Talk:Christianity/Archive before July 2003

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Meta article, Talk about Christianity, here "The greatest division in Christianity is between the eastern and western branches" I am changing to saying the greatest division is between those groups which were formed before the protestant reformation, and those which were formed after. I dont know who would say that the greek orthodox and catholic churches are more different then those churches are to the protestant denominations (of course the catholic church has become much more protestant in the last 40 years). The catholic and orthodox churches have much more in common liturgically, doctrinally, and culturally then the they both have in common with those who came after the Protestant reformation. Remember, that its not even a big difference in liturgy in most cases, since they have catholic armenians, syrians, uthranians, etc. Its more an orginisational difference then aynthing.


"Christians and Jews both consider the first 39 books of the Bible to be the word of God." What about Muslims? I know Muslims consider Jesus and Abraham prophets (or something like prophets, no?), but do they consider the Bible (any part of it) to be holy scripture, i.e., "the word of God"?

No. Muslims believe that the ENTIRE Hebrew Bible (the Tanach) as well as the entire New Testament, have been deliberately altered and distorted by the rabbis and priests. They view it as a deliberate deception, and they view the Quran as the true version of the Biblical events. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is not a single book of the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament) that Muslims consider canonical and holy. RK

Could someone who knows (or who wants to find out) please update this page accordingly? Maybe also the Islam page too? --LMS


I do know that the Quran (Koran) specifically refers to Jesus as a holy man and his disciples as Muslims ("obedient" [to god]). It also refers to the Old Testament as holy scripture. The Quran exhorts believers to respect and honor believers of The Word, and this specifically included early Christians, mentioning various characters of the New Testament by name.

Some of the early books of the bible appear in slightly different form in the Quran.

Nope; some of the earlt *stories* of the Bible appear in the Quran; but the Old Testament books are held to be corrupt and un-useful. RK

Islamic tradition has it that the Quran is accurate and that other scripture, while holy and of divine origin, has been subjected to human tampering and so can no longer be relied on in its entirety. Christians, Jews and Moslems are all theologically (and genetically in some claimed cases) "sons of Abraham (Ibrahim)," the first holy prophet in the scriptures of all three religions.

I don't know just how I would include this on the main page, but I have the Moslem scriptures at home and could probably provide direct quotes on these points...


That would be good, yes, please!


Someone wrote:

Thus, when researching branches of Christianity, it is often wise to first define clearly what the working definition of "Christianity" will be, and then get information from each branch regarding their qualifications based on that definition.

I'm not sure what this means, exactly, or what the point of it is. Maybe its author can elaborate? Why is it important to have a "working definition" of "Christianity," when researching Christianity? What sort of research is being suggested? What sort of "qualifications" are being discussed here? --LMS


Just a nit: Martin Luther did not reject the church, he was reformer. Big difference.


Someone has listed the Unity School of Christianity as quasi-christian. I am going to remove it from there; since I do not think they are quasi-Christian from their own perspective. And when judging what people believe, unless they are obviously lying or mistaken (and I don't think anyone can say that genuinely held religious belief comes under that), what they say they believe is decisive. -- Simon J Kissane

Nice. Thanks.


I think you're right to leave groups where they say they go as an act of good faith, Simon. I could see an organization based on christology - a 'high', 'medium', and 'low' categorization, with most stereotypical christians being high, any group which proposes an additional savior and or paraclete being 'medium' (e.g., Christian Science, if you believe some of the Mary Baker Eddy controversy or Unification), and 'low' being UU and any other group that specifically (a) uses the name Christian but (b) denies that Jesus is anything but a really neat guy. But then I'm not going to actually do it. It just crosses my mind. --MichaelTinkler

I am willing to write about the "additional savior" angle, from the Unification Church point of view. --Ed Poor

Happened to see a few minutes of some Sunday morning religious program that was pointing out that Christians believe in redemption, i.e. you can mess your life up, but if you repent and profess your belief in Christ, you get to go to heaven. This was contrasted with most other religions, where you earn your way to 'heaven' through good works or meditation, so it can be difficult to know if you're 'in' yet. The idea was that Christ dying for your sins means he earned your place for you, you just have to accept it. Was a surprisingly balanced account, given it was a Christian program (though there seemed to be a subtext of 'look how easy Christianity is'!) I tried to put this in the main text, but couldn't get it to sound right (I'm an atheist, so don't have the background to express it well I guess). Anybody fancy a go?

---

This excerpt comes from the "Talk" page under Islam, but it is also applicable here. What do people think about this? RK

In spite of the fact that the five pillars are obligatory and meant to be absolutely essential for every Muslim to keep, not all individual Muslims do, or are able to faithfully participate. Many secularized Muslims, have stopped participating in religious duties; many of them are so-called second-generation muslims in western countries, the children and grandchildren of muslim immigrants, who live in-between two cultures and have developed ambivalent feelings towards their religious duties. On the one hand they tend to cling to their traditions for identity reasons, on the other hand the influence of western mentality, daily life and peer-pressure tears them away from muslim culture. Plus, a complicating factor for observing Ramadan and the five prayers is the fact that western society is not designed for such radical habits.

This is also true for Judaism and Christianity; perhaps this paragraph could be written in a more general form, and then it could have minor modifications made for Judaism, Chrisitianity and Islam. It could then be inserted into all of these topic? RK
I'd say not. It's is, as Manning said below, 'commentary' on sociology of religion and not encyclopedic description of religion. There's certainly a place for it, but not on the pages devoted to the description of the religious groups themselves for themselves. MichaelTinkler
Actually, I have a number of books by Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewish rabbis, all of whome bring of this precise point. They do not view a discussion of this as an attack on Judaism; they view it simply as a description of the changes that Jewish people have experienced since the Enlightenement and emancipation of the late 1700s and early 1800s. All of the major Jewish movements regard responding to this phenomenon as part of their religious mandate. I think many Christian groups feel the same way. I think a better differentiation would be that this description does not fall under theology, but under some other category describing the religion. Real world Judaism has less than 50% of American Jews following any form of Judaism as at all (recent surveys published last month have reaffirmed this.) Even a personal survey of gentiles I know shows that many, many people in America's northeast are only "cultural" Christians, and do not accept most tenets of their faith as expressed in their particular church's principles of belief. This phenomenon is growing among American Muslims as well, although I have no idea how widespread this actually is. RK
Michael Tinkler writes "There's certainly a place for it, but not on the pages devoted to the description of the religious groups themselves for themselves." Do we really have any such pages? I don't think so. If we did, then the entry on Islam would have a long list of proofs "proving" the Torah, the Tanach, and the New Testament are all corrupt, and that only the Koran is true, and that Jews and Christians are trying to fool the followers of God. If we had such pages, then the entry on Christianity would have entries proving that the Jews are stubborn and the offspring of the Devil, and that worshipping Jesus is the only way to God. If we had such pages, then the entry on Judaism would contain polemic after polemic condemning idolatry and any form of polytheism, as well as condemning all those who follow atheism and agnosticism, and Deism. But we don't have this. Instead, we try to impartially describe what each faith/community teaches, but not 100% from their own point of view. More from a friendly outsider point of view, right? Thus, perhaps each section might include a paragraph on the real world sociology of the followers of these faiths, as distinct from the theoretical positions? RK

You're right, RK, I think it should be addressed apart from theology, and probably also apart from each other, but not apart from the religion addressed. I suppose it is just part of each religion's proper history. There will be analogies as far as the causes and nature of secularization are concerned, and as such the term can be (and probably is-haven't checked yet, shame on me) explained separately, but each religion by it's institutions and leadership has reacted to it in a different way, isn't it? Perhaps Judaism and Christianity could be treated in the same way, because of the partly shared effects of the Enlightenment, nihilism, humanism, modern criticism, science, growth of prosperity and all that, but not Islam. As far as I know Islam has gone through an entirely different development, worth mentioning separately. About Buddhism and Hinduism I do not know enough to include them. --TK


Discussion moved from talk:Bahai

by Gnostics in the Middle East do you mean the Mandaeans? They, at least, are specifically un-Christian, having explicitly condemned Christ. The problem on the Christian pages is the identification of the Gnostics that didn't make it (or whoever it was that owned the Nag Hammadi library - I had a professor who used to suggest as a class exercise that we try to prove they hadn't belonged to a scholar who was collecting gnostic texts to refute them). --MichaelTinkler
Yeah, well define "Gnostics" - that's not easy to do. I guess I have a problem with Gnostics being on the Christianity page - maybe a single sentence noting their existence and a link to a distinct article but not much more. I mean - what are our motives? Are we trying to write an article or just irritate the Christian hegemony? The early councils and East/West schism are the most important aspects of Christianity in terms of the actual history... endless discussions about "What might have been" and focus on fringe groups aren't really the most important aspect. Yes individual authors may be irritated at Christianity (obviously a lot of people harbour some sort of resentment, myself included) but NPOV dictates that Christianity gets fair treatment along with everything else.
This discussion really belongs in the Christianity talk section, not here, but I want to say that I couldn't possibly disagree with you more on the question of putting Gnosticism under the disucssion of Christianity. It isn't a matter of irritating any hegemony, it is a matter of telling the truth and getting the facts out. It is just as wrong to write out of history the losers among various competing systems of thought than it would be to write Trotsky out of the Soviet history books. If it irritates the orthodox hegenomists, so be it--that's not our problem.
Well, but here the discussion is and you have irritated me. Please reread my contributions above and below - I am not talking about writing them out. I am talking about identifying them accurately (as opposed to cheerfully lumping all Gnostics together, which our current article avoids only by refusing to be very specific), and lumping the Gnostics as a whole together with the Christians. There is almost no way to use a quantifier among the gnostic groups - no one has any numbers at all that I've ever seen - but there were certainly identifiable gnostic groups that were not christian and don't belong there. We don't know which of them had a preponderance inside whatever you want to call gnosticism. Yes, the Gnostic Christians belong in the history, but they belong in exactly the proportion as the Essenes - under the heading of groups about which we know so little that modern scholars disagree a lot about who they were, what they believed, and what they did, let alone their impact on the Christian groups that did survive. 'Telling the truth and getting the facts out'. Well. If that's all it is, have at it. You'll find the question is a good deal more complicated thanthat. --MichaelTinkler
Okay, I agree that Gnosticism as a whole should not go under the heading of Christianity. It sounds like you agree that Gnostic Christianity should be discussed under the heading of Christianity. It sounded to me like you were saying that Gnostic Christianity should not even be discussed as a form of Christianity because it would offend orthodox Christians; if this is not what you meant to say, then I apologize for misunderstanding you. As for how much we know about Gnostic Christians, perhaps Elaine Pagels' book "The Gnostic Gospels", which won the National Book Award in 1980, would be a good place to start.
To start? Egern, I own a copy. And let me note that, since you mentioned her, it was not published by an academic publishing house. HarperCollins, isn't it? It's at the office, so I'm not sure, but that's the version I xeroxed out of. The book may have won awards, but its evidence and its argument are far from unimpeachable. One piece of evidence for you to consider - her dating for the Nag Hammadi material is consistently pushed to the earliest possible peg and the dates for the orthodox gospels are pushed to the latest possible peg. Not that it's an unfair argumentation tactic, but it's argumentative as all get out. She has something to prove, and - please believe me - not everyone believes she's proved it. I am not going to say 'thank you' for believing that I believe they belong in history - I'm the one who put them on the page in the first place. And you didn't apologize for comparing me to a Stalinist (please note, I did not say 'Stalin.' I was going to say that, but I re-read, and noted that you only compared what you implied to me to the actions of those who wrote Trotsky out of Soviet History, who, I suppose, are Stalinists. Bad enough.). --MichaelTinkler
Oh give me a break. You stated earlier that "I have a problem with the Gnostics being on the Christianity page". I interpreted that to mean that you had a problem with the Gnostics being on the Christianity page. Silly me. I later apologized for misunderstanding what you wrote, because, silly me, I was trying to be conciliatory. And you did not accept that apology, which is rather obnoxious behavior according to the manners I was taught as a kid. Furthermore, I did not imply that you personally were a Stalinist. I made no direct personal attacks on you whatsoever. I was making a philosophical point about the need for history to include the losers as well as the winners. You are being ridiculously hyper-sensitive for no reason whatsoever. Get over it, and move on.
Egern, check your paragraphing. My signature is above the 'I have a problem' line. I've already made some changes to the page, which I suppose is the best example of 'moving on' I can give you. --MichaelTinkler

I wrote the "I have a problem with the Gnostics on Christianity" page. But perhaps I didn't explain myself fully, as I was talking to Michael and a lot of the subtext was implicit. Some branches of what is known as Gnosticism were definitely involved with early Christianity. But to reduce Gnosticism to a subset of Christianity is something I disagree with, and I feel proper attention should be paid to Gnosticism as a distinct entity. I also feel Gnosticism should be given minimal treatment within the overall context of Christianity - there are also people who want to pay what I would regard as "undue" attention to Gnosticism on the Christianity page. Face it, the history of Christianity is not about Gnosticism. It's not about offending anyone, its about putting things in their proper perspective. You may personally feel that the early leaders of the Christian church were assholes who trod on any dissenting opinion (probably a fair opinion) but that means that Gnosticism remains fairly irrelevant in terms of the overall history of Christianity. This is not to say it isn't a valid subject in its own right, but it is a minor aspect, right or wrong. We have had issues with people who want to paint Christianity as being more or less "the religion that quashed Gnosticism" (as the primary focus of the article). That just isn't a major aspect of Christian history, there are many more important things to talk about.

You've argued your case very well. I don't necessarily want to paint Christianity as "the religion that quashed Gnosticism." I do think that some mention of Gnosticism is warranted, but it sounds like you agree with that. So I think you've pretty much convinced me, and it looks like we are in agreement. -- Egern

Does Christianity include Arianism? If so, I believe the definition in the opening paragraph is not sufficiently inclusive.

In the ordinary and neutral sense of the word 'Christianity', yes. In some people's theological definitions, no. -- SJK

Deleted following from definition of Christianity, "literally God incarnate", since not all Christians believed he was that, e.g. Arians, JWs. I'm not too sure about the mention it makes of vicarious atonement either, since I don't think all Christians believe that Jesus' death atoned for humanity's sins either -- e.g. Pelagians probably. But I've left that in for the moment. -- SJK

Whoha! Ninety nine percent of Christian churches and organization teach that Jesus was NOT at all a mere human being. They believe that Jesus was literally God incarnate. For them, this is one of the main points of their religion! There are hundreds of Christian denominations in the USA, and almost every one of them believes this. The only large-scale exceptions I am aware of are the Jehovah's Witnesses and the various Mormon groups. (And the Jehovah's Witnesses I have spoken with have told me that they are not Chrisitians) I agree that a small percent of people who call themselves Christians, perhaps 2%, teach that Jesus was not God, and that he was only a human being. But this encyclopaedia entry must describe the majority of Christians. The entry can note that some people who call themselves Chrisitians reject this belief, and we can say who these groups are, and list what their beliefs are. RK
In the LDS/Mormon view Jesus is both human and God. Reference to incarnation with out bias toward Trinitarianism is probably acceptable. -Randy 11/21/02
I'm removing Mkmcconn's recent sentence addition so that he or some one else can rephrase its inaccuracy.
"None of the above groups [including LDS] believe, for example, that Jesus is the God of Israel in person, incarnate; although they differ from one another concerning what Jesus became after death, or what he represented himself to be."
Vicarious Atonement is one of THE central principles of LDS theology and I strongly encourage referrence to it on this article. -Randy 11/21/02
Links to the pages on Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses would also be appropriate here. But let us be careful not to rewrite the beliefs of the vast majority. Using that methodology, anyone could also claim that Judaism don't teach a belief in God, because some tiny, modern splinter groups reject belief in God. (e.g. The Society for Humanistic Judaism; the left-wing of Reconstructionist Judaism). One could make similarly inaccuate, and even ludricrous, statements about any religion. We must be careful not to write the entry to reflect only the minority, and make the majority beliefs a mere footnote. RK
I think Pelagius said he believed in the atonement, but in a more limited fashion (though I've never exactly understood it, I've read that he didn't deny it but his opponents *accuse* him of denying it). On the other hand, there really wasn't any 'body of Pelagians' in the Early Church - it was, as far as I can tell from my reading in 5th century material - a dispute among the clergy. --MichaelTinkler
In every age, in every religion, one can find dissenters of every dogma, in every Church. Does this mean that Chrisitians have virtually no beliefs? (The same argument would go for Muslims and for Jews?) This encyclopaedia entry must take care to describe what Christianity, as a social and religious reality, actually is. Some of the changes describe what Christianity *might* have been if mainstream Christianity had turned out differently. But that is speculative. Christianity is, in our real world, a set of faith communities that believe in God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus as part of a Trinity. For them, Jesus IS God incarnate; that is precisely the point of the Trinity. If Jesus is not literally God, then there is no trinity, and we are left with some kind if Unitarian-Universalism, or some variant thereof. But most Chrisitians reject Unitarian theology. RK
Put back in an early mention of Christ being God incarnate, since most Christians do believe it. Added it to the list of things that some Christians don't. If we completely deleted everything that some theologian or splinter group didn't agree to, the article could be reduced to maybe four sentences. --Wesley
Exactly! If we had followed that kind of analysis, we'd have no beliefs listed for any religion! Let us describe what actually exists in the mainstream, and then we can denote variants and other possibilities. RK
Especially since some think that Jesus wasn't even an actual, specific historical person. I also modified the effect of Christ's work to speak of it in terms of 'reconciliation' rather than pardon. 'Pardon' seems to reflect the general Western legal-oriented view of mankind's fall and redemption; the East looks at it more in terms of a broken relationship being restored. My goal was to find more neutral language that would refer to or include both perspectives; please correct me if I have failed to do so. --Wesley

I must disagree. I have no problem saying "Almost all Christians believe this...", but if you put it in the definition you are implying that those Christians who do not believe Jesus to be God are not Christians. But if they aren't Christians, what are they? They aren't Jews or Muslims. They are Christians. -- SJK

Definining Christianity is certainly problematic. Too narrow and we exclude some legitimate groups. Too broad and we wind up including Hindus and agnostics. In fact, I think there are some Hindu sects who think Jesus was one of several incarnations of... Buddha? Brahman? kind of like Krishna? and many agnostics and atheists would probably say that Jesus was a great moral teacher who taught that everyone ought to love everyone else. But if we define Christianity as "the belief that Jesus taught we should love everyone" we're being far too broad. The challenge is to make the definition distinctively Christian without being too restrictive. I wouldn't have thought that calling Jesus "God" would be too much, as vague as the term "God" can be. --Wesley

Article says:

Each individual's belief and personal trust in these events is considered to be the essential condition for being reconciled with God and receiving eternal life; "eternal" both in the sense of quantity (life after death) and quality (life in the presence of God).

Is that true of all Christians? The phrasing at least sounds very Protestant. According to traditional Catholicism, belief is an essential condition, but not the only essential condition: receipt of the sacraments, and not dying with any unconfessed mortal sins, are also essential.

And I'm not even sure all Protestants would agree with that: it sounds very Arminian. Calvinists would argue that the essential condition is election by God, and that the individual's belief and personal trust in these events is merely a consequence of this.

And universalist Christians don't believe that an individual's belief and personal trust in these events is essential in the same way that most Protestants would say it to be essential, since they permit this belief and trust to arise long after a person's death, while most Protestants say that if you die and you still don't believe well then you're doomed and have no second chance. -- SJK

I was also uncomfortable with this statement, for many of the same reasons. I'm just not sure how to improve it. Would it be enough to refer to those events as dogma or Christian dogma and on that page, discuss the role of believing these things as it relates to salvation? (Here I'm using 'salvation' as equivalent to 'reconciliation with God and etrnal life with Him'.)

Article says:

In some more liberal sects, Jesus is not believed to be God, but rather is viewed simply as someone who had new insights and something to teach; however, the vast majority of Christians deny that such a view counts as a kind of Christianity.

This passage implies that all who deny Jesus to be God are liberals.

