"To people of all nationalities the first Protestants bequeathed in spite of themselves a heritage of spiritual freedom and equality, the consequences of which are still working themselves out in the world today." -Stephen Ozment, "Protestants" ___________________________________________________________________
There are about 600,000,000 Protestants in the world. ___________________________________________________________________
Protestants share much Christian heritage with Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic believers. All three groups accept the basic Biblical teachings as set forth in the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is the only creed accepted by all three major branches of Christendom: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant (see: What All Christians Believe in Common: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, & Protestant).
Note: some Protestant groups, for instance many Baptists, reject all "Creeds" on principle ("No creed but the Bible"), but they too in fact accept all of the basic historic Biblical doctrines taught in the Nicene Creed.
Note: The purpose of this webpage is not to present information "against" any Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox who are fellow believers in Christ, but rather to inform those who are Protestants of their heritage, their distinctive beliefs, and why these are held. If you are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox and are offended by hearing about beliefs differing from your own, you are welcome to skip this page.
Although Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic teaching might not express it in exactly this way, both actually agree with the Protestant teaching (or the other way around, if you prefer) with regard to two of the Reformation's "Solas": "Sola Gloria Deo" (all Glory to God alone); and "Sola Gratia" (by Grace alone), that is, that Salvation is a gift from God made possible only by, and offered only through, the work of Jesus Christ in His sacrificial death for us on the Cross, His Resurrection, and the offering of His precious blood for us in Heaven.
The differences come into play mainly regarding: "Sola Scriptura" (Scripture alone), "Sola Fide" (justification by Faith alone), and the differing interpretations of the Biblical teaching of "the priesthood of all believers".
With so much in common, how do Protestants generally differ in belief from Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics?
Different Views of Ultimate, Final Authority for the Christian in Matters of Faith and Practice:
Where there are differences between the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Communions, the cause of these can all be traced to their three divergent views of where ultimate and final Authority resides for the Christian in all matters of faith and practice.
Eastern Orthodoxy, often referred to as "the Church of the Seven Councils", holds that ultimate Authority resides in the entire Orthodox community of believers (the Scriptures, along with Church Tradition, along with Great Councils, as accepted by and interpreted by the entire Orthodox community).
Roman Catholicism holds that ultimate Authority resides with the Pope (the Scriptures, along with Church Tradition, along with Great Councils, as accepted by and interpreted by the Pope).
Protestantism holds that ultimate and final Authority resides solely in the Holy Scriptures.
A Solely Biblical Christianity
In general, therefore, Protestants see the Protestant Reformation as simply a call back to a purely Biblical Christianity.
Protestant, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions all hold to the basic doctrines of Christian orthodoxy as defined by the Early Church, and exemplified in the Nicene Creed and the first four Ecumenical (meaning the entire Church) Councils.
The Protestant Reformers, however, regarded certain of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teaching beyond the basic tenets as extra-Biblical (some of the teachings even as un-Biblical). The explanation of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic hierarchies is that such teachings not found in the Bible are based rather on the authority of Church "Tradition".
We have seen some websites that make much of the fact that there are so many different kinds of Protestant churches, supposedly "all disagreeing with each other". However, the disagreements, while they do exist, are only in matters concerning other than the basic doctrinal principles of the Protestant Reformation.
All Protestants Agree on All of the Basic Principles of the Protestant Reformation
All Protestants agree on all of the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation (see below). If you think about it logically for a moment, all Protestant churches must agree on the basic core beliefs of Protestantism, or they would not be considered "Protestant" churches.
(Note: The only exception would be Theologically Liberal so-called "Protestants" who of course do not believe their own Creeds and the historic teachings of their own Denominations, as well as rejecting most, if not all, of the Basic Doctrines of the historic Christian Faith. Theologically Liberal Roman Catholics present the same problem. Both groups are "Protestant" and "Roman Catholic" in name only, not in any real and actual sense, according to the definition of their Church's own Creedal statements.
We should also point out, on the positive side in this area, there is currently a fast-growing movement among many Pastors and rank and file members of the "mainline Denominations", who have been finding their way back to historic Christian orthodoxy through ever-growing interest in the study of the early Church Fathers. See our Book Review: "The Rebirth of Orthodoxy" by Thomas C. Oden).
Protestants counted together as a group are in fact the second largest Christian body in the world in actual numbers (600,000,000); after Roman Catholic (1,200,000,000), with Eastern Orthodox (300,000,000) the third largest.
