By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition
Editorial Reviews

Thoughtful and accessible....The argument presents in a congenial and interesting way the need for evangelicals to consider both the catholic and the Catholic tradition. - First Things


In By What Authority?, Shea gives a lively, engaging account of the issue that led him from evangelical Protestantism into the Roman Catholic Church.... The arguments are remarkably simple, and they are persuasive. Shea states emphatically that he does "not think it necessary or desirable to repudiate my Evangelical roots in order to embrace Sacred Tradition," and his book is free of the unfair and overstated rhetoric that is often to be found in books of this type. - Touchstone


Luminous... Shea writes with considerable skill and wit. From start to finish, reading this book is a breeze. Given the tough and profound issues that Shea treats, plus the degree of difficulty in debating them fairly, attentive readers will gratefully give his writing style some very high scores.

Another strength of the book is its timeliness, especially in view of the much publicized Jesus Seminar, whose members (Crossan, Funk, etc.) have all become media sensations by employing a fundamentalist style of liberal exegesis (call it "hysterical criticism") in order to reject as inauthentic the vast majority of sayings attributed to Jesus by the evangelists— to which Shea responds with gentle yet forceful persuasion. But the thing I like most about this book is the crystal clear and compelling case that Shea makes— on the basis of logic, history and Scripture— for sacred ("big T") Tradition. It is simply the best that I have found. - Dr. Scott Hahn, Associate Professor of Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville


This book deals with the most important of all religious questions between Protestants and Catholics. It is the most valuable book on apologetics written this decade. - Steve Wood, Family Life Center International


This book is no "tasty meal"—it's a fully stocked giganto supermarket loaded with enough theological meat and potatoes to feed an army of apologists. Shea has accomplished what every author dreams of: to produce the book on a given subject. Shea moves smoothly from one Protestant objection to another, making the case for Tradition using Scripture, Church history, and impeccable logic. The tone is charitable and calm, with just the right amount of humor tossed in to make it a fun as well as informative read. Don't miss this one. - Patrick Madrid, Envoy Magazine


Mark's Shea's By What Authority? is an exceptionally lucid and readable work of Catholic apologetics that deals better than anything I've ever read with not just one but two serious challenges to faith: the modernist absurdities of the Jesus Seminar and its systematic undermining of the veracity of Scripture; and the sincerely held but destructively one-dimensional "Bible only" thinking of Protestant Evangelicalism. In response to both, Shea reasons powerfully to the extra-biblical authority of Sacred Tradition as a depository and source of Revelation side by side with the Bible, to which it testifies and which it interprets with authority. The book is an important service to Catholics, Evangelicals, and all those seeking a firm grounding for faith. - Russell Shaw, Knights of Columbus


This is not just another book of Catholic apologetics. This is one written by a real human being, not a committee of scholars. It's not only a good think; it's also a good read. Concrete, clear, compelling arguments. - Peter Kreeft


This book illuminates the nature of religious authority—perhaps the central issue dividing Catholics and Protestants. Catholics will be drawn to it as an explanation and defense of Tradition and authority. People who are wrestling with the issue personally—both Catholic and Protestant—will benefit from it. - Jim Manney, New Covenant


I especially wish I had written the chapter on "blind alleys"— the nine wrong ways to determine which books are canonical. Shea pulverizes all the attempts to escape from an appeal to Sacred Tradition. His arguments are . . . clear and convincing. - Karl Keating, Catholic Answers

Reader Reviews

I have more than a 150 books, tapes and in-depth tracts on religious apologetics; a 1/3 by Catholics, 1/3 by Protestants and a 1/3 by converts to Catholicism. If I was required to surrender all of them, save but one, it would be this one: By What Authority? by Mark Shea. It is above all both convincing, and compelling. It is gentle on the unbeliever yet firm in showing our obligations to give primacy to the Truth of the One who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life", as opposed to our own preconceived agendas. It leads you step by step that is pleasing and interesting (like a brotherly conversation) to both those who are logical as well as those who live their religious beliefs by feelings alone. For those who wish to find the truth and the True Religion in the smorgasbord of religious denominations and sects (30,000 and counting), Mark truly gives us the path to follow. When you are done reading it, you can't help but see the sweet harmony that exists between the Church's Bible (the Witness of light for the faith), the Sacred Tradition (the lens explaining and giving full flesh to the truth of the witness), and the Church which is judge and preserver of the truth. Without the teaching Church and Sacred Tradition of which Paul praises, we end up in the scandalous quagmire of "Bible Only" interpretations which have done so much to dismantle Christendom's attraction for all unbelievers who now gloat over our fundamental disagreements as to God's Truth. Besides my own copy (which is glutted with marker clips and highlightings), I have given this book to many religious foes of Catholicism, and asked them to return it if they find it unconvincing. None have come back to me so far. This book will save many a truth - hungry soul and may Mark's own soul be saved as he has saved so many. - Thomas M.


