Thinking Out Loud

May 19, 2014

Classifying Christian Denominations

In the last several hundred years at least, we have placed Christians into one of three categories:

  • Orthodox
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant

Further refinement of the latter group, especially in the last fifty years or so, often results in something that looks like this:

  • Orthodox
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant
    • Mainline Protestant
    • Evangelical

In Australia, Evangelical is written as EPC: Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics. Separating Pentecostals from Evangelicals isn’t something I would want to do, but I can see something that looks like this:

  • Orthodox
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant
    • Mainline Protestant
    • Evangelical
      • Mainstream Evangelical
      • Charismatic

So where am I going with this?  The last five to ten years have seen an increased growth in, and increasing isolation by the New Reformed movement.  The Young, Restless and Reformed movement is militantly distancing itself from the rest of us. Do I place them as another breakout of Evangelical?

Because one would need to include the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in this, some would not permit me the luxury of including the Reformers under Evangelical, since CRC churches baptize infants, not adults.  So that leaves us with:

  • Orthodox
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant
    • Mainline Protestant
    • Reformed
    • Evangelical
      • Mainstream Evangelical
      • Charismatic

I really don’t like having to do this, but I feel this presents a more accurate picture of the way things stand in 2014.

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8 Comments »

  1. Just one minor item…you’re missing a branch in your taxonomy. Anabaptist groups, for the most part, resist being called “Protestant” because “Protestant” usually denotes a group like Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican etc., in opposition to the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox “high” churches.

    Comment by Robert Martin — May 19, 2014 @ 8:45 am

    • True. On the basis of what you’re saying, they should be a fourth primary branch; but I’ve never heard of or seen that done before.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 19, 2014 @ 9:19 am

      • Anabaptists (like me) call it “the third way”… :-) Of course, that ignores the Orthodox branch so it would be relativized as “the third Western way” with Orthodox being “Eastern”.

        Comment by Robert Martin — May 19, 2014 @ 9:21 am

    • I should mention that I’m a fan (and personal acquaintance) of Bruxy Cavey and find myself increasingly persuaded by the things he and Greg Boyd teach.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 19, 2014 @ 10:07 am

      • Heh… then you should probably appreciate this…

        Comment by Robert Martin — May 19, 2014 @ 10:09 am

    • Easy to see where the “nerds” part comes from. Some people have waaaay too much time on their hands.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 19, 2014 @ 10:29 am

  2. And don’t forget emergent, seeker, and purpose driven. It is getting ridiculous how we continue to want to place ourselves in boxes. But such is human nature. Paul had to address this error in Corinthians where he lambasted those who divided themselves among the apollos church, the Peter church and the Paul church. If we could only see from Jesus perspective in Heaven there is One Church, One Bride and He is The Lord of all.

    Comment by Ralph Juthman — May 19, 2014 @ 9:42 am

    • And missional. But these deal more with the approach to Sunday worship than anything deeply theological. And I remember reading a few months ago that the term “emergent” has run its course already. I’m posting this subject today only to show the extent to which I feel the Reformed see themselves and are now seen as their own distinct community. But that’s largely their doing.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 19, 2014 @ 10:02 am


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