Most Protestants Are No Longer Protestant

17th c. engraving of the major Protestant Reformers

Historically, two doctrines more-or-less defined Protestant theology: sola fide and sola Scriptura. The first of these is the belief that salvation is “by faith alone,” apart from any sort of good works. The saved person might do good works, but good works have nothing to do with their being saved. The second, sola Scriptura, is the belief that “Scripture alone” is sufficient for belief, and that Christian doctrine can be derived exclusively from the Bible. Sources outside the Bible might help you understand Christianity, but a teaching not found in Scripture is a false teaching. (Protestant theologians vary in their understanding of this second point on issues like whether the Church’s interpretation of Scripture is binding, or even important.)

But do Protestants today even believe in these doctrines? A fascinating pair of Pew surveys, marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, decided to find out by surveying large numbers of Protestants in the U.S. and in eight different Western European countries. The results were fascinating.

The European Findings

The general findings in Europe are bleak:

  • Europe is losing its Christian identity. In the Netherlands, for example, 20% of the population is (mostly-lax) Catholic and 18% of the population is (mostly-devout) Protestant, but they’re dwarfed by the 48% of the country that’s religiously unaffiliated.
  • Christians aren’t living Christianity. Amongst those who do profess a religious affiliation, few say religion is very important in their lives (12% median for Protestants, 13% for Catholics), or that they pray daily (14% Protestants, 12% Catholics) or that they attend church weekly (8% Protestants, 14% Catholics).
  • Those who are living as Christians have frequently adopted an odd medley of Catholic and Protestant theology. “Protestants in every country surveyed except Norway are more likely to say that both elements are necessary for salvation than to take the traditionally Protestant sola fide position. For example, nearly three times as many German Protestants say faith and good works are necessary to get into heaven (61%) as say faith alone is the way to heaven (21%).” Weirder still, “in countries that have substantial shares of both Catholic and Protestant populations, only in the Netherlands are Catholics (66%) more likely than Protestants (47%) to say salvation comes from faith and good works. In Germany, Switzerland and the UK, Protestants are just as likely as Catholics – if not more likely – to espouse this traditional Catholic belief.”

Sola fide was held by the early Protestants to be “the article by which the church stands or falls.” By that standard, European Protestantism has fallen.

The American Findings

The American version of the study didn’t have an eye towards the religiously-unaffiliated, or the laxity of religious practice within Christianity (other studies have done that, and find a similar, if slower, downward trajectory to what we find in Western Europe). Instead, Pew just wanted to know if Catholics and Protestants even knew their own faith, or why we aren’t all in one Church.

The short answer is no. Only 70% of respondents knew that the period in which Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church is called “the Reformation” and not “the Great Crusade” or “the French Revolution.” 10% thought that St. Thomas Aquinas started the Protestant Reformation. And only 27% of Protestants realized that Protestants (historically) hold to sola fide and Catholics don’t. So most Protestants are not, it would seem, deeply invested in Reformation history, or tracing their theological lineage. But what are their theological beliefs now? As the left side of this chart shows, it looks nothing like what the Reformers taught:


Like their European counterparts, most American Protestants deny sola fide (that salvation is through faith alone). Most deny sola Scriptura. These two tenets, long considered a basic litmus test for Protestantism, are now held by only 30% of American Protestants. Another surprising stat: 30% of Protestants (including a whopping 47% of Black Protestants) believe in Purgatory.

The Christianity that American Protestants practice typically isn’t “chemically-pure Protestantism.” It’s a blend of Protestant ideas, Catholic ideas, and probably a good deal of other ideas from secular society.

Doctrine and the Problem of Authority

Catholicism has clarity and structure. If you want to know what the Catholic Church teaches, you can look it up, and generally find out pretty quickly. True, not all Catholics live it, not all Catholics even understand or believe it, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s still something that can be called “the” Catholic stance on the question.

When we Catholics look at Protestantism, we’re often expecting to find something like the Catholic Church. Since there’s an “-ism,” we expect a common ideology or set of values or something that binds the various and sundry Protestants together as a coherent whole. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard (or been asked) about “the Protestant view” on some doctrine on which there were innumerable “Protestant” views. In almost every case, there’s not such thing as the Protestant view. There’s only Protestant view, and every other Protestant is free to accept or reject that view.

Or to put it another way, you can be a bad Catholic (in the sense of refusing to believe what the Church believes), but it’s not clear how you can be a bad Protestant. Overwhelmingly, most Protestants today don’t believe what their great-grandparents believed on big issues like sola fide or sola Scriptura. Does that make them bad Protestants? If so, does this mean that they and their ancestors are bad Christians, for rejecting what their Catholic ancestors taught?

Once Protestantism accepted the idea that you could accept Christianity while rejecting the Church, a trajectory was set that brought us to this place. After all, if 16th-century Christians like Luther can reject key Christian doctrines (like transubstantiation, Holy Orders, papal primacy, etc.) and still consider themselves Christian, why can’t 21st-century Protestants reject key Protestant doctrines (like sola fide and sola Scriptura) and still consider themselves Protestant?

Add to this that there’s no pope in Protestantism, no Magisterium, no binding Church authority of any kind. Anglicans can’t police Methodists can’t police Presbyterians, and nobody is under any particular moral obligation to one of these rather than the other. For the most part, church authority exists only inasmuch as individual Protestants want it to exist.

I think that there are several things to take away from this, even as Catholics:

  1. Stop assuming that if a person is a Protestant, they necessarily hold to belief. No coherent belief binds Protestantism together. Instead, ask them what they believe. You may be in for a surprise.
  2. Recognize the draw, and challenge, of authority. Whether they realize it or not, many Protestants have been going through life with a religion-made-for-one, their own personal blend of Catholicism, various Protestant denominations, and whatever they’ve experienced, seen on TV, etc. On the one hand, there’s something extremely attractive about an external, visible religious authority with a coherent set of beliefs and practices that have stood up to the test of time for 2000 years. On the other hand, there’s something terrifying about that specter, and the amount of control it requires relinquishing.
  3. Recognize that the problem may be not strictly theological. Some people aren’t Catholic because their careful examination of the theological data hasn’t convinced them. But these people are a fleetingly small minority. Most people just haven’t thought deeply about the question, or haven’t been invited to a Catholic church, or have only had TV and stereotypes to go off of.
  4. See your role. You may not be a theologian, able to reach that first (fleetingly-small) group of people I mentioned int he last point, but you can do something about this second group. Form authentic friendships with people you wish were Catholic, share interesting Catholic books or talks or just ideas, draw them deeper into an exploration of Scripture and of early Christian writings. Heck, you might even grow deeper in your faith in the meantime.


  1. I’m an Anglican catholic, and if asked whether “faith in God alone is needed to get into heaven” or “both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven”, I’d be put to the test. Does the Catholic Church really teach the latter? The thief on the cross comes to mind. Isn’t the ultimate judgement of someone’s soul a thing that belongs to God alone? It also raises the question whether ‘getting into heaven’ is the central goal of the Christian during this life. I don’t see this emphasized in Scripture or early tradition–rather, it seems emphasized that Jesus led captivity captive, setting us free to live obediently and well from now throughout eternity.

    tl;dr: I wonder whether these questions quite get to the point of what protestants rejected. These are questions based on protestant formularies, and it seems likely they themselves didn’t understand what they were leaving behind.

    1. Nathan,

      What do you mean by “put to the test”? Can you elaborate? Do you believe that ‘getting into heaven’ is the central task of the Christian in this life? If so, how do you envision that path?

    2. God tells a lot about salvation through scripture, and not one element of text should be taken out of context. Scripture needs to be read in whole—the old leading to the new. If that is done, then it can be understood that Jesus can save whomever He wants—however He wants. Obviously, the thief on the cross was truly repentant moving Jesus’ merciful heart and was, therefore, saved. The rest of humanity would be wise, however, to take heed to Mary’s words: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2: 5). At this point, it bears repeating that God tells a lot about salvation (how one is saved), so it would be wise to listen (not take one text out of context).

    3. The good thief’s profession of faith and acceptance of the justice of his punishment didn’t exempt him from enduring his cross. That’s a pretty impressive reparation. Consider the parable of the workers in the field. Those hired late still had to work, and theirs was the anxiety over getting hired at all or making a full daily wage to sustain themselves and their families. Do you think they worked all the harder?

      1. John,
        Just as you say: The thief’s cross WAS a pretty impressive reparation. He asserted its justice, which reminds of Jesus telling us to pick up our cross to follow him. Recognizing Jesus as innocent and in charge of heaven’s gate, the thief demonstrated faith, works, and worship. All in a brief span of time, in very few words!

        – The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just (Psa. 37:30).

    4. Random though, sorry if not charitable.

      I personally don’t like the term “Anglican Catholic” because it pretends a sort of historical continuity and cohesiveness that Anglicanism lacks. Anglicanism is neither Catholic in that it is universal (it’s English-based after all) nor is it “complete” (the other meaning of Catholic) in that they are doctrinally a mess.

      I wish the Anglican Catholics would swim out of the Titanic, already on the ocean bed floor, and become RCs or Orthodox. Most Anglican Catholics are pretty good doctrinally and I honestly really wonder why they hang on to the bitter end with Anglicanism.

      God bless,

      1. I’ve heard it said by more than one Anglican, including Anglican priest, that they are still C of E, because of fierce loyalty to their country, not necessarily to any church or doctrine. Many still believe that to be a true Brit, you should belong to the C of E.

