Rome serves as a magnificent back drop to learn more about the history of Christianity. Since we are very familiar with being a Protestant, we decided to focus our time here on learning more about Catholicism. While we recently discovered that Nashville has been referred to as the “Protestant Vatican,” we actually visited the Vatican so it just seemed appropriate. Also, don’t miss near the end our experiences worshipping with other Christians on our trip.
Check out the comparison of Catholicism and Protestantism adapted from diffen.com.
Catholicism is common in Italy, Philippines, Latin America, France, Spain, Mexico, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Armenia, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
Protestantism is more common in North America and Europe
Notice how many things we actually have in common.
1) They both worship in a church, chapel, cathedral; although more and more of the protestant churches are meeting in peoples’ homes or other more neutral spaces.
2) Both originated in Rome and Palestine.
3) Both believe in the second coming of Jesus.
4) They both utilize the holy scriptures of the Holy Bible, a collection of canonical books in two parts (the Old Testament and the New Testament).
5) They are both monotheistic, but believe in the Trinity of God. Three persons in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The Hall of the Vestal Virgins
6) They both believe sin came in the world through Adam.
Julius Caesar’s Burial Site
7) Both believe Jesus was born of a virgin, was crucified, and was raised from the dead.
8) Both worship on Sunday.
9) Both believe in eternal salvation in Heaven and eternal damnation in Hell. Catholics also believe in a temporal third state termed Purgatory.
10) Both believe they are saved through Jesus Christ and that Christianity is the one true religion.
11) Both worship with prayer, praise, singing, scripture reading, and teaching of the reading.
12) Both celebrate the Holy days of Christmas and Easter.
13) All Catholics are expected to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, but personal prayer and devotions are entirely a matter of personal preference. Protestants are expected to regularly study the Bible, pray, and commune with other believers on Sunday.
14) Catholics believe in “original sin” inherited from Adam, our tendency towards evil, and that infants must be baptized. Protestants also believe in “original sin,” our tendency towards evil; but the sins of the father do not pass through the son. Therefore children are holy, and until they reach the age where they can know good from evil, their sins are not held against them.
15) Both believe in all prophets of the Books from the Holy Bible.
16) Both believe that salvation to eternal life is God’s will for all people. You must believe Jesus was the son of God. Catholics and some Protestant denominations believe you must also receive Baptism and confess your sins. Catholics also believe you must take part in Holy Mass.
Fountain of the Four Rivers
1) The Protestants deny the authority of the Pope, unlike the Catholics. Catholics see the church as a vertical structural, while the Protestants see the church as more horizontal.
2) Catholics follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as transmitted through the Old & New Testament via Rome and the Vatican and follow the Catechism. Catholics believe that the Catholic Church is the original and first Christian Church. The Catholic church also values tradition as highly as the scriptures.
Protestants follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as transmitted through the Old & New Testament. Protestants believe that the Catholic Church stemmed from the original Christian Church, but became corrupt. The primary reasoning was man can not add or take away from scripture – “sola scriptura”; therefore, technically tradition does not hold any weight.
3) Catholics believe we confess sins to God through priests, while Protestants confess through Jesus alone.
4) Catholics believe salvation is received at baptism. They believe salvation may be lost by mortal sin. Catholics believe salvation can be regained by faith and penance, which is determined by the priest once you confess to him.
A mortal sin is the complete turning away from God and embracing something else in His place. It’s deadly to the life of grace, because it insults the honor of God and injures the soul of the sinner.
For a sin to be a mortal sin, it must fit the following 3 criteria (from dummies.com)
Grave Matter: The act itself is intrinsically evil and immoral. For example, murder, rape, incest, perjury, adultery, and so on are grave matter.
Full Knowledge: The person must know that what they’re doing or planning to do is evil and immoral. For example, someone steals a postage stamp, thinking that it’s only worth 50 cents. She knows that it’s sinful, but if she’s unaware that the stamp is rare and actually worth a $1,000, she’s not guilty of mortal sin but of venial sin (less serious sins)
Deliberate Consent: The person must freely choose to commit the act or plan to do it. Someone forced against her will doesn’t commit a mortal sin. For example, a woman told she’s giving a minor shock to another person who in fact is administering tortuous electrical jolts is not guilty of a mortal sin (although she may feel guilty if she finds out the truth)
Protestants believe salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ as having already paid the penalty for your sins; however, we all know it looks a little more complicated than this in the reality of our churches.
