How can the highest act of worship for some Christians be idolatry for other Christians?

Hasn’t something gone very wrong with how Christianity arrives at its own self-understanding (e.g., What is the Christian Faith? How do we know?) when the highest act of worship for some Christians, the Sacrifice of the Eucharist (say, in Catholicism), is deemed a seriously mistaken act of idolatry by other Christians (say, from the Reformed tradition)?

Shouldn’t this give us pause and ask: Did Christ really let his Church become so corrupt that a great chunk of Christian history, and a great chunk of Christians alive today, are really mistaking a grave act of idolatry for Christian worship?

And shouldn’t we also wonder: How are we supposed to know, in the first place?

It’s terribly sad that entire church traditions have come to two very opposite views on perhaps the most central issue of Christianity: What is authentic worship?


P.S. This question became apparent to me when I was at Christmas Vigil Mass with my family.

There we were kneeling before the Eucharistic prayer as my Evangelical/Bible-Christian uncle sat in the pew. He did so respectfully, but it reflects the issue I’m now bringing up. (I don’t know if he would call it idolatry, but his actions are residue of the greater foundational issue: That Catholicism is wrong and grievously mistaken on Eucharist, sacrifice, etc.)

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Yeah, I think this sentiment comes mainly from a misunderstanding of Hebrews Chapters 9 and 10 where it talks about the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Many of our Protestant brethren are very repugnant of the idea of having an altar and a sacrifice. We should remind them that we are NOT causing Jesus to die again and again in the Mass. Rather, we are presenting the same sacrifice accomplished once and for all on the Cross by Jesus. It is pretty obvious that the early Church recognized this, as seen especially in the Didache. Also, we are told in Luke 22:19 to “Do this in memory of me.” At the root of this discussion, I think it would be useful to clarify what we Catholics mean by the Sacrifice of the Mass.


Here some references from the Early Church in regards to this topic:

The Didache

“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” ( Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God” ( Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).


“In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness” ( Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).

Ultimately, it seems funny that the early fathers got this important topic wrong and that the reformers somehow got it right in their own personal interpretations.


At the root of this discussion, I think it would be useful to clarify what we Catholics mean by the Sacrifice of the Mass.

True. Hopefully most people here are at least familiar with what Catholics actually believe regarding this.

My question is mostly: How did it get to this point? Does it make sense that Christ would lead his faithful into VERY different understandings of worship: (1) The vast majority of Christian history, including not only Roman Catholicism but Eastern Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and other ancient Eastern traditions, into idolatry, only for (2) some of the reformers to suddenly get it right.


The Eucharist as Real Presence has been celebrated by Catholics for 2000 years. Protestants have been around for about 500 years. So it follows that Protestants are on the wrong side of history, in my opinion.


I agree with this. But I think, at least with this thread, you’d have to add in the extra layer of the Eucharist as Sacrifice, since I think that is where the “real meat” of the issue comes in. Some Protestants will profess some kind of “presence.”

Remind them of this:
‘I am the Living Bread, which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world.’ - John 6:51
But caution, there is only so much you can say. In my experience, at one point you just have to let go, and let them stay self-condemned, as St Paul advised.

I think that Luther and Calvin rejected the idea of the Mass as a meritorious sacrifice because of their previous misconceptions concerning grace and how it works. My Calvinist friend is very concerned about how we Catholics believe we can acquire grace. The idea of the Sacrifice of the Mass as a meritorious act that can acquire grace for us is hard to grasp for Protestants, especially Calvinists, because of their underlying misconceptions. They tend to lack a sacramental way of viewing things and, if they do believe in some sacraments, their belief usually is pretty watered down and usually just symbolic.

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My Calvinist friend is appalled at the idea that we Catholics do x,y,z and then we get grace. The Calvinist tradition believe rather that the sacraments are a manifestation of grace that is already in the soul.

I reference my Baptist buddy a lot, well that is because we get into theological discussions, respectfully of course. Anyway the way he looks at it or at least what he has said to me. He believes we are Christian just like they are, has no problem with our beliefs over all. He just thinks we go through a lot of extra things we don’t need too. Of course I feel differently but at least he doesn’t believe that we are worshipping statues or whatever. He does not believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but also does not take issue with us believing that. I am trying slowly methodically work on him though, Haha. Surprisingly though, he was a big fan of JP2. He likes him and Ronald Regan a lot.

Yup, the way I have been taught and look at it. It is an un bloody sacrifice. The same merits but we are not re crucifying Him. It is a sacrifice but not in the way a lot of non Catholics think we believe.


Yeah, I have protestant friends who are more chill with the Catholic faith and others who are more wary of us.

Great responses
I have a book that has the didache and a lot of the early church fathers!! I think it is called “Beauty of Catholic Wisdom” or something like that. I will look when I get home and give the correct name in case anyone is wondering.


Well, the great Shepherd warned us of such things. Satan loves to get real close to the truth…I mean even Satan was willing to make Jesus king of kings (save for one , himself, being over Him).

Reminds me also of Mohammed when judging his first experiences in a cave with an angel. He anguished in determining if the angel was from God or from Satan. I have read that unfortunately his wife convinced him it was of God, and the rest is history.

Like Mohammed, Joseph Smith was not fully and effectually catechized unto new Christian birth, whereby one first learns to hear the Shepherd, though various forms of the true faith were close by.

who needs the book, when we have all those writings at out fingertips…online

Amazing times!

PS books still be good…my Augustine’s “Confessions” paperback is totally falling apart.

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The doctrine of Sola Scriptura, where every bible student becomes sort of their own pope, is largely responsible for the divisions in the west. But realize this: going by Scripture alone Protestants are divided amongst themselves on the importance of the Eucharist and on the Real Presence. But for the ancient churches, in both the east and west, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, the matter was never even an issue. They both have revered the Eucharist as the central focus of the Mass and recognized the Real Presence of Christ in it from the beginning.


He allowed it to be that a great many Christians are mistaking the greatest act of worship for a grave act of idolatry.

According to question 3 in the preliminary lesson of the St. Pius X catechism, these latter “Christians” would not even be true Christians, for to be a true Christian is to believe and process the doctrines of the Catholic Faith in their entirety. Remember, when even one dogma is denied, the whole virtue of faith is lost.


Unfortunately, this is a practically inevitable result of how language and culture work.

Early Christianity used the languages and symbols of the world around them. Sacrifice on an altar was the normal way of approaching religion, so they used those symbols to express their faith. In the process, they affirmed or subverted the traditional meaning. Bloody sacrifices gave way to unbloody, preserving the idea of sacrifice but changing it away from the brutality of killing animals.

A millenium later, people looked at pagan practices and Catholic practices and saw similarities. Seeking a purer, less pagan way of expressing their faith, they believed it was appropriate to get rid of the pagan practices like sacrifice and adoration. Instead of recognizing the significant changes that had been adopted, they saw only the similarities.

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