Protestants and Western Orthodox are sects of Christianity. Followers of both churches use the Bible for divine inspiration. But what most people are interested in the Western Orthodox vs. Protestant debate is to know whether the two churches have different beliefs.
Western Orthodox and Protestant have different beliefs. For instance, the Protestants use the Hebrew Bible, while the Western Orthodox use the Greek Bible. Also, there is no hierarchy in Protestantism, while Western Orthodox, there is a hierarchy. However, the two churches also have similarities. For instance, both view the Bible as a source of divine inspiration. Additionally, both reject the infallibility of the Pope.
A thorough research into the belief system, values, and practices of Western Orthodoxy and Protestant churches was critical to finding an answer to the above question. Read on to learn more about the differences and similarities between Western Orthodoxy and Protestant churches!
What is the difference between Protestant and Western Orthodox?
Time of conception
During the Great Schism of the 11th century (1054 A.D.), the Roman Catholic Church (Christian Church) was divided into the Western and Eastern Churches. The Eastern Church adopted the name Orthodox Church while the Western Church retained the Roman Catholic title. The Orthodox Church continued to stand as one until the nineteenth century when Julian Joseph Overbeck sought to establish the Western Orthodox Church.
Protestantism is a group of Churches born after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century (1519), instigated by Martin Luther’s ideologies. He posted a Ninety-five Theses on the front door of the Castle Church in Germany. Although his idea was not to break the Church, the Catholic Church started to divide due to differences in beliefs.
Bible (Number of books in the Old Testament)
Western Orthodox followers consider the deuterocanonical books an integral part of their Bible. The division between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church was not based on the limit of the Books included in the Bible. Therefore, Western Orthodox Christians still use the version of the Bible with deuterocanonical books.
On the other side, the version of the Bible that Protestants use does not include the deuterocanonical books because, according to Martin Luther, these books promote praying and offering sacrifices to the death, which goes against Christianity’s beliefs and values. Although this was the reason cited when removing the seven books from their version of the Bible, Protestants were trying to distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Holy Tradition
Western Orthodox Church followers use the “Holy Tradition” and the Bible for divine inspiration; according to them, both are divinely inspired. They believe that the Apostolic and Ecclesiastical Traditions that the Church received from the early fathers of the Church and the 7 General Councils are of the same importance as the Bible and, therefore, should not be rejected. The Traditions are to be received and obeyed because they are in line with the Holy Scripture and teachings of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Bible and the Holy Traditions should be accepted and honored with the same reverence and devotion.
Conversely, Protestants only use the Bible for divine inspiration. They believe that only the Bible is divinely inspired and treat it as the only source of direction on spiritual matters.
Veneration of The Blessed Virgin Mary and Saints
Western Orthodox believers see veneration as not praying to Mary and the Saints but praying through them.
Also, Western Orthodox believers see the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Therefore, she is referred to as the mother of humanity.
On the other hand, in Protestantism, Virgin Mary is given a less prominent position. Protestants do not believe in veneration through Mary and the Saints but in direct access to God.
Hierarchs in the Church
There is a hierarchy in the Western Orthodox Church. The topmost position is that of the Patriarch. Below Patriarchs are Bishops, seen as the successors of the Apostles; thus considered the rulers of the Church. Below the Priests are Priests.
On the other hand, in Protestantism, there is no hierarchy. Protestants believe in the universal priesthood of believers. This ideology gives the same power to all baptized Christians. It was one of the most innovative ideologies of the Protestant Reformation Group. Pastors are not accorded any special status in the Protestant Church. According to the Church, the only thing that differentiates the pastors from the congregation is that the former study Theology at the college or university level.
In the Western Orthodox Church, Celibacy is obligatory for Bishops. Deacons and priests can marry before ordination but not after. On the other hand, in Protestantism, Celibacy is not mandatory for one to qualify as a member of the clergy.
Marriage and divorce
According to Western Orthodox, marriage is a mystical union that can only be broken due to adultery. In Protestantism, marriage is viewed as a contract and is not considered unbreakable.
Significance of the Eucharist
In Western Orthodox, the Eucharist presents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross; therefore, your sins are forgiven by partaking in the Eucharist. Conversely, in Protestantism, the Eucharist is a symbol of grace. The belief that it makes present the sacrifice of Christ and forgiveness of sin is rejected.
Distribution of the Eucharist
Western Orthodoxy Church practices closed communion. Therefore non-members are not allowed to receive the Eucharist/Holy Communion in a Western Orthodox church.
On the other hand, most Protestant churches practice open communion. Therefore, members and non-members can receive Holy Communion in most Protestant churches. The only limitation is that one has to be a baptized Christian.
Authority of the Pope
According to the Western Orthodox Church, as the Bishop of Catholic in Rome, the authority of the Pope is equal to that of other Bishops in the Church. Conversely, the Protestants are of the point that the Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, he has no authority to speak on behalf of other churches.
Western Orthodoxies believe in an intermediate state between heaven and earth. However, cleansing has to happen on earth, not in the next life. On the other hand, Protestantism rejects purgatory. The belief is that Christ’s death on the Cross was enough to cleanse us.
In Western Orthodoxy, there are about seven sacraments referred to as mysteries- Baptism, Eucharist, Chrismation, Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony (Marriage), Holy Unction, and Penance (Confession). This list is not fixed; it can change when the Church deems fit.
On the other side, Protestantism has two sacraments, referred to as ordinances; the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion) and Baptism.
What are the similarities between Protestant and Western Orthodox?
Both are sects of Christianity.
The Western Orthodox Church follows the teachings of Jesus Christ and Paul’s writings and mission work. Similarly, the Protestant Churches follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and Paul’s writings and mission work. Therefore, both Churches are sects of Christianity.
Both Churches view the Bible as a source of divine inspiration.
The Western Orthodox Church followers view the Bible as an authoritative text written by people who the Holy Spirit inspired. Similarly, Protestants view the Bible as the only source of divine authority.
Both reject the infallibility of the Pope.
The Western Orthodoxy Church rejects the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Pope. According to the Church, only the first seven councils can be considered infallible. Similarly, the Protestants reject the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Pope. It is only the Bible that can be a source of infallible teachings.
Which came first between Protestant and Western Orthodox?
Protestants came before Western Orthodox. Protestant was born in the 16th century after the Protestant Reformation. On the other hand, Western Orthodox was conceived in the 19th century when Julian Joseph Overbeck sought the right to establish the Western Orthodox Church. Therefore, Protestants came before Western Orthodox.
What do Western Orthodox people think of Protestants?
Western Orthodox people think of Protestants as heretics. There are many places where the two Churches differ regarding beliefs, values, and practices. Western Orthodox believers view Protestantism as an attempt to derail Christianity’s progress over the century.
For instance, over time, the Protestant Church has broken into countless churches, which according to Western Orthodoxies, does Christianity more harm than good. However, although viewed as heretical, Western Orthodox followers also accept that there are some excellent ideologies in the Protestantism movement.
Can Western Orthodox people attend Protestant churches?
Western Orthodox people can attend Protestant churches. Protestant churches are open to everyone. Also, most Protestant churches practice open communion. These churches allow even non-members to receive the Eucharist, provided they are baptized Christians. However, Western Orthodox restricts its members from partaking in Holy Communion in other churches.
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Socratic. (2018). What are the similarities and differences between the Catholic and eastern orthodox Christian churches? Retrieved December 14, 2022
Wocc-us.org. (n.d.). What we believe. Retrieved December 14, 2022
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