Skip to comments.Catholic vs. Presbyterian
Posted on 01/03/2010 10:30:30 PM PST by Gamecock
Could you tell me the difference between the Presbyterian church and the Catholic Church.
Short question, potentially very long answer.
I'll try to focus briefly on some basics, beginning with the foundational matter of authority.
The Roman Catholic Church understands the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, as do we, but alongside the Bible, stands the authority of the tradition of the church, the decrees of its councils, and the ex cathedra pronouncements of its popes. Tradition, councils, and popes tell the faithful what the Scriptures teach and can add dogma to what the Scriptures teach (for example, the immaculate conception of Mary). We regard this as man exercising authority over the Word of God rather than sitting in humble submission before it.
In contrast, this is what we confess to the world in our Confession of Faith (a statement which we believe faithfully summarizes what the Bible teaches, but which is wholly derived from the Bible, subordinate to it, and may be corrected by it):
4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God....
6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men....
7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other that not only the learned but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them....
9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
10. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
(Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, "Of the Holy Scripture")
With particular reference to the Church, we hold that Christ alone is the Head of His Church, and that there are no princely rulers in the church, but elders and preachers gifted by the Spirit and called to rule and teach in local churches in subordination to the Word of God. Again, our Confession:
6. There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof." (WCF, Chapter 25, "Of the Church"; see Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22, 1 Peter 5:2-4)
Christ is the King and only Lord of the church. He rules us by His Word, the Holy Spirit who first inspired it continuing to work now by enabling us to understand, believe, and obey the Scriptures. Elders and preachers are gifts He gives to the church to guide and help us understand and obey the Word, but they are not infallible.
Our Confession again,
1. The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of His church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate. (WCF, Chapter 30, "Of Church Censures"; see Acts 14:23, 20:17,28, Heb.13:7,17, Eph.4:11,12, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, 5:17-21, etc.)
2. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain and remit sins, to shut the kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word and censures, and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel; and by absolution from censures as occasion shall require. (WCF, 30.2)
1. For the better government, and further edification of the church, there ought to be such assemblies as a commonly called synods or councils, and it belongeth to the overseers and other rulers of the particular churches, by virtue of their office and the power which Christ hath given them for edification and not for destruction, to appoint such assemblies and to convene together in them, as often as they shall judge it expedient for the good of the church. (WCF, Chapter 31, "Of Synods and Councils")
2. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience, to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God and government of his church, to receive complaints in cases of maladministratiion, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission. (WCF, 31.2)
3. All synods or councils, since the Apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both. (WCF, 31.3)
4. Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical, and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs ... [exceptions stated]" (WCF, 31.4)
A key point here is our understanding that church authorities are to act "ministerially" and based always on the Word of God. They cannot make laws in addition to God's revealed Word, but must labor to understand that Word properly and then declare it to the church and base their governing and disciplining actions upon it. We do not claim for any merely human governors of the church a magisterial authority.
From this fundamental difference in regard to authority and to the relative roles of the Bible, tradition, decrees of councils, and edicts of popes, flow the other differences. Why do Presbyterians not pray to Mary and the saints? Because the Bible nowhere tells us to do so; it is an invention by gradual accretion in the tradition of the church. And because, on the other hand, the Bible tells us that "there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," who is our Great High Priest, through whom we have boldness to come to God's throne of grace (1 Tim.2:5, Hebrews 4:14-16). Christ is all the intercessor we need (Heb.7:23-28).
There are fundamentally different approaches to worship, which might be summed up this way:
Whatever the tradition and councils have given us is what we do in public worship.
We give to God in worship only what is revealed in His Word as pleasing to Him (see Lev.10:1-3, Exodus 20:4-6, Mark 7:1-8).
While we are looking at worship, we observe that Presbyterians differ fundamentally with Roman Catholics in regard to the Lord's Supper. We both agree that Christ Himself ordained the observance of communion by His church and that this involves bread and wine. From that point on we agree on almost nothing. But let me try to summarize:
By the grace received in his ordination the priest has power to utter the words of consecration by which mere bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ for sacrifice on the altar, and by receiving this mystical body (and blood) of Christ the faithful receive Christ Himself bodily and His grace to wash them clean of all their sins.
