Here's Why Protestants Reject the Pope's Authority | Frequently asked questions about Christianity (2023)

Unlike Catholics, Protestants do not believe that the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the successor of Peter, or the Vicar of Christ on Earth. Although Protestants agree with the Pope on certain doctrines (eg, the Trinity) and support him on various issues (eg, caring for the poor), they do not recognize his authority.

Protestants believe that the Bible alone is authoritative for the Church and the Christian life. Protestants disagree with the Catholic Church's interpretation of important passages in the Gospels, which provide the basis for their beliefs about papal authority and apostolic succession.

What do Protestants think about the Pope? What is your biblical basis for rejecting his authority? What does the Catholic Church teach about the Pope? What did Martin Luther, a key figure in the Protestant Reformation, believe about the Pope? Read on to learn more.

Here's Why Protestants Reject the Pope's Authority | Frequently asked questions about Christianity (1)

What do Protestants think of the Pope?

Protestants believe that the Catholic Church's beliefs about the office of the Pope are based on a misunderstanding of Jesus' teachings in the Gospels. According to this view, the Catholic Church's teaching on the pope takes verses and passages out of context. (See tooDo Protestants have confession?)

What is at the heart of the disagreement?The Catholic Church teaches that the pope is the spiritual head of the church, a view sometimes called "pope leadership", while Protestants believe that Scripture alone is authoritative for Christians.

Protestants do not believe that theA Bibleteaches that the Pope is the earthly head of the church, the successor of Peter, or the Vicar of Christ. (See tooDo Protestants use crucifixes?)

Do all Protestants believe that the pope is the antichrist?? No. Some Protestants, including Martin Luther (see below) have made inappropriate statements about the Pope. One of the more extreme views is that he (i.e. whoever was in office at the time) is the Antichrist.

MajorityProtestantsI do not agree with this opinion. Indeed, some popes, such as Pope John Paul II, have a very good reputation among Protestants, even though they take their theological differences seriously. (See tooWhy did Protestants leave the Catholic Church?)

Do Protestants disagree with the Pope on every issue?No. Protestants echo the Pope's position and support his work on issues such as caring for the poor and providing alternatives to abortion for unexpectedly pregnant women.

(Video) Why Protestant Doctrine Is Unbiblical

There are numerous examples ofProtestant denominations and churcheswith the Pope and the Catholic Church on issues important to both of them.

How do Catholics and Protestants view Scripture differently on this subject?The history of the interpretation of relevant Gospel passages on this subject and their applications could fill a library. What follows is a simple summary of the central issue concerning two of the most significant passages in the debate: John 20:22-23 and Matthew 16:19.

And having said this, he breathed on them and said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive someone's sins, your sins will be forgiven; if you withhold someone's sins, they have been withheld.” – John 20:22-23 (NIV)

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heavenand whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19 (NIV)

In these passages, Jesus gives his followers the power to forgive and retain sin.The heart of the disagreement is this question: Do Jesus' words apply only to the apostles or to all believers?

How do Protestants interpret these verses?Protestants believe that these instructions are given to all believers. They point out that there is nothing in the passage to suggest that Jesus only gave these abilities and responsibilities to people who held a certain position in the church. Jesus gave Peter these abilities, but he also gave them to everyone else, according to this view (eg Matthew 18:18).

How does the Catholic Church interpret these verses?The Catholic Church teaches that instruction was only for the Apostles and their true successors, who are recognized by the Catholic Church's ordination process. In these passages, Jesus is transferring power to the apostles. (See tooWhy do Protestants worship on Sundays?)

What do Protestants say about other New Testament passages?Protestants emphasize that Jesus gave similar instructions to all believers in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and that non-apostles preached the gospel, including the forgiveness that comes with it, in the Book of Acts. (p. Acts 6:5, 8:1-12, 13:38).

What does the Catholic Church say about early Christian literature?Catholic historians and theologians argue that his view is evident in the writings of early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Tertullian, who wrote about penance and the forgiveness of sins. (See tooWhy don't Protestants make the sign of the cross?)

Here's Why Protestants Reject the Pope's Authority | Frequently asked questions about Christianity (2)
(Video) Why Protestants Reject the Apocrypha as Scripture

What do Catholics believe about the Pope?

