Introduction to Christianity
Comparing the beliefs of Roman
Catholics & conservative Protestants
This essay compares the beliefs of Roman Catholicism with the conservative wing of Protestantism.In the 16th century, during the Protestant Reformation, many faith groups split away from the Roman Catholic Church. This destroyed the relative unity of Christendom in western Europe. The Protestant movement further fragmented during the following centuries. At the present time, there are over a thousand Christian denominations in North America alone, in addition to many thousands of independent, unaffiliated congregations, para-church organizations, and personal or "Mom and Pop" ministries. Although there are also many mainline and liberal Protestant faith groups, most are conservative in nature.
Some beliefs of the Roman Catholic church and conservative Protestant denominations are in opposition to each other. Examples are:The gap between the two groups appears to be increasing over time. Future reunification of the Christian religion was essentially impossible and is getting more so.
Both Catholics and conservative Protestants generally agree on some major theological matters, like the existence of angels, Mary's virgin conception; Jesus' sinless life, incarnation, crucifixion, bodily resurrection, and his imminent return of Jesus to Earth in the second coming; Heaven, Hell; the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus. They agree that his execution brought about atonement -- the potential to bridge the gulf between humanity and God caused by sin. However they disagree on how this was achieved. They partly agree about the significance of baptism, but disagree about the timing when it is normally performed. They do not agree on which books are included in the official canon of the Bible.
Perhaps the main difference between conservative Protestantism and Roman Catholicism is expressed by the "five Solas". "Sola" means "alone" in Latin. The first three Sola statements of the early Protestant movement stressed that:
|"Sola Scriptura:" The Bible is the sole authority for Christian beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church stresses a balance between Biblical support and the tradition of the Church itself|
|"Sola Gratia:" One is saved through grace alone, given to the believer by God directly. The Catholic Church also teaches that salvation is implemented by grace from God alone. However, they stresses that the church sacraments are the channel for God's grace. |
|"Sola Fide:" Salvation is by the individual's faith alone in trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Again, the Catholic Church stresses the importance of church sacraments.|
There also exists a great gulf between the two groups on other matters of belief and church practice -- particularly with regard to the rapture, authority within the church, church organization, freedom of the individual, freedom of each congregation, etc.
About abortion access, homosexuality & other hot-button social policies:
The divisions are deep and long-standing. This has led to prejudice and discrimination. Hostility is particularly high in some countries in South America, where Protestants -- particularly Pentecostals -- have been taking "market share" away from the Catholic Church. Bloodshed has resulted in some areas.
In spite of these conflicts, these two wings of Christianity have been able to take joint programs in some areas. Catholics and Protestants have cooperated in North America to: restrict abortion access, oppose to equal rights and protections for gays and lesbians
In Germany, the country of the Reformation, a deep animosity divided Catholic and Protestant Christians up until a few decades ago. This division had deepened over the centuries through religious conflicts and wars.
It all started when Reformation took place, 500 years ago, as Martin Luther (1483-1546) tried to reform the Catholic Church. His attempt to do so instead led to a schism in the church.
On October 31, 1517, the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses, which outlined different abusive practices of the church, is considered the founding event that led to this division in Germany and the creation of the Evangelical Church.
Read more: Luther's daring revolution: The Reformation 500 years on
Reconciliation instead of hero worshiping
Right from the beginning, on October 21, 2016, this year of commemoration of the Reformation was characterized by an ecumenical approach. In the past, Protestant churches celebrated major Reformation anniversaries by worshiping Martin Luther as a hero — but this time it's different.
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) wishes to turn the celebrations of "500 Years of Reformation" into a common celebration of Christ with the Catholic Church.
Through various events, both sides will pay tribute to Martin Luther while emphasizing their will to overcome divisions. On Saturday, March 11, a central reconciliation service will be held in Hildesheim.
Luther Memorial in the city of Wittenberg, where the Reformation began
The goal is to reach better understanding and find common ground between the two churches. A new united church is, however, far from being realized - and it is doubtful that it ever will.
