What is a Protestant?


#1

Gods peace be with you Theophilus,:wave:

I would like to know more about what the definition of a Protestant is and does it change? Are only certain religions/denominations/sects protestant or everyone that follows certain guidelines, beliefs or just “self-interpretation?” There seems to be many views on this too. Mine my be right or wrong :tsktsk: and I would like the “fact” on it.

Is a Protestant defined by following a certain person or a limited group of people? Is there a common belief? Where is that belief written? Do all agree with it?

Is a Protestant a group that just self-interprets the Bible as Luther said and did?

What denominations are Protestant and why or why not? Are Anglican’s since they were started by a politician/dictator/king who ‘declared himself’ as the head of Christ’s church with total authority over it and just following Luther’s lead and thus they are Protestant? (So that he could violate his covenant with God i.e. marriage) Could Bill Clinton have thus declared himself as head of the church in the US likewise for similar reasons (had he been a dictator)?

Please help me and other Catholics understand what being Protestant means and why and where the “facts” backing your conclusion could be found. Links, books etc…

It is hard to define what a Protestant is and over 33,000 denominations/sects exist in the USA alone that all claim or are described as “Protestant.’:bigyikes:

*Mt 12:25 “25 …"Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand.” :whistle: *

Thank you for your help and Gods peace be with you,

The truth is out there!:yup:

Malachi4U


#2

A protestant can be called anyone who is Christian while not belonging to the Catholic Church or one of the Orthodox Churches. The individual Protestant church may or may not trace its roots back to the Reformation, but most large demoninations do to some degree. There is only one true common belief: Jesus is Lord. Everything else can be problematic (including the Trinity). Some Protestants today do not like the term, as they are not protesting anything, but that is a stance that is very unhistorical. The idea of sef-interpretation of scripture is a by-product of the reformation, but not all protestants feel that that is an important part of faith (studying is, interpreting is not).

Anglicans are their own branch. They broke free in protest of a ruling of the Pope, but there is much more involve. They are Protestant, but not Reformation Protestant. Baptists, Methodists, Chuch of God, Chuch of CHrist, Church of God in Christ are some examples. Just pick up a phone book and you can see how many there are in your home town.

I hope that helps a little


#3

What about the Five Solas? Are they the sure mark of the Protestant?


#4

There would be many good answers to this question, some long and some short! Here’s a simple one: Luther’s break with the Catholic Church was caused by a document he wrote called “The Protest.” His group were soon called Protestants, along with others, such as the Church of England who left in the same time frame. Basically we are talking about all the mainstream Christian denominations. By extension, today all non-catholic (or orthodox) Christians are lumped together as “Protestants”, and indeed most of them are still protesting against the authority of the Holy See.


#5

You make it sound like every Protestant group is isolated and not in Fellowship with each other. This is simply not true. I fail to see how this verse is applicable to Protestantism, since we are not devided against each other. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

~mango~


#6

The word “Protestant” comes from the word “protest.” That ought to tell you something!

All Protestant churches accept the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura,” the Bible as the SOLE source of authority for believers. Although Protestants voluntarily submit to denominational and pastoral authorities and written statements of faith, they all believe that if these human things (pastors, statements of faith) etc. are in conflict with the Bible (or if they perceive that there is a conflict!), they are free to leave that church and seek another with no danger of loss of salvation.

All of the things that the Catholic/Orthodox church believes (True Presence, Marian doctrines, Communion of saints, etc.) you can probably find a Protestant denomination that will accept these doctrines, or at least some of the doctrines.

But you will never find a Protestant church that accepts the Authority of the Pope, the Magisterium, or Sacred Tradition. This is THE difference between Protestants and Catholics/Orthodox.

Also, it will help you in your discussions with Protestants if you are aware that there is a LOT of serious objection among Protestants to the incredibly large numbers (33,000) of denominations that Catholics claim. At least one Protestant extra-church organization has broken it down into about 80 denominations. Another claims about 350 denominations.

