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Should I Read Non-Catholic Devotional or Bible Study Materials?

Dear Dan, should I read or use non-Catholic devotional or bible study materials?

This is a very important question. There are other cousin questions that follow the same line of concern. “Should I attend non-Catholic bible studies?” “Should I read protestant commentaries on scripture?” Before I answer this I must make one thing abundantly clear.


An Important Disclaimer

I am in no way anti-protestant or anti-anyone for that matter. I was a fervent Protestant for more than a decade and it was a protestant pastor that God used to bring me into the first step of my relationship with Him. I am forever grateful for all the gifts that I received during my time in the protestant and evangelical worlds. As well, it is important to note that anyone and everyone that desires to understand Catholic spirituality is absolutely welcome to interact with us here. That said, the purpose of this site is to specifically spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as defined by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. With that as a backdrop, please allow me to be boldly honest and blunt about this situation from the standpoint of the mission of this site.

The Tale of Two Wells

Let’s envision that we live in a small village with two wells several miles apart. One well is known to be very pure. There are no cow pastures around to pollute it, the water is very cool and crystal clear, and tastes as perfect and satisfying as water can be. About a mile away, and a mile closer to your home, there is another well. The water is also clear, but sometimes people get an upset stomach when they drink it, so most don’t. Rumor has it that some, in distant times when it was used regularly for drinking, became very sick from this well. Many people now use it for animals but for humans, it seems to cause unpredictable problems.

Which well would you chose to use for your drinking water?

Would you regularly walk the extra mile to a source that you know has been in use and tested for thousands of years and that is even officially recognized as the most pure water in the region? Would you take a chance on potentially impure water when you had the best and most pure water available to you?

As a former well-studied evangelical, I can tell you that 100% of the mountain of material I consumed had what we will call “assumptions” built into it. In the vast majority of the material, these assumptions ranged from specifically anti-Catholic assumptions to other basic assumptions (e.g. sola scriptura etc.) that were/are simply antithetical to Catholic teaching. The latter are often hard to detect but, in essence, serve to chip away at the pure Gospel truth that Christ has provided to us. In all cases, from the standpoint of pure Catholic teaching, the well of Protestantism, is tainted with these assumptions. The well is not pure and thus the spiritual and practical results of consumption are unpredictable.

The difficult part is that to the untrained eye or the unseasoned traveler, the protestant well might look just fine and the negative effects might not be immediate or obvious. The water looks clear and tastes good. However, if you have a well that you already know is perfectly pure why take the risk?

An Example of Tainted Water

Just as one example there is one key assumption or belief that you will find in all protestant or evangelical bible studies. It is this, scripture is the only and ultimate source of authority. By definition, this means that the working of the Holy Spirit through the magisterial authority (that assembled the bible in the first place) is held as irrelevant, or worse, hostile to true faith. With this as a foundational assumption, all the important truths of the bible are evaluated and explained apart from the essential elements that Christ Himself established regarding how we are to come to understand truth. Said another way, the bible is ripped from the hands of the very instrument of love that Christ established to lead us to all truth.

Who would knowingly participate in an activity like this?

The reality is that good people often do because of loneliness, the need for friendship and a sincere desire to know the truth. The good news is that the resources to quench the thirsty heart are endless in the Catholic Church.

Is Good Catholic Material Really That Hard to Find?

In the analogy of the wells, I have placed the pure well farther from your home and thus more difficult to access. I guess this might be apt for folks living in the Bible belt or those who live in places where good Catholic material is hard to find. However, with the internet, and online stores, EWTN on Television and Radio, the best of the best and most pure water is available to most people most of the time. In particular, with respect to bible study materials, the following are exemplary sources that rival the best that the protestant and evangelical worlds have assembled (but without the rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit in His Church).

Why Go Anywhere Else?

