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Five Catholic Authors Protestants Should Read — And Why

Priest holding crozier and Bible in Roman Catholic procession

I am a Protestant pastor. I am also evangelical, and hopefully one of the nicest and most polite Calvinists you will ever meet. I believe the central Protestant doctrines of "sola Scriptura" (Scripture alone as the final basis of belief) and "sola fide" (we are justified by God on the basis of faith only in Christ). So why do I read Catholic authors, and why this short list?

First of all, I read just about everything ... from cereal boxes to every historical plaque in just about every obscure park in America to the owner's manual of my truck. I can't stop reading — yes, it is an obsession.

I love to read what other people think. I am very content with my own faith, but I like to read how other people come to their views, so I read the writings of Buddhists, atheists, Muslims, political liberals and conservatives and libertarians. As a Christian, I highly value the thoughts of professing Christians from other traditions, whether they agree with me or not.

In fact, when I read authors who are not necessarily of my faith, it is my hope that my mental debates with them will sharpen my skills in logic (a very necessary skill in this highly emotive day and age). I hope to learn from others, and I enjoy every minute of it.

So even though I am not Roman Catholic, who are the Catholic authors I enjoy and benefit from the most?

1. Gilbert Keith "G.K." Chesterton (1874-1936).

Gilbert Keith Chesterton in a suit with glasses. G.K. Chesterton, painted by Ernest Herbert Mills, National Portrait Gallery. Public domain.

You knew he would be the first one, didn't you? Chesterton converted to the Christian faith as a young man, then later converted to Catholicism. He was a philosopher, lay theologian, writer (the author of the "Father Brown" mystery novels as well as several works of Christian apologetics and biographies of Catholic saints). So far, my favorite books by Chesterton are "Orthodoxy," "The Everlasting Man," and his biography of Thomas Aquinas.

In his apologetical works ("Orthodoxy" and "The Everlasting Man"), Chesterton is framing a worldview in which he sees the Christian faith as touching everything around him. Christ involves everything: political theory, the family, economics, war, peace, entertainment, art, and literature. Since Christ is Lord of all, there is no part of our lives that He is not concerned with ... and no part of our lives that should be off limits to His involvement.

I personally think that these two books alone should be read every year by every Christian (in addition to the Bible, of course). (C.S. Lewis remarked that "The Everlasting Man" was one of the books that influenced him the most to become a Christian.) You cannot read them in a hurry. Besides the fact that Chesterton is incredibly witty and humorous, his logic slows you down and makes you do something unheard of these days. Chesterton makes you think.