Denomination Differences

Baptist vs. Catholic Beliefs

Baptists and Catholics are the two biggest denominations in the United States.[1][2] Most people have some familiarity with one, but then the other denomination often seems foreign and possibly heretical. They take very different theological viewpoints and on many theological issues are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Baptists believe in salvation by faith alone and eternal security. Catholics believe baptism and the Eucharist are a key part of salvation and that one must be diligent in confessing his sins to retain this salvation. Catholics believe baptism cleanses one of sin and that the communion elements become the body and blood of Christ. Baptists reject both and just believe they are ordained symbols. Catholics believe in papal primacy—that the pope has "full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."[3]—while Baptists often leave all church authority to the individual churches.

There are many more differences, but there are also similarities. Both are trinitarian churches that follow the Nicene Creed. Both denominations tend to be very conservative and stick to what they believe God commands regardless of what the world says. And they both ultimately try to follow God and do what is right.

Belief Table

BaptistCatholic
Number of Members100,000,0001,360,000,000[1]
How does one get saved?Sola fide: Repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection alone to save you.[2][3]Repent of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection to save you, be baptized, participate in the Eucharist, and don't die with any unconfessed mortal sins.[4][5]
Who gets saved?Most believe anyone who chooses by his own free will to believe and accept God's gift of grace will be saved.[6]Anyone who chooses by his own free will to believe and accept God's gift of grace will be saved.
Can one lose his salvation?Most believe eternal security: No, once a Christian is saved, he is always saved.[3][7][8]Yes, a Christian can lose his salvation by apostasy or by committing a mortal sin.
Who gets baptized and why?Saved people get baptized as a public demonstration of their new lives.[9]The unsaved, typically as infants, get baptized as the first sacrament of Christian initiation, cleansing them of all sins.
How should baptism be done?Baptism should be by immersion.[9]Baptism should be by pouring water on the head.
When does one receive the Holy Spirit?The Holy Spirit is received at the moment of salvation.[10]The Holy Spirit is received at baptism.
What is the trinity?The Trinity is God existing as one god in three equal, eternal, cosubstantial persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.[7][10][11]The Trinity is God existing as one god in three equal, eternal, cosubstantial persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.
What is the human nature?Total depravity: Human nature is corrupt, naturally inclined to evil, and incapable of choosing God on his own.[3][11]Human nature is not totally corrupt but is wounded and inclined to evil.[12]
Are we guilty of Adam's original sin?No, we are not guilty of Adam's sin, but we did inherit the consequences and a corrupt human nature from him, causing us all to sin.No, we are not guilty of Adam's sin, but we did inherit the consequences and a corrupt human nature from him, causing us all to sin.[13]
Are Christians required to keep the Old Testament ceremonial laws?No, the ceremonial laws of Judaism were fulfilled and done away with by Jesus.No, the ceremonial laws of Judaism were fulfilled and done away with by Jesus.
Can Christians become sinless in this earthly life?No, although Christians can and should sin less, they can never become sinless in this life."Christian perfection" is attainable in this life, but this does not mean one is sinless, as one will always commit minor "venial sins".
Do the elements of communion become the body and blood of Christ?No, the elements merely symbolically represent the body and blood of Christ.Transubstantiation: Yes, the bread and the wine change into the body and blood of Christ.
Can one be baptized of behalf of someone who has died?No, the dead cannot be baptized.No, the dead cannot be baptized.
What happens if a saved person dies without being perfect?Once Christians leave their sinful bodies, nothing else is needed to receive glorified, sinless bodies.[14][15]Christians who die imperfectly purified must be purified through purgatory.[16]
Did Mary ever sin?Yes, Mary sinned like all other humans except Jesus.Immaculate conception: No, Mary was free of original sin and remained sinless throughout her life.
What spiritual gifts are available today?Cessationism: Spiritual gifts used for serving are available today, while gifts used as signs have ceased.[17][18]Most believe that all spiritual gifts are still available to believers.
