Protestants: how ought we Catholics profess our faith to you?


I’ve been told on occasion that my professions of Catholic doctrine are offensive to Protestants. Like I’m looking down on them, or saying I’m better than them, or saying they’re not good Christians.

I never really dealt with this when I was a Protestant. I would profess my faith as a Protestant, even to Protestants with whom I disagreed, and those same accusations were never made of me. But as far as I can tell, the only thing that’s changed about me is the faith that I profess, not the manner in which I profess it. I’m still just as staunch a defender of my faith as I was when I was a Protestant; I can’t see what has changed.

And yet I still deal with accusations by Protestants that I’m looking down on them and acting like I’m better than they are. So what am I doing wrong? In short, given that Catholics and Protestants disagree over a great many doctrines that we Catholics hold to be essential, how ought we to profess those doctrines as the truth claims they are without opening ourselves to accusations that we’re looking down on Protestants or consider ourselves better than Protestants?



Speaking for myself, I don’t think this is a valid objection at all. It stems purely from modern “I’m-as-good-as-you” thinking. We should be grateful when anyone tries to persuade us to convert to what they regard as the Truth. I’ve had a lot of people try to convert me to all sorts of things in my day, and I’ve never found it offensive.

What is offensive IMHO is when Catholics feel the need to go on the offensive and describe Protestantism in order to prove it wrong. Almost always these descriptions are unfair or inaccurate (even when they come from ex-Protestants–indeed ex-anythings are rarely fair to the tradition they have left). As a historian, I get particularly annoyed at simplistic misrepresentations of Luther or the Reformation or Protestant history generally. You don’t need this sort of thing. It only gets in the way of the real issues, which depend on the truth of Catholicism and not on the falsehood of Protestantism. Witness to the truth and falsehood will collapse on its own.

I’m not saying that Catholics should never criticize Protestantism, but that they should be very careful when doing so and should not oversimplify *or *express contempt for the fact that Protestantism is varied and complex. (In other words, I often hear Catholics make a simplistic generalization about Protestants, and when shown to be wrong respond with a scornful remark like “Of course one can’t say anything that applies to all your 30,000 denominations” or whatever. It would be better not to try to talk about Protestantism at all than to engage in this kind of self-defeating polemic.) If you feel the need to criticize or question Protestantism, do so courteously and tentatively, always open to the possibility that Protestantism may be closer to the truth than you think. In no way does this constitute a compromise of your belief in Catholicism. Only when the Protestant you are talking to clearly professes his or her belief in something that is clearly absurd or heretical is it appropriate to let loose the big guns of polemic. Even then this is usually counter-productive, but when faced with evident nonsense or wickedness sometimes anger and scorn are the only possible or legitimate responses. (Frankly, I will pull no punches when faced with the version of eternal security that teaches that a person can wilfully reject truth and goodness, live for years in that state, and die impenitent, but still go to heaven because he or she “accepted Jesus” decades earlier; or with the idea that goodness is genuinely irrelevant to salvation–not that goodness is only possible by grace but that it simply doesn’t matter. There are people who appear to teach these wicked things, and I have encountered them in East Tennessee growing up; but we should never
generalize about who teaches this or assume
that all Baptists, for instance, do so, since clearly many do not.)

Please note: none of these remarks are aimed at you. I do not recall ever seeing you do the things I am criticizing. These are general thoughts about Catholic tactics that I do genuinely find offensive.



Cheers, Edwin.

In brief, don’t be a stereotypical Int@rnets d3bat0r.

At first I thought this was going to be a thread about the question “Are you saved?” or “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”–but I’m sure that’s been covered before.


This (with titles reversed) is also good advice for Protestants. I deal with many of these same problems (from Protestants) all the time on another forum I participate in and it is vicious. If everyone used such respect and charity in their approach these discussions would go much better for everyone. In the end, they only do damage to themselves and their own credibility.


I had the exact same reaction from my Protestant brothers when I started my conversion process, a little over 20 years ago. Of course, I must allow for the possibility that I actually WAS sort of lording it over them, LOL.

Now, 20 years and several ups and downs later, I am more convinced than ever that we Catholics need to stand up vigorously for the Faith. Protestants became accustomed to Catholics who were not interested in debate, just content to “go through the motions” of religion and thus confirm the Protestant accusations of religiosity (“Jesus is not a religion”). I don’t think that most Protestants are equipped to deal with a convinced Catholic who can defend the Faith with vigor. I’ve seen more than a few shocked faces when I came back at 'em. There is no reason for Catholics to cede the battle to the bible-thumpers, let alone the cults. If we remain silent, we lose. Better they think we are arrogant, than that they not hear the Truth spoken with candor.


