do doctrinal differences really matter?

i just wonder for the Protestants (or non-Catholic Christians): if doctrinal differences really don’t matter bec. it is not that that will save us but faith in Jesus, then why don’t they just join us at Mass? Come, participate in the Eucharist. Agree with the Papacy or Infallibility or Immaculate Conception. It doesn’t matter, right? so long as all of us have faith in Jesus, then we’re safe. doctrinal differences do not come in place.

or really, salvation is a matter of “who’s got it right”? that’s why we’re having these differences in the first place?

Doctrine does matter.

Yes, it is faith in Christ that saves. However, that does not mean that doctrine does not matter. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Why would I do that when I cannot subscribe to all that that means. I would be disingenuous and disrespectful to the Catholic Church.

Wrong. It does matter.

If we all have faith in Christ, then we are justified. However, doctrinal differences are real and we can’t pretend they don’t exist.

Salvation is a matter of what God says in his Holy Word. Doctrinal differences originate from the fact that we are all humans. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Careful --you do not want indifferentism. Doctrinal differences do matter; if you have one person saying that truth is X, and another saying it is NOT-X, then one or the other is wrong. And if you are wrong on a truth, it matters. You can’t have a firm foundation built on lies, even if you’re aiming for the truth, anymore than you could build a rocketship to fly to the stars if you were using marshmallows instead of proper fuel for the tanks.

The people using the marshmallows might even want to fly to the stars (some of them) for better reasons than the people using the rocket fuel, but they will wind up stuck forever on the ground unless they choose to say, “Hmmm, the marshmallows don’t seem to be working. But those people over there are flying rockets, even though some of them are flying rockets with the idea that they will then ‘colonize the stars’ for gold and diamonds, instead of looking for new information and new ways of helping others. Even though we disagree with how they are going ABOUT the flying, maybe we had better check and see why THEIR fuel works but ours doesn’t!”

My personal thoughts are that belief belief in Jesus is what saves us. Doctrinal differences and different denominations are more about how people choose to worship God and it comes down to what works best for individuals. One doctrine may be more correct than others, but if we believe in Christ, his saving mercy is much stronger than any human error in doctrine that we may have believed. This is assuming that the doctrine is not way off base or completely contrary to the fundamental teachings of Christ such as those in the beatitudes or the golden rule.

Doctrinal differences do matter. People wouldn’t spend much time considering and discussing them if they didn’t. There are two different levels of doctrinal differences, though - those that pertain to salvation, and those that do not. The important stuff is set out in the ancient Creeds. That’s what you should believe to be a Christian, and what the Church Fathers set down as the essentials of our faith. Beyond that, we have many disagreements on points of doctrine, but we are still brothers and sisters in Christ, and if we persevere, will all see Heaven.

So, I am quite happy to go to Mass, and worship with my Catholic brethren. I am choosing not to become Catholic myself because I have a different view of what the Universal Church is, and because I believe God has called me to be in the community I’m in. Unless He says otherwise, I remain under the authority of my current pastors.

For me personally, doctrine don’t matter because I forget all about that when I’m at Mass/Church. But I do respect that doctrine does matter for those who think it matters. Hence when at a Catholic Church I won’t join in Communion because Catholics don’t like us to. I personally wouldn’t worry about it, but you guys do so I leave it. The rest of what you ask about I have no view point on as simple as that when it comes to the Anglican Mass. But I did object to those who in our church were trying to pretend to be Catholic without being Catholic. Thankfully the new priest has put an end to those practices much to the mild astonishment of those who thought we were all wanting to play at being pretend Catholics. If I am Roman Catholic I would do the whole thing. I can’t abide the playing at being so. I am not Roman Catholic, I am in fact Anglican and because I have been Anglican for too long now I would never become Roman Catholic because whilst doctrine does not matter when it comes to the Eucharist for me. Doctrine does matter to the whole package and that is why I wouldn’t come and celebrate Communion, is because I couldn’t quite reconcile to being wholley Catholic after being Anglican for too long. I am a liberal Anglican who is quite relaxed about things and I couldn’t be if Roman Catholic if I was doing the whole deal which people ought to if they are committed.

