“Whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help for our own edification.
It was finally time. Ten years after converting to the Catholic Church, I was finally faced with deciding what to do with my library of Protestant books. I accumulated these books as a student in a handful of college courses, local Bible studies, dating and marriage preparation, personal study, and many private studies and reflections on my spiritual life.
After my conversion, I didn’t know I still had them, or maybe I was waiting to see if I would ever use them again for any purpose. Certainly, a writer always lacks possible reference works for the future. A few years later, my family moved overseas and all of these books, along with several Catholic books, were put into storage. I looked forward to the day when I could search them again, but when I did recently, I completely forgot how much I owned. And once I saw the size of the collection and the titles, I took the time to think about what would be good to do with it.
A side of me contemplated the consequences of putting these books of Protestant theology back into the hands of Protestants. “Wouldn’t I like them to have some Catholic books instead?” That’s a good point.
It was the same with Bibles, including the New International Version (NIV) translation, the Message Bible, and an Apologetic Study Bible. Would I really want to share an unsatisfactory translation or a Bible missing the deuterocanonical books? That’s a good question to ask.
Then I looked at marriage preparation and dating books. Of course, I was fascinated by the memory of how much I enjoyed these books, but would that even hold weight over an essay on the theology of the body?
This all may seem out of proportion, but short of burning the lot of these titles in a Savonarola-style bonfire, the decisions have all been pretty tough, and they’ve gone from book to book, genre to genre.
A book about the Catholic Church being the “harlot of Babylon” was very different from a work of light fiction.
For the former, I have no shame in destroying them. They are an abomination and a great threat to Christian unity. This may be my Temple moment, but instead of knocking over the moneychangers’ tables, I can clean up the Temple by ridding the world of a less toxic stock.
For fiction titles, my wife and I took a look at each title, and like old shirts in the closet, we decided together which ones we would be likely to read together, or which ones the kids might enjoy more. late if they stopped. watch Paw Patrol. If we dwell on the goodness of CS Lewis, a Karen Kingsbury title or two is surely worth keeping.
And surely there is room for cross-value. Most of the Billy Graham classics are perfect with the depiction of evangelism and Christian living. It’s easy to identify them when we’ve read them before, but for those who were still in our “backlog” after all these years, they’ll probably end up in someone else’s house soon.
There is also a referential value: the titles of Protestant apologetics are excellent to read again to build arguments based on real challenges to the Catholic faith. This is why a copy of Richard Dawkins The illusion of God sits next to Ken Hensley The illusion without God on my library. There’s a case to be made for keeping some of these books, but not all of them.
In the end, I picked among the titles to select those that might once again offer spiritual value, because at bottom, truth is truth, and the Catholic Church does not hold an intellectual monopoly on the quality and of spiritual value. And the ones I saved for reference will remain on the shelf until further notice.
I had, however, mentioned my beliefs with some of the problematic Protestant Bibles and theology books. What did I do with these?
I decided to keep some of them for the same reason as some of the previous ones. An example is a NIV translation used for an archaeological Bible. This Bible is loaded with historical events and recent discoveries that show the historical legitimacy of the Bible. Despite the translation, these are nice details to have on hand, so I had no qualms about keeping them for my personal use. As for the other Bibles and certain spiritual works, I have agreed to give them to my Protestant friends. The wisdom of Unitatis Redintegratio echoes in my head:
[We should not] forget that whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be an aid to our own edification. What is truly Christian is never contrary to what truly belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and of the Church.
Maybe you are in a similar situation. Maybe you have a library full of books from an earlier time in your life, when you lived under a different persuasion. Maybe you want to free up space for more books or feel conflicted with the prospect of handing those books over to a stranger.
If you’re on this path, consider these tips. I can find no reason, if our Protestant brothers are legitimately part of the universal Church, the Body of Christ, not to let them continue to grow in holiness and union with God through sound books, as well as my prayers that they come to the fullness of the Faith found in the Catholic Church. After all, that’s what happened with me, my wife, and countless others. Please pray for the same.