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Essentials That Unite All Protestants


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Last week on another thread, I was asked the following question by Pogi, ”Just curious, what are the essentials that unite all Protestants, and how did they become essential?” I thought a subject of such importance and perhaps, difference of opinion, deserves a thread of its own. So here we go!

First, let’s examine the question:

Pogi asked about what unites all Protestants. The answer, therefore, cannot relate to only one group or kind of Protestant. That limits the options from which we have to choose. His question is in the present tense. So we are not talking about the 16th, 19th, or 20th centuries. We are talking about here and now in 2020. That significantly changes our options. His question asks about essentials. This criterion limits our options. My answer is from my own lifetime of studying, preaching and teaching, learning, observing, and meeting with many Protestants of many and no denominational affiliations. That is the source material for my thoughts. I am quoting no one. These are my thoughts, so of course, you are free to question, disagree, agree, amend, or whatever you like. That is what dialogue and discussion is all about.

Pew Research offers us some excellent insights into the Protestant community I offer you for your interest. Here is the link: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/27/500-years-after-the-reformation-5-facts-about-protestants-around-the-world/

1. In 2010 Protestants made up 37% of Christians in the world.

2. The share of Protestants among adults in the US is in decline.

3. Protestant populations in Latin America have risen sharply.

4. Pentecostalism within the Protestant community has gained ground globally (My note – this has caused some sweeping review in traditional Protestant theology – primarily related to the Holy Spirit).

5. In Western Europe, the home of the Reformation, Protestants and Catholics are now more similar than different, at least on some theological issues.

Next, I would like to offer you my list of the significant categories of Protestants in the world. They may, at times, overlap. A Protestant might identify with more than one of these categories. They are not exclusive. Based on the question initially asked, I need to identify the essentials that adherents from each of these groups would agree on:

  •         Fundamentalist Protestants
  •         Evangelical Protestants
  •         Mainstream Protestants
  •         Pentecostal Protestants
  •         Neo-orthodox Protestants
  •         Reformed (Calvinist) Protestants
  •         State-Church Protestants (Anglican and European Lutheran in the majority)

It must be made clear that not all Anglicans or Pentecostals believe they are part of the Protestant tradition. Therefore there is some debate on this issue.

Finally, my answer to your question. Here are the essentials that I believe all (within a 3% margin of error, or so) Protestants would unite around:

  • Not every Protestant is a Christian

  • Not every Christian is a Protestant

  • God the Father; Christ the Son; and the Holy Spirit comprise the Godhead

  • God can and has inserted Himself into human affairs
  • The Bible is or contains God's words given to humans and was written under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ's atonement provides the means for humans to be in a right relationship with God for eternity. Grace, belief, faith, and confession are essential parts of this relationship. Endurance is evidence of this relationship.
  • This relationship provides the basis for the existence of the Bride of Christ, the Church, wherein we learn, fellowship, and worship.
  • Baptism, by some mode and meaning is important.
  • God is love and full of compassion. He is also fully righteous.

How did these become essential? Certainly not via any creed or generally agreed-upon formulation. I can offer no authoritative source. I was asked a question, gave it a ton of thought, initially had forty-some essentials, and shortened the list down to these nine. I don’t believe that others with any greater or lesser specificity would be regarded as essential and the means for unity by 97% of Protestants.  I think all other doctrines would be in Joseph Smith's word - appendages.

This question is a very challenging one to answer in anything short of a book! Some might prefer I use more, less, or different words. I wrote this being very cautious of the limitations I posed at the beginning of this post. Please offer your insights, thoughts, and suggestions. I don’t expect anyone to be happy with it as written. I am not even sure I am! Thanks, Phil

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Navidad
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I believe that Jesus Christ is our savior is the common thread that is shared between Mormons and Protestants.

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5 hours ago, Navidad said:

Finally, my answer to your question. Here are the essentials that I believe all (within a 3% margin of error, or so) Protestants would unite around:

  • Not every Protestant is a Christian

  • Not every Christian is a Protestant

  • God the Father; Christ the Son; and the Holy Spirit comprise the Godhead

  • God can and has inserted Himself into human affairs
  • The Bible is or contains God's words given to humans and was written under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ's atonement provides the means for humans to be in a right relationship with God for eternity. Grace, belief, faith, and confession are essential parts of this relationship. Endurance is evidence of this relationship.
  • This relationship provides the basis for the existence of the Bride of Christ, the Church, wherein we learn, fellowship, and worship.
  • Baptism, by some mode and meaning is important.
  • God is love and full of compassion. He is also fully righteous.

