Navigating the Catholic-Protestant Split Today

Editor’s note: This article was written and posted on another blog about one year ago. Given the discussions that have appeared on UBFriends in recent days, it seems like a good time to republish it.

Reforming the Social Security program has often been called “the third rail of American politics” because if you touch it, you will get burned. The issues involved are so divisive, affecting individuals and families at such a personal level, that most national political leaders will avoid this subject at all costs.

Similarly, there is an electrified third rail in discussions about Christian unity. Being the naïve/pompous/foolish person that I am, I will now climb down onto the subway tracks, bend over, reach out, and grab this third rail with both hands.

What is this third rail? It is the centuries-old split between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church.

What I writing comes largely from personal experience. I was born into a Catholic family, baptized as an infant, and lived as a semi-devout Catholic for 18 years. As a college freshman I was evangelized by zealous Christians from a ministry that is technically non-denominational but clearly evangelical Protestant. In my newly found faith, I reacted against Catholicism and began to view it as an aberrant expression of pure, biblically sound Christianity. Over the years, as I grew into a position of ministry leadership, I carefully avoided discussing faith-related issues with family members who are still practicing Catholics. I never really questioned whether my anti-Catholic stance was justified, and it is only recently, the last five years or so, that my thinking has begun to change. Please understand that I have no inclination to return to the Catholic church. God has called and brought me to another place. But as I have read, thought and prayed about these things, my views on many issues relevant to the Protestant/Catholic divide have been shifting considerably.

The ministry in which I serve has no official position on Catholicism, and over the years I have heard individual members express a variety of opinions. The founder of my church spoke publicly with admiration of the late Pope John Paul II. Recently, someone in my ministry (another former Catholic) exclaimed to me, “Catholics are Christians too!” Others have characterized the Catholic church as a cult and portrayed Catholics as enemies of the gospel. But on most occasions when Catholicism is mentioned in conversation (which doesn’t happen very often), the usual response is a brief, unnatural silence, followed by an awkward attempt to change the subject. During that pregnant pause, the words that I imagine, the words that I sense are being thought but not spoken, are polite, cautious, and negative.

When an evangelical expresses a negative view of Catholicism, what does he really mean? That term, Catholicism, can mean so many different things in different contexts that to even speak of it as one thing, a single entity, that can be grasped and summarized and assessed as good, mediocre, or bad is almost absurd. It is like trying to render a summary judgment about mathematics or China or health care. But in many cases, the evangelical expressing the negative opinion is probably thinking more specifically along these lines.

“Catholics teach a false gospel of salvation by works.” There is a kernel of truth in that statement, but the kernel is smaller than most Protestants realize. If you begin to do any serious, evenhanded reading of modern discussions on this subject, you will see that it represents an oversimplification and caricature of Catholic soteriology. Catholics and Protestants speak of salvation and justification using different terms and concepts. But there is huge variation among Protestants as well (e.g., Calvinism versus Arminianism), and there are vast areas of consensus across these traditions. Thoughtful Catholics and Protestants should agree that we are saved neither by works nor by faith but by Jesus Christ. Faithful Catholics and Protestants should agree that the Bible is the inspired word of God and believe Romans 1:17, “The righteous will live by faith,” along with James 2:20, “Faith without deeds is useless.” Aren’t there plenty of Protestants who talk about justification “by grace alone, through faith alone” but are, in fact, teaching and practicing all kinds of legalism? Focusing on “what we must do” more than “what God has done” is the standard fallback position that all Christians, regardless of our denominations, are inclined to slip into whenever we lose sight of the living Savior. If I had a dollar for every time I heard an evangelical say that Catholics teach “salvation by works,” I would be a rich man. And I am quite sure that, in the vast majority of those occasions, the person voicing that opinion could not accurately describe what the RCC actually teaches about salvation today. Instructive and healthy criticism requires a thorough, nuanced understanding of the position being criticized. If you are interested in exploring the differences between Catholic and Protestant views of salvation, I suggest that you first identify the wide areas of agreement. A good place to start is to read the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by Roman Catholic and Lutheran leaders in 1999.

“Catholics don’t have a personal relationship with God.” Before saying this, please get to know at least one sincere and devout Catholic. Pick up a book by Henri Nouwen. Enough said.

“Catholics practice idolatry because they worship Mary, saints, statues and paintings.” Really, there is very little truth to this. Catholic tradition holds elaborate and complex views of Mary (e.g., her so-called Immaculate Conception) and her relationship to Jesus that most Protestants find problematic. Prayer to saints is part of their understanding of the doctrine of “communion of saints” expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, a doctrine which Protestants largely ignore. There are some real differences in Catholic and Protestant views here. But knowledgeable Catholics do not worship Mary or the saints. They accept the Ten Commandments and understand that worship is reserved for God alone.

“Catholics blindly follow the Pope.” I agree, to an extent. Catholic teachings about St. Peter and papal succession seem extrabiblical and hard for Protestants (and plenty of Catholics as well) to swallow. Before casting stones, however, it would be wise to heed the words of the great evangelical preacher Dr. John Stott, who said about evangelicals, “There are too many gurus and too many autocrats who lay down the law in the local church in defiance of the teaching of Jesus… There are too many who behave as though they believe, not in the priesthood of all believers, but in the papacy of all pastors.”

