I can’t remember which author wrote extensively about “Theology for Beginners” by Frank Sheed but whoever it was, I am grateful because he/she inspired me to get a copy and read this apologetic classic for myself.
The underlying theme of the book is answering the question why the laity should study theology. In fact chapter 1 is entitled “Why Learn Theology?” but I do not suggest you start there. Instead, I would suggest reading the epilogue first and then return to chapter 1.
Much of the content of the epilogue is from an address Sheed gave at the Second World Congress for the Lay Apostolate in October 1957. It is an excellent motivation speech to encourage study of basic theology among the laity not for the purpose of becoming theologians or even apologetists. His reasons can be boiled down to this statement:
For this [lay person speaking to lay person about basic Christian truth] the layman must be equipped, above all with the truths about God and the soul and the next life and Christ Our Lord. It is not necessary that he should be trained in argument, able to prove the existence of God, for instance, or the spirituality of the soul. What is essential is that he know what the truths themselves mean, and what difference they make; and not only know these things, but be able to utter them.
Many who oppose the reforms of Vatican II claim that the Church was better taught the basic truths of our faith prior to 1962; however, Sheed writes in 1957 that “too many laymen do not know these great truths well enough to utter them even badly.” Perhaps the good old days were not that good after all.
To be the basic Christians that Jesus called us to become in Matthew 28:19-20, we must have a clear understanding of the basic facts about what it means to be a Christian.
For your own basic understanding of the faith and to help you in answering the call of the New Evangelization, I highly recommend this book. Do take your time with the text. While not as dense as Pope Benedict XVI, this is not a book to rush through.