A true pleasure to read, Mark Shea writes about his movement toward "completing" his Evangelicalism through Catholic Tradition. Throughout his ordeal with Modernist doctrine, he reasons through his difficulties with Tradition using logic and wit. Shea deals with some pretty weighty theological conflicts, yet presents complex arguments with admirable ease and charm. Whether you agree with him or not, Shea offers reasoning that deserves serious consideration for anyone searching for the truth. One of the best of its kind! - Ken


I was very impressed and would recommend this book to any Protestant (especially Evangelicals) to become acquainted with Tradition and learn why it is necessary for any guarantee of the truth of Our Lord's revelation. For Catholics it will help in learning to explain this topic to Protestants from someone (Mark Shea) whom I believe discusses this topic better than anyone else currently writing today. - Shawn M.


As a (very likely ex-) Protestant, I found this book extremely useful because the author describes how and why he accepted the Catholic Faith using terms that are understandable to the Protestant reader. Shea also knows what Catholic Beliefs and Traditions present problems for Protestants and carefully takes the reader through his own process of reconciling himself to such Beliefs and Traditions. The bulk of this book consists of Shea arguing with himself and he invites the reader to listen in. I especially recommend this book to the Protestant who thinks he knows everything there is to know about Catholicism (especially why he doesn't embrace it). I also recommend the book to the Catholic so that he/she can see the types of doubts and questions that arise when Protestants contemplate entry into the Church. - A Reader from Maryland


This is a fairly small book, but it packs a powerful punch. At the same time, Shea's writing style is always lucid and friendly, and manages to be humorous without making Protestants feel like they're the enemy (as unfortunately too many Catholic Apologetics books do at times). Shea manages to keep things friendly without pulling back from his main and very well constructed argument that Sacred Scripture makes no sense without the support of Sacred Tradition. I personally know many people who have found the argument the book presents compelling enough to bring them into the Catholic Church, or to solidly buttress questions they had about their Catholic faith. - Michael L.


Mark Shea writes for the non-theologian. There's a lot of information in this relatively small tome. The only down side might be to encourage laziness in me. Instead of defending the role of Tradition in my faith walk, I often hand them Mark's book, and say "Here! Read this!" Mark's positive way of stating his faith without bad-mouthing others is one of the book's most attractive features. I'm looking forward to more from this author. - Mike D.


Mark Shea's clever and at times witty examination of the authority of Catholic tradition is a book I turn to again and again in my conversations with others and in my writing. A former Evangelical, Shea sets out to disprove reliance on Catholic Sacred Tradition for authority. He is unable to. His research and well-reasoned arguments make a solid case against the Evangelical argument of Scripture alone, and a solid case for Sacred Tradition as expressed by the Catholic Church. This book is short and easy to read. It is meant for the lay person, not the theologian. - Tim D.


The book is very well written and easy to follow. Shea's style has been compared - rightly I believe, to C.S. Lewis. I witnessed someone close to myself completely change his attitude against Catholicism after reading this book. There is much food for thought here for both Protestants and Catholics. - Patrick T.


As is stated often in other reviews of this book, this is not an exhaustive treatment of the Roman Catholic expression of faith, but it offers a compelling argument. As a stubborn Protestant, I approached it warily but good-naturedly. I have read many such books— Thomas Howard, Dr. Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, David Currie being among the best— and have had my anti-Catholic bias uprooted, which is a good thing. If for no other reason than that— the increase of understanding and renewal of fellowship between Catholics and Protestants— I recommend this book without reservation. The questions it raised— e.g. "If Tradition, then why Scripture in the first place?"—helped me to seek new depths in my own approach to our great faith. Recommended. - Tom P.


This was one of the first books I read in my journey that eventually led me to realize the Catholic Church was for me. As a Protestant all my life I needed a reasoned approach to the question of biblical authority and tradition. I would consider this invaluable for any person needing this information. - Keith C.


Of course this isn't an exhaustive review of the Authority issue (there are dozens of excellent books on this subject) but rather an account of the author's odyssey from 'sola scriptura' to full communion with the universal church, and the outlines of his struggle to find deeper truth. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and recommended. I've already ordered Shea's next book. - Arthur W.

Copyright 2001 - Mark P. Shea