Presbyterianism


#1

What are the main differences between Catholicism and Presbyterianism? Where would main points of disbelief in Catholicism arise in a person, and thereby agreeing to what Presbyterians believe?


#2

I’m not a Presbyterian, but I know this much: They’re pretty standard mainstream Protestant, but as with Lutherans, their denomination is divided into several branches, ranging from liberal to very conservative. The most notable distinctive characteristic of Presbyterianism is Calvinist (aka Reformed) theology.


#3

As a former Presbyterian, I’ll give a few of my observations, but bear in mind I did not go into any depth in studying their theology (I haven’'t really gone into any depth in my Catholic theology either, since most of what I’ve learnt I’ve picked up from experience in both cases.)

I’ll also make the comment that the beliefs don’t “arise in a person” but are taught to them by others, which is pretty much the case for all of us.

  1. They reject Papal authority absolutely, even going so far as to call him the “Son of Perdition” or the Anti-Christ in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Mind you some denominations have watered this down, but it’s still there. Likewise they would not accept apostolic authority.

  2. They are Calvinistic in origin, and therefore believe in the Elect, meaning that they believe people are saved or doomed by predestination, regardlesss of what they do. As such, they can think they’re every bit as infallible as the Pope. I’ve seen it happen. I know of one particular Presbyterian pastor who quite happily lies, conspires even against his fellow pastors, and damages lives quite badly, but no doubt thinks he’s one of the Elect, and therefore can’t do any wrong.

  3. They don’t believe in the authority of canonised Saints, or Marian authority.

  4. Communion is seen as symbolic only. In the church I attended, we only had communion four times a year, although it was done with a solemn attitude.

  5. They only have two sacraments - baptism and marriage.

  6. They don’t believe in Purgatory. It’s heaven or hell straight off.

In all of the above I think they’re wrong. There may be other differences, but it would take someone better versed in doctrinal studies to give you detailed answers.

What we do have in common could be summed up in the Apostle’s Creed, except that you’d have to leave out the “holy catholic church”, and “communion of saints”.


#4

That makes sense. The churches are named first and second which might just spell out differences. Still, what is a “mainstream Protestant”?


#5

Thank you! This helps a whole ton! You posted this whole I was responding to the other post.


#6

I don’t think “First” or “Second” in church names mean much other than in town history. I.e., the First Presbyterian Church is likely to be literally the first one founded in that city, and the Second Presbyterian Church is probably chronologically the second one.

Presbyterianism (in the USA, it has more elsewhere) has several formal denominational bodies. PC(USA) is the largest and is the main liberal one. PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) and OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) are a couple of more conservative ones, and there are many more.

Your last question, defining mainstream Protestantism, is the hardest one, kind of like eating soup with a fork, and I don’t feel up to tackling it right now. However, Bob Crowley’s points 3-6 are generically common to Protestantism.


#7

[quote="Izdaari, post:6, topic:300568"]
I don't think "First" or "Second" in church names mean much other than in town history. I.e., the First Presbyterian Church is likely to be literally the first one founded in that city, and the Second Presbyterian Church is probably chronologically the second one.

Presbyterianism (in the USA, it has more elsewhere) has several formal denominational bodies. PC(USA) is the largest and is the main liberal one. PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) and OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) are a couple of more conservative ones, and there are many more.

Your last question, defining mainstream Protestantism, is the hardest one, kind of like eating soup with a fork, and I don't feel up to tackling it right now. However, Bob Crowley's points 3-6 are generically common to Protestantism.

[/quote]

Ok. So if someone were to convert to it, it sounds like they would have to look at everything in order to make a decision about which sect to join. Is that true?


#8

To Presbyterianism? Well, as a pretty moderate Christian (not a hardcore liberal, but even more not a hardcore conservative) the choice is obvious: PC(USA) is the only one I’d be compatible with. The other Presbyterian denoms are seriously Calvinist and seriously conservative, and that’s not me. But I’m not really PC(USA) compatible either because they’re pro-gun control and I’m a former gun lobby staff member. I’m adamantly opposed to their political agenda, so I ruled out Presbyterianism after just a little research.


#9

So, yeah - they would have to make sure they join the right sect. Okay.


#10

Uh huh. And I can’t be Presbyterian because the right one doesn’t exist. That’s ok by me, I’m happy with my “‘emergent’ Anglo-Catholic with Benedictine influence” TEC/ELCA church.


#11

It has been my experience (for what ever that is worth) that “converting” to Prebyterianism is more about the if the preacher gives a good sermon and or the choir than doctrinal issue.


#12

The most fundamental difference is church polity. Instead of bishops and priests, each church has a board of elders comprised of teaching elders and ruling elders. The teaching elders are typically seminary graduates and are vetted both by the individual church and the denomination. The ruling elders also vote alongside the teaching elders. All are elected to server a term (a certain number of years) by the congregation.

While most Presbyterians lean toward if not intrinsically embrace Calvinism, Presbyterians are not necessarily Calvinistic. Usually the Westminster Confession of Faith is the standard of belief for the church. In our church, anyway, you don’t have to subscribe to the whole thing to be a member. So I am not sure as to exactly what the differences are between Presbyterianism and Catholicism, aside from the few following comments.

