If you are like a lot of people, you may find the differences between Catholics and Protestants to be a little murky. A person of the Catholic faith will usually identify as Catholic rather than Christian, which causes confusion for many. While Catholicism is a part of Christianity, the definition of Christianity is so broad that it can encompass many different beliefs. This is why there are so many denominations of Protestants, Orthodox and even Catholics over history. Here are five basic ways in which the Catholic Church is distinct from other Christian denominations.
Papal Law Versus the Ten Commandments
The differences between Catholicism and the rest of Christianity can actually be traced all the way back to the death and resurrection of Christ. Catholics believe that Jesus spoke to the apostle Peter, and named him as the head of the church. This paved the way for Catholics to believe in Papal Law, the concept that Jesus speaks through the leader of the Catholic Church. Over the centuries, this has translated to the institution of a Pope, who leads the Catholic Church. Other Christians, however, believe that the only true law in God’s eye is the Ten Commandments, and that they do not need a translator to learn the meaning of Christianity.
Services and Mass
Almost all versions of Christianity and Catholicism involve attending a weekly service, at which the leader of the congregation will read a passage from the Bible and then discuss. However, the itinerary and flow of these services vary greatly between different denominations of the Protestant church. Protestant congregations can follow strict schedules that remain the same week after week, or have a more casual, celebratory feel in which there is singing, dancing and even a band. Catholicism, however, relies on a formal service that must include the Liturgy and the Eucharist.
Ticket to Heaven
While there is agreement across the board that God’s grace is his gift to humans, and that only through him can you achieve salvation, Christians and Catholics have slightly different interpretations of how that is done. One of the key steps to accepting God’s grace in either sect is through Baptism. Catholics baptize the members of their congregation very soon after birth. Other Christians believe that the baptism can happen at any time. In fact, many denominations wait until the congregant is old enough to understand the acceptance of salvation before going through with the sacrament. Both religions believe that through salvation, you will have eternal life in Heaven at God’s side.
Splits in Basic Beliefs
Christians believe that the many sects of Christianity have perfectly viable interpretations of the Bible. The nuances between the different interpretations may guide them to uphold slightly different values throughout their lives, but ultimately, they are all on the same team. They feel that as long as you devote yourself to God and admit your sins, the slight differences in opinion will not keep anyone out of Heaven. However, the Catholic Church maintains that Jesus still speaks through the Pope, and the Roman Catholic church has the last word on all earthly affairs. While the current Pope has a more forgiving and liberal view compared to Popes in the past, the church must side with him as they believe that Jesus speaks directly through the Pope.
Interpretations of the Bible
Catholics and Christians both believe the Bible to be the world of God. This book was purportedly written by apostles and scholars who wanted to share the word of God and provide a guideline for Christian living. Many Christians use the Bible as a book of lessons and allegories to help them learn how to be better people and how to live in the image of their creator. Catholics also believe in the teachings of the Bible. However, they adhere to a strict interpretation deriving from the Sacred Traditions, which are beliefs that have survived millennia of interpretations by the leaders of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church both lay claim to being the oldest form of Christianity, while the Protestant split paved the way for dozens of other Christian sects to appear. In today’s religious climate, many of the old stigmas remain of Orthodoxy and Catholicism being the most strict believers in Christ, without much room for interpretation. However, the modern Catholic Church has made a point to embrace contemporary lifestyles and has even jumped on the social media bandwagon. The Vatican, as well as nondenominational entities such as The Way International, have established Twitter sites and other online presences to keep their finger on the pulse of the new generation of believers.
Though their paths and interpretations may vary, Catholicism and Christianity are united in motive. Both churches reach out across the world to spread their message in hopes of helping people find what they believe is salvation and everlasting life. The numerous differences between these religions may seem complicated and confusing to believers and nonbelievers alike. While they may choose to travel different roads, they ultimately have the final destination.