The Four Marks of the Church, also known as the Attributes of the Church,describes four distinctive adjectives of traditional Christian ecclesiology as expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed completed at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
This ecumenical creed is today recited in the liturgies of the Catholic Church (both Latin and Eastern Rites), the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Moravian Church, the Lutheran Churches, the Methodist Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, the Anglican Communion, and by members of the Reformed Churches,although they interpret it in very different ways, and some Protestants alter the word "Catholic" in the creed, replacing it with the word "Christian".
While many doctrines, based on both tradition and different interpretations of the Bible, distinguish one denomination from another (largely explaining why there are many different ones), the Four Marks represent a summary of what many clergy and theologians have historically considered to be the most important affirmations of Christianity.
The ideas behind the Four Marks have been in the Christian Church since early Christianity. Allusions to them can be found in the writings of 2nd-century early Church Father and bishop Ignatius of Antioch. They were not established in doctrine until the First Council of Constantinople in 381 as an antidote to certain heresies that had crept into the Church in its early history. There the Council elaborated on the Nicene Creed, established by the First Council of Nicaea 56 years before by adding to the end a section that included the affirmation: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."The phrase has remained in versions of the Nicene Creed to this day.
In some languages, for example, German, the Latin "catholica" was substituted by "Christian" before the Reformation by some, although this was an anomalyand continues in use by some Protestant churches today. Hence, "holy catholic" becomes "holy Christian."
Roman Catholics believe the description "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" to be applicable only to the Roman Catholic Church. They hold that "Christ established here on earth only one Church" and they believe in "the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church". While "there are numerous elements of sanctification and of truth which are found outside her structure", these, "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity". The eastern Churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church thereby "lack something in their condition as particular Churches". The communities born out of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation "do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constituent element of the Church."
The Eastern Orthodox Church, in disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church, regards itself as the historical and organic continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and his apostles.The Oriental Orthodox Church disagrees with both and claims to be the historical and organic continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and his apostles, the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" Church of the ancient Christian creeds and the only Church that has always kept the true Christology and faith declared by the first three councils, the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople, and the Council of Ephesus affirmed by the Church Fathers and the sacred tradition.
The Augsburg Confession found within the Book of Concord, a compendium of belief of the Lutheran Churches, teaches that "the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church."When the Lutherans presented the Augsburg Confession to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1530, they believe to have "showed that each article of faith and practice was true first of all to Holy Scripture, and then also to the teaching of the church fathers and the councils." As such, the Lutheran Churches traditionally hold that theirs represents the true visible Church.
This mark derives from the Pauline epistles, which state that the Church is "one". [ non-primary source needed ] In the same letter, he tells Christians: "You are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12:27), and declares that, "just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12).In 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul the Apostle spoke of himself as having persecuted "the church of God", not just the local church in Jerusalem but the same church that he addresses at the beginning of that letter as "the church of God that is in Corinth" (1 Cor. 1:2).
In Eph. 4:5–6, Paul writes: "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." This list of factors making Christians one body, one church, is doubtless not meant to be exhaustive, says Francis A. Sullivan, but it affirms the oneness of the body, the Church, through what Christians have in common—what they have communion in.
Elsewhere, Paul says: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). This statement was about Christians as individuals, but it applied to them also as groups, as local church, whether composed mainly of Jewish or Gentile Christians.
The word holy in this sense means set apart for a special purpose by and for God. The Church is holy because it has been set apart to do God's work, and because God is present in it.Christians understand the holiness of the Church to derive from Christ's holiness.
The word catholic is derived from the Ancient Greek adjective καθολικός (romanized: katholikos), meaning "general", "universal". It is associated with the Greek adverb καθόλου (katholou), meaning "according to the whole", "entirely", or "in general", a combination of the preposition κατά meaning "according to" and the adjective ὅλος meaning "whole".
Applied to the Church, the adjective "catholic" means that in the Church the wholeness of the Christian faith, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking, is proclaimed to all people without excluding any part of the faith or any class or group of people.The adjective can be applied not only to the Church as spread throughout the world but also to each local manifestation of the Church, in each of which nothing essential is lacking for it to be the genuine body of Christ.
For his subjects, Roman Emperor Theodosius I restricted the term "catholic Christians" to believers in "the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity", and applied the name "heretics" to others (Edict of Thessalonica of 27 February 380).
This describes the Church's foundation and beliefs as rooted and continuing in the living tradition of the apostles of Jesus.The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Assyrian Church of the East each claim to have preserved the original teaching of the apostles. They also have apostolic succession in that their bishops derive their authority through a direct line of laying on of hands from the apostles, a claim that they accept can be made by the other churches in this group. The Anglican Communion, as well as many Lutheran Churches such as the Church of Sweden, likewise teach the doctrine of apostolic succession. Other Christian denominations, on the other hand, usually hold that what preserves apostolic continuity is the written word: as Bruce Milne put it, "A church is apostolic as it recognizes in practice the supreme authority of the apostolic scriptures."
Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Moravian, Hussite, Anglican, Church of the East, and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession". These traditions do not always consider the episcopal consecrations of all of the other traditions as valid.
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου katholou 'on the whole, according to the whole, in general', and is a combination of the Greek words κατά 'about' and ὅλος 'whole'. The first known use of "Catholic" was by the church father Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans. In the context of Christian ecclesiology, it has a rich history and several usages.
An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches or denominations, and other churches founded independently from these lineages.
Sola scriptura, meaning by scripture alone, is a Christian theological doctrine held by most Protestant Christian denominations, in particular the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism, that posits the Bible as the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. The Catholic Church considers it heterodox and generally the Orthodox churches consider it to be contrary to the 'phronema' of the Church.
