Catholics vs Baptists – Differences And Similarities Discussed
There are so many Christian churches and denominations, understanding them all can be very confusing. The Catholic and the Baptist Churches are amongst the largest denominations in the world. These important Churches and their differences need to be understood so that we know how they can help us to live a spiritual and good life.
In this article, we will clarify many of the issues for you, with regard to Baptists and Catholics. The history of both denominations is discussed and investigated. Then there is a brief discussion of the similarities between the two groups. The similarities with regard to theology and practices.
We then briefly discuss the many differences between the Baptists and the Catholics. It will identify the differences with regard to practices, organization, and beliefs. In particular, there is a section of the baptism, and how it represents a fundamental difference between the two faiths.
Then there is an investigation into reason for the often poor relationship between Catholics and Baptists. The views of each denomination on each other are presented and analyzed. While many Christian churches are becoming reconciled, there still remain deep divisions between the two groups, even after many centuries.
History of Catholic v Baptists
The Catholic Church grew out of the primitive Church that existed during the Roman Empire. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Bishop of Rome became more powerful and eventually became the head of Christian communities in Western Europe and imposed theological and liturgical unity on churches. The Catholic Church was hugely influential in medieval Europe and later, states Chadwick.
The Catholic Church was the sole Christian Church in Europe until the Reformation and it saw itself as the one true and Universal Church. This was until the Reformation. Following the denunciation by Luther of the Papacy, a number of Protestant Churches and sects emerged.
One of these was the Anabaptists, who are regarded as part of the Radical Reformation reports Orchard. They are believed to have influenced the growth of Baptist Churches in England, but many dispute this according to Orchard. In the early 1600s English Puritans who separated from the Church of England, established the first Baptist Churches.
The First London Confession of Faith formalized early Baptist teachings. English Baptists fleeing persecution established the earliest Baptists Churches in America. The Great Awakenings led to many Americans becoming Baptists. There are many varieties of Baptists and they include those influenced by Calvinist and Arminian doctrines.
In the past either directly or indirectly the Catholic Church persecuted many Baptists. This led to the deaths and imprisonment of countless. It should be noted that Early Baptists were also persecuted by their fellow Protestants in Europe.
The population of Catholics v Baptists
Globally Catholicism is the largest Christian Church. It has over one billion members and the majority of those living in Southern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The Church is still growing, especially in Africa and Asia, but has lost some ground in its traditional strongholds of Europe and America.
Baptists are one of the five most important Protestant denominations. There are some 100 million adherents of the faith around the globe. Baptists are the largest Christian grouping in the Southern United States. There are also large Baptist communities in Brazil, Ukraine, and Africa.
The Catholic population is more unified in their beliefs. However, the Baptists have a much more diverse range of opinions. There are conservatives and liberal Baptists congregations.
Similarities between Baptists and Catholics
This section of the work will examine the various ways that Catholics and Baptist are alike. It must be remembered that there are a great many similarities between all the Christian Churches. Too often there has been too much emphasis on the differences and not what Christians have in common. This is also the case with regard to the Baptists and the Catholics. Here are some of the common beliefs and practices of both denominations.
Belief in Jesus Christ
Both denominations are Christians. That is they believe that Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins. His death means that people can achieve salvation. Both believe that Christ is our Saviour and faith in him is essential for salvation and that every believer should seek to imitate him in their daily life according to Norman.
Catholics and Baptists believe in the concept of sin. That is God, the Father has ordained that certain things are a sin. These sins can determine if we are saved and our fate in life to come after we have died.
The two groups of Christians are both concerned with the salvation of the believer. They both teach that those whose sins have been forgiven will ascend to Heaven. Both also preach that unrepentant sinners will go to Hell, a place of eternal pain and suffering.
The two denominations believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It can serve as a guide to salvation. Both fully accept that the New Testament is the record of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Virgin Birth and Trinity
Both groups believe in the Virgin birth. Sullivan defines this as the belief that Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary. They both believe in the doctrine of immaculate conception and that Mary became pregnant without sin.
Catholic and Baptists both practice Holy Communion and it is central to their services. Communion is very similar in both Churches. The denominations both accept that the sacrament of communion originated in the Last Supper.
Christian v Baptists morality
The two denomination believe that every believer should try and live like Christ and according to the ten commandments. Catholic and Baptists tend to frown on divorce and are very conservative on sexual matters. With regard to their conservative interpretation of the Gospel, both Christians are broadly similar.
Differences between Baptists and Catholics
The Church headed by the Pope and the Baptists has evolved very differently in recent centuries. While the churches have common origins and beliefs there are real differences between them. They include differences with regard to theology and beliefs. This, in turn, has led to very different practices between Catholics and Baptists and as a result of many members of these groups, often have different worldviews and outlooks.
Baptism: Catholic v Baptist
The chief difference between Catholics and Baptists is the sacrament of baptism. This is the sacrament that cleanses the believer of original sin. It also allows a person to become a full member of a Church.
Catholics believe that every infant needs to be baptized and it is important for their salvation. Baptists reject infant Baptist and believe that only adults can only be baptized. Only they can understand the teachings of Christ and only believers should be baptized.
This means that only adults are full members of the Baptist Church. The Baptists also practice full immersion in water. Catholicism only pours Holy Water on the head of a young infant and continue baptizing in a manner that has been handed down since the early Middle Ages.
Catholics believe in a universal church and that the Pope, is its head. This is because he is the successor of the first Pope, who was St Peter. The Catholic Church is very hierarchical with only limited lay involvement, but this is slowly changing.
Baptists believe that every local Baptist congregation is the ‘embodiment of the Church’ according to Goodcliffe. They should be independent of all civil authority and even other churches. Baptist Churches often come together in informal congregations such as the Southern Baptist Convention in America.
Catholics hold that a specially ordained man can only celebrate mass and perform the sacraments. Baptists believe that any believer can be a minister and serve as a deacon. This is conditional on their knowledge of the bible and their commitment to the teachings of Christ.
There are many different groups of Baptists and some are conservative and others more liberal. For example, some agree with the Catholics and disagree with the ordination of women. While others such as German and Swiss Baptists ordain women.
Salvation: Catholics v Baptists
While both churches agree that believers can be saved, they fundamentally disagree on how this can be achieved. Baptists like other Protestant believe that we can only be saved by faith alone, this is the Theory of Justification. Our belief in Jesus is what can redeem our sin and help us to achieve everlasting life and lead to our sanctification.
Catholics believe that we are justified or redeemed from sin by faith. However, they also believe that ‘good works’ can also help people to secure salvation. This is totally rejected by all Baptist congregations.
The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the ” Mass”, which involves a sacrament, in which Christ is present in the wine and bread. This is anathema to Baptists. They believe that Jesus is in heaven and that Holy Communion is only a symbolic act that reminds believers of the sacrifice made by Christ for our salvation.
Catholicism believes that communion is one of the 7 sacraments that are essential for the salvation of an individual according to Collinge. Baptists, like other Protestants, only hold that there are two sacraments. Because only two are mentioned in the Bible.
Because of the importance of tradition in Catholicism, they have certain celebrations and holidays that are not celebrated by Baptists. Catholics observe the period of abstinence known as Lent, which is rejected by the Baptists. Moreover, they also reject the idea of purgatory, unlike Catholicism.
Catholics and Baptists have different bibles. While both accept the New Testament, they have different versions of the Old Testament. Catholics accept 49 books in the Old Testament and the Baptist bible has 39 books.
Baptists are very much concerned with the Bible, like other Protestants argues Willis. They refer to the bible in order to understand God’s wishes and how they should behave. Catholics are not as Bible-centric as Baptists and they are also guided by traditions, which can help the believer to achieve salvation.
Virgin Mary and the saints
Baptists believe that all prayer should be directed to Jesus and that prayers to saints are wrong. Catholics are encouraged to pray to the saints, who were very holy in their life and had a special relationship with God. Willis states that Roman Catholicism teaches that they can intercede with God, to fulfill their prayers.
Catholicism believes that Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus. Her intercession can help a believer. Baptists reject this and only teach that she is only a blessed person and therefore should not be worshipped.
Catholic v Baptists – views
The majority of Catholics believe that Baptists are Christians. Most Baptists also view Catholics as followers of Jesus, but they are misinformed. However, there are some Baptist congregations who hold that members of the Church headed by the Pope are not Christians.
There are some Baptists who argue that the Roman Church teachings distort the Gospel. This means that many Catholics are not following the bible. Moreover, the practice of praying to the saints is idolatrous to many conservative Baptists and they believe that Catholics cannot be saved, because they are not true Christians.
The Catholic Church and the Baptist Churches all have a common origin. They both trace their origin to the Apostles and the Early Church. The Baptist Churches emerged during the Reformation from groups who wanted no vestiges of Catholicism in their forms of worship.
Baptists were seen as a radical and even dangerous by Catholics and many Protestant denominations. They were violently persecuted for many years. The Baptists established themselves in America and they have flourished here to this day.
There are many similarities between the two Churches. They are both professed followers of Jesus, whom they believe died for the sins of humanity. These two groups also believe in eternal salvation.
However, there are major differences between the two branches of Christianity and perhaps the most significant of these is the issue of baptism. Catholics practice infant baptism. While Baptists practice adult baptism.
Among some of the other differences between the two are on theological issues such as Justification and Sanctification. There are also differences with regard to the saint, Virgin Mary, and Holy Communion. These are such that it has persuaded some Baptists not accepting Catholics as true Christians.
Orchard, G. H. (1956). A concise history Of Baptists http://www.gracebiblebaptistds.com/FTP_Root/Baptist/A_Concise_History_of_Baptists.pdf
Norman, R. S. (2005). The Baptist way: Distinctives of a Baptist church. B&H Publishing Group https://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=dJqmmFXUznYC&oi=fnd&pg=PP11&dq=baptist+doctrine&ots=Eu43aSciHx&sig=eoMPg6jHVA1ltLKRX6X_epMmVug&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=baptist%20doctrine&f=false
Goodliff, P. (2012). Baptist Church Polity and Practice. Law & Just.-Christian L. Rev., 168, 5 <https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/ljusclr168&div=4&id=&page=>
Collinge, William J. Historical Dictionary of Catholicism (1997) https://archive.org/details/historicaldictio00coll
Chadwick, Owen. A History of the Popes 1830-1914 (2003) https://www.questia.com/library/1663038/a-history-of-the-popes-1830-1914
Sullivan, Scott (2018) Catholic Theology: A quick and easy crash course for beginners https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=catholic+theology
Willis, Gegory (2018) What’s the difference between Christian denominations. Southern Seminary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCo93aC7CuQ