To describe their relationship, the expression "reconciled diversity" is used by both sides. Many of the aspects that were reformed by Luther at the time still divide both groups to this day.
Here are the eight main differences:
1. Understanding of the Bible
Catholicism and Protestantism have distinct views on the meaning and the authority of the Bible. For Protestant Christians, Luther made clear that the Bible is the "Sola Skriptura," God's only book, in which He provided His revelations to the people and which allows them to enter in communion with Him.
Catholics, on the other hand, do not base their beliefs on the Bible alone. Along with the Holy Scripture, they are additionally bound by the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Understanding the church
Catholics and Protestants have a different view on the nature of the church. The word "catholic" means "all-embracing," and the Catholic Church sees itself as the only true church worldwide, under the leadership of the pope.
In contrast, the Protestant Churches which have emerged from Reformation, also called "Evangelical," which means "according to the Gospel," do not make up one united Church. There are rather several tens of thousands of different denominations around the world. Officially, all of these many churches are considered equal.
3. The pope
Protestants are not open at all to papal primacy. According to the Evangelical view, this dogma contradicts statements in the Bible.
Catholics see in the pope the successor of the Apostle Peter, the first head of their Church, who was appointed by Jesus. The papal office is justified by an allegedly unbroken chain of consecrations, ranging from the first century to the present.
Even if many Protestants like Pope Francis, they categorically reject papacy
4. Understanding of the office
This continuous chain, known as the apostolic succession, is overall significant for different spiritual offices in the Catholic Church. With the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops, priests and deacons receive a lifelong seal of God giving them sacramental authority over Catholic laypeople. This consecration can only be given to men.
Protestants do not consecrate specific persons into office, but rather accept the principle that priesthood can be transferred to every believer - even to women.
5. Eucharist or Lord's Supper
The Catholics' views on the spiritual office are reflected in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, a rite commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before his crucifixion. Once consecrated by a priest in the name of Jesus, bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Non-Catholics may not participate in Communion.
In the Protest Church, every baptized person is invited to share and is allowed to lead the Lord's Supper. This approach is not accepted by Catholics.
Additionally, Eucharist has a different meaning for Catholics and Protestants. The bread, known as the Host, embodies Jesus and can therefore be prayed to. For Protestants, the ritual only serves to commemorate Jesus' death and resurrection.
For Catholics, the Host represents bread that is consecrated to represent Jesus' body
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are seven solemn rites, called sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders and extreme unction. The church believes these sacraments were instituted by Jesus and that they confer God's grace.
Most Protestant churches only practice two of these sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist (called Lord's Supper). They are perceived as symbolic rituals through which God delivers the Gospel. They are accepted through faith.
Read more:How Martin Luther became the first Christian pop star
7. Marian dogmas and the worship of Saints
The Roman Catholic Church reveres Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "Queen of Heaven." However, there are few biblical references to support the Catholic Marian dogmas - which include the Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity and her Assumption into heaven. This is why they are rejected by Protestants.
Though Protestants believe Mary was the mother of Jesus, unlike Catholics, they do not venerate her
The Catholic Church also practices the veneration of saints. Dead models of faith, recognized as "saint" by the church through canonization, can be prayed to for help in maintaining faith in God. There are over 4,000 saints. Their remains are considered holy relics which are venerated.
This veneration is also categorically by the Protestant Church as unbiblical. According to Reformation views, every person may and should pray directly to God.
All main world religions integrate in some way the concept of celibacy, the vow of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, and the Catholic and Protestant churches are no exception. In the Catholic Church, celibacy is obligatory for priests. It is seen as a symbol of the undivided succession of Christ.
The Protestant Church rejects this obligation for priests. Martin Luther already demanded its abolition as early as 1520. He made a decisive personal contribution to this end in 1525: The former monk married the former nun Katharina von Bora. Initially unsure of whether he should marry, Luther finally determined that "his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep."