One true church
|Part of a series on|
Some Christian groups or denominations have claimed that they alone represent "the one and only church" to which Jesus gave his authority in the Great Commission. Other denominations believe that "the church" includes members of many denominations, believing in "an invisible church". A similar theory arose in the 4th and 5th centuries, present in Novatianism and Donatism— both of which were condemned by the mainstream church of their time.
Others believe that in the New Testament period, there were no denominations, and the phrase Christian Church or "the church" refers either to all who follow Jesus, or all who follow Jesus in a particular location.
However, Apostolic succession is seen as one of the essential elements in constituting the one true church, ensuring it has inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority and responsibility that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles. A few denominations believe they have restored the original church, in belief or practice. The claim to be the one true church is related to the first of the Four Marks of the Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church".
Anglican branch theory
Apostolic succession is sometimes seen as one of the essential elements in constituting the one true church, ensuring it has inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority and responsibility that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles.
This is the position of those Anglicans who uphold the branch theory that, "though the Church may have fallen into schism within itself and its several provinces or groups of provinces be out of communion with each other, each may yet be a branch of the one Church of Christ, provided that it continues to hold the faith of the original undivided Church and to maintain the apostolic succession of its bishops."
The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, according to that theory, are the principal branches of the one true Church, along with the Anglican Communion. Those churches, however, reject the theory, as do Anglicans other than the church faction often termed "Anglo-Catholicism". Anglo-Catholicism is a point of view that arose during the nineteenth century's Romantic era and which led to a renewed interest in things Gothic. The English Reformation was imagined by Anglo-Catholics to have been only a temporary and artificial interruption in the Catholic history of English Christianity. Anglicans generally do not subscribe to the idea that their church, with or without any supposed connection to the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches, constitute a "one true Church" to the exclusion of other Christian bodies.
The Catholic Church declared in the Fourth Lateran Council that: "There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation", a statement of what is known as the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. The Church is further described in the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as the "Mystical Body of Christ".
According to the Catechism, the Catholic Church professes to be the "sole Church of Christ", which is described in the Nicene Creed as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The church teaches that its founder is Jesus Christ, who appointed the Twelve Apostles to continue his work as the Church's earliest bishops. Catholic belief holds that the Church "is the continuing presence of Jesus on earth", and that all duly consecrated bishops have a lineal succession from the apostles. In particular, the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), is considered the successor to the apostle Simon Peter, from whom the Pope derives his supremacy over the Church. The Church is further described in the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as the Mystical Body of Christ. Thus, the Catholic Church holds that "the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic ... This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."
In the encyclical Mortalium Animos of 6 January 1928, Pope Pius XI wrote that "in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors" and quoted the statement of Lactantius: "The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation." Accordingly, the Second Vatican Council declared: "Whosoever, [...] knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. In the same document, the Council continued: "The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter." And in its decree on ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio it stated: "Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognise the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise."
The Church teaches that the fullness of the "means of salvation" exists only in the Catholic Church, but the Church acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of Christian communities separated from itself to "impel towards Catholic unity" and thus bring people to salvation in the Catholic Church ultimately. It teaches that anyone who is saved is saved through the Catholic Church but that people can be saved ex voto and by pre-baptismal martyrdom as well as when conditions of invincible ignorance are present, although invincible ignorance in itself is not a means of salvation.
Catholicism also teaches that there are some elements of truth in non-Christian religions, and Vatican II's Nostra Aetate stated: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself."
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Eastern Orthodox Church has identified itself as the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" in, for instance, synods held in 1836 and 1838 and in its correspondence with Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII. Some Orthodox hold that there can be a kind of imperfect participation in the Church by those not visibly in communion with her. This is most famously expressed by Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, "We can say where the Church is; we cannot say where she is not."
Iglesia ni Cristo
The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that it is the one church founded by Jesus. Adherents hold that Iglesia ni Cristo is the only true church of Jesus Christ as restored by Felix Manalo. The church recognizes Jesus Christ as the founder of the Church. Meanwhile, its reestablishment is seen as the signal for the end of days. They believe that the church was apostatized by the 1st or 4th century due to false teachings. The INC says that this apostate church is the Roman Catholic Church.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
They believe that the Iglesia ni Cristo is the fulfillment of the passage above, and "east" refers to the Philippines, where the Church of Christ would be founded. The INC teaches that its members constitute the "elect of God" and there is no salvation outside the Iglesia ni Cristo. Faith alone is insufficient for salvation. The Iglesia ni Cristo says that the official name of the true church is "Church of Christ" (Iglesia ni Cristo in Tagalog). The two passages often cited by INC to support this are Romans 16:16 "Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you" and the George Lamsa translation of Acts 20:28: "Take heed therefore . . . to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood".
Latter Day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or "Mormons" believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was chosen to restore the original organization established by Jesus, now "in its fullness", rather than to reform the Catholic church.
