Differences between Catholicism and Protestantism theology


Differencesbetween Catholicism and Protestantism theology

Differencesbetween Catholicism and Protestantism theology

TheLutheran teachings andteachings of the Roman Catholic Church havepronounced differencesthat havebeenin existencefor centuries.Protestantism accountsfor40% of Christian believers.Manychurches that fallunder theProtestant faithfollow the original teachingsof Martin Luther. Roman Catholicism is a mainstream religionmarked by uniformity and an internal organization. Luther wrote the famous 95 Theses that received a strongcondemnation from the Council of Trent.

MartinLuther andhis schoolof thoughtwereagainst theindulgences that theCatholic Church heldas importantduring Mass andconfessions.Followingthis disagreement,Luther draftedthe95 thesesagainst indulgencesand presentedthem to thechurchthat rejectedthem immediately.1Luther thusconvokedhis followersand starteda movementthat wasin earnestconflictwith theteachingsof theCatholic Church. FollowingLuther’s publicdeclarationagainst theteachingof theCatholic Church, Pope Paul theThirdconveneda councilin 1545 to deliberateon thegrowing protestagainst thechurch.2TheCouncil,famously knownas theCouncil of Trent, involveddeliberationsin morethan eight sessions.Themajorobjectiveof thecouncilwasto condemnthe principles thatLuther taught, andit gavea clearstandof theCatholicChurch. Issueslike thebiblical canon,thesacred traditions,originalsinandjustificationof humanbeings,salvation,themass and sacraments received attentionfrom thecouncil.Itreinstated the doctrinesof thechurchwith referencesto theteachings introducedby theProtestants.3

Thedifferencesbetween Protestantism andCatholicism liein their theologicalapproaches and teachings.The 95 Theses and the reaction of the Council of Trent present thefollowing differences

First,Lutheran Theology opposestheCatholic teachingon thedoctrineof thescriptures.TheCatholic teachingshold the scriptureas themajorsourceof Christian teachings.4TheCatholic Church alsoinsistson theimportanceof churchtraditionsas complementaryto Christian teachings.Thetraditions outlinedin theCatholic teachingare not necessarilyin openstatementsin thescriptures.Thechurch refersto them as inheritedfrom theapostlesthrough theMagisterium.TheCatholic Church, therefore,believesthat ithas everyreasonto followthem. Thetraditions include the church leaderslike thepope,bishopsand the councils ofthechurch.5

Ontheother hand,theProtestant theologyteachesabout the scripture’s authorityonly.Martin Luther wasagainst thetraditionof theCatholic Church that providedfora powerfulheadof thechurch.Thepapacyis a traditionthat Protestantism doesnot findin theBible. Thereligious movement,therefore,doesnot asupreme headof thechurch likethePope.Protestantism doesnot entirelyreject the importanceof traditions.Their teachings,as statedby Luther, are thatthe traditions need juxtapositionwith thescriptures,andany traditionthat is not compliantwith theteachingsof thescripturesshould facerejection.6

Theother majordifferencebetween thetwo pathsof faithliesin thebeliefof salvationby grace.TheLutheran theologyteachesthat salvation comesby gracealone.Gracealoneis sufficientto offerbelievers eternal salvation.7Salvationoccursat one certainpoint whenan individualreceives gracefrom God. Thetime thata personenters theChristian lifemarks the beginningof salvation.Protestanttheologians taughtin protestof theCatholic approachto salvation.Accordingto their teachings,graceis a giftfrom God that comesthrough theHoly Spirit. Calvinist theologyof salvation supports the views of Luther.Accordingto his teachings, on predestination, Calvin teaches that human beingscan only receive goodness from God. However,thetwo differwhenCalvinism holdsto thepremisethat manhimself is not ableto receivesalvationwithout faithin Jesus Christ. 8Calvinismfurtherholds that man doesnot receivethe righteousnessthrough justificationbutbecomesacceptedas righteouswithout theconsiderationof his goodness.

Onthe other hand, theCouncil of Trent affirmsthat salvation and justification area process.Salvationis a processthat is dependenton theindividual’scommitmentand participationin theworksof thechurch.TheCouncil of Trent unanimouslyrejected the assertion that human beings receive justification solelythrough imputation.Justificationis thusa process,andit doesnot happenabruptly. Anotherimportantdifferencebetween Catholicism andProtestantism on thisissueis thattheCatholic theologyteaches that the worksof a humanbeingare importantin achievingsalvation.9Faithis important,butat thesame time human beingsmust obeythe laws thatGod has providedforin thescriptures.