I like your summary.  I wish we could see how your assumptions would play out in poll research questions to Protestants, with a distinction between those inside and outside the United States.  My gut feeling is that Protestants within the United States might disagree with or might like to make adjustments to some of your statements.  I've had discussions with Protestants outside of the United States, and they often seem puzzled about the quarreling that goes on between some Protestant groups in the U.S. and they aren't nearly as divided on some of these issues.   And some of it depends on your definitions.  

Take "baptism" for example.  Are you talking about water baptism, or baptism of the Holy Spirit?  If the latter, I think all would agree.  If the former, then I've run into many groups that claim water baptism is not necessary at all and may not even be "important".  And based on my experience with people holding that belief, I would think the odds of my exposure to most of those in the 3% margin of error realm to be rather slim. 

And the first two, "Not every Protestant is a Christian" and vice versa, there would be disagreement on what would be "Protestant" or "Christian" for that matter.  Some would view Catholics (obviously non-Protestant) as not true Christians, for example, because (in their way of thinking) the Catholics believe in a works based salvation and do not believe in salvation by grace alone (and please, all Catholic participants on the board, I certainly don't believe this, I'm only repeating what others have said about Catholics :)).   I think a lot of Protestants within the United States have had more exposure to the so-called "counter cult ministries", and their views are highly influenced by that kind of thinking.

I like the way you worded the statement about Christ's atonement.  Nicely said.  I have a good friend who is an Anabaptist or Mennonite (I'm not exactly sure which label he would say fits him the best) and I have participated with him in a weekly Bible study for about twelve years until we had to stop in March due to the COVID quarantine situations.  Your list and the way you worded it reminds me of the way he would say these things.  Nice job.

Edited by InCognitus
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6 hours ago, Navidad said:

Finally, my answer to your question. Here are the essentials that I believe all (within a 3% margin of error, or so) Protestants would unite around:

  • Not every Protestant is a Christian

Could you clarify your point here?  This seems to conflict with my basic understanding of Christian taxonomy, which is more or less along the lines of this:

tF6wr.png

So describing a non-Christian Protestant ("Not every Protestant is a Christian") seems akin to describing a non-mammalian dog.

6 hours ago, Navidad said:
  • Not every Christian is a Protestant
  • God the Father; Christ the Son; and the Holy Spirit comprise the Godhead
  • God can and has inserted Himself into human affairs
  • The Bible is or contains God's words given to humans and was written under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ's atonement provides the means for humans to be in a right relationship with God for eternity. Grace, belief, faith, and confession are essential parts of this relationship. Endurance is evidence of this relationship.
  • This relationship provides the basis for the existence of the Bride of Christ, the Church, wherein we learn, fellowship, and worship.
  • Baptism, by some mode and meaning is important.
  • God is love and full of compassion. He is also fully righteous.

How did these become essential? Certainly not via any creed or generally agreed-upon formulation. I can offer no authoritative source. I was asked a question, gave it a ton of thought, initially had forty-some essentials, and shortened the list down to these nine. I don’t believe that others with any greater or lesser specificity would be regarded as essential and the means for unity by 97% of Protestants.  I think all other doctrines would be in Joseph Smith's word - appendages.

This question is a very challenging one to answer in anything short of a book! Some might prefer I use more, less, or different words. I wrote this being very cautious of the limitations I posed at the beginning of this post. Please offer your insights, thoughts, and suggestions. I don’t expect anyone to be happy with it as written. I am not even sure I am! Thanks, Phil

Hmm.  The Latter-day Saints embrace these (though some would need to be built upon).

Thanks,

-Smac

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7 hours ago, Navidad said:

....................................................

  • Not every Protestant is a Christian

  • Not every Christian is a Protestant

  • God the Father; Christ the Son; and the Holy Spirit comprise the Godhead

  • God can and has inserted Himself into human affairs
  • The Bible is or contains God's words given to humans and was written under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ's atonement provides the means for humans to be in a right relationship with God for eternity. Grace, belief, faith, and confession are essential parts of this relationship. Endurance is evidence of this relationship.
  • This relationship provides the basis for the existence of the Bride of Christ, the Church, wherein we learn, fellowship, and worship.
  • Baptism, by some mode and meaning is important.
  • God is love and full of compassion. He is also fully righteous.