Catholics believe that the Pope is the God-appointed leader of the church and the successor of Peter. The Pope's power is linked to thecatholic beliefthat Jesus gave the Church the authority and ability to correctly interpret the pages of Scripture.

These interpretations are as authoritative as the Bible itself. According tocatholic theology,the Bible and the church flow from the same source:the god himselfand so Christians should treat both with equal reverence and authority. (See tooDo Catholics believe Protestants go to heaven?)

For much of its history, the Catholic Church treated the Pope's pronouncements as official. However, it was not untilVatican Iin 1870 that the Church expounded the doctrine ofpapal infallibilityin detail.

The Church has made it clear thatnot everything the pope said or did was infallible. Furthermore, not even everything the Pope said about the church and theology was infallible. The Pope is only infallible when he speaks “ex cathedra”.

For the pope's pronouncements to be infallible, they must meet a specific set of parameters. Consequently, the Pope must be very explicit and clear when he wants to speak in this way.

This type of pronouncement is rare.Pope Benedict XVI said in 2005 that "the Pope is not an oracle" and is only "infallible in very rare situations". [two]

What did Martin Luther believe about the Pope?

Luther's views of the Pope changed considerably during his lifetime.At the time of his death, he and many others considered the Pope the antichrist.This particular belief has not withstood the test of time, but his earlier musings certainly have.

Luther's fundamental objection to the authority of the Pope stems from the belief that church leaders must constantly re-examine the Scriptures to know what to believe and how to act. (See tooProtestants vs. Lutherans: What's the Difference?)

When Luther wrote his famous95 theses, he did not write it, intending it to be a letter to Protestantism. Rather, he wrote it as an invitation to discussion with other scholars and church leaders.

The particular nature of Luther's theological objections to church practice and theology was not the most important part of Luther's 95 Theses. Rather, it was the assertion thatthe church and the pope were wrongabout certain things. In fact, this was a revolutionary idea and at odds with core Catholic theological understandings.

(Video) MUST WATCH: The Most Evil Religion in the World

At the end of his 95 Theses, Luther calls Christians to imitate Christ in their service to others and the gospel. Every Christian has an obligation tolive a life of regret, and the papal idea of ​​buying indulgences does not fit well with this view of the Christian life.

The idea that an individual can repent daily before God, without the help of the pope and other church authorities, flows naturally into Luther's later idea that individuals needno other intermediary but Christ.

It is correct to say that, from the beginning, Luther did not reject the authority of the Pope per se. Rather, he was saying that the Catholic Church is less about the individual than it claims to be. [3]


Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. See the About page for more information.

recent posts

link to What is the last book of the Old Testament?

What is the last book in the Old Testament?

(Video) Catholic/Protestant Debate: Is the Papacy Affirmed in the New Testament?

The Old Testament makes up the first two-thirds of the Christian Bible. It mainly tells the story of how God chose and used the nation of Israel to be his instrument of redemption to save the people...

Keep reading

link to What language was the Old Testament written in?

In what language was the Old Testament written?

The Old Testament comprises the first 39 books of the Christian Bible. Its main theme is how God worked in and through the nation of Israel to bring about his plan to redeem the people and save them from...

Keep reading

(Video) One question Protestants can’t answer


Do Protestants believe in the pope's authority? ›

The pope

Protestants are not open at all to papal primacy. According to the Evangelical view, this dogma contradicts statements in the Bible. Catholics see in the pope the successor of the Apostle Peter, the first head of their Church, who was appointed by Jesus.

What is the Protestant argument against the pope? ›

Protestants are opposed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy. Protestant Christians argue that the tradition of the See of Rome's primacy in the early Church was not equivalent to the current doctrine of supremacy.

What religion rejected the authority of the pope? ›

Reformation movement spread throughout western Europe

The reformers rejected the authority of the pope as well as many of the principles and practices of Catholicism of that time.

What do Protestants believe about the pope? ›

Protestants reject the Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy, and have variant views on the number of sacraments, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and matters of ecclesiastical polity and apostolic succession.

Why do Catholics believe in the authority of the pope? ›

The Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. The Pope is believed by Catholics to be the direct successor of St Peter, who was the leader of the apostles . This is why they accept his authority.