(a). The minister is not a priest; Christ alone is our priest in the sense of interceding for us before God by sacrifice. The minister is a servant, who declares the Word so that the faithful may understand what is taking place.
(b). The power of the minister is to declare what the Scriptures teach, not to say words that change bread into Christ's body.
(c). The bread and wine symbolically represent the body and blood of Christ. When Jesus at the Last Supper said to His disciples (of the bread), "This is My body which is broken for you", He was standing before them in His body, whole and intact. He meant this bread symbolizes My body. (When He said, "I am the door to the sheepfold," He was similarly speaking symbolically, or "I am the light of the world").
(d). There is no sacrifice of Christ on any altar, for He offered Himself once for all (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 9:26-28, 10:10). So perfect and acceptable was the sacrifice of the God-Man of Himself for sinners that no other sacrifice is required. When on the cross He said, "It is finished," He meant not only his suffering of death, but also His making atonement by His suffering. By that "one sacrifice for sins for all time," that "one offering." "He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb.10:12,14). We hold it to be a great dishonor to Christ's once-for-all atoning work on Calvary to claim that His body and blood continue to be offered as sacrifice for sin. This is why we speak of the communion "table", not altar.
(e). The faithful receive Christ by faith, not physically. The elements are signs. They point to Christ and what He has done to atone for our sins. They point to Him also as our risen and living Savior and Lord who is present in His Church by the Holy Spirit, continuously offering Himself to believers. The bread and wine call us to draw near to Christ by faith, to receive forgiving and sanctifying grace from Him, to grow in our union with Him. But it is all spiritual and by faith.
I could go on listing differences, but two very important ones remain. I will deal with the most important last.
Presbyterians believe that God's Word is a sufficient revelation of His will for our lives (see above, Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 1, especilly Sections 6 and 7, and read 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
We think it is an arrogant usurpation of Christ's authority for church rulers to presume to have authority to add to His word rules and commands. Where does the Bible require ministers in Christ's church to be celibate? It doesn't, but rather teaches the opposite (1 Tim.3:2-5,12, see 1 Cor.9:5). But Catholic authority requires Catholic priests to take vows of celibacy, which are contrary to human nature and create terrible stumbling blocks leading to sin (which is now being plastered shamefully all over the public media). For centuries the Catholic Church told its people they must refrain from eating meat on Fridays; to do otherwise was sin. Now it's okay. It was a sin. Now it's not. The church says so. But the Bible does not say one word, except Colossians 2:20-23 (and 1 Timothy 4:1-5).
Appeal may be made to Matthew 16:19 (and 18:18), which read this way: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (and vice versa). There! The church officers make a binding decision on earth, and heaven will ratify it. But the passage actually says exactly the opposite. The second verbs in each case ("shall be bound" / "loosed"), are future perfect tenses, properly translated: "shall have been bound / loosed". So that the correct reading is: "Whatever you bind / loose on earth shall have been bound / loosed in heaven". That is, officers of the church on earth must base their decisions on what heaven has already determined. And what would that be? That would be what "Heaven," that is, God, has revealed by the Spirit in His Word, the Scriptures.
But the most important issue concerns salvation. We believe the Bible teaches that the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice of Christ and the perfect obedience of Christ, offered to His Father in our behalf and given to us as God's gift in the declaration of justification is all the basis for salvation that a sinner needs. See Romans 3:19-30, Philippians 3:2-9, Galatians 3:10-13, Romans 8:1-3. We believe that we receive this gift only by faith, Ephesians 2:8,9. Good works enter in as the fruit of saving faith, as its outworking in our lives. But the moment I throw myself on the mercy of God trusting in Christ's saving work for me, I am then and there and once and for all justified in God's sight and nothing I do after that in the way of good works can add to what Christ has done or to God's justification.
This has gone on quite long. As I noted at the beginning, your question is very short. Maybe you were looking for something other than what I have given you. But I do want to close with a few clarifications.