The Lord established a Church. He guaranteed, by his Holy Spirit, that all the firepower of hell itself could not withstand or in any way subvert the heart and truth of his Church. Now, we all know that with human beings, imperfection reigns; however, the teachings of the Church never depend on any one individual. They stand on the promises of God Himself and the Church provides a bottomless and pure well of spiritual resources that is so deep and so pure that no individual, even if given a lifetime purely devoted to study, could ever fully consume. With this wealth of resources at our disposal, why would we ever look outside of the Church to people (most, but not all) who reject the most fundamental truths of our faith?

Where to Start?

Outside of the links we have already provided, we also have a long list of recommended materials that can provide pure water on nearly any subject you could imagine regarding our relationship with Him and His Church. Beyond these lists, you can look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then the writings of the thirty-four doctors of the Church (which have been thoroughly vetted by hundreds of years of study and evaluation by the Church). If you want to know where to buy Catholic materials without worrying about their fidelity to Christ’s teachings, EWTN’s Religious Catalogue is a great place to start.

May you seek and find the pure, perfect, and life-giving water that only Christ and His Church can provide.

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Still Life with Bible, Vincent Van Gogh, 1885, PD-Art, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Yule

    wow… I stop drinking the well with many impurities… 
    good analogy. as the impure well is nearer and easily accessible… they are offering free leaflets, materials, door to door delivery…. Glad I found that the Catholic church provides materials which are very excellent, well written and truly guided by the Holy Spirit.

  • Baycityrick

    Pope Benedict XVI and the Pontifical Biblical Commission have spoken on this issue in their document “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible” and they approve, in that instance, of consulting the vast amount of Jewish commentary on the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament).

    Sure, it’s not for everyone, it’s not their cup of tea. And, very definitely it has its moments of being anti-Christian. But, it’s still a very rich source of information on what they call peshat, the literal meaning of scripture.

    For example, in The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford Univ Press) there is an opinion about the translation of Is 7:14, that it says “behold a young woman” will conceive and bear a child, not “behold a virgin will conceive and bear a child.” They’re quite resolute in the translation and meaning of that verse. The Septuagint, a Jewish Greek translation of that verse, says “virgin.” So, they argue about the “Christian” mistranslation of that verse.

    On the other hand, the JSB, having said that, is puzzled what the sign is and who the young woman is, etc. and offers no insight into the fulfillment of that prophecy.

    “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus” is a book that gives an unsanitized opinion of Judaism about Jesus. Very negative comments there.

  • Abba’s Daughter+

    Catholic TV is also very good. You can also get a lot of good Catholic information on face-book. In the search bar you can put in Catholic Church, Blessed Mother, History of the Catholic Church, and find all kinds of things about our Catholic Faith. Father Barron has a Page on and he is also on Catholic TV, he is excellent. I also go to utube and google Catholic topic and watch videos that defend our faith.

  • JUDY KALLMEYER

    There are so many avenues for good Catholic reading. The Leaflet Missal Company has a web site and you can get a catalogue from them via the internet. They have many wonderful Catholic books and videos. Paulist Press is another good source and Ave Maria Press is another. Just enter the names in your browser and the sites should pop up. Good luck!

  • Barbaraksanders

    I am a Catholic convert. It took me 10 yrs. after my conversion to
    find the well you are talking about. It happened through a direct
    intervention of the Holy Spirit.
    There is very little “spiritual” teaching in my parish and many others.
    Cannot understand why the parishes don’t do more in this
    arena?? barbara

  • Cecemars1

    I have found that a Catholic radio station is very good too, especially when you are traveling in your car and can’t read. God bless you all and may you find the pure water to drink from. This is a great story to remember.. Thank you so much.

  • Salter

    There were a couple of ladies in my catholic bible study group that was always recommending non-catholic material. I finally just said that I wasn’t interested in spending time on non-catholic books. We have the fullness of the truth. Why study half-truths? And anything protestant is going to be anti-catholic at it’s core. If it wasn’t it would be catholic!! Spend $40 and get the Manificat. It has a wealth of information as well as scripture lessons for every day. It’s all I have time for an it’s very well organized. If I get through that everyday I fell pretty good about myself.

    • Thomazap

      Great piece of advice!
      My faith and love for Christ and his Church has grown due to Magnificat! Christ is King!

