We may not agree with everything other Christians say or do, but I hope we can agree on this basic definition of a Christian. A Christian is someone who believes all of the following: 1) Jesus is their Savior, 2) Jesus is the Son of God, 3) Jesus died, 4) His blood paid for the sins of mankind, and 5) Jesus rose from the dead.
Once we have isolated who is a Christian, we could further organize them by details of their belief system. If someone calls themselves a Catholic, it is implied that they follow the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. They have usually been baptized, confirmed, and received the Eucharist in a Catholic Church. In contrast, a Protestant is any non-Catholic Christian. This includes all denominations (and non-denominational) like Baptist, Charismatic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.
The two groups have inspired a great deal of curiosity by both Christians and non-Christians. The comparison between Catholicism and Protestantism could be the contents of a thick book. Yet, even an incredibly long book would still not account for the differences in the beliefs of individuals within each group. In this short passage, we will examine classic opinions toward authority, justification, and salvation. For contrast, we will identify basic principles from the reformation period that are commonly known as the “five solas.”
First, let’s look at sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Catholics and Protestants agree the Bible is divinely inspired sacred writing. However, Catholics depend on tradition and the Pope’s authority while Protestants trust in the authority of Scripture alone.
Secondly, consider sola fide (faith alone). Both groups will say faith is required for the justification of man to God. Catholics depend on their faith and good works for justification. On the other hand, Protestants emphasize faith alone.
Thirdly, there is sola gratia (grace alone). Protestants and Catholics both confess we are saved by grace. Yet, Catholics state grace is received through sacraments (such as the Eucharist or communion). Protestants stress grace alone.
Next, let’s look at solo Christo (Christ alone). All Christians proclaim Christ as their Savior. Still, Catholics place a higher importance on Mary mother of Jesus and the role of priests while Protestants accentuate Christ alone.
Finally, examine soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone). Both Catholics and Protestants believe the faithful ascend to heaven. Catholics have been known to esteem and call on saints in heaven for help. On the contrary, Protestants exalt the glory of God alone.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:16, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Catholics and Protestants both have strengths and a history of achievements. By looking at the fruit of each group, we can see how both groups complement each other and how we can benefit from working together for the kingdom of God.
The world is waiting and watching us. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I think it is possible for us to love one another in spite of our individual beliefs.
PRAYER: Lord, we invite you into our thoughts and attitudes about our brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to love one another as You have loved us. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
© 2015 Kim Bond
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