When discussing theology, I've come to realize that not only is personal study of doctrine a necessary component to faith, but it is something that shouldn't be kept to oneself. I want to share my journey, both past and ongoing, into the realm of theology. Through this, I hope that you will gain insight into the Christian faith as a whole. Before reading anything else, I suggest you read the introduction and definitions (found in the pages tabs above) so you may better understand where I am coming from in everything I write. Because many of my posts are on heresies, there is also a page above with a family tree of heresies and links to all the posts I have so far on the topic.

15 January, 2013

Bible Study Notes: What's the Difference?

Now that Revelations is wrapped up, my church is doing a study on comparative symbolics, or what the differences in doctrine are between 10 different denominations on 17 different topics.  While I will probably not be at most of those classes (as I am supposed to be teaching another class at the same time), I did get to attend the introduction, and I'll get the notes from each class to hopefully highlight here.

The 10 denominations being looked at in this study are (in parenthesis you'll see the confessions of each church body we are using for these discussions--as you go down the list, it becomes harder to find actual written statements of doctrine for each denomination):

  • Lutheran (Book of Concord)
  • Roman Catholic (Catholic Catechism, Trent, Vatican II)
  • Eastern Orthodox (Larger Catechism)
  • Anglican/Episcopalian (39 Articles)
  • Presbyterian/Reformed/Calvinist (Westminster Confession)
  • Methodist/Weslyan (Methodist Articles of Religion)
  • Baptist (Baptist Faith and Message)
  • Evangelical/Non-Denominational (Calvary Chapel)
  • Pentecostal/Assemblies of God (International Pentecostal Holiness Church Beliefs)
  • Liberal (A Guide to the Study of the Christian Religion)

The 17 doctrines to be discussed are:
  • Scripture/Authority
  • God/The Trinity
  • Creation
  • Man's Will
  • The Incarnation
  • Salvation
    • Original Sin
    • Law and Gospel
    • Justification
    • Sanctification
  • Church
  • Baptism
  • Confession and Absolution
  • The Lord's Supper
  • Worship
  • The Ministry
  • Vocation/Citizenship
  • The End Times

Pastor included a great chart of the denominational family tree for reference (might be a little hard to read this way, I'll see if I can get it in a more readable format at some point).

For many, the immediate question when anyone does this is something along the lines of, "Why do you have to be so divisive?"  Well, we're not.  Quite the opposite.  In doing this, and getting other Christians to realize there are stark differences (many of which are NOT Biblical teachings), we would hope for unity of faith and love, to have the church be of one mind.  How likely that is to occur is yet to be seen, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  Additionally, it is the duty of all Christians to combat error and false doctrine.  Because we in the LCMS practice closed communion for that very reason--because unity in teaching must come before unity in fellowship--a great resource on where in Scripture we are commanded to do just this can be found here.

Finally, here are some notes I had from the class.
  • What distinguishes Lutheranism is not history, geography, etc., but doctrine
  • Many end up in a church "accidentally" (i.e. my parents were "X", so I am as well)--at some point we need to make our belief purposeful
  • How do we know what a church believes?  Is it what a church teaches, or what subscribers actually believe?
  • Every false doctrine, in one way or another, takes away from the clarity and peace of the Gospel
  • Jesus commands us to unity in doctrine, to have His church be of one mind
  • Unity is two-fold: in the proclamation of the Gospel, and in the benefit of the Gospel (many, if not most, denominations agree on the previous, it is the latter where false teaching creep in)
  • The root of false doctrine was in the Garden of Eden: "Did God really say...?"

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