by Matt Slick
No, Roman Catholicism and Christianity are not the same thing. Christianity is properly defined by certain doctrines that are revealed in the Bible. It is not defined by simply saying that as long as you believe in Jesus, you're a Christian. Mormons believe in Jesus, but their Jesus is a brother of the devil in the pre-existence. The Jesus of the Jehovah's Witnesses is Michael the Archangel. So, just saying you believe in Jesus doesn't make you a Christian. This is why the Bible tells us who Jesus really is--God in flesh, creator of the universe. Likewise, there are essential doctrines; and if any of those essential doctrines are violated, then a church would only appear to be Christian but not really be Christian. What are those doctrines? The Bible tells us. Let's take a look.
- There is only one God, and you are to serve no other gods (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8).
- Jesus is both God and man (John 1:1, 14; 8:24; Col. 2:9; 1 John 4:1-4).
- Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:14).
- Salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:1-2; 5:1-4).
- The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:8-9).
- God is a Trinity (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14).
- Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Matt. 1:25).
So, someone who is a true Christian will believe these things and not violate them. Roman Catholicism violates two of them (#1 and #4). First of all, by its practice of promoting Mary (and the Saints) to the level of God-like capabilities, they break the commandment to have no other gods before the true and living God. In Roman Catholicism, they say that Mary is the mediatrix (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 969); Mary made atonement for the sins of man (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 213); Mary is the subject of preaching and worship (Vatican Council II, p. 420); etc.
Also, Catholicism violates the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Paul the Apostle, for example, tells us in Romans 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." But Roman Catholicism denies that and says, " . . . so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments," (CCC, par 2068). Also, consider this:
"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).
So, even though Roman Catholicism claims to be Christian and that it is the one true church, it violates the essentials of the Christian faith. It goes beyond what is written in God's word (1 Cor. 4:6). It denies the sole and true sovereignty of the living God by promoting prayer to and the worship of Mary. Also, it denies justification by faith alone in Christ alone. It is not a Christian church.
In Germany, the country of the Reformation, a deep animosity divided Catholic and Protestant Christians up until a few decades ago. This division had deepened over the centuries through religious conflicts and wars.
It all started when Reformation took place, 500 years ago, as Martin Luther (1483-1546) tried to reform the Catholic Church. His attempt to do so instead led to a schism in the church.
On October 31, 1517, the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses, which outlined different abusive practices of the church, is considered the founding event that led to this division in Germany and the creation of the Evangelical Church.
Read more: Luther's daring revolution: The Reformation 500 years on
Reconciliation instead of hero worshiping
Right from the beginning, on October 21, 2016, this year of commemoration of the Reformation was characterized by an ecumenical approach. In the past, Protestant churches celebrated major Reformation anniversaries by worshiping Martin Luther as a hero — but this time it's different.
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) wishes to turn the celebrations of "500 Years of Reformation" into a common celebration of Christ with the Catholic Church.
Through various events, both sides will pay tribute to Martin Luther while emphasizing their will to overcome divisions. On Saturday, March 11, a central reconciliation service will be held in Hildesheim.
Luther Memorial in the city of Wittenberg, where the Reformation began
The goal is to reach better understanding and find common ground between the two churches. A new united church is, however, far from being realized - and it is doubtful that it ever will.
To describe their relationship, the expression "reconciled diversity" is used by both sides. Many of the aspects that were reformed by Luther at the time still divide both groups to this day.
Here are the eight main differences:
1. Understanding of the Bible
Catholicism and Protestantism have distinct views on the meaning and the authority of the Bible. For Protestant Christians, Luther made clear that the Bible is the "Sola Skriptura," God's only book, in which He provided His revelations to the people and which allows them to enter in communion with Him.
Catholics, on the other hand, do not base their beliefs on the Bible alone. Along with the Holy Scripture, they are additionally bound by the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Understanding the church
Catholics and Protestants have a different view on the nature of the church. The word "catholic" means "all-embracing," and the Catholic Church sees itself as the only true church worldwide, under the leadership of the pope.
In contrast, the Protestant Churches which have emerged from Reformation, also called "Evangelical," which means "according to the Gospel," do not make up one united Church. There are rather several tens of thousands of different denominations around the world. Officially, all of these many churches are considered equal.
3. The pope
Protestants are not open at all to papal primacy. According to the Evangelical view, this dogma contradicts statements in the Bible.
Catholics see in the pope the successor of the Apostle Peter, the first head of their Church, who was appointed by Jesus. The papal office is justified by an allegedly unbroken chain of consecrations, ranging from the first century to the present.
Even if many Protestants like Pope Francis, they categorically reject papacy
4. Understanding of the office
This continuous chain, known as the apostolic succession, is overall significant for different spiritual offices in the Catholic Church. With the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops, priests and deacons receive a lifelong seal of God giving them sacramental authority over Catholic laypeople. This consecration can only be given to men.
Protestants do not consecrate specific persons into office, but rather accept the principle that priesthood can be transferred to every believer - even to women.
5. Eucharist or Lord's Supper
The Catholics' views on the spiritual office are reflected in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, a rite commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before his crucifixion. Once consecrated by a priest in the name of Jesus, bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Non-Catholics may not participate in Communion.
In the Protest Church, every baptized person is invited to share and is allowed to lead the Lord's Supper. This approach is not accepted by Catholics.
Additionally, Eucharist has a different meaning for Catholics and Protestants. The bread, known as the Host, embodies Jesus and can therefore be prayed to. For Protestants, the ritual only serves to commemorate Jesus' death and resurrection.
For Catholics, the Host represents bread that is consecrated to represent Jesus' body
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are seven solemn rites, called sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders and extreme unction. The church believes these sacraments were instituted by Jesus and that they confer God's grace.
Most Protestant churches only practice two of these sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist (called Lord's Supper). They are perceived as symbolic rituals through which God delivers the Gospel. They are accepted through faith.
Read more:How Martin Luther became the first Christian pop star
7. Marian dogmas and the worship of Saints
The Roman Catholic Church reveres Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "Queen of Heaven." However, there are few biblical references to support the Catholic Marian dogmas - which include the Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity and her Assumption into heaven. This is why they are rejected by Protestants.
Though Protestants believe Mary was the mother of Jesus, unlike Catholics, they do not venerate her
The Catholic Church also practices the veneration of saints. Dead models of faith, recognized as "saint" by the church through canonization, can be prayed to for help in maintaining faith in God. There are over 4,000 saints. Their remains are considered holy relics which are venerated.
This veneration is also categorically by the Protestant Church as unbiblical. According to Reformation views, every person may and should pray directly to God.
All main world religions integrate in some way the concept of celibacy, the vow of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, and the Catholic and Protestant churches are no exception. In the Catholic Church, celibacy is obligatory for priests. It is seen as a symbol of the undivided succession of Christ.
The Protestant Church rejects this obligation for priests. Martin Luther already demanded its abolition as early as 1520. He made a decisive personal contribution to this end in 1525: The former monk married the former nun Katharina von Bora. Initially unsure of whether he should marry, Luther finally determined that "his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep."