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Unity or Heresy, Part 2 – Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic v. Protestant

2 Peter 2:1-3 – But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep

There are many areas in which Catholic and Protestant Christianity differ.  While over the years there have been a lot of people who have tried to bring the two groups together, the fact remains that they are very different translations on Christianity as a whole.

Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity in the world today.  Over 33% of the world is Christian, with 17% of that number coming from Catholics.  To begin, I would like to offer a chart that shows some of the differences between Catholic and Protestant Christianity.

Topic

Catholic

Protestant

Concept of Trinity

Believes the Trinity is God:  Father, Son & Holy Spirit

Believes the Trinity is God:  Father, Son & Holy Spirit

Bible

Contains 7 more books than Protestant Bible.  Includes: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, and additions to Daniel and Esther.  The NT is the same as the Protestant NT.

The Old Testament contains the same information but formatted differently.  While in the Hebrew Bible there are 24 books in the OT, there are 39 in the Protestant version, although they have exactly the same information.  The NT is the exact same as the Catholic NT

Birth of Jesus

Virgin Birth

Virgin Birth

Death of Jesus

By Crucifixion

By Crucifixion

Savior

Jesus Christ alone

Jesus Christ alone

Resurrection of Jesus

TRUE

TRUE

Confession of Sins

To God, through priests and Jesus.

To God through Jesus alone.

Second Coming of Christ

TRUE

TRUE

Salvation

Gained at baptism but may be lost by sin.  Regained through faith and penance.  Must believe Jesus is the only son of God, confess sins, have a relationship with Christ, do good works, take the 7 sacraments, and take part in Holy Mass

Faith in Christ alone brings salvation as He paid the penalty for our sins.

Jesus

Jesus is consubstantial to the Father, meaning that they are one and the same and that the Word became flesh and walked among us.

Jesus is consubstantial to the Father, meaning that they are one and the same and that the Word became flesh and walked among us.

Women

Not allowed to become priests or higher but may become nuns.

Usually not permitted to be leaders in the church, but that is debated among many different protestant denominations.

Moral Law

The Bible and Catechisms, which only the Pope may alter.

The Bible alone is what verifies all things.

Mary

Favored among women.  Chosen by God as the mother of Jesus.  She is considered holy and thus can be an intercessor to God and prayed to.

Favored among women, but otherwise simply another human woman.

View of Protestantism/Catholicism

Protestant denominations cannot be consdiered real churches.  Because they do not have the same structure of the Catholic church, they cannot be descendent of the Apostles of Christ

Protestantism is how the church was originally established.  Catholicism became corrupt with establishment of Papl Infallibility.  God reveals Himself through Scripture and prayer, not tradition.

View of the Pope

Infallible, not possible to err during his time as Pope

Denied as authority

Life After Death

Eternal Salvation in heaven, eternal damnation in hell.  A temporary third palce known as purgatory.

Faith in Jesus leads to paradise, faith in self alone leads to damnation.

Praying to Saints, Mary, Angels

All can be used as intercessors, but all prayer must end with “but only God’s will be done.”

The only intercessor is Jesus, no one else.

Goals

(taken from Pope Francis) A church for the poor, that doesn’t judge, a feminie church, a radical church, a church that works for peace and the environment, and a reformed church.

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Homosexuality

Not allowed in leadership roles in the church

Debated, but generally not allowed in leadership roles in the church.

Preaching the Gospel

Looking at Pope Francis’ goals, there was little, if any, Gospel message listed.

Different among different denominations.  Some preach it heavily, others not so much.

Missions Work

Very significant work in missions

Growing, but still a very small percentage of churches support missions.

Marketplace

Variable.  Some with small money-generating programs such as coffee bars or bookstores.  Most are at or below cost to produce and support outside evangelism.

Variable.  Some are extravagant and used as a means to fund the church operating budget and others are smaller or used to fund a ministry.

Biblical Truths

The Bible has been superseded by Papal Infallibility and other Apostolic Constitutions.

Variable with regard to degree at which it is preached, but all Bible is infallible and inerrant.

Discipleship

Required for Catholics

Completely voluntary.

Growth

Down .5% between 2011 and 2012.

Down 1.5% between 2011 and 2012

So let’s look at the Roman Catholic Church a little more up close, as it is probably the most different to all of the other churches I will discuss over the next 10 weeks.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

As you can see in the chart above, there are some definite apostasies that are happening in the Roman Catholic Church.  To get to the bottom of some of these, let’s look a little at the history of the church.

The Catholic Church started when the original Christian movement began after the death of Christ.  Eventually, the first Pope took office, traced to the Apostle Peter.  The Pope is considered a direct successor to Peter.  By about 450, Pope Leo was seen as the first universal Pope of the church and created the unique Roman Catholic structure.  By 451, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox church separated institutionally.  By 1054, the Great Schism occurred which caused the largest division in Christianity, based around the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.  In the 16th Century, the Protestant Reformation occurred.  This is actually the first instance of the term Roman Catholic Church in use during the Council of Trent in 1545-1563.

During much of this time, various additions to the church’s beliefs were instituted.  During some of the early Councils, a focus on tradition was incorporated with a desire to fight back against modernism.  Another view is that only the Catholic Church is the one, true church.  Pope Benedict in 2007 claimed that Protestant churches are not “true churches.”  Another apostate view is that of Papal Infallibility.  In 1870, the First Vatican Council claimed in their Dogmatic Constitution on the Church that the Pope was infallible, as Jesus had made Peter in His promise in Scripture.

