Today, defining reformed theology is difficult at best largely because the Protestant Church of today is so fragmented. Once the central control of the Church is abandoned things become something of a free-for-all.  The reformers principal of clarity, that scripture is self-interpreting, has spawned may groups that clearly interpret scripture differently from one another. Add to that the liberal church of today who, having made a left turn at The Enlightenment, though they claim a reformed heritage really have reformed so far as not to have much in common with the material on this page at all.

The goal here is to draw some contrasts between the Reformers view and the Roman Catholic view at the time of the reformation.  I would be remiss if I did not note that both have changed.  It is left to the reader to determine where they stand. I am fond of tables of this sort as they show contrasts but they are deceptive in that they do not tell the whole story.  (Telling the whole story is also a great deal more work.)

Fundamentally the reformers differed from Rome in two areas:  The definition of the Church and the place and function of Scripture as it relates to the Church. 

 

Reconstructed the Doctrine of the Church
  Reformed Roman
  Rejected the doctrine of tradition. Choosing instead to focus on scripture to define Christian doctrine.  Jesus left no writings of his own instead he entrusted a tradition to the Church.  While this tradition is the basis for scripture, scripture is not the full story.  Church tradition is an equal witness to the Biblical Witness.
  Rejected the authority of the fathers and church councils. This is not to say that they dismissed them totally, but the Fathers represent more tradition than inspiration.  The Church Fathers, Popes and Councils spoke authoritatively. Indeed The Church continues to speak authoritatively.
  Taught justification by faith alone. The Church is in the position of dispensing grace. The sacraments are the means by which grace is dispensed.
Differed in the function of scripture
  Reformed Roman
  Bible is above the Church and serves to define all doctrine. The Church created the Bible.
  Scripture is clear on its own when illuminated by the Holy Spirit. The scriptures are clear as long as they are interpreted through Church Tradition and the Magisterium (collection of cardinals and bishops).
  Scriptures contain their own power of self-authentication.  The message of the Bible authenticates the message of the Church. The Church authenticates the Bible by determining its content.
  Returned to the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament Rely on the Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint traditions and includes the so called deuterocanonical books what protestants call the Apocrypha.

 

Inspired by the first few chapters of Ramm 1973