Christianity is without doubt the largest religion in the world with billions of followers. However, Christianity is divided into various branches, including Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, Mormon, Anglican, Orthodox, and Gnostic.
Of these denominations, Catholicism takes the largest share of Christianity in the world, leaving some people wondering if Christians and Catholics are the same. This article discusses Christians vs Catholics in detail to help you understand the existing similarities and differences if any.
Christians are people who believe in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ who was crucified on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead on the third day. So, Christians should conduct themselves in a way that reflects Jesus Christ.
In the past, Christians were expected to strict Christianity guidelines that included going to church on the specified dates, practicing certain rites, and observing important formalities on the Christian calendar.
Christians who didn’t follow these practices suffered serious consequences. However, Christianity has evolved and some of the traditional practices and guidelines have been dropped along the way. But it’s important to mention that Christians around the world are still guided by the word of God and the teachings of the Bible.
History of Christianity
As noted above, Christianity is the largest religion in the world with billions of followers. It stems from the life, death, and teaching of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who existed in the first century CE. Geographically, Christianity is the most widely spread religion in the world.
It’s divided into several denominations with Catholicism taking the lion’s share followed by the Eastern Orthodox, and the Protestant church respectively.
Essentially, all branches of Christianity focus on the personality of Jesus Christ, and all their members are taught to emulate the life of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed for the good of others. Christian faith refers to the act of trust and the content of the believers’ faith.
Apart from being an organization of religious beliefs, Christianity is also a culture with a set of ideas, practices, and relics that have existed through many generations since Jesus Christ was born. Therefore, Christianity is the living practice of faith as well as the tradition that faith leaves behind. The church is the agent of Christianity and a community of believers.
Christianity came from the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was a Jewish teacher and healer. Jesus also claimed the imminent Kingdom of God. He died in Jerusalem in AD 30-33. Many Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and his crucifixion cleansed the sins of the world. Christians also believe that Jesus was exalted by God from the dead, and will come back at the inception of the Kingdom of God.
Apocalyptic Jewish Christians were the first followers of Jesus. However, traditional Christianity was separated from Judaism when Gentiles became part of the developing Christian church in the first two centuries of Christianity.
Christian worship was first legalized by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 313 when he gave the Edict of Milan. The Roman Empire adopted Trinitarian Christianity as its official state religion in 380 when the Edict of Thessalonica was published under Theodosius I.
Christianity spread across the world through missionary activities, which began in the west and north, among the Germanic people, and later spread to other parts of the world. In the early middle ages, missionaries were already spreading Christianity in the east among the Georgian, Slavic, and Armenian people, and in the Middle East among the Egyptians and Syrians.
In the High Middle Ages, Christianity was started to separate between the Eastern and Western Churches, resulting in East-West Schism in 1054.
Between the 15th and 16th centuries, the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical structure was marred by corruption, leading to the emergence of the Protestant Reformation movement. This division led to the European religious wars that split Western Christianity. Today, Christianity has over 2 billion followers around the world.
How Christians Emulate Jesus Christ
As mentioned above, the foundation of Christianity is the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christians are supposed to live like Jesus, sacrificing their lives for the good of others. As a Christian, you should be gracious and full of mercy for others.
The Bible urges Christians to forgive, love, and pray for their enemies like Christ did. You should also welcome and serve the marginalized and downtrodden because Christ dedicated his entire life to serving people at the lowest social cadre. He cared for the sick, needy, and the less fortunate.
To emulate Christ, you shouldn’t ignore or hurt the poor, orphans, widows, and the vulnerable in society. You should also strive for justice like Christ. However, it’s not just the good work that makes you a Christian. Christianity goes beyond your outward behavior to include your heart.
As indicated above, the Catholic church is the largest Christian denomination with billions of believers in many parts of the world. The Catholic church started in the Mediterranean region in the first century CE. It started as a small group of Jewish people who wanted to reform the Jewish faith.
The word Catholic, which means “embracing” or “collective”, became associated with Christianity in the first century after St. Ignatius of Antioch used it to refer to the Christian church. Like other Christian denominations, as well as Islam and Judaism, Catholicism is also part of the Abrahamic religion. Catholics believe Abraham is their earliest patriarch.
Today, the Catholic church has a tiered administration structure headed by the Pope. The Pope lives in Vatican City, a city-state in Rome, Italy, which is also the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Below the Pope, there are chief bishops, priests, deacons, and assistants.
Catholicism is a monotheistic religion meaning that Catholics believe in only one supreme being known as God. They also believe in the Holy Trinity, which comprises God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In Catholicism, the supreme being is the creator of everything seen and unseen in the world.
Christians Vs Catholics: Similarities
First, note that Catholics are Christians who follow Catholicism as handed down by the Popes through succession. Therefore, there are many similarities between Christianity and Catholicism.
Both Christianity and Catholicism originated in the Roman province of Judea, which currently comprises Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon states.
2. Statues and Pictures
Catholic and Orthodox churches use crosses, statues, and images as depictions of Jesus Christ, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the saints. So, contrary to the belief that these depictions are only used by Catholics, they’re common in other Christian denominations.
3. Place of Worship
Christians in all denominations, including Catholics, worship in churches, cathedrals, basilicas, and chapels. These places of worship also serve as venues for bible study and other church-related activities.
4. Belief of God
Catholics believe in one Supreme Being, God, and the Holy Trinity (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. These beliefs are stated in the Apostles and Nicene’s Creed. Other Christin denominations also believe in one God and the Holy Trinity.
Christians in different denominations, including Catholicism, believe in life after death. They also believe ins eternal salvation in heaven, eternal damnation in hell, and a temporal third state for those who want purification. The third temporal state is also known as Purgatory.
Most Christian denominations are led by hierarchical clergy in the Holy order. The leaders include deacons, monks, nuns, bishops, priests, and assistants. However, other administrative offices and positions, like ministers, archbishops, cardinals, popes, etc.
Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ the teacher and healer. Therefore, all Christians, including Catholics, want to emulate Jesus Christ in their daily interactions with the world.
8. Human Nature
Catholics and other Christians believe that mankind inherited the original sin from their father Adam and mother Eve. They also believe that after the original sin, human beings became inherently evil and need to seek forgiveness.
Christians Vs Catholics: Differences
Some people have trouble differentiating Christians from Catholics. Since Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination in the world, it’s easy to assume that Catholicism and Christianity mean the same thing. Although the two are somewhat related, they are different in several ways. Here are the differences between Christians and Catholics.
Catholics recognize the Pope as their highest moral and religious authority, while other Christian denominations differ with the tiered nature of leadership in the Catholic church.
The Catholic clergy is not allowed to marry or have sexual intercourse. They’re strictly expected to live celibate lives. Also, only men are allowed to become priests. Women are only allowed to participate in worship as nuns.
Other Christian denominations are a bit liberal because they allow their clergy to marry and have sexual intercourse. They also allow women to become priests.
While Protestants and other Christian denominations have different interpretations of the word of God and may or may not worship in church, Catholics believe that the only path to salvation is the church.
While Christianity dates back to the first century AD, the Catholic church came into existence after the 1054 Great schism. Also, the history of Catholicism is directly related to the Apostle Peter, who is referred to as the father of the Catholic church.
5. Sacred Imagery
The use of sacred depictions like the holy rosary, cross, and the figurines of Jesus and his mother Mary during worship is more prominent in Catholicism than in other Christian denominations. In fact, some Protestants don’t use any depictions.