  • Elaine A. Thomas

    I too am a convert of sort, as I was baptized Catholic but raised by a devout Evangelical Father who was Pentecostal. We read the King James Bible and I keep my King James Bible next to my Douay-Rheims and love them both. As one nun who was my college literature ptrofessor put it–the King James Bible is beautifully written. I avail myself of some Protestant TV–the old Billy Graham and the Gaithers have really been a blessing to me however many Catholic programming on EWTN is wonderful.

  • Iowafarmwife

    I do generally agree with your article, but I have to say that I have never found anything written by C.S. Lewis to be troublesome to me as a Catholic.

    • Ah yes – very good point. In fact, C.S. Lewis is really the top of the mountain as far as protestant writers/think that he is always worth reading and studying. Many of his ideas and perspectives are very Catholic.

    • Vince C

      I was was asked by a Protestant if I ever read any non-Catholic writers. When I told him I read a lot of Lewis, he practically sniffed and turned up his nose and replied, “Well- he’s just barely Protestant…”

    • Howard Richards

      His “Reflections on the Psalms” are problematic. He would have us simply repudiate difficult Psalms like Psalm 137. In this he comes close to the Marcionite heresy.

  • anilwang

    I think a few qualifications are needed. It really depends on the person and the background. If a person is not yet ready for solid food, St. Paul instructs (1 Corinthians 3:2 ) that we need the milk of Catholic Faith before we can move on to advanced topics. If, however, a person is well grounded and wants to defend his faith against opposing views or go into apologetics, you do need to become familiar with the other view.

    But anyone taking this course can’t go half way, they have to as Ezekiel 23:34 puts it “drink it up even to the dregs, and thou shalt devour the fragments thereof, thou shalt rend thy breasts: because I have spoken it, saith the Lord God.”. Unless you’re willing to devour it until you feel the despair of the Protestant positions which ultimately provide us with a gospel of despair, you really have no business in studying Protestantism. Why? You will see a lot of things that look good on the surface and you might want to bring to your local parish and spiritual life, but you will not dig far enough to see how ultimately destructive the fruit of the tree of knowledge is until it is too late.

    On the flip side, I would not be Catholic today if it were not for the Eastern.Orthodox. In particular, Ancient Faith Radio ( http://ancientfaith.com/ ) has several excellent programs such as “Our Life in Christ” (see the archive section) and “Search the Scriptures” teach the faith from a more patristic persective. Yes there are the occational anti-Catholic remark, but over all, everything taught is 100% compatible with the Eastern Catholic understanding of the Church. Yes. you can find much of this teaching in Catholic podcasts, but it’s scattered, especially in post Vatican II teaching which tends to be doctrine and praxis based, with little emphasis on the mystery which we are part of. This mystery and grounded

    Fortunately, Eastern Catholics are beginning to catch up to their western counterparts (see http://instituteofcatholicculture.org/media.htm ).

    • Well said. The Catholic Christian East has many deep and pure wells. Still, I would stick to those who pre-date the schism and with those that are in full communion with Rome. We have actually had a Maronite Bishop write for this blog last year. Here’s the link: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/tags/maronite

  • $1650412

    I could preach for an hour about this topic.  I will try to restrain myself here. First of all I whole heartedly agree with Dan’s opinion here. The analogy I like to use is one of a buffet. As Catholics we have the whole buffet available to us of truth in our teaching, and we progress through the meal process with order and decorum according to our Catholic family culture- we eat what is healthy and mainstay first in an orderly fashion in proper measure for appropriate nutrition, and then we enjoy dessert apertifs etc. Ok, all of this is at the heart of being authentically devotedly Catholic. Protestants are of course picking and choosing between what appeals most to them on a spectrum of ideas- for a host of reasons, some of which are really flaky- the flakier bunch only choose very limited items from the table because their definitions of nutrition are well, skewed. Now the really off sects, well, they are skipping the food and just eating the napkins or talking about how they silverware is eventually going to be the reason for living- etc. You can go miles with this analogy, but maybe right off track. Any way- the real point I want to make is that while we have the whole buffet table here, we need to become ALOT more familiar with the WORD OF GOD, the Bible. Our people do not understand the heart and mind of God in this culture because they do not know His word and they do not listen to His Church- it is two sides of the same coin and we need both intensely to survive. 

