3 Main Branches of Christianity

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A Very Brief Overview of the
Three Main Branches
of Christianity
Catholicism,
Eastern Orthodox,
Protestantism
Catholicism
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

Also called Roman Catholicism
Dates from the 1st century CE
Organized by diocese, each headed by a
bishop
◦ All report to bishop of Rome (Pope), tradition
holds St. Peter was the first
Major challenges to the Church came in 16th
century with the rise of Protestantism.
 Catholic response was to correct abuses and
reaffirm teachings / doctrines (i.e. the
Council of Trent)

Catholic Beliefs
good works + faith = salvation
 seven sacraments (vital to salvation)
 Eucharist (Communion)—real presence of
Christ entered through transubstantiation
 Church is essential to the mediation of
God's love and grace to the world
 Priests cannot marry
 Belief in the Trinity
 Purgatory
 Ritual / tradition in services

Eastern Orthodox



Split from the Western (Roman) Church in
1054, when the pope and the patriarch of
Constantinople excommunicated each other.
Today, approximately 150 million to 200
million followers of the Eastern Orthodox
Church.
Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean, and
Russia, and there is a growing population in
the United States.
Orthodox Beliefs




Seven sacraments
Bishops must be unmarried or widowed.
Priests and deacons are generally married men.
Four ancient patriarchates of the church:
◦
◦
◦
◦
Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey),
Alexandria (Egypt),
Antioch (Damascus, Syria),
Jerusalem
Plus 11 others around the world
Each of the churches is governed by a bishop, known
as a patriarch, archbishop, or metropolitan.
 Although the four ancient patriarchates (esp.
Constantinople) are regarded as the highest, they are
all officially treated as having equal weight in the
church.


Protestantism
Umbrella term for traditions that came
about after the Reformation (1517 =
Martin Luther)
 Widespread due to printing press, desire
to return Catholic Church to its purer
ways
 Luther was concerned with papal
authority, indulgences, and the Church’s
teaching on salvation
 Many denominations, many differences!!

Protestant Beliefs
Justification (salvation) by grace (obtained
through faith in Christ) alone, not works
(sola fide)
 Bible = truth. Church not needed to
interpret it
 “Priesthood of all believers” means all
people have access to God, not just clergy
 Services stress Biblical preaching
 Generally, reject clerical celibacy
(exceptions, i.e. Shakers)

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