I have a question for anyone to comment on. What does Protestantism add to Christianity, doctrinally? Aside from End Times eschatology (Catholics are generally amillennial).
You see, I’ve been comparing Protestantism and Catholicism, mentally, and I can’t yet find anything added by Protestantism. Only things taken out of Christianity.
I’ll cite the places I can think of, where Protestantism and Catholicism differ.
1) Sola Scriptura. This takes out the papacy as a way for God to reveal his truth. It also takes out infallible tradition. It keeps inerrancy of scripture, but it doesn’t add anything. It only takes away.
2) Baptism. Some Protestants see baptism as only an outward expression of one’s faith. They don’t see it as an act that actually cleanses away sins. Many don’t. For many, it is purely symbolic and without actual spiritual, transformative power. Catholics acknowledge the symbol, but they teach a spiritually transformative event as well. Many Protestants eliminate the doctrine of infant baptism. Protestantism takes out, here, but doesn’t contribute.
3) The Eucharist. Catholics see the Eucharist as involving the Real Presence of Christ, body, blood, soul, spirit and divinity. The entirety of Jesus Christ, the fullness of him. They also see it as symbolic of the Crucifixion and the infusion of God’s life into believers. Protestants take out various parts of it. Some extract the body and blood, leaving only the spirit. Some extract both the physical and the spiritual, leaving only the symbol. Some take out even that and don’t have Communion at all. The treatment of Communion in Protestantism is a great taking away of meaning, but it doesn’t contribute anything.
4) Predestination and Free Will. Calvinists believe only in predestination, extracting out Free Will. Some Protestants believe in Free Will, leaving out Predestination. Catholics hold to both. Some Protestants do too, but this is another case where Protestantism takes out of Christianity without contributing anything.
5) Purgatory. Most Protestants take out the concept of Purgatory, saying people go straight to hell or heaven after they die, and there is nothing in between. Thus we are instantly transformed and sanctification doesn’t need to be completed after death. But this idea merely takes out of Christianity, it doesn’t contribute.
6) Hell. I’ve met Protestants with varying ideas about this. Some believe in people’s annihilation in hell, which cuts hell short, taking away from the Catholic idea of hell. Some are universal reconciliationists, believing essentially in Purgatory but not in hell at all. Others hold to a more traditional Catholic idea of hell. Some spiritualize hell completely, taking away literal fire. Catholicism sees a spiritual side to it, the separation of the soul from the presence of God, but it also sees a physical side to it. Protestantism seems only to take things out, not to contribute anything here.
7) The Communion of Saints. Many Protestants take this idea out completely, saying the saints in heaven aren’t to be communicated with or prayed to at all. Many say they don’t intercede for people on Earth either. This is a taking out.
8) Works and Faith. Most Protestants believe in salvation by faith alone, some saying works spring naturally out of faith, but I don’t know of very many who say that the soul has to choose to accept God, which is works, responding to God’s grace, and thus faith and works operate together. Protestantism extracts, but doesn’t add.
9) The deuterocanonical books of the Bible. This is pretty simple. 7 books of the Bible were removed by Luther. In fact, several NT books were removed to an appendix too, but Lutherans added them back into the Bible a century after Luther was dead. But this removal of the deuterocanonicals is an extraction. Perhaps Mormons could be considered to have added to the Bible, with the Book of Mormon, but the other Protestant denominations do not accept them as being Christian. Protestantism took out, here, and added nothing.