Presumptions

PRESUMPTIONS



Church

First of all, it is important that you read the history of the early Christian Church to find out what sort of beliefs and practices were accepted and condemned by the early Christians. After the close of the apostolic age and since most were not well-educated, early Christians had to look to the "elders" and what has come to be known by historians as the "early Church Fathers" for the leadership and ideas in order to form the young Church with its theology and worship practices. So you should look at some of the work these men have done. A very prominent person of the early Church is St. Augustine. I recommend you read two of his works: "City of God" and "Confessions". I haven't read them myself but I know that scholars of different Christian faiths study them.



Authority

Protestants basically look only to the Bible for authority. They don't accept the "authority of man" for doctrines because it "contradicts Scripture". Ironically, they turn to bible scholars, theologians, and pastors for bible study in order to better understand Scripture. Unlike the Catholic Church (I'm not entirely sure about the Eastern Orthodox) who has a central authority for teaching, Protestantism exists in many forms in thousands of denominations. Many of these contradict each other - which is not surprising since they don't have the central authority necessary to keep themselves all in one as Christ and Paul have demanded. The key here is to consider for yourself. Is it possible for God to speak to us through fallible men? How much faith would you put into it if it is possible? I think that basically, you as a Christian will have to decide for yourself. Do you or would you trust only writing or can you also trust the mouths of men? Reading on the early Church history will greatly help in your understanding and decision. Have a look also at my tract on authority.



Bible

First of all, Protestant and Catholic versions of the Bible are different. You can find out in my tract on the Bible. Study also the 10 commandments and what the proper numbering should be because some Protestants charge that Catholics have changed the listing. You should also study up on the history of the Bible throughout the course of Christian Church history. That is, find out what versions, manuscripts, and translations were done. If there were any outstanding ones, note what people's reactions to it were. Also, find out what these various versions contain because some have different lists of books. In addition, you need to realize that bible exegesis (interpretation) is not easy. It takes into considerations in history, language, culture, and theology. Always keep this in mind if Protestants question whether various Catholic beliefs are biblical or not. Know that there is virtually always more than one interpretation of disputed verses and know what these verses are as well as their different interpretations. Realize also, that there are various verses which people use to support a concept and that there can also be, at the same time, various other verses which others use to support some other idea which contradicts the first. So have a look widely and around. Hopefully, this should allow, for both parties, a broader scope for looking at the issue with respect to the Bible.



Worship

The Protestant concept of worship and the Catholic concept of worship is different. THIS IS A KEY CONCEPT! If you ever have to answer a question on why Catholics pray to Mary and Angels, keep that in mind. In Protestantism, prayer, songs, and praise are the highest form of worship. For Catholics, we have an even higher form of worship and that is the Eucharistic celebration. That is why it is the center point in Mass on Sunday. So, you will need to clarify exactly what worship is to Protestants as well as explain your (the Catholic) definition of worship. My tract on worship may help.



Justification

The issue of justification is a very much disputed one. Besides the issue on authority, this is perhaps the most dividing issue for Protestants and Catholics. What I did when I first tackled the problem was looking at all sides of argument and just making my own decision as to how Christ's Death on the Cross applies to me and my salvation. Of course, you might want to study on the Catholic position first because many Protestants get the wrong idea that Catholics believe in salvation by works (and not faith). This might even lead to the topic of purgatory.
Is faith really all you need to be saved (assuming that to be saved means to be able to get to heaven after death)? If it is, does it mean that no matter what you do, you will go to heaven because you are now a child of God since you've accepted Christ as personal Lord & Savior? Is this the kind of faith that will get you to heaven or is the picture a little more complex than that? Also, does this faith make you good enough for heaven? That is, does it make you pure before God (who hates any thing related to sin) and if it does, how?



Mary

The issue on honoring Mary is a also a very much disputed one for particularly the Fundamentalist Protestants. It is less disputed with the mainline Protestants since they also give Mary a special honor.

Have a look at what other people with whom I have chat on the net have said about dead people Basically with Mary and the Saints & Angels, you (as the Christian) will have to decide whether you are worshipping them when you pray to them, or are you just giving them an honor and worshipping only God.



Purgatory

Although the name is not mentioned in Scripture (as with many other terms), the doctrine of Purgatory does not contradict Scripture. In understanding purgatory, you have to understand first how salvation is applied to people once they have believed. Connecting with that understanding is an understanding of how God's Love (Christ's Death) applies to us. I compiled three forum posting on this issue which I thought was quite thorough. You should take a look at it. Basically, think of how we can get to heaven. Do we need to be perfect in order to get to heaven? If so, how? Is a simple belief and acceptance in Christ really sufficient; does that make us perfect? These are just a couple of questions that I, myself, discussed with some non-Catholic Christians on a message board. The discussion turned out to be very fruitful. Too bad I didn't copy any of the dialogue and the board deletes posts about once a month.



Eucharist

First off, you need to understand the Catholic side. We have theological, biblical, and historical accounts for the celebration of the Eucharist. The link that I have contains two forum posts on the topic and you can probably get a good idea of what both sides have to say from reading this link. (You might want to keep in mind that the Lutheran Church also believes in the Real Presence.) Also, I personally think that the Catholic Church has the power (from the Holy Spirit of course) to transform a piece of bread into Christ's Body while Protestants can't claim this power for themselves and so they try to come up with an alternative and just claimed that Jesus actually meant eating His flesh to be symbolic. But that's just my own thinking; don't worry about it. (But then maybe that described one of the reformers who opposed the Eucharist whatever his name was.)