Differences in Core Protestant Beleifs

A Protestant friend of mine tried to tell me that all Protestant denominations only disagree on “little matters” after I asked him why there are 30,000 different protestant denominations and how that kinda proves that protestants aren’t doing something right. He said they were things like “little t” traditions that don’t necessarily matter, like styles of music, population size, and location. Now, I am pretty sure that this is a false statement, but if anyone knows of a few LARGE core doctrinal differences between main protestant denominations, that would be a great help. I just do not know enough about the different denominations to be able to answer this question, and neither does my friend! haha!

Thanks SO Much!
God Bless You!

There is some truth to what he is saying; however, it is not true for Protestantism across the board. I would say that there are a couple(maybe several) major worldviews and understandings of the Gospel that currently exists among Protestants. These worldviews should not be confused with denominations. They cross and overlap denominational boundaries. Among Protestants who share the same worldview, the denominational differences really aren’t that important. Let me explain some more.

We can use mainline Protestantism and evangelical Protestantism as two examples. Mainline Protestants are divided into several different denominational groups: Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists, United Church of Christ, American Baptists, Evangelical Lutherans, etc. However, they all pretty much espouse progressive theologies and social justice activism. They have the same worldview, and it allows them to work together even though they don’t officially share the same theological traditions.

Likewise, there are evangelical Protestants. They are divided into several denominational groups as well: Anglicans, Presbyterians, Wesleyans/Methodists, Southern Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, non-denominationals, etc. These, despite important theological differences, espouse conservative, conversion-centered theologies and traditional forms of evangelism and mission work. They have the same worldview, and it allows them to work together even though they don’t officially share the same theological traditions.

This is of course a simplification. There are evangelical Christians in mainline denominations. They are just a minority. And then you have a church like the United Methodist Church, which has a strong and growing presence in Africa, which is considered both mainline and evangelical.

Well, since I was a former protestant, raised a methodist then spend years in various independent Charismatic groups there are some BIG differences between a number of them. In the Methodist church i grew up in, people ranged from very liberal protestantism which does not take the Bible literaly (many of the miracle stories didn’t happen) to people that were very evangelical and conservative. In the Methodist church i grew up in, the religious ed director did not even believe in the virgin birth. In the different charismatic churches, it was pretty much anything goes and people were very much yanked around by different teachers and ministers which taught conflicting and different things. The differnces between them can run very deep, much more than styles of worship. some believe and practice infant baptism while others (baptists, anabaptist most evangelicals) believe infant baptism is invalid. Others support abortion, many don’t. Others would believe in the trinity as taught by the Catholic church, yet there are a number of groups, mostly in the pentecostal and even charismatic churches who don’t believe or have a compromised view of the trinity. In mainline denominational churches, there are some very big conflicts between conservative and liberal. some would support gay marriage and ordaining women and even open gays. so you see, your friend doesn’t want to take a close and hard look at the big mess Protestantism is and the sad thing is that most all think they are true to scripture.

I am a former protestant with a little study under my belt. Let’s just hit the high points…

Baptism- some say it is necessary for salvation, others disagree. As was mentioned earlier, infant baptism is always debated.

Communion- some believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, others believe Christ is present during Communion, still others say it is merely symbolic.

Loss of Salvation- Some agree with the CC teaching that one can reject God and lose their salvation, others say “Once saved, always saved” (impossible to lose Salvation)

These are 3 major tenets of the Christian Faith, yet there are disagreements throughout protestant churches. This doesn’t even begin to cover all of the disputes, nor does it touch on the differences in eschatology.

Just a little something to think about.:slight_smile:

I would mainly look at the Nicene Creed. The Roman Catholic Church is “Holy Mother Church” in one (of many, many senses) in that all other (Protestant) churches have broken away from the Church that Jesus Christ founded during his days in Judaea. Catholics believe in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”: all the other (Protestant) churches have no apostolicity.

And praying after the Last Supper in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the Gospels Jesus says:

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (St. John 17:11)

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (St. John 17:20 - 22)

Obviously it was important to Christ that his believers be in unity, and that is one reason that uniting all Christians to Holy Mother Church is important to the Vicar of Christ, Peter’s successor, the Bishop of Rome.

Sure, and I can find all of those positions within a single Anglican parish, and all but the Real Presence within a single parish of any large denomination. Those differences are not denominational.

