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Author Topic: Quick question about Christian denominations  (Read 2068 times)

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Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #50 on: November 13, 2014, 11:02:28 PM »
Quote
Back in high school, in our religion class (yes, we do have religion class as part of our school education), the nun that was our teacher conducted a lesson on "dangerous cults" and clearly labelled Mormons as such a cult.

What exactly, is a cult, and who gets the pleasure of creating its definition?
And what's the difference between a "cult" and a "dangerous cult"?

For me, it was when I started to analyze these two questions, that I started to see how much religions and cults actually have in common.  I won't give you an oversimplified definition of who and what is a cult, but I would encourage looking this up and deciding for yourself.

One of the tricky things about religion and cults is in the definitions of these terms. The person who gets to define what a Christian is, and what a cult is, has the power to exclude people form their Christian religions and to deem religions as cults and vice versa. It's no wonder everyone has a different opinion of the definitions for these terms.

Two tongue in cheek definitions:

A cult is usually "some other religion that disagrees with ours."

ie. "The Mormons disagree with us. We cannot both be right. Therefore they are a cult and thus wrong."

A dangerous cult is usually, "some other religion that disagrees with ours AND is trendier than ours."

Son: Mom, good news! Me and my friend Jane are going to become Wiccans!
Mom: Jesus Mary and Joseph, No! They're a dangerous cult!






Online Oniya

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Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #51 on: November 13, 2014, 11:11:13 PM »
There's actually a scale out there that the FBI used in Project Meggido at the turn of the millennium.  It covers many of the aspects that psychologists look for, like Isolation, Paranoia, Sexual Manipulation and Violence.  Each of 18 indicators should be rated 1-10, and the higher the total, the more 'cultish' the group.


http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #52 on: November 13, 2014, 11:47:30 PM »
Interesting links, Oniya. I've found this site to be rather interesting too. Its useful for finding information about various "religious" groups. Bear in mind, the guy who started the site claims to have been a "deprogrammer", so expect some anti-religious slant. I thought the site was actually rather level despite this. ( I haven't  read it in a while, so hopefully it hasn't changed too much since then.)

http://www.culteducation.com/faq.html  ( previously rickross.com )




Online Strident

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #53 on: April 02, 2015, 11:00:09 AM »
Enjoyed reading this topic very much. I broadly agree with Kythia. No one has copyrighted or trademarked the term "Christian".. So pretty much anyone can apply that term to themselves and their beliefs.. And many do.

However, to make the term vaguely meaningful, I think we could reasonably say that a Christian denomination  would be one which, in the essence of it's beliefs and practices would be recognised by the first apostles as the faith they received from Christ himself.

In principle, a careful study of the most reliable primary sources in their proper historical context (that is, primarily the gospels and the epistles) will allow us to arrive at some sort of yardstick for that. In practice, of course, there is bound to be a lot of disagreement about it... Particularly the fringe /marginal cases.

The creeds, particularly the nicean creed, do give us some sort of summary definition..but it's a working guide at best.

Kythia, you speak in some detail on this topic..do you identify as Christian yourself? What denomination, if any? :)

Offline Kythia

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Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #54 on: April 02, 2015, 11:38:27 AM »
I do, yeah.  And Anglican - CofE specifically.  Pretty high church, skirting the line with Anglo-Catholic.  Though I recognise I'm now going in to levels of detail noone gives a fuck about.

I, perhaps predictably, disagree that a study of the early documents is a valid way of making a yardstick, though.  Take for example the Mormons (LDS).  They believe, in brief, that an angel - Moroni - guided Joseph Smith to a new, previously unknown, set of revelations.  Leaving any statement on the truth or otherwise of that claim, those revelations wouldn't be known by the early church and so the LDS would fail that test.  Sure, the LDS are one of the "fringe/marginals" you refer to but the problem isn't unique to them.  Seventh Day Adventists - far less of a fringe case - could well fall in to the same problem and depending on your stance there's a pretty good chance that any non-sola scriptura denomination could as well.

Online Strident

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #55 on: April 02, 2015, 12:39:36 PM »
Kythia, yes, I quite agree that Latter Day Saints would "fail" the test. They would be  Christian derived sect.

7th day adventists I think could just sneak inside the definition...but would like at the fringe.