What are the main differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs? ›

Generally speaking, Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers in the 16th century espoused the belief that salvation is attained only through faith in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice on the cross (sola fide), while Catholicism taught that salvation comes through a combination of faith plus good works (e.g., living a ...

Why did Protestants protest against the Catholic Church? ›

Nearly all Protestant groups, however, shared Luther's original objections to the Catholic Church — theological ideals that still define the Protestant umbrella today. The most important of these is the idea that salvation happens through faith alone.

What was the conflict between Protestants and Catholics called? ›

Warfare intensified after the Catholic Church began the Counter-Reformation in 1545 against the growth of Protestantism. The conflicts culminated in the Thirty Years' War, which devastated Germany and killed one third of its population, a mortality rate twice that of World War I.

Why did the Protestant movement break out against the Catholic Church? ›

Luther's statements challenged the Catholic Church's role as intermediary between people and God, specifically when it came to the indulgence system, which in part allowed people to purchase a certificate of pardon for the punishment of their sins.

What is the strictest form of Catholicism? ›

Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae
Logo of the Trappists.
FounderArmand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé
Founded atLa Trappe Abbey
7 more rows

Does the pope have power over the church? ›

The pope, when he is elected, is answerable to no human power. He has absolute authority over the entire Roman Catholic Church, direct authority that reaches down to individual members. All of the governing officers in the Vatican itself, what we call the Vatican Curia, operate on delegated authority from the pope.

What is the difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bible? ›

The Differences

Catholics and Protestants have the same 27-book New Testament. Thus, the differences between their Bibles concerns the boundaries of the Old Testament canon. In short, Catholics have 46 books, while Protestants have 39.

Does the Catholic Church accept Protestants? ›

In the spirit of Vatican II, the Catholic Church has embraced a more open approach to Christian unity to both Protestants and Eastern Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, many Americanised remnants of Anglo-American-style denominations of Protestantism remain deeply distrustful of the Catholic Church.

Why do Protestants only believe in two sacraments? ›

For Protestants , only baptism and the Eucharist are sacraments. This is because they only believe in the sacraments performed by Jesus in the gospels . Other Christian denominations recognise other sacraments.

Who is the only figure that is sinless for Protestants? ›

Martin Luther

Others maintain that Luther in later years changed his position on the Immaculate Conception, which, at that time was undefined in the Church, maintaining however the sinlessness of Mary throughout her life.

Who is the highest authority of the Catholic Church? ›

The Supreme Pontiff (the Pope) is a local ordinary for the whole Catholic Church.

What did Protestants believe about the Bible? ›

Protestants agreed that the Word of God was authoritative in matters of faith and that the Bible had unique status, but they did not agree on all interpretations of the Scripture, nor did they unite in a single doctrine of scriptural authority.

What does Martin Luther say about the authority of the Catholic Church and the Pope? ›

Luther argued that nothing in the Bible granted the pope authority to free a person of his sins in life or after death. Only God could do this, he wrote. A legend grew that Luther personally nailed the "Ninety-Five Theses" to the door of the Wittenberg church.

Is purgatory in the Bible? ›

Roman Catholic Christians who believe in purgatory interpret passages such as 2 Maccabees 12:41–46, 2 Timothy 1:18, Matthew 12:32, Luke 23:43, 1 Corinthians 3:11–3:15 and Hebrews 12:29 as support for prayer for purgatorial souls who are believed to be within an active interim state for the dead undergoing purifying ...

Who is the head of the Protestant Church? ›

In some Protestant churches, eg the Presbyterian Church, the leader of the church is called the minister. In other Protestant churches, eg the Baptist Church, the leader of the church is called the pastor.

What do Protestants believe in? ›

Protestantism originated in the Reformation of the 16th century in Christian Europe, and Protestants have been said to share 3 basic convictions: 1) the Bible is the ultimate authority in matters of religious truth; 2) human beings are saved only by God's "grace" (ie, unearned gift); and 3) all Christians are priests; ...

How did the Catholic Church punish Protestants? ›

Catholic bishops throughout Europe were ordered to gather up the offensive books, including Protestant Bibles, and burn them in great bonfires. The Church established the Inquisition, a court whose purpose was to punish heretics (those who denied or contradicted Church teachings).