With respect, you are looking in the wrong direction. As Itwin points out, the doctrinal differences exist across denominations, not between them: you can find all of the sorts of differences which Newsy and robwar mention within single parishes. To that extent, your friend is right about the disagreements being on “little matters”.

Especially now that so many pastors and ministers are buying and reading the same books from the latest Great Christian Author, Protestant churches have so much homogeneity of belief that you can very often walk from one denomination to another and not be able to see any difference. I know this because I, like many Protestants, have spent time going to a morning service in a church of one denomination and an evening service in a church of a completely-unrelated denomination, and finding much the same preaching, songs, and opinions in both.

This is not to say that your question about the proliferation of denominations is not worth raising. In fact, I would suggest that it makes it even more significant: given how very alike these churches are, why do they bother being separate?

At that point, it is worth noting the biggest differences between Protestant denominations are not theological (i.e. about God), but ecclesiological (i.e. about the structure of the church). Were they to come together, they would have to agree not only about metaphysics, but about who gets to run what part of the parish, and how. That is, I suspect, what keeps them apart.

Apostolic succession.

Banana daiquiri.

I think that understanding Protestism is to understand why it happened. Luther had theses that he wanted to present to the Church (Catholic.)

Like selling petitions. He didn’t like it at the time. According to Lutheran beliefs, he was shunned by the Church and was excuminated. So, he formed a church of his own, and in response to it, he created a type of church that was more based on GRACE than anything else. If you ask for forgiveness through Christ, your slate was wiped clean, meaning… Purgatory and anything else that could be a hinderance to Heaven was no longer. The emphesis was not on, "If I could can just ask for forgivenness on my death bed and be accepted into Heaven, why worry? It was, Grace allows you to be free from the tempation of sin and improve your way of life toward non-sinfullnes.

Also, you did not have to have Holy Orders and vow chastity, poverty, obiedency to the Church. (Piety was still like a vow.) So, you did not have to have those areas

I was raised Lutheran.

So, the sacrement of Holy Orders was no longer valid. You could go to Christ direct and not a priest. To be a pastor, you could marry. To be involved in a church, that Sacriment was no longer valid. The Sacrement of Penance was no longer valid. And, the Bible was not something only available to Priests and Bishops. It was made for all people.

Yet, many of these areas, like availability of Bibles was corrected. The selling of petitions was corrected. Many of the things that Luther was hoping to discuss and possibly correct, were corrected.

Protestants see the significance of Mother Mary as the role in a conception of Jesus. Yet, petitoning Her was not necessary. You could go directly to Christ. So why go to Saints? Many protestant evangelical churches see saints caught up in the Glory of Christ and can not even sense you. And, there is no direct Biblical evidence to support that saints can do this?

Core is the actual meaning of Protestant beliefs… go back to basics and through Christ, pray to the Father and worship him and Christ… everything else? Well?

Yet, as a new Catholic, I must ask questions? Things I have found. Who is to say that those who have Holy Orders DO NOT have a spiritual connection? Especially from the time of Saint Peter? Who can say that the whole Majestarium do not have that spiritual connection? If you take Holy Orders and vow, piety, chastity, obediance and poverty that it can make a significance? Who can say that this pryamid scheme does NOT benefit Christians. Who is to say that the Catholic Churcfh can learn past mistakes and better itself. Can we really trust the media, creating a whirlwind of midea hypw on one tiny small percentage of priests who deviate from their vows. Do protestants know how regorous the standards for those who seek Holy Vows?

IS it really that hard to believe that a Saint can actually know you are asking for something as a petition and pray for you too? Since that is what they are there for. Can’t you actually look to a Saint in respect, not worship, and thank them for being such a good example for people to emulate?

Many of the things that Protestants look at as draw backs or just right out wrong, with the RIGHT understanding could help them understand that we are not so different. And, because we really love the same God, believe that Jesus came as the Sacrificial Lamb, the once and for all sacrifice for all humanity, as God himself could only do, to show us how much he loves us, to allow himself to endour all that pain, showing us how much God loves us, lowering himself down so GOD can experience everything we most fear, the punishment we deserve fror one purpose only?

To let us know we are not something to just be thrown away, but loved so much that he would create a bond so strong that we can know beyond a dought that he loves us so much to allow us to find a path back to what was destroyed… our relationship with him… re-created once again, so that we can be rest assured that he loves us and we can love him back and, from the beginning, he never stopped loving us… because, like the creater and Father he is, he never, ever stopped loving us?