............................................

In defining "the Bride of Christ, the Church," do Protestants generally consider Roman Catholics to be within that body -- the Body of Christ?  How ecumenical are the Protestants?

Do Protestants generally see the world as divided between the City of God and the City of Man, with God the only person who can distinguish who is in which city? -- which of course is one city, with both living there.

What do you think of Mark A. Noll, Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2011)?  I haven't read it, but wondered if he was worth a read.

 

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

This seems to conflict with my basic understanding of Christian taxonomy, which is more or less along the lines of this:

I like your chart, but it needed updating:

362718686_RestoredChristianity1.jpg.0742252600185b4e04215abc793bf446.jpg

 

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13 hours ago, 2BizE said:

I believe that Jesus Christ is our savior is the common thread that is shared between Mormons and Protestants.

So do I!!! I also believe there are many more common threads as well.

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13 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I like your summary.  I wish we could see how your assumptions would play out in poll research questions to Protestants, with a distinction between those inside and outside the United States.  My gut feeling is that Protestants within the United States might disagree with or might like to make adjustments to some of your statements.  I've had discussions with Protestants outside of the United States, and they often seem puzzled about the quarreling that goes on between some Protestant groups in the U.S. and they aren't nearly as divided on some of these issues.   And some of it depends on your definitions.  

Take "baptism" for example.  Are you talking about water baptism, or baptism of the Holy Spirit?  If the latter, I think all would agree.  If the former, then I've run into many groups that claim water baptism is not necessary at all and may not even be "important".  And based on my experience with people holding that belief, I would think the odds of my exposure to most of those in the 3% margin of error realm to be rather slim. 

And the first two, "Not every Protestant is a Christian" and vice versa, there would be disagreement on what would be "Protestant" or "Christian" for that matter.  Some would view Catholics (obviously non-Protestant) as not true Christians, for example, because (in their way of thinking) the Catholics believe in a works based salvation and do not believe in salvation by grace alone (and please, all Catholic participants on the board, I certainly don't believe this, I'm only repeating what others have said about Catholics :)).   I think a lot of Protestants within the United States have had more exposure to the so-called "counter cult ministries", and their views are highly influenced by that kind of thinking.

I like the way you worded the statement about Christ's atonement.  Nicely said.  I have a good friend who is an Anabaptist or Mennonite (I'm not exactly sure which label he would say fits him the best) and I have participated with him in a weekly Bible study for about twelve years until we had to stop in March due to the COVID quarantine situations.  Your list and the way you worded it reminds me of the way he would say these things.  Nice job.

Hi InCognitus: Thanks for your reply. I have interacted and preached with and to Protestants outside of the United States in Latin America, Europe, and all over Africa. I agree with your characterization of the differences between Protestants based on location. My sense is that Protestants in Latin America, by in large are more Charismatic - Pentecostal. I think that is also true of Catholics. In Africa, Protestants, especially Anglicans are much more conservative than anywhere else I have been. Opinions are very strongly held. In Europe, just the opposite is my experience. Except with reformed groups, doctrinal issues are not as large. Fundamentalists are hard to find. Pentecostalism is gaining a foothold in Britain. I preached and sang in a Lutheran State Church in Finland. My sense is they were barely hanging on; trying to hold on to their historical importance. Those are all anecdotal experiences, but they align with yours.

I was referring to water baptism, not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To clarify, I made the baptismal statement very nebulous, because the theological significance of baptism is all over the place. There are huge nuances and differences within groups who believe in baptismal regeneration, especially within and between Lutheran and Anglican Protestant groups.