Which churches do not believe in the Trinity? ›

After the denominations in the Oneness Pentecostal movement, the largest nontrinitarian Christian denominations are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, La Luz del Mundo, and Iglesia ni Cristo.

Do Protestants believe in saints? ›

Other Protestantism

Many Protestants consider intercessory prayers to the saints to be idolatry, since what they perceive to be an application of divine worship that should be given only to God himself is being given to other believers, dead or alive.

What were the extreme Protestants called? ›

Background – Puritanism

These were extreme Protestants who wanted to purify the Church of England by returning to the simple and uncomplicated worship and way of life of the earliest Christians.

Who do Protestants worship? ›

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Protestants believe that there is only one God and that be has revealed himself as the Trinity. Sunday. Personal Sacrifice during Lent.

What is the name of one of the most significant conflict between Protestant and Catholic groups in Northern Ireland? ›

the Troubles, also called Northern Ireland conflict, violent sectarian conflict from about 1968 to 1998 in Northern Ireland between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists (loyalists), who desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who ...

When did Protestants and Catholics stop fighting? ›

The centuries-old conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Europe finally came to an end in the twentieth century.

When did the conflict between Protestants and Catholics begin? ›

The war lasted from 1618 to 1648, starting as a battle among the Catholic and Protestant states that formed the Holy Roman Empire. However, as the Thirty Years' War evolved, it became less about religion and more about which group would ultimately govern Europe.

When did Protestants break away from the Catholic Church? ›

Martin Luther's posting of The Ninety-Five theses at Wittenberg is seen as the start of the Protestant Reformation. This happened in the year 1517.

What are the biggest sins in Catholicism? ›

In AD 385, Pacian of Barcelona, in his Sermon Exhorting to Penance, gives contempt of God, murder, and fornication as examples of "mortal" or "capital sins."

What religion is similar to Catholicism? ›

Catholics, especially white, non-Hispanic Catholics, name Protestantism as the faith that is most similar to Catholicism. Interestingly, Catholics see greater similarities between Catholicism and Protestantism than do Protestants. After Protestantism, Catholics see Judaism as most like their faith.

Can the pope change Catholic doctrine? ›

No one, not even the pope, has the authority to change doctrine. Papal teaching cannot contradict Scripture, Tradition or previous binding papal teaching. Popes have authority only to preserve and interpret what they have received.

Who can remove the pope? ›

The later development of canon law has been in favor of papal supremacy, leaving no recourse to the removal of a pope involuntarily. The most recent pope to resign was Benedict XVI, who vacated the Holy See on 28 February 2013, the date of his effective resignation.

Who governs the pope? ›

Vatican City has a legal system distinct from that of Italy. The pope's judicial authority is exercised through the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as he by law serves also as the President of the Cassation Court of Vatican City (i.e. the highest court of appeal).

What 7 books are missing from the Protestant Bible? ›

Did you know that the Catholic Bible contains seven books that are not included in the Protestant Bible? These special books of the Bible—Sirach, Wisdom, Tobit, 1 Maccabees, Judith, additions to Daniel, and Esther—contain harrowing stories of family, resurrection, and prayer.

Why do Protestants have a different Bible? ›

Catholics and Protestants have different Bibles today because of the disputes of the sixteenth century, when the opposing sides each claimed that the early church supported their own views.

When did Protestants remove books from the Bible? ›

However, in the 16th century, Martin Luther argued that many of the received texts of the New Testament lacked the authority of the Gospels, and therefore proposed removing a number of books from the New Testament, including Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.

How do Protestants get to heaven? ›

Protestants believe that both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven. Protestants believe that faith in God alone is needed to get into heaven, a tenet known as sola fide.

Why do Protestants not believe in purgatory? ›

The classic Protestant argument against Purgatory, aside from the lack of biblical support, is that Jesus' death eliminated the need for any afterlife redress of sin. Catholics reply that divine mercy doesn't exonerate a person from the need to be transformed.

Do Protestants believe in original sin? ›

Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin equated original sin with concupiscence (or "hurtful desire"), affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom to do good, proposing that original sin involved a loss of free will except to sin.