"Presbyterian": This is from the Greek word in the NT, presbyter, meaning elder. Presbyterian churches are churches which believe that Christ governs his church through the work of elders, a plurality of elders in each local church, and councils of the elders of the churches in a region or a nation.
Historically the "Presbyterian" churches were churches of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and England that shared with other Protestant churches on the Continent a common understanding of Bible doctrine that is often referred to as "Reformed" (and historically associated with John Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland). In the 1640s the pastors and teachers of the Church of England met to officially reform the English church in the light of Scripture. Among other things they spent several years writing the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. These have since been the defining documents of Presbyterian churches.
Unfortunately, in the last 100 years or so, many Presbyterian churches have wandered away from their Confession because, at bottom, they were accepting man-made philosophies and ideas as being more true than the Bible. So not all "Presbyterians" believe what I have given you above. But those who believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God and who still believe - as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church does, by God's grace - the summary of its doctrines in the Westminster Confession, would agree with what I have told you.
I hope this is helpful to you. I have not meant in any way to offend, though sometimes stating things starkly can have that effect. I have tried to be clear about the differences, which is what you asked, and I cannot pretend that I do not think truth is on one side and not on the other. You, of course, may speak with equal frankness and I welcome a reply or further questions.
The Lord guide you in His paths of truth and righteousness. (DK)
I'm asking Gamecock to provide scriptural warrant for the properties that the WC ascribes to it.
I'm not sure that I would agree. Each order has rules and regulations. And I never even went into the Latin Church, the Greek Church, etc. which all have widely different procedures. Certainly the Greek and the Latin Churches feel they are together (somewhat), yet the Greeks no way accept the rule of the Pope. We could go on and on about various Catholic Churches who have pagan rituals or openly flaunt the directives of the Church on things like abortion. It is disingenuious for Catholics to suggest that they are "one big happy family" and are not like Protestants at all. In truth, there are just as many divisions within the Catholic Church as there probably are with Protestants.
A lot of women's orders have gotten a little hinkie in the years since VatII and currently they are being, as it were, audited. There's significant mitching and boaning, and the chances are that there will be some defections when it all shakes out. But they are not formally denying access to the people from the Pope.
Dominicans may FEEL they are better than other orders, or than secular clergy, but they don't THINK that they are in principle.
I don't know about "happy family." I do know that there is not some supreme Baptist or Presbyterian Body to which all Baptists or Presbyterians think they owe some kind of obedience. But Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans, Carmelites, Benedictines, and the gazillions of other little groups know that they need Papal recognition for their official corporate existence and that they are accountable to the Pope.
When there are disagreements, either with orders or with individual pastors - one in DC a decade or two ago and one currently in Oz -- first their bishops come down on them. It's usually slow, patient, gradual, even reluctant. But sooner or later the Bishop will say, "I have title to that building and property, you have 30 days to vacate the premises." And if 'vacation' doesn't happen, then there is some shilly-shallying around, but finally the law will be called to enforce the bishop's property rights.
So with orders. Right now there is a group of lay people wearing Dominican habits as though this were say, the 15th century, and following some version of the Dominican Rule and directories. But the various Dominican muckety mucks not only have NOT acknowledged them as Dominicans, but have let the rest of us know that they are NOT acknowledged. So our involvement is ended.
They can wear what they like and if they get a priest to give them the sacraments, they can receive the sacraments. We think they're weird, they probably think we're unbearably liberal, but life goes on.
But this is why orders in the Catholic Church are not, that I can see, very like Denominations which call themselves, say, Presbyterian. ALL the orders, at least theoretically, as part of their responsibility to God, are also responsible to someone with a Post Office address. And the seculars, going up the chain of subsidiarity, are answerable to the same PO.
But NOT all those who call themselves Baptist are responsible to someone at some address somewhere, someone to whom SBC and Jimmy Carter's outfit and them Yankee Babdisds and all of em all answer to.
So I'm arguing it's different.
I would say the authority of the Holy Scripture comes from the very fact that they are "inspired" by God, wouldn't you? After all, that is what our early church fathers stated who made the distinction of inspired and uninspired writings. No other writings in church history is so distinguished. You may say that the Church is confirming the writings, but the fact is the early church father distinguish the writings as different-as inspired by God. Therefore they are different and carries the weight of the authority from God Himself.
