Religious Divisions [A Quick-and-Dirty Guide]

There’s certainly no shortage of divisions when it comes to Christianity–or religions in general.

So what’s the difference between Christianity and Islam?

Where does Mormonism fit into our faith?

What about the Amish?

And what makes a Presbyterian different than a Methodist?

All good questions. This little guide will help you hash the answers out.

Denominations

Movements that differ on doctrinal issues but hold to a common core of beliefs about God, Christ and the Bible.

A multiplicity of denominations doesn’t imply a problem. It simply suggests agreement on the essentials and disagreements on non-essentials.

Sects

Movements that agree with denominations on these matters but often place emphasis on certain topics that move them to the fringe of Christianity. Think the Amish’s radical separatism.

Sects only become a problem if the emphasis conflicts with core tenets.

Cults

Movements connected to Christianity in that they use Christian Scripture and appeal to Jesus but they also differ from the traditional faith in core areas–denial of the Trinity, rejection of part or all of the Bible or novel views about Christ.

Cults typically reveal a perversion of the core of a religion due to self-indulgent embellishments. Think Mormons or World Wide Church of God.

World Religions

Historic traditions that include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and share very little in common, especially when it comes to core tenets of the faith.

World religions suggest the existence of a native sense of the holy in man. And then we move to explain it. Christianity is the story of the source of that holiness redeeming, adopting and glorifying man.

So, how do you decide whether a religion is compatible with Christianity? Whether it’s a cult, sect or denomination?

Simple. It needs to pass two tests–doctrinal and experiential.

Doctrinal: Is it orthodox on the key issues?

Experiential: Does it see a faith encounter with Christ alone as the pathway to being right with God?

How a religion answers these questions will determine whether it falls inside or outside orthodox Christianity.

Let me know what you think.