The problem arises from the “non-denominational,” “free,” and “home” churches, which each have their own statement of faith. To the Catholics who claim such large numbers of denominations, each of these churches is a separate denomination. But Protestants protest vehemently against this definition of a denomination, with good reason. Many of the home churches especially only include a few members, perhaps just one family. So to call them a separate denomination is kind of stretching it.

I would say that “non-denominational Protestant” should be just one denomination, even though they all have slight differences in what they believe. But for the most part, most non-denoms fit in with some established denomination; the people who belong to the non-denom just want to be free of any central authority (often so they can keep their pastors and their money in their own church instead of seeing them/it sent to an organization across the country or world).

So be careful about the large numbers. It suffices that there are at least 80 denominations, which is still an awful lot of “true churches.”

One more thing: to the Protestant, the large numbers of denominations is not bad, but good. They believe that it is through denominations that God works in individuals; after all, not everyone is cut out to be a Catholic or a Lutheran or a COGIC. We have a choice of denominations to help us find OUR place in God’s Church, the place where we can learn the most and serve the most. So if you try to argue that splitting into denominations is a bad thing, most Protestants will disagree with you. Just a friendly warning!

Also, Protestants do not see “the Church” as having anything to do with their salvation or their relationship to Jesus. The church is just the place to go for fellowship and teaching. It’s your “Christian family,” although in recent years, with the rise of “small groups,” the Protestant churches are even getting away from the idea of “church family” and thinking more in terms of “needs-based churches for individuals.” And although some of the mainline Protestants have some of the sacraments (Communion, Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing with oil for healing), they do not feel that these Sacraments are vital for our salvation and our sanctification, as Catholics do. Keep all this in mind when you talk to Protestants. The very idea of a “mother” church is totally foreign, even idolatrous, to Protestants.
I am a recent convert to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism, BTW.


#7

It would be a lot of “true churches”.

Good thing none of them claim to be a “true church”. Therein lies one of the difficulties between Roman Catholics and Protestants. You definate the “true church” as the Roman Catholic Church. We define it as all believers, united in Christ.

~mango~


#8

Hi:

I have heard Orthodox say Roman Catholics were the very first Protestants since the Roman see separated itself from the “Church” due to papal claims in 1054. As far as the “other” Protestants …they are just fruits on the tree, a natural consequence of the scism.

That is the problem with definitions sometimes, they depend on perspective.

Blessings

Serafin


#9

Would someone confirm or deny for me the following definition I have read of the foundation of the word ‘protestant’?

The word comes from the Latin pro testare,’ to testify’. Is this correct or incorrect?

If correct, has the word come to mean something else to both Catholics and Protestants in the intervening time since the Reformation? Also another thought, could Protestants today define themselves differently using that word, than Catholics possibly might define them?

ISTM it helps to be on the same page with definitions (and the right of someone to define themselves rather than to be defined by someone else—works both ways it seems). There is usually much misunderstanding and talking past each other if the terms are not understood in the same way by both parties in a discussion.


#10

[quote=mango_2003]You make it sound like every Protestant group is isolated and not in Fellowship with each other. This is simply not true. I fail to see how this verse is applicable to Protestantism, since we are not devided against each other. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

~mango~
[/quote]

Gods peace be with you Theopihlus mango,:yup:

Good to see you again. You have a very good point and I am glad we have people like you around to help keep us on our toes and to keep our words clear. Thanks for your input.:thumbsup:

You are actually right, not every Protestant is out to get the others. Praise God! That’s good too and shows that we recognize each other as good Christians even though we agree to disagree. However, I came from the Fundamentalist Baptist church and let me assure you I have heard more then one preacher say ‘from the pulpit’ if you didn’t believe his interpretation you had a one way ticket to Gahanna and the Catholics were already there waiting! They ‘saved’ and converted anybody not in their church or in their denomination. I’m not saying all Baptists are like that because its impossible to group all Baptists since they are ultimately independent of each other and often different. They thought many Protestants as evil as the Mormons and Catholics and JW’s, etc…:eek:

The Lutherans I worshiped with were never this drastic to fellow Protestants but mention a Catholic and guess what? It was open season to ‘save’ the Catholic. Not as much zeal as the Baptists but the effort was still there. By the way, I loved the Lutheran church when I was attending it. GR8 Christians and good people. Of course I would never go back to it now except in brotherly love, but never as a Lutheran.

