Question: : What is the difference between Roman Catholicism and what Central Church teaches?
Answer:The differences can be broken down into several categories:
AUTHORITY: Protestants (Central Church is a Protestant church) do not accept that the Pope, the bishop of Rome, is the final authority for the church, nor is he infallible when he speaks from his position of authority. His word holds no more authority than any other man of spiritual accomplishment. We may appreciate his wisdom, but do not take it as law. We also respect the traditions and councils of the past, but we do not see them as binding. Only the Bible can be the arbiter for our decisions about what God wants us to be and do as His Church.
SALVATION: We believe that a right relationship with God cannot be achieved by doing good works. In fact, if we are depending on our works to get us to heaven we will be sorely disappointed. Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). We are “saved” (rescued from the penalty of our sin, which is death) by faith alone, that is, by trusting in Christ’s provision of forgiveness (entire forgiveness of sins past, present and future) only, not our own efforts to be good. However, the faith which receives God’s free gift of eternal life is never alone. It will always produce good works in the one who truly believes. Paul said in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
We also do not believe that you have to be a member of the Catholic Church to be in God’s family (http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9909frs.asp). Faith in Christ transcends denominations. To be fair, there are some Protestants who in essence believe that if you are not a part of their denomination you are likely not saved, but this is wrong.
SCRIPTURE: Protestants are encouraged to read and study the Bible, whereas, at least in the past, Catholics were not. There are variations of interpretation of the Bible within Catholicism, but not anything like among Protestants. However, it is Protestants who have furthered the progress of Bible interpretation far beyond the Catholic scholarship, though Catholics have made significant contributions. But this is because Protestants see the Bible as available to everyone and the only authority by which we discern God’s will.
There is also a difference in the amount of value placed on the Apocrypha, a group of books written after Malachi and before the New Testament that Catholics include in their Bibles. Catholics give much more authority to these books than do Protestants, as evidenced by the fact that few Protestant Bibles even include them.
SACRAMENTS: Protestants, Central Church included, only believe in two rites of salvation, baptism and the Lord’s supper. Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), Penance (confession to an ordained priest and assigned acts of contrition), Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders (ordination of bishops, priests and deacons), and Matrimony make up the seven sacraments for Catholics, who define these as “efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses” through which “divine life is bestowed” and which are “necessary means of salvation for the faithful” (Wikipedia, Sacraments of the Catholic Church).
Protestants do not, for the most part, believe that baptism or the Lord’s Supper are necessary means of salvation, but do see them as essential to the blessing of our lives and encouragement to spiritual growth once we are saved.
Protestants also do not see the elements of the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the wine, as in any way actually becoming the physical body and blood of Christ. Lutherans believe that the physical body and blood of Christ surround the elements during the Lord’s Supper, but other Protestants, including Central Church, believe the elements symbolize the body of Christ and that he is present in a spiritual sense only when we partake of the supper in faith.
PRAYER AND CONFESSION: We do not practice praying to the saints who have gone before us. In the Catholic confession, though all believers may be called “saints” in a general sense, there are those who have elevated themselves by exemplary lives and performance of miracles who have then been enshrined by the church as official Saints of the church. These people are often called upon in prayer, particularly Mary, the mother of Jesus, to bring their requests to the Lord Himself. It is assumed that they have the ear of God in a way we might not and can aid us in getting our requests answered. At Central Church we believe that we have just as much access and just as much the ear of God as any other believer because we come through the merit of Christ. We do ask others to pray for us, and may feel they have a better chance of being heard than we do, but this is essentially wrong. There is value in having many pray, not because God will be more persuaded to respond, but because it is a way of showing our love for one another.
At Central we encourage confessing our sins in situations with other believers where a bond of trust has been established and an accountability can be maintained. There is no need to go to an ordained individual for this purpose, though there is no discouragement from doing so.
LEADERSHIP: Though we ordain men to the ministry and assign them responsibilities to lead God’s flock, we also believe that every believer is a priest before God, with full access to Him and full rights to exercise decisions of conscience. We will seek advice and direction from leaders, but do not see leaders as exercising authority more potent than their example. Believers are told to obey their leaders (Hebrews 13:17) but leaders are encouraged not to “lord it over” the flock (1 Peter 5:3).
For further study from one facet of the Catholic Church about their distinctive beliefs visit http://www.catholic.com/default.asp.