Here’s What I Did With My Protestant Book Collection After I Became Catholic
‘Anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification.’
It was finally time. Ten years after my conversion to the Catholic Church, I was finally faced with the need to decide 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 prep, personal study and much private study and reflection on my spiritual life.
After my conversion, I ignored that I still had them, or perhaps I was waiting to see if one day I would use them again for any purpose. Certainly, a writer is always want of possible reference books for the future. Some years later, my family moved overseas and all of these books — along with several Catholic books — were placed in storage. I was looking forward to the day when I could rummage through them once again, but when I did so recently, I completely forgot just how many I owned. And once I saw the size of the collection and the titles, I took some time to think over what the right thing to do with them would be.
One side of me entertained the consequences of placing these Protestant theology books back in the hands of Protestants. “Wouldn’t I want them to own a few Catholic books instead?” It’s a decent point.
It was the same way with the Bibles, including the New International Version (NIV) translation, The Message Bible and an apologetics study Bible. Would I really want to share an unsatisfactory translation or a Bible missing the deuterocanonical books? It’s a good question to ask.
Then I looked at the marriage prep and dating books. Of course I was entranced with memories of how much I enjoyed these books, but would it even hold weight when compared with a composition on the Theology of the Body?
It could all seem out of proportion, but short of burning the lot of these titles in a Savonarola-style bonfire, the decisions were all pretty tough and they shifted book to book, genre to genre.
A book about the Catholic Church being the “whore of Babylon” was vastly different from a light work of fiction.
For the former, I have no shame in destroying these. They are an abomination and a great threat to Christian unity. This might be my Temple moment, but instead of turning over tables of money changers, I may cleanse the Temple by ridding the world of one less toxic title.
For the fiction titles, my wife and I took a look at every title, and like old shirts in the closet, we decided together which ones we were likely to read together, or the ones the kids might enjoy in later years should they ever stop watching Paw Patrol. If we insist on the goodness of C.S. Lewis, a title or two from Karen Kingsbury is surely worth keeping.
And there is surely room for crossover value. Most Billy Graham classics are spot-on with the portrayal of evangelization and Christian living. It’s easy to identify these when we had read them already, but for those that were still on our “backlog” after all these years, they likely will find their way into another person’s home soon.
There is also referential value: Protestant apologetics titles are excellent to re-read for constructing arguments based on real challenges to the Catholic Faith. This is the reason a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion sits next to Ken Hensley’s The Godless Delusion on my bookshelf. There’s a case to be made to keep some of these books, but not all of them.
By the end, I picked through the titles to choose the ones that might offer some spiritual value once again, because at the bottom of it, truth is truth, and the Catholic Church doesn’t hold an intellectual monopoly on quality and spiritual value. And the ones I kept for reference will sit on the shelf until further notice.
I had mentioned my convictions with some of the Protestant Bibles and problematic theology books, though. What did I do with these?
I decided to keep some of these for the same reason as some of the above. One example is an NIV translation used for an archaeological Bible. This Bible is loaded with historical events and recent discoveries that point the Bible’s historical legitimacy. Despite the translation, those are nice to details to have on hand, so I had no qualm with retaining it for my personal use. As for the other Bibles and select spiritual works, I settled on a willingness to give those to my Protestant friends. The wisdom of Unitatis Redintegratio rings in my head:
[We should not] forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church.
Perhaps you’re in a similar situation. Perhaps you have a bookshelf full of books from a previous time in your life, when you lived under a different persuasion. Maybe you want to clear some space for more books or feel conflicted with the prospect of turning over these books to a stranger.
If you’re on this path, give these tips some consideration. I can’t find a reason, if our Protestant brethren are legitimately part of the universal Church, the Body of Christ, not to let them continue to grow in sanctity and union with God through wholesome books, along with my prayers that they may 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.