Hello friends. If this is in the wrong part of the forum, please correct me.
Some brief background for context. If you just want to see the question, go ahead to the bold text at the bottom.
I grew up Protestant in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a sort of offshoot of Baptists but with a focus on international missions. A year or so ago I had a large crisis of faith and wanted to leave religion as a whole. But reason and thought convinced me that God was the best explanation for the universe and that, of all religions, Christianity had the best probability of being correct. (The authors C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton helped convince me of the latter.) On that, I am willing to believe by faith that it is true, as it offers the best explanation.
In my church, I was taught that we had to accept God of our own free will, and that once we were saved, we were always saved. This, of course, seemed to run contrary to the verses about election, predestination and being judged for our actions before God. But then I found that Reformed theology seemed to be inconsistent about God’s desire for all to be saved, and had to contrive complicated explanations about how men are judged by their actions but have no true say in the matter. The idea of predestination and election kept me up at night in despair, wondering how I could possibly know if I was elect or not, and all the contradictions it brought up were disheartening and sent me into fits of depression. (I will confess that several times I literally lay flat out on the floor, nearly in tears, asking God for guidance and help, because I believed in Christ, but his word seemed so complicated and inconsistent.)
Then I began to read about Catholicism on this very site, and I have begun to see a harmony of all these questions. I was raised to believe that “some Catholics are truly saved, but they have weird ideas that don’t come from scripture.” However, as I’ve read, everything I thought about the Catholic church seems to have been misunderstood. (i.e. You don’t pray to saints or to Mary, you ask them to intercede to Christ on your behalf.) A tract on this site convinced me that, according to reason (which is what convinced me of Christianity in the first place) sola scriptura doesn’t hold water. In general, what I have read of Catholic doctrine speaks both to my reason and to my soul. The depiction of a God who respects our free will (which, by reason, I believe I have) and offers grace and mercy to the ignorant seems more fitting of a God who could be called Good. However, I’m wary of basing my belief based off of “feeling something to be true.”
**That being said, I am looking for resources (books, preferably) to answer 3 questions.
The Historical validity of the Catholic church. I’m looking for something that goes in depth about what reasons Catholics have for believing that things such as Purgatory, the intercessions of the saints, the Papacy and the like were held by the early church and taught by the Apostles.
An explanation for the Calvinistic/Reformed implications in scripture. This of course includes the passages that speak of predestination and “Vessels prepared for wrath,” but also about how Jesus spoke of “many being called and few being chosen,” and similar statements. This is still the most troublesome issue I have with Christianity as a whole, and I don’t think I can be at peace with my religion until I can grasp it one way or another.
A general overview of what Catholics believe. My primary issue with Protestantism lies in a feeling that it lacks coherency. I believe that the correct view of God will provide coherency in the bible, and I’ve yet to find a view that satisfies that need. This one is a bit hard to define, but I’m looking for how the Catholic church harmonizes the various apparent discrepancies in the bible.**
I’ve run across some answers on this site and other places, but I would like to see an in depth discussion/argument of these things. Again, books are preferred as I grasp more by reading than watching or listening, but I’ll take anything you all have to offer. Many thanks from a Christian seeking truth.