What's Your Denomination?

*Updated December 27, 2017

As a child I  always wanted to know the difference between religions and denominations. Since my mom's family is mostly Methodist and African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) and my dad's family is mostly Baptist, I attended services for all three denominations frequently. Yet, by the time I was in school learning about the Reformation, I still couldn't define the difference in the three denominations. This only strengthened my curiosity in the difference between the denominations. Some differences in practices are purely the observance of man made traditions (which therefore have nothing to do with God), while others are the result of different interpretations of the Bible. If you are a believer, it is important to know not only what these differences in interpretation are, but also to read, pray, and determine where you stand. If you aren't a believer, it is also important to know that these differences exists, because perhaps one of these differences is affecting your belief (or rather lack thereof).

According to this appendix, there are 41,000 Christian denominations in the world. However, most fall under one family which is used to to classify the denominations. In this post, I will focus of the families of denominations (for example Baptist, as opposed to Missionary, Freewill, and Southern Baptist). Below, I have highlighted a few doctrines and ideals that differ from church to church. You will also find a series of graphs below for a visual overview of these differences and similarities. Furthermore, I have provided a few sources for further reading on specific denominations and/or views in case you want to know more (there is way too much to place in this one post). Over time, I will likely discuss my own beliefs on each topic, but this post is merely an overview. Also, since there are several sub denominations within the denominations I have outlined, there may be variance on topics within a denomination. Furthermore, individuals within denominations may have differing beliefs. If you notice incorrect information about a denomination please comment below or use the contact page to notify me and I will get it sorted out.

Apocrypha

Use of Apocrypha?
No Yes
How many books are there in the Bible? Most Protestants will tell you 66, but those who consider the Apocrypha (or Deuterocanonical books) part of the canon (along with the Old and New Testaments) will give you a number far higher. The Apocrypha contains books which some churches recognize as canon (divinely inspired by God), some churches recognize as peripheral, and others reject. One view of why it should not be included can be found here, and a view a why it should can be found here. This was never mentioned in church when I was growing up, but before deciding what you believe, you should probably decide which books you believe in...
Belief in the Trinity?
No Yes

Trinity

Why do Christians' consider their religion monotheistic? One of my Religion teachers posed this question in class one day. Most Christians will tell you there is God the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), God the Son (John 10), and God the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6-8). The Trinity (definition source here) is a doctrine that most denominations hold, which states that there are three divine beings (God the Father,  Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit) that co-exist in one Godhead.  However, not all denominations believe this. Non-Trinitarians believe that there are three separate beings. Some non-trinitarians believe that all three beings are one in purpose, while others demote one or more from the status of God.  This is a topic generally brushed over in Church as a given, however, it is one of the major ideas that separates denominations and thus worthy of deep consideration before deciding which you believe. For more on trinitarian views see this list of non-trinitarian views and this article on trinitarian views.

Day of Worship

Most people automatically think Sunday when someone mentions the Sabbath, however the Sabbath is actually Saturday, which is a point of contention amongst denominations as well. The question of whether to worship on the true Sabbath (Saturday) or on Sunday is one that may seem minor in the general scheme of things, but could be more important than we think. Verses such as Exodus 31:17 refer to keeping the Sabbath as a sign between God and His children. Some (myself included) believe this sign is the Seal of God mentioned in Revelation. An in depth discussion of this belief can be found here.

Creeds

Recitation of Creeds?
No Yes
A creed is a brief statement of belief.[15] The most popular creeds in Christianity are the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed. Some churches require these recitations or belief in these creeds for membership to the church, while others merely recite them during service, and others never recite them at all. The Methodist and African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E) churches I attended growing up recite creeds during church, though I don't think they are required for membership.[16] The Baptist church I attended never recited creeds.
Sola Fide?
No Yes

Salvation

John 3:16 says whoever believes in Jesus is rewarded by eternal life, but some denominations preach heavy emphases on good works are needed, furthermore declaring that salvation can be lost by evil deeds or lack of repentance. The Protestant movement is based on sola fide,[19] which means by faith alone. Tangled up in the differing beliefs on salvation is the "once saved always saved" doctrine as well. Once saved always saved is most popular among Baptists. The road to salvation should definitely be at the top of the list for topics you should not just take for granted but actually study and affirm for yourself.

Predestination

Predestination?
Speaking of salvation, the choice to believe in and accept Jesus belongs to us, or does it? Some churches believe that people are #TeamHeaven or #TeamHell (I couldn't resist doing that) from the start. The root of this belief, for many, is in Jeremiah 1:5. Some cite the 144,000 of Revelation as evidence of predestination, while other churches believe that you alone are responsible for your salvation. Whether you are a believer in predestination or not will probably affect the rest of your views as well.
Hell is Eternal?
No Yes

Purgatory & Hell

Purgatory, according to Catholics, is a place where those who believed, but were impure go to be purified before ascending to Heaven. Most other denominations reject the idea of purgatory. Hell on the other hand is something almost all denominations agree on. However there are some (predominately individuals as opposed to defined denominations) that reject the idea of eternal hell (See this wikipedia article on Annihilationism).

Diet & Image

Dietary Restrictions?
No Yes
Another thing denominations can't agree on is what we should and should not consume. Some denominations preach complete abstinence from alcohol, while others allow real wine during communion. Denominations like the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) believe you should abstain from foods that contain caffeine as well. Some churches suggest vegetarianism. In determining what you believe in regards to diet (among most of the other topics mentioned), I would suggest looking at Jesus—after all He is our perfect example of how to live. (Note some people question whether the word wine in John 2 refers to the alcoholic beverage or grape juice, as Daniel 1:8 suggests consuming wine is to defile one's self).

In addition to diet, many denominations disagree on the attire/image of a believer. Some image related customs that are forbidden or frowned upon by certain denominations are as follows: wearing of jewelry, tattoos, women wearing pants, tight and/or revealing clothes, etc.


References

  1. "Compare Christian Denominations: Beliefs and Theology". Religion Facts. March 5, 2005
  2. "Trinity". Religion Facts. March 17, 2004
  3. Mary Fairchild. "Compare the Beliefs of Christian Denominations". ThoughtCo; visited April 2015
  4. "Official Denominational Web Sites". Hartford Institute for Religion Research; visited April 2015
  5. "Anglicanism". Religion Facts. March 17, 2015
  6. "Pentecostalism". Religion Facts. March 17, 2015
  7. "Mormonism". Religion Facts. March 17, 2004
  8. "Seventh Day Adventists". Religion Facts. March 17, 2015
  9. "Quakers (Society of Friends)". Religion Facts. March 17, 2015
  10. "Jehovah's Witness". Religion Facts. June 7, 2004
  11. AllTimeJeff. " Jehovah's Witnesses and Calvinistic Predestination". Jehovah's Witness; visited April 2015
  12. Ryan Turner. "Reasons why the Apocrypha does not belong in the Bible". Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. October 13, 2009
  13. "Refuting an Attack on the Deuterocanonicals". Catholic Apologetics; visited April 2015
  14. "Books of the Apocrphya". King James Bible Online; visited April 2015
  15. "Creed". Merriam Webster; visited December 2017
  16. Richard Peck. "Why Do We Say Creeds". United Methodist Church. September 1999
  17. Penny Hammond. "Religious dietary guidelines and restrictions". Chewfo.com. June 23, 2012
  18. Traci Schumacher. "5 Beliefs That Set Jehovah's Witnesses Apart From Other Christians". News Max. April 2, 2015
  19. "Solda Fide". Wikipedia; visited April December 2017

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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