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QUESTION: Dear Joel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholicism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism

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: This is a complex question. Both Catholics and Protestants are Christians and trace their faith to that of Jesus.  Catholics and most Protestants believe in the Trinity (Father-Son-Holy Spirit).  Both mainly worship on Sunday (though churches as the Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday).  Both also trace their faith to the Bible.  The differences between Catholics and Protestants are in what they understand the church to be, how they understand scripture, and how they understand doctrine.  Catholics believe that their church was founded by Jesus (which is not true because the "church" spoken of by Jesus was a spiritual fellowship of believers, not a denomination.  As a matter of fact, it was Jewish).  They believe that the successors to Jesus' apostles are the Catholic bishops (which has no scriptural basis).  Catholics oppose the teaching of "sola scriptura," which was a major point of the Reformation.  "Sola scriptura" says that scripture alone is the basis of doctrine.  With Catholics, the church determines doctrine.  They criticize Protestants because they allow people to read the Bible for themselves.  With Catholics, the church, basically, tells you what the Bible says, and, in addition, the church adds to scripture in the teachings of the church (for example, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Infallibility of the Pope, limbo, and purgatory).  Protestants believe that the scripture is the basis of doctrine.  Catholics believe that their church put the Bible together, so they have authority over it.  True, an early church council determined the canon of scripture, yet the Bible is a text to which all churches agreed.  The Bible is not the property of any one church.  I might add that regardless of how Catholics believe in unity, they are not the only Catholic church.  There are also "independent" Catholic churches as the Liberal Catholic Church, the Christ Catholic Church, and the Polish National Catholic Church.  These churches may differ on teachings regarding the Virgin Mary, yet they do not accept the Pope.  These churches also believe in freedom of belief.  A major difference between Catholics and Protestants is regarding the sacraments (baptism, communion/eucharist).  Catholics, as well as many Protestants, practice infant baptism.  Catholics believe that the sacraments are a means of grace.  They differ with Protestants mostly over communion/eucharist.  The Catholic eucharist is a commemoration of the death/sacrifice of Christ.  Catholics place strong emphasis on this, especially in their observance of the "Stations of the Cross" (which are scenes in the church depicting Christ's path to the cross).  They believe in Christ's "real presence" in the eucharist, which means that the bread and wine literally become his body and blood. So, they believe they actually eat his body and drink his blood.  Protestants believe that communion commemorates Christ's resurrection.  It is often called a "witness of the resurrection."  The bread and wine (or grape juice) have symbolic value.  They are not literally Jesus' body and blood.  Many Protestants do not practice infant baptism because (1) it is not supported by scripture, and (2) it involves repentance.  Since a baby can't repent, they are not proper candidates for baptism.  Most Protestants believe that salvation is through grace--God's unmerited favor--alone, not upon baptism or the sacraments.  Catholics and Protestants do represent different churches in their theology, yet they both represent faith in Jesus, though they understand that faith differently.  The Catholic faith does say that all believers in Jesus and God are able to be saved.  Joel

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Joel

Thank you.

Christianity Religion is broadly divided into two different Divisions  or Communities viz Catholics and Protestants.

This are my views mentioned below from my side.

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. Regarding my above opinion and views, can you please reply me with your views ?.

Awaiting your reply,

Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar

Answer
I'd agree that Catholics should be allowed to visit Protestant churches, but they aren't.  My understanding is that they believe that it is a sin to visit other than the Catholic church (except for a wedding or funeral).  Protestants are not allowed to receive communion/eucharist in a Catholic church, but they do receive a special blessing.
    I'd agree with you, too, about the need for a common church.  Let me share a couple insights.  A famous Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee believed that denominationalism was sin.  He believed that there should be one church per locality, so, for example, there'd be the Church at Adyar or the Church at Calcutta.  The church, in itself, is a spiritual fellowship and is not a denomination or institution.  In the Bible, it says that God "added to His church those who would be saved."  You have the spiritual church, but local expressions of that church.  Baha'u'llah, founder of the Bahai Faith, taught that there should be a "house of worship" in every locality, which is open to all people.  Currently, the Bahais have Houses of Worship in many cities, including, I believe, New Dehli.  A major theme of Baha'u'llah's teaching was the oneness of religion, that all prophets of God--Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Moses--were part of an unfolding Divine Plan.  He taught that "all the prophets of God proclaim the same faith."  You might want to look into the Bahai teachings.
    I am familiar with Hindu teaching, especially in the teachings of Vedanta, which was brought to American by Swami Vivekananda.  Vedanta believes that life is Divine and that all religions are part of the Divine Plan.  I have studied Vedanta for a number of years and often attended meetings at their center in Chicago.
    I have been taking a course from a church called the New Church.  It was founded by the teachings of a Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg.  It is a church that is open to all faiths.  It believes that the true church is a spiritual body and that it embraces all people (even though they may not belong to a local congregation).  The New Church teaches that the local congregation is a physical expression of the spiritual church, yet the real church is the spiritual one.
    I used to go to a church called the Church of God.  They were a church that you could not join because the only way to join it was to be a Christian.  As they said, "being saved makes you a member."  We are all part of God's people, regardless of our theology or respective beliefs.  It is not belief that makes us one with God, but it is His Spirit in it.  Because God has given us His Spirit, that spirit in our link with Him.  Joel

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Joel Bjorling

Expertise

I can answer general questions about the Bible and offer guidance in Bible study resources.

Experience

I have education in Bible from Oral Roberts University, as well as an MA from McCormick Theological Seminary. I have written several articles on Bible study topics. I am an ordained, nondenominational minister.

Publications
Articles in journals of the Foundation for Biblical Research, Personal Freedom Outreach, and Restoration Research

Education/Credentials
BA, Oral Roberts University, Behavioral Science (included courses in the Bible and theology) MA, McCormick Theological Seminary Further study, Garrett-Evangelical Theological School Further study, Moody Bible Institute, Christian education

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