Many people find it challenging to try and figure out what separates Christians from Catholics.
Christianity is the central Abrahamic faith, embodying, to name just a few, the Catholic Church, Protestantism, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, and Methodism.
Christian means follower of Jesus Christ because Christians are all followers of Jesus regardless of their specific religion.
Not all Christians are Catholics; rather all Catholics are Christians. There is over 60 percent of Christians who practice the Catholic faith.
Many adherents of other Christian religions will consider themselves Christians. And those who practice the Catholic faith will identify themselves as Catholic and not Christian.
The majority of non-Catholic Christians you may have encountered in your life may, in fact, be Protestants. That is why we will equate Catholics with Protestants as the central members of the other Christian faiths.
The disparities between Catholics and other Christians are due to the scriptures, rules, and laws that they interpret.
The Catholic Church feels they alone share the validity of what Jesus revealed to them. Most Christian religions are no doubt true adherents of Christ. They assume that they have to take the right course.
Both Protestants and Catholics share many of the same beliefs and values.
Both belie f in Jesus’ presence and His second coming.
They also accept that Jesus, in human form, was the Son of God.
They believe there’s only one true God — the Lord, the Son, and the holy spirit.
They believe that God is rightly angry with the people for failing to honor Him and mistreating each other.
We are brought back to life when we die, to be punished for the way we have lived.
We face punishment for our acts in Heaven or Hell or even Purgatory.
They believe Jesus came to us to guide us and died because of our sins.
Roman Catholicism and Christianity are not necessarily the same. Christianity is characterized correctly by those beliefs which are stated in the Bible. It isn’t defined simply by saying that you’re a Christian as long as you believe in Jesus. Mormons believe in Jesus, but in the pre-existence, their Jesus is a brother of the devil. The Jehovah’s Testimonial Jesus is the archangel, Michael. Yeah, by saying you do not believe in Jesus makes you a Christian. Therefore the Bible tells us who Jesus is God in the flesh, creator of the universe., the world maker. Likewise, essential doctrines exist; and if any of those essential doctrines are broken, then a church will appear to be Christian only, but not Christian in truth. What doctrines are these? Tell us the Bible. Let’s look forward.
There is but only one God, and no other gods are to be served (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8), (John 1:1, 14; 8:24; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:1-4).
Physically, Jesus was revived from the dead (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:14).
Salvation is by grace through faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 3:1-2; 5:1-4).
God is three in one (Matt 28:19; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
Jesus was born of Mary the Virgin (Matt. 1:25).
So someone who is a real Christian would believe and not breach these things. Two of these compromise Roman Catholicism (# 1 and # 4). First of all, they violate the commandment to have no other gods before the real and living God through their practice of raising Mary (and the Saints) to the level of Godlike capabilities. In Roman Catholicism, they state that Mary is the Mediatrix (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 969); that Mary made expiation for the sins of man (Catholic Theology Fundamentals, page 213); that Mary is the focus of preaching and worship (Vatican Council II, p. 420); etc.
Catholicism, therefore, contradicts the biblical doctrine of redemption through grace by faith alone. For instance, Paul the Apostle tells us in Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth in him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” But Roman Catholicism denies this and says. “.. that all men can obtain salvation by faith, baptism, and the observance of the commandments.”
“If someone says the wicked are justified by faith alone; in such a way as to mean that nothing else is required to do in order to obtain the grace of righteousness and that it is in no way sufficient for him to be prepared and accomplished by his own will; let him be directly opposed” (Council of Trent, Canon 9).
But, while Roman Catholicism claims to be Christian and the one true Church, it violates the Christian faith’s fundamentals. It goes beyond that which is written in the word of God (1 Cor. 4:6). By supporting Mary’s prayer and worship, it rejects the absolute and real authority of the living God. It also rejects justification in Christ alone, through faith. It is not a Church of Christians.
What Separates Catholics from Other Christians
The main difference lies in how they believe we should be accepted and welcomed into Heaven by God and how to escape Hell and Purgatory.
The core Christian religions claim that Jesus died for our sins, and as such, we can only believe in God so that we can obtain entry to Heaven and be accepted by Him (Romans 4:6). You don’t have to doubt him, and you must be able to put your life in his hands and let him lead you.
However, a Christian who believes in Jesus Christ but does not live a great life, or dabbles in greed or debauchery, may still be given a place in the heavenly kingdom. That is because of the acts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We are all imperfect and full of sin regardless of what we do in life (Romans 3:23-26), and as such, it is only by trusting in Jesus and his sacrifice for us that we can gain access to Heaven.
If you believe and trust in Jesus and God, when you die, you will be guaranteed a place in Heaven (Luke 23:43). Even a man who has lived a life of sin will have forgiven his sins if he know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior before he dies. On the other side, Catholics believe what you do in life is just as important as believing in God and Jesus. They claim that humanity has always maintained a certain degree of goodness within them since their fall from the Garden of Eden.