      2. Hi Craig,

        I honestly didn’t know too much about Anglican Catholicism until your post, which led me to Wikipedia. On its face, the Anglican Catholic break from the Anglican Communion does seem to be just one more splinter off the old log. But as a RC, I completely applaud the split since the theology is now closer to RC (or Orthodox) than – as you say – the wreck on the ocean floor. I personally think more conversions would occur if people truly knew not only their own denomination, but ours as well. On the other hand, as you intimate, there seems some clinging to Britain. Personal experience suggests this is more true of first-generation immigrants.

        One family in my RC parish did convert from Anglican Catholicism–they are devout and steadfast ‘orthodox’ RCs, delighted in their new-found faith. First the middle-aged parents converted, then all three young adult children; I met them all in RCIA. One daughter has seven children (six girls followed by one little gent). They all sit together at Mass. The little ones sing in the children’s choir. Beautiful witnesses to faith, knowledge, and Love.

      3. Why wish that poor Anglicans leave their heretical schism only to throw-in with the heretical schismatics of the East?

        The Bishops of the heretical schism of the East have no legitimate Jurisdiction.

        Legitimate Jurisdiction is the authority to govern and must be transmitted in the Catholic Church and can not simply be assumed or asserted against the will of the Supreme authority

        It is not enough for any Church to have Holy Orders, that Church must also have a legitimate unbroken succession of ministers linked to the Apostles under the supreme authority of the Pope.

        The schismatic heretics of the East do not have that Jurisdiction and, thus, the old axiom applies:

        No Jurisdiction, No Ministry

        1. Where do you get your information?
          The Catholic Church (not a fundamentalist/traditionalist creation separated from Rome) headed by the pope does not hold what your wrote.

          The Orthodox Church are Churches with valid Sacraments, Orders and true Churches. Rome does not deny this, in fact she teaches this. You might believe otherwise but fortunately you are not the supreme authority of the Church.

          The Orthodox Church are Apostolic, founded by Apostles or their disciples, eventually these Churches founded other Churches.

          Apostolic Succession does not mean simply the laying on of hands of one generation of bishops to the other but also that these bishops hold the Apostolic Faith.

          The mandate of the pope for an episcopal ordination is not required by the Orthodox.

          While many in the West claimed the bishop of Rome has universal, ordinary jurisdiction over all Churches in the entire world this is a development over time, it is not Apostolic Tradition since we know bishops were ordained without the permission of Rome at one time.

          The Lord made St. Peter “first among the apostles” (and later the Church proclaimed St. Paul co equal with St. Peter) nowhere did the Lord say that he was to be a dictator over the whole Church. As you know St. Paul “rebuked” St. Peter to his face on his judaizing plan at the Council of Jerusalem.

          The Church no longer uses the term schismatic for the Orthodox Churches. Why do you?

          The Anglican Communion holds heretical views, and is not schismatic. Classing the Anglicanism and Orthodoxy as both schismatic is ignorant of what the Church teaches.

          You suggested reading some apologetical tracts to the protestant who commented on the Catholic Church above. I suggest you read a magisterial document from Rome called, “Dominus Iesus”.

          The Instructions states in #17: “The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

          Also, you might read, Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14 and 15; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17: AAS 85 (1993), 848.

          If you want to attempt to speak for the Church, know what the Church teaches first.

          1. Bottom line heritic and schismatic are both separated from the one true Church. Since the East broke away from the Rock of Peter they should no longer have valid orders. No valid orders no salvation for them.

          2. John Glackin…and John

            Does this mean anything to you or are you sede vacanist or folks who reject the Decrees of Vatican II?

            UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO Nov 24, 1964

            15. Everyone also knows with what great love the Christians of the East celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the eucharistic celebration, source of the Church’s life and pledge of future glory, in which the faithful, united with their bishop, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word made flesh, Who suffered and has been glorified, and so, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they enter into communion with the most holy Trinity, being made “sharers of the divine nature”.(35) Hence, through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in each of these churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature(36) and through concelebration, their communion with one another is made manifest.

            In this liturgical worship, the Christians of the East pay high tribute, in beautiful hymns of praise, to Mary ever Virgin, whom the ecumenical Council of Ephesus solemnly proclaimed to be the holy Mother of God, so that Christ might be acknowledged as being truly Son of God and Son of Man, according to the Scriptures. Many also are the saints whose praise they sing, among them the Fathers of the universal Church.

            These Churches, although separated from us, possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged.

