Whether Christianity is essentially one sect, and the consequences of our answer.

One cannot be a Christian, or even get an essential grasp of Christianity, without giving a definitive answer to whether Christianity is essentially determined to a particular sect. It is now commonly accepted that Christianity is not essentially determined to one sect.

If Christianity is essentially determined to one sect, then whoever is not a part of that one sect is essentially unchristian. It is perhaps out of a feeling of tolerance or niceness or fear of sectarian division we tend to all adopt the opinion that Chirstianity is not determined to one sect.

But if Christianity is not determined to one sect, then clearly one not need be a member of any sect to be Christian, and further one need not believe anything that is peculiar to a particular sect, nor follow any of its rules. Even if there were something common to more than one sect, a person could still judge it to belong to “institutional” Christianity, and therefore judge that he need not follow it.

And so if we believe Christianity is not essentially determined to one sect, we are forced to believe that true Christianity is found in individualized Christianity, as opposed to institutional Christianity. Individualized Christianity means that the individual gets to determine the observances and doctrines.

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5 Comments

  1. Led Zep said,

    June 1, 2006 at 9:22 am

    It seems to me there is some unclarity in your argument.
    “But if Christianity is not determined to one sect, then clearly one not need be a member of any sect to be Christian . . .”
    This just doesn’t follow as stated. Compare it to this: “But if being a mammal is not determined to some one species, then clearly one need not be a member of any species to be a mammal.” Why can’t it be the case that the “something common to more than one sect” is something crucial, although not determinative of a particular sect? In that case it could be true that Christianity is not determined to one sect, and yet one would have to be a member of some sect. Suppose a sort of (absurdly) minimalist ecclesiology: any sect where two or three (or more) gather in Christ’s name is ipso facto a Christian sect.
    Maybe I’m just misunderstanding you: just what do you mean by a “sect,” and how would it divide up what is know today as institutional Christianity? Are you saying that the Orthodox, for example, are “essentially un-Christian”?

  2. shulamite8810 said,

    June 1, 2006 at 10:10 am

    LEt me try it another way: Something is essential to Christianity (say, belief in Christ’s humanity). Is being a member of some one particular sect essential?

  3. shulamite8810 said,

    June 1, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    The contemporary response to that question is “no”, but Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Joseph Smith would say “yes”. In fact, I think the idea that there is no one true sect that is essentially Christian is a very recent development.

  4. June 3, 2006 at 11:49 am

    Perhaps the analogy of mammal is not a good one, for a species belongs to a genus in a different way than parts to a whole (that is a particular sect of Christianity is a part of “Christianity” simply). Remember the close etymological derivation of “sect” and “sector” and think of Christianity as a pie, with each sector being a different “denomination”. I think this analogy applies better to the original statement.

  5. uccoalition said,

    September 24, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I think that the truth is there is there is one God, and one Christ and if you do not have that one Christ as your savoir and serve the one true God then you are “un-Christian”. We tend to complicate things too much, there is one Gospel that saves… Christ was born to a virgin, he died to cleanse us of our sins and he rose again to give us life, that is all that really matters, when you accept this you are a Christian. This is an interesting topic see my topic about the unity of Christians Visit me I would love to get your thoughts…


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