What makes a religion Christian?

I’m wondering in what sources the official Catholic teaching on what constitutes a Christian religion is laid out.

Like what criteria do we judge by?


J. S. Sebastiano P.

Just my opinion so not necessarily authoritative but it makes logical sense to me that in order for a religion to be considered Christian, those associated with it would have to subscribe to and accept the tenants in “The Apostles’ Creed” which is the Christian statement of faith for all, not just Catholic Christians.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN."

I’m no Roman Catholic, but I’ll add my two cents anyway.

One way to tell if a group is Christian is whether or not they follow and obey Christ.

That is also a good criterion for separating the false from the true. When you start looking into what mormons, jw, muslims, etc believe about Christ you see their falsehood revealed.

I would agree that the Apostles’ Creed is an excellent “standard” to which you can judge other faiths to see if they’re Christian.

Indeed, I’d go further and say that the Nicene Creed would be an even better standard.

At a minimum it requires belief in the Trinity to be considered Christian.

The Church has ruled on several sects and their baptisms (Mormon, for example) regarding validity due to their incorrect understanding of the Trinity. The Church deems these non-Christian sects due to their denial of the Trinity.

“Believing” in Jeus or “following Jesus” are not sufficient criteria. It is not merely believing something about Jesus but WHAT we believe that matters.

What makes a religion Christian is having a valid Baptism.
That is as Jesus commanded, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit/Ghost”
Baptisms “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”(Or anything other than the Trinitarian formula) are not valid.
So Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, etc are not Christians.

But the LDS and JW’s do obey the teachings of Christ. That is not the criterion used to determine if they are Christian. It is something else. But, what is it?

I think a religion is Christian if they believe in a triune God. For example, sects that “follow Jesus” but don’t believe him to be God are not really Christians, in my opinon.

The Apostle’s Creed is quite frankly a Catholic statement of belief, even if non-Catholic sects have adopted it. Also in my experience those who use it generally consider themselves Catholic (even though their not) such as the Anglicans, or Orthodox.

As far as what makes a religion Christian, I would have to say that it necessarily involves (attempting to) worshiping the Christian God; ie. the Triune God.


You are asking a number of related questions, but they are still too disparate to have a united answer.

I would like to address only the last question.

To be Christian is to believe Jesus the Christ is God.

Everything else is personal dogma.

To stop believing that Jesus the Christ is God is to stop being Christian.

This begs the question, can one believe that Jesus is God, but have false supporting dogma?

Certainly, history is replete with examples.

Does it mean that to claim one believes in Jesus is to believe in Jesus?

Certainly not, history is replete with examples.

Is any other belief required to be Christian?

No, but other beliefs may lead to the defining belief.


All baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are truly Christian and our brother and sister…:slight_smile:


Is it necessary to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be Christian?

What did Jesus say to the one being crucified with Him?

Is baptism indispensable?


Believe in the Apostles Creed

The Orthodox do not use the Apostle’s Creed. They use the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

Actually, it is subscription to the Nicene Creed. The Apostles Creed is the ancient creed of Baptism, but the Nicene Creed, with or without the Filioque, is a fuller statement of faith, and contains responses to several common heresies, especially Arianism.

Good point. When I was a student at Duke Divinity School, in my introductory theology class, we had a conversation about whether an Arian could recite the Apostle’s Creed in good faith. It was agreed that an Arian could indeed recite the Apostle’s Creed in good faith (not that the Apostle’s Creed is Arian, but that it could be given an Arian interpretation), but not the Nicene Creed.

Whether or not a church has a valid Baptism is a separate issue to whether or not they are Christian, just as whether or not a church has a valid Eucharist is a separate issue from whether or not it is a Christian church.

I am inclined to categorize anyone as a Christian who believes that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. But I don’t think there is one definition that can be accepted by everyone.

Nor do I think that the term matters that much. Paul states that all who build on the foundation that he has given (which presumably is nearly the same as what is laid out in the Bible) will be saved but that their building will be tested by fire. Some Christian churches have built flimsy structures on that foundation and some have build vast portions outside of that foundation. Some non-Christians have inadvertently built on that foundation and will be saved. What each religion is called is of no import to whether or not it leads to salvation.

To those who might object that the term Christian should be reserved only to those who are most close to the true faith, I would reply that we are called has no meaning and can lead to the false impression that all Christians are equally saved and equally valid.


Your definition then includes Mormons as Christians.

Your notion of equally saved and equally valid is a judgement. If you recognize that the OHCAC teaches that you and I and anyone else is a Christian by virtue of their Baptism in the trinitarian formula then the responsibility after that is entirely theirs…you would be on track.:slight_smile:

I had a very weird conversation with someone who appeared to be applying Sola Scriptura techniques to a particular English translation of the Nicene Creed. They insisted, against all evidence of the purpose and beliefs of the writers, and the structure of the Creed, that “eternally begotten of the Father” referred to Jesus being born of Mary, and ‘eternally’ just meant that God intended it from the beginning. This was on the basis that ‘begotten always mean actually being physically born: that’s what the word means’ and that it was ‘obvious’ and anything else was ‘ridiculous’.

Once I pulled out the Latin and the Greek, they disengaged, but I don’t think they were convinced. I think no Creed is foolproof, and you can recite the Nicene Creed while
holding some very strange views on what it means, even when Catholics might think these interpretations were obviously unsupportable.

Sola Scriptura…a latin phrase meaning the Scripture alone…to an English translation of the Nicene Creed. I am having one heck of a time wrapping my head around that…

What would you say are Sola Scriptura techniques?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.