    • Brilliant as usual Jo. I am going to steal your “eating the napkins” analogy!

  • Surefootmf

    EWTN is an excellent Catholic cable tv network .
    I live in the New York City area and I also
    receive the Catholic cable tv network called ” Telecare”.
    Telecare does have a website.
    For spiritual reading I recommend “The Imitation of Christ”,
    this book is :second” to the Catholic bible , plus a Catholic priest also recommended the book. I am also going to read
    The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila , which was also recommended by a Catholic priest . God Bless you.

  • When you want the best spiritual reading and instruction, you go to the saints.

    Try http://www.saintsbooks.net for free e-books of the writings of the saints, and their scriptural commentary. If you read the saints they wil teach you to understand the holy scriptures.

  • Alexandra Campbell

    I agree with Dan too and anilwang somewhat. I have read Catholic works extensively since coming over from Protestantism in 2006. However, I did recently participate in a protestant divorce support group and am currently in a non-denominational post-abortion support group. I have found more fellowship in these settings and genuine assistance to heal things in my past. Of course I frequent the sacraments and am about to begin spiritual direction with a Catholic director. My parish offers no divorce support group and I have already participated in Project Rachel, which was wonderful.

    In my groups I do not hide the fact that I am Catholic and I feel strong enough in my faith that I could defend true Catholic doctrine. Most of the participants seem surprised to see a Catholic there but when we pray there is a genuine love for Christ   the protestants in my groups have basically the same views as the church on the indissolubility of marriage and the sanctity of life. Who knows, hopefully by my being in the groups someone might be curious about the faith and ask me! I have helped a few lapsed Catholics to come back to the faith and I want God to use me as much as possible. So, I guess I am trying to be salt and light wherever I go….

  • Howard Richards

    I would say that it depends on what you mean by Bible study materials. Atlases, archaeology, etc. are (or should be) non-doctrinal areas of interest. Let’s not commit the genetic fallacy.

    At the same time, there are MANY Catholic aids that are abominable. I’m thinking of the NAB Study Bible, for example, both for its bad translation (“and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters”) and for the way it assumes that whenever any difficulty is presented, the historicity of Scripture is to be discarded.

  • From this same line of reasoning should give us a certain perspective on educating our children in public schools. Admittedly, some families do not have a “pure well” close by and are, for a variety of reasons, unable to homeschool. That said, if the “pure well” of a Christian education is available, even through sacrifice, would it not be incumbent upon us who are parents to see that our children drink the clear water of truth rather than the brackish sewage offered by an educational system that, in its very design, denies God?

    • Same problem but on the other side of John’s comments. My argument is limited to answering the question, “What should most Catholics consume most of the time?” Some are called to consume much more broadly, but not many. Some are called to have their kids home-schooled or in Catholic schools, but not all and not all the time.

  • Plass_frank

    sounds anti protestant to me.  diversity lets us really learn.  try it.  some catholic wells are polluted, i can tell you that.

    • There are no magisterium faithful wells that are polluted. There are wells that have a “Catholic” sign on them but the claim is often problematic.

      • Howard Richards

        One has to be careful. Take, for example, the speculations about how to read Tobit that Mark Shea has engaged in recently. It is “magisterium faithful”, in that it does not contradict the magisterium, but it is not “magisterium faithful”, in the sense of staying within the bounds of what is taught.

        So he is permitted to believe that the story of Tobit is not historical and was no more intended to be historical than Little Red Riding Hood, but no one is bound de Fide to agree with his judgements. His arguments may be convincing or unconvincing, but they are not *binding* in any event.

        He’s pretty upfront about that, but there are other places where authors are so confident of their conclusions that they state them as though they are facts, rather than speculations. Sometimes what they say may be permitted, but there are strong reasons to disfavor their conclusions.