          3. “Fr Khouri”; Most of the clergy at Second Vatican Council were progressives trying to change Church Teachings. These progressives infiltrated the Catholic Church. So they had no right to change Church Doctrine. Also if someone were to look at the Church of England and at Luther’s Revolt you will see that some of bishops left the Catholic Church. And join these protestant denominations. Why don’t they have apostolic succession since this bishops were originally Catholic?. I am sure during the early years they had the same “sacraments” as the Catholic Church. They got rid of most the sacraments latter on. So the Church of England the Lutherans had the same issue as the Eastern Churches, they rejected Rome.

          4. John P. Glackin, if you reject the whole of VCII there is no point in arguing with you. You are a Council and pope unto yourself and you believe what you believe and the most of the rest of us will believe what the True Faith holds and teaches.

          5. I don’t think you are a valid priest. This what the true scandal is that we are dealing with. We have homosexuals and progressives pretending to be priests when they are not. Since they don’t serve God and God did not call them to the priesthood.

          6. Mr. Gluckin, you can say what you want. I was ordained by a valid bishop in communion with the pope.

            What I already quoted you is from the VCII document on the Eastern Churches. If you do not accept VCII on most essentials you are in impaired communion with Rome. That is the teaching of the Church whether you like it or not.

            You poor man; every priest who does not agree with your confusion is not a homosexual and if a priest was ordained by a valid bishop in communion with the pope he is a priest, sinner, heretic or not. What you believe is the heresy of Donatism which St. August fought against and which was condemned.

            If you truly believe that a validly ordained priest who though a sinner or even, God forbid, a heretic somehow celebrates the Sacraments based on his own worthiness and not the grace given by Christ through Ordination you are a Donatist. Sacraments are not based on the worthiness of the priest. May the all pure Mother of God and Mother of the Church help you find your way.

          7. Mr. Gluckin, you can say what you want. I was ordained by a valid bishop in communion with the pope.

            What I already quoted you is from the VCII document on the Eastern Churches. If you do not accept VCII on most essentials you are in impaired communion with Rome. That is the teaching of the Church whether you like it or not.

            You poor man; every priest who does not agree with your confusion is not a homosexual.

            The grace of the priesthood does not rely on the worthiness of the priest. What you believe is the heresy of Donatism which St. August fought against and which was condemned.

            If you truly believe that a validly ordained priest who though a sinner or even, God forbid, a heretic somehow celebrates the Sacraments based on his own worthiness and not the grace given by Christ through Ordination you are a Donatist. Sacraments are not based on the worthiness of the priest otherwise there would be no Sacraments for no one is worthy. May the all pure Mother of God and Mother of the Church help you find your way.

    5. Nathan,

      I’m sympathetic to what you say here. Formulations like, “both faith and good works are required” do not seem, at first glance, to allow for the salvation of the St. Dismas, the “good thief.”

      Now, please note: Catholics would clarify that example as follows: “Actually, St. Dismas did a plethora of good and meritorious works before he died. First, he made a verbal declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. Secondly, and as evidence of supernatural grace at work in his life, he acknowledged the justice of his own crucifixion, which indicates a heroic level of perfect repentance. Thirdly, he performed one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy called Admonishing the Sinner. He did this when he rebuked the other thief who cursed at Jesus. If we count his desire to be in Jesus’ kingdom as a Baptism of Desire, then we must conclude that between his baptism and his death, St. Dismas did very little OTHER than heroically good works.”

      Now, I understand the way that such responses can make their hearer frustrated and impatient: “Yes, yes, that’s cute, and I suppose it’s plausible enough, but even the idea of Baptism of Desire is a bit slippery, isn’t it? A bit of a cop-out, a bit of a post-hoc RetConning rationalization? For of course what you’re trying to do is explain how Moses, and Elijah, and the Good Thief, and people who die en route to the baptismal font, can possibly get to Heaven when Jesus clearly teaches a man must be Born Again to be saved, and you Catholics teach that Born Again means baptized, and yet you mumble uncertainly about innocent unbaptized babies, and obviously Elijah and Moses never received Christian baptism, but they showed up glowing like halogen bulbs at the Transfiguration!”

      To me, these objections initially seemed quite fair, and formulations like “Baptism of Desire” and “Baptism of Blood” sounded mealy-mouthed and weasel-y.

      I say, they “initially” seemed fair. But now I take the Catholic view, without reservation, because it was explained to me as follows:

      When Jesus instituted the sacraments, He was not hoping to narrow the channels of grace, but to widen them: To help our salvation, not hinder it.

      Consequently, He uses the sacraments as the Ordinary channels of grace; but in no way does He intend to shut down all Extraordinary channels, such that the Ordinary ones become exclusive.

      A protestant, in a church which lacks valid Holy Orders, and a valid Eucharist, and valid Sacramental Confession, is objectively in an inferior situation compared to an Orthodox or Copt or Catholic, who has all of the above.