“Catholics have wrong views about the sacraments. They practice infant baptism, which is unbiblical and invalid. And they superstitiously think that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ, which no sensible Protestant would ever believe.” Anyone who says this reveals ignorance of church history and Protestantism. Every major leader of the Protestant Reformation including Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, upheld and practiced paedobaptism. Luther and Calvin both believed and taught the “real presence” of Christ in Communion, albeit in different ways. The vast majority of Protestant churches today will accept a baptism practiced in any church, including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, as valid as long as the baptism is Trinitarian, “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19.

“The Reformation happened for good reasons, and we shouldn’t go back.” I agree. The Protestant Reformation was a reaction against real problems and abuses in the medieval church. Catholics do not want to return to problematic medieval beliefs and practices either. What happened in the 16th century is unchangeable, but it no longer accurately frames the doctrinal, cultural and practical issues that separate Protestants and Catholics today.

Please do not call me an apologist for the Roman Catholic church. If you have actually paid attention to my words, you will know that there are some Catholic positions that I do not agree with and many more that I simply do not understand. But I also do not agree with or understand many things that are taught and practiced in various Protestant churches either. And there are plenty things about my own church that I do not like. Church membership, denominational positions and historical events from centuries past do not control and define the character or faith of real flesh-and-blood people today. God cares about people, all of them, far more than he cares about institutions and labels.

Back when I was a young teenager, I stumbled across a column published in a conservative Catholic newspaper that my mother used to read. It was about hymns that were being sung at Catholic Mass. The author objected to How Great Thou Art because that hymn was written by a Protestant and was therefore suspect and impure. Even at that young age, I found his statement so appalling that I remember it to this day. But just a few years later, I began to think and speak of Catholicism and Catholics in precisely the same way. Having strong Protestant convictions is fine. But do those convictions require me to scrupulously avoid all things that vaguely appear to be Catholic because there are Catholics who presently do them?

Through interacting with today’s college students (the so-called postmoderns), I have been deeply impressed by their relational maturity. They love to engage in thoughtful, evenhanded, openminded, give-and-take discussion. They are not afraid to touch the third rail. They long to break down barriers and find common ground with people who are different from them. They instinctively understand that unity does not require uniformity. And they have no interest in perpetuating theological divisions, culture wars and us-versus-them mentalities of generations past. Do you want to impress young people, gain their respect and open their hearts to Christ? Then demonstrate a healthy spirit of criticism toward yourself and your own tradition. Reach out and communicate in a loving, Christlike way with those who are different from you. Show them that you are open to learning and revising your own opinions as God shows you new things. Do you want to offend young people and close their hearts? Then promote caricature, stereotype, and ignorance by continually praising your own group, church or culture while glibly criticizing those on the outside. And then brace yourself for others to treat you likewise. What goes around, comes around.


  1. david bychkov

    Thanks for the article, Joe. I’m still among those who find it hard to touch this rail. Recently I argued with my good friend who blamed RCC and Pope as almost antichrist. I knew one person who was not able to meet Jesus in UBF and then was able to meet him in RCC and became real Christian (as I sould see). I like many things about Catholics. But also after watching one movie about catholic saint (padre Pio) I was deeply frustraited of what I saw. However here we have more problems with relations to Russian Orthodoxal. It also really complex.
    I want to put here one though which I hear from one God’s servant (my translation):
    The real tolerance is to see the part of the evil with wich you fight in yourself, and to see the part of the goodness for which you fight in your opponent.

    • GerardoR

      Hi David,
      Many people find the strong devotion to Padre Pio  troubling even orthodox Catholics. In fact, some of the Popes were very suspicious of him. They even placed a hidden microphone in his confessional for a couple of weeks because of false claims about him. This is a BIG, BIG violation of Cannon Law. But I think it highlights how strongly the devil tried to work against Padre Pio. Out of curiosity, which movie did you watch?

      I actually personally love Padre Pio. He is like the Saint Francis of the 20th century. But it is true that there are many who simply want to make money off him or a small minority who practically want to see him as a new messiah. But these abuses should not color the truth of the matter. In fact, we read in Corinthians that Paul himself was seen as a god by people who recognized the strong power that God was working in him. But ofcourse we know that just because SOME people create these abuses, does not mean Saint Pauls teaching is false, or that he was not in fact a great man. Because he was. These abuses  should be looked upon from the perspective of what the Catholic Church officially teaches and not what it’s members do. In fact, part of the reason the Church authorities initially persecuted Padre Pio was because they are always very suspicious of people who draw large amount of people or who claim they experience the stigmata. I loved your last quote.

    • david bychkov

      I believe it was film from 2000 year

  2. GerardoR

    Wow… this is wonderful Joe. I am speechless. What other blog was this posted to?

    You identified many of the stereotypes I and many of my catholic bretheren commonly encounter.  
    *Catholics worship Mary
    *Catholics teach a false gospel
    *Catholics dont have a personal relationship with God

    I always wondered where did these lies come from?  In fact, I once thought about writing an article for UBFriends titled: “How to properly attack the Catholic Church” where I wanted to show how attacking Catholics as teaching that salvation is by works alone, mary is God etc.. is futile since the Church doesnt actually teach this!

    I mean, if people want to attack the Church, they might rightly give too much honor to Mary, you falsely believe that you can loose your salvation if you have not love, you rely on the Pope’s interpretation for moral questions isntead of the bible alone, you use status for aiding your prayer life even though you shouldnt, you shouldnt ask the saints to pray to God since they cannot hear you anymore.  

    These are good attacks on the Church because trully capture what Catholics beleive! Whether Catholics SHOULD in fact give Mary too much honor to Mary, rely on the Popes interpretation instead of the Bible alone, etc.. is a different question which I hope we can avoid on this post. My point is simply that if you will judge the Church, then we should least judge rightly and in a spirit of charity.

