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Tim wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What is the major difference between Southern Baptists and Catholics?
  • Where do the interpretations of the Bible differ in these two sects?

Thank you for your time, and please write back soon.

Tim

  { What are the differences between Southern Baptists and Catholics? }

and in a similar question:

Cindy Walker wrote:

Hi, guys —

My name is Cindy, and I am from British Columbia, Canada.

My parents were never religious, so I was never taken to church as a child. I'm now 20, and have started looking into religion. I have always believed in God, and have sometimes gone to church with friends.

I've been to a Baptist church with friends when I was in high school, and recently, I have been attending a Catholic church with my boyfriend every Sunday.

I have been looking into the process of joining the Catholic Church, but I'm wondering:

  • What are the differences between the Baptist church and the Catholic Church?

Thank you,

Cindy

  { What are the differences between Baptists and Catholics and how do I become a Catholic? }

John replied:

Hi, Tim —

Having been a Southern Baptist and currently a Roman Catholic perhaps I can shed some light on your question.

Let's start with the similarities:

  • Both believe in salvation by grace alone.
  • Both believe in the Trinity.
  • Both share a 27 book New Testament.
  • Both insist that all salvation comes from Christ alone.

Now for the differences. Southern Baptists are a denomination which came about as result of the Protestant split from the Church in the 1500's. In fact, the Southern Baptist Conference is a relatively new comer to the ever growing number of sects.

The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, is the Church that Jesus Christ established; it is not a sect.

As for Biblical interpretation, Baptists believe in a theory know as Sola Scriptura, which means the Bible is the sole rule of faith. The problem with this is that the Bible does not teach this doctrine. The Bible teaches the authority is the Church, which was ultimately responsible for the preservation and canonization of Sacred Scripture. Roman Catholics believe that the Word of God is transmitted through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and is interpreted by the Teaching Authority of the Church. Baptists believe that the Word of God is limited to the Bible.

This position is unworkable. While the Southern Baptist Conference churches share a few things in common, i.e., adult baptism by immersion, each local church is subject to the doctrine of its pastor.

  • Some believe in free will.
  • Some teach predestination.
  • Some believe in a pre-tribulation Rapture.
  • Others preach a post-tribulation Rapture.

There is no authority beyond the Scriptures, so no one can tell you if you are misinterpreting them.

Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; Baptists view communion and all sacraments as symbolic. Catholics view all Sacraments as actual means of grace, in which Christ acts through the Church which is His Body.

It is important to note that only the Catholic and Orthodox Churches can trace their lineage back to the original twelve Apostles. Both these Churches have an identical sacramental view. The only thing which divides the Catholics and Orthodox is the issue of the Papacy, yet none of the "Johnny come lately" sects hold to these doctrines.

Having said all that, Southern Baptists, as a rule, live exemplary Christian lives. They strive, with great zeal, to preach the Gospel as they understand it.

We view them as separated brothers with which we have many essentials in common. We pray a reconciliation between our two Churches will come soon.

In Him,

John C. DiMascio

Bob replied:

Cindy,

Thanks for the question — but what a huge amount of information is required to fully answer it.
I will give a few thoughts for distinction and common ground.

Baptists and Catholics both believe that:

  • Jesus is God
  • He saved us from our sins, and
  • without Him, no one goes to Heaven.

That being said, Baptist and Catholic beliefs about who holds Jesus' officially sanctioned authority on Earth, differ.

  • Baptists claim there is no real authority sanctioned by Jesus, other than the Bible, and some vague notion of Church where you couldn't actually point to any one person and say he definitely has authority given by Jesus Himself.

  • Catholics say that Jesus definitely left certain individuals in charge, namely the Apostles, and that they held His authority, with Peter, who in particular, held the keys of authority (cf. Matthew 16:19), having a unique place of primacy.

We believe that Jesus built his Church on the Apostles (cf. Ephesians 2:20), and they weren't merely given honorary titles, but a vital role in Christ's own mission to the world (cf. Matthew 28:18). For better or worse, we are married to the one Church that Christ Himself established. And we don't run any from it, even when scandal and evil seeks to tear Her down and destroy Her, because Christ warned us that Satan would seek to sift us like wheat (cf. Luke 22:31). There are many sinners amongst us, but many saints in the making too: the small, the quiet ones, that make no headlines. Often they are our leaders, like our current Pope, or here in Boston, our Archbishop Sean O'Malley. He had a terrible job, being appointed to come here after the scandal, but this humble Franciscan exemplifies what true "servant hood" leadership consists of. We are blessed to see in our own day, Christ's call being lived out.

Sorry, for getting a little away from my point.

Without an authoritative Church, we couldn't even tell "authoritatively" which books would belong in the Bible, which the Baptists claim is their authority. The Bible was put together by the Catholic Bishops, successors to the Apostles, who were given their authority by their predecessors.

So, because we view the Bishops and the Popes, who succeed Peter, as our authority, we believe the Bible and all that Jesus taught us. We have the Blessed Sacrament, not watered down and abandoned in Its authenticity. That means we believe 100% that the bread and wine become Jesus' own Body and Blood, and this fact of the faith has been unchanged for 2000+ years. It has been a defining characteristic of Christians from the beginning. Only Catholic and Orthodox Churches (basically Apostolic churches) still hold true to this. Read John's Gospel, chapter 6, and see how when Jesus challenged people that they would have to literally consume His Flesh and Blood, they abandoned Him. He didn't water the teaching down. He wasn't speaking merely symbolically; they were actually accustomed to Him speaking in allegories, parables and symbols but here, He blew their minds, because He didn't explain how it was going to happen; He merely insisted that they give their assent. In reacting to this, many stopped following Him. I probably would also leave a leader who insisted I eat his flesh — unless by the light of God, I saw he was going to do something miraculous. That is what really should humble us about the disciples — the twelve stayed and didn't abandon Him, and they finally got to see the fulfillment of Jesus' words in the Blessed Eucharist at the Last Supper, which is where Jesus' first gave Himself as part of the Paschal Feast (the Passover). He became the Lamb of God, a sacrifice, which when consumed, gives the very Life He possesses. The Eucharist is the Bread of Life because it is Christ Himself.

  • How does He do it?

He is God. No one completely gets this, but we trust Jesus, and we have seen the miracles follow the Eucharist throughout history.

I better stop here because I'm not sure if I am overwhelming you with too much already. This is so important to us Catholics because it is the central reality of our Faith.

Baptists, while they have communion, only have a symbol, not the real deal. They do not have a valid priesthood descended from the Apostles which can confect the Eucharist.

We love them, but they are missing the most important piece Jesus left us — Himself in His fullness. If they knew what we had, they would be pounding at our doors, but sadly, Catholics don't often witness well about our Faith.

Please study the Christian Faith well, and don't ignore history, because you will see the continuity of the Catholic Faith all the way through on such important matters.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Hi, Cindy —

Thanks for the question.

My colleague Bob answered a similar question about the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Bob's answer has been read by more visitors than any other on our web site.

I would strongly encourage you to pray, and study what Catholics believe. Despite bad behavior from time to time, we are the one and only Church Jesus established on St. Peter and his successors.

The Bible and oral Tradition tell us that Our Lord promised He would safeguard His Church from teaching false doctrines through the office of St. Peter.

Check out Matthew 16:13-20 and 1 Timothy 3:15. All the other Christian faiths since the 1500's were founded by men, who determined what they, not Jesus, personally thought Christianity should be.

Also check out my FREE Catechism of the Catholic Church program for Protestants to see if you are eligible. Here is the registration page: http://www.askacatholic.com/CCCFPP

Here are some other web pages in my "Favorites" that I think you will enjoy:

Hope this helps,

Mike
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