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Why do some Protestant denominations not consider Catholics to be Christians, and how do you refute them?

Full Question

Why do some Protestant denominations not consider Catholics to be Christians? How do you refute someone who tells you this?

Answer

The confusion is cased by the fact that different groups define the term Christian differently. A Catholic would define a Christian as anyone who professes faith in Christ and who has been validly baptized (water baptism).

Many Protestants do not use the term Christian in this way. Different denominations have different criteria for determining who is a Christian—e.g., Christians are those who have “accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior” or those who profess to be saved “by faith alone.” Since Catholics don’t generally use this language, they classify Catholics as non-Christians (though many are willing to concede that some Catholics are Christians even though they don’t use this language).

For those who approach you with this issue, point out several things to them: (1) Catholics are Christians; (2) the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus started and which he said would never pass away (Mt 16:18); (3) when Scripture speaks of Christians it speaks of every church member as a Christian, no matter what his “walk with God” may be like; and (4) Christians throughout history have always recognized baptism as the method by which one becomes a Christian. It was not until after the Protestant Reformation was underway that people denied this.










32 comments

  1. Jim Lesperance Reply

    Simply…Scriptural and historical ignorance. So many Protestants are not taught the first 1500 years of Christianity….or simply ignore it , until it becomes obvious, that they missed something!

  2. John Reply

    i think lots of protestants think Catholics aren’t Christians cos they “worship” images, “worship” Mary and also burn incense. They think Catholics have added to the bible as well as doing things not found in the bible, like infant baptism, purgatory etc. They should read the life story of late John Cardinal Newman to find out the truth about the Church.

    1. Kathy Reply

      @John you got that wrong like most people do about Catholics. We don’t worship images they are in the church to help remind us of our faith. We venerate Mary and pray to her to intercede on our behalf,after all she is the mother of our lord, and Jesus smiles when we honor is Mary.

    2. Chioma Reply

      We don’t worship Mary, we honour Mary. She is full of grace. Just understand that just as Jesus is the mediator of all graces, mary is the mediatrx because she opened the door of grace buy living a life that is worthy enough to have Christ our saviour. Other honour thee pastors wives, presidents wives, and so on, why not the mother of our saviour?.

  3. Mario Romero Reply

    We do not worship Mary, we love her – for she is the Mother of Jesus, chosen among women. On the Saints and Church Martyrs, we do not worship them either, but we remember, admire and thank them for their example, furthering Christ’s word, helping the poor…and so many other things

    1. Sandra Bills Reply

      Can you explain what the word worship means? I have not understood where the church ever got the idea to pray to saints to intercede. No one in the Old Testament ever prayed to any of the great profits or priests. I never saw where Jesus instructed his disciples to pray to anyone except God the Father.

  4. sergio penaflor Reply

    Simply, I think, the Protestants have confined themselves to the bible, that anything not written, is outside of Christianity. They dont know that Chrisitianity is evolving. As a sign of living Church- the Catholic church, there is manifestation about the real presence of Jesus tru the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is present daily to us during Eucharistic celebration, but the Ptotestants dont recognize it, but this is written in the bible. From time to time, God send Mother Mary to bring news and advices about continue loving Her Son, Jesus Christ. But then again the Protestants, especiallythe born-against dont believe in this because it is not written in the bible, and to the point having deep hatred agains the mother of Jesus Christ! Why? This is the case READING WITH OUT COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING about the messages in the bible. That by juggling phrases from the different era in the bible, they were able to present new meaning of whats in the bible that satosfies their own belief.

  5. Suzanne Graf Slupesky Beck Reply

    How do you respond to this type of conversation (I actually had): Me: “So St. Peter was the first pope.” Protestant, scornfully: “well, *I* don’t believe that!” Um ok,,,,,do you believe the sun comes up every morning…??? Yikes.

  6. Steve Mitchell Reply

    Our CCC answers this question – #1229 states: “From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey can be covered rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion.” What many Protestants might say, and our our Holy Father(s) would agree, is that one of the essential elements for many Catholics has not taken place yet, “acceptance of the Gospel entailing a converted life.” This is an essential element in becoming a Christian that most Catholics and Protestants can agree on, regardless of the language we each use, and other essential elements listed in our CCC, to which they might not agree. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, all of these elements must be present and conversion is sadly missing in so many. I believe if all just stop and have a discussion over these things with each other we’d find more and more common ground. More importantly, our disunity hinders our witness to the world that the Father sent Jesus, (Jn 17) Does it help our witness of Jesus to unbelievers that we have theological arguments with other Christians in public forums, like FB for instance?