That's not intended to in any way offend, but merely give some focus to the word "Christian". As you rightly say, no one "owns" the word..and anyone is free to use it if they want. I would tend to think that using the word Christian to apply to that set of values and beliefs which would have been recognisably shared with Christ and his first followers is a useful yardstick. O

Ca

Offline Caehlim

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #56 on: April 02, 2015, 10:23:28 PM »
In principle, a careful study of the most reliable primary sources in their proper historical context (that is, primarily the gospels and the epistles) will allow us to arrive at some sort of yardstick for that.

I disagree. Disputes amongst early Christians were no less fierce than the ones at present, nor do we have any primary sources that were contemporary to the events described. The gospels and epistles were simply those texts of the era that became favoured by what was to later become the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Selecting those as our privileged sources is ignoring the work of Gnostic Christian writers (and others) at the time.

We have a flourishing and diverse variety of 2nd Century accounts of the Christian faith and even a few dating back to late 1st Century. However those that we presently place the most value in are those that won out in the conflicts between sects and beliefs of the 3rd Century. This isn't even considering the bias in which texts were preserved due to the beliefs of later ages.

Online Strident

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #57 on: April 03, 2015, 03:46:55 AM »
I agree the scriptures we now consider the Canon were determined to be so in the 3rd century.

However, they are also the oldest texts and the most closely associated with Christ himself, while the origins of the gnostic texts are distant in both time and location  from Christ.

There is little doubt that the oldest document regarding Christ is 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul is quoting an earlier source (probably an early church hymn). Given that we know Paul's biography pretty well, and know at what point he could have conceivably learned that hymn, we can be confident of dating the original source to within just 3 years of Christ's death.

The gospel account of Luke (continued in acts) contains many historical details which required the writer to have lived contemporaneously with Christ. Slightly more contentious, but still well supported is that John's gospel indicates significant first hand knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its fall in 76AD.

While I don't claim we can be sure or every detail, we can be pretty confident that the canonical gospels reflect Jesus as he was understood pre 100AD.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #58 on: April 03, 2015, 04:41:09 AM »
Well, if another Christian comes up with a set of criteria that completely contradicts yours, then who is correct, you or him?

It's kind of hard to be "right" if there is no solid ground to stand on and the firmest footing you can get is an opinion or something along the lines of "This text is older, therefore" or "More Christians of type Y hold this opinion, therefore.." or "These old wrinkly dudes with Zztop beards say so, therefore...."

So what's wrong with just plain ole do it yourself Christianity? Where you take whatever information you can get your hands on and just interpret it as you feel is right? Bob next door reads his bible to his family every Tuesday before they can eat their savory saviour stew, Sue is building a spaceship because Jesus told her the day is coming, and Abraham down the street is tripping out on some heavy shit and seeing six-eyed angels and locusts and stuff because he has the gift of "prophecy" and this is how god speaks to him.

All joking aside, if everyone has the same mindset, the same values and plays by the same rules, then its going to be easier to lead those people and to get them behind you so to speak. I think politics and leadership kind of play into the convenience of having everyone think the same way. Those who can influence the masses wield a lot of power.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #59 on: April 03, 2015, 07:28:47 AM »
There is little doubt that the oldest document regarding Christ is 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul is quoting an earlier source (probably an early church hymn). Given that we know Paul's biography pretty well, and know at what point he could have conceivably learned that hymn, we can be confident of dating the original source to within just 3 years of Christ's death.

Well, you're running straight in to issues there.  If we say "the early Pauline epistles are the yardstick for Christianity" then you're forced to confront the fact that Paul clearly hadn't heard of the Empty Tomb.  So any denomination that believes in it - and off the top of my head I can't think of any that don't, though I pretty much guarantee there are some - isn't Christian.

Quote
The gospel account of Luke (continued in acts) contains many historical details which required the writer to have lived contemporaneously with Christ. Slightly more contentious, but still well supported is that John's gospel indicates significant first hand knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its fall in 76AD.

While I don't claim we can be sure or every detail, we can be pretty confident that the canonical gospels reflect Jesus as he was understood pre 100AD.

