Christian Denominations: Beliefs and Theology

The following chart compares the similarities and differences between the beliefs, doctrine and theology of major denominations in Christianity. 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.

  Scripture Authority Creeds Trinity Jesus Mary Heaven Purgatory Hell Predestination Atonement
Anglicanism Contains all things necessary for salvation. (CofE) "The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers, are the foundation of Anglican faith and worship." "The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture." (Article 8) "We understand the Apostles' creed as the baptismal symbol, and the Nicene creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith." (CofE; Art. 7) "There is only one God, the Creator of the universe, who has three 'persons' or aspects, inseparable yet unique parts of the whole." (ECUSA) "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) varies "A new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other." (BCP) "The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory... is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God." (Article 22) believed by most "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) "He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world." (Article 15)
Baptists "Written by men and divinely inspired. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter." (SBC) "The final authority and trustworthy for faith and practice." (ABC) Inspired by God, written by humans (MB) "We hold the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, as our final authority. We accept no humanly devised confession or creed as binding." (ABC) "We have tended to avoid embracing prepared creeds or other statements that might compromise our obligation to interpret Scripture as individuals within the community of faith under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." (ABC) "The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being." (SBC) Christ "is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man." (SBC) Rejected. "Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man." (SBC) Christ "honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin." (SBC)
Catholicism "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.) Bible, church fathers, popes, bishops; Seven Ecumenial Councils; Trent, Vatican, and other Catholic councils Many, but special focus on Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed (Catechism, 2nd ed.) "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life." (Catechism, 261) "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) 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) "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) " 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) "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God." (Catech 1030) Predestination to heaven only, and related to God's foreknowledge. "God predestines no one to go to hell." (Catech 1037) "By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us." (Catech 1026) Also created merit that is shared with sinners through sacraments.
Lutheranism Inspired and inerrant. (LCMS) Inspired but not inerrant. (ELCA) Bible alone Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Augsburg Confession, Formula of Concord (ELCA) (LCMS) "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) "True God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, [and] Lord." (Sm. Catech.) Rejected. Predestination to heaven only. "There is no... predestination to damnation." (LCMS) "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)
Methodism Inspired and inerrant in original manuscripts, "and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine." (WC) "The Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. " (UMC) Nicene and Apostles' Creeds (UMC) "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 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) Mary was the mother of Jesus and one of his disciples. (UMC) Virgin birth affirmed, immaculate conception denied. (UMC) "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) Purgatory is "vainly invented and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God." (UMC) "Hell with its everlasting misery and separation from God is the final abode of those who neglect [God's] great salvation." (WC) Affirmed, but understood in terms of God choosing those he knew would freely believe 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)
Eastern Orthodox "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 Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, along with Sacred Apostolic Tradition." Seven Ecumenical Councils. (GOAA) Nicene Creed is "the authoritative expression of the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church." (GOAA) "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) "Christ was born with two perfect natures, the divine and human, as God-man." (GOAA) Theotokos ("God-Bearer"). Honored highly, but no immaculate conception or bodily assumption into the heavens. (GOAA) Seeks a middle ground between Pelagianism and Augustinian predestination. (GOAA) "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)
Presbyterianism 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) "Our standards of belief are to be found in the Bible and in the Church's historic Confession of Faith." (CofS) Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Westminster Confession "We trust in the one triune God." (PCUSA) "fully human, fully God." (PCUSA) 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) "In their spiritual bodies the saints will live forever in rapt adoration of God." (PCUSA) 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) "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) "Through Jesus' death and resurrection God triumphed over sin." (PCUSA)