Roman Catholicism vs. Evangelicalism: Compared

Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism, two prominent branches of historic Christianity, have shaped the spiritual landscape for centuries.

While both traditions uphold the centrality of Jesus Christ, their histories, practices, and beliefs present distinct nuances.

This article compares these two Christian traditions, highlighting their similarities and differences to provide a clearer understanding of their respective identities.

evangelical church
How large are Catholicism and Evangelicalism? See below

Roman Catholic and Evangelical Churches: Differences

“Roman Catholicism” combines “Roman” (referring to the church’s central location in Rome) with “Catholic,” from the Greek “katholikos,” meaning “universal.”

“Evangelical” derives from the Greek “euangelion,” translating to “good news” or “gospel,” emphasizing the tradition’s focus on the gospel message and personal conversion.

NameRoman CatholicismEvangelicalism
SizeApprox. 1.3 billion worldwideApprox. 300-400 million worldwide
Date Started1st century ADHistorically rooted in the Reformation, but the modern movement began in the 18th century
FounderJesus Christ (as believed by the Church)Varied; key figures include John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards
Key BeliefsSeven Sacraments, Papal Authority, tradition and ScriptureAuthority of Scripture, personal conversion experience, centrality of Christ’s atonement
Key PracticesMass, confession, praying the RosaryBible study, personal evangelism, worship services
DivisionsVarious rites (e.g., Roman, Byzantine) but unified under the PopeNumerous denominations and independent churches
Central LocationVatican CityNo central location; widespread globally
Sacred TextsBible (including the Deuterocanonical books)Bible (typically Protestant canon)

What is the Authority of Scripture in evangelicalism?

In evangelicalism, the Bible is considered the inerrant word of God.

It’s the ultimate authority for faith and practice, guiding believers in doctrine and life.

Evangelicals emphasize personal Bible study and its central role in understanding God’s will and purpose.

What are the seven sacraments in Catholicism?

In Catholicism, a “sacrament” is a visible sign instituted by Christ to convey invisible grace to the recipient.

It’s a means through which believers receive God’s grace and are drawn closer to Him.

There are seven sacraments, each serving different stages and moments in a Catholic’s life.

BaptismInitiation into the Church; removal of original sin.
ConfirmationStrengthening of baptismal grace; sealing with the Holy Spirit.
EucharistReceiving the body and blood of Christ; central act of worship.
ReconciliationConfession and forgiveness of sins.
Anointing of the SickHealing and comfort for the ill or dying.
Holy OrdersOrdination of priests, bishops, and deacons.
MatrimonyUnion of a man and woman in a lifelong covenant.
Roman Catholic church sign
What do Catholics and evangelicals believe about the resurrection? See below

Evangelical and Roman Catholic Beliefs

Catholicism and evangelicalism affirm the Trinity: one God in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They believe these three are distinct yet coexist eternally and harmoniously.

The BibleSacred Scripture, interpreted within Church traditionInerrant word of God; ultimate authority for faith and practice
GodOne God, omnipotent and omniscientOne God, omnipotent and omniscient
Jesus ChristFully God and fully man; Savior of humanityFully God and fully man; personal Savior
The TrinityOne God in three persons: Father, Son, Holy SpiritOne God in three persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
The Holy SpiritActive in the Church, guiding and sanctifyingActive in believers, guiding, convicting, and empowering
The AtonementChrist’s sacrifice provides salvation, applied through sacramentsChrist’s sacrifice is the sole means of salvation; received by faith
The ResurrectionLiteral and bodily resurrection of Jesus; believers will also be resurrectedLiteral and bodily resurrection of Jesus; believers will also be resurrected
The ChurchMystical Body of Christ; hierarchical structureBody of Christ; local congregations with varied governance
Church TraditionEqual importance with Scripture; shapes interpretationGenerally secondary to Scripture; varies by denomination
The Second ComingJesus will return to judge living and dead; details less emphasizedJesus will return imminently; varies in details among denominations

In Catholic theology, both Scripture and Tradition are vital sources of revelation.

They’re intertwined with Tradition, preserving and interpreting the teachings of Scripture.

Together, they comprehensively understand God’s word and the Church’s teachings, ensuring continuity and consistency in faith and practice.

evangelical Christianity
Why don’t evangelicals venerate Mary? See below

Important Practices in Catholicism and Evangelicalism

Worship ServicesMass, centered on the EucharistWorship services focused on Bible teaching and communal singing
Sacraments/OrdinancesSeven sacraments, including Eucharist and ConfessionTypically two ordinances: Baptism and Communion
PrayerStructured prayers (e.g., Rosary), personal prayersPersonal and communal prayers, often extemporaneous
Bible StudyScripture readings within Mass; personal study encouragedCentral to worship; personal and group studies common
EvangelismMissionary work; catechesis for new believersActive outreach; emphasis on personal conversion
FastingObligatory during Lent and on specific daysVaries; some emphasize fasting as personal spiritual discipline
Church GovernanceHierarchical: Pope, bishops, priestsVaries; often congregational or led by elders/pastors
VenerationSaints and Mary venerated; icons and relics usedGenerally no veneration of saints; focus on direct relationship with God
Church CalendarLiturgical calendar with feasts and seasonsSome observe traditional Christian holidays; less structured

Why don’t evangelicals venerate Mary and the saints?

Evangelicals focus on a direct relationship with Jesus Christ.

While they respect Mary and the Saints, they don’t venerate or pray to them.

Evangelicals believe intercession comes solely through Jesus, emphasizing the Bible’s teaching of Christ as the sole mediator between God and humanity.

What do evangelicals think of the pope?

Evangelicals respect the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church but don’t recognize his authority over all Christians.

They believe in the priesthood of all believers, emphasizing a direct relationship with God without hierarchical intermediaries, and prioritize Scripture as the primary authority in matters of faith.

10 Key Events in Catholic and Evangelical History

Catholic HistoryEvangelical History
1. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (c. 30 AD)1. The Great Awakening (1730s-1740s)
2. Council of Nicaea (325 AD)2. Publication of John Wesley’s “Standard Sermons” (1746)
3. Conversion of Constantine (312 AD)3. The Second Great Awakening (1790-1840)
4. Great Schism between East and West (1054)4. Azusa Street Revival (1906)
5. Crusades (1096-1291)5. Founding of the National Association of Evangelicals (1942)
6. Thomas Aquinas writes “Summa Theologica” (1274)6. Billy Graham’s Los Angeles Crusade (1949)
7. Council of Trent (1545-1563)7. Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (1974)
8. Vatican I defines papal infallibility (1870)8. Rise of megachurches (1980s-present)
9. Vatican II reforms (1962-1965)9. Evangelicals and Catholics Together document (1994)
10. Canonization of Mother Teresa (2016)10. Rapid growth of evangelicalism in the Global South (late 20th century)

[1] The Vatican
[2] Evangelicalism

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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