Over my time here at CAF , I have seen many people ask the equivalent of “What is a Protestant” and many others who talk about the 5 solas of the reformation, OSAS and other things in such a way that it shows they don’t really know what it means, Other than a surface reading of the titles of such things or some random google search for some random person’s definition. I also noticed them talking about these things without understanding of the two types of Protestants. This thread is my attempt to clarify some of this to Catholics. There are some places where I use more Catholic terms than Protestant ones (like dogma) because It is easier to explain this way even though Protestants don’t generally use these terms themselves.
Please understand, I’m not trying to make a claim about unity here, but instead refute the idea that we are SO diverse that you cannot ever really understand what we believe.
What is a Protestant?
All Protestants are Christians. Protestants are not as varied as one may think. All Protestants have certain doctrines in common. These are the doctrines that make us “Christian”, Groups that are Christian-Like but do not adhere to this list should not be considered Protestants at all.
Christian Doctrine list
*(Taken from religiousTolerance.org Though I don’t always agree with them, this list is well put together)
*]The deity of Jesus,
*]Jesus’ bodily resurrection,
*]Personal salvation by grace,
*]The inerrancy of the Bible
*]God’s inspiration of the Bible’s authors,
*]The virgin birth, and
*]The anticipated second coming of Jesus.[/LIST]
The above are then the doctrines of the Protestant church. Other beliefs are dogma in that they are not required for one to be a Christian Protestant. It is true that some denominations like to argue over weather certain dogmas are actually doctrines but this list is the agreed on points.
A non-denominational church would adhere to only the Christian Doctrine list… diversity seen between them is a product of what I like to call “Rule by Majority.” By that I mean that their basic doctrines are “Christian” but if 90% of their congregation is Calvinist rather than Arminian (as one example) the teachings from the pulpit will have leanings towards Calvinism and vice versa. This is why some non-Denominational churches will seem more Baptist or more something else. Their central idea is that churches should be Christian first and not have a focus on the various dogmas that people seem to attach separate names to. In my personal experience, Non-denominational churches are considerably less likely to be anti-Catholic because they have a better understanding of Christian unity than many other protestant denominations.
The other Denominations:
(I have never encountered a Christian Protestant denomination that does not fit the following. IF there is one, I’d be happy to find out who they are and what they believe.)
Protestant Denominations are mostly divisions in the beliefs about Calvinism and Arminianism. Those who do not adhere to either are instead 4 point Calvinists or 2 Point Arminians or some other mixture. So, the best way to understand any Protestant denomination is to first understand the 10 points… 5 for Calvinism and 5 for Arminianism. If these 32 divisions seem like a ton to Catholics, compare it to the differences between Thomists and Molinists in Catholicism, both are allowable beliefs.
Other Diversity in Denominations**
Past the basic 10 points there are some other beliefs that differ, like style of Worship music, Beliefs about which of the spiritual gifts of God are most important and when children should be Baptized. In Protestantism taken as a whole group these are considered secondary issues. I’m not saying they are unimportant, but that they are not considered when determining the "Christian Protestant " Label.
So now I’ve covered the label of ‘Christian’ and all the various Denominations and non-denominations. Next we should look at the Protestant part.
(part 1 of 3)