Two of the world’s largest religion are Catholicism and Protestantism. And by large, we mean it is based on population. The 2017 Census of Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook) tells us that at the end of the year 2015, the number of Catholics in the world was raised to nearly 1.285 billion. The Protestants, on the other hand, comes with about 560 million members in the world.
These two religions, Catholicism and Protestantism are known to be different from each other because of their diverse set of beliefs and traditions. Despite the disputes and comparisons between the two, we will be tackling how similar are they to each other. But first, let me share just a short history about them before we focus on what this article is all about.
Catholicism marks its history to Jesus of Nazareth who preached in Jerusalem during Roman era. Its members, commonly called the Catholics, come together in the celebration of the Eucharist. The bishops head the communion just like what the disciples of Jesus did. The word catholic actually comes from the Greek word, katholikos, which means “universal”. They have proven their universality after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection when the bishops went across all nations in the world forming a universal church, led by the bishop of Rome known as the Pope.
Protestantism came into existence with the Reformation which is considered to have started in 1517 through Martin Luther. Its followers joined this movement to protest against the teachings and traditions of Catholicism. Protestants do not believe in the papal supremacy. They also put great importance in the priesthood of all believers, the doctrine of justification by faith alone and not by works (sola fide), and in the truth of the Bible alone (sola scriptura) which is looked upon as the only authority in faith and morality.
With those statistics and short history being stated, let us now proceed to the discussion of the similarities between Catholicism and Protestantism.
PLACE OF WORSHIP
Both the Catholics and Protestants call their place of worship as either church, chapel, cathedral, or basilica that happens on Sunday. Here, hymns of praise and worship are sung, the Holy Scripture is read and explained by the preacher, and all the believers gather in prayer, communion and fellowship to celebrate the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for all those who believe. Protestants and Catholics, however, do have other services held outside the chapel just like conferences and missions.
FAITH IN GOD & HIS WORK OF SALVATION
Catholics and Protestants believe in the Godhead three in one (The Holy Trinity) which is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They believe that God the Father sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to bring salvation to humanity from the bondage of sin. Men cannot do this for themselves because only God is good and only He has the power unto salvation for mankind. Through faith in Jesus Christ, men will be saved from sin and eternal damnation. This is the greatest gift they have received from the loving Father in Heaven. Both religions have faith in Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and the Messiah who is the exclusive mediator between God and human beings.
THE NATURE OF MAN
Catholics and Protestants believe that mankind inherited the “original sin” from the pioneers of the human race, Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God’s command through the deception of Satan by eating the fruit of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Because of that, men became naturally fallen, broken and evil; and they need to be forgiven and saved from their sin.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
While Catholics and Protestants differ in the belief in “the third state of heaven” which is called the Purgatory, both religions believe that a human being saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ will be sent to Heaven as their eternal dwelling, while those who do not trust God and His work of salvation will be doomed to eternal damnation in Hell.
CONFESSION OF SINS
Catholics and Protestants both believe in the confession of sins, although they vary in their way of confession as the Catholics confess to priests for purification from sins in the name of Christ; while Protestants confess their sins straight to God. Despite these however, the two religions believe that God always forgives sins in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
Both the Catholics and Protestants highly regard marriage as a lifetime union and sacrament between one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation of offspring, which they both believe in to be established by the Creator who is the author of everything. Divorce and annulment is discouraged because of what the Scripture says in Mark 10:9, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Separation or annulment, however, is permitted given that the marriage is void from the beginning based on certain evidences presented to the court.
Protestantism and Catholicism have different interpretations on this religious law. Protestants believe that men are already freed from the law because of the grace of God, while Catholics consider it as the basis for social justice and also for their sacrament of Penance. The important thing though is that these religions both recognize the Ten Commandments as a moral foundation decreed by God considered important for spiritual growth.
POSITION OF MARY
Catholics and Protestants alike acknowledge the truth told in the Bible that Mary is the woman chosen and considered blessed to conceive the Son of God, Jesus Christ, by virgin birth. Protestants, however, do not believe what the Catholics believe that Mary is the founder of Christian religion and mother of the church.
The Catholics and Orthodox consider prayer as an essential part of spiritual life, as modeled by Jesus Christ who constantly prayed to God the Father. Prayer is viewed to be a believer’s way of communication to God which includes thanksgiving, words of praise and worship, confession and supplication. Although it is recommended to be in the temple when praying, it is also considered unnecessary especially by Protestants because God is omnipresent. It is also important to note that Protestants go directly to God in prayer, while Catholics believe in Mary as the one who intercedes for them. As what Catholics utter in prayer, “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
Catholicism derive their teachings the Sacred Scriptures which is the Bible and the Sacred Tradition; while Protestants only recognize the Bible more than tradition. However, both religions supoort the Bible and its account of the creation of man, alongside the temptation and fall of mankind into the slavery of sin. The Catholics and Protestants agree with each other that this fallen world needs redemption by God the Father through Jesus Christ.
Both the Catholics and the Protestants revere the authority of the Holy Bible which is a collection of canonical books in the Old and the New Testament. They regard this as the true Word of God written by human authors which was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Both religions live in accordance to what is stated in the Bible as they regard it as their primary scripture.
We have clearly seen the similarities between the two religions. They have difference, but the important thing is they both have a common ground. Just a short recap though, both the Catholics and Protestants study the Bible, attend church services, engage in prayer and find ways to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the lives of the lost.
Catholics and Protestants follow the teachings of Jesus Christ written in the Bible. The Catholics may believe in the supremacy of the Pope in the church while Protestants don’t, both of them seek to be forgiven and saved from their sins through their faith in Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. The goal of these two religions is solely to the attest the Kingdom of God in the world and to gain eternal life with God in Heaven.
Author: Julian Angelo
Julian studied Criminology at University in Manila and studied Theological Seminary in Davao City.