Thursday, December 9, 2010

Types of Christianity

Jewish Christianity
Determining that Christianity is best represented by the race or culture of Judaism. Salvation is found by being joined with the Israel of God.
Examples: Ebonites, Nazarenes, Messianic Judaism
Positive points: Jesus was Jewish and expressed his teaching and lived his life in a Jewish context. An understanding of that context is necessary to understand Jesus.
Critique: Jesus, although a Jew, can be expressed just as well in a non-Jewish setting. Also, modern Judaism is far removed from the various Judaisms of Jesus’ day, both culturally and in their values.

Nicean Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by the earliest creeds—especially the Nicean and Apostolic. Salvation is found through faithfulness to the foundational truths about God and Jesus."
Examples: Christian Research Institute, as well as many other cross-Christian parachurches.
Positive points: The early creeds were and are well used to protect the Church against false teachers. These creeds express some important basic points of belief in all Christian beliefs.
Critique: Jesus expected not only to be believed in, but obeyed. The Spirit of God does more than the creed-based churches give him credit for. Some aspects of the creeds go beyond Scripture, but they are still expected to be the basis of salvation.

Byzantine Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by the various Eastern Churches, which date themselves to the beginning of the Jerusalem church. Liturgical worship, Trinitarian theology and the writings of the church fathers are emphasized. Salvation is found through joining and remaining faithful to the Orthodox church."
Examples: Eastern Orthodox churches—Antiocian, Syrian, Greek, Russian Orthodox.
Positive points: The simplicity of worship and understanding is welcome to everyone, no matter what economic or education level. Their focus on human sinfulness and the necessity of humility is essential to Jesus’ teaching.
Critique: The Byzantine churches were influenced by cultural changes and Platonism long after the apostolic period. They best represent the Eastern church of the 8th century, not the church Jesus began.

Roman Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by the traditions held by the Roman church, including honor and obedience to the Roman pontiff. Usually includes some form of honor and exaltation of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Salvation is found by joining and remaining faithful to the Roman Church."
Examples: The only example is the Roman Catholic Church—but that’s enough!
Positive points: The Roman Church has remained flexible enough in recent years to welcome many who want to “just follow Jesus.” The leadership of the Roman Church has exercised enormous humility in repenting from evil actions of the past.
Critique: The Roman Church’s tradition has strayed from focusing simply on Jesus’ teaching, to also welcoming various doctrines concerning Mary, the pontiff, the apostolic succession, liberation theology and other non-Biblical traditions.

Evangelical Christianity (Three types)
Christianity is best expressed by the attempts to find an apostolic tradition by emphasizing salvation by faith and grace alone, and each person’s obedience understanding and obedience of Scripture. Rooted in a religious reformation begun in 1519 by Martin Luther.

a. Lutheran Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by retaining all Roman traditions except those that directly oppose a Lutheran interpretation of Scripture. Salvation is found in faith in Christ."
Examples: Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians
Positive points: Simplicity in gospel message.
Critique: Not warning their congregations against greed and other sins that would keep them from God’s kingdom. Too much emphasis on the personal nature of religion, and so neglecting the necessity to evangelize or to be bold in one's faith.

b. Calvinist Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by emphasizing a Calvinist interpretation of theology, especially predestination and God’s complete control over all events in the universe. Salvation is found by the choice of God, demonstrated by faith in Christ."
Examples: Presbyterians, Reformed
Positive points: Strong organization and emphasis on Christian education.
Critique: Having human theology, not the Bible, as the basis of their salvation. Teaching that obedience is responsibility, not mercy.

c. Anti-nomian Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by faith in Jesus, with no manner of obedience to God being necessary (except perhaps a few cultural mandates, such as gainful employment and heterosexual impulses). Salvation is found through confessing Jesus as Savior alone."
Examples: Dallas Seminary, Campus Crusade for Christ. Anti-nomian sects existed before evangelicalism, but after the Reformation, almost all anti-nomian sects joined with evangelicalism.
Positive points: Simple, easily accepted presentation of some important points about Jesus. Good focus on evangelism.
Critique: Not actually teaching the gospel of Jesus. Jesus is salvation to those who obey him as well as those who believe some doctrinal points.

Heterodox Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by an interpretation of Scripture other than the accepted, Orthodox position. Salvation is found by believing the non-Orthodox teaching."
Examples: Arians, Unitarians
Positive points: The Orthodox presentation of Christianity is weak at points when looking at the Scripture, especially in their philosophical explanations of the trinity and the nature of Jesus.
Critique: Just taking an alternative view from the Orthodox does not make one any more Scriptural. Sometimes the Scripture does not answer the questions we want to ask, and so we must limit ourselves to that.