    In the end it doesn’t matter how people define a Christian, Jesus will decide who is and who isn’t; (Mt. 25) – when I stand before Jesus and he looks at me, how much of himself will he see?

    1. Jodi Bialke Reply

      Bravo Steve Mitchell. Your post should convict everyone – straight to the point. Again, bravo.

  7. Doug Reply

    @Sergio: I understand that the 66 complementary books of the Bible are God’s autobiography, His guide for humanity, and our adoption papers. To suggest that Christianity is evolving feels like another way of saying that our unchanging God is also evolving. Many people, including myself, would take the position that if it isn’t found in scripture it could (and does) lead Christians and lost souls astray. How is Christianity evolving? Conforming to culture? Should it?

  8. Louie Reply

    If we Catholics are not Christians, therefore for thousands of years there was no Christian after Jesus Christ established his church. Protestants sprouted only recently and they are only after for criticizing the Catholic church claiming themselves the true christians to convince would be followers.

    1. Mario Simonelli Reply

      Louie, if all believers were Christian the devil would also be a Christian: to be a true Christian we will have to be like Christ, or striving to be. The bible say that those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. In 1John 3:6-7 we read “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous just as He is righteous.”

    2. Sergio Penaflor Reply

      Is it the highjacking of the Christian faith?…with the belief of the Protestants, what happened now to the early Catholics Christians martyrs who gave up their own life for their belief in Jesus Christ!…Some were even fed to the lions!…so these martyrs are pagans by the definition of the protestants?

  9. Mario Simonelli Reply

    I cannot say it better than Steve ” when I stand before Jesus and he looks at me, how much of himself will he see?” You say it all.

  10. Sergio Penaflor Reply

    @Doug..It is in the bible, that if what were said and done by Jesus during His ministry were not written, otherwise the books could fill the whole world. So, what were His unwritten messages? These were known to His apostles, disciples and followers. these were handed to the next next generations, and this was called ORAL TRADITION OF THE CHURCH! The TRADITION is one of the three pillars of the Catholic church…the church that Jesus Christ had founded.

    1. Mario Simonelli Reply

      Sergio, Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. “The gospel of Jesus Christ” is “the life of Jesus Christ” Jesus did not found the Catholic church, Peter was not in Rome, Paul was in Rome. The rock that Jesus founded His church on, is the revelation knowledge. At that time as you know Peter had a revelation who Jesus was. therefore the God given revelation is the Rock not Peter. If anything Jesus is the rock; the very cornerstone. Look it up Jesus was referred to as the Rock many times in the old a new testament.

      1. Mary Teresa Reply

        @Mario….Petra (Peter) in Greek means rock. In any language but English a bible says “You are Rock and on Rock I will build my church”. Only in English do we lose the meaning in the translation.

      2. arc ordanza Reply

        Upside Down Roman Crucifixion of Saint Peter
        Saint Peter was crucified during the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero (r.54-68). In 64 AD Nero set fire to Rome and blamed the Christians for its destruction. Peter was one of the Roman Christians who was taken prisoner and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Saint Peter was crucified with his head downwards because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner and posture as his Master. Saint Peter was buried on the Vatican Hill. Which now known St. Peter Basilica in Rome, Italy.

        1. Suzanne Graf Slupesky Beck Reply

          You seem awfully sure of yourself, Mario. Further, you are probably basing your information on a book, known to be FULL of false information about the Catholic church, written by Loraine Boettner,:Roman Catholicism. Mr. Boettner wrote the book without consulting anything or anyone Catholic. It is, famously, or infamously, full of innuendo,half-truths, and distortions of Roman Catholic teaching.

          While it in not in Scripture that Peter was in Rome, it doesn’t say that he wasn’t there either. There are hundreds of other citations written by other writers (historians) at the time who say that Peter WAS in Rome. As some have said, ” It is enough to say that the historical and scientific evidence is such that no one willing to look at the facts objectively can doubt that Peter was in Rome. To deny that fact is to let prejudice override reason. “

        2. arc ordanza Reply

          Here are more genuine historical writings attesting to the fact that Peter was indeed in Rome, and that he died there…

          St Irenaeus, “Against Heresies”, 3,1,1, 180 A.D., J208
          “…in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church.”
          St Irenaeus, “Against Heresies”, chapter III,
          “…the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops.”