So, he created a way for us to come back to him. He in the form of a Son, came down, showed us complete love, took our own fate as a species, as only God can do, made this Son he created, one with God, with that power that only God could provide to endour all or rightful pushiments as a race of those who found sin. Who can now find peace and life beyond our fateful death, in spirit now and be recreated eventually into what we were supposed to be… forever… in complete and utter happiness?

Even protestants believe this. We might have difference in core beliefs… but if we try, we can find a place where we can come together… an understanding… through being Christians… and help everyone know this… so, others might be able to see this… believers and non-believers a like and see the truth… we are Christians… and we beleive in love… which the whole Bible teaches us to be… the main theme.

I don’t think we can afford to have different areas. Christianity almost died because we were different sects within the first 200 years of our beliefs. We could have phased out as cult. Yet, we pulled together… and becasme the “Catholic” Church… the “Universal” church… the Church that expands and spreads the Good News. That is what we are. As long as we allow are own Christian Church to never be Unified, we allow for it to be pulled apart and eventually die… especually now. We can’t afford that. Not know or anytime in the future.

Our differences can destroy us… or we can allow our differences to bind us together. So, shall we allow it to happen. Our differneces are there… but, we do beleive in the same thing in general.

I believe we should do our best to pull together in anyway we can…

I haven’t studied every variant, but the denominations I’ve attended, visited, and read about do have distinct teachings on these issues. There is a difference between Presbyterians and Baptists on the issue of infant baptism; there is a difference between Methodists and Baptists on what occurs during communion; there is a difference between Lutherans and Baptists on whether a saved Christian can lose his salvation.

I’m sure there are individuals within any local congregation who are not yet well-versed in what their church teaches, and I’m sure that some churches are slower to excommunicate members who are not willing to change views that are at odds with church teaching, but there are definitely denominational differences on these and many other points of doctrine.

Here’s an excerpt from a brief article by a Baptist on ecumenism:

. . . While some divisions between Christians are manmade and unnecessary, many others, most, in fact, are doctrinal.

Why, for example, is an Episcopal church different from an independent Baptist church? They have different doctrine. One teaches baptismal regeneration; the other, that baptism is symbolic only. One baptizes infants; the other practices believer’s baptism. One sprinkles; the other immerses. One has a priesthood; the other has pastors and deacons. One has a hierarchical church structure; the other practices the autonomy of the assembly. . .

Those who call for the removal of denominational divisions are ignoring these serious doctrinal differences. Any Bible doctrine worth believing is worth fighting for. wayoflife.org/database/divisionsaredoctrinal.html

Yes and no, it would be accurate to say there would be some big differences between Anglican and Southern Baptist. That is definitely denominational. In fact, there is a world of difference and it goes much deeper than liturgical style of worship which you would have and a Southern Baptist would not. Growing up in the Methodist church, i was taught that there was only 2 sacraments, baptism and then communion and they claimed that there was only 2 taught in scripture. Someone from a Baptist type denomination don’t believe in sacraments, perform baptisms as a sign because that is what Christ did and only have there once a month communion as a symbol, don’t believe in any form of real presence. Sacramental understanding is non-existent of even these two (baptism and communion). I am sure there is a world of difference between Anglican and then the types of fundamentalist Churches that would be associated with Bob Jones University. There is a world of difference between you and the Amish. While there is some pan-denomination beliefs and disagreements in mainline Protestant denominations (what you and Itwin are pointing out), there are some big differences between groups and denominations. yes there are even sub groups within groups. Lutherans have Missouri, Wisconsin, American, ECLA, etc. Methodist are mainly United but there are Free Methodist, Weselyan groups and there are much different than united. Presbyterian is also split up in untied and then Evangelical.
It’s a big mess when you step back and take a long hard look.

Part of the problem is the 30 000 figure.

There may be major differences between Lutherans and Baptists, but that doesn’t mean all churches have major differences.

My experiences is that the local baptist church is teaching the same as the local Church of Christ, which is teaching the same as the local Assemblies of God, which is teaching the same as the local independent Christian Church.

Those would be counted as four different denominations when in reality the differences are minor. The 30 000 figure does the same thing just on a bigger field. I personally consider it to be intellectually dishonest.

