How are we different?

This has probably been asked and answered many times, but please humor me:

Can someone give me a succinct list of the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism? Just a bullet point list. No theological explanations, please. The Protestants I know personally (Lutherans and Evangelical) tend to have very similar beliefs to Catholicism.

What are the sacraments

Papal infallibility

Role/method of baptism

Role of priests


How to interpret scripture

They’re no good way to answer that unless we name specific types of Protestants. For example, some Protestants believe in once saved, always save, but others don’t. Even if you do pick a specific denomination, some answers really depend on interpretation. A Catholic will tell you that we have transubstantiation and Protestants don’t, but there are Lutherans on this site who will swear up and down that they actually do.

As such this: is probably the most helpful thing I can give you.

In simple form, Protestants are Christians that are not members of the Catholic or Orthodox church. They usually trace their beginning to the reformation with Martin Luther and John Calvin. They usually believe in what is called Sola Scriptura or the Bible as the final authority, not the Church which is why there are so many of them because there can be as many interpretations of the Bible as there are people to read it.

Basically it comes down to authority.

Catholics believe in the Scriptural supported, traditionally upheld teaching that the Church was instituted by Jesus as His Authority on earth, to be led by His ‘vicar’, the Pope.

Non-Catholics believe in some other authority. Some believe in a ‘group’ of bishops, some believe in the Bible, some in a creed. . .but they do not believe in the authority of the Catholic Church.

Some non-Catholics believe in a lot of the same faith elements we do; some even use the Catholic Nicene Creed in their service which speaks of the One Holy atholic and apostolic church, but they believe in a so-called ‘universal’ church which could include Catholics, but also include others equally and there is some kind of ‘invisible’ universal church, not an ‘earthly’ one like the Catholic Church.

Some nonCatholics do not believe in many of the elements we have, and instead believe in many other different ones based on their personal interpretations of Scripture.

Depending on the individual Protestant (it used to be said there were 36,000 different types and while that is an exaggeration based on counting some groups which are part of ‘larger’ groups, the fact is that there are a great many different churches, even if some of them only differ by a few elements; often the differences can be striking with one group of the two differing on whether baptism is for infants or adults, say), that individual’s difference between the Catholic faith teachings can be small or huge.

And of course, many who identify themselves as Catholic do not practice all of the faith teachings, so they can look even more like a mainline Protestant. The difference between an Episcopalian whose church accepts abortion, divorce and remarriage without a decree of nullity, gay marriage, and women priests as doctrine, and a baptized ‘practicing’ Catholic who ALSO accepts abortion, divorce and remarriage without a decree of nullity, gay marriage, and women priests as something to be desired, even though it totally contradicts the faith he says he supports, can be almost non-existent, though the teachings of the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church on those subjects and others is poles apart.

The answer is very simple: Apostolic lineage.

The differences,listed succinctly, are the following:

  1. Authority

Catholics: Scripture and Tradition (with the Catholic Church in charge of biblical interpretation and defining Tradition)

Protestants: Scripture alone is the final authority (everything else including Tradition and the Church hierarchy are subordinate authorities)

  1. Soteriology

Faith & Works;

Infused Righteousness;

Progressive Justification and Sanctification

Faith Alone (evidenced by works);

Imputed Righteousness;

Instantaneous Justification as a Legal Declaration;

Progressive Sanctification (growth in grace)

Per the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue/ Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, there aren’t too many differences between evangelical Catholics and Roman Catholics.

Likewise, Baptists practice full-body immersion baptism, but other denominations do not.


Catholics belief: A Bible for the Church
Protestants belief: Church for the Bible


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