I am a fairly new Christian and am just curious if being non demoniational is a sign of confusion. I was wondering of you could explain the difference between the Baptists, Pentecostals , Methodists, and Catholics.


You are asking a lot here!!! The term non-deniminational is really not a very useful term because it is used in different ways by different people. What is a denomination? I suppose a simple answer is that it is an established Christian group which has a name.

Some like to distinguish themselves from "the denominations" by saying that they are better because they are non-denominational. There is some truth here, but we should learn to use words carefully and not use them as an excuse to bash whole groups of people who may not even ascribe to our definition of the word. The spirit behind those who claim to be non-denominational and who criticize "denominational Christians" is that it is better for us to simply follow the Bible rather than give authority to some sort of man-made and man-led religious group which probably follows some sort of man-made creed.

For myself, I can agree that taking a creed over and above the biblical statements is not a good idea. In fact, it can be dangerous. We should always stand on the authority of scripture alone for Christian theology and doctrine. Also, dividing Christians according to labels such as denominational names is unbiblical. So, I can agree in broad terms that not using human creeds as a rule of faith is probably a good idea.

However, simply saying non-denominational is good and denominational is bad is extremely simplistic. It is possible to be non-denominational and to be widely divergent from the most basic Christian teachings. It is possible to be part of a Christian group which accepts a creed and to be a Christian. So, we will probably be better off to not make all that big a deal about whether one is part of a denomination or not. My guess is that you are part of a denomination. In other words, I am guessing that you are part of a group which has a common name. If you are part of that group, some would say you are part of a denomination, by definition. Others would not call this a denomination. There you have the problem with using this word.

As for the groups you ask about, I believe you can do your own research of the teachings of the Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists and the Roman Catholics. They are widely variant, to say the least. Let me give an EXTREMELY brief synapsis.

The Baptists are part of the Reformed Christian movement. Their history and theology go back principally to Calvinism and the theology of John Calvin in the 1600s. They are noted for having independent congregations, for following Calvinist theology (most notably accepting his predestination) and for adult immersion, but rejection of baptismal regeneration (the idea that one is saved at baptism). They are generally a conservative group, which is strongly committed to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

The Pentecostals actually have fairly similar theological background to Baptists, but their greatest emphasis is on the miraculous spiritual gifts. Most are Calvinistic in theology and conservative in doctrine–accepting biblical inspiration. What distinguishes them is that they focus a very great amount of attention on tongue-speaking, healings and other supposed miraculous gifts. It is difficult for those strongly committed to Pentacostalism to be united with Christian groups which do not accept the existence of apostolic miraculous gifts today.

The Methodists derived from the Anglican Church (Church of England) in the 1700s. They focus on adult conversion and reject Calvinism. Methodism was founded by John Wesley who was a revivalist preacher. They have a very highly organized and heirarchical structure. They stress holiness of members (although this has weakened somewhat more recently). They do not believe in adult baptism for forgiveness of sins.

The Roman Catholic Church is the only one on your list which can trace its history back to the original Christian Church. Generally, Catholic theology is biblical but Catholic practices vary widely from biblical practice. Catholics tend to give greater honor to tradition of the church than to biblical authority. They accept much more human tradition as part of their practice than most other Christian groups. Yet, they believe that baptism is for salvation. Like the Methodists, they practice infant baptism. They believe in sacraments–the idea that an ordained person can perform acts which lead, in part, to salvation of people. Arguably, sacramentalism and the acceptance of church tradition are the chief things which separate Catholics from other groups.

I hope this can get you started. You really should do your own research into these religious groups. When you do so, I suggest you not simply study these groups in order to find where they have gone wrong. You will be able to learn some things from these denominations, whether or not you accept their overall model for Christianity.

John Oakes

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