The theology of the Protestant Reformers departed from the Roman Catholic Church primarily on the basis of three great principles:
Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) was one of the watchwords of the Reformation. This doctrine maintains that Holy Scripture, the revealed Word of God, consisting of the Bible Canon (inerrant in the original autographs), is the ultimate authority for the Christian in matters of faith and practice, life and conduct.
Protestants believe that the Bible teaches that everything necessary to Salvation in Christ that we need to know is found in the Holy Scriptures:
"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." -II Timothy 3:15
Protestants believe that the teachings and traditions of the Church are to be completely subordinate to the Scriptures.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" -II Timothy 3:16
"Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." -John 17:17
Some have said that the Bible, including II Timothy 3:16 (above) does not actually say anywhere that Scripture is our sole authority. This is like non-Christians saying that since actual word, "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible, it is therefore not taught in the Bible!
Both contentions are false conclusions. Those who so argue are missing the point. If Scripture is inspired by God, as the Bible itself clearly teaches, then it automatically, both logically and of necessity, becomes the Christian's ultimate and final authority.
How so, you ask? Because God does not lie (Titus 1:2). If one is therefore comparing or contrasting two differing sources of information, and one of the sources (The Holy Scriptures) is known to be "absolute truth", it then of necessity indeed automatically becomes one's ultimate and final authority against any and all other sources.
There is surely nothing wrong with any tradition that does not conflict with God's Word. On this we can all agree. Even Protestants have developed their own "Church traditions". Something is not bad just because it is a "tradition".
It is only when we come to discover that a particular Church tradition, teaching, or practice, (or indeed any matter of faith, life, or conduct) is in conflict with the inspired, revealed Word of God; then how can we continue to follow that tradition?
Perhaps the particular tradition is said to have been handed down orally by the Apostles. Now we know that the Apostles would not have taught a tradition that goes against God's own inspired Word. Such a tradition would not and could not actually be from God through the Apostles, but must have come down to us only from men. To keep following it then would be to oppose God and His revealed Will.
As the Apostles themselves taught as revealed by the Holy Spirit in God's Word; what is our choice to be when facing such a conflict?
"Then Peter and the other Apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." -Acts 5:29
We must indeed be careful that the words Christ himself spoke to the Jewish religious leaders of his day do not also apply to us:
"Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." -Mark 7:9 (also: Mark 7:7,13; Matthew 15:2,3,6)
So we again see that the very fact of the Bible being God's inspired Word automatically results in making it the ultimate final authority for the Christian in all matters of faith and practice, even if the specific words "Scripture Alone" (Sola Scriptura) do not themselves actually appear in the Bible.
Sola Scriptura is a term the Reformers used to describe a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture, even as, in a similar manner, the word "Trinity" is also used to do the same. God does not lie, so if there is a contradiction between God's Word and Church tradition, we know that God's Word is for certain the true answer, thereby always making it the ultimate and final authority for us.
2). Justification by Faith Alone ("Sola Fide")
Sola Fide (by faith alone) was the other watchword of the Reformation. This doctrine maintains that we are justified before God (and thus saved) by faith alone, not by anything we do, not by anything the church does for us, and not by faith plus anything else.
It was also recognized by the early Reformers that Sola Fide is not rightly understood until it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of:
Sola Gratia (by grace alone). The Reformers were calling the church back to the basic teaching of Scripture where the apostle Paul states:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." -Ephesians 2:8,9.
"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace:" -Romans 11:6 ____________________________________________________________
A Short Commentary by S. G. Preston (Monk Preston) Co-Founder and President of The Prayer Foundation ™:
"Salvation in Christ: Justification, Sanctification, Glorification"
Why do Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox, all using the same Bible, sometimes misunderstand each other?
For example, when Protestants speak of Salvation, they are almost always actually referring to the Biblical doctrine of "Justification". When Roman Catholics and especially Eastern Orthodox speak of Salvation, they are almost always actually referring to the Biblical doctrine of "Sanctification".
These are two different aspects (or "parts") of our total Salvation in Christ, which we all agree comes to us by God's grace through Christ's Death on the Cross and Resurrection (Atonement).
Often, difficulty over the interpretation of a verse of Scripture can be solved by merely continuing to read the next verse or verses following (along with the previous verse or verses).
Here are two very important and basic methods of Scripture interpretation (Hermeneutics). Letting Scripture itself interpret Scripture by letting clear verses add light to those not so immediately clear; and always reading a Scripture in context (along with the preceding and following verses).
We all know that non-Christian Cult systems are usually formed by doing exactly the opposite---by taking individual Scriptures "out of context".
The Bible speaks of there being three aspects to our Salvation in Christ: "Justification", "Sanctification", and "Glorification".
