Why are there so many Protestant denominations

What separates Protestants and Catholics

In Germany, the land of the Reformation, Catholic and Protestant Christians were deeply hostile to one another in the past. Numerous upheavals, mutual injuries, doctrinal condemnations, religiously motivated conflicts and wars accompanied this separation.

The reason: With the Reformation, the church began to be divided into a Catholic and a Protestant denomination. Because the wish of the Catholic monk Martin Luther (1483-1546) to reform "his" church was not fulfilled.

500 years after the break with Rome, according to the will of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the anniversary is to be celebrated as a joint festival of Christ with the Catholic Church. But despite the search for rapprochement and reconciliation, the two denominations still separate fundamental beliefs. Here are the most important points:

1. Understanding the Bible
Catholicism and Protestantism have different views of the meaning and authority of the Bible. For evangelicals it has been clear since Luther: "Sola scriptura" - the Bible is the only source for the word of God. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that the Bible alone is not sufficient, but that in addition to the Holy Scriptures, the Roman Catholic tradition is also binding for Christians.

2. Understanding of the Church
The Catholic Church (Catholic = all-embracing) sees itself as the only true Church - worldwide, under the leadership of the Pope. The churches that emerged from the Reformation (Protestant = corresponding to the Gospel), on the other hand, regard each other as equal despite their differences.

Even if many Protestants like Pope Francis - they categorically reject the papacy

3. Papal Office
The Protestants are by no means tolerant of the papacy. According to the evangelical opinion, this contradicts the statements of the Bible. Catholics see in the respective pope the successor of the apostle Peter - and thus the head of their church determined by Jesus Christ.

4. Understanding of ministry
According to the Catholic understanding, bishops, priests and deacons receive a special stamp of God for their service through ordination. That is why the ministry of the priest takes precedence over that of the Catholic laity. This is justified with an allegedly uninterrupted chain of consecrations, which extends from the first century to the present day. Only men can be ordained. The evangelical church does not see a consecration of the person in the spiritual office, but a function willed by God. This function can be transferred to every believer - including women.

5th Eucharist or Lord's Supper:
How strongly the Catholics' understanding of ministry influences sacred action and impairs ecumenical cooperation becomes clear when looking at the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper. Both terms stand for the act in worship that is supposed to bring to mind the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It goes back to the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion.

Separate Christianity: Catholics and Protestants eat the Lord's Supper separately

Only an ordained priest may preside over the Catholic Eucharist. Only he can transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the name of Jesus. Non-Catholics are not allowed. In the Protestant Church, everyone who is baptized is generally invited to take part in the Lord's Supper and everyone who is baptized can preside over the Lord's Supper. That is why the Catholic Church rejects mealtimes with Protestants.

In addition, the Lord's Supper has a different meaning depending on the denomination. Catholics see it as a constant repetition of the sacrifices of Jesus Christ. The host becomes Jesus in its interpretation and can then be worshiped. For Protestant Christians, the Lord's Supper is only a reminder of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Particular emphasis is placed on the community of those who celebrate the Lord's Supper.

6. Sacraments
In the Roman Catholic Church there are seven ordinances, so-called sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, Marriage, Ordination and Anointing of the Sick. In the Protestant Church there are only two: Baptism and the Lord's Supper (Eucharist). They are understood as symbolic-ritual acts through which God connects and blesses people in their faith.

7. Adoration of Mary and saints
Catholics venerate Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "Queen of Heaven" and equate her with Jesus in many ways. The Marian dogmas include the salvation of Mary from original sin and her bodily acceptance into heaven. Since there is no biblical evidence for these dogmas, they are rejected by the evangelical side.

In addition, the Catholic Church practices the veneration of saints. Deceased examples of faith that have been canonized in church history are asked for their help and intercession. Believers expect miracles from the more than 4,000 saints and worship their relics. The Protestant Church rejects the veneration of saints as unbiblical. According to the Reformation understanding, every person should turn directly to God in prayer.

8. Celibacy
All major world religions know the promise of celibacy and sexual abstinence - including the Catholic and Evangelical Churches. In the Catholic Church, celibacy is mandatory for priests and religious. It is understood as a sign of the undivided following of Christ.

The Protestant churches reject celibacy as a duty. Martin Luther demanded its abolition as early as 1520. He himself made a decisive contribution to this in 1525. The former monk married the former nun Katharina von Bora. By marrying, they founded the "Evangelical Rectory", which over the centuries has become a feature of the community.

TV theme day: 500 years of the Reformation. Everything about Martin Luther and the Reformation for a whole day on October 31, 2017 at DW Deutsch and in our online special at dw.com/kultur.Starts at 6 a.m. UTC (7 a.m. CET). Livestream: http://www.dw.com/de/media-center/live-tv/s-100817