Catholicism and the Bible Contrasted

In 2006 I participated in short-term mission work in Quebec, Canada. As we went door-to-door in the French-speaking areas, we ran into numerous people who asked us one question, over and over: “How are you Baptists different from us Catholics?”

At the time, I didn’t have a short answer in mind. After a few deer-in-the-headlights looks from the unfortunate Canadians who were subjected to my machine-gun-barrage of information on the Catholic church, I decided I should summarize our differences in a clearer and more concise form.

The result was a leaflet entitled “Are We Really Different?” that covers five differences between Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity. Certainly, there are many others, but I was shooting for something brief.


1. How are we saved?

Romans Catholicism teaches:

“If any one saith, that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace; let him be anathema.”
—The Council of Trent (1547),
Seventh Session.
Canons on the Sacraments in General,
Canon 8

The Bible says:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
—Ephesians 2:8-9


2. Do we need human priests for our mediators?

Catholicism teaches:

“Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession […]”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997),
Sec. 1456

The Bible says:

“For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
—I Timothy 2:5-6


3. How are we to view Mary?

Catholicism teaches:

“[One should] continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin.”
—Pope Pius IX,
Ineffabilis Deus (1854)

The Bible says:

“I [am] the LORD: that [is] my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”
—Isaiah 42:8


4. What is the foundation of the Church?

Catholicism teaches:

“Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head. […] They are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997),
Sec. 765

The Bible says:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
—I Corinthians 3:11


5. Is there a purgatory that exists to purify us of our sins?

Catholicism teaches:

“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997),
Sec. 1031

The Bible says:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
—Hebrews 7:25


Printer-friendly versions of this comparison chart are available as PDF downloads in English and French.

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