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What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?

Christians in the Bible are called people that love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). If a person loves the truth they must hate lies, errors and all distortions of the truth. However, just as God hates sin, but loves all people even though they sin, Christians should likewise love all people even if they do, teach or believe something that is not right or true. So Catholics and Protestant should love one another, even if they do not agree with or do not like what the other does or believes.

Catholics and Protestants believe and do many of the same things, but they also believe and do some things differently. Some differences are trivial, but some differences deal with the foundational issues.

The Catholic Church has a long history over which time it has changed in many ways, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Protestant Christianity began in the 1500's when a group of people began to protest against some of the wrong things they believed the Catholic Church was doing and teaching. These protesters became separated from the Catholic Church and formed their own Church which was more inline with what they believed was the truth. Just like the Catholic Church, Protestant Churches are not perfect, they have also changed many times in many ways.

The main issue is Catholics have believed and done some things differently to what Protestants believe the Bible has instructed. Protestants believe this is a result of Catholics believing what certain individuals and traditions have said, rather than what God has said through the Bible. The problem of traditions becoming more important than God's truth is something all religions have at some time been guilty of, including Protestants. The Catholic Church has admitted to some of the errors it has been guilty of in the past, and has changed. But there are still some beliefs and practices that Protestants would say are against what the Bible teaches.

An example of change in the Catholic church is, the fact that today, the Catholic Church does encourage Bible reading. But in the past the Catholic church has discouraged personal study of the Bible, in fact reading the Bible was at one time banned by the Church. Only certain people were allowed to do so. People that did read, or spread the Bible, were even killed by the Catholic Church, like William Tyndale who was one of the first people to translate the Bible into English.

The Catholic Bibles include certain books which Protestants say should not be there. They are called the apocryphal books, which are writings protestants do not believe have been approved as inspired by God. Since they are not referred to as Scripture by Jesus or His disciples.

At one time almost all Catholic Church services were entirely in the Latin language, and only a few people could understand Latin. This is no longer case.

Mary the physical mother of Jesus is of great importance to Catholics, but the Bible says very little about Mary. Here is a summary of what the Bible says about her:

The Bible describes Mary as the physical mother of Jesus, and that she was made pregnant by God. (Matthew 1:16, Luke 1:26-42, Luke 2:5-19) Mary visited her cousin Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-56) Mary attended a feast at Jerusalem with her family. (Luke 2:48-51) Mary is present at a marriage feast. (John 2:1-10) Mary looked for Jesus when He was teaching inside a house (Matthew 12:46-47, Mark 3:31, Luke 8:19). Mary went to see Jesus at the cross (John 19:25-27). Mary was committed to the care of Jesus' disciple John. (John 19:27) Mary lived with the disciples in Jerusalem for a while (Acts 1:14).

So everything Catholics say about Mary that is not in the Bible has been made up by people, and are based on tradition rather than the truth revealed to us God's Word. Nowhere does the Bible say Mary was greater than any other Christian, she was just a human like all of us. The Bible does not say people should worship Mary or pray to Mary. The Bible does not say Mary prays for us.

Some Catholics may believe and teach that Mary acts as a mediator between people and God, but this is the opposite to the Bible which says, Jesus is only mediator between God and mankind. (1 Timothy 2:5)

A mediator is somebody that negotiates a solution between two people that are divided because of some problem.

Praying to Mary, singing to Mary, and bowing down or kissing statues of Mary, might even be classed as a form of Idol worship, which Jesus said was wrong. For He said we must worship and serve God alone (Matthew 4:10). And Mary was a person.

Mary is not the gate of heaven as some Catholics say, for Jesus Himself said that He is the way and nobody comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). And the Bible also says, there is no other name except that of Jesus by which we are saved (Acts 4:12).

A popular belief among Catholics is that Mary never did any sin, but the Bible says everyone has sinned (Romans 5:12-13, 1 Kings 8:46, 1 John 1:8-10, Psalm 53:3). Mary even admitted she needed a Saviour for she called God her Saviour (Luke 1:46-47). Jesus is the only person who has not sinned, and Jesus was God.

Some Catholics believe Mary never had any other children. But the Bible says Mary did have other children (Matthew 13:55-56).

Some Catholics often call Mary the mother of God, but God does not have a mother, for God and Jesus already existed before Mary existed (Isaiah 43:10). Mary was not God's mother, but simply a channel through which Jesus entered this physical world.

The Pope is a man Catholics have claimed is a mediator between God and mankind. But as it has been said Jesus is the only mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Catholics also claim the Pope is the head of the Church on earth, but the Bible says Jesus is the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 2:9-10). We should not give to any man the honour that belongs to Jesus alone.

