What are the major differences between Catholics and Protestants?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Major Differences Between Catholics and Protestants

The following are some of the major differences between Catholics and Protestants. Please note that these points are coming from a protestant viewpoint and may differ from that of a Catholic.

First: The Authority of the Scripture

One of the great differences between Protestants and Catholics is on Tradition. The Catholic Church says, “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God . . .” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 97. The Catholic Tradition, introduces many doctrines that are not supported by the Bible such as the veneration of Mary, her immaculate conception, her bodily assumption into heaven, transubstantiation, praying to saints, the confessional, penance, the apocrypha and many more.

But Protestants believe that the Bible alone is God’s special message to mankind and contains that which is necessary for our salvation. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible opposes tradition when it “transgresses the commands of God” (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:8-9; Colossians 2:8). For more information, check the following link: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/1-the-scriptures/

Second: The Authority of the Pope

According to Catholicism, the Pope is the “Vicar of Christ” (a vicar is a substitute) and takes the place of Jesus on earth as the visible head of the Church. The Pope has the ability to speak ex cathedra (with authority on matters of faith and practice) making his teachings infallible. “The Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (882 Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Protestants believe that no human being is infallible and that Christ alone is the Head of the Church. “And He (Christ) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

Third: Salvation

The Catholic Church denies justification by faith alone: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

The Bible teaches that humans are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–10). “Justification” is an instant act (when believers are declared righteous by God based on their faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross). Then, follows “Sanctification” or becoming Christ like which is a lifelong process. While Protestants recognize that works of obedience to God’s Law (Exodus 20) are important, they believe they are only the fruit of God’s work in the heart but never the means to it. For more information, check the following link: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/24-justification-by-faith/

Fourth: The Only Mediator

The Catholic Church teaches the importance of praying to Mary and the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus. . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” (956 Catechism of the Catholic Church)

But the Bible teaches that because of His perfect and complete sacrifice, Jesus is the only Mediator before God. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Protestants believe that “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). Thus, the Lord rules out the need for human mediators like Mary and the saints.

Fifth: The State of the Dead, Purgatory and Eternal Hell

Catholics have developed the doctrine of purgatory, which according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”

Protestants the Bible teaching that it is Christ’s death alone that can satisfy God’s wrath against sinners (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). We cannot atone for our sins by suffering nor can our works of righteousness add to what Christ has already fully accomplished at the Cross.

The Scriptures teach that after death a person: returns to dust (Psalms 104:29), knows nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), possesses no mental powers (Psalms 146:4), has nothing to do with anything on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6), does not live (2 Kings 20:1), waits in the grave (Job 17:13), and continues not (Job 14:1, 2) until the Day of Resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ to receive everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; Matthew 16:27; John 5:28, 29). For more, check the following link: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/112-the-intermediate-state/

Also, Catholics teach the doctrine of eternal Hell. “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (1035 Catechism of the Catholic Church)

But the Bible is clear that hell will not be forever. For more information, check the following link: https://bibleask.org/is-hell-forever/

We hope this has answered your question.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Disclaimer:

The contents of this article and website are not intended to be against any individual. There are many priests and faithful believers in Roman Catholicism who serve God to the best of their knowledge and are seen by God as His children. The information contained herein is addressed only towards the Roman Catholic religio-political system which has reigned in varying degrees of power for nearly two millennia. This system has established an increasing number of doctrines and statements that are not in harmony with the Bible.

BibleAsk seeks to share truth from the Bible. If you find anything in our posts that is contrary to this, contact us, and we will either edit it or remove it.

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