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Protestantism is second only to Catholicism as the largest form of Christianity in the world. There are approximately 800 million Protestants in the world, which makes up about 40% of the Christian population. 

A Deeper Dive into the Differences That Caused the Split from the Catholic Church

The word Protestant is derived from the word “protest” or “object to”. Protestantism began as a result of disagreements among members of the Roman Catholic Church. One of those disagreements was with the belief in the Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy, that is, that the Pope is the supreme spiritual leader of the church, which they rejected. Rather, they believe that the people are led only by God.

Protestants also believe in only two sacraments (baptism and the Eucharist, or Holy Communion) versus the Catholic belief and practice of seven sacraments. They believe that scripture, along with just these two sacraments, is the path to salvation.

The sacrament of baptism as a Protestant depends upon which denomination one belongs to. Some denominations, such as the United Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, baptize as infants. They believe that this is a way of initiating a newborn into God’s grace and salvation while others such as Baptist and Pentecostal Churches see baptism as a decision that must be made when one is old enough to understand what they are professing to. 

Another disagreement that Protestants had when they split from the Catholic Church is that of the Eucharist. Unlike Catholics, most believe that God’s body and blood coexist with the bread and wine (consubstantiation) while Catholics believe that the bread and wine actual become the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation). Still others believe that they are merely symbols, which remain symbols, even after the prayer said by the priest.

One last significant difference in beliefs that caused Protestants to split from the Roman Catholic Church is their disagreement in the reverence of saints. Protestants believe that the only way to pray to God is directly; whereas Catholics believe in praying through the saints. “This is seen as similar to asking a brother or sister in Christ to pray for you” (source).


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