Differences between Catholics and Baptists

Hello everyone!

Two months ago (I have been wanting to ask this for a while), part of my extended family came to visit. My Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin are all practicing Baptists, and my family and I are practicing Catholics. The intention of this post is not to pick on Baptists or my extended family’s views. I am simply trying to understand the differences.

We don’t often talk about religion with them as we have different views that we are both strong in. Before some unfortunate events in my family, my Uncle was even studying to become a pastor, and, to the best of my knowledge, he often speaks during the services at their church. My question lies in the differences between the two faiths. For example, when we had meals together and my siblings or I would lead the prayers, we’d say “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts….”. After the Sign of the Cross, my Uncle would kind of have his eyebrows raised. Then, when he said the prayer before meals, he was much more wordy (for lack of a better term), and he wasn’t using a set prayer. I watching something about the idea of a personal God between Catholics and Baptists. It seems that my Uncle was talking to God as more of a friend. His prayer, and the way he talks about God, is much more exuberant and loud, while our prayer was more solemn and holy(??) (not finding great words). I am not saying one is better than the other. I just noticed the difference. I think it might be similar to the difference between a traditional Catholic Church and a Baptist Church. One is going to be quiet and solemn while one is singing praises to God. Any thoughts of this?

The second thing was not just something I noticed. It was crossing the boundary of insulting our religion a bit, and I was actually very surprised this occurred. Anyways, on the Saturday they were here, I went to Confession with my Mom. On the way out the door, my Uncle jokingly told my Cousin she should go as well. Then my Aunt said, “Oh, she doesn’t need to tell a priest her sins. She can go right to God.” I know there is an obvious difference between the Baptist and the Catholic views on this, but what are your thoughts on this?

The third thing I wanted to ask about is the Baptist view on Mary. When we were all sitting together, my Uncle asked me what my medals were. I told him that they were a Miraculous Medal, a Catholic medal, and a St. Lucy medal. He kind of raised his eyebrows again and said, “Oh.”

Again, I’m sorry if anything I said came off as stereotypical, offensive, or confusing to anyone! I honestly didn’t mean it, and I’m just trying to understand the differences between what we believe! Have a blessed day! God bless, and thank you!

Speaking from my experience with Baptists, they seldom understand the Office of the Keys, binding and loosing. Of course forgiveness comes through Christ, but it is very good to hear His absolution through His priest in a way that we can hear and understand. Who would tell your cousin her very personal sins are forgiven? Can she trust her heart? Her emotions? Confession and absolution points us right back to our Baptism [and the efficacy of that sacrament is often a source of misunderstanding with Baptists, too]

The differences: many

  • authority
  • baptism
  • Eucharist
  • How we honor the Virgin Mary
  • How we ask the Saints to pray for us
  • Our Old Testaments

and on and on

The first thing to realize is that there is no single Baptist Church as there is a single Catholic Church. Each local Baptist church is autonomous in everything it does. Frequently, local Baptist churches fellowship with other Baptist churches through associations or conventions. These organizations often enforce common beliefs and practices.

Therefore, when asking questions such as “what do Baptists believe,” it is always best to be as specific as possible. For example, do your relatives attend a Southern Baptist church or do they attend an American Baptist Churches (USA) affiliated church? Or, perhaps, your family attends a Full-Gospel Baptist Church or even a Baptist church that has refused to affiliate with any association or convention? These labels matter a lot.

At the same time, there are some universally held characteristics that Baptist churches share. Baptists generally agree with the Catholic Church on the basics of Christianity, such as the Trinity, the Cross, the resurrection, etc. As Protestants, Baptists believe the Bible is the supreme norm of faith and practice. Baptists only baptize by immersion, and this is only done to adults or children old enough to make a confession of faith. Baptists do not believe that water baptism is necessary for salvation. Communion is believed to be symbolic.

Baptists do not have priests. Generally, men (or women in some churches) who feel “called” to pastoral ministry will begin to preach and possibly seek seminary education. They may start out as an assistant or associate pastor serving under a “senior pastor” until such time as they themselves are elected by a congregation to serve as a senior pastor. The Baptist senior pastor is considered equivalent to the biblical office or elder/presbyter/bishop.

Besides a pastor and other pastoral staff, Baptist churches are usually administered by an elected board of deacons. Deacons are laymen (or in some cases women) chosen by the congregation. Both pastor and deacons work together to run the church, but ultimately, it is the members of the congregation who are in charge of the church. The congregation elects all the major leaders of the church.

Historically, Baptists have been proponents of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. This may not seem like a big deal today because most churches advocate the right of individuals to exercise religious freedom. This was not always the case in the past, when it was common for nations to have privileged “state churches.” So, their advocacy for separation of church and state was something that made Baptists quite distinct from other religious groups.

Baptists are generally evangelical Protestants. This means they place a great emphasis on a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” So, yes, I think many Baptists would agree that they see Jesus Christ as both their Lord and their best friend.

Baptists generally don’t like anything that seems liturgical or too ceremonial. This usually means they prefer to preach or pray extemporaneously.

