Top 5 Differences Between Protestants and Catholics

At the request of my cousin, who is an Assembly of God minister, I wrote a synthesis (as best I could whip together in a few hours) of the top 5 differences between Protestants and Catholics.  It was hard to narrow the list down to 5, because of course I wanted to include every topic, all of the arguments, all of the ramifications.  But I did my best to keep it to a simple presentation of Catholic belief.

The five topics I chose are the papacy, the Eucharist, Mary, Purgatory, and Sacred Tradition.  Thanks to Catholic Answers, I had scriptural references and great explanations at my fingertips through and Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth, a handy little tract.  Thanks be to God, I just happened to have that little book with me, and it came in very handy.  A lot of the explanations below are only slightly modified from that book.  I'll make this a 5-part series for the next Saturdays!

All of Catholic teaching hinges on the doctrine of the Incarnation: that Christ is truly the Son of God, and therefore fully divine, Who came into the world and became man (took on human nature in everything but sin) for the purpose of dying to save us and reconcile us with the Father.  Understanding that fundamental fact, the divinity of Christ, is key to understanding Catholic doctrine.  The scriptural bases on which we rest our belief in the divinity of Christ are as follows: Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 16:16-17, John 1:1, John 8:58, John 10:30, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:1-3, Hebrews 1:8,10.

 5.      Tradition & teaching authority of the Magisterium

For Catholics, we believe that God gives us His Word in Holy Scripture, and also guides and teaches us through the Church.  God speaks to His Church through the Bible and through sacred Tradition.  To make sure we understand Him, He guides the Church’s teaching authority – the magisterium – so it interprets the Bible and Tradition accurately.  Like three legs on a stool, the Bible, Tradition, and the magisterium are all necessary for the stability of the Church and to guarantee that the Church teaches truth.

Sacred Tradition is not just the traditions or customs of men.  Sacred Tradition and the Bible are not different or competing revelations.  They are two ways that the Church hands on the gospel.  The Bible itself tells us to hold fast to Tradition, whether it comes to us in written or oral form (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 11:12).  Sacred Tradition preserves doctrines first taught by Jesus to the apostles and later passed down to us through the Church under the leadership of the apostles’ successors, the pope and bishops.

Together the pope and bishops form the teaching authority of the Church, which is called the magisterium (from the Latin for “teacher”).  The magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit, and gives us certainty in matters of doctrine.  The Church is the custodian of the bible and faithfully and accurately proclaims its message, a task that God has empowered it to do.  In order to understand the Bible properly, we have to have an official interpreter so as not to get a multiplicity of interpretations due to human error.