This is an abbreviated list of books on Catholicism that I've found helpful in my journey from Evangelicalism to Catholicism. They are sorted by categories that may be of some help, although the categories overlap a great deal.
In a nutshell I have always thought Christianity to be the most reasoned and logical approach to why humans are here and why the universe we perceived exits. The classic atheistic position, "There is no God," in it's simple declarative form, demands an omniscient mind to state it. And since no man is omniscient, no man can make such a statement. Atheism is therefore, before you ever leave the box, untenable and just plain stupid.
The arguments for the existence of God are varied, but the best for me is the simplest. Calculate the mathematical probability for the creation of any single living creature, by something other than a benevolent designer that exists in dimensions beyond what we can perceive, and you'll not be able to fit the zeros on a sheet of paper. See the Hugh Ross books below. Or better still see his website: Reasons to Believe (***Ross claims to be Evangelical Protestant, but his analytical way of thinking is Cahtolic in nature.***)
The arguments for Christianity explain the reason for life, suffering, joy, and death from a perspective that is outside the visible three dimensions of space and a zero dimension of time (3D-0T) universe we live in. All other religious and philosophical systems work only from within the known universe. The laws of casual relations demand something outside to create and maintain, not something from within.
The arguments for Catholicism (vs. Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and spurious groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormonism) for me are logically consistent with and anchored in ancient Judaism, and the writings of the first-third century Christians. These writings consist first of the cannon of Holy Scriptures, and the very first commentaries on Christian doctrine written by the men who were discipled by the Apostles and their immediate successors, that is: The Early Church Fathers. I have yet to find a distinctive Protestant doctrine that can logically stand without contradicting Scripture and the teachings of these men who knew the Apostles personally.
All of this is explained in the books listed here...and this is a severely abbreviated list.
Science and Faith
MODERN PHYSICS AND ANCIENT FAITH by Stephen M. Barr. University of Notre Dame Press, 2003.
Some of my writing deals with the integration of Christian mysticism and the mysteries of science. So, I gravitate to books like this and those below which attempt to explain how science (a creation by God) is imbued in the theology of Christianity (man's explanation of God). I have never found any conflict between the Bible and Nature. I'm not sure there can be any conflict between them, if they both came from the same source...God. But there is conflict between theology and science, because those are human disciplines that attempt to explain (fallibly) the former concepts. Thus, there is a lot of mystery. I would expect this since what humans know of the university is minute compated to what exists. Our understanding of reality is null, in a relative sense. The mysteries of quantum theory(the "modern physics" here refered to) reveal that there is something very unique about human beings which is far beyond the materialism claimed by some "atheistic" scientists.
BEYOND THE COSMOS: The Extra-Dimensionality of God Hugh Ross, Ph.D. NavPress/Reasons To Belieeve, 1996.
One of my favorites. This is the book that opened my mind to the 10-dimensions of String Theory and how some of those dimentions allow God to understand temporal time as boundless eternity. This led me to conceptualize some of those dimensions as "moral" dimensions that are inextricably linked to natural law. Simply put: taking action contrary to natural law is the physics explantion of what the theologians call "sin." Ross is very easy to read, and although I have only read about six of his books, I don't hestiate to recommend anything he's written. Go to Reasons to Believe
GALILEO's DAUGHTER: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. by Dava Sobel. Penguin Books, 2000.
This explains the conflcit Gallileo had with the Catholic Church. This book fully engaged me with both theology and science....again, no conflict except where men don't understand or commit logical or linguistic fallacies. From the cover I don't hesitate to agree: "Sobel is a master sotryteller...." (she is also the author of "Longitude" which is the story of the first chronolgraphs that allowed safe ocean naviation.) "Deftly weaving dense historical detail with the warm, earnest and solicitous writings of a loving daugter (who was a nun).
CHAOS: Making a New Science by James Gleick. Penguin Books, 1988.