    “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).”

    I was once shocked when I heard that the koran taught that Christians do not worship one God since they think Christians believe that God is the Father, the Son and Mary. I thought to myself, how can I possibly believe the koran is true if it cant even properly attack the Christian teaching. If the Koran said, “look.. this is the bad fruit of Christians.. they practically think Mary is God along with the Father, Son and Holy spirit” then I might understand. But not if it claims Christians teach something they dont! How can protestant teachers expect their students to trust in their particular denominations interpretation of scripture if some of them falsely attack another denomination and their student finds out that it is a false understanding of what they teach.

    In fact, that is what drove me further into the Catholic church in the first place. When I first experienced a strong conversion in my life, I saw myself as simply being Christian (not protestat, not Catholic). But when I heard people like my mom (who was a babtist at the time) and Jehovas witnesses claim that the Catholics worshiped status, I was shocked! But all I had to do was ask a devout Catholic and found that the stereotype was incorrect. From there, I found myself more convinced by almost every issue of dispute between Catholics and Protestants. So what I am saying is, if you strongly disagree with the Church, then atleast be prepared to properly present the Church’s teachings and then systematicly show why they are wrong.  

    Joe, I really liked that you identified some positions that Catholics do in fact hold but you charitably disagree with.  

    *Catholics blindly follow the Pope: Although I slightly disagree with the word “blindly”, I think it is true that as Catholics, we believe the Pope is Christ  ambassador  to the world through apostolic succession and by holding the chair of Peter, has the power to sow in heaven what is sown on earth. If someone disagree’s with that, then so be it. But it is important to properly understand what the Church teaches. The Pope CANNOT teach anything that is contradiction to the Bible or the infallible teachings of the Church. One might protest, “but clearly the teaching on so and so is in contradiction to the bible.” I would respond that all a non Catholic can say is: 1) The teaching on so and so is in contradiction to how my denomination fallibly INTERPRETS the bible. By fallibly, I do not mean wrong, I mean it is not protected from potential error. 2) They are teaching something false which is in line with their false interpretation of the Bible (according to my fallible interpretation).  

    Both of these seem valid as they both capture the context from which one is making the statements and the context from which the Church teaches certain things.  

    I laughed when I read your quote by John Stott. I find it incredible when a pastor says.. the Pope teaches X as an infallible teaching. Where does it say in the bible that X is correct. Clearly he is wrong and is the anti-christ.” If you ask them, do you believe that what your saying is true? Could you be wrong in that teacher? Or is that merely your fallible interpretation of the Bible? Most find it hard to admit that there interpretations are made through a fallible process so they object that I know this to be true because “I feel a burning in my bossom” or, the “Holy Spirit is telling me.” If this is the case, then they are practically teaching the truth of Papal Infallibility but relegating that ability to themselves and other pastors who also agree with their interpretation of the bible.  I really like John Stott’s book the Cross of Christ. It presents a very even handed view of how RC’s see some of the issues (even though he disagree’s with them).  

    *Catholics dont have a personal relationship with God* This is a very interesting assertion because I think it really challenges even other protestant faith traditions. I once had from a Catholic friend that her evangelical buddy tried to argue that she was not really a Christian because she was never, “born again.” My Catholic friend was confused by what she meant by the term “born again” since she has had very limited encounters with evangelicals and she thought it simply meant that you are  baptized so a to be born from the spirit. And since my Catholic friend has always been devout ever since she could remember, she could not wrap her mind around the idea that she has to have a conversion process sometime during her adult life. Since she felt that she has always had a close and personal relationship with Jesus. She did not agree nor disagree with her evangelical friend, she was just confused by what she meant. And I think this is true of many protestants who have grown up in good Christian homes and led very devout lives. What does, “being born again” after they have been babtized mean if you have always loved Christ. Maybe you have not loved him as much as he deserves, or have failed him many times, but the point is, some people just never have this conversion experience because they have always been devoted to the good news.  

    Again, I really liked this article Joe. I hope Christians of all backgrounds can turn towards fair and even handed sources when trying to understand views that differ from their own.

  3. I never did understand the hostility I see around this topic. Like you, I was raised Catholic, baptised, first communion, never made it to confirmation though.   I really don’t have a problem with Catholics, nobody’s perfect. In my opinion we have our ways and they have theirs. Actually, I like receiving communion. I used to think I wasn’t worthy so I wouldn’t do it, but I learned that I’m reconciled through the blood of Christ, so that unworthy feeling just went out the door and I can take communion with peace; actually, I take it with joy!   I kind of wish we would do it more around here. I’ve never experienced any antagonism from Catholics. It seems we (never thought of myself as a protestant, I guess I am) are the ones thumbing our noses at them.   I agree with this quote “Catholics are Christians too!” I think I’ll go to mass this sunday. Thanks for the article Joe!

    • GerardoR

      Haha.. Joe, your unintentionally converting people here.  
      Oscar, no one is worthy to receive communion. Communion is not a reward but a grace to aid in you in your spiritual life. It is the  consummation of what Christ did for you on the cross and his incredible Love and desire to share his body and blood with you in one flesh. Read Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body. You will never look at sex the same way again. =)

    • Thanks for your comment Gerardo. You’re right about communion, but I always felt a self-condemnation when I wanted to take communion. Like I said, I can do it now. On a side note, I totally forgot which hand goes on top of the other, and what do I say when the priest says “the body of christ…” As far as conversion, there’s nothing wrong with going to mass if I’m a “protestant.”   Feels weird to call myself a Protestant….. I like the word “Christian” because I believe in Christ.  

