The Differing Beliefs of Christian Denominations Around the World

Across the world, there are many branches of Christianity. Each of these Christian denominations have differing beliefs and practices. Read on to learn more.

To call somebody a Christian is only part of the story.

There is a seemingly endless list of different Christian denominations. Each sect of Christianity has certain unique views which distinguish them from the others.

Understanding all of the Christian denominations and where they came from can be a dizzying task. Some differences can seem subtle, but changing even a few words has led to wars and never-ending debate.

To help sort through centuries of information, we've put together this brief guide about different Christian denominations and their beliefs.

Catholic

The Roman Catholic Church traces its roots to the early church years, developing into a dominant religious and political authority.

The Catholics held nearly unchallenged power in Europe for many centuries until the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. This led to the fracture and offshoot of many additional Christian denominations.

The Catholic Church holds many beliefs that distinguish it from other sects of Christianity.

Perhaps the most prominent is the chief authority of a single Pope, the head of the church. Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit gives the Pope and other church leaders such as bishops a special gift to interpret scriptures and thus teach and preach the true faith.

Because of this perceived power, Catholics often hold the teachings and traditions of the church leaders to be on equal footing with the Bible in terms of authority. This marks one of the primary differences between Catholics and most other Christian denominations.

The Catholic Church also emphasizes that salvation cannot be achieved through faith alone. One must practice good works and observe all seven Sacraments to earn salvation.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Through God's grace, good works, and observing the sacraments

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, church fathers, Popes, and Bishops

Infant Baptism: Yes

Sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist (Lord's Supper), Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick

View of Lord's Supper: The bread and wine are transformed into the true body and blood of Christ (Transubstantiation)

Women Ordained: No

Lutheran

Lutheranism is derived from the teachings of Martin Luther, a German monk whose controversial questioning of Catholic dogma through the 95 Theses eventually ignited the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century.

Many of Luther's teachings revolved around correcting the departure from the scriptures by the Catholic traditions and church fathers. Although Luther influenced many of the other Christian denominations, Lutheranism remains the closest to his main teachings.

The core of Lutheranism is the Three Solas: Sola scriptura ("by scripture alone"), sola fide ("by faith alone"), and sola gratia ("by grace alone"). The first sola means that the Bible is the sole source of doctrinal authority. The other Solas mean that salvation can only be obtained by the grace of God through faith, and not through one's own actions.

These tenents summarize the key break of the Protestant Christian denominations from the Catholics, who place significant emphasis on the teachings of the Pope and church leaders along with scripture, as well as on good works as a key requirement of salvation.

Luther also emphasized a more personal connection to the scriptures and the ability of any man to learn and preach the Gospel. This was partially to hold church leaders accountable and prevent what he saw as corruption and perversion of the Scriptures by the Catholic hierarchy. This belief led him to translate the Bible into German, allowing common people to read it and not just the priests and bishops educated in Latin or Hebrew.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Through God's grace by faith alone (Sola fide)

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Sola scriptura (scripture alone)

Infant Baptism: Yes

Sacraments: Baptism, Lord's Supper

View of Lord's Supper: Christ's true body and blood are present "in, with and under " the bread and wine. (Consubstantiation)

Women Ordained: Depends on the group

Baptist

Although its origins are debated, the Baptist Church is most commonly thought to be founded in Amsterdam by John Smyth as part of the English Separationist movement in the 17th Century.

Unlike most other Christian denominations, a distinguishing feature of the Baptist faith is the rejection of infant baptism. Baptists believe that baptism is only appropriate for those old enough to understand and clearly profess their faith. They also believe in the baptismal ritual of full immersion.

Like Lutherans, Baptists follow the ideas of sola scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Through God's grace by faith alone (sola fide)

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Sola scriptura

Infant Baptism: No

Sacraments: Baptism, Lord's Supper

View of Lord's Supper: Christ is not physically or spiritually present in the bread and wine; the act is representative (Memorialism)

Women Ordained: Depends on the group

Methodist

The Methodist Church is traced to John Wesley's evangelical revival within the Anglican Church in the 18th Century.