      But Jesus instituted these in order to make salvation easier, not harder. Consequently, He does not say “to hell with” the protestant. Instead, Jesus gives grace to those who seek Him in all sincerity by virtue of their baptismal graces, and by virtue of their devotion to Scripture, and in many other ways, many of which we cannot know.

      The person who only has access to these Extraordinary channels of grace can get a lot of mileage from them, because in all cases Jesus seeks us out, desiring that we come to him.


      The person who is aware of the Ordinary channels of grace, and of his objective moral obligation to be a member of Christ’s Church, cannot safely ignore the Ordinary channels and hope to get by using only the Extraordinary ones. Christ has made no promise that one can go to Heaven that way.

      Given all of this, Moses and Elijah obviously made full use of the graces available to them Ordinarily, through the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is superior; and had they had access to Christian baptism and the Eucharist, we have every reason to think they would have availed themselves of those. Christ knew this too, and gave Moses and Elijah all the grace needed to enter the Kingdom.

      About the unbaptized child, we have no biographical details; so we cannot indicate with certainty that they would have chosen to be baptized, had they lived. But Christ knows, and Extraordinary channels of grace may be opened to them, since the Ordinary ones were not.

      The same applies to the repentant sinner who is hit by a bus en route to the Confessional, obviously.

      And the same applies to you and me. We’d best throw ourselves on the Mercy of Jesus Christ at all times…and that includes making use of all the sacraments, and ensuring that we are in full communion with His chief steward, his “Al Bayith…a tent peg in a firm place, holding the whole house together” (Isaiah 22, and also Matthew 16 of course).

      Make sense?

  2. Yes, the ultimate judge of a person’s soul is God. That is why it makes no sense to claim “I’m Saved!” Even St. Paul would not have made such a claim because he says, “I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscience of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time…” (1Corinthians 4: 4). It is wise then to “…work out …salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2: 12). “Work out” does not mean that one is saved by works alone. One needs faith in Jesus, but as scripture plainly states, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works. Can that faith save him?” and “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2: 14, 17). What salvation boils down to, then, in my humble opinion, is love—love of God, neighbor, and self. Jesus states, in fact, “Whoever loves me will keep my word [commandments]” (John 14: 23). If one keeps Jesus’ word, one will do works: feed the hungry, care for the ill, visit the imprisoned, etc. If these, among many, works are not done then Jesus will say, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25: 45). Who are the righteous (you might ask)? Well, those are the ones who keep God’s word/commandments. It follows that if one truly loves, then one will act on that love. One will do the works; one will live as much a Christ-like life as possible. (Praise Jesus for his mercy and sacrifice because, without it, nobody would/could be saved. Nobody could live a perfectly Christ-like life.) This pious living can be seen in the earliest Christians who “…devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles [ultimately, scripture], to the communal life [taking care of one another], to the breaking of the bread [the Eucharist—thanksgiving], and to the prayers [liturgical]” ( Acts 2: 42) which is the “salvation” formula. These earliest Christians—the followers of the way—knew exactly how to live a life of love, a life of salvation.

    A cradle Catholic,
    Praise God!

  3. As an ex-Protestant (now Catholic), I can tell you the question framed in the 16th century wasn’t whether a man is saved by faith alone but whether he is justified by faith alone. All sides in the Reformation agreed good works were necessary to be a Christian. The Catholics kept the traditional belief that justification is no less transformative than it is declarative. Protestantism enshrined the notion that justification is wholly outside of ourselves, a divine verdict only. Sanctification is where Protestants would say good works are necessary.

    1. Please help me understand the difference between sanctification and salvation. Is sanctification a state that doesn’t necessarily lead to salvation?

  4. I think the tendency of Protestants to take the “Catholic” idea of the necessity of good works for salvation of the day of judgement is inevitable in this day and age when almost all people are literate (unlike the era of the Reformation). If you actually read the Bible, especially the Gospels, it is clear that faith alone is not enough at the last judgement. The extreme stress Jesus makes on forgiveness, for example, makes it clear that faith alone will certainly not do. The reasons why the Reformers stumbled was really their bad philosophy (nothing to do with the Bible) that puts human activity and divine activity at odds with one another. God has to do everything or else we are saving ourselves by our own “works.” Jesus solved the problem (knowing the pitfalls of philosophy) by simply saying in the fifteenth chapter of John: “I am the vine, you are the branches …. without me you can do nothing … my Father is glorified in your bearing much fruit.” Thus, faith allows Jesus to act in us. However, the philosophical objections of the reformers trumped this simple approach of Jesus himself.

  5. The coin have two side faith and works you are the coin if you want to pay something on this coin you have to give the whole coin you can not give one side and leave the other side it always go together because the receiver does not accept one side coin he wants the whole coin.The receiver is Jesus and he wants the whole person not the half coin

  6. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

  7. I recently read this excerpt from Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies, and I found it pertinent to the present article.

