Two prominent forms of faith are Evangelical and Catholic. At first glance, both may appear similar because they share core similar doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus, the authority of the Bible, and the concept of the Trinity. However, upon closer inspection, the two differ fundamentally in their approaches. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.
What is an Evangelical?
Evangelical Christians are part of the Protestant movement that emphasizes the need for a personal conversion experience, often called “born again.” Evangelicals place a high value on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible while prioritizing sharing the Christian message of salvation through Jesus Christ, or evangelism.
Scripture plays a central role in defining the Evangelical faith. Furthermore, the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, rooted in scripture, maintains a key focal point. Finally, Evangelicals focus on the Holy Spirit and His role over the church as the mediator between God and mankind. Overall, the focus emphasizes sharing the Christian faith with others.
What is a Catholic?
Catholics belong to the Roman Catholic Church, one of the oldest religious institutions in the world. Catholics believe in the authority of the Church, which is headed by the Pope, and they place a high value on tradition, liturgy, and the sacraments. The Church regards both scripture and church tradition as authoritative sources of divine revelation.
Another central focus for Catholicism is the seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. The sacraments are considered channels of grace and are integral to the faith. Additionally, Catholics have a rich tradition of venerating saints and asking them for intercession, especially the Virgin Mary.
The term “Evangelical” originates from the Greek “euangelion,” meaning “good news” or “gospel.” The Evangelical movement traces back to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, which aimed to reform the Catholic Church. Key Reformation principles like “sola scriptura” and “sola fide” formed the foundation for Evangelicalism.
Evangelicalism took shape during the 18th-century Great Awakenings, emphasizing personal conversion, moral values, and evangelism. Leaders like Whitefield and Edwards spread their ideals through passionate sermons.
In the US, Evangelicalism grew in the 19th and 20th centuries, influencing social and political realms. It encompasses Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and non-denominational churches. It spread globally, reaching Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
The Catholic Church claims to date back to the apostle Peter as the first Pope. This line of authority began with Jesus granting Peter the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 16:19. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection in the first century, the Catholic Church was established. The people then set up roles such as bishops, priests, deacons, and more.
During the Great Schism in 1054 AD, the Church split the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, both claiming apostolic lineage. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century led to more divisions, prompting the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The Catholic Church’s role transcends religion, shaping politics, culture, education, and social justice. With a billion followers globally, it’s led by the Pope, considered the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
Are Catholics and Evangelicals the same?
Catholics and Evangelicals both identify as Christians and share core beliefs like the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. However, they are not the same and have significant differences. Here are some examples of their differences:
Authority: Evangelicals follow the principle of “sola scriptura,” or by scripture alone, recognizing only the Bible as the ultimate authority, while Catholics rely on both Scripture and Church Tradition.
Worship: Catholic worship is highly liturgical and centered around the Eucharist. Evangelical worship is less formal, focusing on sermons and congregational singing.
Sacraments vs. Ordinances: Catholics have seven sacraments, while Evangelicals usually observe Baptism and Communion as ordinances, not sacraments.
Clergy: The Catholic Church has a hierarchical structure headed by the Pope. Evangelicals have a more decentralized structure with pastors or elders.
Salvation: Evangelicals emphasize salvation through faith alone and a personal relationship with Jesus. Catholics see salvation as a process involving both faith and works.
What is the difference between Catholic and evangelical churches?
Catholic and Evangelical churches differ significantly in several areas, ranging from theology and worship to religious practices and organizational structure. Below are some of the primary differences:
Authority: The Bible and Sacred Tradition are authoritative and led by the Pope in Catholicism. While the Evangelicals view Scripture as the sole authority in matters of faith.
Worship and Liturgy: Catholics practice a highly liturgical worship in a set pattern, including prayer, Scripture readings, mass, and the Eucharist (holy communion). Evangelicals have less formal worship services, which can vary widely by denomination but focus on sermons, praise, and worship music.
Sacraments and Ordinances: Catholics recognize seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. Evangelicals only have two ordinances, baptism and communion.
Role of Clergy: Catholics have a hierarchical structure with the Pope at the top, followed by Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Evangelicals have a wide variety of church governance models, but most are more congregational and less hierarchical than the Catholic Church.
View of Salvation: Catholics view salvation as a process involving faith and works facilitated through the sacraments. Evangelicals believe in salvation by faith alone, and it is considered a gift from God that cannot be earned, only accepted.
Saints: Catholics venerate saints, especially the Virgin Mary, and the use of religious relics and icons are accepted practice. Evangelicals avoid such practices, opting for a personal relationship with Jesus.
Do Catholics and evangelicals use the same Bible?
Catholics and Evangelicals both use the Bible as a foundational text for their faith, but there are notable differences in the versions they typically use and the number of books included.
Old Testament: Catholic Bibles include 46 books with additional books and extensions. Evangelicals include 39 books, as the Deuterocanonical books are not present. These are referred to as the Apocrypha.
New Testament: Both the Catholic and Evangelical Bibles contain the same 27 books in the New Testament.
Interpretation: Catholics interpret the Bible through guidance by the Church Tradition and Clergy, while Evangelicals accept the ultimate authority of Scripture alone.
View of salvation between Catholics and Evangelicals
The concept of salvation is central to both Catholic and Evangelical theology, but the two have distinct views on how salvation is attained and what it entails. Overall, the Catholic view of salvation believes in a process of works and faith, while Evangelicals focus on grace alone and a personal relationship with Jesus. Catholicism adds several steps to the salvation process, including the sacraments, merit, the Church’s role, and final judgment.
The understanding and practice of sacraments differ significantly between Evangelical and Catholic traditions. Both recognize certain rites as significant, but their theological perspectives, number, and treatment of these rituals vary widely.
Catholic Sacraments recognize the seven sacraments but that they signify grace and also collaborate with grace. They are essential elements in the life of faith and the journey toward salvation. Without the sacraments, a person cannot fully incorporate into the church community. They baptize babies instead of adults.
Evangelicals typically recognize only two ordinances—Baptism and Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper). These are not considered sacraments in the sense that they transfer grace; rather, they are symbols that represent inner spiritual realities. Additionally, they are symbols of the believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Communion represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Baptism takes place when a person chooses it and understands its meaning. It’s an outward sign of an inward change.
Christianity’s allure lies in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and humanity’s Savior. He reconciles people to God, offering eternal life and divine connection. The New Testament fulfills prophecies and reveals God’s love. In Jesus, the gap between God and humans is bridged, offering forgiveness, transformation, and Holy Spirit empowerment.
Ultimately, Christianity focuses on a loving God and a personal relationship, while Catholicism focuses more on sacraments, tradition, and saints instead of a personal relationship with God. Jesus Christ offers salvation from sins and eternal life, which other religions cannot offer.
In essence, there are similarities between Evangelicals and Catholics. Both seek a deeper connection with God and following Jesus’ teachings. Both share core beliefs in Jesus’ divinity and the Bible’s significance. Yet, they contrast in matters like authority, sacraments, and salvation. Catholics value Church authority, traditions, and seven sacraments for grace. Evangelicals stress all believers’ priesthood, recognizing two symbolic ordinances, baptism and communion.
Salvation for Catholics involves lifelong faith, works, and sacraments. Evangelicals prioritize a personal relationship with Jesus. Christianity teaches that you are saved by grace through faith.