Other differences in Protestantism is how they view the Bible. As I pointed out, growing up in the Untied Methodist, the miracle stories were not necessarily believed to be accurate or real. You then have most conservative evangelical churches saying they are. many Baptists type churches would say yes, miracles did happen but all that ended with the apostles and now we have the Bible and don’t need miracles. They would believe that God doesn’t even divinely heal today, which is kinda strange conclusion for a group that believes in the literal Bible. Of course the Catholic position is that God still heals, it is one of our sacraments. Then you have the Charismatic and pentecostal groups that would teach definitely miracles and healing happen today as back when the Bible was recorded. Yet again everyone think they are right and the other guy wrong.

Is that suppose to be funny?

There are differences between Baptists on whether a saved Christian can lose his salvation (not all Baptists subscribe to Once Saved Always Saved, though you would never know it reading Catholic Answers).

And what is the disagreement between Baptists and Methodists on communion? Methodists believe that Christ is spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper. Many Baptists follow Huldrych Zwingli’s memorial view. Yet, other Baptists also believe that Christ is spiritually present in a unique way in communion. So, once again, we have differences that cross denominational boundaries.

With all due respect, I disagree. Take a religion like Anglicanism/Episcopalianism. In this Christian Communion, you have Anglo-Catholics, Reformed evangelical Anglicans, high church, low church, broad church Anglicans. Therefore, in Anglicanism only, you have the full spectrum of doctrinal beliefs ranging from more Catholic than the Pope to low church TULIP Calvinism by another name.

These are not “individuals within any local congregation who are not yet well-versed in what their church teaches.” These are the very best Anglican minds who disagree among themselves.

Ecumenism is itself an issue that crosses denominational boundaries. There are Baptists who are opposed to the Ecumenical Movement, as the account you cite shows. And there are Baptists who embrace the Ecumenical Movement and do exactly what the cited Baptist author would oppose.

Interesting article by Svendsen here:
njiat.com/JunePDFs/How%20many%20Protestant%20Denominations%2008_01_09.pdf

The huge number of denominations often cited apparently comes from work by David A. Barrett. Dr. Svendsen breaks this down and concludes that what most people would consider to be “denominations” are those groups Barrett has referred to as “major ecclesiastical traditions.” Within Protestantism, Barrett lists 21 such groups. Surprisingly, within the bloc of Roman Catholicism, Barrett finds 16 similarly unique ecclesiastical traditions.

Baptists do believe in sacraments. It is common to refer to them as ordinances because it disassociates them from Catholic ideas that they are salvific. However, when a Methodist says “sacrament” and a Baptist says “ordinance” they mean the same thing. In fact, many Protestants who prefer the term ordinance also use the term sacrament. The two terms are often used interchangeably.

And yet the fundamentalist churches emerged out of the mainline denominations at the beginning of the 20th century. They all share the traditions and theologies of the Protestant Reformation. The difference is not denominational. It is primarily cultural and worldview: how do they understand the Gospel. A fundamentalist Calvinist and a mainline Calvinist will have completely different answers, all while appealing to the Calvinist tradition. A fundamentalist Calvinist will have more in common with a fundamentalist Arminian. And a mainline Calvinist will have more in common with a mainline Arminian.

Actually its not as complicated. Authority in Protestantism is dispersed, allowing beliefs to be shared across denominational lines.

While I don’t think there are 30,000 different Protestant denominations, I think you are taking the other extreme in lumping all Anglicans/Episcopalians into the same group, or by lumping all Baptists into the same group. In the work by Barrett I mentioned in another post, he found 6 different “major ecclesiastical traditions” within Anglicanism alone, and he didn’t include Anglicanism among the 21 traditions he found in Protestantism (and the work of his I found referenced was 30 years old–numbers may have grown a bit since then). I happen to attend a church in what might be considered the Continuing Anglican tradition, and I do not consider myself to be in the same denomination as either Episcopalians or Church of England Anglicans.

No. I’m pointing out that the differences in Protestantism are not about denomination. The difference cross denominational lines, as seen by the example of Anglicanism. The same could be said about Baptists even more so, since Baptists are congregationally governed.

Rather than lumping all Anglicans together, I’m pointing out that not all Anglicans are the same. You characterized divisions within Protestant traditions as coming from new converts who haven’t been properly taught the denomination’s “correct teaching.” I used Anglicanism as an example of how this diversity is not just a feature of novices but exists even at the top tear of Anglican churches. The same could be said for many Protestant denominational families.

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