The Catholic Review of Books

Jacek Bacz
Assembling the Great Puzzle

Book review by Colin Kerr

THIS a surprisingly good book. I say ‘surprisingly’ because a theologian like me would like to believe that an engineer, as Bacz is by trade, would not be able to write well about God.

On the contrary. One of the chief virtues of this book lies precisely in what one might stereotype as ‘left brained’ excellence: orderly thinking and presentation. For a book about the reasonableness of the Faith, these qualities seem in the order of things. But having said that, it hasn’t the choppy feel that one associates with logical argumentation.

Bacz’s argument for the reasonableness of the Faith is full of the genius of the Catholic philosophical tradition, which, interestingly, he doesn’t spoil with endless citations and irrelevant arguments from authority, as so many religious writers tend to do.

An admirable work of philosophical thinking, it yet possesses all the authenticity of a personal account. The author lets us in on how he reasoned himself out of atheism and into faith. A great number of people could profit from this book. Bacz isn’t someone who tolerates cheap solutions in order to gain religious comfort. But because he ended up where he did, he is able to provide a roadmap for others. I would say that this book is suited for the most stubborn atheist who believes he is firmly committed to reason. You come across of lot of people with pretensions like this on the internet! Share this book with as many of them as might comprehend it.

His arguments aren’t fool-proof – that is a fact he firmly acknowledges. In fact, he says, that is impossible, not just in order to gain faith, but in life as a whole. One cannot ‘figure out’ God (or any other aspect of life) by means of a mathematical equation. It is eminently reasonable and logical to acknowledge the limits of reason, he tells us. Nevertheless, this book is able to move anyone away from that simplistic view of faith that sees it as something extraneous to human experience. His arguments are not, for the most part, original to him. His genius lies in his ability to synthesize the Catholic philosophical tradition and to put it into a quite readable and effective presentation. He deftly integrates the great insights of Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, Chesterton, Lewis among others. His primary image of Faith as a jigsaw puzzle is a good one. He believes that the truth is something that must be assembled from a great number of independent insights and experiences. And it is a positive movement: faith doesn’t close life in on itself, but opens it up to broader, happier and more rational horizons.

I would encourage readers who are, or who know people who are, preoccupied with an overly rationalistic understanding of life, to read this book. I have someone in mind with whom I’d like to share it.

I congratulate the new publisher, Justin Press, on bringing this book to the reading public. As it is the first time we have reviewed a Justin Press book, I should add that the quality of the binding and the print are first-rate.