          Eusebius, “History of the Church”, 2,14,6, 300 A.D., J651dd
          In the same reign of Claudius, the all-good and gracious providence which watches over all things guided Peter, the great and mighty one among the Apostles, who, because of his virtue, was the spokesman for all the others, to Rome.”

          Tertullian, “The demurrer against the heretics”, chapter XXXII,1,
          “…like the church of the Romans where Clement was ordained by Peter.”

          Who has the authority to ordain priests? Only Bishops do. Clement was ordained by the Bishop of Rome, Peter.

          Saint Peter of Alexandria, “The Canonical Letter”, canon 9, 306 A.D.
          “Peter, the first chosen of the Apostles, having been apprehended often and thrown into prison and treated with ignominy, at last was crucified in Rome.”

          Eusebius, “The Chronicle” Ad An.Dom 68, J651cc
          “Nero is the first, in addition to all his other crimes, to make a persecution against the Christians, in which Peter and Paul died gloriously in Rome.”

          Eusebius, “History of the Church”, 3,2, 300 A.D., J652a
          “After the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, Linus was the first appointed to the Episcopacy of the Church at Rome.”

          Lactantius, “Of the manner in which the persecutors died”:
          This letter is addressed to Donatus. It not only shows that Peter was actually in Rome, but that he died there also at the hands of Nero. Chapter II. “His apostles were at that time eleven in number, to whom were added Matthias, in the room of the traitor Judas, and afterwards Paul. Then were they dispersed throughout all the earth to preach the Gospel, as the Lord their Master had commanded them; and during twenty-five years, and until the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Nero, they occupied themselves in laying the foundations of the Church in every province and city. And while Nero reigned, the Apostle Peter came to Rome, and, through the power of God committed unto him, wrought certain miracles, and, by turning many to the true religion, built up a faithful and steadfast temple unto the Lord. When Nero heard of those things, and observed that not only in Rome, but in every other place, a great multitude revolted daily from the worship of idols, and, condemning their old ways, went over to the new religion, he, an execrable and pernicious tyrant, sprung forward to raze the heavenly temple and destroy the true faith. He it was who first persecuted the servants of God; he crucified Peter, and slew Paul: nor did he escape with impunity; for God looked on the affliction of His people; and therefore the tyrant, bereaved of authority, and precipitated from the height of empire, suddenly disappeared, and even the burial-place of that noxious wild beast was nowhere to be seen.”

          Saint Damasus I, “The Decree of Damasus” 3, 382 A.D., J910u
          “The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it.”

          Saint Augustine, “Letter to Generosus”, 53,1,2, 400 A.D., J1418
          “If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said: “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.”

          Has anyone ever considered archaeological evidence?
          I have presented much authentic documentation that Peter was indeed in Rome, so now let us look at the physical evidence.
          Peter’s tomb has been found. It was found under the altar of St. Peters Basilica in Rome in 1965. The tomb is plainly marked with his name and there are human remains within it. Anyone who visits St. Peters can see the tomb for himself
          Other early writings which show that Peter was indeed in Rome…

          Dionysius of Corinth in his letter to the 12th Pope Soter in 170 A.D.
          Clement of Corinth in his letter to the Corinthians in 70 A.D.

          Peter of Alexandria, in his work called ‘Penance’ in 311.

          St Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to the Romans, about 107.

          I have presented several early Church writings in this letter, and there are many others to show that Peter was indeed in Rome, that he and Paul founded the Church there, that he was the first Bishop of Rome, now called the Pope, and that he died there.
          For those who charge that Peter was never in Rome, I challenge them to provide genuine historical documents as proof of support for their position. If they have no genuine proof of what they charge, then they have only false charges.

