Having Trouble With Defining Other Christian Groups

So I was having an idle thought about the different non-Catholic Christian groups who are neither Orthodox nor Eastern. From what I would group the different denominations of Christianity I would group them into four: Catholic, Eastern/Oriental (those Christian churches who trace their roots to groups who were loyal to Nestorius and Arius in the early years of Christianity), Orthodox and Protestant. I might be wrong about the Eastern/Oriental one but that’s for another thread.

From my knowledge (and, I admit to my bias) Protestants are those Christian groups who do not recognize themselves as Catholic, Eastern or Orthodox. In short, everyone else. Even I would put non-denominationals in the Protestant category. It kinda surprised me when my Norwegian friend who was Lutheran seemed to quiz me that I put Evangelicals in the same group as them. It was obvious since that Lutherans worship differently than Evangelical Protestants, but somehow they belong to the same tradition of sola scriptura which is common in my Protestant/“everyone else” category.

And then I found this in one of my old threads:

Protestants normally refer to Churches that broke away from Rome during the Reformation or is a splinter of one such church. Some Protestants keep to the strict definition that Protestants refer only to those churches that broke away during the Reformation while those that split off such churches are called Evangelicals (which is confusing because the Evangelical Lutheran broke off directly from Rome during the Reformation and is not a splinter church). Pentecostal churches are not Protestants by this definition and usually categorise themselves (further confusion here) as Evangelicals.


Also from what I understand in the quoted text above, Protestants include those churches who broke off from Rome during the Reformation (Lutherans, Reformed, Anglicans, etc.). Then Methodists and Baptists came in when they set up their own church when they broke from those churches, and after that came a period up to today where lots of churches emerged who are usually grouped as either Evangelicals, Adventists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and even non-denominationals. All of them from what I know follow the sola scriptura tradition.

What I’m having trouble is defining those churches which emerged from the Reformation churches, most especially Evangelicals, Adventists, Pentecostals and Charismatics. I have a book with me about the different religions of the world, but even then their definitions are a bit vague. I can’t search in Wikipedia either because it’ll be very confusing.

I’m looking for how to define these groups in their religious practices and doctrines. This thread is to recognize these Christian groups and not to debate on doctrine.

This won’t help you much, but I’d just point out that there are plenty of Lutherans and Anglicans who would call themselves Catholic; plenty who would call themselves Evangelical; and some who would call themselves Charismatic.
And of course there are charismatic and evangelical modes within Roman Catholicism.
Complicated stuff, isn’t it, especially as these terms have a tendency to shift meaning somewhat over time.

Yes, as Picky says, anyone that says the Nicene creed affirms the catholic church, so that is why there is “Catholic” and there is “catholic.” From my own “protestant” perspective, labels are just there for ease of categorization, which can be dangerous in and of itself. We usually see at least 3 branches of the church; Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. There are some groups that don’t fit easily into one of those branches (the Church of England would be one).

Within the protestant camp, it can usually be split into liturgical churches and non-liturgical churches. Most “Evangelical” churches would be in the non-liturgical camp, but not all.

On definition I have seen of Protestants is, any ecclesiastical christian community founded after the 1600’s or derived from one that was.

OK, I can go along with this except with one minor change. We need a “Other” category for those churches that are not Catholic, Eastern/Oriental, Orthodox or Protestant. For example, the LDS Church and its offshoots are not Protestant. Likewise, a group like Jehovah’s Witnesses is not Protestant either.

See below for my definition of “Protestant.”

I disagree. Protestants are not “everyone else” but a specific (albeit incredibly broad) umbrella label for many different denominations and traditions that were founded during or emerged after the Protestant Reformation AND hold to the principles of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide while agreeing with the teaching found in the Nicene Creed (aka all Protestants are Trinitarian Christians).

My definition of Protestant would include everything from Lutherans to Pentecostals (except for non-Trinitarian Pentecostals who would be included in the “Other Christian” category).

Yes, because most non-denominational churches teach Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and believe in the Trinity. If a non-denominational church did not teach one or all of these teachings, it would not be Protestant but something else.

It is worth noting that Evangelicalism is trans-denominational, so it is possible for there to be a Lutheran who is also part of Evangelicalism. However, a more traditional Lutheran probably would feel that Evangelicalism was distasteful.