    • Over the years, UBF and other evangelical campus groups have come under harsh criticism from some Catholic chaplains. For quite a while, the Catholic Church regarded Protestants as people who needed to be “converted” to the true faith. That has died down since Vatican II. And  some evangelicals still view Catholics as non-Christians to be “converted.”  Wherever those views persist, we expect that tensions will run high. But when the two recognize each other as authentically Christian (albeit with some significant differences of doctrine and practice), there is a foundation for  mutual respect and learning, and I think those can take place in a friendly, loving  manner without either side compromising any of their deeply held beliefs.

    • david bychkov

      I think for us time to time it is good to be challenged one by another if we are authentically christians. If we really are – all challenges will nothing but help us to purify our faith and became more convicted, and if we not – it is better to know this now. I never thought like this before, I was convinced that any kind of such doubts (am I really authentically Christian) is act of unbelief and weekness and even sin. But I don’t think like this now. I still believe once saved – always saved, but I think now that we have be very serios with our salvation – it should be considered carefully.

    • GerardoR

      Hi Oscar,
      You can just receive in your mouth. All you say is “Amen.”  
      In terms of whether there is anything wrong with going to Mass if your protestant, this is a tricky situation. On the one hand, you are always Catholic and are expected to abide by Catholic teaching unless you receive a dispensation. On the other hand, if you don’t really understand what differentiates Catholic from protestant teaching, then you may be said to be visibly ignorant in the eyes of the Church. Meaning you are in some respects not morally  culpable  for say, taking communion at a protestant Church. This is all very tricky and I am not a Cannon law lawyer.  
      One thing is for sure, you should  definitely  confess your sins if you decide to receive communion. If I may, I would suggest you visit Catholic answers ( and do a search for your question.  

    • I’m glad I’ve never experienced that kind of pressure from Catholics before. I just met a very nice Catholic young lady who was open-minded enough to come to our spring conference. I wonder if I would be open-minded enough to go to a Catholic conference/retreat. Being challeneged is good, even though it doesn’t aways feel good. I don’t know if this relates, but after reading the comments I was suddenly reminded of the term “saved.” As in he/she is a “saved” christian.   I think it calls for the question “are Catholics/protestants not saved?” Even if they  aren’t  “saved” aren’t we, as Christians, called to love them all the same?   I just finished a book called unChristian by David Kinnaman and this topic makes me think about the book. When the body of Christ can’t respect it’s other parts how are we presenting ourselves to non-believers?

  4. Wonderful.
    So much to say about this topic. But I’ll just start out by saying that the best way out of the dead-end of sectarianism and the Theological Divide is to begin making friends with those outside of your immediate Christian tradition. Those friendships are truly gifts from God. Thanks for being my friend, Gerardo R. Your friendship and fellowship has been truly a blessing to me and our church.

    • But no, I’m not converting to Roman Catholicism

    • GerardoR

      John, why should you convert? Your already “c”atholic right? =)
      If you ever do convert, can I be your  sponsor? Ill buy you a nice communion candle for your first communion.

  5. Joshua Brinkerhoff

    There’s a Catholic outreach group on my campus called CCO (Catholic Christian Outreach). Over the years, I become friends with one of their local leaders and I learned about what they do in their ministry outreach. I learned that they are they do a really job in preaching the gospel. I learned a lot of good things from them. They are very active and bold in advertising, handing out Bibles, giving away food and coffee during exam periods, and telling people about Jesus. I was very happy to pray with a few of them for special events like religious awareness weeks and so forth. One of the brothers starting studying the Bible with me several years ago and I was very happy to learn his insight and perspective was really new and he looked at the Bible in a very fresh and invigorating way.
    However, my experience has been that the proportion of young Catholics within the Church who genuinely love Christ and accept the gospel and are saved seems to be less than the percentage of young evangelicals within the evangelical church who are the same. It may be my limited exposure but that seems to be my observation.

    • GerardoR

      This is an excellent point. It highlights one thing that I think is important to mention. My mother has often made the same observation. She will say to me that Catholics are less commited as a whole than her evangelical church members.

      I think you and my mother are right but I think your comparing apples to oranges. Let me explain. When you look at an  evangelical  ministry, you are generally talking about people who have been born again (ie discovered a new found relationship with Jesus). Whereas, when you look at a Catholic parish, you are talking about people who are devout, and those who are not.  

      So if you ask me, it is like comparing 480/500 devout evangelicals in a particular Church against 50/500 in a general Catholic parish. I think a more fair comparison would be to compare general parish members against those from say a lutheran/methodist church which has a mixture of devout and non devout. What do you think? Am I being fair in this  assessment?  

      Even without devout Catholic and protestants, it is also hard to sometimes compared “commitment” to Christ. Catholics are typically very private in their prayer life. In fact, I just attended Latin mass last sunday for the first time. I was surprised that the many of the priests prayers were done very silently because they were between him and God. Also, if you visit an eastern orthodox Church, they usually consecrate the hos in the back of the alter where no one can see the profound mystery. Interesting experience.