        This latter case would include, in my opinion, the NAB translation of Genesis 1:2; it is possible, but it flies in the face of 2000 years of Christian understanding that the “Spirit of God” is the Holy Spirit — not just “a mighty wind”. Similarly, a Christological angle is lost in those translations that start Psalm 1:1 with “happy” instead of “blessed” or “those” or “the one” instead of “the man”.

        • Adam Rasmussen

          Saying that the spiritual interpretation of Gen 1:2 is based on “2000 years of Christian understanding” is not quite accurate. See what St. Basil the Great says about it in his homilies on the hexaemeron. He accepts both interpretations, clearing implying that in his day (4th century) some people took it one way and others the other way. It’s a legitimate question to be debated within Catholicism, like virtually all questions about Bible translation.

          • Howard Richards

            I wasn’t aware of the quote by St. Basil, but I had noticed myself the parallel between Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 8:1, so I have no objection to noting in a footnote that “Spirit of God” could be read “mighty wind”.  I do, however, maintain that the vast preponderance of Christian writing on this verse has understood it to refer to the Holy Spirit.  In St. Augustine’s books on Genesis, for example, I don’t recall him ever making use of the “wind” reading.

            As it concerns the NAB, this is just a convenient example of a more worrisome trend — a desire to be as contrary as they can get away with to traditional Catholic understanding.  The translators went a little too far with the Psalms, so they had to be re-translated, but the rest of it is still a sub-par translation.

            My overall point, though, is that one has to be careful even of apparently good Catholic sources.  As another example, I had a very hard night when I read in “50 Questions on the Natural Law” by Charles Rice that the Church now teaches that the state MAY NOT execute someone because that person deserves in justice to be executed, but MAY execute that person because it is “necessary for the public good”.  Goodbye justice, hello utilitarianism?  The next morning I looked up the actual passages in the Catechism, Evangelium Vitae, etc., and discovered that this was utterly false. At that point I was very angry with Rice for having written such foolishness, and I would not recommend the book to anyone.

          • $1650412

            You know the concept of ‘mighty wind’ and ‘breath of God’ as the Holy Spirit could have been the same in the context of knowing what you are hearing/reading in the tradition through which Genesis was being transmitted for so MANY years- so in translations we have to take more into account maybe than just the words themselves. I do agree with the contention here that taking Sacred Scripture and parsing it out as poetry and myth mixed with objective related account according to the western concept of journalistic history writing- is a source of conflict for Catholics about the Bible. This is why so many Catholics are afraid of the Bible. And to our collective detriment. What people need to do is really read it and get to know it and pray as they do so, then take the issues that they do not understand and see reliable Catholic scholarly and prayerful sources to put together for themselves what the Lord is trying to tell them. 

    • Anti-protestant would include ad hominem attacks, unfair characterizations etc. I never do that on purpose. It is not anti-protestant to disagree with charity.

    • Vince C

      It is not anti-Protestant at all. The writer is simply making the common-sense observation that Catholics are better served by reading primarily Catholic material, especially if they are not particularly practiced at spotting Protestant ideas that are contrary to Catholic teaching.

       I once discussed this very issue with a Baptist who had this very same objection. I asked her if she would give Catholic Bible material to a new Baptist or refer her to a Catholic Bible study. She very quickly said, “No!”

  • Marcy K.

    When I was coming back to the Church 16 years ago I really faced this question. My cousin, the one who gave me a bible that started my conversion of heart, is also strongly anti-Catholic. Her husband is an ex-Catholic and they think they know all of what the Catholic Church teaches. They are also missionaries in Romania “planting churches.” They would mail me tons of books to aid in my coming to Jesus and wanted to know the exact date & time I gave my life to Christ. I read some of the books, but I knew instinctively that if I was going to be Catholic I had to only read Catholic stuff – and only good faithful Catholic stuff. I had found so many Catholic books that were vague, junk and even taught against the Church. I had even unknowingly bought a Catholic study bible (with imprimitur) that had comments that made the Eucharist seem like only a symbol!