Still, both are Protestants. Protestantism is a broad umbrella, so no one should be offended by being placed in the same category. It does not mean you agree with each other on everything. It simply means you share a few central ideas and concepts that have their origin in the same movement (the Protestant Reformation).


I don’t agree with this definition. This poster is confusing the different usages of “evangelical” that exist. Within Protestant history, the term has been used in 2 important ways.

Martin Luther referred to his teaching and his followers as evangelisch, which in English translates to evangelical. Lutherans continue this tradition by referring to their churches as the “Evangelical Church.” In United States, for example, there is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Evangelicalism, however, refers to a separate movement within Protestantism that began in Great Britain and its North American colonies in the 18th century. Historically, what is called Evangelicalism in English speaking countries is often referred to as Pietism in German-speaking, Lutheran countries.

No serious Evangelical I know claims that Evangelicalism is not Protestant. Evangelicals have always claimed that they stood for Protestant orthodoxy (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and the Trinity) as the historical Protestant churches have drifted hopelessly into theological modernism and heresy. Pentecostals call themselves Evangelicals to distinguish themselves from other Protestants who do not subscribe to Evangelicalism and to ally themselves with other Evangelicals, but we still consider ourselves Protestants. ’

(See next post for continuation)

Yes, however, since the 19th century many Anglicans have decided that they are not Protestant and prefer to be called Anglo-Catholic. Often, you will see Anglicanism listed separately from Protestantism because many Anglicans get offended when they are lumped together with other Protestants, even though many Anglicans do consider themselves Protestants and historically they always have been Protestant.

Yes and all of them are Protestants (I’m not entirely sure what Adventists believe. If they believe in Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and the Trinity then in my opinion they are Protestant).

Evangelicals can include Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, and any other Protestant. It is a trans-denominational movement. It crosses denominational lines.

Pentecostalism is a particular Protestant family, like Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists. They have their own ecclesiastical and doctrinal histories. Their pedigree is as follows:

*]Catholic Church (Western Christianity)
*]Church of England
*]Wesleyan-Holiness Movement (Wesleyan Church, Church of the Nazarene, etc.)

The Charismatic Movement is another trans-denominational movement. It originates from the spread of Pentecostal teaching on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit into first Mainline Protestant churches and then into the Catholic Church. A Charismatic Christian is not defined by belief in Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide. Charismatics are defined by their belief in the continuation of the spiritual gifts and an emphasis on the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, even Catholics can be Charismatic and many of them are.

What all this simply means is that Protestants can’t even agree on who is a Protestant.

As my old PROTESTANT pastor said, “When it comes to Theology, Protestants couldn’t agree how far to spit.”

Protestant was a label bestowed, not a label that the group came up with, hence it’s kind of left up to the groups that bestowed it to define it. :shrug:

For accuracy sake, I’d say call each group what they are rather than lumping them into one. If you want to lump them, then call they non Catholic Christians which is accurate, but not Protestant, which is not accurate.

Some groups are reconstructionist, using scripture to try to recreate what they believe to be the early and thus correct Christian Church.

They don’t consider themselves as having broken away from anything, rather they are going back to square one rather than breaking off at square 9 or square 109.

Some groups like Mormons believe in further inspired scripture and are in yet another category.

Inaccuracy for the sake of simplicity does no good service.

Protestants are the result of Luther’s break with Roman Catholicism.

Groups that sprang up later, based on different understandings of Christian Cosmology have their own history etc.

Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness’ are technically not Christian. To be Christian you have to believe in the Trinitarian God, which they do not…

A good, clear definition of a protestant church would be a christian church founded by men who broke away from the Catholic Church in the 16th century or those churches that broke away from them.

What about in how they do their practices? Are Charismatics more intense in their worship than Pentecostals?

It depends. Some Pentecostals are very intense and other Pentecostals are not. Some Charismatics are intense while others are not.

Pentecostals will tend to emphasize the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in other tongues as a physical sign and full consummation of this Baptism. Furthermore, Pentecostals will emphasize the necessary cleansing and purgation that must occur before one can receive Spirit baptism. Traditionally, this “tarrying in Jerusalem” has been a prominent feature of Pentecostal prayer meetings.