    “There is no such thing as a religion called “Christianity” – there never has been such a religion.

    “There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church’s doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been, from the beginning, and will always be, the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there has never been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed.

    “There is no essential doctrine such that if we can agree upon it we can differ about the rest: as for instance, to accept immortality but deny the Trinity. A man will call himself a Christian though he denies the unity of the Christian Church; he will call himself a Christian though he denies the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; he will cheerfully call himself a Christian though he denies the Incarnation.”

    The Christian faith is a whole that must be believed as a whole. To change even a part make you, not a “different denomination” of Christian, but someone with heretical beliefs.

  8. I’ve read on some of the Protestant blogs that they were very concern about the findings of this article concerning the widespread disbelief in the two key solas of the Reformation. They blame lack of “good” teaching and theology.

  9. Raised evangelical Prot and later attending reformed seminary before crossing the Tiber over ten years ago…Your points in #2 were particular to my experience. Looking back, I can see that I never really believed the sola’s, but had not yet studied the Catholic Church theology enough to consider the beauty there. Once I went through RCIA, I could not deny the truths before me. I already was Catholic in belief and had been for years without knowing what to call it. I imagine mainline Prots who are devout and non denoms who grow in respect for historical Christianity will continue to find refuge in our understanding of God’s word.

  10. This blog is the typical Catholic banter that targets Protestants…but never any other group! And that’s because you know we are the closest thing to the truth you know, so you do everything you can to wipe the simplicity of the gospel off the face of the earth and satanically try to replace it with your unbiblical and heretical traditions! I curse you all!

    1. I am sorry,Selma, that you are so filled with hate. May God bless you and forgive you. (I will pray for that.)

    2. The implosion of Protestantism is happening before our eyes; the human-origin dogma of private interpretation and resultant uncontrolled denominationalism, carries with it the seeds of it’s own destruction. Joe does a good job documenting. But it would happen whether or not he pointed it out.

      Acts 5:38 applies. I smell desperation in your post. How sad for you. Come home to the One True Church.

    3. Selma,

      This blog is full to the brim with Christian wisdom and truth, and backed up by countless scriptures and 2000 years of Church history. Instead of just blindly cursing everyone, why don’t you just join the conversation and support your arguments against the Catholic position with evidence from scripture and Church history? You know that this is an ‘apologetics’ blog? There have been plenty of Protestants who have argued their points here over the years and for the most part the commentariat has greatly appreciated their input and arguments.

      I Hope you can enunciate your concerns and objections to Joe’s particular topics better in future comments here. If you have true wisdom to offer, it will probably be responded to with much appreciation. But if you are in obvious error, theologically, historically or scripturally, you will also be corrected with contrary evidence and historical proofs/quotes. So, all of us can benefit by good Christian conversation….but only when conducted in a spirit of Godliness and good will.

      Best to you in the Lord.

    4. Selma,

      The Gospel is certainly Good News. But it is only simple if one limits it to a few carefully selected proof text verses. In truth, the Gospel itself does not claim to be simple. What is simple about working out your own salvation as Paul preaches in Phillipians 2:12 “with fear and trembling.”?

      I pray that God will soften your heart. You are loved.

    5. Selma, In charity, I suggest that you check out the incorrect and vile things said about the Catholic and Orthodox Churches online. Protestants can be pretty nasty.

      Praise the good God that He doesn’t accept your curses, by whatever authority you believe you have to pronounce them.

      You consider Catholics enemies by your comments.

      Have you forgotten your Scripture? Paul says to the Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” But then maybe you read the Word of God selectively, taking what you agree with and jettisoning the rest. Or maybe you just interpret things any way you want too, setting up yourself as your own church or fellowship.

      Finally, my Church gave you and your church the Bible…you can deny this all you want but that just shows ignorance of history, theology and reality.

      The Bible did not fall from the sky in a brown leatherette cover, in the KJV with the words of the Lord in red. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches decided what books belonged in the Bible (until protestant leaders came along), how the Bible should be translated, how it was to be copied and interpreted.

      1. Dear Fr. Khouri. The schismatic heretics of the East did not decide what books would be canonical.

        Every single word of the New Testament was written by a Catholic to other Catholics in an already existing Catholic Church.

        Tha happened LONG before the schism.

      2. Dear Father Khouri. Catholics have churches, Protestants have buildings.

        Absent Holy Orders, Apostolic Succession, The Sacramental representation of the Holocaust, and The Sacraments, there is no church.

        A community of like-minded believers, maybe.

        1. I am not speaking for protestants, I know nothing of their auditoriums. They have no Apostolic Succession. Why are you even mentioning this?

          We are talking Catholics and Orthodox, not protestantism.

