Presbyterianism vs Catholicism

by | Jun 25, 2023 | Catholic, Presbyterian | 0 comments

Presbyterianism and Catholicism are two distinct denominations that have different practices, structures, and beliefs. Catholicism is the oldest Christian denomination and the word catholic is derived from the Greek word  “katholikos,” which means”universal.” the Catholic church uses a hierarchical structure with the Pope as the head of the church. On the other hand, Presbyterianism has its origin in the 16th-century Reformation movement. The name Presbyterian is derived from the Greek word “presbyteros,” which means “elder.” This is significant because the Presbyterian church has a church government structure that is governed by elders. This is one of the main differences between Presbyterians and Catholics. But the two also differ in doctrine and liturgy. Let us have a look at the most significant differences 

Differences between Catholics and Presbyterians

Authority of Scripture

Presbyterian doctrine lays emphasis on the authority of scripture. The Bible is considered God’s word that is profitable for guiding faith and practice. Presbyterians also believe in the sola scriptura principle. This is a principle that states that only the Bible has the authority to influence church doctrine. Presbyterians rely on tradition, reason, as well as the Holy Spirit for help in Bible interpretation. 

Catholics differ from Presbyterians in the view of the authority of scriptures. While they accept that scriptures are inspired by God, they also allow for the tradition of the church as an authority in the determination of doctrine. The teachings of the ecumenical councils and early church fathers are considered just as important. Additionally, the pope has divine authority to interpret scripture and thereby help in the shaping of the doctrine. 

Predestination and election:

The Presbyterian doctrine emphasizes the principle of election and predestination based on the teachings of John Calvin. The principle teaches that God chose certain individuals to be the ones to be saved long before the foundation of the world was laid. God’s election and predestination are based on God’s grace and cannot be influenced by man’s actions. The concept of predestination is believed to be a mystery that may not be fully grasped by human wisdom. 

Catholic theology rejects the Calvin concept of predestination and instead teaches that all are candidates for God’s grace and salvation. Catholics believe that humans have a free will and so one can choose whether or not to accept God’s plan of salvation. Catholic doctrine teaches that God wants all to be saved but allows people to choose based on their free will. 


Catholicism recognizes seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The seven sacraments are observed as an outward sign of the grace of Christ to the church. The Eucharist is the central focus of a mass and it is believed to be the real presence of Christ. 

Presbyterians generally observe two sacraments: water baptism and the Eucharist (also referred to as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion). Just like the Catholics, Presbyterian doctrine believes in the baptism of both adults and children as a way of initiating them into the Christian faith. They also celebrate the Lord’s Table regularly in their worship services. 

Role of clergy and Congregation

Presbyterian doctrine teaches the priesthood of all believers. However, the worship service is still conducted by ordained ministers (also known as pastors) who administer the sacraments and also deliver the sermon. However, the Presebertrians encourage all Christians to participate in congregational worship through responsive reading, singing, prayers, etc. 

The main difference between Presbyterians and Catholics is that Presbyterian worship lays emphasis on preaching and congregational involvement while catholic worship focuses on the Mass and the sacramental roles of the clergy. However, the Catholic congregation also participates through singing, prayers, responsive reading, and receiving of the sacraments

Role of the Pope and the Magisterium

Catholics view the Pope as the head of the church and they believe that St. Peter was the first Pope. As such, the Pope is regarded as a divine leader who holds the keys to God’s kingdom. The Pope together with the Bishops that are in communion with him forms the Magisterium which is the teaching authority of the church. The Magisterium safeguards the church from doctrinal errors and helps in the preservation of doctrine. 

Presbyterians do not recognize the Pope or the Magisterium. Instead, elders are elected from the congregation, and these ledgers serve as the spiritual overseers in a congregation. Apart from spiritual guidance, the elders also help in making decisions for the church. The leadership structure also has deacons who focus on the ministries of service and compassion like helping the destitute in the congregation and society at large. 

Order of Worship

Presbyterian worship has a structured order that includes a call to worship, singing of hymns, prayer, scripture readings, sermons, and offertory collection. The exact order of worship will vary from congregation to congregation but the central focus is the sermon. On the flip side, Catholics use a strict liturgical structure with the Eucharist being the central focus of the worship service. Components of the catholic mass include scripture reading, homily (sermon), and the Eucharist.

The Mass consists of various components, including the Liturgy of the Word, which involves readings from Scripture and a homily (sermon), and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which the bread and wine are consecrated and received as the body and blood of Christ. The Mass incorporates prayers, hymns, and rituals that have been handed down through centuries of tradition.


The main difference between Presbyterians and Catholics is the leadership structure. The Presbyterian system of governance is based on church elders who have the authority to make decisions for the church. The Catholics on the other hand use a hierarchical structure with the Pope as the overall head of the church. Apart from this, there are other differences in liturgy and doctrine. But as different as the two denominations may be, they still have similarities. For instance, both believe in the baptism of both adults and children. 

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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