I would suggest that many Protestants within the fundamentalist camp do not see Catholics as Christians; however when pressed, they would agree that individual Catholics might be Christians. Fundamentalists are a shrinking group in my experience as many of them are migrating to a more inclusive Evangelical perspective and some to a Pentecostal view. It is interesting that Pentecostals are becoming much more theologically sophisticated in defining their own theology beyond pneumatology.  A lot of fundamentalist and some evangelical Protestants have had exposure to counter-cult ministries as you say. This is not a large group within Protestantism. My guess is that most members of the LDS Church come into contact most often with a small percentage of Protestants who are fundamentalists and because of that contact tend to identify Protestants by the Fundamentalists. I identified seven Protestant groups. I doubt very much that "pew" members of the LDS church almost never come into personal contact with at least four of the Protestant groups. It would be fun to try and breakdown the seven Protestant groups by percentage of the whole. I suppose it could be done, but would take a lot of data analysis. As you may know I identify as Mennonite, so it is no wonder you recognized some of what I said as similar to how he might word things. Anabaptists are like Anglicans in the sense that some do and some don't identify as Protestants. Best to you. Phil

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Navidad, as a fellow non-LDS Christian, I can see how thoughtfully and carefully you constructed your list of essentials, and I agree with everything you've said here.

For a bit of context about myself, I am not a resident nor a citizen of The United States.

I have extensive theological education, have been part of an interdenominational, international Missions organization for over three decades (including 15 years  as a missionary in Africa), and have spent many years in church leadership and ministry in the Western world.  (What I really mean to say here is that I've been around Christians of many different stripes for many, many years, and in deeply personal and significant ways.)

Church traditions that I was raised in, and have served in include Reformed (Calvinist), Pentecostal, and Mennonite (Arminian).  Apart from negotiable, reconcilable differences, I have understood and maintained the same essential faith and the same confession throughout my seven decades of life in all of these church/parachurch bodies.

I have always understood Roman Catholics to be Christian, and was never taught any different  ... likewise members of the Eastern Christian churches (Orthodox, Coptic, etc.)  The only group I've interacted with, that I can think of offhand, who have believed otherwise (other than LDS believers back in the '60's and '70's) is the New Apostolic Church.  

I was raised on the idea of the catholic (i.e. universal) church; the priesthood of all believers; salvation by grace through faith; the paradox of the sovereignty of God and free will ... two absolute truths that we hold in tension; etc. etc. etc.

Navidad, I see a lot of wisdom in the way you've framed your list of "essentials that unite all Protestants" to capture key common beliefs in clear language rather than "catch-words".  I commend you!!

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13 hours ago, smac97 said:

Could you clarify your point here?  This seems to conflict with my basic understanding of Christian taxonomy, which is more or less along the lines of this:

tF6wr.png

So describing a non-Christian Protestant ("Not every Protestant is a Christian") seems akin to describing a non-mammalian dog.

Hmm.  The Latter-day Saints embrace these (though some would need to be built upon).

Thanks,

-Smac

Hi my friend: I would be happy to try and clarify my first point. I will try not to be too wordy. First, being a Protestant is most often defined as being a member of a church that aligns with historic Protestant beliefs. One joins a Baptist church and one is a Protestant because Baptists have historically identified themselves as Protestant. The individual who just joined the Baptists may have no idea what it means to be a Protestant, but all of a sudden he or she is one!  It is group identification based on a specific denominational, group, or church affiliation. At the same time, being a Christian is thought of by Protestants (caveat to follow) as an individual commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior - an individual belief in the atonement. The difference between being a Protestant and a Christian is that the first is identity by historic group identity; the second is by individual commitment, faith, and belief. Technically the leadership of the specific group should vet the person as to their Christian testimony prior to allowing the person to join. That doesn't always happen well. I also believe that while members, some fall away from their faith commitment. The Baptist part of me believes in eternal security; the Mennonite part of me believes that one can lose his or her way and faith. So, is it possible to be a Baptist or Methodist and hence a Protestant, but not have a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior? Yes. Hence the statement "Not every Protestant is a Christian." I would say the same thing about members of the LDS Church? It is possible to be a LDS by association, but not a Christian by personal faith commitment. Question two of the baptismal interview would seem to prevent this; but it may not, especially with children, or those with strong commitment to LDS affiliation.

