What Are The Types of Christianity? Christian Denominations

By Charalampos •  Updated: 01/21/23 •  9 min read

When it comes to Christianity, what picture do you have in your mind? Maybe masses in Gothic churches with beautiful organ music, or liturgies with fascinating chants in Byzantine churches decorated with ikons, or a modest-looking church where people worship God by playing various musical instruments?

Each person has his own idea of Christianity, because the types of Christianity differ greatly not only externally, but also from a theological point of view. And today we will look at the top of the largest Christian denominations to understand their differences.

Catholicism, The Largest Denomination. How Did it Happen?

Christian Denominations - Catholicism

The biggest type of Christianity is Catholicism. More than a billion people identify themselves to this denomination (1), mostly almost all of South America, central Africa and half of Europe.

But how did it happen that a denomination centered in the Vatican spread to half the world? The reason is the colonies of Spain, Portugal and France. Catholicism spread wherever colonists from these countries appeared.

For example, the former Spanish colony of the Philippines is the most Christian country in Southeast Asia. The spread of Catholicism in Mexico, Argentina and dozens more countries is also due to Spain.

In Brazil Catholicism was born thanks to Portuguese preachers, and for example in Haiti Catholicism is the dominant religion because of the French.

What are The Characteristics of Catholicism?

Catholicism (Roman Catholic Church) is a one-centrist denomination, so in order for the church to be recognized as Catholic it must at least recognize the Pope as its head. His title comes from the Greek word pappas, which means a priest.

The Pope is also considered the successor of St. Peter, who was the head of the church in Rome, as well as the head of the independent Vatican state and the vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth.

The Pope of Rome

Each new pope is elected by an assembly of cardinals. Any Catholic man can be elected, but in fact only cardinals are elected popes.

The pontiff has virtually unlimited power, he can influence not only matters of faith, but also the entire management of the church.

Any teaching of the pope that he declares officially, in other words Ex cathedra, is true and has infallibility. Thus, changes in theology can be made in Catholicism.

Read Also: The Gregorian Reform

Catholic Theology

Since theology in Catholicism can be changed by every pope, it has never been the same throughout history. New elements were periodically added to it. We will consider modern Catholic theology.

The Catholic Bible includes 73 books. To interpret the Bible, Catholics use the theological creations of the Fathers of the Church, as well as the creations of Catholic saints with the title of doctor of the church.

The Concept of God

Catholics believe in one eternal God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit.

They believe that the holy spirit comes from both the Father and the Son (filioque). The Virgin Mary, according to Catholicism, is sinless. The sacrifice of Christ is perceived as taking the blame for Adam’s sin on himself, that is, removing the guilt from human sin.

The Concept of Sin

Sin is regarded as a violation of God’s law. There is an idea of merit, a person can receive a reward from God for his actions. The Church also has the right to forgive people’s sins, which is called an indulgence. There is a confession where a person confesses his committed sins before God.

The Church has a dogma about purgatory, according to which some souls go through a temporary punishment after death.

Interesting Facts

1) Children are allowed to be baptized in infancy.

2) In 1075 Catholicism forbade priests to marry and have children.

3) Catholic churches have organ music and a choir, also other musical instruments are sometimes used.

4) Catholicism uses icons and statues to depict biblical characters and saints.

Orthodoxy, Maintenance of Traditions

Christian Denominations - Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian church in the world, with approximately 230 million people classifying themselves as Orthodox Christians.

Orthodoxy is most widespread in eastern and southeastern Europe, as well as in some parts of Asia, for example in the Russian Far East, Israel, Georgia and Lebanon. Orthodox churches are also common in America and Africa.

Related Read: Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism

What Are The Characteristics of Orthodoxy?

Officially, the head and founder of Orthodoxy is Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy includes dozens of churches that are spiritually united, but have their own patriarchs and hold services in the local language.

Orthodoxy believes the church was created by Jesus Christ by his Great Commission and that its bishops are the successors of the Apostles of Christ, who created Churches by God’s command.

Structure of The Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church has quite a complex administrative division. This was done so that when a new church is created, there would be no schism or heresy.

Every Orthodox Church has the right to grant autocephaly or independence to the new church. Also, some churches may have the status of an autonomous or self-governing church within a larger church.

Orthodox Theology

The Orthodox Church considers its theology to be true and unchangeable, it was determined by the councils of the early Church and hasn’t changed since then.

The Orthodox Church considers any new additions to theology to be heresy, therefore all other churches except Orthodoxy are recognized as heretical.