Very well said. :slight_smile:


Love isn’t arrogant or rude - it insists on the truth.



Oh absolutely. Catholics who do this (at least in the U.S. and on this board) are generally responding to the way they have been treated by Protestants. “You say we had bad popes? Well what about Luther!” The question was how I wanted Catholics to witness to me, so I responded. I did not mean to imply in the least that this was limited to Catholics–fundamentalist Protestants are unquestionably the worst offenders in our culture (though secular people are pretty bad too). But it’s a danger to which we are all prone.



From comments above - I would assume you would not consider any Catholic to be a Bible-thumper.

As a Protestant, using the Bible as the basis for any discussion is the only way you are going to make any inroads with a Protestant. You must meet poeople where they are coming from.

The Catholic catechism does a good job on that account by frequently citing Scriptures.

Most Catholic apologist would probably be proud to call themselves Bible-thumpers.


That’s true. The Bible supports all Catholic doctrine. It is the sola scriptura crowd that has the problems. The fact of hundreds, maybe thousands of variations of denominations on the Protestant side speaks to the weakness of sola scriptura. After all, if the Bible were actually self-interpreting, as they say, then there’d only be one Protestantism, wouldn’t there?

This isn’t about the Bible, so much as it is about authority. The authority of the Church interpretation of the Bible, compared to the individual’s interpretation. I love the Bible, but I don’t much care for interpretations of it that lead people away from the One Church.


The church does not have strong scriptual support for all doctrine. Best example-Purgatory. The verses that are said to support this doctrine are very vague. Purgatory is never explicitely explained in the bible.


You have a good point Anglo-catholic. But the sterotypical bible-thumper certainly employs a kind of fundamentalism or literalism that doesn’t really agree with the Catholic position.

It’s true that Catholics are just as 'fundamental at least in some senses of the word as certain more typically ‘Biblical Churches’ are. But the overall approach does appear to be very different when one compares the two different approaches-- and we often seem to interpet the exact opposite on certain teachings.the further we expand from the core measure of Christ’s divinity


Here’s a link to some discussion on Purgatory that you might find helpful:

I’ll let others more capable with Scripture deal with this type of argument. I don’t know Scripture well enough to stay out of trouble. I think that there are various doctrines that are not explicitly laid out in Scripture, that have needed elaboration by the Magisterium. Seems to me, Trinity could be one of these. The word doesn’t appear anywhere, and the concept was slow being grasped by the Apostles. Heresies sprang up out of a lack of understanding of it, and were not adequately dealt with by Scripture alone. Yet, it is the central doctrine of the Christian religion. The point being that while certain doctrines may be “vaguely” supported by Scripture, it isn’t Scripture itself which teaches doctrine, but the Church which defines and teaches doctrine. In no way does that imply that doctrines which are “vaguely” supported are NOT supported by Scripture. Just that, some are more explicitly supported than others.

Look at the way certain cults have distorted the Trinity. The Mormons believe there are three separate gods. They read the Bible and come up with three separate gods. It isn’t that hard to do, if you are not being taught true doctrine by the Church. Scripture can be interpreted in various ways. In the case of the Mormons, their rejection of the authority of the Church and its proper role in interpreting Scripture and defining doctrine has led them into serious error.


My life before my interest in Catholic Apologetics lack Scripture. I am thankful for Protestants in my former Army unit, who question my faith, and I started reading the Bible in the light of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Now I read the Scripture more, and continue to learn about my faith. I consider myself an amateur apologists.

I do now see myself a Bible thumber now than I was a year ago.


Yes, we do.

Purgatory. Is not mention but implied just as the Trinity is not mentioned.

Mt 5:48 - be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect
Heb 12:14 - strive for that holiness without which cannot see God
Jam 3:2 - we all fall short in many respects
Rev 21:27 - nothing unclean shall enter heaven
1Jn 5:16-17 - degrees of sins distinguished
Jam 1:14-15 - when sin reaches maturity gives birth to death
2Sam 12:13-14 - David, though forgiven, still punished for his sin
Mt 5:26 - you will not be released until paid last penny
Mt 12:32 - sin against Holy Spirit unforgiven in this age or next
Mt 12:36 - account for every idle word on judgment day
2Macc 12:44-46 - atoned for dead to free them from sin
1Cor 3:15 - suffer loss, but saved as through fire
1Pet 3:18-20; 4:6 - Jesus preached to spirits in prison
2Tim 1:16-18 - Paul prays for dead friend Onesiphorus
1Cor 15:29-30 - Paul mentions people baptizing for the dead


Manny, will you take Mt 12:32, and Rev 21:27, and give a detailed explanation of each verse, demonstrating how it “implies” purgatory?