This comes back to Baptists not having a priesthood. Baptist ministers are called to preach the gospel and shepherd a local group of believers. Both Baptist ministers and Baptist laypeople are members of the “priesthood of all believers,” so it would not make sense for a Baptist Christian to go to his pastor for absolution because both are priests before the Lord.

Baptists view Mary as the Mother of God. She was born with original sin, a righteous woman, highly favored, wife of Joseph with whom she consummated her marriage and probably had other children besides Jesus. She died as all women die. Today, she is in the presence of God, as are all righteous people who have died. Baptists do not pray to saints, so they would not pray to Mary.

In regards to medals, I have no idea what any of that means. I’d guess that unless your uncle was raised Catholic himself, he probably had no idea what you were talking about either. :smiley:

(mary was NOT born with original sin and she did not consummate her marriage with joseph. For all we know, he could have been 50 years old when he was chosen to protect her virginity as a spouse)

Big difference between the two churches is the founder - one was Christ himself and the other was a man whose remains are still in a tomb. One doesn’t have any remains in His tomb - since his body resurrected on the 3rd day. Want to guess who? :wink:

I believe baptists might have “altar calls” or something similar and don’t believe in infant baptism. I think they require a certain age and testimony? Don’t have any baptist relatives so I don’t know for certain.

Sola Scriptura. “symbolic” communion

I was a Baptist for several years. They believe all you have to do is "accept Jesus into your heart. Some believe you cannot lose your salvation; others believe you can. They believe Baptism is only the first step of obedience, that nothing happens in Baptism. Their pastors are hired and fired by the deacons; therefore, they must please people. It is a me-and-Jesus religion, As Catholics, we believe that it is about being a Body, not just individuals. We believe in an authority coming from Christ to the Pope and bishops; they have no authority except the deacons. Everyone believes their interpretation of Scripture is correct, making truth relative, that truth is only “in the eyes of the beholder.”

From reading your description, it does seem like your uncle was making intentional comments. However…is there another side to it? :wink: Were you making a point of being a little more Catholic for his sake? Do you normally wear those medals? :slight_smile:

Honestly, no. I was not being more Catholic than usual. I always pray before meals, and I go to Confession every Saturday, so that was normal. As for my medals, yes. I always wear them. In the three years I’ve had my Miraculous Medal, I’ve only undone the clasp twice: once to put on each new medal.

Thank you! This was an very helpful response! :slight_smile:

Many Baptists I have encountered would never say that Mary is the “Mother of God.” They would say that Mary is the Mother of Jesus only, not the Mother of God because God created Mary and Mary didn’t create the divinity of Christ so Mary can’t be his mother. Or, if they admit that the title is true, they will say it is dangerous and should not be used because it causes Catholics who don’t know any better to believe that Mary created God (as if anyone actually believed that). Or sometimes it is rejected simply because Catholics call Mary “Mother of God” and they don’t want to do what Catholics do.

This is just from my own experience. The majority of Protestants (mainly Baptists) I have ever talked with about the title “Mother of God” reject it or are uncomfortable with it. View this thread on a Baptist message board to see a good example.


My impression is that this doctrine is controversial in Baptist circles, especially among the less educated, so I wouldn’t take it for granted that a Baptist will shout “Amen!” when you refer to Mary as “Mother of God.”

Also, there is no purgatory for the Baptists. Some are very much in the “one false move and you go to hell” school of thinking.

Some very conservative Baptists tend to be very much “God’s way or the highway.” Very restrictive on social behavior (i.e. no TV, smoking, drinking, swearing, dress and hair codes, no gambling. If you do watch TV, then make sure it’s G rated and programming lives up to God’s standards, etc. Christian rock/pop is also sinful.)

Baptists don’t do the sign of the Cross either. They don’t like set prayers/rituals most of the time. They’ll tell you it’s ‘too Catholic’.

Jesus is looked upon as your BFF and/or a self-help guru.

They really don’t give much thought to Mary or the Saints because you can take your problems directly to Jesus. That’s why you don’t need confession either. They think that by confessing your sins to a priest, the priest is somehow blocking or regulating your access the Lord; that nobody should block access to Jesus. It’s all about people having a direct (and personal) relationship w/the Lord.

It’s kind of ironic because they believe that prayer works and actively enlist other people to pray for them, but they don’t think that the Saints in heaven can pray for them as well. Mary is an afterthought for a lot of people.

As someone posted, there are multiple kinds of Baptists. I grew up in a very conservative sect. A friend of mine was a very liberal Baptist and it was so bizarre to me that she’d claim to be Baptist and still be a pro-choice activist.

You’re right when you say most Baptists would say “Mother of Jesus.” However, the underlying fact–that May is the mother of Jesus, who is God–would not be denied by Baptists. It’s really the semantics that bother Baptists.

I’d think it be more accurate to say that they have no Scriptural warrant to believe that we are to pray to saints. It’s not that they don’t think saints couldn’t pray or intercede on our behalf, but its that we have no basis in Scripture to believe that we should even contemplate it. In Scripture, we’re told that Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us. There is no mention of saints interceding on our behalf.

