The Church Around You
One big thing that Christianity is known for is having lots of different denominations and sects. Let’s face it after 2000 years since its inception there seems to be as many different denominations of the church as there are different types of flowers. The main cause for this massive speciation of churches is the loyalty that each group has to its specific understandings of the teachings, practices, and traditions of Christianity. In this article I would like to briefly speak about the big four churches and some of their distinctives to help the reader who may be uniformed about their brothers and sisters across the globe.
The Church of Rome: The Roman Catholic Church
Coming in at an estimated 1.28 billion adherents worldwide Roman Catholicism crushes the people count on the list of the big four churches. As with the all of the three high churches of the big four, Roman Catholicism traces its priestly line and origins to the Apostles of Christ. Formally declaring its own distinction and preeminence in 1054 as a result of the Great East-West Schism, Roman Catholicism declares its preeminence through its holding to the pure tradition of the church and through Papal primacy. Claiming that the pope is continually the spiritual successor to Peter as leader of the Apostles makes Catholicism distinct in its leadership practice. The Pope has the authority to declare the official position of the church on a given issue. They believe that a grace gift is imparted unto the Pope and that by it he can better understand the correct interpretation of the Scriptures and Tradition.
Eastern Orthodox Church: The Greek Church
The Eastern Orthodox Church comes in at number two on the list of people count amongst the three high churches in this big four list. Eastern Orthodox claims an approximate 270 million adherents worldwide. Rejecting both the leadership model of Papal primacy and the editing of the Nicene Creed known as the Filioque the Orthodox officially became its own distinct Church in 1054 at the Great East-West Schism. To the Orthodox a pure line of un-interrupted tradition is a must for valid Christianity, which they believe they have preserved quite well. Their organizational leadership moto is “first among equals.” The man who is the first is called the Patriarch of Constantinople. The church is made up of fourteen autocephalous (self-headed) churches within the communion. Their interpretation model for Christianity is threefold and includes Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit. The writers and writings of the early church are highly valued and many saints from the past are venerated to this day. While they are worldwide the Eastern Orthodox Church is largely found in Eurasia and Europe.
The Oriental Orthodox Church: The Non-Chalcedons
The last of the big three churches in this list is the Oriental Orthodox Church. While there is a good chance you have never heard of this communion it still doesn’t take away from the fact that it has an approximate 80 million adherents. Leaving the greater Catholic Church in 451 because of the decision of the Council of Chalcedon this church is best known for its view Miaphysite view of person of Christ. They also are a communion of autocephalous churches. They are mainly found in North East Africa, but largely in Ethiopia.
Protestantism: The Church Outside of The Church
Coming in at second in count on the big four list of churches is the Protestant Church. The word protestant finds its origins in “protest”. Protest is the main idea of this form’s founding. The protestant reformation is largely attributed to the theological work of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Protestantism covers a majority of anything and everything outside of the other three churches mentioned and there is no formal set of beliefs. Breaking off from the Roman Catholic Church, protestant theology usually retains more of a western flavor of theology as opposed to a more eastern. The conglomerate movement of Protestantism holds approximately 920 million worldwide. A majority of Protestantism holds to a type of faith alone soteriology and a lower view of the church. However, there are many that hold opposite positions on these two subjects and they are still very much protestant. Protestantism covers everything from Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, to almost anything you can think of outside of the big three high churches.
If you are reading this then there is a good chance that you fall in line with Protestantism. If you haven’t considered looking into and becoming more knowledgeable about these other branches of Christianity, I hope that this article will give you a new found interest in studying the church around you and its history. I think it is pretty important to not only know about one specific Church, but to know about Church history and the brothers and sisters around us.