Compare the Beliefs of 7 Christian Denominations

Human hand placed on the Bible, pray to God.
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Compare the basic beliefs of seven different Christian denominations, Anglican/Episcopal, Assembly of God, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic. 

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Creeds and Confessions

What do different Christian denominations believe? You can start with the creeds and confessions, which spell out their basic beliefs in a short summary The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed both date back to the fourth century

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Inerrancy and Inspiration of Scripture

Christian denominations differ in how they view the authority of the scripture. Inspired means they believe God or the Holy Spirit directed the writing of the scripture. Inerrant means scripture is without error or fault in all that it is teaching, although it does not always mean a literal interpretation.

  • Anglican/Episcopal: Inspired, according to the. Book of Common Prayers, the Catechism
  • Baptist: Inspired and inerrant.
  • Lutheran: The Lutheran Church Missouri Syndod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America consider scripture to be inspired and inerrant.
  • Methodist: Inspired and inerrant.
  • Presbyterian: PCUSA: "For some the Bible is inerrant; for others it is not necessarily factual, but it breathes with the life of God."
  • Roman Catholic: God is the author of sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ...we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." Catechism - 2nd Edition
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Basis for Doctrine

Christian denominations differ in what they use for the basis of their doctrines and beliefs. The biggest split is between Catholicism and the denominations that have roots in the Protestant Reformation.

  • Anglican/Episcopal: The Scriptures and the Gospels, church fathers.
  • Assembly of God: The Bible only.
  • Baptist: The Bible only.
  • Lutheran: The Bible only.
  • Methodist: The Bible only.
  • Presbyterian: The Bible and the Confession of Faith.
  • Roman Catholic: The Bible, church fathers, popes, bishops.
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The Trinity

The nature of the Trinity created divisions in the early days of Christianity. There remain differences between Christian denominations.

  • Anglican/Episcopal: "There is only one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or suffering; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Source: Anglican Beliefs
  • Assembly of God: "The terms 'Trinity' and 'persons' as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture,...We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons..."  Source: AOG Statement of Fundamental Truths
  • Baptist: "The Lord our God is the one and only living and true God; Whose subsistence is in and of Himself...In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and the Holy Spirit. All are one in substance, power, and eternity; each having the whole divine essence, yet this essence being undivided." Source: Baptist Confession of Faith
  • Lutheran: "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal." Source: The Nicene Creed and the Filioque: A Lutheran Approach
  • Methodist: "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Source: Methodist Doctrinal Standards
  • Presbyterian: "We believe and teach that God is one in essence or nature ... Notwithstanding we believe and teach that the same immense, one and indivisible God is in person inseparably and without confusion distinguished as Father, Son and Holy Spirit so, as the Father has begotten the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten by an ineffable generation, and the Holy Spirit truly proceeds from them both, and the same from eternity and is to be worshipped with both. Thus there are not three gods, but three persons, consubstantial, co-eternal, and coequal; distinct with respect to hypostases, and with respect to order, the one preceding the other yet without any inequality." Source: Book of Confessions
  • Roman Catholic: "Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: 'the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.' In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. This, the Church teaches, is the revelation regarding God's nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to deliver to the world: and which she proposes to man as the foundation of her whole dogmatic system." Source: Dogma of the Trinity
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Nature of Christ

These seven Christian denominations do not differ in how they view the nature of Christ. They all view him as fully human and fully God. This is spelled out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man."

Different views of the nature of Christ were debated in the early church. The result was all other views being labeled as heresies.

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The Resurrection of Christ

All seven denominations believe that the Resurrection of Chris was a real event, historically verified. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness." They cite Paul's letter to the Corinthians in which he relates the Resurrection as a fact he learned after his conversion.

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Satan and Demons

Christian denominations generally believe that Satan is a fallen angel. Here is what they have said about their beliefs:

  • Anglican/Episcopal: The existence of the Devil is referred to in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, part of the "Book of Common Prayer," which defines the doctrines and practices of the Church of England. While the baptismal liturgy in the "Book of Common Worship" contains references to battling the Devil, an alternate service was approved in 2015 that eliminates this reference.
  • Assembly of God: Satan and demons are fallen angels, evil spirits (Mat. 10:1). Satan rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12–15; Ezek. 28:12–15). Satan and his demons do everything in their power to oppose God and those who do God's will (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Cor. 11:14–15). Though enemies of God and Christians, they are defeated enemies by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:4). Satan's destiny is the lake of fire for all eternity (Rev. 20:10).
  • Baptist: "Historic Baptists believe in the literal reality and actual personality of Satan (Job 1:6-12; 2:1–7; Matt. 4:1–11; etc.). In other words, they believe that the one referred to in the Bible as the devil or Satan is a real person, though they certainly do not perceive him as the caricatured red figure with horns, a long tail, and a pitchfork." Baptist Pillar - Doctrine
  • Lutheran: "Satan is the chief evil angel, the 'prince of demons'(Luke 11:15). Here is how our Lord Jesus Christ describes Satan: 'He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language,for he is a liar and the father of lies' (John 8:44)." (LCMS)
  • Methodist: See the Sermon on Satan's Devices by John Wesley, founder of Methodism: Global Ministries.
  • Presbyterian: Differing beliefs are discussed in Presbyterians Today: Fallen Angels; Evil.
  • Roman Catholic: Satan or the devil is a fallen angel. Satan, though powerful and evil, is limited by God's divine providence. Source: Catechism - 2nd Edition
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Christian denominations all believe in angels, which appear frequently in the Bible. Here are some of the specific doctrines:

  • Anglican/Episcopal: Angels are "the highest beings in the scale of creation...their work consists in the worship of God, and in the service of men." (​"The Catholic Religion: A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Anglican Church" by Vernon Staley, page 146.)
  • Assembly of God: Angels are spiritual beings sent by God to minister to believers (Hebrews 1:14). They are obedient to God and glorify God (Psalm 103:20; Revelation 5:8–13).
  • Baptist: Most Baptists believe God created an order of spiritual beings, called angels, to serve Him and do his will (Psalm 148:1–5; Colossians 1:16). Angels are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. They are obedient to God and glorify God (Psalm 103:20; Revelation 5:8–13).
  • Lutheran: "Angels are God’s messengers. Elsewhere in the Bible, angels are described as spirits...The word 'angel' is actually a description of what they do ... They are beings who do not have a physical body." (LCMS)
  • Methodist: Founder John Wesley wrote three sermons on angels, referring to biblical evidence.
  • Presbyterian: Beliefs are discussed in Presbyterians Today: Angels
  • Roman Catholic: "The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith...They are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures." Source: Catechism - 2nd Edition
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Nature of Mary

Roman Catholics differ significantly from Protestant denominations in regards to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here are the different beliefs about Mary:

  • Anglican/Episcopal: Anglicans believe Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. "They...have difficulties with Catholic belief in her immaculate conception—the idea...that Mary was free from the stain of original sin from the moment of her own conception..." (Guardian Unlimited)
  • Assembly of God and Baptist: Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. (Luke 1:34–38). Though "highly favored" by God (Luke 1:28), Mary was human and conceived in sin.
  • Lutheran: Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. (Based on the Lutheran confession of The Apostles' Creed.)
  • Methodist: Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. The United Methodist Church does not subscribe to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception—that Mary herself was conceived without original sin. (UMC)
  • Presbyterian: Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary is honored as "God-bearer" and a model for Christians. (PCUSA)
  • Roman Catholic: From conception, Mary was without original sin, she is the Immaculate Conception. Mary is the "Mother of God." Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. She remained a virgin throughout her life. Catechism - 2nd Edition