          The Church was one when the Canon of the Scriptures were decided. What the Synod of Hippo decided was canonical was accepted by the East.

          What I’m getting here is that even when the Church was one somehow those who were in the Christian West were superior to those Christian East.

          While your view is ahistorical and Eastern doctors are accepted in the West and vice versa this is more about arguing than seeking truth.

    6. Dear Selma. You have no idea just how far down we have sunk in perversity.

      Did you know that we are so evil, we wrote the Gospels that you use to try and convict us of evil?

      You will never escape. We know who you are and we know where you live because every Bible sold has invisible elements on them that we can trace with our super computers located in the Papal crypts of St. Peter’s in Rome.

    7. There is no such thing as Protestant beliefs in history before arch heretic Luther who couldn’t control his urges invented an entirely new religion. He needed to get rid if his guilt so he needed to get rid of the authority that told him he was hell bound. All Catholic doctrines were there from literally the disciples of the Apostles.

  11. I don’t think the article proves very much, to be honest. The premise of the article is that Protestantism is very RC, but within the polls the article is citing, it shows RCs are very Protestant. I think all the polls prove is that the premise of Jay Walking and all those man on the street videos are accurate–that people generally are really unintelligent and uninformed.

    Hence, a black Protestant part of that 47% cited in the article does not believe in Purgatory for any profound theological reason. Rather, the person innocently and naively assumes, “Well, people do all sorts of bad stuff so they can’t go to heaven that way, so there must be somewhere else they go.”

    There never was a time in Christian history where the laity were bastions of cogent theology (perhaps with the exception of the early Church, where popular Christianity proved to be ahead of the curve in Christological and Mariological issues.) So, if you asked the average German, Dutch, or Englishman in the early 1600s these questions, you;’d probably find similar percentages, perhaps a little better due to less TV and more church taking up recreation time. With the exception of the Puritans, which were a tight nit cult of sorts, people are always the same. Uninformed, naive, and innocent—ironically, the sorts of people that inherit the Kingdom of God.

    Last random comment. I went to a Bible Study at my old Orthodox parish (I had to change when I moved to a new town) and a cradle Orthodox (Greek lady) was aghast, “Wait, aren’t we saved by faith alone? We have other authorities outside of the Bible?” You’d think you were talking to a Protestant.

    Catechesis in Orthodoxy is far worse that conservative, Protestant churches (which one may compare to mini-seminaries with hours longs classes on the Scriptures every Sunday and Wednesday.) RCism is little better than Orthodoxy, though I would still say probably better (it is not uncommon for Orthodox to skip a homily sometimes, simply because the liturgy is already so long. Sometimes, all people know about the faith is the liturgy and little else.)

    It’s easy to criticize, but I’d rather go to heave stupid and humble, than be damned making an idol of my own ego through learning.

    God bless,

    1. In my opinion, every knowledgeable Christian has a duty to spread the knowledge about Christ to others, be they our fellow congregants or those who have never paid attention to religion. The most important thing is to find people who are ‘men of good will’, be they ‘street people’, Muslims, communist Chinese students, skateboarding youth, or even daily Mass going Catholics. The main element is ‘good will’….that is, a peaceful openness to discussion about our life here on Earth and also eternity in the future.

      All men of good will can benefit by receiving solid literature on the life and words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, writings of the Saints, and literature detailing Church history and spirituality. We can never know ‘who is who’ when we try to advance people in the way of the Holy Gospel, we can only offer it and see what happens. Often, it is Catholics themselves who reject anything that I offer them, insinuating that they already know everything. And the very poor, minorities, handicapped, etc… are very joyful to receive free holy literature on the subjects above. So, no matter how people judge others, regardless of their being Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox or Atheist, I think the words of Christ hold true when He says ” Woe to those who are full now, they shall hunger later”. The person who hungers for God, even secretly, will find Him eventually. But the man who is “Full”… has no place for the Almighty in His soul, and this can happen to anyone…even priests, bishops and monks…regardless of their religion.

      But, I think that everyone who loves Jesus will still try to reach out to others of Good Will, because of the Lord’s words: “I came to spread fire on the Earth, and what will I but that it be spread”. And also, ” The harvest is great but the laborers are few”. So, we know that Jesus wants us to be busy about looking for others of ‘good will’ who will benefit by the spiritually nutritious ‘sheep food’ ( words and teachings of Jesus and His saints) that we have prepared for them and go out to find and to offer them. It is only God in His ‘divine providence’ that knows who we will meet. Every act of evangelization to others, in many ways, is a miracle. And if we try to do what Jesus says, and help Him ‘kindle the fire of divine Love in the world’, we will witness these miracles ( insignificant that they might seem) when we have holy discussion with others we meet.

