Compare Christian Denominations' Beliefs


The following chart compares the beliefs, doctrine and theology of some major Christian denominations. Please note that the brief summaries and excerpts provided here do not reflect all individuals or churches in each denomination, but they are believed to represent the majority view and taken from official statements where available.

 AnglicanismCatholicismLutheranMethodismEastern OrthodoxPresbyterian
sacred text Bible (Old Testament and New Testament only). Apocrypha used only for edification (Art. 7). Tradition and reason assist interpretation. (ECUSA) Bible (Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament) Bible (Old Testament and New Testament). Apocrypha can be "useful" reading and can help to increase one's faith. (ELCA) Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) Bible (Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha) Bible (Old Testament and New Testament)
doctrine of scripture The OT and NT contain all things necessary for salvation. (CofE) "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 ed.) Inspired and inerrant. (LCMS)

Inspired but not inerrant. (ELCA)
Inspired and inerrant in original manuscripts, "and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine." (WC) "God's inspiration is confined to the original languages and utterances, not the many translations." (GOAA) "While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God's revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation." (GOAA) The Bible is inspired. "For some, that means the Bible is inerrant. For others, it means that even though the Bible is culturally conditioned and not necessarily factual or even always true, it breathes with the life of God." (PCUSA)
authority after Scripture "The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers, are the foundation of Anglican faith and worship." Church fathers, papal decrees, bishops; Seven Ecumenial Councils; Trent, Vatican, and other Catholic councils none (Scripture alone) None. "The Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. " (UMC) "The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, along with Sacred Apostolic Tradition." Seven Ecumenical Councils. (GOAA) "Our standards of belief are to be found in the Bible and in the Church's historic Confession of Faith." (CofS)
creeds "We understand the Apostles' creed as the baptismal symbol, and the Nicene creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith." (CofE; Art. 7) Many, but special focus on Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed. Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Augsburg Confession, Formula of Concord (ELCA) (LCMS) Nicene and Apostles' Creeds (UMC) The Nicene Creed is "the authoritative expression of the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church." (GOAA) Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Westminster Confession
Trinity "There is only one God, the Creator of the universe, who has three 'persons' or aspects, inseparable yet unique parts of the whole." (ECUSA) "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life." (Catechism, 261) "We teach that the one true God. is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity, equal in majesty, because each person possesses the one divine essence." (LCMS) "With Christians of other communions we confess belief in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (UMC)

"We believe in the one living and true God... Within this unity there are three persons of one essential nature, power and eternity--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (WC)
"The fundamental truth of the Orthodox Church is the faith revealed in the True God: the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." (GOAA) "We trust in the one triune God." (PCUSA)
nature of Jesus "Jesus is the complete revelation of God to us, and as such, Jesus, although fully human with us, is also fully God—fully divine." (ECUSA) "The Son is consubstantial with the Father, which means that, in the Father and with the Father the Son is one and the same God." (Catechism, 262) "True God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, [and] Lord." (Sm. Catech.) "The Son, who is the ... very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature... so that two whole and perfect natures... were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man." (UMC, Art. 2) "Christ was born with two perfect natures, the divine and human, as God-man." (GOAA) Christ is "fully human, fully God." (PCUSA)
resurrection of Jesus "We believe that as a fully human person, Jesus died on the cross at Jerusalem, just as all humans die, yet death could not keep him, and so he was raised from the dead to life again." (ECUSA) "The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified." (Catechism, 639) "ELCA Lutherans believe that what history does is to demonstrate the disciples' faith in the resurrection. Their witness and testimony to Jesus' post-death appearances make it abundantly clear that the resurrection was a primary object of the apostolic proclamation from Christianity's very beginning." (ELCA) "Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven." (UMC, Art. 3) "The Resurrection of Christ is considered by the Church to be the supreme declaration of faith." (GOAA) Christ "died, was buried, and was resurrected by God. For Christians, this resurrection is God's most amazing miracle and proof that Jesus was indeed divine." (PCUSA)
Holy Spirit "This is the aspect of God that is at work in the world, that inspires us, that speaks to us and strengthens us to do the often difficult work that our faith demands of us." (ECUSA) The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son (Catechism, 264) "The Holy Spirit - as person - might be said to be one of God's 'three faces'.. In carrying on Jesus' earthly ministry, the Spirit's ongoing work is to reveal truth, give life and strengthen faith." (ELCA) "The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God." (UMC Art. 4)
"We believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and is... truly and eternally God." (WC)
"The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, Who proceeds from the Father only." (GOAA) "We trust in God the Holy Spirit, everywhere the giver and renewer of life." (PCUSA)
Mary Mary had no original sin, remained free of sin throughout her life, is "Mother of God" and the new Eve. (Catechism, 508-10) Bodily assumption into heaven instead of death. (Catechism, 966) Mary was the mother of Jesus and one of his disciples. (UMC) Immaculate conception denied. (UMC) Mary is Theotokos ("God-Bearer"). Honored highly, but no immaculate conception or bodily assumption into the heavens. (GOAA) Mary should not be regarded as a mediator between man and God, but she should be honored as "God-bearer" and a model for Christians. (PCUSA)
angels "The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition... They are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures." (Catechism 328-330) "Most ELCA Lutherans will agree that belief in angels is a non-issue. We simply accept that they are in the Bible and may well be part of the realities of heaven that we will not fully understand in this life." (ELCA) "Angelology has not traditionally been emphasized in the Reformed churches...." Calvin affirmed their existence as "celestial spirits," but doubted idea of personal guardian angels. (PCUSA)
demons Demons are fallen angels who can never repent. Satan is a pure spirit, powerful and evil, but limited by God's providence. (Catechism 391-95) Some ELCA Lutherans understand Satan to be a very real being, others view Satan metaphorically. (ELCA)
heaven Heaven is "blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ" (Catech 1027) and "the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness." (Catech 1024) "Heaven with its eternal glory and the blessedness of Christ's presence is the final abode of those who choose the salvation which God provides through Jesus Christ." (WC) "In their spiritual bodies the saints will live forever in rapt adoration of God." (PCUSA)
purgatory denied affirmed; "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified. after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (Catech 1030) denied Purgatory is "vainly invented and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God." (UMC) denied No.
hell affirmed affirmed; "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God." (Catech 1030) affirmed "Hell with its everlasting misery and separation from God is the final abode of those who neglect [God's] great salvation." (WC) affirmed Affirmed by some. Affirmed by some. "In a 1996 Presbyterian Panel survey only 51 percent of members and 46 percent of pastors said they believed in hell." (PCUSA)
human nature "We are part of God's creation, made in the image of God... [which] means that we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to
reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God." (BCP 845)
"Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is ... capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give." (Catech 357) "The first man was not brutelike nor merely capable of intellectual development, but ... God created man in His own image." (LCMS) "Man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually." (UMC)

