Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What's the difference...

I have been thinking a lot lately about the differences between Catholics and Christians. Some say the two are similar in many ways, some disagree. Depending on what individuals have been taught on either side, both labels can produce some misunderstanding and prejudice. I found this chart that summarizes well most of what I have found in comparing the two. It is interesting to see the differences and similarities and to think about why we have been taught that there is such a great difference in what we believe. When it comes down to it, it seems that we both believe that Christ die on the cross for our sins, defeated death and rose again. The very basics of the gospel and what I base my faith on...all the rest, just gravy or salvitic issues? Let me know what you think on this.
(sorry the chart is so small, click on it to make it bigger if you need to)


  1. Well Heidi, I can't let this one go without a comment. This chart is trying to say something but it does not really reflect WHAT the catolics believe. Like they worship Mary. They have to go through their priest for forgiveness of their sins. The Bible is not the final authority for them the Pope is. There are many more things that they believe but I think that these are some of the main ones for me. Yes, I do believe that catolics do come to know Jesus as a personal Saviour but that is no the central teaching of the church.

  2. I echo mom on this...although one may find Jesus within the Catholic Church, the obscurity and shrouding of the gospel makes it difficult at best.

    This is why the Reformation is so important to study. The Church needed to be reminded of the "sola" issues...

    sola scriptura--Scriptures alone
    sola fide--faith alone

    Whether it's selling indulgences or perpetuating a belief that confession to a priest offers absolution.....it's not what the Scripture teaches about having a relationship with Jesus.

    That said, yes, we can learn much from a great number of Catholics. I appreciate the Catholic zeal for helping those in poverty. I admire the Catholic concern for the abortion issue. We can link hands on these issues.....

    But, our theological stands as evangelical baptists are not just "squibble-squabble." They are convictions rooted in the truthfulness of the Gospel, which can never be compromised.

  3. As someone who was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools for elementary school and college, and grew up in the Bible Belt hearing similar representations of Catholic theology, I have to heartily disagree with the above comment. I certainly acknowledge many differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, but these listed here are not any of them. I'll take them one by one before talking about the differences more generally.

    1) Worshipping Mary

    The Nicene Creed, recited at Mass everyday by Catholics and many other Christians, begins, "We believe in One God..." Catholics, like protestants and other Christian groups, are monotheistic. Worhipping Mary is not anywhere within the realm of possibilities for a Christian or Catholic (I'll use the two seperately here for argument's sake). That being said, the Catholic Church, more than any other Christian group, tends to hold Mary in high regard because was chosen by God to be the "theotokos," or God-bearer. She was the vessel through which God became man, setting into motion the very cornerstone of all Christian theology, that God would send His only son to die for the sins of humanity. Her role is incredibly important in the story of our salvation. As such, she is honored in the Catholic and Eastern Churches. As for prayer to Mary, I can sum it up best the way that I sum up the issue of prayer to saints. Protestants, as well as Catholics, routinely ask others to pray for them. Prayer is an important, powerful tool. Prayer to Mary and to saints is not to say that they are intercessors in the sense that Christ is the intercessor, but is akin to asking a friend to pray for whatever it is we need to pray about.

    2)Pope > Bible

    The first argument I could make to that is the lack of any evidence. Nowhere in the history of the Christian Church has a pope made any decree, encyclical, papal bull, whatever, that was contrary to the teachings of the Bible in any way. Oh, denominations may disagree on interpretation, and if a pope taught something that was a different interpretation, than it is not any different than one pastor disagreeing with another. To call it contrary to the Bible is a stretch. Having said that, let me talk about the role of the Pope in more general terms. He is the pastor of the universal Church. He guides his flock just like any pastor in any local Church would, only on a much larger scale. As far as his being the "final authority," he is the final authority of interpretation of Catholic teachings because he is the pastor of this Church. I don't see it as any different than a pastor interpretting and teaching his flock in any protestant church. Catholics do not adhere to sola scriptura, but I think that the objections that Protestants have to that is based on miscommunications. A reliance upon Tradition as well as Scripture, as the chart says, is the foundation of Catholic theology. I think the best way of describing this is the idea of precedents and "stare decisis" in common law courts. The Catholic Church's interpretation of the Bible is based on Tradition. The Pope cannot (and would not) wake up one morning and say that we should interpret the Bible in a completely different way than it has been taught for centuries. So, we can use the analogy of codified law (The Bible) and precedents (Tradition). In the same vein, some tenets of Catholic theology are contained only in Tradition (perpetual virginity of Mary, for instance) in a way similar to the common law precedents that are not part of codified law. I kind of took the law analogy pretty far with that one, but I think it does a better job of explaining that than I could. Another instance of Tradition is the simple idea of what books make up the Bible. Nowhere, save a table of contents produced by an editor, in the Bible is there a list of which books should be included. We could discuss apocryphal books here, but they carry little if anything in the way of theological weight for Catholics in that they don't contain much more than historical accounts and an insight into God as He was perceived in the Old Testament. There is nothing cited in those books by the Catechism of the Catholic Church that is not included in other books.

