Are Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Science actually Christian?

I have heard views from both sides, that they either are or are not. Now I ask this because ironically, some Protestant Christians claim that Catholics are not really Christian. However, the notion that just because someone believes in Jesus does not make someone a Christian. I say this because even in Islam, Jesus is regarded as a major prophet. Do these groups meet the definition of Christianity or do their beliefs make it so they actually are not Christians? I know all of these groups self identify as Christian, but does someone actually have to believe in the trinity to be a Christian? Or does that alone make someone not? I just wanted opinions on this. I know people who are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and they adamantly claim that they are in fact “true” Christians.

It depends on who you ask. If you ask the religious group itself (say, Jehovah’s Witnesses) how they define themselves, that is one answer (yes, they are Christian). It’s probably the most important answer.

If you ask another faith group (for instance the Roman Catholic Church) how they categorize a faith community (for instance, the LDS Church), that answer is good primarily for those who members of that group. It doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight outside.

If you ask a scholar who is doing research on faith communities (say PEW), they would have their own categorizations.

You brought up Islam. Both Islam and Judaism recognize Jesus as an historical figure. That does not mean that they worship him as a Christian would. They would NOT be classified as Christian, nor want to be.

Some scholars agree on faith communities that have ‘irregular’ beliefs in that they don’t know how to categorize them, so they tend to just put them to the side. I think that some scholars are looking at LDS as a fourth Abrahamic branch rather than including it in mainstream Christianity. It’s an interesting concept. Time will tell.

The most important answer is the one that is true. I could define myself as an inter-space monster made up out of cheese. The fact that I “feel” that way would not mean my view is the most important.

Unfortunately, one result of Protestantism has been this sort of subjectivism which even makes it impossible to define what a Christian is, and what it means to be a follower of Christ. Add to this modernism, and this idea that all Christian doctrine is malleable, and we have a right old mess on our hands.

I would propose, as a simple fundamental, that a Christian is one who at least can affirm the Nicene creed in good faith. Many of the groups listed here could not do so, because they have a problematic understanding of the nature of Christ. They therefore could not be considered Christian.

What defines a Christian body is their baptism. If they don’t baptize as the Church defines it, their baptisms are not acceptable. They are quasi-Christian bodies in that they claim Christ, but they are not recognized as baptized members of Christ’s body.

This doesn’t mean they cannot be saved, but it does mean they would have to be baptized with a baptism the Church recognizes if they wanted to be reconciled to the Catholic Church.

Beautifully put, +1.

You are correct in using the RCC guidelines for defining a Christian body of faith. But that is only one category of definition.

And that’s a serious problem, as I see it, because if everyone can make his own definition, no definition will do–and where does that lead us but to the chaos we now see in the world that has embraced relativism instead of truth.

Ah, but that is the reality of our history. We are always trying to sort out the definition of who is a believer and what is necessary for that belief to take hold. It goes back to the Apostles. Read through Galatians again, or a history of the dispute there. It was all about ‘You have to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in order to be a true Christian.’

I don’t think there has ever been in time in the history of Christianity when we haven’t argued who is orthodox and who is not.

Actually most scholars already have a fourth Abrahamic religion, the Bahai Faith. But I do see what you are saying.

And read Acts 15–they settled that issue pretty early on.

I don’t think there has ever been in time in the history of Christianity when we haven’t argued who is orthodox and who is not.

As long as people want to believe whatever they like instead of the truth entrusted to the Apostles it will be so, however, that is why Christ established his Church–she has the final say on matters of faith and morals.

This is really the answer right here.

It also hints at the different aspects that one can be Christian.

Ultimately, one can be saved even if that person is not a formal member of the Catholic Church, any apostolic church (Orthodox churches), a traditional Christian church, or even if that person has never confessed Christ fully. So in a sense, that person who is saved is Christian, and many people outside of the Christian fold may be part of the Church by grace and charity of God, whether they know it or not.

Historically and academically, there may be a sense these particular groups are “Christian” even though they reject some of the most fundamental beliefs of Christianity, such as the Trinity and even monotheism (e.g., in Mormon belief). They spring forth from Christian foundations and follow Christ from their particular perspectives.

