I have a friend who converted from being Presbyterian to being Catholic. However, he still doesn’t believe in most Catholic things. I was wondering, what are the main points of contention between Presbyterianism and Catholicism? (This way, I can kind of predict what he’ll say and already have an answer.)

I attended an Associate Reformed Presbyterian church for a while as a sort of “marriage compromise” (no, it didn’t work well - I mean the “compromise” - we have been married 29 years). Their beliefs are summed up in the Westminster Cathechism. The huge issue I had between my Lutheran faith and the Presbyterian faith was the Eucharist. They held to a spiritual presence, not Real Presence.

A conversion with reservations is no conversion, period.

Maybe you can put that in more diplomatic language, but thats what his case is.

It might be he had a very substandard RCIA program, in which case further, more authentic education is what’s needed, particularly before unhealthy attitudes towards “disagreements” set in.

I think I would need more info was he a part of the PCA or PCUSA church they are both presbyterians but differ in a lot of ways. The guy who posted look at the Westminister confession of faith is right basically that is supposed to be their core beliefs, but it is difficult to says how closely his church stuck to these precepts unless I have a more specific church background. Oh by the way I am a member of the PCA church.
Basics would be the five points of calvinism and the five sola’s
TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservence of the saint
Sola scriptura, Sola gratia, Sola deo gloria, Sola christo, Sola fide
I do not think that these will be points of agreement though, but are a good read if you like studying religion. You are really gonna have to work hard deppending on how much he went to church before and actually listened, because the hard part is rearranging how someone groups and interprets verses. My friend swicthed to the RCC I will ask him for some help

I am not sure which type of Presbyterian Church he went to. What are the meanings of each of the parts of TULIP?


Most Presbyterians I have known in the PCUSA do not bellieve in even a spiritual presence. they are Zwinglians and believe in symbolism only.

Locally at least a lot of Presbyterians have tended to be social climbing Baptists. (no offence to Baptists), and they bring some Baptist teachings with them.

The exception is of course Scots who have been Presbyterians for centuriues.

Why would one convert, if you do not believe the in the church doctrine? I would study that church doctrine and compare it to the church that I attended before converting. This is the problem that causes the likes of Biden, Pelosi, and others to circumvent Catholic teachings.

There’s a nice, simple chart at the link below contrasting Calvinism with Wesleyanism.

In terms of the main points of contention, whole books can be written on the subject. The chart at this link is a broad overview, but might help you recollect some specific concerns to explore further.

Something you might consider bringing up is original sin. On the surface it does not look like a point at which C & P would agree but to my surprise we do if it is explained properly. The way it is worded at least on newadvent would make it easy to go into conversations about how to use this Def to interpret and makes certain subjects which tend to be less palatable like the immaculate conception easier to take

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Here’s a good examination of TULIP, from the specific perspective of how close a Catholic can get to it without heresy.

It would depend on what kind of Presbyterian.

I think it’s unlikely that your friend was a strict, traditional Presbyterian. Those folks take doctrine extremely seriously and are not going to convert to Catholicism without working through any doctrinal issues they have. (Their Presbyterianism still influences their Catholicism heavily, but they don’t simply reject “Catholic things.” Scott Hahn is one of the best-known of such converts in contemporary Catholicism.)

It’s far more likely that your friend was a “mainline” Presbyterian–that is to say, a person with a “generic” moderate/liberal Protestant theology for whom doctrinal definitions were never terribly important.

But since you don’t say what are the “Catholic things” in which your friend doesn’t believe, it’s hard to be sure.


Just to throw a grenade into the room there is a new Presbyterian demonination now. It is ECO.

How is that a grenade? More like one more spark to a blazing fire. There are already more Presbyterian denominations than any reasonable person can keep track of.

What is ECO? Is it particularly significant in what it adds to the existing spectrum of Presbyterianism?


what do you mean by a grenade?

He seems to think that it’s explosively significant that yet again, a group of conservative Presbyterians dissatisfied with mainline Presbyterianism has chosen to start a new denomination rather than join one of the many conservative Presbyterian denominations already in existence.

Well, I think his biggest problem is that he is incredibly ignorant of Catholicism and really doesn’t want to learn. (I have no idea how he got through RCIA.) Anyway, he doesn’t believe in the Real Presense, the importance of attending Mass every week and on Holy Days of Obligation. He doesn’t think Confession is necessary to have sins forgiven. And, most disturbing to me, he’s into a much more vague spirituality where as long as he has a personal relationship with God, nothing else matters. These are just a few of the things he struggles with.

PS…He converted because his wife-to-be was Catholic.

That probably depends on what you mean by “most Catholic things”. I’m a former Presbyterian myself, and while I didn’t get much into Presbyterian theology when I was there, I picked up enough from my experience to understand what sort of things he might not think either correct or important.

For myself, I couldn’t care less about green or brown scapulars, have little concern for Saints days or Feast days, don’t agree with the rule on artificial contraception for married couples (and neither do a lot of other practising Catholics obviously, as someone else started a thread on “Where are all the large Catholic families?”), and don’t trust the doctrine of Papal “infallibility”, which I regard as just another hindrance to church reunification.

Yet I still regard the Catholic Church as “closest to the truth”.

I do agree with an important role for Mary, since I also believe she’s the “portent in heaven” as mentioned in Revelation 12, so I accept** approved **revelation in her case.

Now I don’t know specifically what differences your friend has, but I doubt whether he cares much about scapulars, feast and saints days either. Nor would I think he’d be impressed with the birth control issue, or Papal infallibility. It was my cynical experience that Presbyterian Assemblies could also think they were “infallible”, so I’m a bit cynical when I see anybody else claiming it, even the papacy.

ECO = Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians

Well, it doesn’t sound as if honing up on the fine points of orthodox Presbyterianism (fascinating as those are) is going to be much help!

I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about this. As you can, share with him the riches of Catholicism, not as obligations but as privileges. I mean, if you had converted to a tradition as fascinating and deep and ancient as Catholicism, one would think you’d want to know more about it (the “you” here is generic–you yourself obviously have a very different attitude), even if your original reasons were marital.

But I’m a church history nut. . . .


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