All agree that "Glorification" (receiving our "glorified bodies") will not occur until after death at the Resurrection.
When Protestants speak of Salvation, they are almost always referring to the Biblical doctrine of "Justification". This is why they are so certain that they have "assurance of salvation", and that they can absolutely "know" that they are saved (I John 5:13). They have "made a decision" to "repent and receive Christ".
"Sanctification" is Christ gradually making us Holy. This is a continuous process that is never finished as long as we are still alive.
These are the "good works" that James (James 2:14-26) refers to that should be an evidence of a living faith that we already have, and that are also spoken of in Ephesians 2:10. Let's look at Ephesians 2:8,9 again, this time with verse 10 added in context. Verses 8 and 9 here refer to our "justification", verse 10 to our "sanctification".
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
We then see that many Protestants may have a need to study, emphasize, and experience their "Sanctification" (growth in Holiness---and this is also a gift of God by His grace); while many Orthodox and Roman Catholics may have a need to study and emphasize their "conversion experience" ("Justification") or even to experience such if they have not already done so.
Let us take a look at some additional Scripture verses that speak of more than one of these aspects of our Salvation in Christ together in the same verse:
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
Different aspects of our Salvation: past/present ("justification"), present ("sanctification") and future ("glorification") are here mentioned together in the same verse (past tense highlighted, parenthesis' added):
"Much more then, being now justified (past/present "justification") by his blood, we shall be saved (future "glorification" in Heaven) from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled (past/present "justification") to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled (past/present "justification" / present ongoing "sanctification"), we shall be saved (future "glorification" in Heaven) by his life."
-Romans 5:9,10 ________________________________________________________________
3). Priesthood of the Believer (Direct access to God through Christ Our Only Mediator: "Sola Christus")
The third great principle of the Reformation was that of "the priesthood of all believers" (it is understood in accompaniment to the Biblical teaching of "Sola Christus": "Christ Alone"; Christ Our High Priest, Christ Our Only Mediator).
The Scriptures teach that Christians are a "holy priesthood," (1 Peter 2:5). All believers are priests before God through our great high priest Jesus Christ.
Both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Communions also say that they believe in "the priesthood of all believers", for it is clearly taught in Holy Scripture, but Protestants see this doctrine as having many ramifications in Church practice not accepted by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic hierarchies.
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." -I Peter 2:5.
Regarding the priesthood of all believers, The Reformers taught that all Christians have direct access to God through Christ; that there then is no necessity for an earthly mediator.
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus;" -I Timothy 2:5.
The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox concept of the priesthood was seen by the Reformers as not warranted in Scripture, and viewed as a mis-application of the Old Testament Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. They taught that this was clearly fulfilled in Christ and done away with in the New Testament.Sola Christus (Christ alone). Protestants characterize the dogma concerning the Pope as Christ's representative head of the Church on earth, the concept of meritorious works, and the Roman Catholic idea of a treasury of the merits of saints, as a denial that Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
On the basis of these doctrinal teachings from Holy Scripture; "the priesthood of all believers" (I Peter 2:5) and the clear teaching that Christ is the one (only) Mediator between the believer and God (I Timothy 2:5); the Reformers rejected:
(See further below: "Links" for some additional reasons why Protestants don't pray to Christians now in Heaven --- the Saints, including Mary --- or even ask them to intercede on their behalf.)
Note: The Eastern Orthodox Church also rejects:
Explanatory Note On Two Points:
(Re: The Doctrine of Transubstantiation): Eastern Orthodoxy in its Theology rejects the doctrine of transubstantiation, saying that this doctrine attempts to define a Mystery of the faith, which they believe cannot be so defined.
(Re: The Mass as a Sacrifice): Eastern Orthodoxy also agrees with the Biblical teaching (Hebrews 7:24-27; 9:24-26,28; 9:11,12; 10:10*Verses posted in column at right.) that Christ was sacrificed only once, but believes that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, and explains any seeming contradiction in this, by the Eastern Orthodox teaching that during Eucharistic Celebration one enters into participation (outside of time, in Heaven's eternity) in the one sacrifice (therefore the mass/Eucharist is still a sacrifice---but it is the one sacrifice of Christ---not repeated, but entered into by the believer repeatedly).