Furthermore, Baptists don’t have the same concept of sainthood that Catholics do. “Saints” are all Christians. So, even if Baptists did believe that saints did pray for us, why can’t they simply ask their dead grandma who was a faithful Christian for 80 years to make intercession for them?

This protestant belief separated [or I allowed it to] from Christ for quite some time. Too easy. Too much sulphur, scary sermons. They often told me that good works were just swell but was really just icing on the cake. These people truly terrified me for years. I was tricked into going to a Christmas choir service once, on the promise there would be no alter call. Instead they came around person to person. I walked out.

Needless to say, I was able to finally get past all of this. Catholicism makes much more sense to me. I also was blessed with some of the most wonderful neighbors in the world, who turned out to be Baptists. So very different than the ones I had known for years. Very healing.

I think a more accurate statement would be that they accept the accept the doctrine “that Mary is the mother of Jesus, who is God–but…” :smiley:

You’re right though. Most would not object the Catholic meaning of “Mother of God,” but would instead say its dangerous and misleading. That is the traditional Protestant objection, following Calvin. Which is not to say that there are not some who reject it because they really do have a basically Nestorian view of Christ or misunderstand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but that is not common among those well-grounded in a mainstream Protestant tradition.

Catholics also believe that all Christians, even on earth, are saints as well even though we only prefix canonized saints’ names with the title. Catholics also do not believe that we cannot pray to those who are not canonized. A Catholic can ask their dead grandma to pray for him if he wants to.

Among those Baptists who believe that the saints in heaven do pray on our behalf, the usual objection to praying to the saints is that the saints are so busy praising God that they would not be able to hear us, although some say that the saints pray for those intentions they remember from before they died. At least this line of thinking shows that not all Baptists view the intercession of the saints as denial of Christ’s unique mediation between God and man. However, at the same time, Baptists just about universally see all “prayer” (defined something like making any sort of petition to someone not present, or who would not be able to hear the petition by natural means) as an act of worship, and so they would tend to view Catholic practice as idolatry regardless of whether the saints intercede on our behalf.

The original European Anabaptists were radical Protestants, very much opposed to most traditional Christian practices. Their big distinctive was rejection of infant baptism. They “re-baptized” converts. This was seen as heresy by mainstream Christians, Catholic and Protestant.

Today’s US based Baptists have moderated greatly and are pretty much mainstream protestant evangelicals. It is difficult to generalize about them. They retain the rejection of infant baptism but span a wide variety of other beliefs.

Baptists are not monolithic enough to generalize. The general areas of contention are obviously faith vs works, the nature of Communion and the proper interpretation of Baptism.

Historians no longer support the thesis that modern Baptists originated from Anabaptists. While there are some surface similarities, Baptists and Anabaptists are truly quite distinct traditions. For one, Anabaptists originated early on during the Protestant Reformation on the continent. Baptist churches first emerged in England as an outgrowth of the Separatist movement.

Having been raised Baptist…most Baptists see recited prayers as lacking sincerity and not being “from the heart”. Almost any Baptist I know would not pray recited prayers at the table or during their prayer time. The Lord’s prayers is even rare for many.

Baptists do not believe in going to a priest for confession–they are Protestant. They believe they can ask Jesus and it’s a done deal. That’s pretty standard for every Baptist I know. Some may ask for help with habitual sins and have people pray with them but they would never confess sins and ask for absolution.

Because Baptists emphasize a “me and Jesus” relationship, asking saints to intercede would not be done. In fact, the Baptists I grew up with don’t recognize saints and Mary is seen as a woman who sinned, and had other children. She is not held in the high regard that she is in the Catholic Church and is incapable of interceding for anyone.

A lot of Baptist churches are autonomous, have no governing body, and sometimes (not always) only recognize their own baptisms as valid. The ones I went to even encouraged repeating one’s baptism as a way of drawing closer to God. I have heard some refer to the Pope as evil and most I knew think that if you are Catholic that means you are automatically going to hell. Most want to convert Catholics and “win them to Christ” but I don’t say this to be mean. My great-grandmother, one of the few people in my life that I know loved me, was a southern Baptist and a very loving and caring lady. But she really didn’t care for Catholicism. I’d like to think she does now. Hope that helps.

I think Op, that the best thing when you see or are visiting this uncle and aunt is to always show forth love and kindness. If they say things or throw barbs about either Mary or set prayers etc is not to return with arguments or comments back but react with kindness. I don’t think you are going to argue them into the Catholic church. My oldest sister and brother-in-law are very involved with their community Baptist Church. We never get into arguments over religion. My brother-in-law is a deacon as well. I show interest in what they are doing. ask your Uncle about the things he preaches about, how does he prepare, what sources he uses. This keeps the conversation friendly. Sometimes Baptists like this are our best allies in the cultural war. Instead of focussing on differences, focus on similarities. If the roll their eyes at the usual grace before meals just invite them to pray their prayers and ignore the looks. It is very possible to get along as a family when different people go to different Churches. You can show interest in what someone does with their church which doesn’t mean you have to show interest or support in what someone belieives. If you focus on the first, you will build bridges and support, If you focus on the later, you will just end up with conflicts.

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