No, the person was speaking about being a theologicalliberal, not a political liberal. The concept of faiths being liberal or conservative has no relation to one's political affliation. There are many religiously liberal Jews (e.g. Reform Jews) who are also politically conservative, and vice-versa. Maybe we can rewrite the entry to reflect this.

Jehovah's Witnesses are definitely not liberals, and they say he wasn't God, but rather a spiritual being slightly below God. And the ancient Arians are also scarcely liberals, and their beliefs were similar to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Nor are the Mormons, who hold that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate gods. And in all three of these cases, while they deny him to be God in the sense that Trinitarian Christianity holds him to be, they don't just think he is "someone who had new insights and something to teach" -- e.g. Arians believed him to be a supernatural being second only to God.

Finally I don't think "the vast majority of Christians deny that such a view counts as a kind of Christianity" is true. The vast majority of Christians may disagree with these views, but I don't think most Christians would deny that JWs or Arians are Christians, however heretical they think they are. -- SJK

Guess this depends on the definition of "liberal." Perhaps "non-traditional" would be a better choice of words? In reading over the First Council of Nicaea, it "anathematizes" those with Arian views. Doesn't this mean the council considered these views unchristian? Only two bishops out of roughly 300 dissented. This continues to be the view of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and many Protestants. In the absence of actual numbers, I suppose we could reduce "the vast majority" to the more vague "many." --Wesley
In the LDS/Mormon view "vast majority" would be accurate and "non-traditional" is objectionable. -Randy 11/21/02

The vast majority of Christians may disagree with these views, but I don't think most Christians would deny that JWs or Arians are Christians, however heretical they think they are.

I assure you that the vast majority of Christians do indeed deny that JWs are Christian. Arianism seems to be a trickier issue for many people, though. In many (perhaps even most) Christian circles, heretical = unchristian. --STG

I'm afraid it depends on your definition of 'definition.' Are we to accept the idea of difference as eventually, at some point, ever, drawing a line between one and another and saying X and not-X, or mush 'em all together. We could call what I tend to think of as 'Christians' 'Trinitarian Christians' and I'd be happy enough with that, and then I could explain differences between Trinitarians without having to be concerned about offending non-Trinitarians. Some historians of Christianity use the term 'Chalcedonian' Christians to mean Trinitarian Christians in such a way that the monophysitical (I know, I know, that's a shallow and un-inclusive reading of their theology) are not confused with the ones who call themselves Catholic (worldwide) and Orthodox (right teaching) and kinda resent the other group's name. I'd take Chalcedonian, except that most Trinitarian Christians don't know whether or not they agreed with Chalcedon. Then we're up against the final problem of definition, which is education; most people actually don't believe much of what the groups they subcribe to officially believe. Should we leave off the Immaculate Conception from Roman Catholic theology because 95% of American Catholic laypeople can't define it (I made that up, but it's not much lower) and if they could define it would answer 'not sure' to whether they believed it or not? --MichaelTinkler.


It seems probable to me that the vast majority of Christians do believe that the term should be limited to those who follow the true Christian faith, at least on the essentials. The problem is that there is no agreement as to what is true or essential. So such a definition of the term is useless in any broad context. I think for our purposes it is more useful to define the term as broadly as possible. So I would be inclined to include those of any faith in which Christ plays the central role, however unorthodox. This avoids the insoluble problem of reaching consensus as to which, if any, comprise the true faith. - HWR

This is a VERY bad idea. This would describe over a billion non-Chrisitians as Christian! The vast majority of Unitarian Universalists, and ALL Muslims, fit this description. Millions of people in Bahai also fit this definition! Yet these groups are NOT Christianity. In your efforts to appease the views of small sects that broke off from Christianity, you are rewriting the word "Christian" to have practically no meaning at all. This is a grave insult to the hundreds of millions of believing Chrisitians. And I say this without any stake in the matter at all (I am not a Christian in any sense of the word). RK
I believe I said "any faith in which Christ plays the central role". Surely you are not suggesting that Christ plays "the central role" in Islam or Bahai. As for Unitarianism and Universalism, I believe these movements would indeed be considered Christian, in the broad sense, at least through most of their history.
Actually, about 10% or so (the last I heard, anyway) of UU members consider themselves Christian. And I think it is appropriate to use the word Christian to describe that subset of UUs. And Christ does not play a central role in the Bahai faith--he is seen as just another prophet of God, not higher in importance than other prophets. The fact is that there are people who consider Christ central to their belief system but who don't conform to a particular orthodoxy. They use the word "Christian" to describe what they believe, and whether or not that is "insulting" to the more intolerant brands of Christianity is not our concern; it is completely appropriate for us to use the word to describe them in this encyclopedia. Certainly many brands of Christianity spend lots of time defining who gets to be included in brand of orthodoxy. Some fundamentalist protestants deny that Catholicism is Christian--should we cater to their definition simply to avoid insulting them? The various orthodoxies all have their various mutually inconsistent definitions of what they consider "Christian", some are more tolerant and inclusive, others less tolerant. The best solution here is simply to use the broadest possible definition--as already stated, if Christ is central to their religion, then call them Christians just as they themselves call themselves Christian. -- Egern
but what about the 90% of UUs who don't consider themselves Christian? My UU Uncle would, in fact, be more offended to be considered a Christian than not. And the Bahai's? Inclusiveness cuts both ways - it often includes those who have gone to some trouble to remove themselves. --MichaelTinkler
The answer is that the 90% of UUs who don't consider themselves Christian are not Christian. The 10% who do, are. It is really quite simple. And Bahai's are not Christians because Christ is not central to their religion. Once again, it is quite simple. UU per se is not a Christian denomination, and doesn't claim to be, but some UUs are Christians. UU is not defined by a dogma or creed, so you can talk about individual UUs being Christian without describing the religion as a whole as Christian. However, Bahai's do have a defined theology, and according to that theology, Christ is not central to its religion.
Simple? Quite simple? Hah. --MichaelTinkler
Yes, it really is that simple, unless you have a more compelling argument to the contrary than 'hah'.
Let's see - the fact that other people of good will are having trouble making this simple? It's a big question, and the UUs are a very recent addition to the mix. It is a problem of much larger and longer standing. I don't think that because some people feel one way or the other that it makes the issue clear. Some people feel that creationism is correct. That doesn't make them biologists. Nor does it make them not biologists. The issue is a little more complicated than that. --MichaelTinkler
That sounds ok to me on first read, Hank...except that on second read, I think there are two fairly basic criteria -- descent (in some way at least) from original Christian tradition and an acknowledgement by the believers that THEY think they're Christian. JHK, firm believer in Apostolic Succession.
So if I *claim* that I am a Christian, but my belief system is utterly opposed to every Christian Church, then I am a Christian as well? Look, I can claim to be an atheist, yet in fact I happen to believe in God. Do we now redefine atheism as theism? We need to define what exists, without rewriting the dictinary into worthlessness. If words have no definable meaning, the very idea of an encyclopaedia is useless. RK
I agree with your general claim about meaning, RK, but we must bear in mind neutral point of view. Clearly, the article has to be extremely explicit about the controversy, or several controversies, over who deserves to be called "Christian." --LMS

The second criteria sounds ok, but what how do you define "descent"? Which groups specifically would these criteria exclude? -HWR

