If you don’t know the difference between what Catholics, Protestants, and Non-Denominational variations of Christianity are then you should try to learn. These are very important to understand if you want to have a deeper understanding of the world around you. Also, if you’re a religious person or a fellow, then you should definitely know what these three main “types” of Christianity are.
The Phylogenetic tree of Christianity
Many people for some reason feel there is a distinction between Catholics and Christians, much to the chagrin of Catholics. Yes, they describe different things, but Christian is the broad religious label—Catholic is the specific one. To say Christians and Catholics are different is to say that cats and mammals are different. Different words, yes, but one is part of the other! Catholics are actually the original Christians, and there once was a time where to be Christian of the organized faith was to be Catholic.
Saint Peter and the Catholic Church
Saint Peter was a man who had a large part in the earliest manifestations of Christianity, mainly Catholicism. Catholics believe that Saint Peter was the first Pope of the Church due to some of their interpretations of different verses of the Bible, and this just goes to show how different variations of Christianity have come about, simply due to the way they interpreted single verses.
There were other early proto-Christian religious sects, many of which had their own gospels that the Council of Nicea voted not to include, thus paving the way for Catholicism as the default Christian religion. Religious scholars debate to whom (if anyone) Jesus wanted his church to go to, but the Catholic church’s belief (and biblical interpretation) was it was left to Peter.
Who are the Protestants?
The Catholics and Protestants have slightly different beliefs when it comes to how they’ve chosen to interpret the Bible. Protestantism actually was a stem off of Catholicism, and they came about because they believed that the Catholics got a few things wrong, to oversimplify.
Martin Luther was a large part of why the Protestants believe what they believe, and it all dates back to the 16th century when he was involved with creating the Ninety-five Theses, which “debated and criticized many aspects of the Church and the papacy, including the practice of purgatory, particular judgment, and the authority of the pope.”
Other forms of Christianity aside from Protestantism and Catholicism exist as well, with a good amount of them relating to Non-Denominational variations. Some of the better known non-denominational Christians are members of the Church of Christ & Hope Haven.
One of the main differences with these Non-Denominational Christians is that they “typically distance themselves from the confessionalism and/or creedalism,” which typically stem from other types of Christianity (Think about the confessions in Catholicism, other dogma around communions, and the religious rituals that are symbolic among some Christians, but strictly required among others).
Although Protestants, Catholics, and Non-Denominational groups make up the bulk of Christians, you should know that it isn’t technically correct to say all Christians who aren’t Catholic or Protestant are non-Denominational, because groups such as Mormons exist which don’t constitute of any of the three. It would not be correct to say LDS members are non-Denominational—they have a Denomination. They are not protestant because they explicitly reject the protestant doctrine. But as a religion that still accepts much of the old and new testament with Jesus Christ as their religion’s lord and savior, it would be theologically inaccurate, regardless of one’s religious beliefs on the veracity of the Book of Mormon, not to describe Mormons as Christian. They’re just not one of the main three types!
So don’t sound foolish asking someone if they’re Catholic or Christian. And don’t make the similarly erroneous mistake of assuming all non-Catholic Christians are protestant! Understanding how we divide Christianity is important not for further dividing us, but to bring us all closer together as we greater understand each other, each other’s faiths, and the values of those communities. To be Christian is to believe in Jesus Christ—specific Christian sects may have more requirements than this, but if this requirement is met, the belief falls under the Christian umbrella. It’s a pretty big tent.