Luke had a copy of Josephus' Jewish War, published in about 75 AD, and quite probably a copy of Jewish Antiquities (around 95 AD) as well - the historical details are from there, almost word for word in some cases.  There's no requirement to live contemporaneously with Christ any more so than there is for someone writing a novel set in the Second World War to have lived through it.  Further, Luke was being revised well in to the second century.

This isn't just to quibble, this is to say that any line you draw is inherently arbitrary.  Basically I think there are two problems:

1)None of the early sources are "complete" in the sense of being a straight up list of teachings.  As an example, take Paul's mention of the Last Supper in Corinthians -

Quote from: 1 Cor 11:23-26 from ESV:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

- had it not been relevant to the point he was making to the church in Corinth there would be no evidence that he had heard of it.  How much else did he take as granted as Christian knowledge but simply didn't bother to mention because it wasn't relevant to the point he was making?

2) The early canon wasn't universally accepted - take the dispute over Revelation for example or the Marcionite Controversy as a more extreme one.  The church under Valentinus used more than four gospels, Ireneas thought the Shepherd of Hermes was canon.  God only knows what the Ebionites were doing.  Etc etc etc.  Trying to define a set of beliefs for the early church as a whole is impossible, and so using that as a yardstick is inherently a judgement call - you are implicitly ruling in and out some early groups which is precisely the opposite of the claimed intent.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 07:30:08 AM by Kythia »

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #60 on: April 05, 2015, 06:42:18 PM »
I know this might seem hypocritical coming from a non-denominational Christian but I don't consider Mormons Christians, personally. That's my opinion, and this is the possibly-hypocritical part: I find the story very suspect. Not because I don't think this guy couldn't have had an angel dictate a book or two, but because the relationship of the books to anything actually regarding the teachings of Jesus, and in fact much of their polygamy (and I know that's not that big of a thing in mainstream Moronism anymore) is in direct opposition to what Jesus said about similar subjects.

All religions start out as cults, the only distinction I worry about is if the cult actually seems dangerous, like Jim-Jones level dangerous.

Still, if you ask the US Government, it depends on if they get the tax exemption for being a religion. I also support people freedom of religion, so there's that also.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #61 on: April 05, 2015, 11:18:27 PM »
As I understand, Jim Jones' posse was seemingly harmless at first. By the time people got themselves stranded in Jonestown though, it was a bit too late.

As for Mormons not being real or authentic Christians because of their unique claims, compare that to the early Christian’s claims that Jesus literally rose from the dead (and then disappeared), or the stories about him healing people and walking on water. All those claims were outside of what most of us would call reality or normal experience. If you believe what Jesus told his apostles - that they would do even greater things than he did, then the Mormon's claim about being visited by angels and given golden tomes and secret decoder glasses sounds kind of tame in comparison. Likewise, if we give Christians a free pass and excuse them from having to prove that these claims about Jesus were real, then shouldn't we be fair and give the Mormons the same free pass? For that matter, the Raelians seem like nice folks. Why not give them the same free pass too?



Offline Vulpa Regina

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #62 on: April 05, 2015, 11:32:38 PM »
I'd like to quote from Bertrand Russell's essay, "Why I Am Not A Christian," in which he first defines what it is that he is not:

Quote
Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature -- namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker's Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.

But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included he belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.

So if you go by that very basic definition, LDS and JW are both Christian sects.

Offline BitterSweet

Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #63 on: April 06, 2015, 09:12:43 PM »
The basic criteria for be a Christian is that you believe - in some fashion - in Jesus Christ.  And (because many Muslims accept Jesus Christ as a prophet, just not the important one), that he is a foundational part of the practitioners faith.  So, in wikipedia any religion that places Jesus Christ front and center, can be defined as Christian.  Many of those faiths on the list, however, would exclude one or more or all of the others on the list based on various tenants they hold dear (child baptism vs. adulthood baptism, day of worship, whether or not you believe in the Holy Trinity, etc, etc, ad naseum).

Christ is what makes a denomination Christian.