Your life-long deeds speak for themselves, determine whether you are genuinely worthy of joining Heaven and not your belief in God and Jesus. When we exercise our own free will, by our own acts, we determine whether we are living in sin or not.
It is our acts that demonstrate our trust in the Lord and our faith in him. By bringing Bible teaching into practical use, they believe we live by our convictions.
To put it another way, giving charity once a year does not suit the teachings Jesus Christ gave us. To be genuinely charitable, one has to be actively active in charitable activities. Living a covetous life, taking from others who are less fortunate than yourself, or only worrying about your own money, would mean you have failed in your duties.
Thanks to James, they firmly believe in this big difference (2:24)
“You see that by what they do, a person is called holy, not by faith alone.”
Most Catholic Fundamental Convictions
Many subtle and not so subtle variations exist between Catholic religions and other Christian religions.
Catholics believe in the book of revelations that the End of Days is true and not merely a metaphorical reflection of future catastrophe.
Catholics also believe in a Spiritual Leader appointed. They assume the Pope is representative of Gods here on earth as the Catholic Church Pope has jurisdiction over scriptural interpretations.
The rules that the Pope instills are law and must be adhered to as if they were God’s word, particularly if the laws of the land contradict them. Birth control laws, abortion laws which have the freedom to marry. If the Church rules differently from the laws under which Catholics reside, the ruling over the Churches takes precedence.
This disparity in understanding has led many Catholics worldwide to be at odds with the rest of the Christian community, as well as with many governments and civil groups.
Christians consider the Pope as the head of a Church but do not accept his authority.
They do not believe in his inerrancy or dominance.
Instead, they believe the Bible is God’s word as Jesus said (Mark 7:1-13)
They don’t follow the religious leaders’ additional teachings but instead believe pastors or church leaders should provide guidance or advice, nothing more.
When the laws of the land is against the teachings of the Bible, these laws appear to sway with them (Romans 13)
The table below illustrates some of the smaller differences between the Catholic and Christian religions.
The Catholic Belief
The Christian Belief
The Virgin Mary, the Image of God’s Mother
Mary is considered by the Catholic community to be the Queen of Saints, mother, and the top-ranking saint among all the saints.
They still assume she was sinless, and her resurrected body instantly went straight to Heaven.
Christians assume instead that when she died, her body had been buried.
They also say she’s just like the rest of us be full of sin.
Catholics will attend mass many times over the course of the day, throughout the week.
Their sacred places are limited to a church, a temple, a cathedral, and a basilica.
On Sundays, the majority of Christians attend a service.
They also attend prayer on various holy days.
And may even spend New Years’ Eve or Day at service.
A Christian can worship at home or in private dwellings.
Statues, images, and photos
In the form of statues and pictures, Catholics support the image of Christ, Mary, or the other Saints.
They can be seen at home on the walls, worn as jewelry, tattooed on the body, and shown in a church.
Christians usually restrict appearances to being in churches, chapels, or cathedrals.
Some variants of faith forbid the representation of Christ.
Instead, a simple wooden cross is used in his place.
Romans 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
Romans 5 establish a distinction between Jesus and Adam. Because of his guilt, we are all branded sinners in Adam. In Christ, the faithful are made righteous by the obedience of God. Notice that, as the Catholic Church wrongly says, it is not through the works that we are considered holy. Instead, it is only by submission to Christ that we are made righteous.
The most serious sin of the Catholic faith is to preach a particular doctrine (and there are many others). Still, this distinction alone renders the Catholic Church a false religion, as the scripture states in Galatians 1:
“8 But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed! As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preaches any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed! While Catholics accept Jesus (then again, even the Muslims acknowledge Jesus), the Catholic Church still preaches a gospel contradictory to the one Jesus gave to us.
The Catholic Church, then, according to Paul, is not a Christian church; it is false faith. How would we expect believers to find themselves in the Catholic Church?
Since the Catholic Church presents a false gospel which can not bring men and women into Heaven and save them from Hell, why would a true believer want to stay in a church which teaches a false gospel?
That would not be other than a member attending a Mormon church, a Jehovah’s Witness church, or some other false religion. Why would a believer remain in a church which teaches and believes something contradictory to God’s word?
Some believers (very few in our experience) do, however, choose to remain in the Catholic Church. Some remain because they do not understand the contradictions between the true Gospel and Catholic Church teaching. Others remain because good reasoning overrules family relations and tradition. Still more stick with the facts as a mission to reach out to other Catholics. We can not necessarily assume there are no believers in the Catholic Church because where believers can be found in that faith, it is only because the grace of God has overcome the false doctrine in that culture.
Even so, choosing to stay in the Catholic religion system after coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ may have a negative impact on the spiritual growth of a person. False teaching influences the moral maturity and relationships a person has with family and friends. Jesus understood this even when, in Luke 12, He warned:
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the Son, and the Son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Christ must come first, even over our friends and relatives. In Luke 14, Jesus says, “If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” This does not mean that we should hate our family; rather, it means that we should love Him more than even our family. Christians also ought to share the true gospel with Catholics, because this is a genuinely loving move.