There's the rub -- I think there are a few out there that don't fit apostolic whatsit, but otherwise count!JHK
The 'apostolic succession' criterion is basically applying the criteria of history. It's a matter of historical record that in the first century, a bunch of Jews started proclaiming that a guy named Jesus, who had recently died, had risen from the dead and was God incarnate. It wasn't long before people started calling these people Christians, and the name has stuck. They were remarkably cohesive for roughly 1000 years, up until the Great Schism (the monophysite and Nestorian splits were much much smaller); Christ's divinity was never a point of disagreement between the Western and Eastern churches, and Christ's divinity was never questioned by the Protestant Reformation 500 years later. The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) arose in the 19th century on the basis of claims of new direct revelation, NOT because they were already Christians who thought the rest of the Church was misinterpreting existing Scripture or doctrine. I'm not as clear about the origins of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but I don't think you can identify a particular group of Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or even Oriental Orthodox that they were all part of and who they claim to descend from. Although they share some beliefs with the historic Arians, I would venture to guess that things like only 144,000 being truly saved are fairly new innovations.
Apostolic succession is a crucial part of LDS/Mormon theology. It differs in that in LDS theology, apostolic succession was broken during the Great Apostasy and then later restored in the 19th century. -Randy 11/21/02
One of the statements above regarding the Latter-Day Saints is inaccurate. The early members of the LDS/Mormon church were converts of the various mainstream christian sects and its founders were a part of the Restoration influence of the 19th century. These folks WERE Christians who believed that other churches were misinterpreting existing scripture/doctrine and then received additional direct revelation to restore the correct interpretations and practices that were lost during the Great Apostasy. -Randy 11/21/02
But my point remains that the LDS church is not based on the Christianity of history, it's highest authority is the 19th century revelations. For them that trumps what early Christians believed, because any conflicting early beliefs can be dismissed as apostate. Other protestants at least claim to restrict themselves to what the first century Christians believed. Wesley 23:32 Nov 22, 2002 (UTC)
Your point is mainstream-centric, and I disagree. The use of history or tradition without qualification is controversial. 1. LDS is based on the Christianity of "history" (or "tradition" for that matter): LDS trace their religion to every period (from Adam to the present) when God's church or people were present on the earth. LDS, for example, maintain that God's people also worshipped in ancient America around 2000 BC to 600 AD and their record is the Book of Mormon. LDS also await the scriptural records of other yet unrevealed peoples in other parts of the world. Just because it isn't mainstream doesn't mean it's not a part of history or tradition. 2. LDS' highest authority is NOT 19th century revelations: one of the primary premises of LDS is "continuing revelation" which is why the LDS Church has an open canon. Another LDS way to look at it is God, not the canon nor scripture nor words of mortal humans, is the ultimate source of authority. For instance, say God appears and reveals, "(A scribe translated or omitted that) (Paul, Moses, pick your prophet) said such and such in my name but let me clarify what it was that I revealed to them." LDS maintain that their religion is consistent with the Christians of the first century as laid out in the Bible. LDS only have a problem with the doctrines and interpretations that were later sanctioned by the mainstream as the early church fell into apostasy.
Yes, I suppose my point is "mainstream-centric", but I was attempting to look at history academically. By "history" I mean "recorded history"; I would have thought that was implicit, but I don't mind changing history to recorded history if that helps. While people can clearly disagree about theology, there is a written historical record of what various people who called themselves Christians believed and taught down through the centuries. In that record there is plenty of disagreement, but there is also lots of agreement. Question: does the LDS exclude any New Testament books accepted by mainstream Christianity, or include in their New Testament any first or second century books not included by mainstream Christianity? For instance, do they include the Shepherd of Hermas, which was widely read and recommended very early in the Church, and if not why not? Wesley 22:06 Dec 3, 2002 (UTC)
Mormons include every book in the standard New Testament as canonical, but none of the other writings you mention, Wesley. And I agree with you in making a disctinction between Christianity passed down through the last 2000 years vs. what happened in the LDS church. From the LDS point of view, God and Jesus Christ personally appeared to Joseph Smith and instructed him not to join any church, because they were "all wrong". He was told that he would be guided to reestablish the true church of Jesus Christ (which church includes continuing revelation and a succession of priesthood authority). From the other point of view, Smith created a new branch of Christianity that didn't specifically grow out of or restore any of the current branches of Christianity. In fact, it pretty much throws out the Christian Tradition from after the New Testament, onward. I think we all agree more than we realize. Partly, I think it's a question of terminology. Catholic/Protestant Christianity uses "Tradition" to basically mean writings/records that are not Biblical or canonical, but are accepted as doctrine, such as the Nicene Creed. We LDS do not use the word "Tradition" in this specialized sense. It may be nice to point out that from its point of view, the LDS church is a divinely appointed restoration of the original Christian church found in the Bible. Quintessent 03:23 Dec 4, 2002 (UTC)
Catholic and Orthodox Christianity use "Tradition" to mean the teachings and practices that have been handed down to us. In Orthodoxy at least, and probably in Catholicism, the Bible is the most authoritative part of Tradition, not something separate, because it was also handed down to us. Not all of Tradition is dogma, or "required" belief; which traditions are dogma is generally well delineated. Regarding the New Testament, if the LDS accept the same canon that the early church didn't all agree on until the 4th century, then it would appear that they're relying on the judgment of people whom they consider apostates. Many first century Christians used and quoted the Shepherd of Hermas and a couple other books extensively ("Gospel to the Hebrews" possibly); many left out books like Revelation and 2 Peter and Jude for quite a while. From the outside, it seems very inconsistent. Wesley 17:40 Dec 4, 2002 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't mean to mischaracterize the use of "Tradition". It seemed that Randy was disagreeing with you because you were each speaking a slightly different language. I've never read the Shepherd of Hermas, but it sounds interesting. Is it a part of the Deuterocanon? Your assessment is pretty much correct. Here is an excerpt of the LDS Bible Dictionary's entry for canon:
"No doubt many writings, of both Old and New Testament times, have been lost, and perhaps even willfully destroyed (see Lost Books). When the Church was in apostasy, whether before or after the time of Christ, some valuable writings were misjudged to be in error (because the judges lacked the truth) and so were discarded. Likewise some books of lesser value may have been judged to be good. In the main, however, sound guidelines were established that helped to preserve the authoritative books."
Q

The Shepherd of Hermas isn't part of the Deuterocanon; it was written around the time the New Testament was, and was received favorably in a number of churches. I think the Ethiopian or Coptic Orthodox Church might actually include it in their New Testament. I've just started reading it (part of a collection, published here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0801022258/qid=1039186307/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_2/104-5630292-4169502) ; it appears to be a series of visions and revelations given to Hermas, to be shared among the churches, by angels, and by one person who appeared as a woman and called herself "the Church". It seems that any group that distrusts the fourth century councils who established the New Testament canon, would want or need to reexamine more of the early church's writings for possible inclusion. Many Protestants say they want to reestablish the early church in form or another, but never seek out any of these writings at all.

One brief excerpt from the Shepherd, paraphrased from memory and shortened: "Then the angel showed me a forest of trees in winter; all their branches were bare. He asked if I could tell which trees were alive and which were dead. I replied that I could not until the Spring when the living trees' leaves would grow again; then I asked him what this meant. The angel said that I could no more tell which men would be in the Kingdom of Heaven than I could recognize which trees were alive and dead, until the final resurrection." It's a good reminder to me to be careful in judging. ;-) Wesley 14:48 Dec 6, 2002 (UTC)

My 2 cents worth: The LDS use the King James Version of the Bible...with a twist; its footnotes document J Smith's retranslation of the Bible...an unfinished project which was not continued after his death. For instance, although in JS' translation, he stated that the Songs of Solomon were not (prophetically) inspired, that book remains in the LDS KJV of the Bible with a footnote of JS' declaration. JS did state that the apocrypha contained useful utterances and I suppose that if he had lived long enough he would have moved on to consider other sciptures outside of the KJV. JS also stated that an earlier German translation of the Bible was more accurate than the KJV, but since most members were English speaking, the KJV was used. The point here is that the KJV is used because it is common ground, it's merely a starting point. The fact that the cannon was compiled in the 4th c by "apostates" is (or should be) recognized by an LDS member. There begins the point of departure. One of the LDS Articles of Faith is that the Bible is true only so far as it is translated correctly. More widely this principal is to be taken as it is possible that whole books of the (KJV) Bible are bogus, not authentic, false, etc. A word about "apostates". I think it is rough to characterize every Christian after 1st c as "apostate"...(some what) misguided would probably be a more accurate characterization from an LDS view. From the LDS view these folks had at least some correct understanding of Christian doctrine...just not a correct understanding of ALL the essential precepts. So it is quite possible in LDS view that 4th c believers could have compiled an authentic canon in spite of not having Priesthood authority to do so. This is the mantra that is still drummed in the LDS church today: you (mainstream) Christians have some of the truth, let us (LDS) add to it. There has also been official church statements to the effect that spiritual leaders of other religions and even philosophers from all times have presented true doctrines pertaining to life, morality, heaven or what have you. This agrees with LDS theology that all persons are entitled to direct revelation from divinity...how that revelation comes (by prophet, missionary, angel, vision or simple inspiration) is another matter. Finally, JS taught "One of the grand fundamental principals of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may" and "If we do not seek out and treasure up ALL truth, we will not turn out to be true Mormons". I attempted to post this earlier before Q's post and your reply, but some how it didn't take. BoNoMoJo 21:22 Dec 4, 2002 (UTC)

I don't mind including these groups and documenting the controversies under the "Other branches" section, along with someone who shows up next week claiming the Jesus was really an alien from another star system sent by his planet to show us the true way to peace and happiness. And the definition of Christianity can include a brief mention of some exceptions, with pointers to the "Other branches" section for details. Given their minimal numerical and historical weight, I don't think these minorities should skew or hijack what little the bulk of Christians have managed to maintain agreement on over two millenia, despite all their disagreements. --Wesley

Wesley: I'd agree with you that these groups are smaller, and possibly of questionable historical authenticity. But if they are to be classed as Christians, then it follows that some Christians don't believe that Jesus is God, and hence that believing Jesus to be God isn't a neccessary part of the definition of Christianity. I have no objection with you saying "the vast majority of Christians throughout history believed Jesus to be God", so long as that is not in the definition. As I understand your proposal, it would read something like this: "A Christian is someone who believes Jesus to be God... (a few Christians don't believe Jesus to be God, see below)". That would just be contradictory: if a Christian is someone who believes Jesus to be God, but a few Christians don't believe Jesus to be God, what then is a Christian? But if we simply said "Christianity is a religion centered around the person of Jesus Christ. Most Christian groups believe Jesus to be God in the flesh.", that is both non-contradictory and accurate. -- SJK

Sounds like we're getting much closer. What if we keep the existing phrase "... that believe Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world ..." and add your second sentence "Most Christian groups believe..." Saying that Christianity is centered around the person of Jesus Christ doesn't quite describe Trinitarians, who would say that Christianity is centered around the three persons of the Trinity, one of whom is Jesus Christ, God the Son. Sticking with 'Saviour of the world' is a bit more vague, therefore broader, while still managing to exclude most Hindus and atheists.  ;-)
If Christ isn't the central figure in Christianity, then why is it called Christianity? Perhaps the correct way to say it is that Christ is the central earthly figure in Christianity (you can't say "human" figure, because some variants of Christianity denied his humanity).

If we insist on apostolic succession, we'll have to exclude the Protestants (Anglicans excluded). My problem with including "saviour of the world" in the definition is that the phrase isn't very meaningful without a prior knowledge of Christian doctrine. Also, one can pick nits here too if so inclined; some Christian groups teach that Christ is the savior only of the elect. I think saying that Christ is the central figure of the faith can be understood as a general characterization, without specific doctrinal implications. -HWR

Naah! I think the Calvinists and Lutherans (and maybe even Mennonites) are technically schismatic ;-) JHK
Saying that Christ is the central figure of the faith is much more general; that's good. Saying Christianity is centered around the person of Christ has specific trinitarian implications because of the way the word person is used in discussing the Trinity. Although most protestants don't believe in strict apostolic succession, they do at least claim to be following the same teachings of the historical church of the first century. I could be wrong, but I think distinguishes them from the Church of Latter Day Saints and possibly from the Jehovah's Witnesses. And yes, calling Christ the 'saviour' by itself begs the question 'from what does he save the world?' But doesn't the opening paragraph try to summarize the answer as sin? --Wesley

I think both the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses claim their teachings are consistent with those of the first apostles. I think most Christian groups do, even those whose teachings go well beyond what is included in the New Testament. I would guess that contemporary Unitarians are an exception. -HWR


I removed this because it isn't true for all Christians:

Each individual's belief and personal trust in these events is considered to be the essential condition for being reconciled with God and receiving eternal life; "eternal" both in the sense of quantity (life after death) and quality (life in the presence of God).