Example, Jack Chick? Read his bigoted errant hate filled tracts? Many Baptists buy his tracts like there is no tomorrow! Like a kid in a candy factory. Many other Protestants buy his tracts too.:tsktsk:

catholic.com/library/sr_chick_tracts.asp
chick.com/default.asp

Praise God not all ‘Christians’ are bigots like some individuals. We should love one another just like God told us to in Corinthians! I praise God every time I see Christians like you with that love in their heart!:love:

Malachi4U


#11

[quote=Malachi4U]Gods peace be with you Theopihlus mango,:yup:

Good to see you again. You have a very good point and I am glad we have people like you around to help keep us on our toes and to keep our words clear. Thanks for your input.:thumbsup:

[/quote]

Thank you very much! I appreciate it! I love that we can have civil conversation…it’s great!

I agree with MUCH of what you said…close to all in fact. It’s too bad that we all can’t just get along, huh!
I’m not naive though…I do understand that it’s a little bit deeper than that.

I’m sorry that you’ve heard that from a Baptist pulpit. I am very unfamiliar with the Baptists and their theology and beliefs, so I’m afraid that I cannot comment. I can comment on the experiences that I have, and it seems to me that most Protestant denoms. get along quite nicely. They are always in good fellowship.

Now as for the bridge…it’s too bad that so many Protestants show the emotion of looking at Roman Catholics like the have cooties or something. It’s rediculous. On the other hand, there are some important differences that must be addressed. I’ll be the first to admit…I don’t get you guys and gals sometimes, but I find your denom. very interesting. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had the same view point?:bounce: :smiley: :thumbsup:

~mango~


#12

I equate Protestants to cafeteria Catholics. They too pick and choose what they believe as true.


#13

True. Also, most cafeteria Catholics, like all Protestants, reject the authority of the Pope.


#14

Great points from all of you!:yup:

Malachi4U


#15

I’ve been a Christian for almost 20 years. Began in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, passed through various non-denominational churches, ending up at a (theologically-sound) Evangelical (non-denom) church. We are currently in RCIA, excited to be joining the One True Church. Personally, I see the Protestant Churches as, well, protesters AGAINST something. They are NOT Catholic, ie, define themselves by what they are NOT.

This, friends, is not enough. I saw ‘theology by committee’ (esp in the Episcopal Church, which is tanking quickly, as it should…) and such a dependence on literal Scripture as would take your breath away. There can be, as well, the most powerful preaching and conservative Bible-based teaching. I know the Bible inside and out, for which I am so grateful, and I know the Lord in a way that I do not see in many Catholics in our parish. (Granted, it is the LA Diocese).

What is lacking is – the Creeds (which seem to be replaced by a light-weight Mission Statement), the Eucharist (grape juice and crackers, a remembrance, 3x a year), any sense of history before 1500. To me, the Protestant Churches have cut loose of the very foundation that kept them anchored.

There are some wonderful Protestant churches out there, don’t get me wrong. But, to me, they are missing the essence of Christianity.

I heard a pastor once say, “I would love to see the wonderful worship of the Pentecostal Church, the powerful Biblical preaching of the Evangelicals and the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church. To me, this would be heaven on earth.”