I mentioned a caveat. This bothers me greatly, but there is a group within Fundamentalist Protestants, very conservative Evangelicals,  and perhaps Pentecostal Protestantism who have decided that in some cases, whole groups are excluded from being Christian by virtue of their very group affiliation. This betrays the belief that being a Christian is an individual commitment and adds extra layers to what is "normally" required to be considered a Christian. This exclusion is leveled at times at Roman Catholics, the COJCOLDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and a few others. These very conservative Protestant folks look at the group affiliation and deny that anyone therein could be a Christian, regardless of personal commitment to Christ. I reject this view, as do a majority of Protestants. Unfortunately it is folly to deny that these exclusionary folks exist, and that they may even be the majority of folks within Protestantism with whom members of these out-groups come into contact. The fundamentalist on the street corner in Mesa becomes the face of Protestantism to the visitor to the temple, pageant, etc. Then in logical reciprocity, Protestants are identified with this smallish sub-group and the inaccurate categorization becomes mutual. The old depiction of the Protestant minister probably doesn't help either.

Last, I don't really like charts such as the one you posted (no offense) because they tend to identify Christians by group affiliation and not by individual commitment. At the extreme right side we have Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox folks. They fit the historical grouping of Christianity as a world religion, but fail to account for the fact that people come to Christ, whether by profession of faith, or that plus baptism, one at a time. I have never seen a group baptism in the LDS, the Baptist, or the Mennonite church. Certainly more than one person may be baptized on a given day, but indeed they are baptized one at a time, signifying their individual commitment and readiness. I also agree with someone else who posted that the chart needs updating. It is fairly exclusionary of groups like the LDS Church and Pentecostals. Best wishes.

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12 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I like your chart, but it needed updating:

362718686_RestoredChristianity1.jpg.0742252600185b4e04215abc793bf446.jpg

 

Here is an even more updated version"

image.thumb.png.98c6550cc83fa4a18e24395d5a6de776.png

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10 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Hi my friend: I would be happy to try and clarify my first point. I will try not to be too wordy. First, being a Protestant is most often defined as being a member of a church that aligns with historic Protestant beliefs. One joins a Baptist church and one is a Protestant because Baptists have historically identified themselves as Protestant. The individual who just joined the Baptists may have no idea what it means to be a Protestant, but all of a sudden he or she is one!  It is group identification based on a specific denominational, group, or church affiliation. At the same time, being a Christian is thought of by Protestants (caveat to follow) as an individual commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior - an individual belief in the atonement. The difference between being a Protestant and a Christian is that the first is identity by historic group identity; the second is by individual commitment, faith, and belief. Technically the leadership of the specific group should vet the person as to their Christian testimony prior to allowing the person to join. That doesn't always happen well. I also believe that while members, some fall away from their faith commitment. The Baptist part of me believes in eternal security; the Mennonite part of me believes that one can lose his or her way and faith. So, is it possible to be a Baptist or Methodist and hence a Protestant, but not have a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior? Yes. Hence the statement "Not every Protestant is a Christian." I would say the same thing about members of the LDS Church? It is possible to be a LDS by association, but not a Christian by personal faith commitment. Question two of the baptismal interview would seem to prevent this; but it may not, especially with children, or those with strong commitment to LDS affiliation.

I mentioned a caveat. This bothers me greatly, but there is a group within Fundamentalist Protestants, very conservative Evangelicals,  and perhaps Pentecostal Protestantism who have decided that in some cases, whole groups are excluded from being Christian by virtue of their very group affiliation. This betrays the belief that being a Christian is an individual commitment and adds extra layers to what is "normally" required to be considered a Christian. This exclusion is leveled at times at Roman Catholics, the COJCOLDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and a few others. These very conservative Protestant folks look at the group affiliation and deny that anyone therein could be a Christian, regardless of personal commitment to Christ. I reject this view, as do a majority of Protestants. Unfortunately it is folly to deny that these exclusionary folks exist, and that they may even be the majority of folks within Protestantism with whom members of these out-groups come into contact. The fundamentalist on the street corner in Mesa becomes the face of Protestantism to the visitor to the temple, pageant, etc. Then in logical reciprocity, Protestants are identified with this smallish sub-group and the inaccurate categorization becomes mutual. The old depiction of the Protestant minister probably doesn't help either.

Last, I don't really like charts such as the one you posted (no offense) because they tend to identify Christians by group affiliation and not by individual commitment. At the extreme right side we have Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox folks. They fit the historical grouping of Christianity as a world religion, but fail to account for the fact that people come to Christ, whether by profession of faith, or that plus baptism, one at a time. I have never seen a group baptism in the LDS, the Baptist, or the Mennonite church. Certainly more than one person may be baptized on a given day, but indeed they are baptized one at a time, signifying their individual commitment and readiness. I also agree with someone else who posted that the chart needs updating. It is fairly exclusionary of groups like the LDS Church and Pentecostals. Best wishes.

