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Defining Christianity

Postby Dorvan » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:30 am

I didn't want to derail the previous thread, so I'm posting my reply in a new one:

Shoju wrote:According to Theologians, Catholics, and Christians, no, they are not the same thing. There are as many things different between the two as there are between Christianity, and Islam, or Christianity and Judaism. To the secular world, yes, they are the same thing, but then a lot of people classify things incorrectly all the time.


What theologians, Catholics, and Christians are you talking about? Citations? Catholicism and Christianity as a whole certainly aren't the same thing...one is a subset of the other. To say that Catholicism and the undefined "Christianity" are as different as either is from Judaism or Islam is simply, to avoid saying soemthing for inflammatory, incorrect. For starters, I'd point to the Nicene Creed, a core statement of faith for Catholics and other Christians alike which is far different from anything you'll find in Judaism or Islam.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby mew » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:33 am

It also depends on if you are thinking about it strictly in the literature sense, only following what is written in the holy books, or if you are thinking about it in the modern and cultural sense of the religions.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Dorvan » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:54 am

Shoju wrote:Christianity believes that to be accepted into heaven after death or judgement day, you must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your lord and Savior. While there are sects of Catholicism that practice this, it is not part of main stream catholicism.

Christianity does not believe in the divinity of, nor pray to the Virgin Mary.

Christianity does not believe in Purgatory

in Christianity, Baptismal is a personal choice.

and I could go on and on and on but this is a good place to start If you want we can take this to PM's as this is REALLY not what this thread is about.


None of those things are the central core of Christianity...that reads more like a polemic, which makes sense because the site you've cited is exactly that (especially the second line, because as much as I take issue with Catholic Mariology, the first statement certainly isn't an accurate portrayal of it).

Christianity is defined by a belief in the triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son, Jesus, came to Earth as a man died on the cross for the sins of the world, and resurrected on the third day.

This is the essence of the gospel, this is what is codified is the Nicene Creed. This is the core of Christianity...the central article of faith on which Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox Christians all agree.

Beyond that there are many theological differences, among which you have highlighted a few, but none of those doctrinal points are as central to Christianity as what I've stated. I don't want to sweep those differences under the rug: they're significant and I think the Catholic Church has it wrong on a number of points of theology which have significant implication, but to pretend that somehow Catholicism isn't a subset of Christianity is to be ignorant of both theology and history.
Last edited by Dorvan on Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Vanifae » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:57 am

There is a core doctrine that is Christian:

Belief in Jesus as a savior.

Taking the New and Old Testaments as authoritative texts.

Acceptance of God.

That is about it in a nutshell at it's core.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Shoju » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:19 am

Like I said in the other thread, I'm going to back out of these discussions. I will post once, with my views, and past that I might talk in PM's.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light. None may come to the father but by him. Christ is the intercessor between Humans and God. While God and Christ are part of the divine trinity and the same thing, Christ said that you must know him and accept him as your personal savior. He is your intercessor between Yourself, and God the father.

In Catholicism, The church is viewed as intercessor. This is largely based in the Old Testament when the priest was the only one who could talk to god.

These are the major ideological differences between 'christianity' and catholicism. To be a Christian means to have confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, asked for forgiveness, and ask for him to be your personal lord and savior. In mainstream Catholicism, this is not the case.

Unless I missed something in the past 5 years. I will admit that if they changed the doctrine of the catholic church to include this in the past 5 years, then they aren't the same. The code is paramount to both, yes. But the division came really in the ideology of being 'born again'.

There are portions of the catholic church that believe in the act of being born again, and if I felt that I had the drive to look it up I would, but sadly, I'm just incredibly burnt out over the debate.

As far as sources,
Most Pentacostal, 4 Square Gospel, Spirit Filled Baptists and similar denominations look at the emergence of Christianity as a separate religion from Catholicism to have taken place with the events of Martin Luther.

As far as what Theologians?
I was a religion major for a year at a local college, and most of my professors who dealt with Christian Studies classes agree that they are not the same. I will see if I can find some names and websites for them.