  6. Sorry to rain on the party here, but there were legitimate reasons for the reformation and they did not have to do with straw-man arguments. If anyone wants to know what Catholics believe about God and the Bible, all one has to do is read the Catholic Catachism!
    See what the Catachism says about Transubstantiation (the doctrine of “real presense” is a VERY different thing than transubstantiation Joe!): “Para. 1413: By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).” You realize what that is saying right? Literally that the bread, the carbohydrate becomes a protein! AND that since the bread becomes Meat, the literal flesh of Jesus Christ, God himself, that we should then WORSHIP that bread! Oscar, I must plead with you not to partake in communion if you attend the Catholic church this week, because the worship of a piece of bread is Idolatry. Period. When a Catholic goes to church, the PRIMARY reason for the mass is to adore and worship the Eucharist, Paragraph 893 says,  “The Eucharist is the center of the life of the particular Church.”
    The Indulgence controversy of the early 16th century did not simply disappear either Joe.
    See what the Catachism says about Indulgences:”Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.” and also here, “”An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”81  “An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.”82 The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.” Where is this found in the Bible? What “treasury…of the saints?” Do you realize what this is saying? That VERY good Christians have EXTRA MERIT that goes into a treasury of merit to be applied by a priest etc. to whomever they wish! What other word can be used but  Blasphemy!
    See what the Catachism says about Mary: “The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia) and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.”138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. “Let it be done to me according to your word . . .”At the announcement that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that “with God nothing will be impossible”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”139 Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace…” Is Mary a sinless Co-redeemer with Christ??? Is that part of the Gospel???See what the Catachism says about Muslims!!! And there is no squirming out of this language here in paragraph 841: “The Church’s relationship with the Muslims.The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” The plan of salvation includes Muslims?!? Those who deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ, deny that he died on the cross, deny that he rose from the dead? HOW CAN THE CHURCH POSSIBLY DEFEND THIS?
    I am sorry, friends, but the list goes on and on and on…like I said, the Catholic church is abherrant in SO many ways, the reformers were right in doing what they did, and if you think Joe, that the problems of the 16th century Catholic church are gone, then just read the catechism. Here is the link to the whole thing on line:

    • David, in case you are wondering why this comment didn’t appear immediately: our spam filter held it for moderation because of the links that you included. Sometimes that happens. Sorry about the delay.

    • GerardoR


      AGGGHH!!!!!!!!! This is precisely why Joe wrote the article. =)
      Did you read the article at all David? It calls for people to properly understand each others perspective and not make false accusations. As I said before, if you are going to judge the Catholic Church, then please, please!!!!!! do it right! Don’t distort the Catholic Churches teaching to satisfy what YOU would like it to say. Allow me respond to each one of your distortions in turn:

      YOU SAID: ***You realize what that is saying right? Literally that the bread, the carbohydrate becomes a protein! ***

      It is interesting to note that the early Romans accused Christians of this very thing, as do modern day anti-Catholics because they too do not understand what the Eucharist really is.

      According to the Church, in the valid consecration of bread and wine the substance changes and bread and wine are no longer present on the altar, but the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity are sacramentally present.

      The accidents (physical appearances and attributes) of bread and wine remain, that is, the aspects discernable by the human senses do not actually change.

      Notice that the term is ***TransSUBSTANTIATION*** Emphasis is placed on substance. According to substance theory, a substance is distinct from its properties (touch, taste, smell). Meaning that Catholics teach that Christ is really present in a sacramental substantive form and not a physical form. Hence, Christ is not present in the Eucharist in a fleshy way. He is present in a real, substantial, sacramental way.
      Its is because Christ is present in a real, substantial, and sacramental way that we are able to consume the whole Christ, without diminishing Him (we diminish meat when we eat it, by taking a bite) or becoming canibals.

      David, if I was too use your same logic, then I could claim that Jesus is not really God because if was to take a skin sample of Jesus, while he walked the earth, and conduct scientific investigations on his skin sample of Jesus, there would probably be nothing out of the ordinary from any other human being. And yet, we know Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. Physical properties do not always reveal what is real. They hide the substance behind it.

      You might not believe that Christ is present in a substantive way and maybe you have good reason for denying it, but please, don’t distort what Catholics teach.

      Everything else you said about the Eucharist (e.g., it being the center of worship, etc) is right on and I praise God for giving us himself in such a wonderful way. Thank you for representing it so well David.

      YOU SAID ABOUT INDULGENCES: ***That VERY good Christians have EXTRA MERIT that goes into a treasury of merit to be applied by a priest etc. to whomever they wish!****

      First off, your right that the Catholic Churches still offers indulgences. I am glad they do. I even brought up this point in the other thread on purgatory. But again, your misrepresent the Catholic Churches teaching. Read the quotes you cited. It says, “obtain remission of TEMPORAL punishment.” David, I devoted atleast 3 paragraphs explaining what temporal punishment is on the purgatory website thread. Do you realize that the term temporal comes form the word temporary? That is, indulgences cannot pay for our Eternal reward/punishment which Christ earned for us/saved us from. Temporal punishment is just what we must go through to reform our inclination to sin and pay for the stain it left on us.

      Again, if your son broke your neighbors window, you as his father might pay your neighbor for the window and hence “pay the full price of his sin.” But that doesn’t mean that your son is totally off the hook, or that he wouldn’t and can go on doing the things he did before like breaking windows without punishment. He must be reformed (i.e., sanctified) or else he will continue in his way. So one thing many good parents do is send their sons to mow their neighbors yard as a form of punishment and to reform his heart. Does that mean you have not paid the full price of his sin? Ofcourse not! You have paid it but you believe there is something meritorious in not just justifying your son but in also sanctifying him. You asked for biblical support for this, go to the purgatory thread. I provide a TON! Also this whole conversation brings up a ton of questions about once saved always saved etc.. which is a bit off topic.