What do Protestants believe about Holy communion? ›

In most Protestant churches, communion is seen as a memorial of Christ's death. The bread and wine do not change at all because they are symbols. Communion means 'sharing' and at a communion service Christians share together to remember the suffering and death of Christ.

How many sacraments do Protestants recognize? ›

The classical Protestant churches (i.e., Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed) have accepted only two sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist, though Luther allowed that penance was a valid part of sacramental theology. The New Testament mentions a series of “holy acts” that are not, strictly speaking, sacraments.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary? ›

Catholics do not pray to Mary as if she were God. Prayer to Mary is memory of the great mysteries of our faith (Incarnation, Redemption through Christ in the rosary), praise to God for the wonderful things he has done in and through one of his creatures (Hail Mary) and intercession (second half of the Hail Mary).

Who committed the original sin in the Bible? ›

Traditionally, the origin has been ascribed to the sin of the first man, Adam, who disobeyed God in eating the forbidden fruit (of knowledge of good and evil) and, in consequence, transmitted his sin and guilt by heredity to his descendants. The doctrine has its basis in the Bible.

Who is the father of all sin? ›

Pride has been labeled the father of all sins and has been deemed the devil's most essential trait.

Which religion believes in the original sin? ›

What is original sin? Original sin is an Augustine Christian doctrine that says that everyone is born sinful. This means that they are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God. It is an important doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church.

Who believed in the authority of the pope? ›

The Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy is based on the idea that it was instituted by Christ and that papal succession is traced back to Peter the Apostle in the 1st century.

What do Protestants believe about apostolic succession? ›

A number of Protestant Christian churches believe that the apostolic succession and church government based on bishops are unnecessary for a valid ministry.

Who is the head of Protestant church? ›

Baptist and Protestant churches have far fewer leaders than the Catholic Church. They call their main religious leader any of three names – “pastor” “minister” or “reverend.” This person leads church services, performs religious ceremonies, and gives spiritual or religious guidance to church members.

What kind of authority does the pope have? ›

Doctrinally, in Catholic churches, the pope is regarded as the successor of St. Peter, who was head of the Apostles. The pope, as bishop of Rome, is thus seen to have full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal church in matters of faith and morals, as well as in church discipline and government.

What do Catholics say about the pope? ›

Because Catholics believe that their bishops are the successors of the apostles and that Peter had a special role among the apostles as the preserver of unity, the Pope is considered the spokesman for the whole Church.

Was there a woman pope? ›

According to legend Pope Joan served as pope during the middle ages. She is said to have served for several years across approximately 855-857. Her story was first shared in the 13th century and quickly spread throughout Europe.

Do Protestants accept the Apostles Creed? ›

In addition to the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed is popular, being officially accepted by Catholics and most Protestant denominations. (Note: many Protestant churches officially accept one or both creeds even if they do not much publicize it to their congregations.)

Do Protestants believe in divine right of kings? ›

When it comes to Christianity in Britain, the concept of the divine right of kings remained relevant during the Protestant Reformation. Throughout this period, belief in divine right allowed Protestant rulers to re-define authority, and still claim it.

Does the Catholic Church believe in transubstantiation? ›

Transubstantiation – the idea that during Mass, the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ – is central to the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Catholic Church teaches that “the Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life.

What are Protestant pastors called? ›

The term Pastor, Shepherd, and Elder are all the same position. The term "Senior Pastor" does not exist in scripture, but - in multi-staffed churches - is commonly used to denote the pastor who does the preaching. Many Protestant churches call their ministers "pastors".

Who founded Christianity? ›

Christianity originated with the ministry of Jesus, a Jewish teacher and healer who proclaimed the imminent Kingdom of God and was crucified c. AD 30–33 in Jerusalem in the Roman province of Judea.


1. Former Protestant Pastor tells how he got over his objections to Mary
(Keith Nester)
2. Answering Protestant Objections to "On This Rock"
(Catholic Answers)
3. Could This Bible Verse Destroy Protestantism?
(Douglas Beaumont)
4. Protestant vs Catholic (on What is the Church and Authority)
(Catholic Truth)
5. John MacArthur - The Pope and Catholicism
6. Dr. James White Session 1: The History and Danger of Roman Catholic Doctrine
(First Baptist Church Opelousas)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated: 04/22/2023

Views: 5518

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.