TL:DR The difference is in the belief of being born again with Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior, with the holy spirit residing within you.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Vanifae » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:35 am

Catholicism is Christianity.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Dorvan » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:38 am

Yes, the "personal savior" thing is a difference between most Catholics and most Protestants...however, that doesn't mean that Catholics don't see Jesus as their savior...it's a bit difficult to describe, but as I understand it (I'm not Catholic myself, but I have studied their theology a fair bit) it's more that they'd see Jesus dying for the salvation of all and they they are a part of that. I'd be happy to discuss the whole theology of the issue, as there's a lot to explore there.

Mainly, though, it seems that you're basing your definition of Christianity on how it would be defined by one subset of Protestant churches. I'm unsure as to why I should accept that definition over something like the Nicene creed which is consonant with scripture and has been reaffirmed by generations upon generations of Christians.

You keep referring to this idea that Christianity and Catholicism "are not the same". Again, I agree with that, but not for the reason you state...but rather that one is a subset of the other. I wonder if your professors might say the same.

As to the final statement, I've already addressed the personal savior issue in a cursory fashion, but the belief in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is to the best of my knowledge not exclusive to a few Protestant denominations.

I simply don't see why these points should be elevated above something like the Nicene creed in defining Christianity, at least from the perspective of a useful classification of religion. If you want to talk about theology of salvation and such I'm perfectly open to that subject as well.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Vanifae » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:43 am

Without Catholicism we wouldn't have all the Christian denominations and faiths, it is Christian.

I am not sure how you can deny that. They were the original Christians, historically speaking. For 1300-1400 years or so to be Christian was to be Catholic, the universal church.

Edit: Personal savior aside, the acceptance of Jesus as a savior and a prophet is a key component of Christian faith. Also I am Catholic.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Arnock » Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:06 pm

When you refer to christianity, it seems to me like you're simply talking about protestantism

Both catholics, and protestants are subsets of the christian faith.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Arnock » Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:25 pm

Shoju wrote:There are as many things different between the two as there are between Christianity, and Islam, or Christianity and Judaism.



I would have to strongly disagree with you here. At their core, both Protestants and Catholics believe that Jesus Christ was the messiah and son of god sent to earth. They believe in the divinity of christ, his death, and resurrection. They believe that Jesus' death was the ultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins.

I'm no theologist, so correct me if I'm wrong here:

Islam states that christ was one of the greatest prophets of allah, not the son of god. Muhammad was the greatest prophet. From what I understand, in Islam, salvation comes from following the teachings and instructions of Muhammad.(I am not aware whether Muslims believe in a messiah.)


Jews do not believe that christ was the messiah. In Judaism, salvation comes from following the law of moses. Jews believe that the messiah has yet to come.




Again, I'm no expert (particularly in regards to islam) but at their very core, both protestants and catholics follow the teachings of christ. And are radically more similar in beliefs than to islam or judaism.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Brekkie » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:23 pm

As far as sources,
Most Pentacostal, 4 Square Gospel, Spirit Filled Baptists and similar denominations look at the emergence of Christianity as a separate religion from Catholicism to have taken place with the events of Martin Luther.

As far as what Theologians?
I was a religion major for a year at a local college, and most of my professors who dealt with Christian Studies classes agree that they are not the same. I will see if I can find some names and websites for them.


I already could tell you were coming from a Baptist background/teachers before I read this, because it's an effect I've observed that most of the Baptist variations (and pretty much only them out of all of Christendom) have developed this concept of "Christianity" as some kind of separate entity. Mostly the end seems to be to then apply the term exclusively to their own collection of Baptist denominations.
I suppose that this is supposed to lend legitimacy and weight to the Baptist organization, which dates from the period known as the Resurgence in the southern states of the U.S. in the decades preceding and following the Civil War. It evolved from older forms of Protestantism such as Lutheranism and Presbyterianism, with a fresh injection of zeal due to the optimism and individual-centric self-reliant attitude and distrust for the "old ways" and establishment that characterized a U.S.A. rapidly expanding into the west.

The protestant denominations mostly essentially root from Lutheranism though, and his essential frustrations with the corrupt state of the Catholic Church's administration, which had become hijacked into essentially an extension of the political system, and noble birth was a much more important factor in the appointment of high church officials than holiness. This greatly flavored the emerging Protestantism's tenant of "figuring things out for yourself".

