One true church

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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. The Roman Catholic Church, as well as the adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, each view themselves as the one and only original church. Other denominations believe that "the church" includes members of many denominations, believing in "an invisible church"; this is a standard view in Protestantism. Some Campbellite Restorationist groups believe their own denominations to be the one true church.

A similar theory to the Protestant "invisible church" doctrine arose in the 4th and 5th centuries, present in Novatianism and Donatism— both of which were condemned by the Bishop of Rome.

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 in any form, or to all who follow Jesus in a particular location.

Others say apostolic succession is an essential element 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".

Catholic Church[edit]

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",[1] 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".[2]

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.[3] The church teaches that its founder is Jesus Christ, who appointed the Twelve Apostles to continue his work as the Church's earliest bishops.[4] Catholic belief holds that the Church "is the continuing presence of Jesus on earth",[5] and that all duly consecrated bishops have a lineal succession from the apostles.[6] 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.[7] The Church is further described in the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as the Mystical Body of Christ.[8] 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."[9]

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."[10] 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.[11] 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."[12] And in a 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."[13]

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 ecclesial 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,[14] 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."[15]

Eastern Orthodox Church[edit]

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.[16] 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."

Anglican branch theory[edit]

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."[17]

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.

Baptist churches[edit]

Many Baptists, who uphold the doctrine of Baptist successionism (also known as Landmarkism), "argue that their history can be traced across the centuries to New Testament times" and "claim that Baptists have represented the true church" that "has been, present in every period of history".[18][19] These Baptists maintain that those who held their views throughout history, including the "Montanists, Novatians, Patarenes, Bogomils, Paulicians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses", were persecuted for their faith, a belief that these Baptists maintain to be "grand distinguishing mark of the true church".[20] In the introduction of The Trail of Blood, a Baptist text that explicates the doctrine of Baptist succession, Clarence Walker states that "The history of Baptists, he discovered, was written in blood. They were the hated people of the Dark Ages. Their preachers and people were put into prison and untold numbers were put to death."[21] J.M. Carroll, the author of the said text The Trail of Blood, also appeals to historian Johann Lorenz von Mosheim, who stated "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists."[21] Walter B. Shurden, the founding executive director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, writes that the theology of Landmarkism, which he states is integral of the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, upholds the ideas that "Only Baptist churches can trace their lineage in uninterrupted fashion back to the New Testament, and only Baptist churches therefore are true churches."[22] In addition Shurden writes that Baptists who uphold successionism believe that "only a true church-that is, a Baptist church-can legitimately celebrate the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Any celebration of these ordinances by non-Baptists is invalid."[19][22] Baptists who uphold this ecclesiology also do not characterize themselves as being a Protestant Church due to their belief that "they did not descend from those churches that broke away in protest from the church of Rome. Rather, they had enjoyed a continuous historical existence from the time of the very first church in the New Testament days."[23] These views are no longer widely held in the Southern Baptist Convention although they are still taught by many independent Baptist churches, Primitive Baptists, and some "congregations affiliated with the American Baptist Association."[24]

Iglesia ni Cristo[edit]

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.[25][26] They believe that the church was apostatized by the 1st or 4th century due to false teachings.[27][28] 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"[29] 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".[30]

Latter Day Saints[edit]

Stained glass depiction of the First Vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., completed in 1913 by an unknown artist (Church History Museum). Joseph Smith got the First Vision after he prayed about which church he should join.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or "Mormons" believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was chosen to restore the original Church established by Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that after His Resurrection, and the subsequent deaths of the apostles, wickedness and iniquity ran rampant throughout His Church, and eventually it fell into apostasy and corruption, thus being lost from the earth. The movement does not seek, instead, to reform the Catholic Church, causing much conflict with other denominations.[32] Mormons therefore believe that from the late first century A.D. to 1830, baptism and other ordinances were absent from the earth.

Some among the Churches of Christ have attributed the restorationist character of the Latter Day Saints movement to the influence of Sidney Rigdon, a preacher who was associated with the Campbell movement in Ohio but left it and became a close friend of Joseph Smith.[33][34] 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 they both represent different expressions of that common theme.[33][34] 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."[34] 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."[34]

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.[35] 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 served as the first prophet believed to be appointed by Jesus in the latter days. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes Thomas S. Monson as its incumbent president/prophet.

Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon, which is translated from the Golden Plates 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, Joseph Smith received the 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. In addition, Saint Peter, Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles, returned as angels and gave them the authority to lead the church.