Methodism puts emphasis on personal holiness and the actual practical implementation of Christian principles in somebody's life.

Although good works are not necessarily required for salvation, as is the Catholic tradition, those works are strongly encouraged as part of a person's ongoing activism through the Holy Spirit.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Faith is unconditionally necessary for salvation; good works are conditionally necessary

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Prima scriptura (scripture first, but also church traditions)

Infant Baptism: Yes

Sacraments: Baptism, Lord's Supper

View of Lord's Supper: Depends on the group, but commonly rejects Transubstantiation

Women Ordained: Yes

Presbyterian

Presbyterianism has roots in Scotland from the Calvinist movement, led by John Calvin.

As is the case in many Calvinist sects, Presbyterians believe in the complete sovereignty of God, including the controversial idea of predestination.

Another staple of Presbyterian churches is the Presbyterian form of church governance. A representative form or organization, each local church is administered by an elected group of elders.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Through God's grace by faith alone (Sola fide)

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Westminster Confession of Faith

Infant Baptism: Yes

Sacraments: Baptism, Lord's Supper

View of Lord's Supper: Christ is not physically present, but spiritual present (Receptionism)

Women Ordained: Yes

Eastern Orthodox

The Eastern Orthodox, like the Catholic church, traces its roots to the early days of Christendom.

Centuries before the Protestant Reformation marked the first true divide in Christian denominations in an event known as the Great Schism in the 11th Century. Here, the church was divided by geographical lines. It created western Christianity (which would become the Roman Catholic church) and eastern Christianity (which would become the Orthodox church).

The main cause of the divide was the cultural and language differences in the east and west. The Latin-speaking westerners and Greek-speaking easterners would inevitably see differences in translation and thus develop distinct traditions. Despite the divide, Catholics and Orthodox Christians still share many commonalities.

The Greek-influenced Orthodox church is unique in its more philosophical and abstract view of the faith. Many aspects of religion are intentionally left as mysteries, in contrast with the pragmatic and detailed preference of the Latin-influenced culture.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Salvation is a gift from God, and accepting the gift is a lifetime process

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Prima scriptura

Infant Baptism: Yes

Sacraments: Typically observe the seven Catholic sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick)

View of Lord's Supper: Acknowledges the presence of Christ's true body in blood in the bread and wine, but declines to specify how or in what way (divine mystery)

Women Ordained: No

Anglican/Episcopal

The Anglican Church was formed in England when King Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic church.

The move came from the desire of Henry VIII for the Church of England to be more religiously and politically independent from Europe. This was significantly fueled by the Pope refusing to grant Henry to an annulment of his marriage.

The Act of Supremacy declared Henry and subsequent English monarchs as the head of the church.

The Anglican Church represents the wider Christian denomination that follows the customs of the main Church of England. Anglicans in America commonly use the term Episcopal.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Through God's grace by faith alone

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Prima scriptura

Infant Baptism: Yes

Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper are considered the Sacraments of the Gospel.

Anglicans also observe the 5 other Catholic sacraments (Penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick), but not as necessary for salvation.

View of Lord's Supper: Depends on the group

Women Ordained: Yes

Pentecost

It seems a fair amount of Christians see Pentecost as a cult as opposed to true Christianity.

The word Pentecost comes from the bible and is the festival when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated on the Sunday 50 days after Easter (the name comes from the Greek pentekoste, "fiftieth").

A huge focus of Pentecostal churches is Holy Spirit baptism as evidenced by speaking in tongues. Many Pentecost insist that one cannot be saved unless they are baptized in water. There are approximately 170 different denominations that identify themselves as Pentecostal.

Believe in Holy Trinity: Yes

Believe Jesus is Both God and Man: Yes

Believe in Resurrection of Christ: Yes

Salvation: Through Faith, Water Baptism

Basis of Doctrine: Bible, Man

Infant Baptism: Yes

 

Learn More About Christian Denominations

This list of Christian denominations is regrettably far from complete. It's impossible to summarize and include all denominations in a single short page.

Luckily, more information about the beliefs of these and other Christian denominations is always available at websites like Got Questions and others.

Follow Faith Gift Baskets for more Christian news and updates.


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