September 2003By Thomas Ellis
One Shepherd, One Flock. By Oliver Barres. Catholic Answers (888-291-8000). 197 pages. $12.95.
Speaking of the drastic measures needed to reform the Church, Martin Luther quipped, A twig can be cut with a bread knife, but an oak calls for an ax. In One Shepherd, One Flock, Oliver Barres, a Protestant minister who converted to Catholicism, emphatically replies, The oak still stands. Far from being a simple conversion story, this beautifully written book is an exceptional testament to the reasonableness of the Catholic Faith. Steeped in Protestant tradition and tied intimately to his congregation, Barres kept a journal of his questions, defenses, and difficulties regarding Protestantism, the Catholic Faith, and the very nature of faith itself. These ruminations, making up the pre-conversion part of the book aptly entitled Threshold Thoughts, reveal a man of deep faith whose search for the truth forced him to question the tradition in which he had grown up.
The lack of unity among the Christian churches measured by the unity Christ promised His Church is what drew Barress gaze Romeward. An eyewitness to the General Councils of the Congregational Church, he saw firsthand how the lack of an infallible spokesman results in innumerable brands of indefinite nothingness passing as faith, even among the well intentioned. Though these two factors attracted Barres to the Catholic Faith, there were also stumbling blocks along the road, such as the full meaning of Mary as Theotokos, as well as practical concerns regarding his family and congregation. These difficulties are given full resolution in the post-conversion part of the book, Catholicism or Chaos, written as an explanation to his Protestant friends of why he had to enter the flock of the Roman shepherd. This section is a tremendous piece of apologetics sure to sway others standing on the threshold, and buttressing the faith of those already in the fold.