What’s The Difference Between Protestants & Catholics?

When I tell non-Christians that I am a Christian, they often have very little working knowledge of what that actually means. I write this blog because I have encountered a vast amount of people who confuse Protestants with Catholics. Naturally, people are very confused when I tell them that I am going to be a pastor someday & what that actually means. I hope to write this in such a way that is easy to understand for any reader. For the sake of length, I will only include some of the major differences between Protestants & Catholics.

While Protestants & Catholics agree on many things, there are a number of areas that Protestants & Catholics differ greatly. Much of these differences sprang from the work that came out of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s.

Catholics – The Bible & church tradition have authority over what is true
Protestants – Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura) is the authority over the church

Catholics – Baptism does save you. It makes you a member of the church & babies can/should be baptized
Protestants – Baptism does not save you. Most Protestants believe that baptism is reserved for one who is old enough to make a conscious decision to be baptized

Catholics – Their Bible (Apocrypha) includes extra books not found in the Christian Bible
Christians – Excludes the extra books included in the Apocrypha

Catholics – The bread and wine turns into the actual body/blood of Jesus when it slides down your throat (big word = Transubstantiation)
Protestants – The bread and wine/juice are symbolic of Jesus’ body/blood and not the actual body/blood in your body

Catholics – Required to go to a confession booth and confess their sins to a priest. He will tell them what they can do to make up for their sins & they will be forgiven
Christians – Confess our sins to Jesus only through prayer. Not required to confess sins to a pastor

Catholics – The pope is the head of the church and he has authority to change certain views of the church
Protestants – The pope has no authority over the church. There is no single human person who is the head of the Christian church (other than Jesus Himself)

Catholics – People must pray a certain amount of “hail Mary’s” on their rosary beads to make up for their sins. People can pray to God, the Virgin Mary, the saints (i.e. the saint of lost items to help them find their keys)
Protestants – Prayer is to God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus. Prayer cannot be made to Virgin Mary or saints

Priests & Pastors:
Catholics – Priests. Often referred to as “Father ____” and wear a white collar on a black shirt or some sort of long robe
Protestants – Pastors. No official title such as “Father” and no formal uniform required (i.e. white collar, suit, or robe)

Catholics – Certain men from history can be made saints based on how they lived their lives. There are saints for certain things (i.e. saint of travel or lost items, etc.) As previously mentioned, people can pray to these saints for help. The pope is the one who decides that a person becomes a saint
Protestants – There are holy men throughout history; however, these men are not saints. No mention of “St. Paul” or “St. Peter” etc.

Catholics – People are saved by their good works & baptism
Protestants – People are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, not by good works. No amount of good works can save a person. People are not saved at baptism

Virgin Mary:
Catholics – The mother of Jesus stayed a virgin forever. She should be worshiped and prayed to
Protestants – Mary had other children and did not stay a virgin. She should not be forgotten, but she should not be worshiped or prayed to. She is a great example of faith, but not the object of faith

I hope this is easy to read and helps you understand the major differences between Protestants & Catholics.

God Bless,
Tyson Bradley