Presbyterians typically reject any change in the Communion elements while affirming the real spiritual presence of Christ in them. Presbyterians reject the Catholic teachings on Mary and typically view the brothers and sisters of Jesus as children of Joseph and Mary. Generally they don’t cross themselves or genuflect. They do not pray to saints, in front of pictures or statues.

Conservative Presbyterians affirm the inspiration of Scripture and usually reject the ordination of women and issues concerning sexuality such as homosexuality. They are usually pro-Life. Liberal Presbyterians take a wide variety of positions on issues, but seem to be for the ordination of women, homosexual marriage, and abortion rights.


#13

You are referring to language that was removed I think in the 1930s from the WCF. It’s not there. But apostolic authority (which ended with the apostles) is respected. Succession is not.

  1. They are Calvinistic in origin, and therefore believe in the Elect, meaning that they believe people are saved or doomed by predestination, regardlesss of what they do. As such, they can think they’re every bit as infallible as the Pope. I’ve seen it happen. I know of one particular Presbyterian pastor who quite happily lies, conspires even against his fellow pastors, and damages lives quite badly, but no doubt thinks he’s one of the Elect, and therefore can’t do any wrong.

I’ll pass over discussing some of the Catholics I know. I’ll also pass over most of this as it would take a while to explain things. People are saved by grace, and faith is required.

  1. They don’t believe in the authority of canonised Saints, or Marian authority.

True, I think. I’m not sure what you mean by authority here

  1. Communion is seen as symbolic only. In the church I attended, we only had communion four times a year, although it was done with a solemn attitude.

See previous post. We have Communion weekly with some rare exceptions.

  1. They only have two sacraments - baptism and marriage.

True

  1. They don’t believe in Purgatory. It’s heaven or hell straight off.

True

What we do have in common could be summed up in the Apostle’s Creed, except that you’d have to leave out the “holy catholic church”, and “communion of saints”.

We affirm the Apostles’ creed with both phrases, but our understanding is different. “Catholic” means “universal”: all Christians. I’ve forgotten the explanation on communion of saints, but the words are there.


#14

Truthstalker,

Confession 25 of the Church, paragraph 6 states “There is not other head of the church, but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself, in the Church, against Christ, and all that is called God.”

My WCF edition is from 2003, I know some presbyterian churches soften that position. I have a friend who attends a CREC Church and they hold the Pope is only anti-christian.
:rolleyes:

At the presbyterian and baptist seminaries I attended, very little was said positive about the Church. I am actually kind of glad, the whoppers told there made me want to research and the more I studied the more I became Catholic.

Mark


#15

Converting to Presyterian is pretty easy. They don’t have “altar calls” to get you saved.
After the service you go to the session room and the elders vote on you as a formality. I have never heard of anyone being turned down.


#16

In 1946 the Orthodox Presbyterians removed the part after “be head thereof”. I was looking at their text. I quickly found several texts on line that include the section after “be head thereof”.


#17

We don’t have altar calls, true.

I never heard of a “session room”. To become a member, I attended classes and then met with an elder and discussed my beliefs and why I felt God was calling me to join this particular church. We discussed expectations, among other things.

There is a lot of self-selection away from membership, and since those people leave for another church, one would not hear of it. I know of a married homosexual couple who might have eventually wanted to become members (and would have been denied), but they left after a discussion with the pastor. If someone was turned down for membership, you would never hear about it. The implication that everyone is automatically accepted for membership is fallacious.

I don’t recall if the elders voted on me joining. I don’t see why they would have, and if they did vote for each member, they would do it carefully and after diligent inquiry. I suppose that might happen if there was cause for concern.


#18

In my original post, I said that I that some (Presbyterian) denominations had “watered down” the reference to the Pope as being the anti-Christ and “son of perdition”. Obviously the Orthodox Presbyterians were one of them.

But there are those who haven’t. Ian Paisly is Presbyterian to the best of my knowledge, and I’m pretty sure which version of the Westminster Confession he’d use. He’d use the original.

As to my own former membership, while I’d been baptised Presbyterian (due to my father’s rebellion as a lapsed Catholic), I still had to go through a membership routine.

If I remember rightly, I think it involved formal induction during one of the quarterly communion sessions. I’d already had some discussions with the pastor. And there was certainly no “session room”.

However there are several Presbyterian denominations (as my old pastor said, “When it comes to theology, Protestants couldn’t agree how far to spit!”), particularly in the USA, and I don’t know if they all follow the same pattern.


#19

I guess things are different between Evangelical Presbyterians and the main line moderately liberal PCUSA.

For example there was a homosexual elder on the session, and the pastor’s sermons were fairly liberal, with no mention of Calvinism or Predestination or election. There were 2 Presbyterian churches in town and they were both PCUSA…

Is the Evangelical PC the one that the late Dr Kennedy was in, they were far right polically. Or is your church one that only sings psalms?

I must admit I know little of other Presbyterian chruches than the PCUSA. I knew of Dr Kennedy from seeing him on TV.


#20


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