What framework has God used in dealing with man?Dispensationalism: God acts differently with humanity in seven different periods of history.
What is the gift of tongues?The gift of tongues is the ability to speak foreign human languages without knowing how.
What are the requirements for clergy?Experienced men above reproach, faithful to their wives and with with obedient children if applicable, and able to teach are to be appointed as pastors.Priests must be unmarried men over 25 ordained by bishops.
How many church ordinances/​sacraments are there?The church has two ordinances: Baptism and Holy Communion.The church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.[19]
To whom do Christians need to confess their sins?Confession should be made directly to God, but confession to another believer is beneficial for some sins.Mortal sins must be privately confessed to a priest at least annually.[20][21]
How should a church be structured?Congregationalist: Every church congregation should be independent and governed by its members.Episcopal: Churches should be governed by the bishop in that diocese, who in turn is governed by an archbishop, who is governed by the Pope.
What day of the week should Christians worship?Christians worship on Sunday.Christians worship on Sunday.
How does God's revelation come to us today?Sola scriptura: The Bible is the only infallible source of God's revelation, sufficient for all faith and practice.Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition have equal authority and comprise one finished deposit of faith.
How was the Bible written?Verbal plenary inspiration: The Bible was written by men who had every word supernaturaly inspired by God.[3][22]
How many books are in the Bible?There are 66 canonical books of the Bible: 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books.There are 73 canonical books of the Bible: 39 protocanonical books, 7 deuterocanonical books, and 27 New Testament books.
Is the Bible inerrant?Yes, the Bible was written without any error.[3][22]No, the Bible was written inerrantly on matters of salvation but may contain errors in other matters.
Who can speak with God's authority today?Nobody today can speak for God.The Pope speaks infallibly with God's authority when speaking ex cathedra.[23][24]
How was the earth created?Creationism: The earth was spoken into existence by God.The earth was formed by gravity pulling dust together, which ultimately came from the Big Bang.
What is marriage?Marriage is a covenant before God between one man and one woman.[7][25]Marriage is a covenant before God between one man and one woman.[26]
Is sex permissible outside marriage?No, sex outside of marriage is not permissible.[7]No, sex outside of marriage is not permissible.
When is divorce permissible?Divorce is only permissible for adultery.Divorce is never permissible.
May a Christian remarry while his former spouse is still alive?No, a Christian should not remarry while his former spouse lives.Divorce is never permissible.
When does a fetus become human?Humanity begins at conception.[25][27]Humanity begins at conception.[28]
Is contraception permissible?Yes, contraceptives are permissible.No, contraceptives are not permissible.[29]
Are blood transfusions permissible?Yes, blood transfusions are permissible.Yes, blood transfusions are permissible.
Should women cover their heads?No, women's long hair is enough of a covering.[30][31]No, head coverings are no longer required due to cultural changes.[32]
Should Christians drink alcohol?Most believe no, alcohol should be totally avoided.Yes, drinking alcohol is fine as long as one does not get drunk.[33]
Should Christians fight in wars?Yes, Christians should fight in just wars.Yes, Christians should fight in just wars.[34][35]
How should Christians musically worship God?Varies widely
Whom does the Holy Spirit come from?No established doctrineThe Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.[36]
Who can be demon-possessed?Demons can possess unbelievers but not Christians.
Do icons glorify God?No, icons violate the Second Commandment against graven images.Yes, icons are holy and should be venerated.
Where does a Christian's soul go after death?Christians immediately go to heaven when they die.[14][37]Some Christians first go to purgatory to be purified when they die.[16]
When does the Tribulation happen?Futurism: The Tribulation will happen at a time in the future which no man knows the time of.
When will the church be raptured?Pretribulationism rapture: The church will be raptured sometime before the Tribulation.
When is the millennial reign of Christ happen?Premillennialism: The millennial reign of Christ will be the 1,000 years immediately after the Tribulation.