      You Said: **** she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace…” Is Mary a sinless Co-redeemer with Christ??? Is that part of the Gospel?? ***

      Very well. David, why do you study the bible with students or share the gospel with others? Is it so that others may taste redemption and place their dependence on God for their salvation? If so, then wouldn’t you say that you are *serving* the ministry of God’s redemption?

      To be fair, the title co-redemptrix is a currently debated idea within the Catholic Church. Part of the reason the Church is hesitant about defining it infallibly is precisely because they worry that people like you will distort its meaning and make it sound like something it is not and hence, hinder ecumenical discourse among protestants. The concept of Co-remtrix refers to an indirect (and or unequal) but important participation by the blessed Virgin Mary in redemption. We are all co-redemtrix’es to some extant but her role was very unique (Genesis 3:14-15; Luke 2:33-35). I think most people would agree that she played an important and unique role which no other man or women has ever played by saying let it be done unto me according to your word. The term co-redemptrix does not mean that she is on par with Jesus and salvation was done 50% by him and 50% by her. That is NOT what the teaching is. It is just an honor that is given to her. I know you and most protestants don’t think so much honor should be given but that is different from trying to make people think that the Church teaches she is at the same level as Jesus.

      YOU SAID ****The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims… the plan of salvation includes Muslims?!? ****

      I must admit, I don’t blame for misunderstanding this teaching. Many Catholics themselves misunderstand it. You are touching on a much, much bigger question here (Can someone be saved outside of hearing the gospel) which I think is too complicated to discuss here. I will say this though, don’t take a single quote out of the context, read the passage in it’s context, read the entire section of the Catechism, including paragraph 846, read the entirety of Sacred Scripture !! For example, we are told that Jesus Christ is the only way (John 3:16-18; John 6:28-29;John 6:47; John 9:35; Galatians 2:20) but we are also told that God judges people by different standards depending on how much of the gospel has been revealed to them( John 9:39-41; Romans 2:12-16; Matthew 5:43-46, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 12:47-48

      Hence, the Catholic Church teaches that Muslims *can* be saved but not if they have been made aware of the gospel and knowingly and willfully reject it. If they do, then they are placing themselves in grave danger as are you or any other Christian that rejects the gospel.

      Let me put it differently. David, would you say the Jews before Jesus time were saved? What about modern Jews, are they saved? It depends right? It is not fair to say, well, Jews reject that Jesus is the messiah who is coming and hence they are not saved. This is overly simplistic view since we do not know how much of the gospel they have received. Many Jews could have been told everything they know about Jesus from an anti-christian rabbi.

      In the same way, mulims, who reject Jesus is God but affirm that he is a great prophet, can also be saved if they are invinsibly ignorant of the truth. In fact, one could make an argument that muslims who have a clouded bible are more likely to be saved than Jews who have the Torah and should know very clearly that Jesus is the messiah. But I would never make such a ridicules argument because the Jews are God’s chosen people. In fact, if you look at the original source from where you got your quote you will see that it says that the Jewish people come very close to God, for they are more closely related to the Church than any other non-Christian religion.
      My point is this, ALL people who will be saved are saved through the Catholic Church because it is the body of Christ. This includes protestants, jews, and muslims. This does not mean they need to have heard of the gospel because there is a difference between having Jesus and knowing Jesus. He speaks to all people who have never heard the gospel and are hence, are morally culpable for responding to the law that is written in their hearts.
      In any case, I think the topic of whether non-christians will be saved would make an excellent website thread topic. I encourage someone to write it.
      n conclusion, I think your post gives a clear example of what this article was hoping to show. If you will judge another Church, please do not misrepresent their views to suit your own purposes. Properly present their view and then show concretely and systematicly why their view is wrong. Based on your post, I think it is fair to attack the Church for honoring Mary above other human beings, that the Church teaches that Jesus is really present in the communion host and that the Church teaches that non Christians who have never heard the gospel, *can* be saved. If some don’t agree with either of these positions, so be it! I think Joe’s article is simply meant to say, take the time to properly understand what you don’t agree with before you reject it or call it anti-biblical. In fact, Joe himself says he gravely disagree’s with many of the Catholic Churches positions and considers them anti-biblical.
      David, I commend you for citing primary Catholic Church sources instead of citing obscure documents or pastor so and so’s sermon on the Catholic Church. You give great witness to the Church that Jesus Christ founded, even if it is done in an attempt to discredit it.
      David, I must say you sure know how to rile me up. =)
      God Bless You!

    • Gerardo, I do think that it is you who misunderstand your own church’s teaching.

      1) Just to be very clear, Do you believe that Jesus Christ is literally, physically present in the Eucharist or not?

      2) Do you believe that Christians who are very good, like the “saints” have extra merit that goes into a treasury of Merit to be dispensed by bishops  in the church or not?

      3) Do you believe that Mary was sinless or not?

      4) Do you believe that Muslims who reject Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior, and who reject his death on the cross and  resurrection  (in otherwords all Muslims, otherwise they would  cease to be  Muslim!)  will still go to heaven or not?

      Lets not engage in semantic gymnastics here, a simple yes or no to these questions would go a long way toward understanding.

    • GerardoR

      David, I am sorry but just because you don’t understand an important philosophical distinction doesn’t make it a trivial semantic distinction.
      That is like a Jehovas witness asking me, “Just to be clear, do you believe there are three Gods or only one? Because three persons can’t be one God.”
      “Was Jesus fully human or fully God? He cant be both.”
      I already answered all your questions. But I suppose you will interpret my refusal to answer your clear cut questions as a sign that you silenced me with the truth. So be it.
      Like you said, the official teachings of the Catholic Church are found in the Catechism. If you or anyone cares to know what the Church teaches, they can look them up for themselves (it is available online for free) or email me and I would be happy to provide them with the CORRECT interpretation of what the Catholic Churches teaches. People should know what they are rejecting before they reject it and not reject what a non-Catholic THINKS are the teachings of the Church.
      Whether the teachings of the Catholic Church are true or not, or whether one is convinced or not is totally different story.
      This entire thread is dedicated to encouraging people to figure out the correct teaching that other faith traditions hold for which they may disagree with. This thread is not  addressing  the question of whether a particular faith tradition is true or not.  

      The Lord be with you David.

    • No problem Gerardo, I quoted straight  from the horse’s mouth so people can read it for themselves.

      Just to be very clear though, the soteriological and christological implications of this discussion are profound!   J.C. Ryle said, “The Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, if persued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth.” It spoils the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work on the cross because it is a repeated and repeated sacrifice of his body! It exalts sinful men (priests) into mediators between God and man! It overthrows the entire doctrine of Christ’s human nature…

      There is also NO Biblical evidence whatsoever of any “Treasury of Merit” from which the church can dole out to people for “Venial” sins or otherwise. Pure fantasy.
      There was only one person in the history of the world who was ever sinless and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Not his mother! To say that she was sinless is unscriptural because “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Not to mention the whole CO-Redemptrix theology which also has zero basis in scripture. As a matter of fact, I seem to remember Jesus saying that those who do the will of God are his mother and sister and brother…
      Finally, it is also against the teaching of God’s Word to infer that anyone is able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven without having faith in Jesus. (Now I know someone will say, what about babies  or mentally handicapped people etc.  I will say that outside of what the Bible says, we are not qualified to make that kind of determination! But the Bible clearly talks about the fate of unbelievers!)  Notice what the Catholic  catachism says though, “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” Lest someone be carried away by Gerardo’s argument, there is NO mention there of Muslims who have never heard of Jesus or the Gospel, even though, I think there is even an argument that could be made that ignorance of the Gospel is no excuse! Unbelieving people are not only damned for rejecting Jesus but for their other sins as well! Also, Gerardo, I am shocked that you would say that you dont know if unbelieving Jews are saved! The Bible says if someone does not have faith in Jesus Christ they are not saved. 1John 5:12 “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” And Jesus also says, “He who does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Who does Jesus say that to? The Jewish pharisee Nicodemus!

    • GerardoR

      As I was sitting here preparing for a bible study with a friend on John 13 (yes, Catholics do study the bible), I came across your reply and my own previous replies. The feeling I had while reading John 13 was totally gone when I read over over our back and forth exchange. I will reply to you with this:

      “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  

      God Bless You  

  7. Hi David. If you read   my article carefully, you will see that I have not defended any of the positions that you are standing against. I don’t disagree with your specific positions in your comment. I  have openly acknowledged that there are significant differences between Catholic and Protestant teachings. But there are  vast areas of agreement as well. I am happy to stand beside Roman Catholics, confess the Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed, and worship the risen Christ with them. I will not allow my relationships with them to be dominated by the doctrinal differences.

  8. You kinda just took the joy out of taking communion……….. Oh well, I think I do it more in remembrance of Jesus than actually trying to receive his physical body and physical blood.   I’m was already cleansed by his blood when I confessed him as my lord and savior anyway. Oh, look at the time, I’m late for mass.

    • GerardoR

      I Loved the readings for today. This passage always gives me chills.

      “I am the resurrection and the life;    whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,  
      and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

  9. A long standing member of UBF who was a Catholic before conversion through Bible study in UBF told me that “UBF became like the Catholic church.” There is probably some truth to this, for we are sinners, and sinners, even if saved and transformed by the grace of Jesus, still default to sin and to our fallen depravity.

    That’s perhaps why St. Augustine said, “The church is a whore but she’s my mother.”

    Rather than make this a Protestant/Catholic doctrinal divide, I think that in some common ways, we Protestants “sin” like Catholics.
    * We Protestants elevate our church leaders, as the pope is/was elevated.
    * We implicitely add our works, methods of ministry, practices and traditions to our faith, as Catholic practices and traditions were added to their faith, which I believe is still genuine in terms of the essentials of the faith.
    * Some discourage theological study and knowledge, as the Catholic church in the past has martyred those who wanted to translate the Bible from Latin into the local vernacular. (Darren had mentioned how an older Christian said to him, “”Theology is divisive.”)
    * We think/regard some sins as worse than others depending on our culture (for instance,  actual adultery is worse than just lust and pornography), just as Catholics have traditionally divided sins into venial sins and mortal sins.
    * Both Protestants and Catholics can easily become like self-righteous Pharisees. Falling into deadly self-righteousnesss might be the hardest sin for all Christians to sincerely repent of.

    I’m sure that creative people may add to the list above as to how both Protestants and Catholics sin even as we try to genuinely  serve God.

    Surely, it is far better for us to repent of our own sins, rather than pick on the sins of others. Yet, our common default might be to see the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye, while failing to notice the plank in our own eye that is bashing others right and left.

  10. GerardoR

    Joe,I keep thinking about the story you told abou the newspaper your mom picked up which objected to Catholics singing How Great Though Art. There are definitely many strongly conservative Catholic groups who have a huge problem with singing any protestant hymms. I once heard a guy explain why Catholics should not sing Amazing Grace simply because of the hymm used the word wretch. I totally disagreed with his position since romans 7:24 uses the word wretch which is a fair translation of the greek “Infelix.” At the very least, it poeticly captures the author feeling like he is a wretch while standing in the presence of God.