In Eastern Orthodox belief, these two points are considered to be important differences they have with Roman Catholic belief. It is often difficult for a Protestant to distinguish much actual difference (from the Protestant viewpoint) between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic view of the Eucharist/Mass. ___________________________________________
Re: The Priesthood of All Believers (Further Note of Interest): In the original Greek of I Peter 5:3 (An admonition to elders):
"The entire body of Christians are also called "clergy" (xLnpoi), a peculiar people, the heritage of God." (Schaff, Vol II, P.124, History of the Christian Church). 3
"Neither as being Lord's over God's heritage ("kleros", the Greek word for "clergy"), but being ensamples to the flock." -I Peter 5:3
This English word "Laity" is related to the Greek word "laos," which means "people." The Greek word "laikos," which means "laity," is not found in the New Testament. All in the body of Christ, whether "saints, bishops, or deacons" (Phil. l:l), are the "people" ("laos") of God (Schaff, Vol II, P.124, History of the Christian Church). 3 ____________________________________________________________
Knowing That You Are Saved
Another important belief for Evangelicals, whether Protestant or otherwise, is in believing that you can absolutely know that you are saved.
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." -I John 5:13
Information on how to receive Christ as one's personal Lord and Saviour is found on our webpage: The Plan of Salvation
"We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures --- to be ' the ground and pillar of our faith.' "
-Irenaeus of Lyon, "Against Heresies" (written ca. 175-185 A.D.)
Why Don't Protestants Pray to Mary and the Saints?
(Except Wikipedia Excerpts) Copyright © 2007 S.G.P. All Rights Reserved.
Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright © Irish Tourist Board.
The ultimate aim of evangelical Protestantism is to bring every person into a living union with Christ...
"There are three fundamental principles of the Reformation: the supremacy of the Scriptures over tradition, the supremacy of faith over works, and the supremacy of the Christian people over an exclusive priesthood.
The first may be called the objective, the second the subjective, the third the social or ecclesiastical principle.
They resolve themselves into the one principle of evangelical freedom, or freedom in Christ.
The ultimate aim of evangelical Protestantism is to bring every man into living union with Christ as the only and all-sufficient Lord and Saviour from sin and death."
-Philip Schaff, "History of the Christian Church" (Vol. VII, P. 16).
"Sola Scriptura" (Scripture Alone):
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" -II Timothy 3:16 _______
"Sola Fide" (Faith Alone):
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." -Ephesians 2:8,9 _______
"The Priesthood of All Believers"/ "Sola Christus" (Christ Alone):
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." -I Peter 2:5
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus;" -I Timothy 2:5 _______
"Knowing That You're Saved":
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." -I John 5:13 _______________
(The Doctrine of the "Universal Church")
"One Holy catholic (universal) and apostolic Church."
The Doctrine of the "Universal Church" teaches that the Christian Church, the "Body of Christ", consists of all Christians now alive and who have ever lived (thereby including those now in Heaven).
We have seen some Eastern Orthodox commentators refer to this as a "Protestant Doctrine", which greatly surprised us, as we had never thought of it as such.
It is a Biblical doctrine accepted by Protestants and taken for granted by them.
It is also accepted and taught by the Roman Catholic Church (see explanation by Pope Benedict XVI below).
If it is not true also for the Eastern Orthodox, why then does the Orthodox Communion honor some Christian Baptisms that have been performed outside of the Orthodox Church?
And those who were Evangelical Protestants before converting to Orthodoxy; do they deny that they were Christians then? (and therefore members of Christ's Body) No, of course in fact they do not.
It is Christ and only Christ who saves the Christian.
Roman Catholic Agreement:
In 1965, in Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church officially recognized Protestants as "separated brethren".
The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is in total agreement with Protestants on the Biblical Doctrine of the "Universal Church".
The former Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger (currently Pope Benedict XVI) in the national Catholic
weekly magazine "America" (Vol.
185, No. 16
"...we also find the principle that the universal church (ecclesia universalis) is in its essential mystery a reality that takes precedence, ontologically and temporally, over the individual local churches."
"As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,..."
"In this broad context I addressed the relationship between the universal church and the local churches and, in the process, briefly explained that the letter from the congregation never dreamt of identifying the reality of the universal church with the pope and Curia, and hence that the fears voiced by Kasper were groundless.
In order to do this, I mainly tried to shed light on the rich implications of the term “universal church,” which may at first sound abstract."
"...were one to identify the universal church with the pope and the Curia, then the restoration of Roman centralism would be at hand."
"The church of Rome is a local church and not the universal church—a local church with a peculiar, universal responsibility, but still a local church."
You can read the entire article in context at:
On the other hand...
Pope Benedict XVI stated in 2007 that the Protestant Churches are "not really Churches" because they do not have Apostolic Succession.
He also stated that the Eastern Orthodox Churches are "defective" because they do not acknowledge the supreme authority of the Pope. ____________
* Christ Sacrificed for Us Only Once:
"But this man,
because he continues ever, has an