Charismatics, especially those from more liturgical backgrounds, take a more “sacramental approach.” They are less likely to use the term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” and prefer terminology such as “being filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is often seen less as a one time event or goal that you must attain (as Pentecostals often unintentionally portray it) and more of a dimension of Christian life that is ongoing. Speaking in tongues is not as prominent as it is in Pentecostal churches.

Non-liturgical charismatics do not emphasize sanctification as a necessary pre-requisite for Spirit Baptism as Pentecostals do. Tongues are not as emphasized.

I think that the label “protestant” is becoming obsolete these days. Many evangelicals don’t want to identify themselves with the mainline protestant churches. The lines between denominations are blurring and christians tend not to identify with a specific protestant denomination. I took the label of protestant in this forum to plainly distinguish myself from catholics, but If I’m asked what my faith is I always answer “christian”. I envision all true followers of Christ as christians.

Yes the title “Protestant” is being abandoned by many. Especially members of denominations that falsely name themselves “non-denominational”. So called ‘non-denominational’ Christians are Protestants by definition. What really bothers me is when people call themselves “just Christians” or “Christian”. They come across as thinking they are the ONLY Christians, and people who agree with them are the only Christians to exist. But even “just Christians” do not agree with each other in their “just Christian” churches. And heaven forbid that anyone think they are mainline Protestants, Mainline Christians are 'too liberal" and do not worship the paper and ink bible enough for “just Christians”.

I am very aware of this because I was raised in a sect that called itself “undenominational”.
This sect thought they were the only Christians in the world. Everyone else they called “non Christians” or “members of denominations”. This sect truly worshipped the bible as an idol. The preacher would quote the bible with “God said, or says”. Anything not specifically ordered (they called this authorized) to be done in be done in the bible was “unauthorised” was automatically forbade them. Even simple things like candles and organs were considered “not of God” and forbade. This sect in effect played “bible may I”.

This church was founded to “restore” Christian unity. And yet they have split many times over such issues as whether or not to use wee cuppies for the grape juice or a single chalice they pass around. Another issue is to have Sunday school classes or not, and many more.

These people with no history (founded in 1906) claim to be the only church and all others are hell bound. So one must assume that everyone who died before 1906 is in hell. :eek:

While we’re on the subject of non-denominationals, how would you classify this church? Pentecostal? Charismatic? My best friend used to go there before he (finally) reverted back to the Catholic Church.

And is there such a thing as a non-denominational church when in fact they’re just Pentecostal or Charismatic but deny themselves as such in name?

Then they are either Pentecostal or Charismatic, both of which are …DENOMINATIONS.

Exactly. They believe something and reject most of the doctrines of Catholicism and the Orthodox. There is no such thing as “non-denominational”.

It’s hard to tell. I looked, but couldn’t find their doctrinal statement anywhere on their website. They could be Pentecostal/Charismatic, perhaps even teach the Prosperity Gospel. :shrug:

There are several ways that the word “denomination” is used. The first way is to refer to theological categorization–you believe this therefore you are this. The second way the word is used is to refer to institutional identities. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention is a Baptist denomination in the United States (16 million members, 14 thousand congregations). The American Baptist Churches USA is another Baptist denomination in the United States (1 million members, 5 thousand congregations). When people say their church is “non-denominational,” they are using the word “denomination” in the second sense.

For example:

The Assemblies of God is a Pentecostal denomination (66 million members worldwide, 357 thousand congregations). The Church of the Foursquare Gospel is another Pentecostal denomination (8 million members worldwide, 60 thousand congregations).

The Association of Vineyard Churches is neo-charismatic denomination (15 hundred congregations worldwide).

The Episcopal Church (USA) is an Anglican denomination that includes charismatic Christians among its membership (2 million members, 6 thousand parishes).

I’ve actually been to some of their small meetings which they call “Life Groups”, but from what I know they don’t preach the Prosperity Gospel. Based on my experience they don’t even bother about doctrine and they merely say that they “just love God” and “it’s not about religion” even though they clearly are following a religion. They also have a strict rule about romantic relationships in that they don’t allow people to date until they have jobs.

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