In Germany, the country of the Reformation, a deep animosity divided Catholic and Protestant Christians up until a few decades ago. This division had deepened over the centuries through religious conflicts and wars.
It all started when Reformation took place, 500 years ago, as Martin Luther (1483-1546) tried to reform the Catholic Church. His attempt to do so instead led to a schism in the church.
On October 31, 1517, the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses, which outlined different abusive practices of the church, is considered the founding event that led to this division in Germany and the creation of the Evangelical Church.
Read more: Luther's daring revolution: The Reformation 500 years on
Reconciliation instead of hero worshiping
Right from the beginning, on October 21, 2016, this year of commemoration of the Reformation was characterized by an ecumenical approach. In the past, Protestant churches celebrated major Reformation anniversaries by worshiping Martin Luther as a hero — but this time it's different.
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) wishes to turn the celebrations of "500 Years of Reformation" into a common celebration of Christ with the Catholic Church.
Through various events, both sides will pay tribute to Martin Luther while emphasizing their will to overcome divisions. On Saturday, March 11, a central reconciliation service will be held in Hildesheim.
Luther Memorial in the city of Wittenberg, where the Reformation began
The goal is to reach better understanding and find common ground between the two churches. A new united church is, however, far from being realized - and it is doubtful that it ever will.
To describe their relationship, the expression "reconciled diversity" is used by both sides. Many of the aspects that were reformed by Luther at the time still divide both groups to this day.
Here are the eight main differences:
1. Understanding of the Bible
Catholicism and Protestantism have distinct views on the meaning and the authority of the Bible. For Protestant Christians, Luther made clear that the Bible is the "Sola Skriptura," God's only book, in which He provided His revelations to the people and which allows them to enter in communion with Him.
Catholics, on the other hand, do not base their beliefs on the Bible alone. Along with the Holy Scripture, they are additionally bound by the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Understanding the church
Catholics and Protestants have a different view on the nature of the church. The word "catholic" means "all-embracing," and the Catholic Church sees itself as the only true church worldwide, under the leadership of the pope.
In contrast, the Protestant Churches which have emerged from Reformation, also called "Evangelical," which means "according to the Gospel," do not make up one united Church. There are rather several tens of thousands of different denominations around the world. Officially, all of these many churches are considered equal.
3. The pope
Protestants are not open at all to papal primacy. According to the Evangelical view, this dogma contradicts statements in the Bible.
Catholics see in the pope the successor of the Apostle Peter, the first head of their Church, who was appointed by Jesus. The papal office is justified by an allegedly unbroken chain of consecrations, ranging from the first century to the present.
Even if many Protestants like Pope Francis, they categorically reject papacy
4. Understanding of the office
This continuous chain, known as the apostolic succession, is overall significant for different spiritual offices in the Catholic Church. With the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops, priests and deacons receive a lifelong seal of God giving them sacramental authority over Catholic laypeople. This consecration can only be given to men.
Protestants do not consecrate specific persons into office, but rather accept the principle that priesthood can be transferred to every believer - even to women.
5. Eucharist or Lord's Supper
The Catholics' views on the spiritual office are reflected in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, a rite commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before his crucifixion. Once consecrated by a priest in the name of Jesus, bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Non-Catholics may not participate in Communion.
In the Protest Church, every baptized person is invited to share and is allowed to lead the Lord's Supper. This approach is not accepted by Catholics.
Additionally, Eucharist has a different meaning for Catholics and Protestants. The bread, known as the Host, embodies Jesus and can therefore be prayed to. For Protestants, the ritual only serves to commemorate Jesus' death and resurrection.
For Catholics, the Host represents bread that is consecrated to represent Jesus' body
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are seven solemn rites, called sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders and extreme unction. The church believes these sacraments were instituted by Jesus and that they confer God's grace.
Most Protestant churches only practice two of these sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist (called Lord's Supper). They are perceived as symbolic rituals through which God delivers the Gospel. They are accepted through faith.
