To some extent, Christian denominations can be seen as ways to ‘do church’ differently. Usually, what sets denominations apart is their take on certain biblical subjects, beliefs, interpretations, and practices. Variations on a recipe, if you will. In some denominations, the style of the church gathering is different; others have different perspectives on topics such as the meaning of baptism or the proper response to contemporary cultural issues. In each magazine issue, weíll highlight a couple of denominations and try to sum up some of the differences, some subtle, some more major. Only you and God can decide which denomination is the best fit for you, but itís important to know what different denominations believe and practice.
Notable Distinction: In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk and professor, posted The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, speaking out against the practices of indulgences, and this action led to the formation of the Lutheran denomination, the first Protestant denomination to branch off from the Catholic church.
Written Statements of Beliefs: The numerous theses that Martin Luther and the confessions of he and other early Lutheran leaders, helped establish common doctrine and practices that are considered essential by all Lutherans. This ‘guide book’ is today called the Book of Concord and represents the Lutheran formal position on biblical principles and practices.
Baptism: The Lutherans stress that baptism is commanded by God and that infant and adult believers alike should be baptized to be cleansed from sin, saved from the power of Satan, and given everlasting life.
Notable Lutherans: Martin Luther, Composer Johann Sebastian Bach, Director John Woo
For more information try the websites of the two largest Lutheran church bodies in America at www.elca.org and www.lcms.org or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world at www.evl.fi/english/index.html
Notable Distinction: Baptists are typically considered Protestant. Some distinctive tenets are that salvation is by grace through faith alone and not grace/faith plus baptism or ritual or church membership. Baptists believe in the self-governing of the local Baptist churches and local congregational determination of pastors and other church leaders. Historically, they have played an important role in encouraging the separation of church and state and religious freedom.
Written Statements of Beliefs: They have no official written doctrine but instead have different Baptist associations of churches, societies, conventions, fellowships, unions and alliances. The American Baptist Churches (ABC) states, “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.”
Baptism: The name Baptist comes from the conviction that Jesus Christ commanded believers to be baptized, which Baptists interpret as immersion in water as a public display of their faith and a sign of their conscious decision to follow God. Because of this, most Baptists reject infant baptism.
Notable Baptists: Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan and Billy Graham.