        3. arc ordanza Reply

          1. Holy Scripture does not say that Peter was ever in Rome…
          Well, let us see! Holy Scripture does not deny that Peter was ever in Rome either, does it?
          So nothing at all was gained by this charge, if you are a Sola Scriptura or Bible only believer.
          Is Holy Scripture supposed to be “all encompassing”, and the sole source for all historical facts?
          Does it say that it is? Did you ever read John 21:25?
          However, surprisingly, Holy Scripture does, in fact, say that Peter was in Rome…
          Peter wrote,
          “The Church which is at Babylon, chosen together with you, greets you, and so does my son Mark.” 1Pet 5:13.
          Where is this Babylon? By the time the New Testament was written, the city of Babylon, in what is now Iraq, was of almost no importance. Its days of glory were long past in the Old Testament.
          Christians were under constant persecution by both the Jews and the Romans from the very beginning and had to practice the faith underground in the homes of believers, and in the catacombs of Rome. In order to recognize one another as fellow Christians, they used code words and symbols. The fish symbol (icthos) was used for recognition, and Babylon was the code word for Rome.
          If Peter had said he was writing from Rome, then no doubt, the Romans would have begun an intensive search for him.

          2. Holy Scripture tells us that the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54) ordered all Jews to leave Rome (Acts 18:2). Peter was a Jew, but the Church was an underground Church in hiding at the time.
          Well that charge to leave Rome, even implies that Peter could have been in Rome doesn’t it?
          Eusebius wrote in “The Chronicle” (Ad An Dom 42), that Peter, after establishing the Church in Antioch, went to Rome where he remained as Bishop of Rome for 25 years. We know from other early writings that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome in 67 A.D.. That date, minus 25 years would put him in Rome in the year 42, during the reign of Claudius. Again, this charge can be dismissed for the same reasons given already, that the Church was forced to practice the faith in an underground situation in order to avoid persecution. The Romans had a policy of hunting down and persecuting all of the Apostles.

          1. Mario Simonelli

            In the new testament there is no bad word written about the romans, God chose that his Son was borne under the Romans. You never visited the catacombs did you? Yes underground the Christians buried their death. You believe the Hollywood side of history.

      3. arc ordanza Reply

        The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews which our Lord made use of, were the same as if he had said in English, Thou art a Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter is here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built: Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ, by building his house, that is, his church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder, St. Matt. 7. 24, 25.

        1. Luke Reply

          Mario, I frankly must disagree. Scripture, history, and the writings/teachings of the Church Fathers are against you here.

  11. Mario Simonelli Reply

    @Mary Teresa, Your love for the Catholic church is blinding you to the truth of the gospel. I was like you but the Lord had mercy on me. Read my post again and investigate its content.

  12. Luis Lunario Reply

    For other (almost all) denominations when they use the term christians, it means all non-catholic christians and they are united as such. They might believe as Jesus is the Christ but, sadly, they are never united in one same doctirne. They are all subdivided in the details of it. Each one has its own name and diverse definitions.

  13. sergiosangkaka Reply

    I agree with@Luis Lunario. If the 48,000 christian sects are united, how come they dont have a singular doctrine? And they dont have a single leader? All they are good is to criticize the Catholic doctrine, and they conclude that it is wrong, and therefore the Catholicism is wrong! This is the line of reasoning of many RP. sects and cults! After all, it in is the bible that what was said and done by Jesus were not recorded, and if this happened, it could fill the whole world. So if a sects or cults is standing on BIBLE ALONE faith, then there could be something lacking in their belief…and this resulted inhaving of 48,000 organizations about Chrisitianity.

  14. Eddie Khader Reply

    without the Catholic Church you don’t have the Bible…The Catholic Church kept the Bible until today…The Catholic Church divided the Bible in to Chapters…The Catholic Church did numbered the versus in the Bible like (John 19:26-27). And you still talking about the Catholic Church
    so before you criticized the Catholic Church read the history of the Church for the last 1500 years before your man show up in this world…even Martin Luther never deny the history of the Catholic Church…He was baptized and ordained as a catholic preiest…read…read

  15. Samantha Reply

    I’m sorry but I believe we take scriptures too literally. They are a guide to the way we should lead our lives. We all have the potential of being these people if we believe and live our lives faithfully in oneness. It is my understanding that the protestant church was a split from the original Catholic church over a disagreement over multiple saints. There are many saints in our society unrecognised if look up from our books at the world around.

  16. Jennifer Reply

    When we recite the Creed, we profess that God is Lord. #Addicted Catholic

  17. wacoi Reply

    Mario simonelli, what you are saying proves nothing, and sometimes when someone do not know where they are going any path leads. If everyone would be curious about the beginning of the church from the beginning with Christ himself, they would all become catholic christians. Just do your homework and the truth will stare you in the face. Unless of course you don’t want the truth. You are welcome to join the one holy apostolic church of Christ Roman Catholicism.

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