I agree with the idea that a person can be a true Christian regardless of Church affiliation, but... you surely should have known there had to be a but here... the ordinances required for salvation are valid only if administered by officers in the true church of Jesus Christ.  This point is not always agreed upon and many people do not agree, but it is still true, nonetheless.  And there is only one true church of Jesus Christ.

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14 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

In defining "the Bride of Christ, the Church," do Protestants generally consider Roman Catholics to be within that body -- the Body of Christ?  How ecumenical are the Protestants?

Do Protestants generally see the world as divided between the City of God and the City of Man, with God the only person who can distinguish who is in which city? -- which of course is one city, with both living there.

What do you think of Mark A. Noll, Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2011)?  I haven't read it, but wondered if he was worth a read.

 

Good afternoon my friend: Let me answer your first question this way - I would say that the significant majority of Protestants consider that individual Roman Catholics have the same right to join the Body of Christ as does anyone else. I think that one point of confusion is seeing the Body of Christ as made up of churches. I don't believe most Protestants see the Body of Christ in that way. It isn't a church thing. It is an individual thing. For my LDS friends, the Church is essential to enable someone to have a personal relationship with Christ for eternity. For my Protestant friends a personal relationship with Christ is essential and that is not beholden or restricted to any one church. There are so many churches (individual and group)  represented in Protestantism, yet it is in the individual relationship with Christ where we join the body of believers- or the Body of Christ. So the question is not about the Roman Catholic Church. It is about individual folks from that faith group and how do they view their relationship with Christ? As I said in another reply, unfortunately there are some, fortunately not a majority of Protestants who deny some individuals the right  to belong to the body of Christ based on their group affiliation. Some include Catholics in that. Again, thank goodness these folks are a minority and becoming more so every year. I speak against that mindset every chance I get. So Protestants are pretty ecumenical when you consider that it is on an individual basis (with those representing a host of churches) that most Protestants believe folks come to Christ. This is why folks like Billy Graham allowed leaders from many churches to sit on his platform during his crusades. This upset the minority; but the majority supported him in it. Denying any individual the right to belong to the Body of Christ is anti-Protestant by and large.

Informed Protestants would agree with Augustine's construct of the two cities and the responsibilities of the City of God as residents within the City of Man. Loving your neighbor as yourself leaves us no choice but to engage in the City of Man of which we are part. My best friend in the LDS community always, and I mean always is talking about Babylon versus Zion - the coercive hand of government, versus the enabling power of Christ. I have thought of Augustine's concept whenever my friend talks of his theory of limited government based on the Babylon versus Zion dichotomy.  In Mexican terms it is classic PRI versus PAN ideology.

I have nothing but the highest regard for Mark Noll as a historian of American Christianity. He fits into my categories as a Christian who is a Reformed Protestant who is also a dedicated Evangelical Protestant. He has successfully bridged both worlds, having taught at both Wheaton and Notre Dame. His writings are voluminous and, by in large are written with the lay reader in mind. I have his book on Protestantism and am embarrassed to say I forgot to consult it when constructing my answer to Pogi's question. It is indeed a brief introduction, but wonderful in that it develops the concept of the globalization and the Pentecostalization (I doubt if that is a word) of Protestantism. Yes, it is worth a read. I have heard him speak a number of times. He has Iowa roots and comes across as a very humble kind of a guy with no guile. I like that a lot. best wishes, Phil
 

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1 hour ago, Paloma said:

Navidad, as a fellow non-LDS Christian, I can see how thoughtfully and carefully you constructed your list of essentials, and I agree with everything you've said here.

For a bit of context about myself, I am not a resident nor a citizen of The United States.

I have extensive theological education, have been part of an interdenominational, international Missions organization for over three decades (including 15 years  as a missionary in Africa), and have spent many years in church leadership and ministry in the Western world.  (What I really mean to say here is that I've been around Christians of many different stripes for many, many years, and in deeply personal and significant ways.)

Church traditions that I was raised in, and have served in include Reformed (Calvinist), Pentecostal, and Mennonite (Arminian).  Apart from negotiable, reconcilable differences, I have understood and maintained the same essential faith and the same confession throughout my seven decades of life in all of these church/parachurch bodies.