    While I have a few protestant books/reference materials (A Case for Christ, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, etc.) I definitely stay away from protestant books and studies. You will never get the correct teaching on the Eucharist, or an indepth honest look at Mary, etc. If you are just learning about the Church teachings and how to be a Catholic you just can’t separate what is good from bad, and even with some Catholic books you have to figure out some nuances that may be confusing. I started my blog http://www.LiveCatholic.net to recommend good Catholic resources and help people know where to go. All the ones people mentioned here are good. Catholic Answers is great, iPadre podcasts are fantastic. There really is no excuse now not to have good resources. There are TONS of excellent bible studies for Catholics like Catholic Scripture Study Intl. http://www.cssprogram.net/ or the Great Adventure Series http://biblestudyforcatholics.com/, and beginner studies like the ones at Emmaus Road http://www.emmausroad.org/Bible-Studies-C489.aspx, There is just unlimited material online, you just need to start with the good faithful places and in time you will figure out the wheat from the chaff. Thanks for this post, it is an important topic.

  • John Woolley

    How about Cardinal Newman’s “Parochial and Plain Sermons”, written while he was an Anglican? What about Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” (and a whole lot of other books), also Anglican?

    • Ah yes – my inductive thinking friends abound… The principle is not nullified by the exception. Post Conversion Newman is better than pre – all is very enlightening – but some is confusing because of his own struggles (tracts on 39 articles etc). Same with Chesterton… My point stands – most Catholics should stick with specifically magisterium faithful materials most of the time.

  • Adam Rasmussen

    If we are talking about devotional materials (prayers, catecheses, etc.), then I would probably agree with you, as a Catholic using Protestant devotionals could be very confusing and dangerous for poorly catechized Catholics. And there are a lot of Catholic devotionals out there.

    If, however, we are talking about biblical studies, like articles and books written about Scripture by professional scholars, then I do not, because Protestants are just as competent as Catholics at understanding ancient languages, history, and the main lines of theology that we have in common. So, to give a practical example, if you are curious to learn more about Samson in the Bible (Judges 13-16), I would strongly recommend going to the best experts on Samson, who may or may not be Catholic (they may even be Jewish). In this case, the best well will be the most knowledgeable. The study of the Bible should be an ecumenical effort, as Vatican II teaches in Unitatis Redintegratio (an excellent document that very few people are familiar with).

    • Unitatis Redintegratio certainly calls us to unity but not an equal unity but a unity that mitigates “deficiencies” and brings all to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church. With respect to protestant scholarship – you are correct to assert that a good protestant mind can assess an archeological site just as well as a good Catholic mind. I agree. However, when we begin to frame salvation history and interpret its meaning for our lives, protestant presuppositions hinder their ability to such an extent that what appears to be a matter of historic fact is in fact, a distortion of greater or lesser proportion. Protestant scholarship has yielded pillars of salt like Graf Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis, and other “Higher” criticism which has poisoned the well of interpretation for years and which Pope Benedict dissected handily in his introduction to Jesus of Nazareth. Unless you are a professor of history, theology, or philosophy, these tools are a waste of energy and will lead down a path of secular thinking and deconstruction of a scholarship of faith.

      • I will grant an exception. I recently gifted my Kittel’s (of which I suspect you might be familiar) to Fr. Mitch Pacwa. Fr. Mitch is more than capable of using this protestant material effectively. However, he is one in a million. He, and a few other gifted scholars have very sophisticated and effective filters. When they draw water from “deficient” wells, they filter out the impurities and use it for the good. I know many world class scholars – they are very few who can do this effectively.

