The Christian Faith: Protestant vs Catholicism
Patricia L. Dickson
The first time that I had to differentiate my Christian faith as either Protestant or Catholic was while I was serving in the military. While filling out my personnel file on the computer, I came to the question about my religious faith. I typed Christian in the space provided, however that triggered the choice of either Protestant or Catholic. That was the first time in my life that I had to choose a Christian affiliation. My supervisor explained to me that I was a Protestant since I did not identify as a Catholic whom she said were Christians too.
While stationed in Utah, I would engage in conversations with Mormons who would attempt to assure me that they were Christians too. When I would begin to discuss the Bible, they would refer to the Book of Mormons. The Catholic Church also uses other teachings besides the Bible. In fact, the Catholic Church added the following books to the Bible: books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, as well as some additional stories and verses in the books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these seven books as the deuterocanonical” books, meaning the “second” standard books. The Mormons use the Book of Mormons as an additional book that goes along with the Bible (another testament). The problem with these books is that they contradict the 66 books of the Bible that Protestants use as the sole source for God’s divinely inspired word. My question to these religious organizations who claim to be a form of the Christian faith is how come each one of you feel the need to write (use), add another or additional books to (as they claim) go along with or is an extension of the Bible?
I believe that there are two answers to this question. First, The Bible removes man from power and proclaims that God is all-powerful (omnipotent). Man has always desired to judge and control other men regardless of his own weak and sinful nature. These additional books (written and inspired by men) places a man (a Priest, Joseph Smith) in the position of power to confer blessing or to require one to confess his or her sins to them. These church leaders are taking on the role of Jesus the Christ (although no one will admit it). The Bible levels the playing field by stating that all have sinned therefore rendering every human not worthy of judging another. Secondly, man’s sinful pride desires to earn his or her own salvation. In other words, man would rather go to God and say that he or she is good enough to enter heaven because he or she earned it by his or her own merit (through good works). The Bible forces men to humble themselves with the knowledge that there is nothing he or she can do to earn eternal salvation except to accept the gift of salvation through faith in His son Jesus. The imputed and imparted righteousness of CHRIST are both offered at the same time to those who accept GOD’S offer and provision of salvation.
Namely, the righteousness of God which comes by believing with personal trust and confident reliance on Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [And it is meant] for all who believe. For there is no distinction,
Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory [b]which God bestows and receives.
[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus,
All religions are aware that the Bible is considered the only book that is believed to be the divinely inspired word of God. Therefore other religions that claim to be another form of Christianity will use a few scriptures from the Bible out of context because they know that most people (including professed Christians) know little about the Bible and are not equipped to spot misquotes. It is a damning indictment that supposedly Bible believing Christians can be so easily stumped (by biblical misquotes) by religions that claim to be another form of Christianity. In fact, most religions often start talking about the Bible in the beginning. They know that if they were to admit from the beginning that they do not rely on the Bible as the sole source for the word of God that people would not listen to their teachings. Misquoting God’s words as a means to deceive is not new; it began in the Garden of Eden with the serpent and Eve. Eve; however at least had an excuse because she did not have the written word readily available (as we do) to compare the words that Satan attributed to God to God’s actual words.
My interest in learning the fundamental doctrines that separates Protestants and Catholics peaked during my recent Christmas vacation to Rome, Italy. The tour group that I was part of was present at St. Peter’s square on Christmas day and witnessed Pope Francis’ Christmas message. Since the Pope delivered his message in Latin, the tour guide translated it in English after the service ended. The tour guide said that at the end of his message, the Pope forgave our indulgence and we were then free to continue to indulge (in his case, excessive wine consumption). I immediately told him that Jesus had already forgiven our sins when He died on the cross and that no man has the power to forgive sin. Furthermore, Jesus would never tell someone that he or she was free to continue in sin. In fact, after Jesus healed someone he would warn him or her to sin no more. God does not command us not to sin because He does not want us to have fun. Sin destroys the body and the soul.
Afterward, when Jesus found him in the temple, He said to him, See, you are well! Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had made him well.
The day after Christmas, we toured St. Peter’s Church. During the tour, I was struck by how Jesus was portrayed in statues and paintings. Jesus was always portrayed as weak and powerless whereas, the Catholic Priests and Mary (the mother of Jesus) were portrayed as strong and powerful. Jesus was either portrayed as a baby, suffering on the cross or lying dead in Mary’s (His mother’s) arms. Jesus is not some weak dead savior. He rose from the dead with all power in His hand. He ascended to heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus is in heaven interceding on our behalf. The tour guide that took us through St. Peter’s Church informed us that the Pope blessed the baby Jesus before it was placed in the manager at the large Nativity Scene display in St. Peter’s square. There are two problems with the Pope’s blessing the baby Jesus. First, there is no baby Jesus to bless. Jesus died and rose again at the age of 33. Secondly, sinful man cannot confer blessing over a holy God. Jesus was Lord at birth and Lord when He died and rose from the dead.
Three fundamental doctrines separate Protestants and Catholics. The Protestant relies solely on the word of God for instructions, and goes to the throne of grace in his or her devotion; while the Roman Catholic consults the teachings of his or her church, and offer prayers through the mediums of the Virgin Mary and Saints (dead humans). Mary, the mother of Jesus is elevated to a position of power in the Catholic Church that contradicts how she is portrayed in Biblical teachings. The Bible never says that Mary was anyone but an ordinary human whom God chose to use in an extraordinary way. Catholics take the term “highly favored” in Luke 1:28 out of context. The phrase “highly favored” comes from a single Greek word, which essentially means “much grace.” Mary received God’s grace. Grace is “unmerited favor,” meaning something we receive despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mary needed grace from God just as the rest of us do.
In Catholic teachings, salvation is dispensed by the church, especially through the sacramental system. The church has the authority to grant partial or plenary (full) remission of the temporal punishment of sin by selling memorial masses and indulgences. These can alleviate, shorten, and even eliminate the time spent in the purging fires of purgatory.
“If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified… let him be accursed,” (Canon 12, Council of Trent).
“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema,” (Canon 14, Council of Trent).
No one can MERIT the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can MERIT for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2027).
By contrast, the Bible teaches salvation is a divine gift of grace, not a human achievement. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins. We cannot earn justification or merit justification in any way. If we could, there would have been no need for Jesus to go to the cross.
For we hold that a man is justified and made upright by faith independent of and distinctly apart from good deeds (works of the Law). [The observance of the Law has nothing to do with justification.]
[Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]
But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.
Therefore, since we are now justified ([f]acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.
Which are we to believe? The Roman Catholic Church or God’s word? Any Bible believing Christian should be able to discern that we are living in the last days. We are witnessing what is prophesied in the Bible (2 Timothy 3) every day. Millions of souls are being deceived and led astray by false doctrines and false prophets. We who have been saved are mandated by God to teach the unadulterated whole counsel of God to a dying world. If we do not reach the world, who will?