Anotherdifferencebetween thetwo becomesevidentin their teachingson theEucharist. Themain difference emanatesfrom theinterpretationof transubstantiation.TheChristian teachingsof transubstantiation,as professedby theCatholic Church, are thatthe elements used duringmassrepresent the body and bloodof Jesus Christ. Theritualis one of thepracticesthat maketheCatholic Church’s practiceuniform.Thisphaseof themass depicts the powerof thepriestto changesacramentalbreadandwine into thereal body and bloodof Christ. Thepriest does thiswith on him by thechurch.Thesacramentalbreadandwine receivethe soul and divinityof Jesus Christ. Theelements becomea sourceof spiritualnourishment for those who upholdthem, andtheybecomerighteous.

TheLutheran theologyteaches the doctrineof consubstantiation. Accordingto Luther, theelements usedduring massare not transformedinto theblood and the bodyof Christ literally.Instead,theelementsget unitedin thebody and bloodof Jesus Christ through consubstantiation. Theelements are unitedin thebody and bloodof Christ, buttheir originalform remains.10Thesoul and divinityof Christ are spirituallypresent, butnot in theelements.Therituals in the mass do not change the bread and wine used duringmass.11

Inthetwo theologies,anothercontentious issueis theroleof priestsand the magisterial position inthechurch.TheCatholic theologyupholds the roleof ecumenical councilsand other councilsas havingthe sole authorityto interpretthe scriptures.Theinterpretations occurto reflectthe teachingsof theCatholic Church. The95 thesesagainst indulgences,as writtenby Luther, receiveda lotof criticismfrom theCouncil of Trent, andtheCatholic Church gaveits standontheissue.TheCatholic priestshave the authorityto listento confessionsand forgive sins.Accordingto theteachingsof Martin Luther, Christians can askfor forgiveness directlyfrom God without havingto passthrough priests.Theroleof priestsdescendsfrom thechurch traditionthat givespriest`s powerto bindor loosethesinsof Christians through absolution andto givethem thesacraments.Theroleof thepriestsin theinterpretationof thescriptures makesa bigdifferencebetween thecatholic and protestant theology.12Accordingto theCatholic teachings,as expressedin theCouncil of Trent, theChurch has theauthorityto interpretthe scriptureson behalfof Christians. Theapproach was evident when theCouncil of Trent recommendeda singlescriptureto be readby theCatholic faithful.Thescripture hadto be in linewith theCatholic teachings.

Ontheother hand,theLutheran teachingsaccept the fallibility and the limitationof humans.Thepremisecontradictstheinfallibility of the Catholic Church Magisterium. TheProtestant teachingis thattotal infallibility liesin theScriptures andnot in theinterpretationof thehuman person.Theroleof thecouncilsin thechurch that direct what the scriptures say doesnot finda placein theProtestant teachings.13CalvinistTheologyrejects any formof secularauthorityin thechurch.Thetheology rejects the ideaof thepapacy and the powers bestowedto theposition because it gives man authoritythat getsequatedto thatof God on earth.However,sometheological teachers criticize the premiseof Calvin andMartin Luther’s viewof magisterialposition.Magisterium alsorevolvesaround passingvarious teachingsto otherpeople.BothCalvin andLuther introducednew teachingsthat Protestants neededto follow.In thisway,theyintroducedtheir Magisterium like theone they condemned inCatholicism.

Thelast issue of focus is on sainthood in the church.TheCatholic theologyhas theprovision for the venerationof Mary themotherof Christ andthe saints.Accordingto theseteachings,theCatholic faithfulveneratesthem sothat theycan prayforthem andgivethem their abundantblessings.Thechurch usesdeductive reasoningthat ifMary wasthe motherof Christ in thephysical form,thensheis themotherof thechurch because the church represents the bodyof Christ. Sheis hencethe motherof allChristians by thisvirtue.TheCatholic faithfulgivemany tributesto Mary in their prayersand other formsof worship.

