My family has been Protestant since the Reformation, but now I've considered leaving the Protestant Church. My cousin has left the Protestant church for Catholicism, and from what I've heard about from him, it seems like a step in the right direction. My friends say its pretty much the same, but my dad says it isn't. What are the differences and what are the basic beliefs of the Catholic church?
Welcome in the name of Jesus. This is a challenging question because there are so many differences. Your friend was wrong and your dad is correct. The differences between Catholics and Protestants are major and awesome. Let us start with a passage which was written by the Apostle Paul.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (NASB) 1 Tim. 4:1-3
Paul makes it clear that the Catholic teaching of celibacy for priests is false teaching. Today, no man can be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church unless he takes a vow to be celibate. Roman Catholics have also taught that the faithful should not eat certain foods on Friday. While these may seem not to be very important, they are violations of God’s principles.
More Serious – Salvation
The Roman Catholic Church states that those who “have already been baptized are already Christians.” This is not true according to God. A person does not become a Christian by being immersed into water or by being sprinkled with water, but by trusting Jesus Christ to forgive his/her sins. That is the message of the following passage,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (NASB) Eph. 2:8-9
The verse is very clear. A person is saved – becomes a Christian – by faith or believing in Christ and not by doing something such as baptism. Then in 1 Corinthians 15 we see the same point again,
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (NASB) 1Cor. 15:1-2
Notice the last phrase “believed in vain” tells us that what you believe determines everything and not a physical act such as baptism. The Roman Catholic Church teaches heresy.
More Serious – Mary
The Roman Catholic Church also worships Jesus’ mother Mary. This is very serious since they treat her as divine, and pray to her. Jesus’ Apostles never encourage us anywhere in the New Testament to worship or pray to Mary. Catholic teachings also assert that Mary was always been a virgin, but Matthew 13:55-56 names His brothers and refers to His sisters. These are false teachings. It is important to note that the last time Mary is mentioned in the Bible is Acts 1:14. The Roman Catholic Church derives their teaching about Mary from books that were not written by God. They refer to the teachings of some of the early church fathers, but doctrine is based on scripture and not the writings of men. Mary is a major part of the Roman Catholic Church church.
The Roman Catholic Church has its roots in the mystery religions of Babylon, Egyptian, Phoenician, Roman and Greek pagan religions. Those religions used holy water, had priests in long robes, used various sacraments, avoided certain foods, prayed using strings of beads, practiced priestly absolution, and baptized infants. In the mystery religions of Rome and Greece, the high priest wore a crown with the title Pontifex Maximus. It is the same title that appeared on the crowns of the Roman Caesars, and the pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Many of Roman Catholism’s teachings are false. Your Dad is correct. May we encourage you to discover the beauty of Jesus and grow in your faith. We would encourage you to read Searching for God, God’s Great Passion and study the lessons called Solid Roots.