The church was organized on April 6, 1830 in New York. 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".[36] 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-".[37]

Mormons identify themselves as Christians, but are not considered as such by some. Because of the Book of Mormon, their beliefs about the Trinity and baptism,[38] temple practices, the religion's past practice of polygamy,[39] and some of the religion's other beliefs, many Protestants and Catholics do not accept Mormonism as part of Christianity.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the following signs show that the LDS church is true.[40]

Sign References
Faith Acts 2:37-38
Baptism Matthew 3:11-16, John 3:5
The Holy Ghost Acts 8:16-17, Acts 19:1-6
Church Organisation Ephesians 4:11-12
Miracles and Gifts of the Spirit Matthew 11:5 ,Mormon 9:7-25
Revelation Acts 9:3-8, John 15:26-27, John 16:7-15
Persecution John 15:19, 2 Timothy 3:12
Sealing Matthew 18:18, Doctrine and Covenants 128:8-10
Baptism for the dead 1 Corinthians 15:29
Temple John 2:16, Doctrine and Covenants 124:39-40
Name of The Church 3 Nephi 27:8
Missionary Activity Matthew 28:18-20, Doctrine and Covenants 58:64
Love John 13:35

One true faith (outside of Christianity)[edit]

Islam[edit]

Muslims believe that Islam is the original and primordial faith, or fitrah, that was revealed by the prophet Muhammad.[41] Muslims maintain that previous messages and revelations have been partially changed or corrupted over time[42] and consider the Quran to be the unaltered and the final revelation from Allah. Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, which are basic concepts and obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from banking and welfare, to warfare and the environment.[43][44][45]

Judaism[edit]