    I do however, find it interesting that we have seen a significant increase in the use of protestant hymms at Mass. Some of them I like while there are others I am not crazy about like “God is stirring up the waters.” I just cant seem to get into that hymm. =)  However, hearing Seek Ye First as chant is hauntingly beautiful. I am trying to get Protestants to play more Catholic hymms like this one: This hymm always chokes me up.

    • John Michael Talbot is my favorite living Catholic (and my facebook friend!), just because I profoundly disagree with his theology does not mean that I dont like him personally, and it also does not mean that I do not like you either! I even have JMT’s double disk greatest hits cd. So at least we can find common ground there Gerardo.

    • GerardoR

      Do you like David Haas? It feels like some of the best songs sung at Mass are either JMT or David Haas.

  11. My favorite “Catholic” hymn:

    Lord, make UBFriends (and every blogging participant!) a channel of Your peace…

  12. James Kim

    Hi John Y, Thank you for posting the video clip. The verses of the song sounds like from St. Augustine’s simple prayer, which say, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred—let me sow love. Where there is injury—pardon. Where there is discord—unity. Where there is doubt—faith. Where there is error—truth. Where there is despair—hope. Where there is sadness—joy. Where there is darkness—light.

    When I went to Italy a couple years ago, I had a chance to visit Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis of Assisi. In the bookstore of the church, I happened to find small Simple Prayer card of St. Francis that cost only10 cents per piece. When I read this prayer I realized that it had deep meaning. So I began to incorporate his prayer in my morning prayer. Especially I liked the last part of his simple prayer, which reads, “For it is in giving—that we receive. It is in pardoning—that we are pardoned. It is in dying—that we are born to eternal life”

    • GerardoR

      I find it interesting that so many people love this prayer that they even start to incorporate it into different religions. Unitarians  apparently  sing this hymm also but they change a couple of words like “master” to “spirit.” This is strange as the song is speaking about a personal God but the word spirit completely depersonalizes him. They like to keep it at the abstract energy force level. =)  

      By the way, has anyone seen the Catholic vs. Protestant simpsons episode? It is hilarious though I find the ending a bit annoying:

      My favorite part is the vision of Catholic vs. Protestant heaven. I cant wait for the Pinatas in heaven. ^_^

    • The message yesterday was about repenting and remembering Jesus’s words like Peter did, otherwise we might end up like Judas. He might as well have said “repent of your evil ways or sod off” :p It’s a great episode.

    • GerardoR

      haha.. that Peter sounded like Mark Driscol. Unapologetic, straight and to the point.

    • We have to stop those stem cells! :p Wait, why are we against stem cells? Or if that a whole ‘nother article?

  13. The prayer of St Francis can be found on our Prayers for Blogging page.

  14. I’ve always loved this prayer by Aquinas:

    Ineffable Creator . . .
    You are proclaimed
    the true font of light and wisdom,
    and the primal origin
    raised high beyond all things.
    Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
    into the darkened places of my mind;
    disperse from my soul
    the twofold darkness
    into which I was born:
    sin and ignorance.
    You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
    Refine my speech
    and pour forth upon my lips
    the goodness of Your blessing.
    Grant to me
    keenness of mind,
    capacity to remember,
    skill in learning,
    subtlety to interpret,
    and eloquence in speech.
    May You
    guide the beginning of my work,
    direct its progress,
    and bring it to completion.
    You Who are true God and true Man,
    Who live and reign, world without end.

  15. GerardoR

    Hi Everyone,
    Considering the topic of the website thread, I wanted to bring to your attention Taize Christian worship. Taize prayer is a form of worship that arose from the Taize community, a ecumenical Christian religious order. It was  started over 50 years ago by a devout protestant man who wanted to find an outlet for ecumenical worship that would move people closer to celebrating Jesus WITHIN their differences and not DESPITE their  differences. This form of worship soon started drawing many lay protestants and Catholics to the home of the founder. Eventually, more and more people started coming to the founders home which led him to form a lay ecumenical religious order. In 2006, when the founder died, he requested that one of his Catholic brothers succeed him.
    So in short, Taize is a lay religious order that expresses ecumincal worship primely through intensive bible studies (a traditionally protestant thing) and long chants by candle light (Taize prayer: a traditionally catholic thing).
    Many churches (both protestant and Catholic) have Taize prayer which usually involves scriptural reading followed by chanting by candle light. I know that Loyola Univeristy offers Taize prayer as well.
    What I love about this group is that they combine both Protestant and Catholic elements very strongly without simply trying to operate from common denominators. The Pope even gave the group a blessing which is interesting considering that the order did not start, nor is it now, a Catholic order. I am in love with this form of prayer right now. You should consider checking out one of their chants. They are beautiful:

  16. Good job on this article(:  I am a Roman Catholic and just happened to slip into this website. Thank you, Joe Schaefer for explaining that Catholics ARE Christians and that we DO NOT worship Mary. GOD BLESS! (:♥

  17. i love cathedrals, i love the organs. They display the beauty and awesomeness of God. Also, as a protestant, i think it would be good to learn from catholic monks’ examples of solitude, silence and meditation more (get rid of distractions and caring about other people seeing/praising me.) I’ve also heard a lot about Henri Nouwen, but haven’t read any of his books….yet:). Thank God that catholics and protestants can learn from each other and sharpen each other.