Sorry I wish to cause no offence to anyone

Well - hhmmmmm - - - It took a couple of readings…but I think I get what you mean here…

There is a perception among Catholics (with some justification) that there seems to be little concern among the various protestant communions over doctrinal differences so long as one professes belief in Jesus.
Am I reading you correctly?

If I do understand correctly, then I think the responses above demonstrate that this is a false assumption. Not only protestants unable to embrace Catholicism over doctrinal matters, but they are very often at odds with each other over some very core issues.

Beyond that…Part of your comment above disturbs me as it seems to show a lack of understanding of the Eucharistic teaching by the Church. Your invitation for our separated brothers and sisters to participate in the Eucharist is dangerous and against the teaching of the Church.
St Paul warns against receiving without proper understanding lest one eat and drink judgement on themselves. and there are many misunderstandings among the protestant communions in regards to the Eucharist and the Church rightly limits communion to those formally in the Church who (hopefully) have been properly catechized on the subject.

Maybe I misunderstood that part…but that is how it read to me…


What you’re really asking is, “Does truth matter?” because Catholic doctrine is Catholic teaching. And what does the Catholic Church teach in its doctrines? Truth given it by Jesus Christ, Who is God.

Strictly speaking, the Truth is not a viewpoint, or an opinion, etc. It is a Person! Jesus Christ! Jesus said, “I am the way, the Truth, and the life.”

So, to say doctrine doesn’t matter is to say Jesus doesn’t matter. And, He does!

Doctrinal differences do not matter to me. I have gone to mass with friends. Christ is present in Catholic worship services just as He is present in meetings for worship among Friends.

I would participate in the eucharist, but the rules of your tradition say I cannot. How can I agree that the papacy is infallible when I do not believe any man speaks infallibly for God. Nor could I claim to beleive in the IM…when I do not. I see no reason to abscribe to the belief…no…it does not matter how I view Mary.

What I find necessary is faith in Christ as God’s revelation. What I beleive MUST impact how I live and treat others. Religious differences simply do not mean much to me…how those beliefs cause me to treat others is more important. Since I do not believe the IM or the papal infallibility claim or who has the right pedigree to speak the special words and make the proper gestures over bread and wine to confect them into the body and blood of Christ, it would be hypocritical of me to claim I did in order to appease someone elses need to affirm their religious beliefs by my claiming to accept them. It’s not about “you” it’s me living my life in Truth…how my life or anyone elses causes others to say “He knows Jesus…I can tell by the way he lives…by the way he speaks…by the way he loves.” is the One Thing I must get right in this world.

Truth is not something we profess and “couch” in doctrinal phrases…Truth is how we live…how we love.

Yes it matters. Just one example.

The historical church has a doctrine of a Trinitarian God: 1 God, 3 persons consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Some believe differently (Mormons, JW’s, Oneness Pentecostals etc), though profess “belief in Christ”, they all have a different view of Christ either making Jesus one god of many, a human sent by God, a “mode” of God at a given time/place.

Is that important?..yup!

Great questions though, particularly in these times when Christianity is taking it on the chin.

Actually, coming from a rather doctrinal communion, I can say with all sincerity that doctrine truy does matter. I have been to Catholic mass, and there is Spirit is, but the Spirit is also with us in a Lutheran mass.

or really, salvation is a matter of “who’s got it right”? that’s why we’re having these differences in the first place?

We know who has it right - Christ. To the extent that any of us, or all of us, don’t have it exactly right, we seek God’s mercy and grace.


Thanks for all the responses folks.

Okay, doctrine does matter, and I take all of your words guys for it. But let me elaborate to you the root of all of this asking.

Actually, I’m into Sola Scriptura these past few weeks. As I’ve read in another forum, a Credobaptist explained that Sola Scriptura does not deny the role of the Church and is even vital for Scripture interpretation. This is exactly what he said:

Those who claim that we believe that the church has no value and ISN’T instrumental in teaching Scripture are wrong. The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth and this “community of God” is instrumental in keeping us in check with the rest of the Christian community. The church is the “interpreter” of Scripture, but the interpretation ISN’T relegated to certain men WITHIN the church.

and then a Catholic, of course who disagrees w/ Sola Scriptura, attempted to negate this by trying to ask which “Church” is it – is it the Arminian or Calvinist, who have doctrinal or soteriological (to borrow his words) differences:

Ah yes of course, now the church has value. Great. Which church? The reformation churches? Which reformation church? Cite one. Would it be the same ‘reformed’ church that spawned two diametrically opposed doctrines side by side like arminianism and calvinism? Which church now is the correct interpreter - the arminian or calvinist? And how does this square with your belief in the right of private interpretation of scripture? Which takes precedence - the CHURCH OR YOUR PRIVATE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE?

and this is what the Baptist has to say:

Also, of course, this is written under the assumption that [this Catholic]'s church is the true church and that his concept of the church is the correct one. Needless to say, I reject his concept of the church and reject his assumption that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church. Now that we got that out of the way, I want the reader to notice how he removes the concept of Sola Scriptura as I (the adherent) explained it and then reinterprets it to fit what he (the non-adherent) wants to believe about it. Further, he brings up a scenario which has been refuted before. [He] wants to make SS collapse by bringing up two factions within Protestantism that differ soteriologically. He thinks that this refutes what SS teaches. The Arminian and the Calvinist would both agree on the five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Gratia (by grace alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), Sola Christus (in Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). They recognize and do not ignore how they differ on soteriologies, but only in the sense of how it is brought about. Yet, regardless of this difference they agree on the bottom line, that Scripture alone is sufficient in discussing this issue and, thus, we work with the goal of understanding it further, but the Arminian and Calvinist agree that it is salvation is bought about by the grace of God through faith alone. This is what truly saves and not our soteriological differences.

That last part of his statement is disturbing me up until now. I’m still having the impression that this particular guy is telling me just what I’ve stated earlier: That for the non-Catholic Christians (who are adherents of Sola Scriptura, pardon me for not making a distinction), what “truly saves” is “the grace of God through faith alone” and not the doctrinal/soteriological differences.

What he’s telling me is yes, there are differences, “we’re working on it,” but “faith alone” first! Well isn’t that what has brought them (including this Baptist with other Sola Scriptura adherents) to soteriological differences in the first place? By all the more focusing on “faith in Jesus” rather than “who Jesus is and what He teaches”? (and up to this point I would like to ask: who’s really making it a “dichotomy” here, is it me or our Protestant brothers?)

Still quite don’t get what our Protestant brethren are saying here. If doctrinal differences do not “truly” save, why “work with the goal of understanding it further”?

and for those who understood more what the Baptist said, could you point out to me what I’m missing?


Indeed, doctrines matter to them, but I’m of the impression that whether or not they will arrive at a certain agreement, all that matters is their “faith alone,” and yes, chances of them not arriving at agreement is probable.

Oops, yeah, haven’t read so much yet about the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist when it comes to our separated brethren :smiley:

But I do think my message is directed to them that if doctrines do not matter or do not truly save, why not agree with us Catholics, and just in case the Church is allowing them in the Eucharist, why not join?

New American Standard Bible (©1995) James 2:21
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

Ask him to discuss his beliefs in relation to this.

I Love this in the Baptist’s reply…
Also, of course, this is written under the assumption that [this Catholic]'s church is the true church and that his concept of the church is the correct one. Needless to say, I reject his concept of the church and reject his assumption that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church.
I have had this happen to me in such discussions. It is a common tactic designed to turn a Scriptural discussion into an “us vs them” (Catholic vs protestant) discussion.
I have taken to calling them on this…If I did not say it, don’t assume that I meant it. In other words - stick to what I said and if what I said is firmly based in Scripture, then it remains valid regardless of my own particular faith tradition.

When one does this, and really begins to look at what Scripture calls for in regards to unity, we find that the Holy Spirit desires much more than agreement on five points. Just look at these verses.
John 17:20-21
20 "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Rom 15:5-6**
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 1:10
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

2 Cor 13:11
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Php 1:27**
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
1 Pet 3:8**
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Look at these calls to unity…Jesus wants us to be “One” as He and the Father are One…How much room for varying and conflicting doctrine is there in such a unity?
Peter and Paul are callus to be in agreement, of one mind, one voice etc.

Couple these calls to unity with the instructions in Mt 18:15-18 and the example in Acts 15 where the issue between the Judaizers and the Gentiles came up. They did not agree to disagree…they told it to the Church and they Listened to the Church.

The protestant argument about the visible Church (limited in scope to a local or regional congregation) is blown away by Acts 15.
Even if we allow for differing doctrine in some practical matters, there are deeper differences in Protestantism that touch on matters of Salvation. Lutherans say that the Lord’s supper contains the “Real presence” Baptists say it is symbolic. Jesus says unless you Eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you…But there are different and conflicting understandings of this passage.
Some groups require water Baptism while others deny the efficacy of water Baptism - yet the Bible says repent and be baptized in order to be saved…
These are issues on which all churches should speak with one voice…as they touch upon salvation.

In summary…Call the baptist on the issue of trying to negate the argument by reading into the response something that was not written. Explain that you are not trying to convince them that the catholic Church structure is right. After all, the EO, an equally Ancient Christian Church uses a slightly different (though similar) structure. Tell them that you will stick to Scripture - and then…make them show you - In Scripture - support for their interpretation of “church” (little real authority, limited to local communities etc) and their position that “agree on essentials” is enough. Frankly I’ve never found a person who was able to meet this challenge.


Christians have worshiped differently since the beginning. Acts 15 shows the apostles meeting to discuss the role of the Mosaic Law in Gentile congregations, but Acts 21 shows that Jewish Christians were expected to continue observing the Law. I worship where I worship because I love the people there, I enjoy the way worship is done there, I share the worldview of the leadership and congregation, and most important, the Bible is taught in all aspects of worship (Sunday School, singing, sermon, communion, children’s programs). However, I would never tell someone they are not saved, unless the say something blatantly unorthodox, like Jesus is not part of the Trinity. I believe what I believe because of study, and I can explain and support my belief’s Scripturally. The CC teaches some things I don’t believe are Scriptural. Since I must agree with all church teaching to be Catholic, I can’t be a member. In a nutshell, I worship at my church because I am comfortable there.

I have been doing some reflecting on this very issue, and sometimes I think an overemphasis is placed on doctrine, rather than on the Christian moral life that we are to live in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

It seems that the Apostle’s Creed is a very good doctrinal standard to agree upon, and the Didache of the two ways seems to be a very good standard for Christian morality. Both of these are very ancient, and seem to pedate any sort of denominational bias.

I have also been thinking about 1 John 2:27:
But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

There is also this from an early church document:
Let him that teaches, although he be one of the laity, yet, if he be skilful in the word and grave in his manners, teach; for “they shall be all taught of God.” (Constitutions of the Apostles, Book VIII, Section 3 referring to John 6:45 and Isaiah 54:13)

John 6:45 and Isaiah 54:13 are very powerful scriptures.

John 6:45:
It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—

Isaiah 54:13:
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children

Does this mean that if we do not have the peace of God we are not His children, and we are not taught by the Lord? Does this mean that if we do not have peace among ourselves within the body of Christ, we are not being taught of God?

God’s peace to all


This is one of the issues we Catholics have with non catholic views notice how many times you said “i” in your response. I go to this particular church cause I like this, and I agree with that, and I,I,I etc. I see this so often, non caths always fitting a church to them, when the historiccal church has always been here. Not trying to pick a fight, just an observance.:shrug:

Ever hear of “cafeteria Catholics” they reject church teaching because they don’t like it, I reject some of it because of Scriptural study. When Scripture tells Christians things like study to show yourself approved unto God, …rightly dividing God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15); and grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18); to test the spirits (1 John 4:1); always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15); and finally praises those who listen to teaching and then consult Scripture to see if it is true (Acts 17:11). After all this I can say this is what I believe and why, instead of this is what I was told to believe.

This is a very nice reply. Well said. I am glad that you are studying and being honest in your approach.
I would caution you though on just one thing. Do not neglect the fact that Scripture points directly to the Authority of the “Ekklesia”, the Church. That it is to the Church that we are to Listen to.
The reason I say this is very simple and yet quite profound. It is one of the simplest and yet most beautiful things about the way that Christ set up His Church.
The possibility of falling into error is exponentially higher alone than in a group. It is likewise higher in a very small group than in a larger group. So the more “Spirit filled” brothers and sisters available, the more likely it is that error is exposed.

Of course even in a group when there is disagreement, it can be most difficult. This is where humility and prayerful reflection and a desire for consensus (rather than compromise) is most needed. But Jesus told us to take disagreements to the Church and to Listen to the Church. For the Church has the authority to bind and loose - “Whatever”.


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