This is the "proof" book (it really does prove) that there is no such thing as randomness. What appears to be choas are actually intricate, orderly patterns of nature. It answers the question "In a universe ruled by entropy, drawing inexorably toward greater and greater disorder, how does order arise?" Indeed!!! Another good reference to this topic is mathematics professor Marcus du Sautoy's BBC documentary series THE CODE available on Netflix.
Easy to Follow Catholic Apologetics
A Biblical Defense of Catholicism Dave Armstrong. Sophia Institute Press, 2003
The title says it all. Dave now has two additional books out that expand this book. Tremendous bibliography. Dave takes the position of a layman, not formally trained in theology, and takes the Bible at face value comparing it to the teachings of Protestantism and Catholicism.
Why Do Catholics Do That? A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church . Kevin Orline Johnson. Ballantine.
This was one of the first books I read about Catholicism that peaked my interest. After reading the chapter on where the Rosary came from, I thought "That makes perfect sense. Why don't all Christians pray the Rosary? This book really opened my eyes to some of the strange beliefs of the Catholics...strange until I saw the history and logic behind them. Then it was the Protestants that were strange.
By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition. Mark P. Shea. Our Sunday Visitor Books.
The most complete and yet shortest treatment of what makes Catholicism unique and true. A good section is a discussion of those Evangelical doctrines that cannot be found in Scripture, although Evangelicals "claim" to hold to Sola Scriptura - the Bible Alone.
Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs. Alan Schreck. Servant Publications.
In short fashion deals with Salvation, the origin of Catholic beliefs, What is the Church, Leadership and Authority, The Pope, The Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, The Communion of Saints, Mary, and Man's Destiny in Christ.
Why Do Catholics Genuflect? And Answers to Other Puzzling Questions About the Catholic Church . Al Kresta. Servant Publications.
Loaded with historic and Scriptural references, written by my good friend and host of the Catholic Radio program Kresta in the Afternoon.
Life is Worth Living: 25 audio cassettes of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen teaching the catechism from his office studio. Available from St. Joseph Communications, Inc. Phone: 1-800-526-2151.
Fabulous to listen to in the car, although the recordings are taken off of vinyl records, and a bit scratchy. Great stories; clear, wonderful mind; clear Catholic teachings.
Any Friend of God's Is a Friend of Mine: A Biblical and historical explanation of the Catholic doctrine of the communion of Saints. Patrick Madrid. Basilica Press.
When you get done with this, you'll say, "Of course, it's obvious! Why didn't I think of that as Protestant?
Surprised by Truth: Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic. Edited by Patrick Madrid. Basilica Press.
Great overview from a variety of perspectives
Surprised by Truth 2: 15 men and women give the Biblical and historic reasons for becoming Catholic. Edited by Patrick Madrid. Sophia Institute Press.
I think there is a Surprised by Truth 3, as well.
Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism. Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Ignatius.
One day when Scott was teaching theology to a Presbyterian graduate seminary class, a student asked him, "Where in the Bible is Sola Scriptura?" Scott threw off the question, but later it haunted him. Sola Scriptura taught that only the Bible can dictate doctrine...including this doctrine that is the cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation. This tells the story of what happened.
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historic Church. Stephen K. Ray. Ignatius.
There are more footnotes and citations in this book than regular text. Stephen, is a close friend. He was a Baptist, and great Bible teacher. When his friend Al Kresta converted to Catholicism, Steve began to challenge Al. But it was Steve who was to discover the truth of historic Christianity.
Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament. Thomas Howard. Ignatius.
Howard has some of the deepest Evangelical roots in America. His sister is Elizabeth Elliot, wife of slain missionary Jim Elliot, and author. His grandfather and father edited the published the Sunday School Times for nearly 100 years. But Howard, an English professor, longed for something more.
Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome. Thomas Howard. Franciscan University Press
A short version of Howard's journey from Protestant Fundamentalism, through Anglicanism, into the Catholic Church
My Journey to Catholicism: Sheldon Cohen. Sheldon Cohen. Assisting Christians to Act (ACTA) Publications, Chicago.