Clearly there are many apostate views in the Roman Catholic Church.  There is the addition of the 7 books of the Apocrypha, to me, while adding to the Scriptures of the Protestant Bible, is acceptable as many modern theologians, Protestant and Catholic alike, utilize these in their teachings.  But there are many other pieces that just don’t fit Scripture and I would love to hear a Catholic priest (or maybe even the Pope…now that would be cool if he replied to my blog!) refute.

First, there is the confessing of sins to a priest as mediator.  Jesus alone is our mediator.  Second, that one can lose his salvation through sin.  Third, requirement of good works, the sacraments, and take part in Holy Mass to have salvation.  Fourth that moral law can be allowed to be different from Biblical standard if the Pope says so.  Fifth that Mary is considered holy.  Mary is clearly a simple human whom God used in a very big way, but that does not make her divine in any stretch of the imagination.  Sixth, that the Pope is infallible.  The Pope is a man.  He has the same Adamic fall from grace that we do.  Seventh, the concept of purgatory.  Eighth, I am concerned with the direction away from the Gospel that Francis has gone in his latest speech.  He is giving a social gospel, one to fix the worlds ills through the Catholic Church, not through Jesus Christ.

My bottom line for the Roman Catholic Church is that I would not want anyone being deceived by this church.  This, to me, is clearly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It is easy to see why such significant schisms and reformations have happened as there is plenty of issue with the Roman Catholic view.

Galatians 1:7 – Not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

That leads to my next denomination, the Eastern Orthodox Church.  To the guy on the street, there isn’t a lot different between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic.  The word “orthodox” means “right believing.”  This word is used to show that this is the true religion that dates back to the first 10 centuries of Christianity and the first 7 ecumenical councils. This church claims to have preserved the original church traditions and doctrines adopted by the apostles.

The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church split during what is called the East-West Schism that started around 180 AD and culminated in the terminal event of the excommunication of the Eastern Orthodox leader and the Roman Catholic leader from each others’ cardinal cities.

While there are very similar practices between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, the two do have some very big differences.  First, the Roman Catholic Church decided to deviate from the original 7 ecumenical councils.  The Eastern Orthodox Church decided not to.  The next big difference is what may seem to be simply a wording difference.  In what is known as the Filloque Controversy, the Roman Catholic Church added “and from the Son” to the Nicene Creed.  The Eastern Orthodox Church, not believing any of the original decisions of the ecumenical councils should be changed, challenged this.  Not only because of the wording, but because of what the wording does to the creed.  The Roman Catholic Church added “and from the Son” to emphasize the divinity of Christ.  Up to this point, the majority of the teachings on Christ were centered around His humanity, and the Roman Catholic Church wanted to ensure Christ’s divinity in the creed.  But the Eastern Orthodox Church believes that the Father is the godhead of the Trinity and that both the Son and the Spirit were begotten from the Father.   One more difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is that Orthodox do not believe in the Immaculate Conception.  This is the view that Mary, once the Spirit filled her womb with Jesus, because free from original sin.  This is a view that Orthodoxy and Protestantism deny.

Looking at the differences between Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism, the first is one of the same complaints that Protestants have with the Roman Catholic Church.  Protestants clearly believe sola Scriptura.  This means that the Word of God can be clearly understood by the individual believer and is sufficient in and of itself to be the final authority in doctrine.  Eastern Orthodox (and Roman Catholic as well) believe that both Scripture and tradition should hold equal weight when determining doctrine.

Another point that orthodoxy holds is a very eastern view of truth.  Truth is to be experienced and, therefore, less emphasis is put on precise definitions.  The Eastern view is one geared toward mysticism and philosophy while the Western church is guided by practicality and legality.

A major point that differs between Protestant and Orthodox churches (and Roman Catholic as well) is the views on the sacraments. Baptism is the initiator of salvation according to Eastern Orthodox, whereas in the Protestant church it is an outward symbol of what the Spirit has already accomplished inside of you.  Next, during the communion, the Orthodox Church believes (as does the Roman Catholic Church) that the wafer and wine mystically transform into the body and blood of Christ once inside you while the Protestant church believes, again, this is a symbolic meal.

Also like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church practices the veneration of the saints and statues.  Reverence is to be directed toward the person they represent, not the icon itself.  This is very different from the Protestant church in that the only holy symbols traditionally are the cross in its many forms.

Finally, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices theosis or divinization, which is the gradual becoming more and more like Christ.  Unfortunately, the Eastern Orthodox Church views this divinization as a requirement for salvation.  The concept of justification by faith is pretty much non-existent.

So where does this leave me with Eastern Orthodox?  Again, I feel this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  While I applaud the church for trying to stay true to the first century church, the fact remains that there are many points that Eastern Orthodoxy is filled with heresy.  The following are a list of practices that run counter to Scripture that are found in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

  • Equal authority between Scripture and tradition
  • Discouraging individuals from translating the Bible apart from tradition
  • The perpetual virginity of Mary, meaning she was a virgin all of her life (this is counter to Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, John 7:3, Acts 1:14, and 1 Corinthians 9:5)
  • The possibility of receiving salvation after death
  • The possibility of losing salvation

While there have been many throughout history that were great theologians and teachers from the Eastern Orthodox Church, the church itself does not give a clear message that can be harmonized with Scripture.  Sola Scriptura is missing from their views and that is too precious to leave behind.

1 Corinthians 4:6 – Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

Next week I will look at many of the cultic Christian or pseudo-Christian denominations.

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3 thoughts on “Unity or Heresy, Part 2 – Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic v. Protestant

  1. Wow, very powerful comparisons! Thank you for sharing their discrepancies with scripture and highlighting things I never knew about them. I knew you’d do a great job breaking them down!

  2. Randy Harrison on said:

    Well done, my friend. I need to have Jean read this!

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