Another way of looking at this is that justification, or the moment when God sees a person is righteous, happens in the moment you accept Christ for a Protestant and sanctification continues throughout your life (or you becoming more Christ like). Catholics see justification and sanctification as both a moment and a process.
5) While Catholics believe God’s law is revealed through the Bible and Catechisms, which may be added to or amended by The Pope; Protestants verify all teachings through the Bible alone.
6) Eucharist / Communion has some more precise differences.
For Catholics, during the Eucharist, the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the gifts (the bread and the wine). They then change into the actual body and blood of Christ. The precise way in which this happens is a divine mystery.
However, in the Protestant religions, Christ is present in spirit; but the bread and wine are merely symbolic of his death, and of the believer’s commitment to him.
7) Catholics believe you can pray to Saints, Mary, and angels; but only for their intercession or help, at end of each prayer you must say “but only God’s will be done”. But Protestants believe
saints are anyone that believes, and Mary is only a human. The only intercessor between God and man is Jesus, not saints, Mary, or angels.
What other Christian denominations have you encountered or visited?
First, we worshipped with a nondenominational church in Thailand. The leaders came from a variety of backgrounds, but Christians would be a group of about 10 people if they held to denominational lines in these places. I love the fact they all had to work together. Their worship reminded me a little of worshipping at The River (we have a short video early on in the blog).
We worshipped with a Church of God/Nondenominational in New Zealand and I loved them!! Chris and the kids were a little weirded out, but even they would admit the people were so incredibly genuine and welcoming. They were also a variety of ages working so well together. They are a lot more expressive in worship than we typically are, but I love that. They were also all about justice and helping the world outside of their own backyard, which is a great pull on my heart too. The kids would likely give you another picture.
Here’s Ella’s take:
“One of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had, which is really saying something. We walked in and everyone was super nice. They seemed really normal, their youth minister actually reminded us a lot of a kiwi version of Matt, but then the service started. All downhill from there. Two songs. An hour of singing, and only two songs. They were singing in tongues, and you never got to sit down for the whole hour. I mean I guess I get the whole dancing thing, but this one lady looked straight out of that scene in Charlie Brown Christmas where they’re all dancing. The twin girls with the short brown hair, if you know what I’m talking about, that’s what she was doing. There was a lot of yelling too. This one guy kept screaming “COME ON!!” like you would at a ref if he made a bad call. I thought he was being a jerk, but apparently not. It was strange.”
So there you go … I planned to raise my children comfortable in all Christian denominations, but you can’t help but get use to what you are around the most 🙂
The worship with Mission India was also more a Church of God feel, but denominational differences are laughable in these regions. They would be totally confused by the things people argue about in churches in the South, they are lucky to find 100 people who are willing to profess Christ. The order of worship is not a priority! The minister and her husband met with us after for a welcoming tea and they were the perfect team. Her energy and commitment to her work, regardless of the danger involved, was contagious. He was so kind and could tell loved to cook and share hospitality and adored her. His Christlike nature was written deep in his eyes and his kindness put you at ease immediately.
We went to 2 different Catholic services and have spent a lot of time with Catholics in Europe. We are trying to learn much more about their practices. I am a lot less judgmental of them compared to my youth. I realize, just like the Protestant denominations, there are people truly trying to follow Christ, and those who just call themselves Christian because it is their ancestry. I agree with Andy Stanley, we need a new word. Still though, after being in Italy, I don’t see how you can deny the dangers of accepting the Pope’s judgements as God’s word after knowing the history of popes like Pope Leo X.
In Nepal, we weren’t able to worship with other Christians, but we did meet with a Christian organization and other NGOs that were working to show Christ’s love in Nepal.
Their energy and love for children was evident. In the midst of what seemed insurmountable odds, they were moving forward and helping lives improve.
Altare della Patria
Sometimes I don’t think I can go back to a world that discusses investing significant funds and man power into planting a better church in an area, when they already have one on every corner. I mean more than half the world has no where to worship together, and we we are constantly debating how to give our own a better experience.
Blah!! Sorry, it just weighs on you heavily while we travel.
The Italian Flag