conversation, immediately shift from persuasion mode to fact-finding mode. Don’t continue to argue your case. Instead, using your first two Columbo questions, become a student of the other person’s view by asking for clarification and for reasons.” (Location: 1,342)

Note:This is how we “Get out of the hot seat”

“Many people you talk to will struggle when you turn the tables by asking them to give evidence for their claims or by using questions to expose their bad thinking. When a person has not thought much about his assertions, avoiding your questions may be his only recourse. He may try to change the subject or reassert his point in other ways. When this happens, it may be helpful for you to narrate the debate. Take a moment to step outside of the conversation, in a sense, and describe to your friend the turn the discussion has just taken. This will help him (and others listening) to see how he’s gotten off course.” (Location: 1,380)

Note:Narrating the debate both helps me and the others remain honest.

“When you’re dealing with an evasive or intellectually dishonest person, don’t let him get off the hook by dodging the issues or distorting the argument. Narrating the debate keeps the other person honest while keeping the conversation cordial. Encourage him to clarify himself. Call him on any false moves he’s made. Forcing him to face the music may be the first step toward a change of mind, either his or that of others listening.” (Location: 1,404)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 5

Chapter 5 COLUMBO STEP 2 Reversing the Burden of Proof

Summary:An argument needs reasons, otherwise it is just an opinion. Giving the other individual the benefit of the doubt, we should ask what reasons they have for making their argument. “How did you come to that conclusion?” Is a way to both understand better someone’s argument, but also to free myself from being burdened to respond to every opinion that someone makes.

“There is a difference between an opinion and an argument. An opinion is just a point of view. An argument, by contrast, is a point of view supported by reasons” (Location: 1,094)

“It’s not your job to refute every story a skeptic can spin or every claim he can manufacture. If he makes the claim, then it’s his responsibility to give reasons why anyone should take his claim seriously. Don’t allow yourself to be thrust into a defensive position if you’re not advancing a view.” (Location: 1,107)

Note:I get caught in this all the time. It isn’t my job, and it isn’t loving either. I need to be willing to listen to their reasoning, or let them see that they have no reasons.

“These stories often have great rhetorical power. They have the ability to psychologically unsettle you and undermine your confidence in your point of view. But every story has to be put to the test. Critics need to have more than a good imagination. They need reasons. That’s the way arguments work.” (Location: 1,136)

“An argument is a specific kind of thing. Think of an argument like a simple house, a roof supported by walls. The roof is the conclusion, and the walls are the supporting ideas. By testing the walls, we can see whether they are strong enough to keep the roof from tumbling down. If the walls are solid, the conclusion (the roof) rests securely on its supporting structure. If the walls collapse, the roof goes flat and the argument is defeated.” (Location: 1,139)

Note:This is an excellent metaphor, and might be helpful even drawing it out in my mind while I am listening or evaluating an argument.

“I frequently get calls on my radio show/podcast from people who think they are giving me an argument, when all they are doing is forcefully stating a view. This move may sound compelling at first, and their story may even seem plausible. But there is a difference between giving an explanation and giving evidence why the explanation is a good one. Your job is to recognize when the roof is lying flat on the ground and simply point it out.” (Location: 1,151)

“How do you reverse the burden of proof when the other person is making the claim? You do it Columbo style—with a question. Here it is: “How did you come to that conclusion?”4 This question effectively shifts the burden of proof onto the challenger, where it belongs.” (Location: 1,156)

Note:Such a simple question, but so helpful!

“The first Columbo question helps you know what a person thinks. The second question helps you know why he thinks the way he does. It charitably assumes he has actually come to a conclusion, that he has reasons for his view and not merely strong feelings about it.” (Location: 1,165)

“There are three questions you should always ask whenever someone offers an alternate explanation: Is it possible? Is it plausible? Is it probable?” (Location: 1,202)

Note:These are good to keep in mind. Just because I disagree with something, does not mean it isn’t possible. I can grant that position without having to change mine.

“Reversing the burden of proof is not a trick to avoid defending our ideas. When we give opinions, we have to answer for them, just like anyone else. We have a responsibility, but so do they.” (Location: 1,224)

Note:This is convicting. If I am not able to demonstrate the reasons for my belief, why would I expect that from others?