In ecclesiology, the Christian Church is what different Christian denominations conceive of as being the true body of Christians or the original institution established by Jesus. "Christian Church" has also been used in academia as a synonym for Christianity, despite the fact that it is composed of multiple churches or denominations, many of which hold a doctrinal claim of being the "one true church", to the exclusion of the others.
A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity that comprises all church congregations of the same kind, identifiable by traits such as a name, particular history, organization, leadership, theological doctrine, worship style and sometimes a founder. It is a secular and neutral term, generally used to denote any established Christian church. Unlike a cult or sect, a denomination is usually seen as part of the Christian religious mainstream. Most Christian denominations self-describe themselves as churches, whereas some newer ones tend to interchangeably use the terms churches, assemblies, fellowships, etc. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, biblical hermeneutics, theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.
In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its eschatology, and its leadership.
The communion of saints, when referred to persons, is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead, but excluding the damned. They are all part of a single "mystical body", with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.
The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, not merely symbolically or metaphorically, but in a true, real and substantial way.
Intercession of the Saints is a Christian doctrine held by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Catholic churches. The practice of praying through saints can be found in Christian writings from the 3rd century onward. The 4th-century Apostles' Creed states belief in the communion of Saints, which certain Christian churches interpret as supporting the intercession of saints. However, similar practices are controversial in Judaism, Islam, and Protestantism.
Confessional Lutheranism is a name used by Lutherans to designate those who believe in the doctrines taught in the Book of Concord of 1580 in their entirety. Confessional Lutherans maintain that faithfulness to the Book of Concord, which is a summary of the teachings found in Scripture, requires attention to how that faith is actually being preached, taught, and put into practice. Confessional Lutherans believe that this is a vital part of their identity as Lutherans.
The primacy of Peter, also known as Petrine primacy, is the position of preeminence that is attributed to Peter among the Twelve Apostles.
The term Evangelical Catholic is used in Lutheranism, alongside the term Augsburg Catholic, with those calling themselves Evangelical Catholic Lutherans or Lutherans of Evangelical Catholic churchmanship stressing the catholicity of historic Lutheranism in liturgy, beliefs, practices, and doctrines. Evangelical Catholics teach that Lutheranism at its core "is deeply and fundamentally catholic". The majority of Evangelical Catholic Lutheran clergy and parishes are members of mainstream Lutheran denominations.
Catholicity is a concept pertaining to beliefs and practices that are widely accepted by numerous Christian denominations, most notably by those Christian denominations that describe themselves as catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed formulated at the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
Lutheranism as a religious movement originated in the early 16th century Holy Roman Empire as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church. The movement originated with the call for a public debate regarding several issues within the Catholic Church by Martin Luther, then a professor of Bible at the young University of Wittenberg. Lutheranism soon became a wider religious and political movement within the Holy Roman Empire owing to support from key electors and the widespread adoption of the printing press. This movement soon spread throughout northern Europe and became the driving force behind the wider Protestant Reformation. Today, Lutheranism has spread from Europe to all six populated continents.
The expression "one true church" refers to an ecclesiological position asserting that Jesus gave his authority in the Great Commission solely to a particular visible Christian institutional church—what is commonly called a denomination. This view is maintained by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox communion, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Churches of Christ, and the Lutheran Churches, as well as certain Baptists. Each of them maintains that their own specific institutional church (denomination) exclusively represents the one and only original church. The claim to the title of the "one true church" relates to the first of the Four Marks of the Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church". As such, it also relates to claims of both catholicity and apostolic succession: asserting inheritance of the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority and responsibility that Jesus Christ gave to the apostles.
Confirmation in the Lutheran Church is a public profession of faith prepared for by long and careful instruction. In English, it is called "affirmation of baptism", and is a mature and public reaffirmation of the faith which "marks the completion of the congregation's program of confirmation ministry".
Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism, identifying primarily with the theology of Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the Ninety-five Theses, divided Western Christianity. During the Reformation, Lutheranism became the state religion of numerous states of northern Europe, especially in northern Germany, Scandinavia and the then Livonian Order. Lutheran clergy became civil servants and the Lutheran churches became part of the state.
A sacrament is a Christian rite that is recognized as being particularly important and significant. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a channel for God's grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace, that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.
Criticism of Protestantism covers critiques and questions raised about Protestantism, the Christian denominations which arose out of the Protestant Reformation. While critics may praise some aspects of Protestantism which are not unique to the various forms of Protestantism, Protestantism is faced with criticism mainly from the Catholic Church and mainstream Eastern Orthodox churches, although Protestant denominations have also engaged in self-critique and criticized one another. According to both the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, many major, foundational Protestant doctrines have been officially declared heretical.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Nicene Creed, recited by Roman Catholics in their worship, is also accepted by millions of other Christians as a testimony of their faith—Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and members of many of the Reformed Churches.
When the Lutherans presented the Augsburg Confession before Emperor Charles V in 1530, they carefully showed that each article of faith and practice was true first of all to Holy Scripture, and then also to the teaching of the church fathers and the councils and even the canon law of the Church of Rome. They boldly claim, “This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers” (AC XXI Conclusion 1). The underlying thesis of the Augsburg Confession is that the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church. In fact, it is actually the Church of Rome that has departed from the ancient faith and practice of the catholic church (see AC XXIII 13, XXVIII 72 and other places).
In addition to the primary understanding of succession, the Lutheran confessions do express openness, however, to the continuation of the succession of bishops. This is a narrower understanding of apostolic succession, to be affirmed under the condition that the bishops support the Gospel and are ready to ordain evangelical preachers. This form of succession, for example, was continued by the Church of Sweden (which included Finland) at the time of the Reformation.
In Sweden the apostolic succession was preserved because the Catholic bishops were allowed to stay in office, but they had to approve changes in the ceremonies.