Protestants and Catholics are two faces on the same coin of Christianity and have common beliefs, yet both these factions are divided today. SpiritualRay sheds light on some of the reasons which have driven them apart.
Did You Know?
The English word Protestant comes from Latin and is made up from two words, pro means for, and testari meaning witness. It has come to mean, to write or speak strongly against. Initially, it was not applied to the reformers, but later was used to describe all groups protesting Roman Catholic orthodoxy.
The term “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective “katholikē”, which means “universal”. This term was very aptly used to describe the belief and conviction of Christianity that all Christians are One. Several centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, the west was mainly dominated by the Roman culture and Latin language. Hence Christianity became synonymous with that culture and the term “Roman Catholicism” came into being.
The Protestant Reformation began in the 16th century by an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. He challenged the authority of the pope and the church’s power to define Christian practices. He wanted the church to reform itself, further antagonizing them and caused the protesting group to set up another church. This was the inception of Protestantism, which resulted in a division within the Christian church.
This led to the charting of five distinct dogmas, and came to be known as the “Five Solas”. The “Five Solas” is evident in almost all Protestant churches today. They are:
Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) – The Bible is the only authority for all doctrines.
Sola Fide (“faith alone”) – Salvation will be received through faith in Jesus Christ only.
Sola Gratia (“grace alone”) – Salvation is granted only by God’s grace.
Solus Christus (“Christ alone”) – Salvation is received only because of the sacrifice by Jesus on the cross..
Soli Deo Gloria (“for the glory of God alone”) – Salvation is fulfilled only by God, and for his glory
Protestant and Catholic Wars
The European religious wars were fought in Europe from 1524 to 1648, after the birth of Protestantism. Initially, the wars were motivated by the conflict and rivalry that developed due to a change in the religious balance. However, it graduated from being religious to a fight for political prominence.
The dogmas crafted by the Protestants are the gist root cause of the theological differences between the Protestants and Catholics giving rise to conflicts between the two, they can be interpreted as mentioned below:
Authority of the Scripture: The Bible
✞ As per Sola Scriptura, the Protestants believe the Bible alone is the sole authority by which all Christian behavior must be measured. It is the “Word of God”, and hence, it is the only guide which teaches us how salvation from sin can be attained.
✟ Catholics have always held the Bible in high esteem and accepted the sanctity of the scripture. However, along with the Bible, Catholics also follow the traditions and decrees of the Pope as religious authority. Catholicism also teaches that only the Magisterium (Pope, Bishops, Priests) can properly interpret the Bible.
Sanctity of Traditions
✞ While Protestants believe that traditions are important and have their place, they should not supersede the Bible.
✟ Roman Catholic traditions like Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying to saints, and purgatory, are not explicitly stated in the Bible; however, Catholics believe that the traditions along with the scriptures have been passed on from the first apostolic church. These traditions and the scriptures are equally binding and authoritative upon Christians.
The Papal Authority
✞ Protestants believe that Jesus alone is the head of the Church. Spiritual power and authority cannot rest with man, as no man is impeccable.
✟ Catholics believe that Jesus had declared Peter as “the rock” on which he would build his church, thereby making Peter the first pope. The Pope is the “Vicar of Christ” and as such is the representative of Jesus, bestowed with the same authority.
The Grace of Salvation
✞ Protestants stand firm on this strong belief, that all sins have been atoned by the death and suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. They also believe that God grants forgiveness to all repentant sinners through faith in the righteousness of Christ. The Seven Sacraments is a symbol of grace for the Protestants.
✟ For Catholics, salvation involves grace, faith, meritorious works, Baptism, (wipes the stain of original sin), participation in the sacraments, penitence for sins and keeping the ten commandments. The Catholics also believe the “Seven Sacraments” to be a hallmark of grace. The sacrament of Reconciliation, administered by a Catholic priest, grants a repentant sinner, salvation, from sins committed.
Mary, The Mother of Jesus
✞ Protestants do have a great regard of Mary; however, the main focus is on the “Five Solas”, which minimizes the devotion to Mary.
✟ Catholics venerate and honor Mary as the person through whom God brought his Son into the world. They also consider her an example of faith and esteem her as “the Immaculate Conception”( born without the stain of “original sin”). Catholics do not dedicate any specific worship to her but offer prayers to her believing she would intercede on their behalf to her son, Jesus Christ, to grant their petitions.
Significance of the Eucharist
✞ Most Protestants believe the Eucharist to be a communion in memory of Christ’s sacrificed body and blood, which symbolizes the confession of faith in Jesus Christ and is a repeated ritual in a believer’s life.
✟The Eucharist is one of the most important aspect of Catholics. It is the main focus of the Mass, as they believe the bread and wine miraculously become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the words and actions of the ordained priest.
These are just some of the differences which have divided the Protestants and Catholics. However, the belief that unites them is that :
❝There is one God , the Creator who sent his only son Jesus Christ to the cross, who suffered and died to save you and me.❞