Looking for a Protestant View of the Catholic Church


Since a lot of Protestants that I have spoken to do not believe that the Catholic Church is even Christian, I have a couple of questions.

  1. Do Protestants believe that the Church was ever Christian?

  2. Was Martin Luther the “reformer” that brought Christianity back?

  3. If so, why did Christianity continue to fragment after the “reformation” and is still fragmenting today? Meaning why is there not just the Lutheran Church and The Catholic Church?

I am not a history buff, so be kind :slight_smile: . Just curious on a Protestant Historical view of Christianity.


He started out as a reformer within the catholic church addressing abuses in his day. Paul in his day wrote about false apostles, so it is no surprise that false teaching would have to be cnfronted in latter times tooo. There was a counter reformation within the catholic church which also addressed abuses, and sought to reply to what they viewed as false doctrines of the reformation.

  1. If so, why did Christianity continue to fragment after the “reformation” and is still fragmenting today? Meaning why is there not just the Lutheran Church and The Catholic Church?

Same reason as those at corinth became fragmented, human sinners leading the way.

There would also be the Orthodox Church that split with Roman Catholic around 1054. Also, if you study the reformation, Luther was not the only reformer, there was Calvin who started his churches, Anabaptist who started their churches, and many more.

I am not a history buff, so be kind :slight_smile: . Just curious on a Protestant Historical view of Christianity.

No problem, you may want to read Schaff’s History of the Christian Church online, its free.


  1. I know that, at least at my Methodist Church, we view Catholics as Christians and invite them to take communion with us. However, some elements of ABC theology (anything but Catholic) exist, but are fading with time.

  2. This on it depends. I think people are starting to realize that Martin Luther wasn’t that great of a guy, but as a whole he is looked on as a brave reformer who spoke out against a Church that was corrupt at the time.

  3. Methodists tend to believe that different things work for different people, but believe in the “invisible” church that most Christian groups belong to (obviously including the Catholics)


With many discoveries of ancient Christian writings being unearthed, some of the more mainline Protestants are coming to see a more balanced view of the history of the Christian church.

What has always been suspected now has proof, Christianity has been fragmented from the beginning…the “victors” in this struggle for dominance wrote history.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches are the decendents of the largest group of those who called themselves “Christian”. Protestants are part of the same legacy.

Protestants owe a great deal of debt to the Roman and Greek churches…through them the Bible as we have it today came to us as well as the creeds that most of our theology is based on…“apostolic” is where we diverge…“apostolic authority” is a construct and really has little meaning for most of us. This is difficult for many Catholics and Orthodox to grasp, but it is in many ways how Protestants see it…Anglicanism is a blend of both traditions.

Are Catholics “Christians”? As “Christian” as a Methodist or Episcopalian or Quaker or Orthodox…and many of us would even venture to say “and as Gnostics, Manicheans, Nestorians…etc”…just the dominant group that supressed all the so called…“heresies”.

Spong, Borg, Erhamn, Pagels, Mack and others have all been influences in our re-evaluation of history.

  1. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church was and is Christian. That being said, I do believe that it, like any other denomination has made errors. I feel that the main error is its belief that it cannot err in matters of doctrine and morals so that if it is wrong it must strain to come up with some way of dealing with it without admitting that it was wrong. I think that an example is the way the Church deals with non-Catholic Christians. I think that the teaching that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation presented a problem. It meant that nobody who was not in full communion with the Catholic Church could not be saved. Pope Boniface VIII Unam Sanctum appears quite clear in its statement and goes on to say:

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

That sounds to me as if it was intended to be an infallible statement. The Church had to struggle to find some way to say that non-Catholic Christians could be saved and came up with its statements that somehow non-Catholic are imperfectly part of the Church and can find salavtion. I don’t know how the above quote was dealt with, other than essentially being ignored, since neither the Orthodox Church or Protestants are subject to the Pope.

As I have said in a number of different places on these boards, I believe that all denominations, including the Catholic Church have tried to define too much. Men want to know everything and feel that they have a right to know everything. If God has not clearly revealed something, men will subject it to their “reasoning” to come up with something to satisfy their desire to know everything. They then look for some foundation in the Scriptures to fit their reasoning or, in reverse, they will latch onto a passage and force their meaning into it, even if it means straining the passage and ignoring or explaining away others.

For example, many Protestants have done this with the “once saved always saved” doctrine. They want perfect assurance and find it by this doctrine. If someone falls away from Christ, they must fall back and say that they were never really saved. It may or may not be true, but even if it is true, to define it as a doctrine is dangerous. Protestants deny antinomianism but the doctrine can lead people to underestimate the value of works to their own detriment.

Catholics have also done this, in my view with some of the Marian doctrines. They may or may not be true. I am not arguing against their truth here, but even if they are true should they be defined as infallible truth that must be believed. For example, the perpetual virginity of Mary. One of the main reasons I have seen for this doctrine is that it would not be fitting that the womb that carried Jesus carry any other. That is applying reasoning to reach the desired conclusion. It then requires finding someway to explain away all the passages that refer to Jesus’ brothers. I believe that if it was a necessary belief that God would have made Scripture clearer on it and not used the term brother. After all God does not create confusion.
I believe that the Marian dogmas present a danger to believers. I know that Catholic Church says that they do not worship Mary and I know that Catholics honestly believe that they don’t. But there is the risk that declaring too much about Mary will cause some people, even if they don’t intend it, to cross the line and turn veneration into worship. They may not intend to do this but “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. It may not be called or thought of as worship but if it actually amounts to it then the believer is hurt to their detriment. As Hebrews says, the old sacrifices were for sins committed in ignorance, so intention does not necessarily change something from being wrong.

  1. Since I have said that I don’t think that the Catholic Church ever stopped being Christian, it goes without saying that Luther did not restore Christianity. He tried to correct some errors in the Church, but because the Church could not admit error, it ended up in a new denomination being created. This is not to say that Luther, or other Reformers, did not make errors. Again as humans they make mistakes by trying to define to much. Calvin tried to define everything and ended up creating a system where everything is robot-like in operation. He corrected some errors but introduced others.

  2. There have been ongoing splits since the Reformation for a number of reasons. One is that Protestants do not believe their leaders to be infallible. If they find error and cannot change the denomination they may split. Even if they correct the error they may introduce new ones. There are also splits because of human pride and the desire to know, define and explain everything. Someone tries to explain or know something, comes up with the conclusion and then a split occurs.


A Protestants view of what constitutes the “church” plays into it as well. If a Protestant accepted the RCC definition of “chruch”, we may come to a closer understanding…but looking at the threads on the church…it doesn’t seem probable at this time.

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