    • $1650412

      I want to address this too- my husband was a student at Denver Seminary (a mainline Evangelical seminary) for a number of years (3) in our faith journey as we slowly worked our way by hook and crook home to Rome. Protestants believe along a spectrum of ideas because their theology is centered in their Bible alone (which is actually not the same as ours- their Bible does not include the Deuterocanonical books). So they are trying to create absolutes from an incomplete source divorced from its origin. The way they do that is by using the scientific method for analyzing scripture. By that, I mean they take as much empirical evidence as available about what a word or phrase might mean and then decide on its meaning or interpret it based on how much evidence they can find that might support their decision. Often the initial premise about what the Bible says is  not based in ‘what was believed by all men in all places in all times’ a maxim from antiquity about Divine tradition- but rather, what has been assumed by Protestants since the various schisms and reformations. Jesus teaching in John 6 about the Eucharist is a prime example. Protestants believe Jesus to be speaking figuratively about His Body and Blood- they do not recognize the writings of Justin Martyr that clearly explain otherwise- nor do they acknowledge that the understanding we hold to as Catholics was the accepted understanding for the first 1500 years of Christian history. The truth about the Eucharist is a game changer and a dogmatic lynchpin. In most cases they refuse to see it. This is because their theology is also broadly dualistic- or sort of unintentionally gnostic at its root. For them grace comes by ‘acknowledging and receiving Jesus’,  this is largely a mental, or psycho-emotional exercise, with a wide variety of definitions. There are HUGE gaps and inconsistencies in their theology, and moral theology especially is a free for all. How to live a holy life is a really hard to pin down sticky wicket as a Protestant. If you don’t really know this it is easy to trip lightly along according to a comfortable path ignoring major issues- until they overwhelm the soul. It’s like having only one half of the treasure map- and wandering along the paths on that half only.

  • Kathy AE

    Sometimes God may lead us to a source of teaching according to our spiritual need.  I feel so often hungry for God that I googled “hunger for God” one night, and the internet led me to A HUNGER FOR GOD, Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, written by John Piper, a Baptist minister. I found the book beautiful and loved many parts of it.  The teachings were a confirmation to me of what I was feeling.  I also found it at the beginning of Lent, and found the sections on fasting helpful. I agree with your analogy of the two wells, for the most part, but above all, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  He breathes where He wills.

    • Dear Friend – with all the charity I can muster I can’t agree. I am very familiar with Piper and have read the book you mention. It is solidly protestant and Piper’s theology is antithetical to ours. He adheres to the 1689 Baptist Confession that calls the Pope “antichrist.” Beyond that, I believe he presents an impoverished view of this and many other topics. There are many sources that are far better in the Church. I don’t think that I would be quick to pin this book selection on the Holy Spirit though I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit used it to work good in you in spite of the content and, in some cases, because of the content. The tainted well does have water in it – it is just unpredictable in its spiritual effect. All that said, I am glad it was helpful. The next book on fasting should come from a better well.

  • Mobrien7

    Hello,

    Thank you for sharing this example. My wife was Protestant and has recently converted to the Church. We have conversations about this topic.

    Mike

  • Kmsbean

    Not to attack the Roman Church, but if you think that is the well that has never been polluted you missed a couple lessons in Church history. While is will acknowledge there are errors in Protestantism (vastly more in some denominations), the Catholic church has also erred and contradicted itself. Both sides need to read more of the other’s writings, so we can better see Truth from other perspectives. Yes, there will be issues we disagree on, but I think you will see far more that we agree on, and much more value that was not even thought of. For example, I was greatly blessed and inspired to read the works of St. Augustine, perhaps you Catholics should read more Luther? Compare Tertullian’s De Baptismo and Menno Simmons’ On Baptism. Sometimes you may find a difficult question that challenges your belief, but that is not a bad thing, for it forces you to really think and consider what you truly believe. I’m sure if there is an issue where Christians have disagreed there is always plenty of resources to consider each side, including the Catholic teachinig.

    • You are highlighting a perfect example of a serious misreading or failure to engage what I wrote in the post (I will make a charitable assumption that you missed it in the post and in all of my comments). I have clearly pointed people to magisterium faithful material. This is a qualification that is unambiguously not tainted with error.

    • As Dan points out, 
      Kmsbean, the Catholic Church Magisterium Materials have remained unchanged. May I refer you to a wonderful Website which deals with the errors Protestants and non-Catholics continue to throw at our Church.  It is Shameless Poppery.  There you will find authentic responses to the erroneous Doctrines other Faiths make about the Catholic Faith. Be blessed

  • Now, Dan, what can this old Cradle Catholic say about this Post?  What would an authentic Catholic be looking for in Protestant literature.  Your response says it all. I am aware we Catholics are accused of being ignorant or ill-read about the Bible. Time and time again, I am called upon to reiterate that in our times – the 40’s all the way to 60’s, and even the 70’s in my part of the world, Catholic upbringing by devout Catholic parents, schooling in Catholic Schools and Convents, ensured by the time one left High School, one was well grounded in the Catholic Faith and knew the Scriptures and the Magisterium Teachings of our Church pretty well. Those who proceeded to College, came out well informed about the History of our Mother Church.   

    So, what is my point?  Anyone who is genuinely serious about remaining a committed and faithful Catholic, would be well advised to begin to learn – and strive to faithfully live –  the richness and the fullness of their Faith and the Salvation Mystery through the Teachings of Jesus which subsists in totality in the Catholic Church which He Himself founded.

  • David M Paggi

    There is such an enormous quantity of excellent Catholic content, by which I mean orthodox material presented with passion & clarity by trustworthy authors, there is little reason to venture into uncharted protestant waters. Bank tellers can instantly recognize counterfeit precisely because they deal only in authentic currency.

    So how to know who is trustworthy? Simple – watch or listen to EWTN. In particular, I would suggest “The Journey Home” hosted by Marcus Grodi, which showcases the striking paths trod by converts or reverts to the faith. Dan has appeared before, which is why I followed this post, which I found linked on NewAdvent.com ( a truly remarkable resource). Besides learning from the guests’ experiences wrestling with doctrinal or more prosaic conflicts, notice the price paid by these folks. We truly have the “pearl of great price”, so be warned: for this faith to have any value, it must inevitably cost something.

    For more intensive study, peruse the audio & document libraries. And don’t be intimidated by papal documents; they are a real treasure. You can get commentary by downloading audio of “Theshhold of Hope” by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S. J. Also get his Bible studies & homilies.

    There is much, much more – but between Dan’s list & the above, you have a few years’ worth of study. Bon appetit!

  • UnitLeader

    While I agree with what you say, and while I read mainly Catholic material, I also read other works as well. As a career military man I have read Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Von Clausewitz’s On War and their main point is “Know your enemy”. And while other works are not the enemy per se; the idea of knowing the other points of view fall within this statement. And, as for myself, I find that my Catholic beliefs are even stronger after I read some of these other views. The more I read other works; the more I understand my own.

  • David M Paggi

    UnitLeader:
    I agree with you; however, I was responding to the initial query. I believe that one who asks the question if Protestant material is OK is likely to not yet be sufficiently grounded in Catholic apologetics to recognize all of the disparities to be encountered. Put another way, I have to be sufficiently familiar with a piece of music before I can hear when a particular rendition strays from the composer’s score.

  • Oldusedbooks

    What do you think of reading Orthodox writings? I find Father John of Kronstadt very inspiring.

    • Judgement call. They are closer to us, orders are valid, sacraments are valid. I spend a good deal of time in Orthodox writings. The challenge is with the primacy of Peter…

  • Zimmy101b

    I realize your belief in the truths of the Catholic faith, and your perspective, but if I read a highly recommended Christian book I don’t pay attention to ideas that are not Catholic. They are such broad concepts that they are easy to spot. Some of these books are life-changing (depending on the person). One book that changed my life
    is “Absolute Surrender” by Andrew Murray. It was the right book at the right time. I believe the Holy Spirit led me to it.   

  • Maryse

    What do you think of Cave Quest, Vacation Bible School? It has been introduced in many Catholic parishes.

    • LizEst

      These VBS packages have a Catholic version to them. So, they are indeed run as Catholic, unless a parish did not get the Catholic version. And, may I add, they can be tailored. So, they are as true to the faith as the parish, and the cadre, of those who are running the program.

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