In Catholicism (traditionally at least) mere belief is not sufficent; one must also recieve the neccessary sacraments and die without any uncofessed mortal sins. And even among Protestants, that kind of statement sounds rather Arminian. A Calvinist might say that the essential condition is election, and that belief and personal trust are merely a consequence of their election. -- SJK


I think the phrase

These events are believed by Christians to be the basis of God's work to reconcile humanity with himself.

summarizes it pretty well. Guesses were right about the Protestant Arminian colour in the way I had submitted it before. That's exactly the background of my biblical/theological studies, although my personal focus is broader than that. Anyway, good conclusion I think to the discussion above. -- TK


What is the origin of the words "christianity" and "christ"? --AxelBoldt


i think it's from the Greek for "anointed one" -- JHK, still tipsy from Xmas party


Yes, Christ (actually christos) is Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah, which I think does mean annointed one. The book of Acts says that Christ's followers were first called Christians in the city of Antioch, I think by non-believers. This was after Christ's resurrection and ascension, in the infancy of the first-century church. Incidentally, Antioch later became one of the five patriarchal sees, and continues to serve as the center of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Does some version of this information belong on the page?

I think that's a good idea. JHK

I just made two categories of additions that I think are descriptive of Christianity in general, but perhaps ought to be labeled as Eastern Orthodox if they're not shared as widely as I think they are. The first is with regard to what Christianity brought from Judaism. For a long time, that list has looked very incomplete to me, so tonight I added some more things. I think it's a matter of historical record that for the first few centuries, Christian worship did look a lot like Jewish synagogue worship in terms of style of liturgy, canting, order, use of Psalms, and on and on. Sure, they modified it a bit, and modified it some more as time went on, but they certainly didn't invent it all from scratch either. I know that lots of Christian groups today haven't kept much of those sorts of practices, but they were the norm in the beginning. Anyway, let me know if that should be qualified somehow, or go ahead and add the necessary qualifications.

The other thing is the same thing I've harped on before, which is including the incarnation as one of the essential points of belief, along with Jesus' death and resurrection. I won't go into detail here, but this is hugely crucial in Eastern Orthodoxy, and given all the debates about whether and how Jesus is God, I would think it would still be similarly crucial to other Christian groups as well.

Thanks everyone, --Wesley


Do all Christian religions agree that Jesus was "son of God", or only on him being "savior of all humanity" ? --Taw

AFAIK, they pretty well agree he was the "son of God", but they have some radically different interpretations of what that means, ranging from trinitarian second person of God (the majority position), to an Arian greatest of all creatures, to a liberal state of closeness to God that you too can achieve. -- SJK
Oh, please! Given how we've defined 'christian' (unity! unification!) I'm sure that some of these groups explicitly deny that he was the son of God, let alone the Incarnation thereof. Savior of anything in particular seems too strong, too. I've given up on this entry. --MichaelTinkler

I put the first paragraph back that Taw changed.

It was: Christianity comprises a group of religious traditions which assert that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and the messiah: the sole savior of all humanity. That is, Jesus redeemed mankind from their sins (i.e. faults, misdeeds, rebellion against God), reconciling mankind to God so that man can live eternally with God in a state of never-ending happiness.

He changed it to:

Christianity comprises a group of religious for which Jesus Christ plays a key role in believes, often as a "son of God" and a messiah: That is, one who redeemed mankind from their sins (i.e. faults, misdeeds, rebellion against God), reconciling mankind to God so that man can live eternally with God in a state of never-ending happiness.

Not a bad change in some ways, but as many discussions as here exist, I think it better to put back the way the compromise ended up...


The first sentence was changed to:

"Christianity comprises a group of religious traditions which assert that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and the messiah: the sole savior of all humanity."

Although many Christian religions believe this, it is too exclusive a definition. It skirts controversy (or seeks to co-opt it).

There is considerable and vigourous debate within the Christian community as to what constitutes authentic Christianity. Often a definition is proposed, which conveniently always includes the denomination of the proposer, to distinguish between "real" Christianity and other groups.

I do not know how many self-described Christians would dispute the definition above, but the number of various well-known groups that depart from it in one or more aspects is too large to ignore.

Let us not authenticate Christianity, but allow each Christian group to define itself. To do anything else would be to take sides.

Ed Poor


Ed, I agree there are a lot of people who have a lot of arguments about what Christian belief entails. I just thought it better to do the arguing here, and try to limit the back and forth on the actual page. I think Taw probably hadn't read through the extensive /Talk page, and thus didn't realize how a minor syntactic change (like from 'the' saviour to 'a' saviour) would be perceived by the people who had already discussed the topic here. -- BenBaker

Quite right. Whole denominations have been made on the interpretation of a single Bible verse. All attempts to create a mutually-acceptable definition of Christianity are doomed to fail. The internal divisions are manifold and passionately held -- not to say bandied about, fought over, etc. -- Ed Poor
Actually, I don't think either the page itself or this talk page is the place to engage in old debates that have long been gone over elsewhere; our job here is to fairly characterize the results of those debates. So-and-so believes this, while his opponent so-and-so believes that. --LMS

Here's a cordial invitation to Christians to help develop the stories of Christianity as well as write articles on some of the more important stories. --LMS


I have a question regarding this sentence in the first paragraph:

That is, Jesus redeemed mankind from their sins (i.e. faults, misdeeds, rebellion against God), reconciling mankind to God so that man can live eternally with God in a state of never-ending happiness.

Isn't it true that many Christians believe or believed in a strong Augustinian form of Original sin which holds that every man is doomed and should expect and fully deserves hell and will only be saved if God happens to have mercy? The above sentence makes it look like as if after Jesus, the mercy is given out wholesale. --AxelBoldt

I'll let someone with a better understanding of the Original sin doctrine answer your question directly. Meanwhile, here's a formulation that's a little more vague and might therefore be more generally applicable:
That is, Jesus redeemed humanity from their sins (i.e. faults, misdeeds, rebellion against God), making it possible for people to be reconciled to God and live eternally with God.
I'm aiming for what might be most broadly acceptable to various Christians, not just what I personally think is the most precise or accurate language to use according to the theology to which I subscribe. --Wesley
Yup, I think more Christians could subscribe to this version. --AxelBoldt

I changed "Pope" to "pope" in the sentence that says Protestants have never had a pope. It seems that when referring to the generic office, lower case is appropriate, just as one would say that some Protestants do have bishops, not Bishops. Capitalization is appropriate when referring specifically to the Pope (usually meaning the Pope of Rome, although there is also a Pope of Alexandria of the Coptic Church), and when referring to Bishop Smith.

I also changed "Word of God" back to "word of God" where the phrase is referring to the Bible, in order to distinguish the written text of the scriptures from the second person of the Trinity, who is called "the Word" in John chapter 1 and elsewhere. In the latter case, it is capitalized because it is referring to a specific person. Wesley


This article does a fairly good job of answering the question, "Who are the Christians?" As for the question, "What do Christians believe?", I think there is a lot of fleshing out to do. Topics such as the fall of man/original sin, justification/faith/works, heaven/hell, the nature of scripture/prayer/prophecy/revelation, the trinity, the crucifixion/cross, and spiritual gifts ought to be at least briefly explained (with links to more detailed articles). Q

That's a good idea. I'd suggest a simple list of links to appropriate articles, with no more than a sentence describing each one. Perhaps a disclaimer at the top of the list that not every Christian group agrees with every doctrine listed, or interprets the doctrine differently, with encouragement to follow the links for details. Wesley

One set of links puzzle me: why are the Gnostics listed as a group with Christian beliefs? As I understand the Gnostic faith & writings, this was a system of belief that existed in paralell with Christianity. I wouldn't even catagorize them (with the possible exception of Montanism) as ``heretical". Should we simply move these links to the rubric ``See these related topics"?

On the other hand, ``Ancient (largely extinct) Christian groups" would be a good, neutral word for those groups that are classified in the rest of the historical literature as ``heresies." llywrch

Argh. AFAIK, some Gnostics were (are?) (heterodox) Christians. (Therefore, some Christians have been Gnostics.) Other Gnostics weren't Christians. They were a pretty diverse bunch. (In fact, some scholars have suggested we dump the term as so vague as to be meaningless.)
E.g., from Gospel:

"Marcion of Sinope believed in two different gods, the compassionate God of Jesus and the cruel God of the Jews. He developed his own edition of the Gospel of Luke, without texts he considered to be forgeries placed there by the God of the Jews.

See also Secret Gospel of Mark.

Other books, which were not accepted, form part of the New Testament Apocrypha, and include:

Some of these works are similar in style and content to the canonical Gospels. Others are works in which Jesus features as little more than a mouthpiece for Gnostic doctrine."

-- Gospel of Thomas at least I am pretty sure is generally considered to be both "Christian" and "Gnostic".
So, does this mean you are arguing that Gnosticism is a subset of Christianity, or a conjunct set? If a subset, then leave the article as is; if a conjunct (or disjunct), these last few lines should be changed. llywrch
I'm not sure, but I think that Gnosticism in some form was around before Christianity; Gnostic Christians were certainly strongly influenced by Gnosticism. That might make Gnostic Christianity a subset of Gnosticism, or something else entirely ("conjunct set"? new word...) Wesley
As I said, I hold that Gnosticism and Chrisitanity are two streams of thought that mingled over a brief time. It doesn't matter who was first: what matters is that whether we can talk about one without more than incidental reference to the other.
As for ``conjunct set", I was thinking of set theory, which involves the Venn diagram showing the sets A & B overlapping. But conjunct is a word -- I looked it up in the dictionary before I typed it here.
Is this discussion going anywhere? If I make the change, will anyone really be annoyed enough to roll back my changes? This is what I want to know: articles about Christianity are bound to be contentious subjects, & my concern was not to get enmired over an issue that, when all is said & done, is over how a few links to other articles should look.llywrch
Well, I for one don't know what change you want to make. I might: 1) Like it; 2) "Be annoyed enough to roll it back"; or 3) Not be annoyed at all, but still think the change isn't a good one. I think dragging the term "conjunct set" into this is clouding matters -- religious history hardly resembles a textbook Venn diagram. My bottom line is that an article on Christianity should say something about Gnosticism. We can tweak the details. Please make changes you think are necessary. We can aplaud or adjust them, as required.

