Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs by Alan Schreck
This book was extremely helpful to me. It picks out all of those Catholic beliefs and practices that make Protestants gasp and gives well-reasoned, scriptural explanations for them. Even if you are not entirely convinced, you realize they might not be as crazy as you thought
Besides the Bible itself, this was the book that really got the ball rolling. Not that I was ever against Catholicism, I just was entirely ignorant on what Catholics really believed. It was a great help!
Returning to the original topic of this thread, the book I would most recommend to a Protestant, especially of the “non-denominational”/non-liturgical type is Thomas Howard’s “Evangelical Is Not Enough.” Howard is the convert brother of evangelical icon Elizabeth Elliot.
There is a poster here named PhilVaz who seems to know a lot about the various Catholic/Protestant debates that have gone on. I’d recommend looking for his site (bringyou.to apologetics) and emailing him, or PM’ing him about it. He’s a very nice guy and his site has a boatload of good apologetics.
As for books–
Well, I love books, and I’m trying to think what would be best for you. This seems to plant you in the realm of, “intellectual” so if I recommend a hard book, I assume you’ll have fun tackling it.
Here’s a few general groupings:
Are you familiar with the Fathers of the Church?
a. The primary sources. The apostolic fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons. Catholic.com carries a book called Early Christian Writings which has much of the apostolic fathers. Justin Martyr’s first two apologies for the faith are very good. You can find these online at sites like newadvent.com or ccel.org, but if you want them in print look for what I said, or ask me about what I have.
There are so many fathers, it is tough to give you just a little bit to read. Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation” is fantastic and is a good later work (and a fairly quick read). Likewise, Augustine’s Confessions is a seminal work.
Now, this is a lot of reading but in some broad strokes… related to the Fathers. J.N.D. Kelly has a book which is considered the standard, Early Christian Doctrines, which summarizes early Christian beliefs. He is an Anglican priest, but nevertheless it’s a good book.
As for theory, refer to Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, which is essential for explaining development in doctrine. In writing it, he himself converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism.
Sola Fide. Or, “faith alone.”
Stay away from Bob Sungenis when it comes to science, but when it comes to old-fahsioned apologetics against Protestants he is fantastic. His book Not By Faith Alone is an extremely formidable apologetic book. I’m only part of the way in, and quite frankly, he’s already demolished the position. Really. He has other books such as Not By Scripture Alone, and one of the Eucharist which are also supposed to be good. I’m not familiar with those.
Learning about the Catholic Faith, and Saints.
If you want to learn about the Catholic faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is fantastic. The recently released Compendium of the Catechism is the Catechism boiled down into question and answer format and is a very quick read.
If you’re interested in something a bit harder, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) did write an, “Introduction to Christianity.” Realize that this is German theology, which can be admittedly… dense, at times. The few excerpts I’ve read from it were good, though.
Lastly, the saints. There is no saint more heart-warming than St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower. Read her autobiography, “Story of a Soul.” You can read it online at various sites, such as Project Gutenberg, but if you want to buy it, look for an unabridged version which includes things omitted in original editions.