#16

:All Protestant churches accept the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura,” the Bible as the SOLE source of authority for believers.:

This is false. For one thing, not all definitions of sola scriptura would say that the Bible is the sole source of authority–more generally, it would be defined as saying that the Bible is the sole infallible source of authority, or the sole source of divine revelation, or something like that. And many Methodists and Anglicans would flatly deny that they believe in sola scriptura. We Anglicans (and by extension also Methodists) do believe in the “formal sufficiency” of Scripture, so if that counts as sola scriptura then we believe it. The thing is that many Catholics also teach formal sufficiency and distinguish it from “sola scriptura.”

: Although Protestants voluntarily submit to denominational and pastoral authorities and written statements of faith, they all believe that if these human things (pastors, statements of faith) etc. are in conflict with the Bible (or if they perceive that there is a conflict!), they are free to leave that church and seek another with no danger of loss of salvation.:

Not all Protestants would take it quite that glibly.

:One more thing: to the Protestant, the large numbers of denominations is not bad, but good.:

Again, that is definitly not true of all Protestants.

:Also, Protestants do not see “the Church” as having anything to do with their salvation or their relationship to Jesus.:

Also not true of more traditional Protestants.

:And although some of the mainline Protestants have some of the sacraments:

No, practically all Protestants have two sacraments, although the more radical Protestants may not call them sacraments. What Protestants are you thinking of who don’t have sacraments? Quakers? Salvation Army?

: (Communion, Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing with oil for healing), they do not feel that these Sacraments are vital for our salvation and our sanctification, as Catholics do.:

Not true of the “more mainline Protestants,” to use your terminology. At least, it isn’t true of Anglicans, Lutherans, or many Methodists. The Reformed might cavil a bit at saying the Sacraments are vital, but the more traditional ones would in fact believe that in the sense Catholics do (i.e., that they are the normal means of grace)–they tend to be paranoid about a “magical” understanding of the sacraments that in fact no church officially teaches.

: Keep all this in mind when you talk to Protestants. The very idea of a “mother” church is totally foreign, even idolatrous, to Protestants.:

Yet again, this is only true of some Protestants. Calvin, for instance, spoke of the Church (the visible Church) as our mother, outside of whom there is no salvation.

As for the general definition of Protestant, I would say that a Protestant church is any church that separated from the Western Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation (Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed, and Anabaptists), split away from such a church later (Baptists, Methodists, Restorationists, Pentecostals, and a host of others), or came under formative influence from a church that was Protestant in one of the first two senses (Hussites, Waldensians, and various Eastern European groups, though possibly we could count the Hussites/Moravians as Protestants in their own right). Another way of putting this is that all Western Christians who are not in communion with Rome and are not some kind of “Old Catholic” or schismatic traditionalist group are Protestants. By this definition, being Protestant does not involve any specific doctrinal commitments, though sola scriptura in some form, and less universally some form of sola fide, are pretty constant throughout.

In Christ,

Edwin


#17

A Protestant is a protester, and it’s a negative word, Catholic is a positive word, Universal.

Are they still in protest ? (phew) that sure is a long protest :stuck_out_tongue:


#18

[quote=hawkeye]A Protestant is a protester, and it’s a negative word, Catholic is a positive word, Universal.

Are they still in protest ? (phew) that sure is a long protest :stuck_out_tongue:
[/quote]

It seems to us, the thousands of denominations out there really have little in common. With every disagreement, a new denomination is founded. Really chaotic. If anything, the fact that they are “non-Catholic”, a “protester”, like you said, is what’s in common witht them. The Church they are protesting against is the one that holds their unity, pretty ironic, eh?


#19

[quote=mrS4ntA]It seems to us, the thousands of denominations out there really have little in common. With every disagreement, a new denomination is founded. Really chaotic. If anything, the fact that they are “non-Catholic”, a “protester”, like you said, is what’s in common witht them. The Church they are protesting against is the one that holds their unity, pretty ironic, eh?
[/quote]

Cheers thanks for the moral support :thumbsup:


#20

Contarini,

I go along with the corrections made to my description of Protestants. My descriptions were generalizations." There are always exceptions.


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