Bible Studies/Catholicism and Protestantism.
QUESTION: Dear Marilyn
What are the Similarities and Differences in Catholicism and Protestantism ?
Are there different churches for both ?. i.e. Catholics go for worship and praying the all mighty to a different church and Protestants go to a different church ?.
Awaiting your reply,
Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar
ANSWER: Dear Prashant;
First, let's define the word "church."
As I understand it, the word "church" has four definitions:
1) The name “church” is used when referring to the building in which a group of believers congregates
2) But, in reality, the church building only matters because a specific local body or group of believers--those who gather at a certain location--are the church
3) The church is also bodies or groups of believers who belong to a particular denomination--my local church is a member of a larger denomination of like churches who operate under the same style of government and with the same directions for how to do things
4) And finally, the church is all persons all over the world and through history who believe in the core truths all Christians believe regardless of their denomination. It's confusing, but the term "catholic" with a small "c" is another name for the world-wide body of Christians.
Because the church, that is the world-wide church, is filled with not-yet perfected humans, it has suffered splits and disagreements from the beginning. These splits and disagreements lead to the different denominations as people group around the theology and church government they prefer.
In the book of Acts, a book in the Bible which describes the formation of the first church, a conflict between Jewish believers and Gentile believers caused problems. The Jewish believers thought that the Gentile believers should observe all the Jewish practices, such as circumcision, a stance Jesus' first Apostles (Acts 15) and the Apostle Paul soundly refuted.
At first, the only people who composed the church were Jews who believed Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah the Old Testament had predicted. They saw the church as an extension of Judaism--a completion of Judaism, the crown and glory of Judaism. There is merit to their position. Today Messianic Jews form their own separate congregations and continue their worship of Messiah by observing the Jewish feasts and pursuing study of the Bible through the lens of Jewish theology.
But the Apostles understood that with Jesus’ coming, the good news of God’s Love for human beings could not be limited to the Jews, it was intended for all people. As a result of their teaching that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to become Christians, the Christian church became a separate religion, even though it truly is an offshoot and the crown of the Jewish faith. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
Also, the Gnostics’ beliefs threatened and, unfortunately, influenced the early church’s understanding of God. Gnostic philosophy still challenges the church today.
There were some differentiations of Christian groups before the Roman emperor Constantine chose the Catholic church to become the state church of Rome, but these differentiations were not formal--they were in flux. When Constantine chose the Catholic group he insisted that all Christians join the Catholics and persecuted all who refused to do this. Unfortunately, the group that most adamantly refused to join the Catholics were the Messianic Jews and gradually their numbers shrank until there were so few they dropped off the radar.
Constantine moved his seat of government to the city he renamed “Constantinople.” At the time, there were two branches of Catholicism, the western and the eastern. The Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church considered themselves sister denominations until they split in the late 700's due to cultural differences and due to theological disputes, politics and jurisdiction issues, but more than anything because one wanted to be the dominant group over the other. The two competing Popes excommunicated each other and they became two different denominations that have grown less similar as time has passed.
In the fifth century, several of the Oriental Churches, under Pope Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, separated from Rome and Constantinople. These were the (Nestorian) and Egyptian Coptic Orthodox (Miaphysite). Differences concerning the theological language for describing the person of Christ at the Council of Chalcedon caused these Churches to break full communion with the Roman Church. The Coptic Church has all be been wiped out by Islam. Presently Islam is doing its best to finish the job.
I do not know much about the Greek Orthodox or Coptic Churches except that they bear similarities to the Roman Catholic church with its hierarchical power structure, use of their own versions of Mass and icons and statuary as aid to worship and relationship with God.
What we call "Protestant" churches did not exist until the 1500's. The name “Protestant” comes from the fact that the founders were protesting against the corruption and ignorance they saw in the Catholic church.
The best-known protester was a German Catholic priest, Martin Luther, who had become disillusioned with his church and his life in the church and deeply disquieted within his heart. Indeed, in those days the Roman Catholic Church had reached a pinnacle of immorality and corruption coupled with a vast ignorance of Scripture beyond anything we see today. Martin Luther's revelation of God came from actually reading the Bible rather than simply repeating excerpts from the Bible during Mass, a thing which can be done so easily without giving a thought to the words coming out of the mouth. For Martin Luther the book that illuminated his soul the book of Romans.
Simultaneously, Huldrych Zwingli began a Protestant movement in Switzerland. John Calvin is the third founder of Protestantism. These three generated the new philosophical and theological founding principles and thought of the Protestant movement. All three looked to Scripture for illumination and truth. The Scripture Only was one of their mottoes.
The matter came to a head in 1517 when Pope Leo X announced a new round of indulgences which were sold to help build St. Peter’s Basilica. Essentially, the Pope was selling a document which he asserted would grant the bearer a pass directly into Heaven. This infuriated Martin Luther who, because of his study of the book of Romans, had come to understand that persons are saved by faith in Jesus alone and by no other means--certainly not through documents purchased from another human being!
On fire with holy zeal, Martin Luther wrote 95 Theses, a list of problems and/or questions which took the reader back to Scripture as the source for truth and morality. He nailed the document to the chapel door at the university where he served and students immediately began copying it and sharing it--the 95 Theses went viral. He intended these to be items for discussion, hoping to bring renewal and reform to the Catholic Church that would end corruption and ignorance, but instead he launched the German Protestant revolution.
In the end, though they left the Catholic church, these three men brought thriving Christian theology and philosophy based on Scripture alone into the thought pool of Europe, thus eventually reviving the Catholic church. Protestantism became a permanent fixture of the Christian landscape. Today, the tension between Catholicism and Protestantism helps keep both branches of the Christian faith honest and filled with vitality.
Because imperfect humans are involved, almost immediately rifts began to appear in the Protestant movement. Jacobus Arminius studied under John Calvin's son-in-law and became a pastor of a congregation in Amsterdam and professor at the University of Leiden. He adhered to Calvin's interpretations of the Bible until he did his own study of Romans and concluded that Calvin had gotten some things wrong. The Protestant church still grapples with these two views, Calvinism and Arminianism today.
The Calvinists believe that God chooses who will be saved and compels those He chooses to receive Him--human beings have no choice in the matter, God’s will is irresistible. The Armenians believe that God gives humans the power to choose whether or not to accept Him and woos them to come. Admittedly, this is an oversimplified view of both schools of thought.
However, God is not perturbed by arguments over Scripture, in fact, He delights in them because it is in the friction between two passionate debaters where learning and growth occur. And passionate debaters care. The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. God wants us to care and to learn and grow.
Politics and human lusts or drives have played their role throughout time in creating splits within the church. In England, the tension between Catholic and Protestant was played out in the struggle for power amongst persons of royal blood.
One of Christianity's strengths is that it is not dependent upon culture, but meshes with the aspects of a person's culture which do not conflict with its core truths. In the British Isles, a uniquely British Catholic church was already in development in the 3rd century. Augustine was sent to Britain to enlarge that church. Pope Gregory the Great and Aidan converted previously pagan British to Christianity and further expanded the church in Britain. When King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church because Pope Clement VII would not grant him a divorce, the Anglican Church was born. Archbishop Thomas Crammer brought more change when he further allied the English church with the Reformation movement going on in mainland Europe and the Anglican Church became Protestant. Political wrangling and royal power struggles finally brought Elizabeth I to power and Catholicism's dominance over England ended, the Anglican Church became the primary denomination in England and that state religion of England.
Since the beginning of the Protestant/Reformation movement, Protestant denominations have sprung into existence, sometimes splitting away from existing denominations, sometimes springing up spontaneously, begun by a person who started with home Bible studies that grew and grew until they had to rent a building, then purchase a building, then expand to a new area with a "missionary" who left to take on the task of growing that church in a new place.
Splits in the Christian church, whether the split has a world-wide effect as the Reformation launched by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin did, or a local effect limited to one congregation, is caused by one of these:
1) Like the Catholic church of the 1500's and early 1600's, a church or a denomination wanders away from God and His Word into sin and/or stale rituals with little thought given to a relationship with God. Essentially, when a church places its relationship with power, lust and/or ritual over its relationship with God, it will spilt or disintegrate.
God made Martin Luther's spirit within him so unsettled and unhappy with his existence that He finally searched the Bible for help and was given revelation and empowerment to seek renewal and reform the church.
My simplified explanation of this phenomenon goes like this: God builds the Fire of His Presence and people gather around it to bask in Him. Over time the people develop dogmas and rituals while they bask in God's Fire--human created ideas about how the Fire came to be there, how to keep the Fire going and how to enjoy/worship/live in the Fire. They throw in some Bible verses around that and call it worship and study. After awhile the people hold more dearly to their ideas and rituals than they do to God and His Word (the Bible) and gradually, because He is being ignored, God departs from them. The Fire dies out and soon the people are sitting around a cold campsite where nothing is happening except dead rituals and blather and the people themselves become cold. As soon as this begins to happen, some will leave to seek God's Fire elsewhere others will come because they like everything laid out clearly and obviously for them--they don’t want to think, they want to be passive. When the life is finally gone from the coals, even the passive members will leave. Those that stay have been in love with the rituals and dogmas all along and hang around until there is no one left. Meanwhile, God has moved on to find a person who will listen to Him and allow His Fire to burn within. Through that person God starts a new Fire and shares Himself with all those who will come and bask in it. And eventually the process repeats. Humans are like that. It is so very hard for us to hold onto contact with an Invisible God! We prefer to be on vacation and not have to think and actively develop a relationship with God.
Another example. By the 1700’s the Anglican Church in England had become a dead campsite. John Wesley and his brother, Charles, had a novel idea. Let’s read the Bible. They began reading and found God there speaking to them. They started the Methodist Movement, which named for their method of Bible study and sharing the good news of God’s love for human beings. And the Methodist Church was born.
I think you see a theme here. A deeper definition of a church is this: A church is a group of people who love God, read and study the Bible and gather together to enjoy God’s love and join their love together in unity of love for God in worship. A church shares what they’ve learned, whether that be from experiences of seeing God work in their lives or what they’ve learned in the course of their Bible studies. And the church goes forth to tell others the good news that God loves human beings. A church only lives while the Fire of God is in them. If they permit that Fire to grow cold, then the church will die or split.
2) A church will split over an argument. The argument, such as the King Henry the VIII’s argument with the Roman Catholic Church, pits a person or persons' will versus the church. Or the Calvinists vs. the Arminianists. Or the argument can be local and be about something as trivial as whether or not a congregation should employ musical instruments during worship. Arguments all the way from the frivolous to the profound. American Protestant churches are presently splitting over homosexuality and others issues.
It's likely there are many other reasons churches split into new denominations that I have not noticed or overlooked. Whatever God intends to be unified, human beings will inevitably fragment.
The differences and similarities between Catholicism and Protestantism:
1) Catholicism is based on Scripture and tradition; Protestantism strives to be based on Scripture alone
Examples: Catholics believe that Jesus' human mother, Mary, was also divine. This is a traditional belief, it is not supported by Scripture. Catholics believe that Mary did not have any more children or have sexual relations with her husband, Joseph, either before or after Jesus' birth. Scripture refutes this tradition. Its states that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived, but did "know" her husband after Jesus' birth. The author of the book of James was Jesus' half brother.
Catholics and some Protestants practice infant baptism. This is a tradition. Protestant denominations that do this have developed, what they claim, are a Scriptural basis for this practice, but other denominations see their arguments as flimsy at best and can point to Scripture to support their understanding that baptism should occur after a person has made a decision to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Because some Protestant denominations retain some Catholic roots, beliefs and practices, such as the Lutheran and Anglican Churches, you will see an overlap of some traditions. The Protestant groups will reach into the Bible to find Scripture to back up their tradition; the Catholics do not feel the same compulsion. They value tradition as part of the foundation of their church.
2) the Bible
The Catholic Bible includes the "Apocrypha" the Protestant Bible does not. I know nothing about the Apocrypha, therefore I am not qualified to comment on it.
Catholics say that Jesus' death on the cross created merit that is shared with sinners through the sacraments. This means that a person must partake of the Seven Sacraments in order to partake of Jesus’ work on the cross. The Seven Sacraments are: baptism (as an infant); Communion (what the Protestants call the Lord’s Supper); reconciliation (repenting of sin and doing penance for sin); confirmation (this usually occurs after attending a confirmation class in which the individual learns about the church, what the church believes and whatever Scripture is included in that process); marriage (lay people are to be married because the image of God is made complete in a man and a woman; if possible, they are to start a family; those called to the priesthood or to become nuns will take holy orders and be wed to the church and to God); anointing the sick or last rites.
Protestants say that Jesus' death on the cross paid for sin for all who will believe. Protestants observe Communion and baptism, but do not include marriage as a sacrament (actually, I do not know if all Protestant denominations do not include marriage as a sacrament, the denominations with which I am familiar do not). Protestants say Jesus’ death was a substitute for you and me taking the penalty for our sin upon Himself. They say that His work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead is sufficient and no human activity, except to believe and receive this gift is required for salvation. This is based in part on the Scripture which says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23.
(By the way, the word, “Christ,” is the Greek word which is “Messiah” in English. And the Name “Jesus” in English is “Joshua,” which comes from the Hebrew “Yeshua.” I do not know why so many of the Greek names are retained in an English text, except it may have to do with the hope of setting those things apart and keeping them uncorrupted by the mundane.)
Personally, I think it is a shame that Protestants do not include marriage as a sacrament. Some Protestant denominations, particularly Pentecostal denominations will anoint a person for sickness and pray for them. My pastor will anoint an infant when he baptizes him. (I personally do not agree with infant baptism, though I attend a church that practices it.) Protestants will also use anointing oil for ordination as a symbol of the Presence of God and His Holy Spirit anointing. And they will use anointing oil on homes or buildings to show that the Holy Spirit resides in that location while they ask for protection from evil spirits or persons.
Catholics believe that some people must spend time in Purgatory (a description of this place sounds a lot like hell to me) being perfected before they can enter Heaven. Meanwhile people who yet live must pray for them while they are there and appeal to Mary and other giants of the Catholic faith to also pray to obtain release from Purgatory for their loved ones. There is no biblical basis for this belief that I have ever discovered; it is a tradition.
Protestants believe that Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead were sufficient and complete and require nothing from human beings except to believe and receive.
By way of explaining the Protestant view on salvation and atonement, think of this analogy: You and I sin. We have told lies. We have coveted other people's belongings or their spouses or their jobs. We have done something in excess. We have failed to love our neighbors. Because we have sinned, we are on what Americans call "death row." This is the part of the prison where those who have been sentenced to death await their execution.
Jesus gave up His position in Heaven to become a human being. In essence, He invaded planet earth; He walked into our prison. He lived with us. He loved us. And because He loves all human beings, He went to the executioner in our place and died, thus taking our punishment upon Himself. Only a sinless Man could do this because all human beings are on death row. If you were to commit a murder, another murderer cannot take your penalty. Only an innocent person can take your penalty and free you from your fate.
Because Jesus took our penalty--since He is God in a Man, He has the capacity to take every human being’s penalty--now, the prison door is open. If you and I will believe that Jesus has done this, announced publicly that we believe this and also that He has been raised from the dead, we can walk out of the prison--free! (Romans 10:9) However, if we do not believe and refuse Jesus' gift, we are still in prison, even though the door is unlocked and standing open. Because we do not believe, we will still be executed.
No human being (except two mentioned in the Bible, Elijah and Enoch) has so far escaped the first executioner: physical death. When the verse in Romans promises “eternal life” it is not referring to physical life. The executioner from which the Lord Jesus promises to save us, is the final and most awful execution: separation from God for eternity in hell where human beings will be in torment along with the devil and his minions forever, which is essentially eternal death.
4) good works
Catholics believe good works help a believer achieve salvation.
Protestants believe good works are done out of love for God and for fellow human beings in order to bring glory to God and to bless human beings, but have no effect on salvation.
Catholics believe baptism is the first act of being saved.
Protestants are divided on why and how baptism should be done and when. I agree with the Baptist understanding of baptism. The Baptists teach that baptism is an outward sign of an inward change or event. By being dunked under water a person who has received the Lord Jesus' gift of substitute for him, enacts a portrait of death to an old life and raised to a new life in Jesus. In the new life the believer becomes a Jesus' sister or brother and fellow servant of God--free of prison and the guilt and shame of sin. Baptism is a picture of the believer joining with Jesus in His death and raising with Him in His resurrection. The Bible promises that when the time is right, God will raise His people from the dead. They will receive a resurrection body just as Jesus did, a body capable of defying the laws of gravity and physics and of living forever.
The word "baptize" is from the Greek, "baptizo" which means "to dunk or to thoroughly douse such as pouring sufficient liquid over a person to make the person thoroughly wet." When the committee that translated the King James Bible came up against that word they were in a muddle. The English king who had commissioned the King James Bible was a Presbyterian. Presbyterians daub water on an infant's forehead or the crown of his head--they do not dunk. To avoid conflict with the king, they created the word "baptize" and plugged that word into the text. It is not wrong, but it is not accurate either. It has created unfortunate confusion ever since.
Regardless of the specifics of how a person is baptized, Protestants are in agreement: baptism does not save a person, it is an act done in order to obey Jesus' command that believers must be baptized.
Catholics believe salvation is received at baptism, but it can be lost and then retrieved through acts of penance. Acts of penance are prescribed by the priest during confession. Once the Catholic believer completes the acts, he is returned to right standing with God.
Protestants believe that salvation is received when a person makes a decision to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior--as described above--and publicly announces it. Salvation can be lost only by blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Mark 3:22-30. This is a specific, not easy to commit sin. In order to commit this sin, the person must witness a miracle of God, KNOW that God did the miracle and still attribute the miracle to satan. Committing this sin requires thought, decision and will of the person committing it, it cannot be committed casually or accidentally.
The two sacraments that Protestants observe are Communion or the Lord's Supper, which commemorates Jesus' final meal where He commanded His disciples to drink wine and consume unleavened bread in remembrance of Him. Also, baptism is a sacrament.
As discussed above, Catholics believe that the sacraments themselves impute to the participants divine virtue--saving power--transformation. Protestants believe that whatever power or transformation occurs during the observing of a sacrament, it is spiritually given and received by faith. If no faith is applied, nothing will be received; the sacraments are then no longer sacraments, but simply eating bread and drinking wine or being wet.
This is the Catholic belief that when the priest prays over the elements of Communion/the Lord's Supper that they literally and actually become the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Protestants reject this idea. Protestants view the bread and wine as symbols. (If you would like more elaboration on this or any other topic, please let me know.)
Catholics believe that priests are called by God and must give their all to Him by becoming celibate--in effect married to God--and sometimes withdrawing from society to a monastery. The Gnostic influence appears here in the idea of separating oneself from the evil, natural world to be set apart from it. There is no biblical basis for this sort of priesthood or nun-hood. Priests that serve amongst the people do the work of the church with some help from Deacons and other members, but the priests are primarily the ones who do the work of God's Kingdom; they bear the responsibility of Kingdom building for God.
In the beginning, Christianity was founded firmly upon what we would call the Jewish faith, or Judaism. It is the natural extension of Judaism in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, Son of God, who fulfills the Old Testament prophecies and feasts and Law.
In the Jewish faith, the true servant of God is deeply involved in family. Ideally, he or she is married and has a family. Married or unmarried, the idea of family extends beyond blood ties to the community of believers. This concept continued and vastly expanded in the early Christian church and was taken up again by the Protestants who believe that all believers are priests in God's Kingdom. Catholics retain the valuing of marriage and family by making marriage a sacrament. But those who want to become ministers for God must not marry. Protestants believe that ministers and persons who serve at all levels of church government and in ministry can be married. They believe that the highest expression of priesthood is to, if possible, not only be a husband or wife and to raise children but for all believers to stretch their arms into the community to include hurting people and beloved friends and all neighbors in God's family. The Protestant believes all believers are priests and priestesses, ministers etc. in God's Kingdom and are called to create God's Kingdom on earth which is best portrayed by a happy, loving family--ideally one that includes the entire world. Put simply, Protestants believe all believers are priests.
Protestants believe that God calls people to be priests in daily life wherever they live, work and play. They believe God wants His people filling all available positions from student to business owner to computer programmer to artist to mathematician and while doing those mundane tasks, do it as unto God as His priest or representative in the earth.
Catholics believe that the priest is necessary to be a mediator between the average Christian and God. This harkens back to the Jewish temple worship when priests did fulfill that function. But when Jesus was crucified, the curtain separating the Most Holy Place in the temple where God's Presence lived was torn from the top down by God's own Hand. Further, Jesus, as a God Man, also suffered "tearing" when He was killed. By His human body’s death paying our penalty for sin, He ended the wall of separation between God and Man (see the book of Hebrews).
Sin separates us from God--it is a stench in His nostrils and He cannot bear it and as sinners cannot live in His Light. Without Jesus' gift of liberation from the prison of sin, which includes giving to us His perfection as a covering over us, we cannot be with God. Before Jesus came, a priest was necessary. The priest would sacrifice an animal to be a substitute for himself and would observe other rituals such as dunking himself for purification and so on to be cleansed to enter the Most Holy Place in the Jewish temple where he would offer the blood of an animal sacrificed for the people's sin before God. In this way God was able to forgive sin and bought time for believers until Jesus could come and become the True and Lasting Sacrifice. An animal cannot take a human’s penalty and pay for it. But God recognized animal sacrifice done in faith as acceptable, looking forward to the day when He Himself would become the Sacrifice. (It is interesting to note that there has been no Jewish temple since AD 70. God has made clear that animal sacrifices are no longer needed.)
The wall of separation between God and human beings no longer exists because Jesus Himself became a Man and is our High Priest. We no longer need a human priest to go between us and God. Instead, all believers become priests going between God and humans who do not yet know Him and to their families and the world. And Jesus serves as our High Priest to Whom we appeal directly and He intercedes for us before God the Father.
Catholics believe in a hell-like place where persons are purified so that they may continue on to Heaven.
Protestants believe when a person dies he either is admitted directly into Heaven or into hell, there is no halfway place. I can find no reference in the Bible to such a place as purgatory. This belief is a tradition.
11) prayer to saints
Catholics have a specific process by which persons, who must be dead, are admitted to the ranks of the saints. The deceased person considered for sainthood must have performed 3 verifiable miracles after his or her death and fulfill other criteria. Once a person has been admitted to the ranks of "saint" then the living may pray to them to intercede for them before God.
Protestants reject this, further, there is no biblical basis for this practice or the method by which a person is declared a saint.
Protestants believe that every person, no matter how presently sinful he may seem, who has received Jesus' free gift of salvation by publicly declaring aloud, "Jesus is Lord," and believing in his heart that Jesus was raised from the dead is a saint. Protestants believe that no human being can qualify for sainthood on his or her own merit, but that all who believe as described earlier in this paragraph become saints because of what Jesus has done and because He covers us with His perfection when we receive Him as Lord and Savior. Paul clearly includes all believers in the ranks of saints in his writings, an example, Philippians 4:21.
The designation of "saint" should behoove all Christians to do their best to love everyone. Love is the only law of the Christian.
12) meditating on icons or statuary help the believer see God
Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have paintings, statues and stained glass windows portraying events from the Bible and artist conception of what the Lord Jesus and other persons of note looked like. These are used both as teaching tools, in the Middle Ages because the people could not read, and as windows into the spirit realm. It is my impression that this is especially true of Eastern Orthodox churches.
Protestants may have paintings and statues, but these are not considered as windows into the spirit realm. They are not given the same status as in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. Catholics may treat a statue as if it were living and even kiss a statue of Jesus or Mary. Though some Protestant denominations may have artist conception portraits of Jesus or other will known biblical figures, many Protestants are vehemently opposed to any image because they view them as idols which themselves are or might inadvertently be worshiped. The Father is invisible and no one knows what the Son looked like. These churches may have an empty cross adorning the front of the building, but nothing else.
In the past the Catholic church insisted that only Catholics were saved, some conservative Catholic churches may still adhere to this view, though presently I think most have come to accept that there is such a thing as a universal church founded upon Jesus as Lord which agrees on certain key truths which are not negotiable and includes many different denominations.
In the early days of their founding, Protestants called the Pope "evil," but as the war between Protestants and Catholics ended and as we recognized we share the same Lord, this view has changed. Protestants may not understand Catholics, but accept that they may be brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus and conversely, Catholics may not agree with Protestants, but recognize we serve the same Lord.
The Catholic adherence to tradition and to Scripture, which of late Americans have mocked because it is “old and out of date” is a wonderful check on the human tendency to wander off into wrong thinking just because it is new. The formal and ritualistic worship with its lovely accoutrements is often beautiful, rich and deeply spiritual in a way the less formal and dressed Protestant worship is not. The Protestants’ less formal and less dressed-up ways of worship are sometimes more amenable to new moves of God and this brings vitality to the Catholic worship which can be mired in tradition and ritual and lose life. The Catholics provide a check on the Protestants forcing them to constantly revisit Scripture and renew their thinking.
Here's an attempt to list the core truths all Christians believe. Keep in mind this list is simplified and incomplete.
God is Three Persons in One. The Father, the Son (also known as The Word, John 1) and the Holy Spirit.
God created everything. God created human beings in His image. They have the gifts of language; mathematics; philosophy; art; music and all forms of creativity and logic similar to God, but in limited forms. God gave the earth to human beings to have dominion over it and raise families upon it. Dominion includes farming and hunting, but also coming to understand how the universe works and applying what is learned to better human conditions and advance human learning.
God intended to be High King over human beings who would rule the earth--this is part of having dominion.
When Adam and Eve, the first human beings, rebelled against God, sin entered the world. Sin exists because one of God's top angels became conceited and full of pride and rebelled against God. This angel is now know as satan. Many of God's angels joined in the rebellion. They are known now as demons. God defeated them and cast them out of Heaven.
We show our love for God by obedience. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of a particular tree. Obeying God would prove their love for Him. God wants above all things to love and to be loved.
Because satan hates God, he went to the human beings, lied to them, deceived the woman and tricked her into eating the forbidden fruit. She ate and Adam also ate of it. When they did this, death, sickness and hate--sin and the effects of sin--became a fact of human life. Some of satan's nature entered into their spirits. And human beings became separated from God and God lost His High Kingship over the earth. Now satan has that function. This is why the earth is plagued by so much evil.
All human beings are infected with sin from birth, passed down from generation to generation.
God is perfect. He is Love, He is Wisdom, He is Patience, He is Kindness, He is Truth. God is also just. If you belong to Him, He is jealous of your love just like a husband is jealous of his wife's love. He is the Judge.
God gave the Ten Commandments in order to show human beings His standard for behavior.
Human beings fail to keep the Ten Commandments, but because of the Ten Commandments we learned that we are not capable of perfection before God.
Because God put human beings in charge of the earth, God had to become a Man in order to obtain the same rights and duties of a human being--that is to have a foothold here as One Who Can Legally be in Charge--as mentioned earlier Jesus’ birth is God’s personal invasion force. This Man was the Word of God Become Flesh--God incarnate. His Name is Jesus, in the Greek, Yeshua in the Hebrew. Jesus came to re-establish God's Kingship over the earth.
Jesus lived among us doing God's work, revealing God's nature. Jesus revealed to human beings God’s will and His heart to human beings. Jesus final purpose in coming was to die to redeem us from the prison called sin. While He was here, Jesus committed no sin. Thus, when He was slain it was an illegal death--the only illegal death in the history of the planet. Jesus defeated death and rose from the dead.
After His resurrection, Jesus stayed for awhile among His disciples helping prepare them for the time when He would leave them to carry on. To His disciples and to all those who believe Jesus gave the mission to spread the good news of Jesus’ invasion, His triumph over sin and death and His offer of the free gift of salvation and restoration to personal, loving, child and parent, sister and brother, servant and partner, relationship with God.
He ascended into Heaven where He returned to His position in glory. He remains a God-Man and now intercedes for us before the Father. He is our High Priest.
After the Lord Jesus returned to Heaven, the Holy Spirit came to be with the disciples and with all human beings who receive Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit guides and comforts God's people. He also empowers them to do God's work.
When the time is right, the Lord Jesus will return again.
Catholic vs. Protestant forms of church government (I will be using only two examples of Protestant church government)
The Catholic Church and many of the Protestant denominations that retain Catholic influences have a hierarchical form of government.
In the Catholic Church, the Pope is the head of the Catholic church and is vested with all power of the church to set doctrine, to set a course of action, to decide everything. When a Pope dies or resigns, a new Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals. The Pope appoints Cardinals and Bishops. Cardinals oversee Bishops who oversee priests. All these were once originally priests who ran local churches. Lay people have no power, except for Deacons who have limited abilities to minister locally, mostly in order to take on some priestly duties when there are not enough priests available to do this work. And lay people may have some power in influencing the next generation when they take on the duty of teaching confirmation classes to children. I do not know how Deacons are chosen or elected.
In the Methodist Church, which retains aspects of the Anglican Church operates like this: the local church elects a church board to run the affairs of their congregation. Their pastor is the head of their congregation and is appointed by the Bishop, usually for 3-year terms. Pastors are rotated throughout the region serving different Methodist congregations. The District Superintendent, a pastor taken from a local church and appointed by the Bishop to the role of District Superintendent, visits local churches each year to review their finances, their accomplishments and oversees the pastors. They do this throughout the region where they have jurisdiction. Methodists hold national conventions where church doctrine and policy are voted on by attendees. All clergy and an equal number of lay people attend the National Convention. National convention appoints the Bishops who will serve over regions and argues and votes on policy issues. Bishops are chosen from the ranks of pastors and district superintendents, who also were once pastors. Presently the Methodist Church is also being torn apart by the issue of homosexuality.
The flaw in this form of government is that the local church has no power to carry on if they have no pastor and they cannot choose their pastor. Small congregations that do not have the funds to support a pastor must close their doors. Most Protestant denominations leave the choice of pastor up to the local body and the pastor serves at the local church so long as it pleases both himself and the church.
The local Presbyterian church elects nine people to serve on Session, which is the governing body of the local church. The local church at large also elects lay people to serve on committees who do the work of the church. The Session oversees the work of the church and manages the employees, which include the pastor, and the finances. A Presbyterian church chooses its own pastor. Session members are committee chairpersons. The Session appoints a Session member and a lay member to go with the pastor to Presbytery, the number of people who are chosen to attend Presbytery send the pastor and others based on the population of the congregation. A small church will send only the pastor and one lay person, larger churches will send more. The Presbytery is the next tier of government. The Presbytery does the work of the regional church, managing church camping grounds where groups can have retreats, supporting the local church and helping local churches reach out to the communities local and regional. The Synod is the next tier above the Presbytery. At the national level, hired employees, who are chosen during national convention serve the national church. The national convention is convened every three years or so. Each Presbytery sends representatives to the national convention where policy is set, the attendees vote on issues (such as homosexuality, whether homosexuals will be ordained etc.) and other business matters are settled. The title of persons serving on Session is “Elder.” In the Presbyterian church, the Deacons are those selected to carry out the attention to the needs of the congregation, such as food for elderly who cannot get out, prayers for the sick and visits to the downhearted.
There are flaws in this system. The hired persons at national level have no oversight and they often adopt views which are contrary to the average church member. Churches fail to rotate their Session members and thus fall into clusters of allied persons who come into power conflicts and blindness to the new things God may be doing.
These are some examples of the different ways in which local churches and their denominations organize themselves.
Dr A. W. Tozer expressed the spiritual maturity of those who grow in grace as they grow old with God:
“There is a glorious catholicity of the saints, a mystic brotherhood of the farsighted, who have long been straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of the King in His beauty in the land that is very far off. With great joy and deep humility I claim membership in that brotherhood. This is the oldest and largest church in the world; it is the church of the Cross-smitten, of the God-enamoured.
“So as the years go on, I am coming to care less and less about any man's denominational ties. Let a man have a faraway look in his eyes, let him bow his head and whisper the ever-blessed name of Jesus, and he is my brother, whatever his name may be. And whether he will admit it or not. If by some bit of unfortunate education he may believe his church to be the only one, and consign me to perdition because I am not in it, I will still own him a member of the family of God if I find in his life the marks of the Cross and in his eyes the long look that reveals the man of faith.”
Hope this answers your question.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Dear Marilyn
Christianity Religion is broadly divided into two Divisions or Communities viz Catholics and Protestants.
This are my views mentioned below.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God has founded the religion Christianity. Mother Mary is Mother of the Lord. Both are Great. The Holy Churches are open to all whether Catholics or Protestants and not only Catholics or Protestants but to all other religions.
I personally born Hindu religion by birth visit Different churches
St Lewis Church, Mount Mary Church, St Michael Church. The Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters of those churches allow me to enter the church, pray and worship before the All Mighty. I get mental peace. They do not stop me to enter the church just because i am from a different religion.
I personally feel Catholics should be allowed to visit the Protestants Churches and Protestants should be allowed to enter the Catholics Churches and they should do this.
I also personally feel there should be a common church for both the communities and not different churches for the Catholics and Protestants communities.
Note : Mother Mary is Mother of the Lord itself. Both are Great. God is Great.
Statistically if we take a count of Total Number of Catholics and Total Number of Protestants in all countries, which will be more in number ?.
This can be calculated by the simple mathematical formula of summation.
Just As a example,
1. Country : USA Total Number of Catholics : 2000000. Total Number of Protestants : 1500000.
2. Country : United Kingdom Total Number of Catholics : 1500000. Total Number of Protestants : 2000000.
Total Number of Catholics in the world = Sum of Catholics in every country.
Total Number of Protestants in the world = Sum of Protestants in every country.
As we know, Every Christian baby born in a family will be either a Catholic or a Protestant.
Note : The above example does not show any real figures, the numbers shown are taken just for computation.
Awaiting your reply for the above two questions,
Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar
The Lord Jesus is calling to you in your heart. You hear His words in your mind. Give Him your heart, commit to follow Him and He will give You His Holy Spirit. He has plans for you to do great things for His Kingdom. This He has told me last night and this morning. He loves you and gave His life for you. If you had been the only human being, He would have come to live on earth and die for you. Give Him your heart and do what He bids you do.
Protestants and Catholics in the US often visit other churches and denominations. Which ones depend on how comfortable the person feels visiting unfamiliar churches and/or what they've been taught about visiting other denominations. I know a few Catholics who will not set foot in a Protestant church except for a wedding or a funeral. And I know a few Protestants who would never visit a Catholic or Pentecostal church except for a wedding or a funeral.
The Lord Jesus prayed to the Father during His last hours on earth before His crucifixion that those who would come to believe in Him would be united, see John 17:23. This prayer has not been answered yet.
In the USA as the old denominations wither and die because they have left the Truth or because they sit around cold campsites, non-denominational churches are springing up. In every city a visitor will find at least one non-denominational church, but usually more. I do not know where this trend is leading Christianity, but I think that measuring church attendance and affiliation has become more difficult because many people who attend non-denominational churches do not formally join.
I am glad you have been welcomed to all the churches where you have visited; that is how it should be. Clearly you feel very strongly about Christian unity. And clearly it is something the Lord Jesus wants! Is the Lord Jesus calling you to help Him with this problem?
Yes, the Lord Jesus is the founder of all Christian faiths and Mary, His mother, is great. I think the Catholics give her too much glory (she is not a Person of God) and the Protestants don't give her enough. Yes, God is Great!
Though a person may grow up attending church, that does not automatically make him a Christian. Becoming a Christian is a personal decision to choose Jesus as Lord of his heart and conduct, it is not based on church attendance or affiliation with a denomination, though if a person wants to become a strong Christian and gain the full benefits of being a Christian, which include loving support from brothers and sisters and Bible study etc., he should go to church.
Some people who grew up attending church become atheists, some people who were raised by atheists become believers. Some have left the church and live their lives as if they were atheists, never acknowledging God's role in their day to day existence, but some of these might be called back to life in the church if the right circumstances came about.
Whether a person is a Christian or not all depends on whether a person answers Jesus' call to become His--to accept His gift of freedom from the prison of sin.
I would group non-denominational churches in with Protestant churches, but I am not sure those who count such things do that or even if they realize that the non-denominational church movement is gaining momentum. The media in the US are increasingly out of touch with Americans' spirituality; they represent a tiny fragment of American thought and values.
According to http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm
The largest three populations of Christians in the world:
US - 246,780,000 (79.5% of the Population)
Brazil - 175,770,000 (90.2% of the Population)
Mexico - 107,780,000 (95% of the Population)
Here are a couple of links where you might find useful: