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Question
Hello, I was just wanting to know what your statement of faith is?  What are some of the beliefs of catholic people?    How are you guys different from denominations like methodist,baptist,and church of christ for example?

Answer
Very broadly Christianity itself is defined as a body of people who worship Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and God.  In this case for Christians, Jesus Christ is not simply "a" god among gods, (As Jehovah Witnesses belief) or the spirit brother of Satan who has evolved and continues to evolve.(as Mormons believe) Jesus Christ is God from God, Light, from Light, True God from True God who is eternally begotten of the Father and worshipped equally with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Again, very broadly, Christianity is divided between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.  For simplification purposes there is not much difference between Catholics and Orthodox. The main area of contention between Catholics and Orthodox is over the role of the pope.  The Orthodox see the role of the pope as a "first among equals" (like the chief justice of the supreme court) Catholics on the other hand see the pope as having ordinary and universal jurisdiction within the Church. For Catholics he is more than just a "first among equals" and has more than a primacy of honor within the Church.  

This leaves us with Catholic and Protestant.  The Protestant Churches (any Church claiming Christianity as the following but is not Catholic or Orthodox) all have their origin in the Reformation beginning with Martin Luther.  Protestants can be Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, Mennonite, Baptist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Church of God, etc.  The sects listed are the traditional Protestant sects.  However, what is beginning to happen is that Protestantism is evolving or morphing into a "post denominational" phenomenon. The forerunners to this are Jim Bakker, Robert Schuller, Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Swaggert among others.  

Space does not permit a discussion of the differences between all of the Protestant sects. There are many differences some insignificant, others significant.  What I can do for you is to answer what makes Protestants Protestant.   Protestantism is founded upon twin pillars: Scriptura Sola, and Fide Sola. Whatever differences exist among the Protestant sects what all Protestants accept (to a greater or lesser degree) is the twin pillars of Scriptura Sola and Fide Sola.

I will give you a survey of what the doctrines mean.  I could write a lot more than I am writing, and I am leaving a lot out of the discussion.  I am only giving a very brief survey.

Scriptura Sola is a Latin phrase which means "Scripture Alone."  Traditional reformed Protestantism defines this as The Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of Faith for the Church.  Whatever other "rules" of Faith exist, they are fallible and are subject to correction by the Scriptures.  Tradition has authority, the Church has authority, but (unlike in the Catholic Church) they are not infallible, and therefore do not serve as "Norms" of the Faith. The Scriptures are the Supreme Court of final appeal in all matters of Faith, life and Doctrine.  Whatever traditions we hold, whatever authority the Church has is subject to the Scriptures.  Scripture is that which is Theopnesutos, (God Breathed) and as such is the highest authority in the Church. Because Scripture is Theopneustos, the authority of Scripture is unique.  There is nothing like it anywhere.

Some Protestant sects are extreme with Scriptura Sola denying any role for Tradition or the authority of the Church.  These sects could be said to subscribe to "Solo Scriptura" which is a distortion of Scriptura Sola.  "Solo Scriptura" means "ONLY Scripture" Rather than "Scripture as the sole infallible Rule of Faith for the Church and the individual."  This position is held by the more fundamentalist sects of Protestant Christianity.  Solo Scriptura is an untenable position logically and Biblically.  I have read Protestant theologians make a case for Scriptura Sola, but Scriptura Solo is totally untenable.  

Fide Sola I admit I am a little less versed in.  However, briefly the way I understand it is this: when one becomes "saved" or "justified" the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them or credited to them as righteousness.  In other words the righteousness of Christ as applied to the sinner is forensic.  It is a legal imputation.  God declares us "not guilty" and therefore we are "not guilty" even though we have sinned. For Protestants we are saved by Faith alone, and our human works while products of Faith have no saving value.  We cannot merit salvation.

Protestants belief we are saved by Grace alone, through Christ alone, by Faith alone.

It is important to note that the philosophy of Nominalism was rather influential at the time of the Reformation (I would say is the basis of all modern philosophy) and one can see threads of this philosophy running through the concepts of Scriptura Sola and especially Fide Sola.  

Catholics believe many things not held by Protestants, but I will simply reply to the above:

Catholics belief God's revelation is mediated through Scripture and Tradition.  Catholics would agree that Scripture is unique, it alone is that which is Theopneustos.  Nothing else in the Church equals Scripture with regard to being Theopneustos.  However Catholics would say that while only Scripture is Theopneustos, Scripture, Tradition, and the Church are infallible.  Catholics do not derive the certainty of their Faith from the Scriptures alone.  Scripture is not the only mechanism in which we come to know the Faith.  

Protestants usually ask two questions with regard to Catholic belief: (They ask more, but I will cover these two)

1)  What is in the Tradition that is not in Scripture? The answer is NOTHING.  Both Tradition and Scripture are comprised of the EXACT same message of the Gospel. There is nothing in Tradition without basis in Scripture and nothing in Scripture without basis in Tradition.

2)  (Given the above) What is the use of Tradition then?  Is it not redundant?  The question is a Red Herring.  The debate between Protestants and Catholics is NOT over the USEFULNESS of Tradition, but on the AUTHORITY of Tradition, and whether or not it is INFALLIBLE.  

Stated in the simplest form: Tradition is all that the Church does to transmit the Faith through the generations.  If you want to know where it is, look to the life, Faith, and devotion of the Catholic Church.  If you want to know what the contents are, immerse yourself in the life, Faith, and devotion of the Church.  Monuments of Tradition include but are not limited to the Liturgy and prayer of the Church, the Fathers of the Church, artwork, devotions, prayers, Scripture (That which is Theopneustos and is the CORE of Tradition) etc.

There is a sense in which Catholics can be said to be Scriptura Sola if it is defined to mean that Catholics believe that ONLY Scripture is Theopneustos, and Catholics believe that nothing in Tradition can contradict or go against the Scripture.

Fide Sola: Catholics believe that the righteousness of Christ is INFUSED into the justified sinner such that a fundamental change takes place within the person's very being. The righteousness of Christ is IN the person and is their own.  In this way man can truly merit salvation because man is meriting with the merits of Christ.  This is why the Sacramental System is possible and why Catholics believe that the Sacraments are a means of Grace and salvation. For Catholics the Sacraments are extensions of the Incarnation.  They are how God is "Immanuel" (God among us)

Catholics believe we are saved by Grace alone through Christ alone, signified and operative in Faith and Works for the Glory of God alone.

I have given a VERY cursory view of these issues.  I could write a lot---if I have missed something it was not intentional.  I have tried to as accurately as I can represent what I understand the Protestant position to be from the reformed perspective.  Again, it is cursory and I am sure I left many things out.  This is only for the sake of brevity.  

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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