Books on Catholic Conversion

EVplunge

Introduction

The issue of Evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism is currently a hot topic that has recently been addressed in books and online lectures. I myself have several friends from my own Evangelical background who have converted (or are considering converting) to/from Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and even Armenian Orthodoxy.

While second hand explanations for these conversions range from the realistic to the ridiculous, I was taught not to criticize someone’s view until I could state it to the satisfaction of the one holding to that view, and to that end I have had numerous discussions with the  friends mentioned above about what led them this way or that. In addition, I try to engage authoritative members of any traditions under investigation in both formal and informal settings whenever I can. To drive this point home I require my World Religions students to leave the classroom to visit representative institutions when they study groups outside their own faith traditions (this always ends up being a favorite part of the course for the students – a fact which I, perhaps misguidedly, take as a compliment!).

I also try to read as many books on personal conversions and related theological issues as as I am able. In response to some requests for  my reading list, I have included a summary of it here. I believe this to be a fairly manageable list, ordered not only by subject, but (somewhat) by level of difficulty. Thus, not every book must be read in a given section to become familiar with the issues, but for those who wish to go to greater depth, I have tried to include some of the more important books on the topics in addition to more popular-level titles. It should be noted that the list is skewed toward those books that converts often refer to when explaining their own conversions, whether said books are written from an Evangelical perspective or not. Note, too, that while responses to many of these issues from an Evangelical perspective deal almost exclusively with Roman Catholicism, I have tried to include titles which deal with the others as well.

List Summary

The questions one asks often determine the sorts of answers one will receive (or accept), and the questions converts ask during their journeys are often not the same as those of an Evangelical who is simply looking for a new church to attend. It is important, therefore, that when trying to understand a potential convert’s reasoning, one must begin with the questions they are asking. Once these questions are more clear, the answers these authors find should – whether one agrees with them or not – at least make more sense.

To that end, my list begins with books on some basic theological issues that often form the backdrop to conversion interest. Next are personal conversion stories to and from various traditions. After this come more detailed treatments of particular theological issues which were probably raised during the conversion stories. Then I have included  basic, authoritative, theological resources from each of the major traditions for reference use. Finally, I provide a list of resources dealing with these traditions and Evangelicalism in particular.

Important Qualification

Please understand that this is just my reading list. I do not claim that it is exhaustive, nor that it is the best list imaginable (I only have so much time and money!). It will probably be updated occasionally as suggestions come in and as I have time to read them. (In order to keep the list manageable, I will not necessarily add more titles, but some may be replaced).

All links are to the title’s Amazon.com page, but you can also find most of them in AMAZON LIST FORM.

First – if you’re only going to read one book on Evangelical conversion . . .

Just in case the following list is too daunting for now, the best single book I have found on the conversion issue is Christian Smith’s book, How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps. It’s a goofy title, but the content is clear, accessible, and systematic. Further, it is one of the only books I have seen that lays out what others only hint at through their narratives: that conversion is a paradigm shift. Failure to see conversion through this perspective (pun intended) is often at the root of confusion over conversion.

Second – if you’re only going to read one book on the Catholic Faith . . . 

Sheehan

Cardinal Sheehan’s book Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine is the best all-in-one book on the subject(s) I’ve ever read. He not only gives the arguments for theism and Catholicism, he explains why one’s apologetic must proceed as such, and the pitfalls of trying to argue for the faith otherwise.

Now, on to my favorite books concerning Catholic conversion . . .

Basic Theological Issues

Personal Conversion Stories

Particular Theological Issues

Comparative Evangelical Resources

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2 thoughts on “Books on Catholic Conversion

  1. Great list. For your forthcoming “Evangelical Exodus” book, you mention it’s stories from alumni and professors of “an evangelical seminary.” Are they all from the same seminary? If so, and if you feel free to divulge, what seminary?

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