Monday 23 January 2017

What is the essential difference between Catholic and Protestant Christianity?

Catholics believe that the church (e.g. its priests, its sacraments) is essential to salvation. Protestants believe that the essential relationship is between each Man and God - the church being variously more or less helpful; but not absolutely necessary to salvation.

I think this is the nub of the disagreement. When stated thus baldly I find I do not believe the church is essential to salvation. So I suppose I am 'a Protestant', by the above definition.

Why? Because I honestly cannot (I tried) believe that our loving Father - the creator - would have set-up this world on that basis.

I am, however, in agreement with the Catholic, especially Orthodox, focus on theosis (or progression towards a greater state of divinity) as the main business of life; what we are supposed to do. We are, I think, meant to make the choice that is salvation, which is something personal between each Man and God - and then to embark on theosis as the main focus of living... which for many people in many circumstances, leads to a church.

However, any specific church (or church-situation) may be either helpful or a hindrance (indeed a threat) to theosis - and may even attack the conditions of salvation.

So this, again, is a very Protestant attitude of mine; that ultimately I judge the church (in both general and specific manifestations) by the deepest discernment I can attain; not vice versa.

Therefore, I have to say that The Reformation was A Good Thing - despite everything! A good thing because its main point was true.

NOTE: I am talking here about the difference between Catholic and Protestant denominations as ideal types. In practice, many individual Catholics are Protestant, by the above definition - and practising Protestants (perhaps especially in Lutheran or Anglican churches) and members of new Christian groups (such as Mormons) may be 'Catholic' in their personal beliefs or assumptions.