A number of Catholic posters in this thread have stated that at one time, or presently, they are not that familiar with Scripture. I’ve also seen this issue come up frequently in “real life” (outside of CA fourms :wink: ) with Catholic friends and acquaintances. Scripture is the inspired word of God. Why are many Catholics relatively unfamiliar with Scripture?


I’m Lutheran and here is my advice. Focus on Christ/Grace and then the Church. Many Protestant churches are bastions for works righteousness. The Gospel is just assumed and the church focus on 12 steps for better living. Instead of repentance when one sins, the mantra is “try harder”.

The sad and ironic thing is while most Protestant churches, especially the non-denominations, proclaim salvation through grace alone, they mix in works immediately. People are drawn to the good news of Salvation in Christ first. The history and grandeur of the Catholic Church is fine, but the purpose of the church is making saints. So to repeat, focus on Christ and what He has truly done, you’d be surprised at how many Protestants are ignorant in this area.


Back when I was in Catholic school, grammar and high school, we weren’t told much about the bible. The focus was on the catechism in grammar school, mainly the baltimore (I’m aging myself here but that’s okay). My daughter has seen two of the Baltimore Catechisms here at home (we home school) and she likes it better than what she got when she was in school (Catholic school until the 3rd grade and now in 7th).

We were mainly taught about moral values and how to be a good Christian more so than learning about the Bible. The Baltimore Catechism however, does have bible verses scattered throughout and it has a “read from the bible” section at the end of each chapter. But that was not done that much when I was in school. The teacher mainly talked about the other parts in the book. The 10 Commandments were emphasized a lot and so was the Mass and Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

When I started learning more about my faith as an adult, I was upset that Catholic schools did not talk much about the Bible.

I’m getting to my point here now… having said all that, I find out that many conversions happen because people see how Catholics live their faith and NOT on how much Scripture we know. Knowing that, it now makes sense on why the Catholic Schools back then and even now, focus on moral values and how we are to live our lives as good Christians.

I told my sister, who is protestant, why she wants to send her 4 year old (she’s now 5) to Awana’s when the little girl needs discipline and needs to learn to respect her more. I told her that memorizing a bible verse is not important at this age or any age up until maybe the 2nd or 3rd grade. A child needs to be told to respect others and obey their parents and not to fight with their siblings. All those are more important than memorizing bible verses. You could have a child that knows several bible verses by heart and at the same time that child could be a menace and could be disobeying their parents, and on and on. That is not good.

You could have an adult that actually lives their Catholic life the way any Christian should live their life and they could know many “stories” or “readings” from the bible just from going to Mass every day or every Sunday, but not really “know scripture” the way a Protestant person would “know scripture.” But that person is living a holy life because that is what he/she hears at Mass from the pulpit and that is what he/she remembers from learning about the faith in school. That person can help convert a Protestant just by living their faith and not necessarily quoting scripture to them.


I have a mix reaction.

I think some it has to do with not knowing what book, chapter and verse.

For example I know about the widow that gave her money; I know about the mustard seed; the Good Samaritan; feeding of the 5000 thousand; I know how Christ raised people from the dead and the healings he did and miracles he did.

I know the story of Noah, Moses, Jonah, and David. I even know about the 3 people (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) that were thrown into the furnace. I however I don’t necessarily know what chapter and verse I can find it, but I know that it’s in the Bible.

If I tell someone about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego they may say to me where is that in the Bible? I would be left with um, I don’t know… I just know it’s there. Responses like that can leave the other person thinking that you made it up.

I don’t quote scripture much outside the forums because I don’t know chapter and verse very well. Of course inside the forums or internet chat rooms are different because there are tools that can help you find the bible verse. (quickly too)

Example: Just for this post. I knew about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before making this post. However I didn’t know how to “spell” their names. So I got on to a bible search engine and told it to look for the word “furnace” in the OT. It found the passage I was looking for Daniel 3:20 and then I able to spell their names for this post. :slight_smile:

So I don’t know if it’s because they are “unfamiliar” I just don’t think they want to talk much about it because they wouldn’t be able to tell you chapter and verse. (At least that’s my personal take on it)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit