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Q: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism) ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
Category: Relationships and Society > Religion
Asked by: annejohansen-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 12 Sep 2006 09:57 PDT
Expires: 12 Oct 2006 09:57 PDT
Question ID: 764507
Some time ago I read a great article that gave the differences between
Catholicism and Protestantism (in my case, I am mostly interested in
Lutheranism) - regarding both dogma and rituals. So if anyone could
give me a few good links comparing these, I d be more than happy (one
I really liked was this -, but I d also
like to be sure about sources).
Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
Answered By: byrd-ga on 13 Sep 2006 11:19 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear Annejohansen-ga,

What an interesting question, and one in which I too have long had a
personal interest.

By way of background, I was raised in the Lutheran Church and have
been well steeped in its historical teachings, practices, and
particular theology. And then, I was married to a Roman Catholic for
many years, as was my sister, whose children and grandchildren are
practicing Catholics. My son is also married to a Catholic, was
married in the Catholic Church, and my grandchildren are currently
attending Catholic church and catechism classes. In addition, as a
matter of intellectual and religious curiosity, I am rather widely
read on a variety of religious topics, and have studied other
theologies than just Lutheran, and even other religions than only
Christian. So you can see I?ve had exposure to and opportunity to
learn from both, indeed many sides.

I am currently attending a small Emergent church, which is in
actuality a tiny LCMS mission, begun by a slightly maverick
Lutheran-ordained pastor/professor of theology. Interestingly enough,
Emergent itself is more comfortable not only with Lutheran doctrine,
but also with Catholic tradition and expression, than with modern
Protestant Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism.

First of all, I?d like to comment that the person who wrote the piece
in the blog you referenced is writing from the Roman Catholic
viewpoint, and making a common mistake, which is to lump all
Protestants together into one big pot.  However, in fact, Lutherans
have much more in common with Roman Catholics than they do with many
Protestants. The blog author liberally quotes from Hank Hanegraaff,
who, while he is an erudite and articulate Christian apologist, is
nevertheless teaching from an evangelical viewpoint that does not
represent Lutheran theology.

Although its objectivity might be a bit questionable itself, there is
an interesting article in Wikipedia about Hanegraaff, here:

Hanegraaff?s own website for his ?Christian Research Institute? is

If nothing else, these two sources show that Hanegraaff is not
affiliated with any of the main Protestant denominations, but rather
touts what amounts to his own personal version of Christian
apologetics. Therefore, he is clearly not a useful source as a basis
for comparison between especially Lutheran Protestantism and Roman

So then, for instance, when the blog author, basing his understanding
largely on Hanegraaff?s teaching, states that, ?Protestants see
justification as a single act in time,? and that they believe in ?an
exact moment of decision,? he is not entirely correct. While these
statements are true of some Protestants, they do not accurately
reflect Lutheran theology. Rather, Lutherans share with Catholics the
belief that ?There is not a single moment which one can point to where
one is considered right with God. Indeed ... as long as you are alive
on earth, God is still working out your own salvation with you. There
is God's initiation and then there is the response of the human
person. This is not a one time deal, but an ongoing relationship made
possible by what Jesus did on the cross.?

That?s not to say there are no significant differences between
Catholic and Lutheran theology. There are, but to understand and judge
them fairly, it would be best to understand both theologies from
within each tradition, and not base a comparison on comments from
someone whose understanding somes from a third party outside either.
Just for what it?s worth, here?s an interesting comment on that
subject, with an exhortation for people to see for themselves what
some religion or other teaches and make up their own minds:

So, in line that that, I?ll do my best give you information and
resources from both the Lutheran and Catholic viewpoints, so that you
might more clearly see/understand what each church teaches, how they
view each other from within their respective doctrines, and then how
they compare.

Here, then, are links to some of what I believe are excellent
resources for exploring this topic further, from the standpoint of
theology, or dogma, which of course in turn influences practice or
ritual. I have organized them into four areas, first those from the
?Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue,? then from the Protestant (and
especially Lutheran) point of view, then from the Catholic, and
finally some that come from outside both, though I would take these
with a grain of salt as they may not be entirely accurate about


The ?Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue? refers to a series of discussions
between representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran
World Federation, that has been ongoing for more than thirty years,
since just after Vatican II.

A history and overview of the dialogue can be found on 
the LWF site, here:
The Vatican also has information about the dialogues on its website,
The results of these dialogues are published in a series of books.
They are available from a variety of sources, including Amazon, here:

In addition, here are links to the most recent papers online:

by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church


by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church



This article is written by a Lutheran pastor, who has boiled the
differences in question down to two main points: ?What is the
authority of the Christian church?? and ?How are we saved?? He argues
that all other differences are related in one way or another to these

Comments on these differences from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
(LCMS), the most conservative branch of American Lutheranism, on their
official website:
church practices and teachings:
(A brief discussion of the divergence between the LCMS and the more
liberal ELCA is here: )

This article discusses a number of Lutheran-Catholic differences,
especially from the standpoint of law and gospel. It?s scholarly, but
very interesting.
  *Note: the above article requires you to have Adobe Acrobat Reader
to view. If you don?t already have it, you can download a copy here:

Mountains? by Fr. Matthias Turk of the Pontifical Council for
Promoting Christian Unity
?What Do Catholics Believe?? by a former Lutheran, also includes
dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.

?HOW I BECAME THE CATHOLIC I WAS,? by Richard John Neuhaus
?This article is adapted from a presentation at Concordia Theological
Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, a seminary of the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod? and is an account of how and why this former
Missour-Synod Lutheran pastor converted to Roman Catholicism.

COMPARISON CHART showing differences between Catholics and various
Protestant denominations, including Lutheran, on general practices:

MEN LIVE BY,?  by Louis Cassels, Ch. 3 entitled, ?THE
CATHOLIC-PROTESTANT DIFFERENCES? digs deep into this subject, and does
place a specific emphasis on the differences between Lutheran and
Catholic teachings on a number of points. I think you?ll find it very
AND CATHOLIC THOUGHT? by Daphne Hampson; review by Michael Root in
?Christian Century,? Sept. 12, 2001
The reviewer recognizes that this author, like so many others, betrays
a misunderstanding of both Lutheran and Catholic dogma. Read it here:

Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Catholic Biblical Apologetics (a series of lecture notes used to teach
key doctrines and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church): 

Luther?s Small Catechism:

Luther?s Large Catechism:
The Book of Concord (The Lutheran Confessions):
Differences Between ?Low Church? and ?High Church? in worship practices:


I hope this information and these resources will be enough to give you
a good foundation for exploring the complex relationship between the
Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.  If anything still isn?t clear,
please ask in a ?Request for Clarification? before rating and closing
your question, as I want to be sure you?re happy with the information
provided. Good luck on your quest to understand this complicated

Best wishes,

Search strategy:

I already had a few of these links in my own bookmarks as a result of
my own interest in and study of this subject. In addition to those, I
also used the following search terms:

[Lutheran Catholic differences OR similarities OR compare OR comparison]
[communion catholic lutheran comparison OR difference]
["the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification"]
[differences comparison lutheran catholic traditions OR practices]
[lutheran catholic dialogue]

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 14 Sep 2006 08:49 PDT
Hi annejohansen-ga,

Sorry about that link. Apparently the final "l" didn't paste properly.
Try this one instead:

And please let me know if you have trouble with any others!

annejohansen-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Great beginning for my research, thanks.

Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 12 Sep 2006 12:56 PDT
Here is a respectable source:

Unfortunately it is of Protestant (not Lutheran specific) vs Catholic.
 The problem with not specifying 1 denominantion is that every
protestant denomination has slightly different beliefs than each other
Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
From: pinkfreud-ga on 13 Sep 2006 11:51 PDT
Wow, what an exceptional answer, Byrd! This is a subject that is of
considerable interest to me, and your links provide lots of food for
Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
From: myoarin-ga on 13 Sep 2006 15:24 PDT
Yes, indeed, Byrd!  To agree with Pink.