The question I ask Catholics, and have yet to receive an answer, is how is any other Church writing on the same level as the Bible?
The question I ask Catholics, and have yet to receive an answer, is how is any other Church writing on the same level as the Bible?LOL, another funny guy. See Inspiration of the Bible
History alone allows us to establish the fact that Jews and Christians have always believed in the inspiration of the Bible. But what is this belief worth? Proofs of the rational as well as of the dogmatic order unite in justifying it. Those who first recognized in the Bible a superhuman work had as foundation of their opinion the testimony of the Prophets, of Christ, and of the Apostles, whose Divine mission was sufficiently established by immediate experience or by history. To this purely rational argument can be added the authentic teaching of the Church. A Catholic may claim this additional certitude without falling into a vicious circle, because the infallibility of the Church in its teaching is proved independently of the inspiration of Scripture; the historical value, belonging to Scripture in common with every other authentic and truthful writing, is enough to prove this.If you actually had asked many of us, you would have been given the arguments in the linked article. Hopefully you take the time to read and understand them.
I know a very Orthodox Catholic married to a very Orthodox Presbyterian. I’m impressed on how they make it work. They go to Mass on Sunday and service on Sunday. They work together on different committees (the one supporting the other) at their respective Churches.
Well, there you have it. It's just like the Catholic definition of atonement (which was modified over time as well). So now the Bible is just "common" with every other "truthful" writing? Man can be just as inspired as God. What utter blasphemy.
I'm sure Augustine, Justin, Clement and others thought their writings were truthful but they would not have said their writing rise to the same level as the scriptures. That is evidence because they simply didn't include them in the Bible.
The fact is that Catholics no longer believe in the inspiration of the Bible but see it simply as another "truthful" document. This definition proves that. Under this view Catholicism isn't any different than the Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses who have other material to support their "religion"?
Catholics have deserted the doctrine of Atonement. Now they deserted the inspiration of the scriptures. I am aghast, but not surprised. But, more importantly, I'm sure the early church fathers would be aghast as well who took great pains to ensure the inspirational scriptures would be recognized for just what they were.
John Knox came along in the sixteenth century. If it hadn’t been for the Catholic Church, he wouldn’t have HAD a Bible. Nor would Martin Luther have had one earlier. It is the Catholic Church that goes back through history to the beginning. The Protestant Churches didn’t come along until 1500 years later.
Moreover, it was the Catholic Church that Christianized Europe and spread the Bible among all the peoples of Europe, beginning in Ireland after the fall of Rome, then to England, and then back to France and Germany in time to teach Charlemaigne and his warriors what Christian learning was.
If the early Church Fathers had buried their Bibles in the ground and the Church had disappeared around the time of Constantine, not to pop up again until the time of Martin Luther—where would it have come from? Who would have told them where to dig up their Bibles? And why would they have wanted to, anyway, if they were all pagans?
The early Reformers tended to argue that the Church had been completely corrupted and essentially disappeared from the earth for a thousand years. Then how did Martin Luther get his education? Who gave him his Bible? Who taught him Latin? Who told him which books were in the Bible?
In other words, Protestants may believe that their religion is better than Catholicism. And Catholics may believe the reverse. But without Catholicism, there could have been no Protestantism.
An interesting thought experiment, which these Protestant claims to exclusivity seem to me to raise.
Could God have taken a pagan Martin Luther, thrown him down from his horse, and inspired him with all the teachings of the Bible? Of course. With God, all things were possible. But I don’t notice Luther claiming that any such thing happened.
Is English not a tongue you are familiar with? Why twist the truth so violently when ON THE FACE OF IT my post is at total odds with your claim?
I repeat: discipline is not doctrine. All these orders follow Catholic doctrine. Whether they wear sandals or shoes, black or brown habits, have a teaching apostolate, missionary apostolate, or choose the cloistered life, they are Catholic.
In truth, there are just as many divisions within the Catholic Church as there probably are with Protestants.
No, there are not. And it would be impossible to support that contention.