I want to spin off Relations with other faiths as a separate page (I suppose it would be "Relations of Christianity with other faiths" or "Relations between Christianity and other faiths"). Comments invited.

Would it result in a lot of overlap with Religious pluralism? -- Mkmcconn

Godhead is a more NPOV term than Trinity when referring to general Christianity. Godhead subsumes Trinity without excluding groups whose doctrine is antithetical to Trinity. A subject with Godhead should be created with reference to Trinity. -Randy 11/21/02

I'm glad the term Trinity is still used; I don't object to use of the word Christian Godhead, and Trinity is certainly a more specific term. Perhaps the Godhead article could cover how it is the same and how it differs from the concept of the Trinity? Wesley

Christ role as savior should also describe Him saving mankind from DEATH as well as sin. In LDS/Mormon theology the terminology is that Christ saved man from spiritual (sin) and physical death. -Randy 11/21/02

In what sense exactly are we saved from physical death? I don't necessarily disagree, but I think that the way it's stated now invites confusion. Christians, even Mormons continue to experience physical death, do they not? Wesley
In LDS theology, all men die physically and Christ saves mankind from the penalty of death by raising or resurrecting them from the dead later. -Randy 11/22/02
The LDS view of resurrection, the reunion of the spirit with the (now perfected) body is not shared by most Christians. Christians generally do believe that either the spirit or the body (e.g. JWs) rise up again, but do they believe this is made possible by the atonement? Q
I don't think the resurrection needs to be tied to the atonement in this article. I attemped to make the addition (saved from death) while not trying to be LDS-centric, but I agree with Wesley that way it is stated now may invite confusion. Given the differences regarding resurrection, it prob makes more sense to refer merely to "death" rather than "physical death". -Randy 11/23/02

Regarding the introduction of the term vicarious atonement, I think that's just one of at least five or six theories of atonenment in use by various Christian groups. I know the different theories aren't mutually exclusive, but is this one agreed upon by all Christians? I'm not sure. Wesley

I agree. "vicarious atonement" is a specific legal theory of atonement, important to some but not all Christians, who are otherwise in agreement concerning the nature of Christ and the meaning and purpose of His death and resurrection. I think that his death secures the "forgiveness of sins" or that, Jesus is the "lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world", are terms that are agreed upon with the largest substantial commonality of meaning among Christians. Mkmcconn
a description of either "atonement" generally or "vicarious atonement" work for LDS. As noted above the atonement is THE central principal of Christ and Christianity in the LDS theology. To LDS there would be little point of having a wikipedia article on Christianity if no reference is made to the Atonement. In LDS theology Christ paid the penalty for mankind's sins through His death which was only part of the Atonement...in Gethsemane and on the cross Christ vicarously suffered the physical, emotional, spiritual pains of every kind of every person who had or would be born on earth: cancer, guilt, grief, hangnails, etc. Just presenting LDS view as contributors consider whether and how to include atonement in this article. -Randy 11/22/02

Can't find the comment up there, but regarding Mkmcconn's material that was just cut: the LDS article seems to say that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two completely different beings, although they are in close relationship and agreement with each other. Which of them is the God of Israel according to LDS theology? I would have thought that would be God the Father. If Mkmcconn is mistaken and Jesus Christ is the God of Israel (i.e. the God in the Old Testament), then where does God the Father fit in? Wesley 23:32 Nov 22, 2002 (UTC)

Here is the entry for Christ in the LDS Bible Dictionary:
The anointed (Gk.) or Messiah (Heb.). Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is Jehovah, and was foreordained to his great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was. He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of his blood and his death on the cross. He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.
He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth—the perfect example—and all religious things should be done in his name. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star. He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; he is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; his name is above every name, and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.
He will come again in power and glory to dwell on the earth, and will stand as Judge of all mankind at the last day.
And this is an excerpt from the entry for God:
When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children. The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in capital letters), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God. Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are his brethren and sisters, he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim. Many of the things that the scripture says were done by God were actually done by the LORD (Jesus). . . .
Q

Rather than deleting sentences, it would be more helpful to clarify. If the same sentences can't be maintained, at least the idea that is expressed should remain as much as possible. In my opinion, the editor has deleted a true statement, without explanation - this sort of thing tends to cause suspicion to grow, regarding motives; unnecessarily, because there is no objection here to representing the LDS view (if that's what's being defended) truthfully. Mkmcconn 23:43 Nov 22, 2002 (UTC)

Relax, there were sufficient clues as to what the problem was AND the sentence was false. Had I more time then I would have rephrased it then myself with further explanation. I assumed correctly that some one would get to it before I would be able to. I can't imagine what sort of suspicions you have in mind, but your deletion of "vicarious atonement" without even a peep? Why? Why not just "atonement"? To confirm, yes, in LDS theology Jesus is the God of Israel in the Old Testament. -Randy 11/22/02
It seemed to me that the previous discussion made clear enough what you meant by "atonement", Randy. I didn't delete it - at least, not intentionally; I meant to use words that would be more easily understood. If you don't agree that an inclusive sense is preserved, then, feel free to make it more agreeable. Mkmcconn
I double checked...sure enough, the deletion was under an edit using your ID. Oh well. With the discussion so far, I've added back only "atonement" rather than "vicarious atonement". I guess we'll see if it sticks. -Randy 11/23/02
Double-checking wasn't necessary. I acknowledged that I replaced the word with a definition. Atonement is reconciliation, putting away the cause of offense in a way that effects a propitiation or appeasement of God and the establishment of concord or agreement between God and men. My guess is that you see "atonement" as almost precisely equivalent to "substitution", and that's why you considered "crucifixion and death for the forgiveness of sins" an unsatisfactory replacement for the word "atonement". If so, I can see why you want the word and not the definition, and so the word will be kept as far as I'm concerned. The difference is seen, for example, in how my substitution of a definition for the word failed to atone for my having offended you somewhere along the way; but hopefully my offer of an explanation of what I was doing will atone for my unintended offense, and we can stop arguing with one another uselessly. — Mkmcconn
In LDS speech, "atonement" often is synonymous with the suffering of Christ in Gethsemane. This suffering is generally viewed as bringing about the forgiveness of sins, while the crucifiction, death, and resurrection are seen as letting everyone be resurrected. In the LDS "Guide to the Scriptures" (another official source), a broader definition is given: "His atonement included his suffering for the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shedding of his blood, and his death and subsequent resurrection from the grave." For latter-day saints, the suffering in Gethsemane is seen as a central part of Christ's mission. However, if general Christianity is not of this opinion, I'm not sure it needs to be included in the general description. Randy? Q
Mk, I've not taken offense at any time. I only double-checked because your explanation was ambiguous and I took it as you didn't realize you had mistakenly delete it...I checked to make sure I hadn't pointed a finger wrongly. At any rate, Q has been presenting LDS views quite fairly and accurately including the post above. Q, I'd like to see at least a vague rreference to atonement kept somewhere in this article and then contrasts and comparisions as to what atonement means can be covered in the atonement article. -Randy 11/25/02

Thanks for the explanation Q. Is this the current state of doctrine? I had found statements that I thought to be authoritative, which maintain a different idea. Anyway, thank you for the correction. Mkmcconn 16:56 Nov 23, 2002 (UTC)

The LDS Bible Dictionary and a Topical Guide are bound with the KJV of the Bible and published by the LDS church, so they reflect its doctrine quite well. If you point me to other references, I can clarify the differences. One potential confusion is the statement that Christ is "in all things, above all things, through all things." Since God the Father and Christ are corporeal beings, the above statement is not true in the physical sense. It refers, among other things to the light of Christ, his influence, etc. Q.
The statements I found were quotations from Mormon leaders, including Smith and Young - but, looking back at them, I see that they are quoted with the intention of causing embarassment. I don't think that it would be appropriate to pursue it, here. I'm satisfied with the correction. — Mkmcconn 03:38 Nov 24, 2002 (UTC)

Many people belonging to some of the above-listed groups have strong feelings about the legitimacy of the other Christian faiths, sometimes even claiming that the other faiths do not actually count as Christian. These claims usually rely on more specialized definitions of "Christianity" than an outsider might assume, entailing points of doctrine which are critical to the objecting faith's view, such as belief in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (a widely held doctrine about the nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit determined in A.D. 325) or the doctrine called "Biblical inerrancy" (a specific set of beliefs regarding the nature of the Bible). Catholics and Protestants in particular may consider these beliefs to be fundamental to the definition of Christianity, and may thus exclude churches such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church who differ on these views (but feature Jesus Christ as central to their belief system, and consider themselves Christian).

It isn't at all clear to me who the "above-listed" groups are (all the above, or only the "other branches" above). Also, who holds the "more specialized definitions" (is the Trinity a specialized definition or, is the denial of it specialized)? I think that the paragraph should be clarified, but I'm not sure what it's saying. Mkmcconn


I reverted a recent set of changes because for the most part, I think they're inaccurate. Aside from that, many have worked especially on the first two or three paragraphs to get them to be both accurate and relatively neutral, and a couple changes I think took a step away from that. However, where "physical death" was changed to "spiritual death", I changed it back to a simple "death", which I think is probably most inclusive of the various shades of understanding different people have. (See earlier discussion of this on this page.)