Read more:How Martin Luther became the first Christian pop star
7. Marian dogmas and the worship of Saints
The Roman Catholic Church reveres Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "Queen of Heaven." However, there are few biblical references to support the Catholic Marian dogmas - which include the Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity and her Assumption into heaven. This is why they are rejected by Protestants.
Though Protestants believe Mary was the mother of Jesus, unlike Catholics, they do not venerate her
The Catholic Church also practices the veneration of saints. Dead models of faith, recognized as "saint" by the church through canonization, can be prayed to for help in maintaining faith in God. There are over 4,000 saints. Their remains are considered holy relics which are venerated.
This veneration is also categorically by the Protestant Church as unbiblical. According to Reformation views, every person may and should pray directly to God.
All main world religions integrate in some way the concept of celibacy, the vow of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, and the Catholic and Protestant churches are no exception. In the Catholic Church, celibacy is obligatory for priests. It is seen as a symbol of the undivided succession of Christ.
The Protestant Church rejects this obligation for priests. Martin Luther already demanded its abolition as early as 1520. He made a decisive personal contribution to this end in 1525: The former monk married the former nun Katharina von Bora. Initially unsure of whether he should marry, Luther finally determined that "his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep."
by Matt Slick
Neither Protestantism or Catholicism is the true religion. It is not an issue of a movement, or a position, or being a member of the "right church." Instead, true religion, as it relates to Christianity, is that which agrees with the Bible and does not violate the essentials of the Christian faith. The question, in the case of Protestantism and Catholicism, is which view is most biblical. At CARM we say that without a doubt the Protestant movement is far more biblical than the Catholic Church since it has added many doctrines that are not found in Scripture. In fact, so many were added that God eventually ordained the Protestant Reformation an effort to get back to what Scripture says.
But, generally speaking, Roman Catholics will say that their church is the most biblical because they include "sacred tradition" as part of the revelation given by God. They will say that there are verses that support tradition (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2), the source of their teachings which are not found in Scripture. However, the same Scripture they appeal to to support tradition, also says to beware of tradition.
- Matt. 15:3-6, "And He answered and said to them, 'And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, Honor your father and mother, and, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death 5But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or mother, Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God, 6he is not to honor his father or his mother. And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition."
- Mark 7:8-9, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. 9 He was also saying to them, You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."
- Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."
Tradition is only good if it conforms with Scripture. It is bad if it contradicts Scripture. In fact, we are told in the Bible to not go beyond what is written in its pages. In other words, we are not to teach as Christian doctrine that which is not confirmed in Scripture
"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other," (1 Corinthians 4:6).
So, we have an explicit statement in the Bible not to exceed what is written in Scriptures. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church has, without a doubt, exceeded what is written in the word of God. Please consider the following Roman Catholic teachings that cannot be found in Scripture.
- Only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret Scripture: "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 100)
- Forgiveness of sins is by faith and keeping the commandments: "so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments," (CCC 2068)
- Grace can be merited: "Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods." (CCC 2027)
- Penance is necessary for salvation: “This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn." (CCC 980)
- Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ: "Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38)," (CCC 510). (Contrast this with Matt. 1:25)
- You must go through Mary to get to Jesus: "so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother." (Vatican Website: Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobri Mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914)
- Becoming gods, "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods," (CCC 460).(See the article The CCC paragraph 460 and becoming a god)
- Muslims worship the true god. "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, " (CCC 841).
- Purgatory, The 2nd Vatican Council, p. 63, "The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. Gods holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries, and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise, the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments."
- Indulgences, "An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity," (CCC 1478).
So which is the true religion, Protestantism or Catholicism? It cannot be the Roman Catholic Church since it not only adds to Scripture but also violates it. As far as Protestantism goes, there are many denominations within the overall movement, and each would have to be examined against Scripture. There are good churches and bad churches within the Protestant movement. So, again, they are only as good and true inasmuch as they agree with Scripture.