In another sense, only the Catholic Church is fully Christian because only those who are formal members of the Catholic Church benefit from full unity and the access of graces that God wishes his people to have.

But traditionally, from the Catholic perspective, what makes someone Christian is a valid Trinitarian baptism.

Della’s answer is correct for all of orthodox Christianity. Lutherans agree; it is through Baptism that we are grafted onto Christ and received into His church.

Groups like the Mormons are not Christian (at least, if individuals are, it is by accident) because their Baptisms are not performed with the intention of invoking the Triune God. Instead, they baptize in the name of their own god(s).

Yes, many mainline/Orthodox Christians believe in this form of Baptism, and recognize each other’s Baptisms as valid. No one is saying differently. However, that is how faith groups categorize each other. It has nothing to do with how groups define themselves.

You would have to say, ‘My tradition defines a Christian group as one having this kind of Baptism. However, another group may understand themselves Christians by another criteria.’ (Like belief in Jesus, for instance.)

But we shouldn’t want to keep them in their ignorance by telling them that however they define themselves is perfectly fine, do we? They are being deprived of all that God wants for them, and in many cases seriously damaged by not having access to all of God’s graces. Definitions are important. Only a fool thinks that his own definition must be good/right. Rather he should want to know the truth no matter what is costs. People don’t think that way, especially in modern times, but they ought to–and it’s our duty to help them come to the truth in love, but we can’t accept their deifinition of who is a Christian to accommodate their error(s). They need to hear the truth, if at all possible.

When you say “fourth” I suppose you are including Muslims as the third. But I think that is a mistaken use of the word. Historically, the Christian Church came into being as a splinter group within Judaism. That is why the term “Abrahamic” can meaningfully cover both Judaism and Christianity. But the origin of Islam, historically, is totally independent. It is not “Abrahamic” in any meaningful sense of the term. As applied to Islam, it’s really no more than a courtesy title.

Affirm the Creed and be validly baptized as a follower of Christ. Absent a better definition by an expert, I’d go with this.

On another website I have had an interesting dialog, over quite a long period, with a Seventh Day Adventist. On that basis I would answer, Yes, the SDAs are quite definitely Christians. They follow the New Testament strictly, though of course they have some rather peculiar interpretations of certain passages.

I’ve never had any direct personal contact with either Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, though I have a close friend whose mother and brother are (were) Jehovah’s Witnesses. From what he told me, I think it’s safe to say that the JWs are outside the Christian religion, however loosely you choose to define that term.

I can’t think of a single scholar who doesn’t consider Islam to be one of the three Abrahamic Religions. It’s pretty standard. Islam comes from Abraham through Hagar. And of course all three believe in the one, monotheistic God. We are all cousins.

I’m a proponent of listening to others, studying their beliefs on their terms and allowing those beliefs to define them. I try to remain especially mindful of the sensitivity others may have about their beliefs (Lutherans aren’t exactly a majority religion, after all). But I also favor being reasonable. A relativistic approach to Truth is neither enlightened nor honest – what it is, is, frankly, stupid.

I can call myself a cat. I can believe myself to be one. I even can redefine existing terminology so that what you silly creatures call H. sapiens are actually F. catus (Just buy my book and I’ll convince you to stop pro-cat-stinating, scratch out a paws-itive cattitude, and pounce on your life – and the next eight, too! Services start at 8:00am on Caturdays. Bring a friend to join us in our hunt for personal purr-fection.). Most taxonomists, however, would agree that I am not, in fact, F. catus. Why? Because taxonomy, in general, has already determined the defining qualities of each family, genus and species to better identify and understand it.

Using similar or even identical terminology to communicate a fundamentally different concept does not change underlying Truth. That’s true of cat people, Shakespeare’s roses, things that look and quack like ducks, and everything else that has a name.

There’s a point at which orthodoxy ceases. For 2000 years, Christians have been marked by Baptism. Who are you to change that? The U.S. Supreme Court?

The gap between Hagar and Mohammed amounts to something like two thousand years. So what does it mean to assert that “Islam comes from Abraham through Hagar”?

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