Where to start with non-Catholic Christians


What do you think is the best starting point when debating with non-Catholics. Sola-scriptura? Tradition? The Eucharist? What lays the best foundation for teaching about other Catholic beliefs?


I wouldn’t start anything. If they have objections, answer them.:slight_smile: Just my opinion.


I think it’s important to not always be on the defensive, to bring your own questions to the table. I don’t necessarily want to wait for my protestant friends to ask questions. I want to ask my own and bring up my own issues in order to get a dialog going. :yup:



[quote=MooCowSteph]What do you think is the best starting point when debating with non-Catholics. Sola-scriptura? Tradition? The Eucharist? What lays the best foundation for teaching about other Catholic beliefs?

A piece of advice from a Protestant who is slowly being drawn to the Church: start with the doctrines of the earliest church fathers, and show them to be Catholic, especially that of the Eucharist. The works of Ignatius and Justin Martyr are excellent starting points. It isn’t necessary to attack sola scriptura outright, just show them that the Fathers were teaching essentially Catholic doctrine prior to the canonization of the New Testament, and that they continued to teach essentially Catholic doctrine after the canon was defined.

It was questions about the nature of the Eucharist that set me on my search, since I come from a background that values it highly, albeit merely as a symbol. When I saw the witnesses of Justin Martyr, Cyril, Chrysostom, Augustine, and others as all having a unified viewpoint on the Real Presence, it caused me to question the veracity of the other doctrines that I held dear. I truly believe that, to quote John Cardinal Newman, “to be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

By starting with the Eucharist, you start with something that the typical Protestant has not typically thought about in depth doctrinally, other than an offhand rejection of Catholic doctrine as “unscriptural”. If you can prove yourself to be historically and theologically sound on this point, it will do volumes for your credibility in their eyes.


I am in a similar situation as Deus Solus. I would just add that starting with points of convergence is helpful, it gives common ground for dialogue. I would also suggest not condemning what another believes. For example, when a Catholic condemns Lutheranism, or calls Luther a heretic, it raises defensive feelings in me. Rather, tell me what you believe, and let me try to understand.

Just my thoughts


Sola Scriptura is the fundamental error of post reformation n-Cs, but you have to approach it right to get the dialog going.

One thing that I have recently discovered that I think makes a good beginning point is this article by Jimmy Akin.
That distinction could well be the key to a better discussion. MATERIAL AND FORMAL SUFFICIENCY [/FONT]

MANY Protestants, including James White, have difficulty understanding the Catholic distinction between the material and the formal sufficiency of Scripture. For Scripture to be materially sufficient, it would have to contain or imply all that is needed for salvation. For it to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all of this data, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it.

Protestants call the idea that Scripture is clear the perspicuity

of Scripture. Their doctrine of sola scriptura combines the perspicuity of Scripture with the claim that Scripture contains all the theological data we need.


I guess you start where they are now. What are their issues? What is their background? What misconceptions do they have about Catholics and Catholic belief and practices? I can tell you the general order of topics we introduce in the inquiry period, first few weeks of RCIA: faith, what Catholics believe – intro to apostle’s creed and brief explanation of what is implied in each section. Mass. Saints and Mary, the bible, how the Catholic Church interprets the Bible, Catholics and the Church, who’s who in the church, church tour, Catholic prayer (rosary and other prayers and devotions), Catholic practices (liturgical year, customs).


I would most certainly start with authority, because this is from where all points of contention between Catholics and Protestants arise.


Excellent post!

I think we must distinguish between those attacking the Church, and those genuinely seeking information. For the former, address their objections and **don’t let them change the subject **-- which is their standard tactic when losing.

For the latter, start with the Apostle’s Creed.


If you want to lay the best foundation, then you should make sure to let them know about the other, non-polemical parts of your faith life.

Most non-Catholics have met one or more Catholics who are unacquainted with Scripture and who seem allergic to personal prayer (fortunately for me I also know a number of Catholics who have a great devotional love for the Scripture and wonderful prayer lives, so I was able to see both ends of the spectrum).

Reading through the Bible Study thread on the Gospel of John, rather ably led by Church Militant, has given me a different perspective on a number of posters here when they don’t have their “game face” on for dealing with non-Catholics.

Beyond that, I would say do lots of active listening and rephrasing to ensure you are understanding and being understood. I’ve found here that their is a good deal of misunderstanding on both sides of contentious issues as they are talking past each other, trying to address the points they feel they have the best answers for. Don’t be one of of those people if you can avoid it.

Beyond that, try to ascertain the most important things about the faith to them and see if you can “add value” to what they believe by showing them the Catholic perspective-they may accept your point or if they don’t it will be likely to get your debate off to a much more pleasant start. :slight_smile:


Tradition. It makes sense.


Bingo. ECFs are what turned me around.


The title should surely be Protestants.

Christians of the different Eastern Churches would largely agree on the above issues. So with them either start with the Pope if they are interested in the Catholic Church or if not, leave them be as they have valid Sacraments, and let the Ecumenical movement be the driving force there.


I agree completly!! As a new one year old Catholic it was the early church fathers and the agreement on the teaching on the real presence is what convinced me!!


I wouldn’t necessarily go on the offensive if they have not attacked you. Love is the greatest evangelizer. The primary basis of all Catholic Doctrine is LOVE. God is Love. Proclaimed twice in the first Catholic Epistle of St. John. “On this, all depends”, to quote Yoda.

Love is basis of all things, love is the reason for all existence. It was by love and for love that we were created. This must be emphasized at all times.

Also, a very important concession must always be made with antagonistic Protestants: the fullness of truth and grace is only AVAILABLE within the confines of Catholicism, but it is absolutely NOT true that all Catholics are subjectively holier than all non-Catholics. You must be prepared to admit that modern evangelicals in this country put to despicable shame the USA Catholic Church. The general 80% of Catholics in this country are virtually clueless of their religion and live like pagans. Hence, you must concede that whereas Catholicism has the fullness of truth and grace available within her, by no means does this guarantee that the sacraments shall be efficacious. With adult recipients, there are always required DISPOSITIONS necessary in order for the sacrament to be FRUITFUL (that is, to convey grace.)

For further commentary, you might read this, from my website:

Protestants can be Holier

I wish you blessings in your endeavor to share our faith.



Start with much prayer.

Then make sure discussions are based with love for the person you are talking to and not with a desire to show you are better.

Then show them that your desire is to serve God first no matter what.

From there other issues will present themselves without you having to decide in advance where to start. Be prepared for any question and show you know your own faith.


Oh, yes, you said it, I forgot the most important thing: Love necessarily takes action, and we MUST pray, the CCC indicates “prayer is necessary for salvation.” The Rosary is the most powerful weapon, second only to the Mass. If you don’t have time for daily Mass, say the daily Rosary. Praying the Rosary is the way to heaven. It is a great sign of predestination, for through it, we grow in great intimacy with the Virgin and Christ, as we contemplate the glorious virtues they lived out in events of our Salvation.

God Bless you for saying what I forgot, and what is one of the most important things, Syele.

In Her Love,


Oops, Syele, I didn’t realize you are not Catholic. Sorry. :o



No worries, :smiley: us protestants believe prayer is necessary for salvation too.


Curiously, as a Lutheran, I have prayed a good portion of the Rosary. The invocation, Apostles Creed, Our Father, first part of the Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father. Once one gets past the notion that repeated prayers are somehow unscriptural, it is a great aid in prayer.

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