Sheldon Cohen, for many years the assistant music conductor for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, combines his Catholic faith with his musical talent to produce religious music and best-selling devotional tapes. Before this journey, Shelly was the vice-president of his Jewish temple in New Jersey. After his conversion he was the choir director at his Catholic church in California.
The Catholic Study Bible: New American Bible. Pub. By Oxford
570-page Readers Guide, many notes and maps. Yes, it's a complete Bible.
The Catechism of the Catholic church: Second Edition - Hard Back. The Vatican.
An $8 version in paperback is available in most good bookstores. This edition was commissioned by Pope John Paul II and is the first attempt at bringing together Catholic doctrine for Americans in many decades. But, in fact, the original commission of this document was Jesus Christ when he said the Apostles "I give you the keys to the Kingdom. What you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, what you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven." Mt. 16:19; 18:18 AND "I have much to tell you now but you cannot bear it. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to ALL truth." John 16:12-13. In Protestantism individuals take it upon themselves to interpret not only the Bible, but to establish Christian doctrine and practice that cannot be found in the Bible or in Early Church history. That is why there are over 30,000 different Protestant sects today. There is NO authority. But in Catholicism the authority comes from Christ to the Apostles and to their successors through the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit. NO OTHER CHURCH CAN CLAIM THESE VERSES OR AN INFALLIBLE TEACHING EXCEPT CATHOLICISM. The Catechism, therefore, while compiled by men, is the infallible commission of Christ to the church to keep its doctrine, law, practice, and devotion in order and of ONE mind.
Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments, Third Edition. T. Edward Damer. Wadsworth
Although Damer is not Catholic, he uses many Christian examples in this text used in secular universities.
A Dictionary of Philosophy: Revised Second Edition. Antony Flew. St. Martin's Press.
Comprehensive mini encyclopedia of just about every known religion and philosophy, with comparisons and cross reference.
The Oxford Dictionary of POPES J.N.D. Kelly. Oxford University Press
Names, dates, biographies of every pope in order, through John Paul II. There's even an Appendix on the fantastic legend of Pope Joan. Great Index.
The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley J. Ernest Rattenbury. OSL Publications.
It is true that the communion elements of today's Protestant Churches are only symbolic. But this is not true of the Catholic Eucharist. (See John 6, and my essay on this elsewhere on this website.) Modern Protestants know this and so they make no claim to have the true body and blood of Christ when celebrating the Lord's Supper. But many Reformers recognized the Scriptural and historic teaching about the Real Presence. And this book provides evidence that John and Charles Wesley believed it too.
Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. Mark A. Noll. Inter-Varsity Press.
After reading this book by Evangelical historian Noll (Wheaton College professor), I wondered why he wasn't Catholic. I wrote and asked. His answer was, "my reasons for being Evangelical and entirely personal." A quote from his book: "Differences of scriptural interpretation, in sum, affected Protestant teaching on almost all major issues: the meaning of the Lord's supper and baptism...what was required in order to have sins forgiven after baptism, etc."...if Scripture is the final authority is it strictly speaking the only authority? (p. 193).
A Short History of Christianity: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. Martin Marty. Fortress Press
Marty is a Lutheran who does not have a great deal of respect for the Catholic Church. But I am including it in this list, because his history of Christianity reveals things that actually support the Catholic Claim and undermine Protestantism. His coverage, especially of Luther's run-in with Pope Leo X is revealing, and one wonders at Luther's audacity to start another church, or even for Marty to be Lutheran. Here's a sample quote: "The Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura [Scripture alone] is fraught with the difficulty that the Scriptura has never been Sola.
Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II.George Weigel. Harper Collins.
A 1000 pages of hope, history, and holiness.
The Imitation of Christ Thomas A Kempis. Multiple Publishers (but make sure the edition has all four "books".
Protestants embrace most of the first three "books" of this masterpiece, but they conveniently ignore the fourth book, which describes the source of A Kempis' power for achieving first three.
On Being Catholic Thomas Howard. Ignatius.
The English professors deeper look into Catholicism after his conversion. The book's chapters take the form of lay meditations on Catholic teaching and practice, opening up in practical and simple terms the richness at work in virtually every detail of Catholic prayer, piety, liturgy and experience.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Ignatius of Loyola. Multiple translations and publications. A favorite is the translation by Louis J. Puhl, S.J. available from Loyola University Press.
The spirituality of a great many religious orders (Ignatian Spirituality) is based upon the spiritual exercises in this book. To fully master it, requires years and the guidance of a spiritual director. Many Protestants as well as Catholic lay, religious and ordained make annual retreats to review and practice these exercises that parallel the concepts of physical exercise.
The Confessions of St. Augustine St. Augustine. Many translations and publishers.
Intimate, dramatic autobiography.
Theology and Sanity: What is Truth?. Frank Sheed. Ignatius
My favorite theologian to read. Logical and reasoned. Clear, critical thinking.
Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. R.C. Sproul. Baker Book House.
I love this book for several reasons, but not for the reasons the author intends. First, when I ask a Protestant to defend the doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith Alone) using the Bible Alone..they cannot, and they refer to other Protestant writers like this book from Sproul.
Second. Sproul does the same thing, in this book. He thinks he makes points by quoting the "infallible" Calvin and Luther...two reformers that couldn't agree on where to meet for lunch, let alone doctrine. He doesn't quote the Early Fathers, and he selectively quotes the Trent documents where Sola Fide is repudiated in nearly two dozen ways. Sproul picks a selective Trent statement and then misrepresents it. It's easy to marginalize Catholicism when you don't understand it, can't explain it , or choose not to.
Third, Sproul misquotes Catholic doctrine, again setting up a false strawman, and attacking it. Stupid tactic. It only works with uninformed readers...which most of his readers are. What am I referring to? This: The fly leaf of this book says, "Saving faith justifies sinful humans before God, say the New Testament and historic Protestant teaching. And justifying faith, a work of God's grace and individual merit, gives saving faith, adds the Roman Catholic Church."
Notice, he doesn't say, historic "Church" teaching, or teachings of the "Early Church Fathers." Where's Chuck Barris and his Gong Show when you need him? The church does not teach anywhere that the original event of justification has ANYTHING to do with individual merit. It teaches just the opposite. GONG! And, the Roman Catholic church didn't ADD anything here, it was the Protestants that SUBTRACTED something...like the teachings of Christ beginning with the Sermon the Mount where salvation through faith isn't mentioned once, but good works, and obedience et al is demanded dozens of times as the requirement for entry into heaven.
What good is justification if you can't get into heaven? Perhaps part of the problem is how Protestants, and especially Evangelicals, cannot differentiate between getting saved the first time (justification), and getting saved the last time (getting into heaven). It's not much, but some critical thinking is necessary here. What's the difference? Well, in the N.T. Jesus says about a gazillion times things like, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 5:20) and "you will not be released until you pay the last penny" (Mt. 5:26) and "Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, by their fruits you will know them." (Mt. 7:19-20). FAITH is not mentioned at all. What could these strange teachings of Jesus mean? That we have to be GOOD too to get into heaven...or at least try. That is, in Jesus' mind our good works have merit...a lot of merit. Don't tell Jesus you only need faith. You won't get past the pearly gates.
The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. Scott Hahn. Doubleday.
Hahn deftly describes the relationship between the Book of Revelation and the Roman Catholic Mass.
The Life of Christ Fulton JU. Sheen. Image.
I can only read a page of this at a time. It is too rich.
Doctrine, Law, Practice, and Devotion
Protestants and especially Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have no formal distinction between these categories of Christian beliefs. E.g. What is a practice or used devotionally in Free Methodism is often confused with a doctrine, and in fact historically in many Evangelical churches the practice was shunning movies and dancing was elevated officially to doctrinal status.
Catholicism by its very reasoned nature, demands a separation of these. Doctrine, once established, never changes and is based entirely on the teachings of the Apostles and what was taught by the historic early church. Law is the administrative mechanism for administering the church's government and people; it is based on the church's doctrine. Law can change, but rarely does. Practice changes by season, culture, age, and era and relates music, vestments, and liturgical forms. Devotion relates to prayer and personal habits that elicit holiness.
Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians". Karl Keating. Ignatius.
Karl's treatment is a little harsh, but the apologetics doesn't get much better. Treats most every distinction between anti-Catholic teaching and the truth. Most teaching against Catholicism is ill-informed. They set up a strawman belief (i.e. a belief that isn't truth about Catholicism) and then proceed to cut it down. This is done by many, many books and tracts against Catholicism. GREAT INDEX.
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine John Henry Cardinal Newman. University of Notre Dame Press.
Explains how doctrine has been developed and safeguarded throughout the centuries. This is the last word on the subject and many converts point to this work as the pivotal experience in brining everything together.
The Incredible Catholic Mass: An Explanation of the Mass. Fr. Martin von Cochem. TAN Books
It is probably true that only 10 percent of Catholics understand 10 percent of what the Mass teaches. That says something about the church's pedagogy, not its doctrine. It was my happenstance at attending a Mass that first piqued my interest in Catholic theology. There were two things about it, that were obviously evident that I didn't know Catholics were into. First the Mass is a worship to God the Father for the great sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, that saved us from sin. This intense focus on Christ, and the direct worship of God is many times stronger than any Protestant church service I've ever attended. Secondly, the Mass has more Scripture imbued in it than I've heard in a month of Sunday's at the last Bible church we attended. I now attend Mass everyday. It is the highlight of my day. Again, see the article elsewhere on this site titled "Mass Dimensions."
Women and the Priesthood. by Alice von Hildebrand and Peter Kreeft
Two essays: The Mystery of Femininity: Why it Excludes the Priesthood (by Hildebrand) and Why Only boys Can Be the Daddies: A summary of the Arguments against Priestesses (by Kreeft)
The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism Louis Bouyer, Translated by A.V. Littledale. The Newman Press
Describes the classical problem between the Visible church and where the concept of the Invisible Church arose, describes the essence and reasons for the protest, and what the Catholic response should be...to reclaim what it never lost but often times does not practice in the pew.
The Spirit and Origins of American Protestantism: A Source Book in its Creeds. John A. Hardon, S.J.
A comparative study of the creeds of the major American Protestant sects.
Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God. Scott Hahn. Doubleday.
Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian theologian, and now a popular Catholic apologist, describes the central importance in Scripture of Mary to the Christian faith.
Refuting the Attack on MARY: A Defense of Marian Doctrines. Father Mateo. Catholic Answers.
Shows that the doctrines the church holds about Mary are in deed Biblical, historical, and logical...to say nothing of defending and elevating the doctrines of Jesus Christ.
Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of rome in Scripture and the Earlly church. Stephen K. Ray. Ignatius.
After this book became popular in Catholic graduate seminaries, Steve was asked to teach graduate theology at one. He turned it down saying he didn't have a degree in theology. The seminary countered and said it didn't matter what his degree was in, and asked what it was in. Steve had to tell them, he's never had a semester of college in his life, and he's the founder and chairman of a janitorial cleaning company. Yet, Steve writes as if he was gifted as Peter. His lack of jargon makes it easy reading, and yet Catholic seminaries are using this as a text book. As in Steve's other writings, there are more footnotes than text.
When a Pope Asks Forgiveness: the Mea Culpa's of John Paul II. Luigi Accattoli, Translated by Jordan Aumann, OP.
A good place to start when you need to see the difference between the person and the position. Many criticise the Catholic Church because of imperfect people leading it. But the Church is an institution ordained by Christ, and is not the sum total of it's individual, sinful parts.
Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God. Hugh Ross. Navpress.
Ross is an Evangelical scientists that runs Reasons to Believe. He doesn't know it, but he's really more Catholic than he is Protestant...especially when it comes to cosmology, miracles and sacraments. I came to accept the True presence of Christ in the Eucharist after reading this book. It made so much sense. See my article elsewhere on "Mass Dimensions."