"Humans are very far gone from original righteousness, and by nature are continually inclined to evil." (WC)
Humanity was created in the image and likeness of God. "'Image' is... intellect, emotion, ethical judgment, and self-determination. ... The 'likeness' is the human potential to become like God." (GOAA) "No one of us is good enough on our own--we are all dependent upon God's goodness and mercy... from the kindest, most devoted churchgoer to the most blatant sinner." (PCUSA)
body and soul "The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body...; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature." (Catech 365) Soul is not an independent entity but the "life principle" of the self, which is a psycho-physical organism. (ELCA) Material and spiritual realities are "closely bound together. The icon is an example of this belief.... Human life and human fulfillment are inextricably bound to both the physical and the spiritual dimensions of human existence." (GOAA)
results of the Fall Corruption and tendency to sin. "Luther and Calvin taught as their fundamental error that no free will properly so called remained in man after the fall of our first parents... and that man in all his actions sins." (CE) Adam's offspring "have lost the original knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and thus all men are sinners already by birth, dead in sins, inclined to all evil, and subject to the wrath of God." (LCMS) "In fallen humanity [the image of God] remains part of human nature, albeit darkened, wounded, and weakened." (GOAA)
An unnatural condition of human life that ends in death. (EB)
free will Free to do good or evil. "God has endowed us with reason and free-will, and a sense of responsibility." (CE) Free only to do evil. "We have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us." (UMC) "Man is truly free only when he is in communion with God; otherwise he is only a slave to his body or to the world." (Encyc. Britannica) At the Fall, "man's will became blurred, but did not disappear." (GOAA) Free only to do evil. Presbyterians believe "it is through the action of God working in us that we become aware of our sinfulness and our need for God's mercy and forgiveness." (PCUSA)

"We are able to choose God because God first chose us." (PCUSA)
predestination "Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God... to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour." (Art. 17) Predestination to heaven only; related to God's foreknowledge only. "God predestines no one to go to hell." (Catech 1037) Predestination to heaven only. "There is no... predestination to damnation." (LCMS) Affirmed, but related to God's foreknowledge only - God chose those he knew would freely believe. Seeks a middle ground between Pelagianism and Augustinian predestination. (GOAA) "We are able to choose God because God first chose us." (PCUSA) Some modern Presbyterians are "very concerned about the few statements in the confessions" suggesting predestination to hell. (PCUSA
atonement Death of Christ created merit that is shared with sinners through sacraments. "By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us." (Catech 1026) "The purpose of this miraculous incarnation of the Son of God was that He might become the Mediator between God and men, both fulfilling the divine Law and suffering and dying in the place of mankind. In this manner God reconciled the whole sinful world unto Himself." (LCMS) Christ " truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men. " (UMC)

"Christ's offering of himself... through His sufferings and meritorious death on the cross, provides the perfect redemption and atonement for the sins of the whole world." (WC)
"Christ enlightens the minds of the people, purifies their hearts and frees their wills from the bondage of the devil. Christ became flesh to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." (GOAA) "Through Jesus' death and resurrection God triumphed over sin." (PCUSA)
other denominations "The sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, subsists in the Catholic Church... Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines." (Catech 870) Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." (Catech 838) "The invisible communion of all believers" includes visible church communions where, "along with error, so much of the Word of God still remains that men may be brought to the knowledge of their sins and to faith in the forgiveness of sins, which Christ has gained for all men." (LCMS) Warn against Unitarianism. (LCMS, 1932) "The branches of Christ's church have developed diverse traditions that enlarge our store of shared understandings. Our avowed ecumenical commitment as United Methodists is to gather our own doctrinal emphases into the larger Christian unity, there to be made more meaningful in a richer whole." (UMC) "The Orthodox Church continuously and without interruption is the true keeper of the truths of the Undivided Church, without omissions or additions." (GOAA)

"Orthodox do not... actively seek to cause the disaffection of others from their non-Orthodox Christian faiths." (GOAA) (GOAA)
"The Church of Scotland... recognises the obligation to seek and promote union with other Churches in which it finds the Word to be purely preached, the sacraments administered according to Christ's ordinance, and discipline rightly exercised." (CofS)
other religions "Many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside [the Catholic Church's] visible confines." (Catech 870) "Faith in Christ is the only way for men to obtain personal reconciliation with God." (LCMS)

"There is a large hope for salvation, for all people whenever or wherever they might have lived and no matter how religious or irreligious they may have proved to be themselves." (ELCA)
"The majority of Orthodox scholars would accept inclusivism.... This view holds firmly to the centrality of Christ... yet acknowledges that salvation can be found outside Christianity." (GOAA)