Jews believe that the God of Abraham is the one true God. The Jews believe the God of Abraham entered into a covenant with the ancient Israelites, marking them as his Chosen People, giving them a mission to spread the concept of monotheism. Jews do not consider their chosenness to be a mark of superiority to other nations, but a responsibility to be an example of behavior for other nations to emulate.[46]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fourth Lateran Council, canon 1
  2. ^ Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Vatican City, 1943. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
  3. ^ CCC, 811.
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Schreck, p. 131
  6. ^ Barry, p. 46
  7. ^ CCC, 880. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
  8. ^ Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Vatican City, 1943. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
  9. ^ Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 8
  10. ^ Mortalium Animos
  11. ^ Lumen Gentium, 14
  12. ^ Lumen Gentium, 15
  13. ^ Decree on Ecumenism ch.1.4
  14. ^ Paul VI, Pope (1964). "Lumen Gentium chapter 2". Vatican. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  15. ^ Nostra Aetate, 2
  16. ^ Erwin Fahlbusch, William Bromiley (editors), The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Eerdmans 2003) vol.3, p. 867
  17. ^ "Branch theory of the Church", The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3
  18. ^ McGoldrick, James Edward (1 January 1994). Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History. Scarecrow Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780810836815. "Although the two most popular textbooks used in America to teach Baptist history cite Holland and England early in the seventeenth century as the birthplace of the Baptist churches, many Baptists object vehemently and argue that their history can be traced across the centuries to New Testament times. Some Baptists deny categorically that they are Protestants and that the history of their churches is related to the success of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Those who reject the Protestant character and Reformation origins of the Baptists usually maintain a view of church history sometimes called "Baptist successionism" and claim that Baptists have represented the true church, which must be, and has been, present in every period of history. The popularity of the successionist view has been enhanced enormously by a booklet entitled The Trail of Blood, of which thousands of copies have been distributed since it was published in 1931." 
  19. ^ a b Johnson, Robert E. (13 September 2010). A Global Introduction to Baptist Churches. Cambridge University Press. p. 148. ISBN 9781139788984. "One was its belief that the Baptist Church was the only true church. Because only the Baptist Church was an authentically biblical church, all other so-called churches were merely human societies. This mean that only ordinances performed by this true church were valid. All other rites were simply rituals performed by leaders of religious societies. The Lord's Supper could correctly be administered only to members of the local congregation (closed communion). Pastors of other denominations could not be true pastors because their churches were not true churches." 
  20. ^ McGoldrick, James Edward (1 January 1994). Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History. Scarecrow Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780810836815. "The thesis of The Trail of Blood appears in its subtitle "Following the Christians Down through the Centuries ... or The History of Baptist Churches from the Time of Christ, Their Founder, to the Present Day." J.M. Carroll, author of this treatise, explained that the "blood" in the title signifies suffering, because the true church has been persecuted throughout history. In fact, it appears that Carroll and some other successionist authors have made the experience of suffering persecutions the grand distinguishing mark of the true church. Successionists admit, of course, that the name "Baptist" cannot be found in every period of the Christian era, but if a group dissented from the Roman Catholic Church and suffered for its nonconformity, successionists have been quick to cite such groups as baptistic proponents of biblical Christianity. In this way, ancient and medieval religious movements such as the Montanists, Novatians, Patarenes, Bogomils, Paulicians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses have been inducted into the line of "Baptist" succession." 
  21. ^ a b Carroll, J.M. (3 December 2013). Trail of Blood. Challenge Press. ISBN 9780866452113. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Shurden, Walter B. (1993). The Struggle for the Soul of the SBC: Moderate Responses to the Fundamentalist Movement. Mercer University Press. p. 103. ISBN 9780865544246. "Also, and perhaps more important for this study, The Trail of Blood should be remembered because it was one of the principal documents to support Landmarkism. No historical or doctrinal aberration, I believe, affected Southern Baptist thinking more during the nineteenth century-and still shapes Southern Baptist ecclesiology, especially in the Southwest-than that of Landmarkism. What were the teachings of J.R. Graves, J.M. Pendleton, A.C. Dayton-a dentist converted from Presbyterianism to Baptist Landmarkism-and J.M. Carroll? Briefly, proponents of Landmarkism insisted (1) There is no such entity as the "invisible church" or the "Church Universal." There are only local churches. (2) Only Baptist churches bear the marks of the true New Testament church. (3) Only Baptist churches can trace their lineage in uninterrupted fashion back to the New Testament, and only Baptist churches therefore are true churches. (4) If you want to see the Kingdom of God at work, look at Baptist churches for they are the only visible signs of the Kingdom of God. In fact Landmarkism insisted, Baptist churches and the Kingdom of God are really two sides of the same coin. (5) All other so-called churches are counterfeit, imitations, or "human societies" as the Landmarkers called them, and Baptists should have no dealings whatsoever with them. (6) Finally, only a true church-that is, a Baptist church-can legitimately celebrate the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Any celebration of these ordinances by non-Baptists is invalid." 
  23. ^ Slatton, James H. (2009). W.H. Whitsitt: The Man and the Controversy. Mercer University Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 9780881461336. "Landmark Baptists insisted that Baptist churches should not be referred to as Protestant churches at all because they did not descend from those churches that broke away in protest from the church of Rome. Rather, they had enjoyed a continuous historical existence from the time of the very first church in the New Testament days." 
  24. ^ Leonard, Bill J. (13 August 2013). Baptists in America. Columbia University Press. p. 1819. ISBN 9780231501712. "Landmarkism continue to affect Baptist polity (government) and practice throughout the twentieth century, particularly with regard to questions of open and closed communion, "alien immersion," and support of missionaries through mission societies. Some Independent Baptist churches, congregations affiliated with the American Baptist Association (ABA), and the Primitive Baptists continue to affirm and promote Landmark views." 
  25. ^ Anne C. Harper. "Iglesia ni Cristo". StJ's Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements (Sacred Tribes Press): 1–3. 
  26. ^ Johan D. Tangelder. "Sects and Cults: Iglesia ni Cristo". Reformed Reflections. Retrieved 2011-06-20. 
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ (Pasugo, November 1973, 6)
  30. ^ (Lamsa translation; cited in Pasugo, April 1978)
  31. ^ The Only True Church
  32. ^ "When was it?". Answering Protestants. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  33. ^ a b C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, "Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of the Churches of Christ," p. 94, Abilene Christian University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-89112-006-8
  34. ^ a b c d 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, p. 544-545, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, ISBN 978-0-8028-3898-8, 854 pages, entry on Mormonism
  35. ^ (See Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith - History: Chapter 1:19)
  36. ^ See The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 115:4
  37. ^ Emphasis added. See The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1:30
  38. ^ "THE QUESTION OF THE VALIDITY OF BAPTISM CONFERRED IN THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS". EWTN. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  39. ^ "Polygamy and Mormonism". Answering Protestants. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  40. ^ Signs of the True Church
  41. ^ [Encyclopædia Britannica "Islam" http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/295507/Islam] Accessed July 2013
  42. ^ Accad (2003): According to Ibn Taymiya, although only some Muslims accept the textual veracity of the entire Bible, most Muslims will grant the veracity of most of it.
  43. ^ Esposito (2002b), p.17
  44. ^ Esposito (2002b), pp.111, 112, 118
  45. ^ "Shari'ah". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 
  46. ^ "What Does It Mean For Jews to Be the Chosen People?" Pelaia, Ariela.