The Christian Church is a weird beast… and that’s just for those within it.
I’m sure HNAC Alison, if she ever cared to think about it, would wonder why there were so many different types of Christian Churches and why they weren’t all on the same page – perhaps literally – when it came to The Bible.
I’m well aware of the mysterious nature of the Church to those who are outside of it. I can recall being in an English class with a practicum teacher who was leading the students through a lesson on a novel set in Ireland. The novel, unsurprisingly, explored conflict between Catholics and Protestants. One year nine student asked the practicum teacher what was going on with this:
“Aren’t they all Christians?” he said, “Why are they fighting with each other?
“I don’t know,” replied the practicum teacher. “Yeah. It’s really weird.”
Now obviously, I’m not condoning doing absolutely zero research on the book you are currently teaching. However, it was crystal clear. Even the biggest difference within the Christian church – that of Protestants and Catholics – was a COMPLETE unknown for someone who would soon have a university education.
And sure, if you’re not in the Church scene, classifications like protestant, catholic, evangelical, liberal, Pentecostal…. and so on, probably aren’t going to be that meaningful to you.
Over the coming posts, I’ll explore various denominations within both the Catholic and Protestant Church, because even after this major difference there are plenty of others.
But what’s the difference between Protestants and Catholics? Martin Luther is our key man here.
A German monk (1483-1546), he made a vow to join the monastic orders when he was trapped in a violent storm. He basically asked God to look after him and that if God did, he’d sign on the Church’s dotted line. So he became a monk and as well as the usual deal with monk life, he began to study theology and did so, rather well.
After a while though, Luther started to become significantly concerned with the goings on within the Catholic Church. These goings on could be summarised as spiritual abuse combined with ripping people off.
The Catholic Church were selling people indulgences, which was basically a letter that you paid for, that said your sins were forgiven. This of course was quite a good thing if you were the Pope of the day and needing some money to build yourself the Basilica of St Peter’s. Right?
Luther became righteously displeased and apparently his comparison of what the Catholic Church was doing with indulgences and what he read in The Bible led him to a new understanding of the means of salvation.
THIS is THE key difference that you need to understand.
There is plenty more I could say when exploring Luther’s life, history and legacy… but I won’t. The main take home point is this:
In the Catholic Church, tradition, rituals and the Church itself are crucial when considering the route to salvation. Additionally, the Confessional Booth and First Communion is of significance along with other sacraments.
In Protestantism these things either don’t exist or pale into insignificance when compared to Jesus, who is considered the only means of salvation.
And that my friends, is the shortest explanation of the theological differences between the two major groups within the Christian Church that you will ever see.
It doesn’t in any way do justice to either. Nor does it explore the differences found within their respective denominations. Stay tuned…
Yours in Protestantism,
Image Credit: Image from Wikipedia Commons