Thisformof venerationisnot present in theProtestant theology.Theinstitutionof sainthood onlyis observedin thedoctrinesof theCatholic Church. TheProtestant churchdoesnot declareits followersas saintsdue to their outstandingwork or faith.TheCatholic Church devotesits timeand resourcesin investigatingthe livesof its selectedmembers and declaresthem as saints through a rigorousprocess.Thepositionof Mary in theProtestant teachingdoesnot extendbeyond a humbleand pure woman who got the benefitof motheringChrist.TheLutheran teachings,however,insistthatMary assumesan importantpositionin thehistoryof Christianity. By givingbirthto Christ, Mary stoodabove allwomen,andshe deserves the honor.Luther’s teachings,however,cautiontheChristian faithfulfrom givingMary morehonorthan shedeserves.Luther observedthatChristians indulgedthemselves honoring Mary and at times they over do it.14 Calvinistic teachingsalso echo the same sentimentsabout Mary assumingthe highest positionamong women.Calvin teachesthatGod choseMary andby thisvirtue,shedeserves respect and honor.However,thedegreeof honoraccordedto Mary by Protestants andCatholics differ.

Inconclusion,thetwo theologiesfailto agreeon variousissues.At the heart of thedisagreementsis theprotestof Martin Luther against theteachingsof theCatholic Church. The95 thesesagainst indulgencesignited the fire.Due to theneedto counter thegrowing popularityof Luther’s teachings,theCatholic Church convenedtheCouncil of Trent that rejectedthe95 thesesgivenby Martin Luther. TheCouncil of Trent reaffirmed thestandof theCatholic Church andbrandedLuther andhis followersas heretics.

Theplightof Martin Luther receiveda lotof supportfrom John Calvin, whowashis successor.Headopteda lotofMartin Luther’s teachingsand continuedwith thenew waveof Protestantism that enforcedthe teachingsof his predecessor.Differencesin theformof worshippracticedby Catholics andProtestantstoday are a reflectionof the differencesoutlined in the Council of Trent and Luther’s “95 Theses”.


Clements,Keith. &quotBook Review: Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholicand Lutheran Theological Conversation.&quot Ecclesiology10, no. 2 (2014): 259-262.

Kerr,Hugh T. Readingsin Christian thought.Abingdon Press, 2010.

Kranz,Nickie. &quotMartin Luther Stands in History as a Leader of theProtestant Reformation.&quot Journalof Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato5, no. 1 (2014): 13.

Murdock,Graeme. &quotDG Hart. Calvinism: A History.&quot TheAmerican Historical Review119, no. 4 (2014): 1344-1344.

O`Malley,John W. Trent:What happened at the Council.Harvard:Harvard University Press, 2013.

1 Kerr, Hugh T. Readings in Christian thought (Abingdon Press, 2010), p.10

2O`Malley, John W. Trent: What happened at the Council (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2013), p.39.

3O`Malley, John W. Trent: What happened at the Council. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2013.p. 43

4 Kerr, Hugh T. Readings in Christian thought (Abingdon Press, 2010), p. 20

5Clements, Keith. &quotBook Review: Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Theological Conversation” Ecclesiology 10. 2 (2014): 259. P. 259.

6Clements, Keith. &quotBook Review: Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Theological Conversation.&quot Ecclesiology 10, no. 2 (2014): 259-262. P. 260.

7 Kerr, Hugh T. Readings in Christian thought (Abingdon Press, 2010), p.18

8Murdock, Graeme. &quotDG Hart. Calvinism: A History.&quot The American Historical Review 119, 4 (2014): 1344-1344.P. 1344

9O`Malley, John W. Trent: What happened at the Council. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2013.p. 54.

10 Kerr, Hugh T. Readings in Christian thought (Abingdon Press, 2010), p.22

11Clements, Keith. &quotBook Review: Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Theological Conversation.&quot Ecclesiology 10, no. 2 (2014): 259-262. P.261

12O`Malley, John W. Trent: What happened at the Council. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2013.p. 54

13Murdock, Graeme. &quotDG Hart. Calvinism: A History.&quot The American Historical Review 119, no. 4 (2014): 1344-1344.P. 1344.

14Kranz, Nickie. &quotMartin Luther Stands in History as a Leader of the Protestant Reformation.&quot Journal of Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato 5, no. 1 (2014): 13.P. 13.