I am especially glad that Byrd mentions that Lutheranism is not
monolithic like the RC Church, something that people outside and many
within tend to overlook, maybe not so much in USA.  Elsewhere, where
Lutherans of one type (sorry, not the best word) are geographically
predominant, they often assume that all "Lutherans" are in complete
agreement with what they believe, even in Germany, where there are
officially some regional differences, but not of any practical
consequence, as a rule.  (Most people just know that they are not
Roman Catholics.)
This has been a stumbling block for German understanding of the
differences within the Lutheran World Federation in the discussions
with the Catholic Church, which understands these differences among
the Lutherans quite well, as newspaper essays from the Vatican have
demonstrated, one saying in effect, that the then ongoing discussion
among German Lutherans about the meaning of ordination was against
their own tenets.

The ?OFFICIAL COMMON STATEMENT? was a stop-gap document, a truce or
cease-fire agreement, necessary to have something to sign in Augsburg
on "Reformation Day" 1999, the anniversary of Luther's posting his 95
theses  - rather like there usually being a common document signed
when two heads of state meet.
Many laypeople believe that it says the two faiths had agreed to a
closer common ground, but in fact, as one can read in the links, it
just says that both sides would no longer uphold the condemnations
cast in the 16th century  - laying down their weapons, so to speak. 
The "consensus" mentioned is one agreeing to continue to disagree on
salient points of belief.  The greatest of these is acceptance of the
Pope as head of the "Church" - with a capital C.  The RC Church holds
that as the "Catholic (= universal) Church", all other Christian
churches are not equivalent.  The Orthodox churches also have a
problem with this attitude.  Ordination of women is also problem.

Does that add anything?  I hope so.
Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
From: byrd-ga on 13 Sep 2006 16:47 PDT
Thank you very much, pinkfreud-ga! Coming from a respected colleague,
your appreciation is much appreciated! I?m very happy if any of the
information or links are of use to you. :-)

And myoarin-ga, thank you also for your compliment! And yes, I do
think your comments add quite a bit to this topic, in particular the
explication of the purpose and effect of the ?Official Common

As to the issue of the differences within Lutheranism itself, you are
absolutely right that there is no one, single ?Lutheran? church, as
there is Roman Catholic.There are actually quite a number of different
Lutheran bodies, not just in the U.S. but worldwide, and sometimes the
differences among and between them can be significant. Obviously I
couldn?t ignore the subject altogether, but my comment has a U.S.
focus, and so I think your observations about the German viewpoint are
also especially interesting. Thanks!
Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
From: annejohansen-ga on 14 Sep 2006 08:07 PDT
is a broken link?
Subject: Re: Catholicism v Protestantism (Lutheranism)
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Sep 2006 13:36 PDT
Thanks, Byrd.  :)

I am glad Anne Johansen asked about the BodyBlood link, inciting me to read it.
Continuing with aspects of German Lutheranism:  The last part about
the meaning of "catholic" reminded me that in the German Apostles'
Creed now used, the words are:  Ich glaube an ... die heilige,
christliche Kirche ..."("I believe in ... the holy Christian Church
...").  Individual to my local church, decades ago, the pastor
reinserted the word "allgemeine" (general = universal = catholic) that
was earlier used in the creed in Lutheran churches here,
alternatievely with the word "katholische".  Apparently this gave rise
to misunderstanding, and the word was dropped.
(Hey, we're the real German Lutherans; we can't use that word, and not
"allgemeine", if that means we've something in common with the RCs!)
Decisions on such things are made by the Synod, a body of elected
representatives, not all theologians, and as a body, not immune to
popular thinking.

The "Evangelical Church in Germany" is an interesting organization,
not nearly as diversified as the differences in the (German language)
websites of the 23 member churches might suggest ("united" refers to
churches that have amalgamated Calvanistic concepts), but certainly
not a THE one, sole German Lutheran Church that foreigners would

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