The Catholic Church has a long history of defining what is a Christian, based on particular practices or expressed beliefs.  Example: the Holy Trinity, not all Christian faiths belive in it, those that don't would not be Christian by the Catholic definition.  The Christian Scientists (my father's faith) believe that they can 'become like Christ' and I think the Catholic Church to this day defines them as a heresy because they believe (rather strongly) that you can imitate Christ, follow his teachcings, etc but you can't become like him because he is the son of god  No one else is.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 09:14:59 PM by BitterSweet »

Offline HannibalBarca

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Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #64 on: May 01, 2015, 12:02:22 AM »
I am an atheist now, but I was raised as a Catholic and remained one until twenty-one.  I was taught to look at Protestants as unfortunate, having accepted Jesus as their savior, but not the Pope as his representative on Earth, and consider them as similar to the Prodigal Son in the similarly-named parable.  Orthodox religions were almost okay--they just needed to come back into the fold and accept the Pope as the leader of Christians on Earth.  Jews were God's Chosen People, but since they did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, they were unfortunately going to Hell--unless they were converted.  All in all, Jews weren't bad people either, because at least they believed in the same God as us, and were part-way there.  More distant religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism were given little or no examination, but more disparate branches of Christianity (in Catholics' mind) like Mormons, JW's, and Seventh-Day Adventists were considered cults because they were believers in Christ but with dangerously heretical beliefs mixed in that no self-respecting Catholic would ever accept.

Of course, when I started actually examining all of these religions on my own and discovering for myself my own opinion on them, I began to see things much differently.

Religion, in itself, is simply a belief system one person has claimed as the truth, and then other people come to follow it.  In actuality, no two humans believe exactly the same on all topics, and so, to be honest, we could say that all human beings have their own religion, as varied and different as fingerprints.  It is funny how Protestant religions operate on the doctrine of a personal relationship with Jesus, but don't take it all the way under that line of thinking, and consider that following any other person's religion would mean you weren't truly in a personal relationship with Jesus--you were copying another person's personal relationship with Jesus as your own.

It's all immaterial to me now.  After exposure to so much information of all the world's religions, I developed the idea that not all of them could be right, since so many were diametrically opposed or made claims that ruled out their both being right...and I made that common leap of logic that came next: If many of them must be wrong...could all of them be wrong?

I realized that most people don't research and chose their religion--they are indoctrinated to it as an impressionable child by their parents.  Most people simply fall into their religion and continue it out of familiarity.  It is an accident of birth for most people on what religion they espouse.  With this indoctrination comes rigidity and resistance to other ways of thinking, thus the all-too-common hostility to other religions...though it is telling that most religious hatreds are between more similar religions than those very different.  You don't hear about Christians hating on Hindus for having multiple gods, but look no further than Northern Ireland for Christians behaving in very un-Christian-like ways towards one another.  Likewise, Jews and Muslims can profess belief in the same God, Abraham, and not eating pork, but that pesky part in the Bible about Abraham's sons and who got his blessing kinda tears the agreements in two after that.

No religion has the authority to declare if another religion is legitimate or not, as none of them are based in any way on rationality or facts, but faith--the very antithesis of fact--believing in something with no evidence whatsoever.  When new religions pop up, or old religions die away, contemporary religions have no problem attacking their legitimacy on grounds of too few adherents...but they forget the fact that, at one time, their own religion was a foundling with only a handful of faithful.

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: Quick question about Christian denominations
« Reply #65 on: May 01, 2015, 10:07:36 AM »
The basic criteria for be a Christian is that you believe - in some fashion - in Jesus Christ.  And (because many Muslims accept Jesus Christ as a prophet, just not the important one), that he is a foundational part of the practitioners faith.  So, in wikipedia any religion that places Jesus Christ front and center, can be defined as Christian.  Many of those faiths on the list, however, would exclude one or more or all of the others on the list based on various tenants they hold dear (child baptism vs. adulthood baptism, day of worship, whether or not you believe in the Holy Trinity, etc, etc, ad naseum).

Christ is what makes a denomination Christian.

The Catholic Church has a long history of defining what is a Christian, based on particular practices or expressed beliefs.  Example: the Holy Trinity, not all Christian faiths belive in it, those that don't would not be Christian by the Catholic definition.  The Christian Scientists (my father's faith) believe that they can 'become like Christ' and I think the Catholic Church to this day defines them as a heresy because they believe (rather strongly) that you can imitate Christ, follow his teachcings, etc but you can't become like him because he is the son of god  No one else is.

The Christian Scientists sound interesting I'd like to hear more about them. I'm a christian myself, sort of a nondenominational one.
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