The Protestant religion emerged from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. While many theological and political factors were involved in the split, Catholics and Protestants share a history as well as many basic beliefs. In modern times, the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations regularly engage in dialogue with hopes of increasing mutual understanding, if not organizational reunification.
The history of the Christian church is one of shared history, at least up until the split between Catholic and Orthodox Christians in 1054. The Roman Catholic Church remained unified for almost 500 more years until the Protestant Reformation. Accordingly, both Catholics and Protestants look to various Christian figures for inspiration and belief. For example, the Protestant Reformer John Calvin was an advocate of the beliefs of Saint Augustine of Hippo, as many Catholic theologians have been as well. Christians of all kinds celebrate the example of Saint Francis of Assisi and his selfless devotion to the poor.
Catholics and Protestants also share many common beliefs, most of which can succinctly be identified via the early Christian Creeds. Catholics and Protestants accept the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon and the Athanasian Creed. These creeds express beliefs about the Trinity, that God is one God in three persons. They express a belief in the virgin birth of Christ, his divine and human natures, his crucifixion, his resurrection and his ascension. They express a belief that Christ will come again, and that Christians will live forever in Heaven.
Protestants distinguish themselves from Catholics in several ways. Protestants teach that the Bible alone is authoritative in matters of salvation, while Catholics teach that the traditions of the church are also important. Protestants believe that salvation comes through faith alone by God's grace, while Catholics believe that salvation is a lifelong process that involves grace, faith and good works. Catholics have seven sacraments: baptism, communion, confirmation, penance, marriage, holy orders and anointing of the sick. Protestants recognize only two sacraments: baptism and communion. Catholics believe that the pope is the head of the church, and that the church's leadership is authoritative for believers. Protestants believe that every Christian alone is responsible to God.
Today, the Roman Catholic Church regularly engages in dialogue with Protestants. This includes a number of Protestant organizations and denominations, including the Anglican Communion, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Church - Disciples of Christ, Pentecostal groups and Evangelicals. Lutherans and Catholics even produced a "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" in an attempt to address some of the theological concerns that arose at the time of the Reformation. Other Protestant groups, such as the Methodists, have also adopted this declaration in the spirit of improving relations.
- New Advent: Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo
- Christian Resource Institute: Ecumenical Christian Creeds
- Religious Tolerance: Comparing the beliefs of Roman Catholics & conservative Protestants
- The Roman Curia: Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
- The Roman Curia: Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
- Religion Facts: Comparison Chart: Catholic & Protestant Beliefs
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images