It should be noted that pretty much everything Shoju stated that Catholic doctrine includes is incorrect. Many of the things mentioned are very common myths, misconceptions, and straight falsehoods distributed by small protestant denominations seeking to further differentiate their own more-similar-than-they'd-care-to-acknowledge doctrine from Catholicism and beef up the legitimacy of their relatively modern organizations.
For example:

-Mary, the mother of Jesus is not viewed as divine, nor even a saint in the normal sense (though "saint" actually simply means literally "somebody we're pretty sure certainly made it to heaven", under which category she does fall). She is prayed to, though that shouldn't be taken the wrong way. Prayer in Catholicism is merely communication, not exclusively worship. Just as we might ask for a dead loved one to be with us when we are about to launch into a very difficult or dangerous undertaking, Mary is prayed to in the same way. Since she was completely human and "normal" in every way with the exception of being specially picked out for her task, she is easier to relate to in our mortal struggles, and so it's almost like asking a friend for advice, when The Big Guy might be too intimidating.

-Baptism is performed at a young age, and represents being born again and casting off original sin, as well as being welcomed into the arms of the greater community. It is common for Baptists theologians to freak out about this and view it as indoctrination before the child is old enough to decide for themselves, but again all that Baptist Protestantism did was hijack the other major Catholic sacrament, Confirmation, which serves the exact same function as adult-baptism in Baptist practices, replace the oil with water, and call it Baptism.

-The church is not somehow the "middle man". Throughout the Catholic church's development, theologians have always stressed the importance of personal relationships with God and individual acceptance. Bashing the church as a "middle man" is misleading as the the actual role being played, and historically played by that church in serving it's community. It is easy for protestant denominations less than a century old to demand every member read the Bible for themselves and form their own opinion, for example, when literacy only became common just as recently. And in general the objection is just kind of silly taken out of the context Martin Luther originally applied it in. Martin Luther rightfully decried the hijacking of the church by political secular forces and the resulting corruption involved. He especially hated the concept of indulgences, which were a money-raising tool developed by corrupt church officials in the middle ages where the priest agreed to pray specifically for an individual, giving them some of their time, in exchange for a fee. That dynamic was reformed centuries ago when the secular power of the church establishment dwindled to the point where states no longer felt the need to infiltrate it in order to exert more power. The role of the church is that of a mentor, councilor, and expert theologian, for helping unravel misunderstandings or confusions about doctrine.
Not everyone has the ability/time to dedicate their life to understanding morality better, or else society would not be able to function, so for the good of the community priests provide that role of service. It's like arguing that we don't need plumbers because everyone can just learn plumbing on their own and fix their own pipes. Sure everyone should have basic understand and skills, but for major problems, having a specialist is wonderful. Deaths, tragedies, and challenges must be so much more painful when your belief system is that no one else has anything helpful they can share with you and you have to rationalize it by yourself without help with only your own limited experiences.

-Purgatory. Like most things in morality and philosophy, all you have is just extrapolation upon basic core assumptions about what is bad and what is good. Most of what we think about stuff like angels and demons, heaven and hell, and the existence of purgatory is merely conjecture based on extrapolations or extrapolations. It's simply a proposed answer to the fear that since bad acts are bad and result in hell, what happens to a person who is mostly good but made a few bad decisions? Do they get burned for the couple bad things they did, or do they go to heaven for being basically good, which essentially would mean a free pass on doing bad stuff as long as it was the minority? It made less sense that basically good people are irredeemable, or that joe shomoe who lived a decent life but got drunk and beat his wife several times and never repented just gets a free pass on that, so theologians can up with the concept of purgatory as a possible explanation which fit the big picture the messages passed down in the Bible presented that resolved this dilemma.


"Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all."
– G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy, Chapter III: The Suicide of Thought, 1909


edit: spelling
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Shoju » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:27 pm

For the record.

I'm not from a baptist background. I listed them. That doesn't make me one. I grew up in the far scarier 4 square gospel.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Brekkie » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:30 pm

Can you define what you mean by 4 square gospel? Is that supposed to mean Pentecostal?

edited because i didn't realize that was it's actual name.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Vanifae » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:32 pm

I stand by:

Old and New Testament as authoritative.

Accept Jesus as a savior.

Owe a common background in the creation of the Christian Faith and/or Reformation.
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Re: Defining Christianity

Postby Brekkie » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:34 pm

I agree with that. "Christian" supposed to be the all-inclusive term. Claiming it as a sub-set is like Scottish people claiming they are the only White people, and everybody else are posers.
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