Regarding an understanding of "spiritual death" as "eternal separation from God", I don't think it's possible to be eternally separated in the sense of God being in one place and some person in a different place, and still have a God who is omnipresent. If that bit goes back in, it seems it would require a careful definition of separation. Wesley 18:04 Jan 22, 2003 (UTC)

That makes sense to me. I agree with your revert and your changes. soulpatch

Recently, someone rewrote of the section on relationships with other faiths. I think these changes need to be discussed; I wasn't necessarily happy with the previous version, but I think the current version seems to focus more on how Buddhists view Christianity than on how Christians view other faiths, and at the same it now seems to gloss over the hostility towards other faiths that has often occured in Christian history. soulpatch

I'm not 100% happy with that section either, but haven't yet figured out how to make it actually better. As a Christian, I'd rather not see all of Christianity tarred with the same brush, but some kinds of qualifications added like "most Christians encountered by Buddhists in East Asia..." or whatever, maybe even with some kind of time reference, at least within a century or so. Maybe i'll come back to it, maybe not... anyone else have a good way to word that section? Wesley 18:02 Feb 17, 2003 (UTC)
The section 'Relationship with other faiths' seems in good faith but does a disservice for Buddhists. I should state that Gautama Buddha was pro compassion but we would have to discuss the definition of 'Love'. If it means love your neighbor, then Christianity and Buddhism agree on 'Love' perfectly. If it means fight that war, out of love for your country, then we differ.
I question: Why is only Buddhism mentioned firtly and only when it is a non-theistic religion? I'm sure we all agree that 'Christianity & Islam' and 'Christianity & Judaism' needs the space, specifically the former. Usedbook 03:25 Mar 20, 2003 (UTC)

I'll add my agreement that, the Relationship with other faiths section has been a poor fit. I have a different view of "Judaism's relationship to Christ" - which appears appropriate in the context, and points to other pages where the issues are filled out which are cursorily mentioned here. In contrast, I see no point at all to this section, as it was written. I've replaced it with two paragraphs which invite development in a new direction. I submit it with some trepidation - since I'm not sure that the section will end up being information about "Christianity". It seems to me to be doomed to invite a lot of off-topic and opinionated stuff; but, I await your opinions. Mkmcconn 21:33 Mar 20, 2003 (UTC)


There sure is a lot of stuff on this talk page that I wish were in the article!

In any event, I have a few questions -- if anyone knows the answers, I would appreciate it if/suggest that they try incorporating the answers into the article (or tell me where in this article, or another articel, the answers are)

1) what is the current status of Origin within various institutionalized Christianities? 2) Is St. Augustin as important/important int he same way for the Eastern Church as for the Western? 3) The Great Schism was in the 11th century but I thought the gulf between the two Churches began around the time of Charlemagne; can we have a little more history?

In fact, all three questions are also ways of asking for more history in the article; not just naming the shifts (e.g. one schism or another) but a little bit more about why the shifts ocurred and what they really mean/meant.

It is a good article -- I am just someone who knows very little about Christianity, letting you know what more I wish I could find out from an encyclopedia article Slrubenstein 16:15 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

1) From the web page of the Orthodox Church in America: The work of Origen was phenomenal. He wrote numberless treatises on many themes. He did the first truly systematic and literary studies of the books of the Bible. His work laid the foundation for virtually all subsequent Greek theology in the Church. Much of the teaching of Origen was judged by the Church to be false, however, and because of its persistence among his disciples, its author was formally condemned by the fifth ecumenical council in the year 553. So Origen seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. I would imagine the Catholic Church has a similar view.
2) No, Augustine is not nearly as prominent in the East, although he is recognized there as a saint also. One reason is he wrote in Latin, and so wasn't widely read in the East until something like the 16th or 18th century. This is discussed somewhere, maybe in the original sin article. Eastern theology differs from Augustine's in some important respects, particulary predestination and the notion of inherited guilt.
3) regarding the Great Schism, you might also look at the filioque clause article. It did take a long time for the schism to happen, and it's taking a long time to heal. I think the healing has started though, as the mutual excommunications of 1054 were mutually/jointly rescinded in the 1960s by the Pope and Patriarch of Constantinople.

Wesley 17:06 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

Thanks! I still think some of this and even more history, would strengthen the articl. Slrubenstein
How much of it should go in this article and how much in history of Christianity? It seems the more detailed info should be on the latter page. Most of the major figures are listed alphabetically on either the List of Saints or List of Christians pages or similar; would it be helpful to also list them chronologically? And how and where would you expect to find out things like how Origen is viewed today, or how Augustine is viewed in the East and West? Personally, I think Augustine marks the first significant difference in theology between East and West, even though it was long before the Great Schism and his theology didn't really play an obvious role in the schism. But I don't where to put that in, plus I probably ought to research an actual authority or two to substantiate the claim. ;-) Wesley 21:56 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

I guess I am dumb -- I should go over the history of Christianity page. You are right. The only thing I will add here is that, reviewing the talk page, I see some people questioned things like the definition of Christian and the centrality of certain beliefs. Perosnally, I always favor an historical answer (i.e. "beliefs have changed; this is what people believe then, this is what people say noww" as well as locating historically specific schisms and splits and heresies. Anyway, thanks for your answers -- I still want to know more! Slrubenstein

You know me well enough to know I prefer historical answers as well. :-) I didn't mean to suggest you were dumb or anything of the kind; those are good questions. If the answers aren't in intuitive places, then perhaps they should be copied or moved, or at least maybe we need more links to the info that's here. You would probably be a good person to suggest where we should put or move things so it can be found by someone trying to learn. :-) Wesley

Haven't looked closely at this article in a while and was surprised to find the following:

Liberals may recommend belief in such things, or not, but differentiate themselves by defining as included within genuine Christianity anyone who explains their views or teachings principally by appeal to Jesus. In other words, the creedal definitions of Christianity are rejected by the larger part of those who claim to be Christians so that, to include them all within Christianity requires the definition of Christianity as a non-creedal religion, not expressible by doctrines concerning the nature of the Bible, God, Jesus, creation, or of salvation.

Since when did such liberals comprise the "larger part of those who claim to be Christians"? Last I checked they were a distinct minority most places, carrying a majority only in certain "mainline" Protestant denominations. I would suggest that Christianity has been a "creedal" religion for most of its history, and that most of its current adherents still insist on certain creeds; even the liberal mainline protestant denominations typically have a "Statement of Faith" its members support which is essentially a creed, even if it's a watered down version of earlier creeds. Wesley 22:21 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

The only non-creedal group I can think of off-hand is Unitarian-Univeralist, and only a small percentage of them still consider themselves Christians. Are there mainline, creedless churches? SCCarlson 02:52 Apr 22, 2003 (UTC)

Read it this way, Wesley, and maybe you can improve it:

Christianity is historically a creedal religion - not a vague philosophy or a general movement, but a specific institution founded by Jesus Christ: the Church. As an institution, with a government of its own, the Church assumes to itself the authority to define what does and what does not belong to it. Over the course of the history of the Church, a great variety of competing, antithetical creeds has arisen touching on every point of doctrine. Around these antithetical creeds, alternative institutions have arisen - competing claims to be "The Church" have arisen - because of the incompatibility of beliefs. Not only this, but individual members of the Church are at variance from their official definition of faith.
This creates a problem for those who want to objectively describe Christianity, who will find it impossible to meaningfully conclude all of these mutually exclusive beliefs under the umbrella of one "Christianity", unless that Christianity is supposed to be essentially non-institutional and non-creedal. Although this approach appears to be non-committal to those who do not have Christian beliefs, it does not appear so to those who believe.
Christians whose beliefs are important to themselves are not likely to agree that, to be a Christian does not mean to believe anything in particular, or to belong to anything in particular. But this is what they are being asked to agree to, if Christianity is defined in a vague sociological way, rather than in terms of the ecumenical definitions of the Church. For a basic example, either the deity of Christ is essential to Christianity, or it is not. Concomittantly, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential Christianity, or it is not. Belief and unbelief are not the same religion, to those who believe.
If this encyclopedia is intending to be neutral in its definition of Christianity, then it must admit that it is not neutral to include Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Evangelicalism, liberal Protestantism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church and other forms of Unitarianism, Gnosticism, and folk religion, etc. under the name of "Christianity". It only does so for practical reasons, not under the pretense that it is more neutral to do so.
Christianity defined so inclusively cannot be expressed in terms of belief - contrary to the claims of groups included under the name. Therefore, although this encyclopedia does not intend to determine who is a Christian and who is not, neither does it intend to insist that Christianity in fact includes all who claim to be Christians. To do the former would make the encyclopedia an advocate of the claims of one group over those of another; but to take the position that all groups claiming to be Christian are all alike Christian, is to define Christianity as a non-creedal religion. That is to say: it puts the encyclopedia in the position of appearing to make the absurd claim that Christianity is not something to which believers adhere, and we don't intend to make that claim any more than we presume to define authoritatively what Christians must or need not believe.

Mkmcconn 03:08 Apr 22, 2003 (UTC)

Very well said, Mkmcconn. I was planning to ask you what you thought; glad you jumped in. For inclusion in the article itself, I think I would avoid phrases like "this encyclopedia does intend..." and try to say very simply what you said earlier, that some Christian groups define Christianity more narrowly or (my personal preference) more specifically than others. Wesley (btw, what browsers really have trouble with 32+kb pages? why don't all wikipedia editors just use mozilla or some browser that doesn't have that limitation? )

Looking it over, I think that the article is better without the section in question. I don't object to seeing it go away. Mkmcconn

Stephen Carlson's censorship of the historical chart on 4/6/03 as "rv POV" seems disingenuous. His rv itself seems POV. The chart should consider the supposed originations of significant denominations, not just "traditional" Christian sects.