      Now..I’m off to practice what I preach. I need to hurry and get about 40 packets of 6 pages each on ” the Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (By Abp.Alban Goodies, S.J.) assembled….and I’m out to the Vallejo Farmers Market today. Out…..trying to ‘kindle the fire of faith and love’ that Christ came to spread in the world.

      We’ll see what happens. But it is almost always very good! Some scoff, some ignore, some say they already know Christ. But, some also stop and chat; some proclaim their authentic love for Jesus (Protestant or Catholic, mattering not); some start to form small but noticeable tears in their eyes, when encountering another who is interested in truth, life, God, and Jesus… as if it’s been a long time since anyone personallyand intimately communicated with them on such beautiful subjects. So, for these, whom God provides in His divine providence is why we should go out to evangelize. Even as Jesus said: “Do you love Me?”…”Feed My sheep.”

    2. Of course one can abuse knowledge by becoming proud. Scripture can be abused by twisting it but we don’t not use them because they can be abused. Augustine said learning is Faith seeking Understanding. We have a moral obligation to seek truth and obey it once you find it. We also have to share our faith with others so I wouldn’t say ignorance is a virtue.

  12. I was taught that only Catholics in the state of grace will enter the Kingdom of God. I was an altar boy and a lecture in the formative years when few challenged the authority of mother church. During that period I acquired Protestant and Jewish friends. We hardly brought up religion and we got along well. Then something hit me about my church. They had so many restrictions that one could not follow. My close friend Phil was a Methodist and we played guitars with a small band. Phil invited me and the band to play at a family gathering at St. James Methodist Church. My mother warned me that our church frowned on a Catholic entering another’s church. I rarely defied mom but for this challenge. I played with my group at Phil’s church and he, with no such warning attended mine. My question: is it a good thing that there are many fewer Protestants? What about other faiths? The “New Evangelism” may be working.

  13. For some time I have seen Protestants as Catholics-in-training. We have to remember that very few current Protestants made a conscious decision to leave the Catholic Church, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the vast majority of them, given a good working knowledge of what the Catholic Church teaches, would never do so.

  14. Well, that’s a funny sort of poll for it has no particular relevance to Christianity, since it makes no reference to Christ.

    If faith in God alone is needed, or faith in God with some undefined admixture of “good works”, then plainly not only Christians will be going to Heaven!

    Or did you perhaps not notice that no mention is made of Christ in this survey?

    Salvation is promised only to those who believe in Christ and obey his Word. It is not available to those who do not accept Jesus as the Son of God. Monotheism or some sort of deism will not suffice.

    “No man comes to the Father except through Me.” I don’t see a lot of room for debate there personally.

    His Word says very plainly that faith without works is vain; for it is a tree without fruit. Matt: 7,19-22 Matt. 25 31-46

    Buying indulgences or endowing a religious institution are not mentioned as sufficient I see.

    Notice how even healing or casting out devils will not be enough to assure salvation, if acts of mercy and compassion are not done also. It seems the bar is set very high indeed.

    God have mercy on us.

    1. Baloney,
      Your faith and the Catholic faith are two separate things you follow a book, that you call the “Word of God” that has no authority other than through the Church that compiled it and we follow the true word of God, Jesus Christ. We have a relationship with a person not a book.

      to put it plainly, “My Church gave your “church” the Bible.”

      1. Dear Frater Khouri, for you are no man’s father, except perhaps biologically. You are correct in that my faith is based on what I read in the Gospels and whatever understanding God has condescended to give me of his Word. Though I am happy and grateful for the insight others have given me, directly or otherwise.

        The “person” (odd term) whom you claim to have a relationship with, has relationships with many of His other creatures; you are His possession, not the reverse. “Your church” received the Gospels as did the Syriac Church, the Armenian Church and others. Israel received before any of us, and yet all that she had was taken from her. The Word is not your possession, and those who are hired at the first hour receive the same wage as those hired at the last, do they not?

        Is your church beyond the rebuke of God?

        1. No, but the true faith is in accord with the teachings of Christ and founded on His Apostles, not invented or just “come to light” with Luther. The Bible is interreted by the Church that is the guardian of that book. Again, the Word of God (Logos) is first and foremost the Lord Jesus, not a book.

          You say your faith is based on the Bible and “whatever understanding God has condescended to give to you of His Word”. Well, what if “divine” understanding gives you one understanding, your neighbor another and your co-worker another. Which “understanding” is true?

          1. The sure sign of bad faith is when you ask a Protestant a question they can’t answer they disappear only to pop up later with another question.

  15. When I was a Protestant the question I couldn’t answer was this: if everything we are to believe is in Scripture, what chapter and verse reveals the index of books that belong in Scripture?! If the Holy Spirit teaches me the right understanding why isn’t He telling the other 40,000 denominations?

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