Philosophical Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by a human philosophical construct, such as Marxism or human reason, which is used to tie together all understanding about God and the spirit world found in the Bible."
Examples: Aquinan Theology, Marxist theology, Liberal theology. Jeffersonianism, most academia.
Positive points: Jesus does communicate to the various philosophical viewpoints, and philosophy often is a needed critique of various Christian positions.
Critique: Ultimately, these positions replace Jesus with human reason or a philosopher. Many of these also deny any real spirit world, which Jesus proclaimed as being very real, and effecting humanity.

American Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by God’s recent focus is on the United States, which is chosen by God to represent his kingdom. Whatever failings that are in the United States—as determined by certain central values (such as heterosexuality and a pro-family focus)—will need to be corrected and then the United States will be blessed by God. Salvation is found by supporting and reviving the chosen nation."
Examples: Revival churches; Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, some Southern Baptist
Positive points: Certainly high divorce statistics, general acceptance of homosexuality and sexual immorality in general are indications of moral decay.
Critique: Causing those who sin to lose their rights or to be considered sub-human is not loving in Jesus’ teaching. Also, the United States cannot be a Christian nation, for there is and only will be one—the Kingdom of God.

Christendom Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by the rule of an authoritative, Christian nation. Salvation is found through belonging to and being faithful to the Christian nation."
Examples: Some Greek Orthodox, some Roman Catholic, some American Christians.
Positive points: Attempt to improve morality in a nation.
Critique: Jesus is the only king of God and the kingdom of God is God’s only nation. True Christendom can only be found when Jesus returns to earth to rule himself. Everything else is just a sham, and the wars they declare are in opposition to Jesus’ law to love one’s enemy.

Pentecostal Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by those who have faith in Christ and who display their baptism in God’s Spirit by speaking in tongues."
Examples: Assemblies of God, Foursquare, Youth With a Mission
Positive points: Good emphasis on Jesus, obedience and guidance by the Spirit.
Critique: Too much focus on tongues as being “the” gift. As Paul says, there are various gifts, and not everyone who is guided by the Spirit has the same gift.

Prophetic Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by a modern prophet whom God has chosen to interpret the Scriptures, or to give a new Scripture. The prophetic witness determines what is significant to believe and obey. Salvation is found by obeying the prophetic witness."
Examples: Mormons, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witness, Shakers, Seventh-Day Adventist (which is not a cult), some Charismatic.
Positive points: They are all attempting to speak the gospel anew in a new place and time.
Critique: Jesus as interpreter of the Scripture is replaced by a prophet. Jesus alone is our salvation, and no prophet can replace him, for there is no other teacher that has been risen from the dead.

Pluralistic Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by a Spirit that communicates differently to different individuals and peoples. There are multiple ways to gain God’s favor, and Jesus is only one of them."
Examples: Conversations with God, Buddhist interpretations of Christianity, Bahaism.
Positive points: Emphasizes love for all people, no matter who they are.
Critique: The various religious authorities of the world contradict each other. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna and others cannot all be right, nor can they all be obeyed. Most of the teachers also require exclusive faithfulness. To accept them all is to accept none of them.

Peace Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by a moral position that includes: no violence, mutual aid, and simple living. Salvation is found in believing and obeying a peaceful interpretation of Jesus."
Examples: Mennonites, Quakers.
Positive points: Faithfulness to Jesus includes both commitment to him and obedience. Those who obey these moral positions will be living something very akin to the Christian life.
Critique: Violence in and of itself is not wrong, for God can, and does use it. Jesus’ teaching itself needs to be emphasized, not a politicized interpretation of it. A way of life is not, in an of itself, following Jesus—evangelism and endurance through suffering are also necessary to obey Jesus.

Holiness Christianity
"Christianity is best expressed by communities that have at its head those who have reached a state of “perfection”, where sin isn’t a concern for them any more."
Examples: Wesleyan church, Holiness churches.
Positive points: The Scriptures emphasize that their people need to be holy, pure of sin.
Critique: Those who think that they have no need to repent anymore are arrogant, and no longer listen to the Spirit who convicts the world of sin. The leadership of Jesus are humble enough to admit their sins and mistakes and to confess them and have them forgiven.

What is the Truest Christianity?

Jesus Christianity:
Christianity is best expressed by communities that are committed to Jesus as their only leader and teacher. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for Jesus, no matter what the cost to their relationships, finances or lives. They listen to the Spirit and are guided by him through visions, dreams, gifts and Bible interpretation to be like Jesus in all their ways. They hold allegiance to no nation or denomination, but honor God the Father above all, are fully committed to Jesus and live by the Spirit in all their lives. They are bold in their faith, loving all people, doing no one any harm, welcoming all, especially the needy and those seeking the Lord.

Communities like this can exist in almost any of the groups above, but they are often considered to be “strange”. These communities can never be accepted by the world, and ultimately—at one point or another—they will be rejected by the Christianities that care more for their traditions than for Jesus. But even in this, they are like the Lord.

1 comment:

Yinka Ayobolu said...

A comprehensive insight into the topic could also be found in The Blank Cheque: http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000194072