As Allen and Hughes put it, "[n]o group used the language of 'restoration' more consistently and more effectively than did the [Latter Day Saints] ... early Mormons seemed obsessed with restoring the ancient church of God.":94
Some among the Churches of Christ have attributed the restorationist character of the Latter Day Saints movement to the influence of a preacher, Sidney Rigdon, who was associated with the Campbell movement in Ohio but left it and became a close friend of Joseph Smith.:95:544,545 Neither the Mormons nor the early Restoration Movement leaders invented the idea of "restoration"; it was a popular theme of the time that had developed independently of both, and Mormonism and the Restoration Movement represent different expressions of that common theme.:95:544,545 The two groups had very different approaches to the restoration ideal.:545 The Campbell movement combined it with Enlightenment rationalism, "precluding emotionalism, spiritualism, or any other phenomena that could not be sustained by rational appeals to the biblical text.":545 The Latter Day Saints combined it with "the spirit of nineteenth-century Romanticism" and, as a result, "never sought to recover the forms and structures of the ancient church as ends in themselves" but "sought to restore the golden age, recorded in both Old Testament and New Testament, when God broke into human history and communed directly with humankind.":545
One of these divine communication is an account of when God the Father and Jesus appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him that the creeds of the churches of the day "were an abomination in his sight" and that through him, God would restore (or re-establish) the true church. Smith taught that the Great Apostasy was complete and required a full restoration of the original church. This included the Aaronic priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, and the full church structure consisting of prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, serving as the first prophet believed to be appointed by Jesus in the latter days.
The Prophet Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon, which translated by the Prophet from ancient records as directed by the angel Moroni. The Book of Mormon contains a record of the original church of Jesus in the Americas between about 600 BC and AD 421. In addition, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the true authority or priesthood directly from those who held it anciently, namely John the Baptist, who returned as an angel and gave him and Oliver Cowdery the authority to baptize. Saint Peter, Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles, returned as angels and gave the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the authority to lead the church just as they had done anciently.
The church was organized on April 6, 1830 in New York State. Originally the church was unofficially called the "Church of Jesus Christ". Four years later, in April 1834 it was also called the "Church of Latter-day Saints" to differentiate the church of this era from that of the New Testament. Then, in April 1838, the full name was officially declared as the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". The LDS Belief that theirs is the one true church is codified in LDS canonical scripture, "And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually-".
Some have attributed Joseph Smith's understanding of restorationism to Sidney Rigdon, who was associated with the Campbell movement in Ohio but left it and became a close friend of Smith.:95:544,545 Neither the Mormons nor the early Campbell movement's leaders invented the idea of "restoration"; it was a popular theme of the time that had developed independently of both, and Mormonism and the Restoration Movement represent different expressions of that common theme.:95:544,545 The two groups had very different approaches to the restoration ideal.:545 The Campbell movement combined it with Enlightenment rationalism, "precluding emotionalism, spiritualism, or any other phenomena that could not be sustained by rational appeals to the biblical text.":545 The Latter Day Saints combined it with "the spirit of nineteenth-century Romanticism" and, as a result, "never sought to recover the forms and structures of the ancient church as ends in themselves" but "sought to restore the golden age, recorded in both Old Testament and New Testament, when God broke into human history and communed directly with humankind.":545
- Apostolic succession
- Great Church
- One true faith
- Religious exclusivism
- Restorationism (Christian primitivism)
- "Branch theory of the Church", The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3
- Fourth Lateran Council, canon 1
- Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Vatican City, 1943. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
- CCC, 811.
- Kreeft, p. 98, quote "The fundamental reason for being a Catholic is the historical fact that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, was God's invention, not man's ... As the Father gave authority to Christ (Jn 5:22; Mt 28:18–20), Christ passed it on to his apostles (Lk 10:16), and they passed it on to the successors they appointed as bishops."
- Schreck, p. 131
- Barry, p. 46
- CCC, 880. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
- Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Vatican City, 1943. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
- Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 8
- Mortalium Animos
- Lumen Gentium, 14
- Lumen Gentium, 15
- Decree on Ecumenism ch.1.4
- Paul VI, Pope (1964). "Lumen Gentium chapter 2". Vatican. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- Nostra Aetate, 2
- Erwin Fahlbusch, William Bromiley (editors), The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Eerdmans 2003) vol.3, p. 867
- Anne C. Harper. "Iglesia ni Cristo". StJ's Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements (Sacred Tribes Press): 1–3.
- Johan D. Tangelder. "Sects and Cults: Iglesia ni Cristo". Reformed Reflections. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
- Adriel Obar Meimban (1994). "A Historical Analysis of the Iglesia ni Cristo: Christianity in the Far East, Philippine Islands Since 1914". The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies (Tokyo: Sophia University) (12): 98–134.
- Anne C. Harper (2001-03-01). The Iglesia ni Cristo and Evangelical Christianity. The Network for Strategic Missions. pp. 101–119. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- (Pasugo, November 1973, 6)
- (Lamsa translation; cited in Pasugo, April 1978)
- C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, "Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of the Churches of Christ," Abilene Christian University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-89112-006-8
- Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, ISBN 978-0-8028-3898-8, 854 pages, entry on Mormonism
- (See Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith - History: Chapter 1:19)
- See The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 115:4
- Emphasis added. See The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1:30