But to make a LONG, LONG argument short, Pinckaers proposes (following Aquinas) that freedom is "Freedom FOR excellence" before it is freedom FROM anything.
I'm not sure what is "more than moral good", but I'm still confused. Are they talking about regenerate or unregenerate man? I can't imagine the latter, as that would indicate the view that when born (now) the human is naturally drawn to the good. That would not match my understanding of the Catholic view of original sin. If this is the case, would you fill me in?
If, however, they are supposing regenerate man then the above makes much more sense to me. Even so, I would reorder what Pinckaers said to be: "Once we are free FROM the bondage of sin we are THEN free FOR excellence".
Anyway, thanks much for the book suggestions. The Feser book does sound really interesting.
The Catholic Church today is not the same as the Catholic Church of John Knox or Luther’s time. It CERTAINLY is not the Catholic Church of Augustine’s time.
It’s like saying a Democrat today is the same as in JFK’s time. It’s simply wrong.
Sorry, no dice. I'm not the one twisting the truth and you can read that in your definition. It states very plainly that there are other sources of "inspired" works. Are you going to deny that?
My question would be how now do you determine if something is "inspired"? Can you tell me how this is any different than the LDS saying the Book of Mormons is inspired? Is it just because a group of people says so? Well, the Mormons have that as well.
Since you say that I'm reading this wrong, please let me know what is "inspired" and "uninspired", which is what started this conversation. It is interesting that EVEN the Council of Trent knew-although I wouldn't agree with all of their choices.
I hope the brethren will keep me in line if I'm mistaken here. We are drawn to what we think is good. But we are disordered in several ways. One is our will is not strong. It would be good for me to lose 30 lbs. There is considerable good in a double bacon cheeseburger. Even if I know which good is better, I may not follow through. I'm going along, and somebody whose company I enjoy says, around lunch time, "Hey! DBCB!" It's hard to say, "No, thanks, I'll watch."
Then we are not sure, clear, right about what's good. This explains some Democrats. ;-)
The unquestionable good of giving to the needy is not always better than the good of letting the needy deal with their challenges.
And when we get to matters of deep moral judgment, we're very disordered.
But classic scholastic thought is that we are always motivated by what we THINK will provide SOME 'good' even if it's the totally deranged satisfaction I (hypothetically) get from having people envy me or fear me. In that case the satisfaction is, so to speak, worth more to me than justice, charity, etc.
And Our thinking is inevitably deficient without revelation and the "infused virtues" (faith, hope, and charity). Anybody over about 18 can see that it just won't work if people have sex with whomever they want and move in an out of relationships on a whim. Well, anybody except Democrats.
But it's a matter of revelation that monogamy 'as long as you both shall live' is THE way to do sexual relationships, and it's a matter of infused charity (and other gifts) to make marriage something which sanctifies husband and wife.
I hope that gives a flavor of the thinking.
I think the language about freedom is confused because we are trying to find a word which suits God, angels, and saints. Certainly in humans "Freedom TO excellence" requires "freedom from sin, wherefore it is written "For FREEDOM Christ has set you free."
I think you will enjoy parts of Feser while it also will give a kind of primer of modern scholastic realism. But you don't need to agree with him to be punching the air and saying to your wife, "Hey listen to THIS!"
I really don't see how you get this from the text. Really.
You quoted:Inspiration can be considered in God, who produces it; in man, who is its object; and in the text, which is its term.
God, to be precise, is not "inspired". He inspires, and He inspires the mind of man, as the article's quote of 2 Pet 1:21 suggests.
In a section called
Erroneous views proposed by Catholic authors
the article condemns the view that the Church can make a "merely human writing" inspired. Earlier is says that no writing of the post apostolic age can be in the canon.
Can you help me see how the article says what you say it says?
Sorry, no dice.Indeed, no dice. You twist words, you make black white and then run a victory lap. Sad.
Did I misread the text? Are you confirming that only scripture is the inspired word of God and error free?
Go ahead, tell us yours.
I believe I have. ONLY God’s holy scriptures are inspired by Him, given to us without error. All other works are not inspired and prone to error.
Would you agree?