Catholic & Protestant Beliefs

The Catholic Church has done a great deal of good works over the centuries and can be proud of this tradition. The life time work of Mother Theresa is a prime example. Many Catholic believers exude more love, mercy and care at times than the average protestant believer.

A big difference from Catholic believers, is that many Protestants base their faith primarily on the Word of God first and foremost, rather than just their own experience. Hence many Protestants object to man made laws & traditions which are added to the word of God. This can be a great hindrance for Protestants to fully unite with Catholics in an official way.

Some of the man made beliefs and traditions created by the Catholic Church are:-

1. Celibacy of priests as a requirement of service – this is becoming more of a problem because it can be contributing to more cases of sexual abuse of young children and women by Catholic priests. Also this rule may be causing the decline of young men entering the priesthood. In 1 Corinthians 7: 1-7 the apostle Paul encourages believers to stay single if they have the gift of celibacy, but states that this is not a command or rule of law. (see verse 6). Instead he gives the believers the option to marry if they wish. Making the rule of celibacy into a law, is becoming legalistic and causing problems in the church. The continual reported cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, can be giving the Christian faith a bad name deterring people from accepting Jesus as their saviour altogether.

Here is a brief story about a a girl called Emma who was sexually abused by her parish priest. It is taken from the ASCA website (Adults Surviving Child Abuse). See:- http://www.asca.org.au/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=71
Emma Foster, a young ASCA member died early in 2008, as a result of the impact of child abuse. She and her sister, Katie had been abused by their parish priest. Emma struggled for years to deal with the repercussions of her abuse, battling anorexia, depression, self-harm and drug abuse. She died in her bedroom, alone at the age of 26, as the result of an overdose of medication. Her sister, Katie had already received a life sentence. Struck down by a car while intoxicated from the alcohol she was using to numb her pain, Katie was left severely physically and intellectually disabled, and requires 24 hour care. Anthony and Christine Foster, the parents of Emma, Katie and a third sister, Aimee continue to tell their story in the hope that other families will not have to deal with the tragic impact of childhood trauma.

2. Transubstantiation – is a man made interpretation of the sacraments which is not supported by the word of God.

3. Real Wine or Alcohol: The use of real wine or alcohol in communion may have partly led to some priests becoming addicted to alcohol. To overcome such a temptation the wine could be replaced with a non alcoholic substitute

4. Extra Bible Books: The extra books added to the officially canonised bible contravenes God’s command in Revelations 22:18 –19 “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book”.

5. Pope as the Head: The bible clearly states that Jesus is to be the Head of the church ie the body of Christ, see Colossians 1:18, and that God’s word the Bible is to be the guide book for Christian living. Hence many protestant believers object to the idea of a human person ie the pope being the supreme authority over the Catholic Church, who is able to dictate the rules. For instance they have been given the authority to institute additional man made laws which are not found in the bible, for their congregations to follow. Examples of these man made laws are the celibacy of priests and a ban on contraception for married couples.

This is stated with all due respect to the current pope and all the popes who have gone before him. The pope seems to be a very godly man to be chosen for his present role. Even so, God’s word clearly states in Romans 3:23 –“ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Even the apostle Paul in the New Testament, as godly a man as he was, in pioneering the early church against great suffering and persecution, admits to his followers in Romans 7: 18-20 –“ I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do, no the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Hence to blatantly install a mere human being to be the head of the church instead of the true supreme and ultimate authority of Jesus, is asking for trouble. In actual fact the believer will find that the closer they get to God, the more sinful they will find they are, as God reveals the things in our hearts which can be hidden. We then find the need to receive more and more of God’s mercy each day. In Luke 19b Jesus says “ No one is good – except God alone”.

To install a human being to become the revered head of the church is a bit like the Israelites during the period of 1 Kings and 2 Kings in the Old Testament. The people found it hard to trust in a God that they could not see with their own eyes. Hence, they demanded the judges to give them a human king that they could look to. Finally God gave in to their demands and stubbornness and installed a human king ie Saul. However to have a human being as the head turned out to be a huge disaster, since this can never be compared to allowing the Holy and Almighty Yahweh himself to be their rightful Father, Head and guide.

6. Contraception Ban: banning contraception is not really a strict rule in the bible.

7. Praying to Saints : is also not considered a biblical principal to protestants. It is elevating a human person to what only the Holy Spirit can do for us ie. intercede for us on our behalf to God.

8. Lack of Evangelism: For centuries Jesus’ mandate for evangelism in Matthew 28:19-20 has been ignored by a large portion of the Catholic Church. However it has always been taken up by the Protestant faith which is probably why protestant churches are called “Evangelical”. Jesus’ command for the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 must have been very important since it is the last thing that Jesus commanded his disciples before he left the earth in the Ascension.

9. Pergatory: is not an official place which is present in God’s word. It was devised by a Catholic believer who had a creative imagination, who was stretching the interpretation of a very minor point in the bible.

10. Baptism of Babies: many Catholics believe that the baptism of a baby helps that baby to become saved, later as an adult. However this contradicts bible teaching. Jesus states clearly in John 3:16 that those who make a conscious decision to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – in his death and resurrection – will be saved. A baby is not of age to understand the concept of salvation & hence cannot do this. If it dies as a baby, it will automatically go to heaven without any baptism. The baptism of a baby is really a commitment by the parents to promise to bring the child up in a godly manner. After this is done, it is then up to the baby who grows into adulthood to make a decision whether to believe in Jesus or not, which will determine his or her salvation. One cannot rely on the fact that a baby was baptised as a child to ensure that they have received salvation and are going to heaven.

These are just some reasons why many hard lined bible believing Protestants may never fully unite with Catholic believers in an ecumenical sense, even though they would still show kindness and love to them.

Some of these man made laws such as the mandate of celibacy for priests or the ban on contraception for married couples, can be creating a heavier burden of law on everyday parishioners which they were never meant to bear. This is similar to what the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. They wanted to create additional laws perhaps to exercise more power and control over the people. This can then make the Christian faith a legalistic set of rules enforced by human leaders, instead of the joy and freedom that it is meant to be in Christ.

Perhaps more people should write to Cardinal Pell and the Vatican to revoke many of these man made traditions and laws, since these were instituted by man, and not God. However it is imperative that any steps towards reform be done in a loving and compassionate manner and not carried out with any hint of self righteous ambivalence or pride. Otherwise the result will just be even more disunity and infighting within the Christian faith, resulting in bitterness, resentment and anger. Such an outcome can never help to further the gospel in any way, or be a witness to the unsaved world.

It can also be said, that any godly reform must come from within the Catholic Church itself, not from outside. This is so, because if protestant believers were to write letters for reform, this would probably be construed as divisive and self righteous behaviour. However if Catholic members themselves see the need for reform, there is a greater likelihood of change occurring, especially if it is in accord with the principals of God’s Word. After all it is the Bible which should be the true authority for our Christian lives and the Church not an imperfect human being.

In stating the need for reform of many of the principals and doctrines of the Catholic Church, this does not mean that many Catholic believers do not experience a real and life changing relationship with God through Jesus. This is so, because despite the presence of some faulty doctrine, God can still intervene, if the Catholic believer is genuinely searching and seeking the Lord with all their heart , soul and mind. There is clear evidence of this from the transformation of many lives through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Since this movement has led to a whole transformation of a great proportion of the Catholic Church, there is no reason why reform in essential areas of doctrine is not possible as well.

To some ecumenical believers, some differences in doctrine may not seem important. Some Christians may also believe that one’s own Christian experience is more important than issues of doctrine which may appear legalistic. However it can be said that both areas are equally important. In fact I believe that correct doctrine is the basis or foundation of the Christian faith from which all Christian experience must spring from. Even though doctrine to some may seem like the more lifeless or boring part of the faith, it is still the foundation on what Christianity is built on. Hence if there are holes in that foundation, it can still effect the quality of our Christian experience, especially if some of those doctrines contradict the Word of God.

Ignorance of doctrines, (that seem to contradict God’s Word), covered by good intentions, I believe can still prevent one from experiencing the negative effects of this lack of knowledge. For instance, a person may be totally unaware that he has hidden sin in his heart. Until he discovers this for himself, he will continue to suffer the consequences of that hidden sin, that he is totally unaware of. Ignorance of it does not absolve him of it’s negative effects.

I hope that this discussion will help to provoke the minds of Catholic believers, to pray about some of these issues before God, to see if there are any areas in the church that may need reform so that they can experience more of the fullness of God, according to His word. I hope it will also compel Catholic believers into action as well.

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One Response to “Catholic & Protestant Beliefs”

  1. Orthodox Easter Marked by 'Holy Fire' Ritual | God Discussion Says:

    […] on the Net…Does the Resurrection Affect You? (Matthew 28:1-10) « Hills Bible Church BlogCatholic & Protestant Beliefs « Bev&#821's New WorldRussian Orthodox Christianity in Migdal Ha’emek « The Rosh Pina Projectvar […]

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