In total, the Orthodox Bible includes 77 books (Old and New Testament). The Bible is interpreted only by a common agreement of the Holy Fathers of the Church, in this way Orthodoxy is the denomination with the clearest interpretation of the Bible and theology.

The Orthodox Concept of God

Orthodox Christians believe in the Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is one God in three Hypostases. The Holy Spirit comes only from God the Father.

Jesus Christ has two natures in himself — Divine and human, therefore He is called the God-man.

Orthodoxy believes that Christ was the only sinless person, all other people are born with a damaged nature. The sacrifice of Christ is perceived as the healing of human damage that arose as a result of Adam’s sin.

Christ became the “second Adam”, but with a passionless and immortal nature, from whom any person can be “born” if he accepts the Lord.

Related Read: What is Theosis?

The Concept of Sin

Sin is considered as a spiritual damage that a person inflicts on himself. Healing can only be obtained from the Lord through repentance and faith.

The fulfillment of the commandments is considered as a manifestation of love, which protects a person from sin and heals the soul. A person is responsible only for his personal sins.

There is a sacrament of confession, during which an Orthodox Christian confesses his sins with sincere repentance.

Interesting Facts

1) In Orthodox churches, only singing of choir is allowed, playing any musical instruments is considered unacceptable.

2) Fasts have an important place in the spiritual life of Orthodox Christians. In total, there can be from 174 to 212 fasting days per year.

3) In some Orthodox countries, services are held exclusively standing. Also bowing is given special importance not only in the church, but also in private prayer. Icons are used abundantly for concentration during prayer.

4) Some Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar, as they did thousands of years ago.

5) Children are allowed to be baptized in infancy.

Protestantism, Why is it Not United?

Protestantism

36% of Christians consider themselves Protestants.

This type of Christianity is widespread in Europe and in the former English colonies, for example in the USA and Australia.

Also, a large number of churches that consider themselves Protestant have been established on many continents. However, this Christian movement is not unified and doesn’t even have a common theology.

Doesn’t Have a Common Theology? How is This Possible?

The fact is that Protestantism appeared in 1517 (Protestant Reformation) with the help of a former Catholic monk Martin Luther.

Many people supported the new Christian movement because they were dissatisfied with Catholicism. Protestantism abolished the false, in their opinion, teachings of Catholicism, but couldn’t find a model for interpreting the Bible.

Sola Scriptura

Protestant Christians refer to the Bible as the only source of doctrine. Some Protestant churches don’t recognize saints, so the interpretations of the holy fathers of the church aren’t an authority for them.

Many believe that God reveals himself to person, so anybody can independently interpret Christian teaching. The churches also don’t have a sacred tradition, so each church defines its own rules.

Due to the free interpretation of theology, there are currently thousands of Protestant churches (for example Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptists), some of which reject generally accepted Christian values and can be regarded as sects.

The Protestant Concept of God

Mostly Protestants believe that Christ is the only mediator between God and human.

Lutherans believe that those who only believe in Jesus will receive salvation and will end up in paradise after death. Many Protestant churches share the same opinion.

The concept of God can also vary, for example, Lutherans believe in the Holy Trinity, and Pentecostal Oneness believes that God is one.

The concept of sin is also different in each church. Martin Luther wrote about the sacrifice of Christ, that Christ closes our sins from God, and now we do not bear any responsibility for them.

Interesting Facts

1) Many Protestants baptize children from 10 to 12 years old, but Lutherans practice infant baptism

2) Some Protestants practice glossolalia, a speech consisting of meaningless words. This phenomenon is perceived as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

3) Protestant worship can have different forms, from classical one with the prayers of a priest and a choir, to concerts where various music is played up to modern genres.

Frequently Asked Questions

Christian Denominations

What is the Church of England?

The Church of England is an Anglican Christian church and the official state religion in the United Kingdom. Founded by King Henry VIII in 1534, the Church of England is a Protestant denomination that is part of the Anglican Communion.

How Many Types of Christianity Are There in America?

There are many types of Christianity in America, each with their own unique practices and beliefs. Orthodox Christianity is a traditional form of the faith, while Catholic Christianity is the largest Christian denomination in the country.

Protestantism is a broad term that encompasses many denominations, including Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and more.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints (or Mormons) is another major branch of American Christianity. 

Final Thoughts

Each denomination has its own unique characteristics, on the basis of which the culture of people who attend these churches is formed.

Thus, we have examined the basic concepts of the main types of Christianity, from which we can see strong differences in theology and traditions.

Charalampos

Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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