It is often believed among Catholics that a certain group of people called priests, have the power and authority to forgive sins. So sins must be confessed to priests. But such beliefs are the opposite of what is found in the Bible, which says Jesus has the power to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). Also, no human priest is a mediator between God and man. The Bible also teaches we can ask God ourselves for forgiveness, and He promises to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Peter also said in the Bible, that through Jesus name, whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of their sins (Acts 10:43). The Bible does not teach that today there should be a special class of people called priests, for God sees all Christians as priests (1 Peter 2:9).

Catholics generally believe sin causes spiritual penalties, and not all of these penalties are removed even if the guilt of a sin has been forgiven. They believe these remaining penalties can be removed or reduced by penance, which involves doing good works. What these good works are is decided by the priest after a confession. According to Catholic beliefs any remaining penalties will be paid by suffering in a place called purgatory after death.

However the Bible does not say anything about penance, God does not demand such things for the forgiveness of sins. God's forgiveness is a free gift we receive by turning away from our wrong ways and accepting it through believing in Jesus as our Lord (Galatians 2:16, Romans 1:17). According to the Bible good works do not make a person a Christian, but good works should be the sign of a person who is a Christian. Good works are the result of becoming a Christian. And we become a Christian by turning away from sin and turning our lives over to Jesus.

Purgatory is a place Catholics believe they will go if they die with unpaid penalties, there they will pay for their penalties by suffering. This imaginary place keeps many Catholics in fear all their life, because they can never be sure of how long they will spend there. A fear of purgatory causes many Catholics to miss out on the joy and peace that comes from knowing Jesus has paid the full price for sin. Catholics often teach that time spent in purgatory can be reduced by gifts of money, the prayers of priests, and by doing other things. Through such teachings the Catholic Church has collected billions of dollars, making it one of the richest institutions in the world.

However nothing about purgatory can be found in the Bible. Jesus said in the Bible, that He who hears His word and believes in Him who sent Him, has everlasting life, and will not be judged, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24). The Bible also says God does not remember sins that have been forgiven (Hebrews 10:17). The Bible also says that once Christians die they will be present with God (2 Corinthians 5:8-9), there is no place in between.

Catholics also teach that the unpaid penalties can cause individuals to be punished in this life also, in various forms of sufferings, and what remains unpaid by suffering on earth will be paid in purgatory. Catholics also believe these penalties can be reduced with what Catholics call indulgences, which involve doing good works, saying certain prayers, going to confession, going to communion, or doing something else. Catholics also believe indulgences can be gained for people that have died and gone to the imaginary place called purgatory.

The whole concept of Indulgences goes against the Bible, which teaches that God's Gift of life is free, for the whole punishment for all sin has been paid for by Jesus once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).

Because of beliefs about purgatory, No Catholic person is sure they will go to Heaven when they die, they might go to purgatory. But the Bible says if we walk in the light, as Jesus is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of God's Son Jesus cleanses us of all our sin (1 John 1:7). So Jesus cleanses us of ALL our sin.

Catholic beliefs do not allow certain men to have a wife because they are leaders in the Church. However in the Bible we read Christian leaders were married, such as the Apostle Peter (Matthew 8:14, Mark 1:30, Luke 4:38) Paul who was a Christian leader and wrote most of the New Testament also allowed marriage (1 Corinthians 9:5). The Bible even makes it clear that it is wrong to forbid marriage (1 Timothy 4:3).

Catholics often repeatedly say the same prayer over and over again. But this is a practice that the Bible says is wrong. For even Jesus told His followers to not vainly repeat themselves in prayer, like some do thinking they will be heard because of their many words. Jesus went on to say, we are not to be like them, for our heavenly Father knows what we need, before we ask him (Matthew 6:7-8).

A common Catholic tradition involves the kissing and bowing down to images and statues of Mary, Jesus, dead people and angels. The Bible says that is wrong, and such objects should not even be made (Exodus 20:4-5). Jesus told us to worship God in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). There are many other Catholic practices and beliefs that can't be found in the Bible, such as saying prayers for the dead. Generally Church services involve intricate rituals and ceremonies that are not found in the Bible, but have been invented by people. God has said in the Bible He is more interested in what is in peoples heart than rituals and ceremonies.

As a Protestant, I believe the Catholic belief system has complicated the simple Gospel message. I protest any religion that teaches that to receive spiritual salvation involves a lot of hard work. I believe we have eternal life when we put our faith in Jesus, as the Scripture says: "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life" (John 3:36)

The Bible warns against those that seek to complicate and corrupt God's simple plan of salvation (2 Corinthians 11:3). The simple truth is God's gift of life has been fully paid by Jesus on the cross. We can receive it in this life by turning from our wrong ways and accepting Jesus as our Lord, it is not something we can get by doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So if you want to get right with God, you have to go to Jesus directly, not any Church, religious organization or human individual. Jesus said, come to me all you that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). We are not saved by belonging to a Church either Catholic or Protestant. There are only one kind of Christian, those that have made Jesus Lord of their life, and the simplest definition of a "true" Church is any group of people that is united by a shared love of Jesus Christ.
Brought to you by Terje Ronneberg
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