    3) Priests and confession

    It's funny how the priest of the Church I visited Sunday made reference to this very topic. Forgiveness comes from no earthly source. Forgiveness comes from God, and we are forgiven our sins because Christ took our sins upon himself when he took up his cross. Priests are Christ's representatives on earth. To confess sins to a priest is merely a human vessel who simply is "keeping the seat warm" for Christ, who hears all prayers for forgiveness. As Christians, we are forgiven our sin through our baptism in Christ's name. This being said, I think we can once again call it semantics, as I know very many Protestants who seek advice not only from their pastors, but from others in their Church communities. Confessing to a priest is not a necessary function for forgiveness, but is essential to our growth as Christians because it is yet another way in which our pastor can teach us. Confession as a sacrament is not the act of gaining forgiveness, but of strengthening our resolve to sin no more, to repent and be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    4) Christ as savior not central Church teaching

    I read a Hallmark card a while back that this reminds me of. It was a Valentine's Day card, I believe, that read, "I love you....it's as simple and as complicated as that." Christ died for our sins....it's as simple and as complicated as that. One thing I actually do appreciate of protestant churches is a bit of a narrower message, one more focused on Christ's role as redeemer of mankind. Catholic teachings reach a broad spectrum of issues, theological and social, and I can see how that could muddy the waters and make one lose focus on what makes us all Christians: a belief in Christ as both God and Man who, through his death, has redeemed us. I think Heidi referred in her blog to everything else as "gravy." I can see how others may not see the "meat" of the salvitic message of the Church, but it is absolutely the central dogma of Catholic faith.

    As I mentioned above, there are many ways in which Catholics and Protestants differ. There are plenty of ways in which to disagree with the Church (believe me, I've found some myself). I feel strengthened in my faith not only as a Catholic but as a Christian when reasoned debate is held involving said issues. Some good websites for refence on these issues include http://www.catholic.com and The Catholic Encyclopedia (the url escapes me...it should pop up in google, though).

  4. Way to go Heidi, you got MOM to post!!! :) And, careful, Mark might get jealous if you get to many in a good discussion!! :)

    OK, very interesting. Catholics found there way to India pretty early on, mostly in a Portuguese colony. I have been meaning look up more about that history b/c when we were in Goa (what used to be the Portuguese colony) if was so very interesting to see the Catholic churches and how all that is there. I was very interesting...all the usual Hindu temples we see everywhere else in India was just changed to have an image of Christ of Mary inside.

    Anywho!! I was looking up some more on their believes and I keep coming back to how much say PEOPLE have, in every part of the catholic church. Not something I read, just seemed like that kept coming up...I actually came across the same chart you have on your blog. Although there were a few more things on the one I found. Like priests, it says that this is a special vocation for some believers; mediators between God and man. That point does bother me b/c one of the most awesome things I think we have is the priesthood of all believers.

    And the Mary thing...there is more to it than "Christ-bearer", they believe that Mary had no original sin, remained free of sin throughout her life, is "Mother of God" and the new Eve. (Catechism, 508-10) And that she had a bodily assumption into heaven instead of death. (Catechism, 966) Yikesers!!! I am just really uncomfortable with extraBiblical stuff!!!!

    Another example...purgatory. To me this so takes away from what Christ did for us on the cross (as do the believes about Baptism/sacraments having such merit). I think it is a human response to try to find a way we can be a part of the "saving" but I think it is that...a human response.

    I really have to stop but I did find some more really interesting things!!!! Just one more, I can't help it...that The Pope, catholics believe that he is Jesus' representative on earth. They regard him as the spiritual leader of the worldwide church.

    Ok, really I'll stop. I find it very interesting to learn about what others are teaching so thanks for the nudge to dig some more on this. I also, think that there are many among the Catholic church that have a personal relationship with Jesus...But I also think the Bible is given to us for a reason and that there are pretty clear teachings and such that God intended for us to belief....for our own sake and for HIS Glory! :)

    And does anonymous have a name??? Promise we won't bite! :)

  5. OK, didn't proof read before I posted, and REALLY should have...sorry about that. I stopped scanning it after I saw quite a few... (Christ OR Mary for eg.)

    I promise, I haven't forgotten how to speak real english.

  6. I myself am proud that I got mom to post...but the grand prize goes to whoever gets dad to post a comment...I can't wait to see the day...