We typically pray about how to write a proper review of any book before we start to write the review, no matter what the subject of the book. When we read Is Heaven a Place?: Making Sense of Biblical Stories in the Twenty-first Century by Richard B. Fratianne, MD, and started to write this review, we prayed even more and harder.
It appears that when Fratianne started out to write this book, his intentions were to suggest that his church, the Catholic Church, needed to change the way they presented certain parts of the Bible to make them more relevant to our modern society.
We, David and Suzanne, are both Protestant, from Protestant backgrounds. I, David, was raised as a Southern Baptist in a Bible-believing church. That is, every word of the Holy Bible is literally true.
Suzanne is from a Holiness background. The holiness church is also Bible-believing. For us, every word of the Bible is literally true. The parables that Jesus used to teach were not based upon any particular person or event, just meant as illustrations.
We have read our Bibles all the way through several times over. We have read different translations in order to have a better understanding. At no point did we believe that Adam and Eve did not actually eat the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. It appears that whatever translation of the Bible Fratianne uses only calls it the Tree of Knowledge and leaves off the part of Good and Evil.
It just so happens that this time around in reading the Bible, I am using our oldest daughter’s Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, which is a Catholic Bible. We looked back at the account of Adam and Eve in this version and it refers to the tree as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad. The author makes his case based upon the name of the tree as the Tree of Knowledge. He then bases his narrative of the fruit ingestion on this name.
Our big problem in reviewing this book is that we are Protestant and he is Catholic speaking about things within the Catholic Church. When he speaks of Moses, he speaks of things that we have never heard of. How can we judge him based upon things that aren’t in our Bible and we have not yet read them in the Catholic Bible, when they may be taught as part of the Catholic faith?
Our reading of all the versions of the Bible we have encountered show that Moses fled Egypt as a young man because he had killed an Egyptian who was physically mistreating a Hebrew slave. Pharaoh found out about this killing and was going to kill Moses because of it.
When Fratianne tells us about Moses leaving Egypt, he tells the story differently from how we learned it in Sunday School and also differently from how it is in any of the Bibles we have consulted. He tells us that Moses was kicked out of Egypt for proclaiming his Jewish heritage. He was supposedly cast out into the desert with one day’s worth of water and a walking stick.
He tells us that the Burning Bush was not an actual event, but how Moses told Sarah that when we was there, he saw the bush “As if” it was burning and not being consumed. We have no idea who this particular Sarah is because Moses’ wife at the time was Zipporah. Moses may or may not have married again later on, but we are not told this. The author does not say this Sarah is Moses’ wife, but then, who is she? Abraham’s wife was Sarah, but she lived over 400 years earlier. It is not likely that this is the Sarah Moses was talking to.
If nothing else, Fratianne caused us to have some in depth discussions about the Bible and sent us back to study the scriptures even harder.
After reading the take that Fratianne has on the feeding of the 5,000, I began to see that perhaps he meant that things that did actually occur were ALSO metaphors for other things. That things did actually happen, but the telling of the story is also meant to tell us something else.
Overall, it appears that the author paints a picture of the Catholic church that has adopted practices that would be very much like that of the Pharisees from Jesus’ time on earth. By that I mean that the church has added things that are not in the Bible. Nowhere in our reading of the Bible do we find that sexual relations between a husband and a wife are a sin. In fact, there are a few places in the Bible where we are told not to withhold that type of intimacy from our spouse. We are told that sex outside of wedlock is a sin.
From what I gather from reading this book, Catholics are taught that they are born as the result of a sinful act and therefore a baby must be baptised to atone for a sinful life. Perhaps this is one of the things Dr. Fratianne believes should be adjusted in the Catholic teaching.
I learned a lot while reading Is Heaven a Place? I don’t agree with some of the ideas of the author, but I would have to say he presents his case well for what he does believe. The book is very readable and easy to understand what the author is trying to say. I would like to see more scripture reference with a note about what version of the Bible the author used.
Overall, we would recommend this book with the caveat that the reader should be very well grounded in their faith before reading this book.
This author is a medical doctor. It would seem that if one were unfortunate enough to need the medical services this doctor provides (he deals in critical burn cases),one could not find a better doctor to have. We all need to know that our medical care team leader is a Christian who has learned the true meaning of servant leadership. Our hats are off to Dr. Fratianne.
We were sent a complimentary copy of this book. We are under no obligation to write any review, positive or negative.
We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
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