I revert it again to the old chart. If you want to add Mormon and JW add them as offspring of Protestanism where they developed, not of the original church. And don't add a random Etc. I have never run into a significant denomination called that. What is the Restoration movement supposed to have been? Rmhermen 22:59 7 Jul 2003 (UTC)
The "Restoration movement" was a cross-denominational movement, also called the "Stone-Campbell" movement. It's the movement that sparked the first revivals of the Second Great Awakening. Anyway, the "Restoration movement" churches are now called the Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ, and related branches. Mkmcconn 03:39 8 Jul 2003 (UTC)
Rmhermen's response smacks of bigotry. Mormons and JWs were NOT developed as an offspring of Protestantism. Random? Your censorship is random. "etc" is not random, it was intended to reflect that there are more groups that should probably be fitted in there. Mormons, Disciples of Christ/Churches of Christ, JWs, Adventists and other Millerites do not claim to be heirs of the Protestant Reformation; these groups did not seek to Reform the Catholic church nor the main Protestant groups of their time (e.g. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians). These groups intended a Restoration not a Reformation. As such these groups trace their heiritage directly to the Early, ancient Christian church (as demonstrated by the Bible), not through Protestantism or Catholicism or so-called "traditional" Chrisitianity. (Although if hard pressed, Disciples/Churches of Christ might characterize themselves as Protestants which is why the revised chart linked Restoration to both Early Christianity and Protestantism.) While the revised chart may need to be reworked, the linkage in the revised chart should be demonstrated in this historical chart. This historical chart should also note the possibility of a Great Apostasy like it does of the schism between the eastern and western church...all significant historical events/movements related to Christianity should be noted in the chart. Mkmcconn notes well that the Restoration movement was a cross-denominational movement, and it is mostly associated with the Stone-Campbell movement, but just like Catholics/Protestants do not have the corner on "traditional" Christianity, the Stone-Campbell movement does not have the corner on the Restoration Movement. (A good number of early Mormon converts were "Campbellites", for instance, prominent early Mormons Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, Orson Hyde and Isaac Morley.) Many if not all of the groups arising out of the Second Great Awakening are heirs of the Restoration Movement. A great number of Christians would also take offense and as POV that the eastern/western church line claims to descend from the Early Christianity rather than Greek philosophy mingled with some Christian concepts... B
The chart you keep introducing is not acceptable as it implies historical continuity of the JW and LDS with the early church which is not true. There is also no need to add the Christian churches as even the major branches of Protestantism are not represented in this chart: Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, Baptist, etc. I also dispute the addition of the Great Apostasy which is a doctrine only of a minority of denominations and not a major concept in the history of the whole of Christianity. Rmhermen 16:39 8 Jul 2003 (UTC)
Rmhermen, "historical continuity" is a matter of opinion (besides being ambiguous...whatever you mean by that is not clear), and wiki is not about a presenting only certain opinions. First you criticize "etc", then you criticize the specific naming of a pertininet group in its place (...and it's "Christian Churches" with a capital "C" as in the group, Disciples of Christ). Chill, the naming of some restorationist sects is primarily for demonstrative purpose...wiki is still after all a work in progress. It doesn't matter whether you dispute the Great Apostasy... wiki is not about presenting only majority concepts, it is about presenting significant or notable ones. Like the first line of the Great Apostasy article states: "The Great Apostasy is a belief held by most non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christian denominations"....even if a minority doctrine, that is a pretty substantial minority. While that concept is not emphasized by many Protestant sects today, it is very important historical point of departure in Christianity and was a driving factor for the Protestant movement from that point of view. That concept will be a part of any historical chart so long as it is presented as NPOV as possible...to censor it out would be POV. B

First off, it would be helpful if participants in this or any wikipedia discussion would sign their posts using at least some consistent nickname, just so everyone can tell when that person posts a followup. Secondly, in terms of history, there is a huge difference between the Great Apostasy and the Great Schism. All church historians agree that the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox used to be in communion with each other, and that they currently are not mutually in communion with each other, and that the 1054 date generally used is at least a useful point of reference for when the break became "official", although slightly earlier or later dates can and have been suggested. Regarding the Great Apostasy, it's a matter of great debate as to whether it ever happened, and the ones who say it did can't agree at all on what constituted the Great Apostasy or when it might have occurred. Wesley \

As for the Mormons, their is no historical record of any Mormons prior to Joseph Smith in the 19th century. He claims to have been seen visions of various angels and apostles, and to have been ordained (along with a few other early Mormon leaders) by some of the earliest apostles, but only in a vision. Mormons who believe in a Great Apostasy in the first few centuries followed by a Restoration that didn't happen until Joseph Smith, would have to agree that there is no unbroken historical chain of apostles between those two events. Therefore, any historical chart should not show an unbroken line across those centuries. This much seems obvious. Although any chart like this does run some risk of oversimplifying the situation, it's also useful to provide a short, very high-level view. Wesley 16:57 8 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Wesley, generally agreed to your observations and conclusions. There is a difference between the chain of both restorationists and mainstream christianity back to the early church. In the case of the former an unbroken line is claimed, in the case of the later there is a gap. The Mormon answer to the gap is, as you mentioned, the physical appearance of early Christians and bestowal of authority to Joseph et al. Other restorationists generally tend to close the gap by basing their heirship to the early church on their idosyncratic interpretations (or in the case of the Church of Christ...non-interpretation) of the Bible. It could be confusing to show a line from the early Christians to any Restorationist group...we don't want wiki patrons thinking that there were JWs, Mormons, Disciples, etc at that time. Given the graphical limitations of ASCI, it may make sense to use a non ASCI chart to show the difference between a broken and unbroken chain of development. For the sake of simplicity, it may make sense not to specifically list any particular Restorationist sect. (I listed particular sects in the beginning primarily for demonstrative purposes.) B
Mormons who say that the LDS are part of the Restoration Movement, are misappropriating the terminology. It's well-known that Stone-Campbell writers were vociferously anti-Mormon, calling them "Mormonite fanatics" and "purveyors of a great delusion". Although both groups subscribe to the notion of restorationism, premised on radically alternative views of history, the various versions of alternative history are completely incompatible, and the means by which the "restoration" is said to have taken place have nothing to do with one another. These groups arose in roughly the same time-period (separated by 20 or so years each, between Restorationism, Mormonism, and Millerism). They all traded converts, they all claimed to be a "restoration", but I have seen no proof that any of them claimed that the others belonged to the same movement - an how could they, anyway? If real Christianity was restored by the Campbellites, what need would there be for Joseph Smith, or Mrs. White, or of Charles Russell? The historical line of each of these movements begins abruptly with their founders, which each of them was very insistent upon. The claim that any of them are a restoration of primitive Christianity is only that: a claim and an article of their respective faiths, and otherwise invisible to the record of history. It should be represented as such. Mkmcconn 21:13 8 Jul 2003 (UTC)
Mkmcconn, generally agreed to your observations, except the misappropriating terminology. Although Restoration Movement is commonly associated with Stone-Campbell movement, it is used in conjunction with Mormonism and Millerite-type groups. B

Hopefully, interested parties will agree that the trimmed down chart version is a step forward. I still want to show some kind of linkage to the early church, but let's see how this works first. B

If the chart were drawn the way that these groups seem to see themselves, the line would come down from heaven, not back to history (I think that's only a slight exaggeration).
At it's drawn, the chart says to protestants that "restorationists" are a Great Apostasy from Christianity, and from Protestanism in particular (with which many Protestants would most heartily agree - but I don't think that's what you meant it to show).
"Restorationism" is generally applicable to these groups but, "Restoration Movement" is not. — Mkmcconn 15:52 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)
Agreed: the "following Great Apostasy?" part is too ambiguous. I'll give it some more thought. Also agreed about the line to heaven part. B

Hi all, I'm a newbie to Wikipedia, and have tried to absorb the above lengthy discussion about the Christianity article, especially the recent discussion about the ASCII art timeline. I apologize if I'm repeating previous discussion - if so, please point me to the same. What strikes me here (and in general on Wikipedia) is that the chart as it stands implies that the Catholic faith (the 90+% of us Catholics who are referred to as "Roman Catholic") began as of the Great Schism, around the 11th century! The current Christianity article does describe the Catholic belief in apostolic succession fairly well (for more info, see: http://www.catholic.com/library/Apostolic_Succession.asp) but this is not reflected in the chart. There seems to me plenty of evidence that Christians referred to themselves as Catholic from the 1st century onward (see: http://www.catholic.com/library/What_Catholic_Means.asp). Do we just discard these early references to Catholic Christianity as some sort of pre-Catholic splinter group? I hope not! Harris7 17:32 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)

I think that you are looking at the chart differently than intended. As I interpret it, for example, it is adopting the perspective that Christianity is a general phenomenon with multiple branches. These branches do not describe how the various groups view themselves; instead, they "branch off" only in the sense that they become differentiated from one another. Mkmcconn \
The chart depicts the Great Schism as a point of historical demarcation, not a point of origin. So, Eastern Orthodoxy sees itself as the central line, from which all others have departed (through schism or heresy) - just as Roman Catholicism does. The Great Schism is where the two definitively differentiated themselves as separate communions. Mkmcconn \
Protestantism has a more vague view of itself, which varies between groups: but generally, it sees the central line as Christ and his faithful whoever or wherever they may be in the various Christian churches - identifiable by their reliance upon Christ alone for their salvation. To them, the Great Schism is not a defining event, however, its historical significance is not missed and that is what is best depictable by a graph. If it were a graph of identity, it would not be describable by one picture. Mkmcconn 18:13 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)
That's a good point. But I still wonder why the major branches of Protestantism are not listed while restorationism is. We could also avoid this whole problem by going to a pure timeline, not a relational chart. Rmhermen 18:20 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)
Generally speaking, the differentiation between the denominations of Protestantism is not absolute, because Protestants tend to deny that Christianity is strictly identical to a particular, visible institution - and they consequently also tend to believe that it is possible for completely apostate institutions to be reformed, and to contain within them true believers (members of Christ, and thus "the Church" in a non-visible sense). As a result, the separation of one Protestant branch from another does not necessarily imply that disunity is either complete or irreversible. In contrast, restorationism is not a reform movement as Protestantism is, but a claim of unique prophetic authority which by-passes history as a principle of continuity entirely (at least, prior to the founding of the distinctive group or movement). For this reason, if I were to quabble with Wikipedia, I'd complain that Luther is called the "founder of the Lutheran church". It's more in keeping with the protestant view to say that, Luther is the founder of Lutheranism (a particular approach to the reform of Christian doctrine and worship), and the principal figure at the start of the Reformation. But, I know what people mean, when they say the former; so, it's not worth arguing about. Mkmcconn \
I think it is clear that this chart is insufficient. No it appears that the Great Apostasy separated the Protestant movement from the Restorationists. I would argue that the differences between, say Lutheran and Baptists are far larger than those between Eastern and Western Rite Catholic (which are on the chart). Yes there exists overlapping theology between some groups but there is overlapping theology between any two Christian groups. I realize some groups like Calvinist Baptists present problems ut that doesn't mean we should lose all detail. Rmhermen 19:19 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)
All that having been said, I do think that a pure timeline might be better. — Mkmcconn 18:56 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Could someone who knows how archive some of this old talk. This page is getting far too long. Rmhermen 19:19 9 Jul 2003 (UTC)