I have always understood Roman Catholics to be Christian, and was never taught any different  ... likewise members of the Eastern Christian churches (Orthodox, Coptic, etc.)  The only group I've interacted with, that I can think of offhand, who have believed otherwise (other than LDS believers back in the '60's and '70's) is the New Apostolic Church.  

I was raised on the idea of the catholic (i.e. universal) church; the priesthood of all believers; salvation by grace through faith; the paradox of the sovereignty of God and free will ... two absolute truths that we hold in tension; etc. etc. etc.

Navidad, I see a lot of wisdom in the way you've framed your list of "essentials that unite all Protestants" to capture key common beliefs in clear language rather than "catch-words".  I commend you!!

Thanks Paloma. We have much in common. I have served in a number of different Protestant groups as well and have never had to change my core beliefs to fit in and be accepted. One of my most rewarding positions in my life was serving on the International Executive Council of AIM International - the Old Africa Inland Mission. In that role I had the privilege of traveling eastern Africa to visit and support US missionaries in the various countries in which AIM served. Please feel free to add to, take away from or amend anything I have said in the original post.

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56 minutes ago, Ahab said:

I agree with the idea that a person can be a true Christian regardless of Church affiliation, but... you surely should have known there had to be a but here... the ordinances required for salvation are valid only if administered by officers in the true church of Jesus Christ.  This point is not always agreed upon and many people do not agree, but it is still true, nonetheless.  And there is only one true church of Jesus Christ.

Hi Ahab - I would have been disappointed had you not stated your firmly held position. Oh and I agree (look out for the "but" coming) that there is only true church of Jesus Christ, but of course we both know it is the aggregated community of those who have individual faith in the atonement of Christ, faith, belief and confession of sin! Have a good day!

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Just now, Navidad said:

Hi Ahab - I would have been disappointed had you not stated your firmly held position. Oh and I agree (look out for the "but" coming) that there is only true church of Jesus Christ, but of course we both know it is the aggregated community of those who have individual faith in the atonement of Christ, faith, belief and confession of sin! Have a good day!

No, and apparently I haven't done very well to explain this to you or you would already know that I do not agree with you on this, so I will try again....

To LDS... as I understand our position, and it is certainly what I personally believe... there is a big difference between THE church of Christ and THE body of believers who believe Jesus is the Christ.  

...that same difference you talk about when you talk about a Christian vs a member of a particular church, if I understand you correctly on that.

I state as a fact that a person can be a true Christian without being a member of the true church of Jesus Christ.  Any true Christian must of course be a member of some body, or group, i.e. a body of believers, whatever body of believers that body may be, but that body isn't necessarily the true church of Jesus Christ EVEN IF that body believes Jesus is the Christ while also believing salvation is possible only because of his atoning sacrifice and the ordinances of the gospel that he requires us to accept to show we accept him as our Lord, including faith, repentance, baptism in water and the purifying fire of the Holy Ghost, and obedience to all things that he requires us to do to show we are faithful to him.

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I thought it may be helpful to include here a few paragraphs from the Articles of Faith and Doctrine of the church denomination I currently attend and serve (Brethren in Christ) as a means of supporting what Navidad has written about how Protestants in general view the church as a community of believers.  While this description is of a congregation ... a visible community assembling and sharing life together ... such a congregation is only one part of the vast wider Body of Christ, consisting of all individuals who have made personal commitment of faith to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (as recognized and attested in this description of the church).

Nature of the Church

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ established the church to be God’s new community, which has its roots in the people of God in the Old Testament and testifies to the presence of the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, the redeemed community. His Word and will are authoritative among us.

The church consists of all those who trust Jesus as Savior and follow Him as Lord. We become part of God’s family, loving the Lord Jesus and learning to love and care for one another. We are a covenant community vowing before God and fellow members to live a holy life, to remain loyal to the church, and to foster oneness within the body of Christ. Our understanding of this covenant is expressed in a commitment to the local congregation, where the integrity of our discipleship is lived; to the denomination, where relationships with a wider fellowship of God’s people are realized; and to the body of Christ throughout the world, by which we fulfill the prayer of Jesus that we all may be one.

The essential functions of the church are worship, fellowship, disciple-ship, and mission. In worship, we bring our wholehearted devotion to the Lord God. In fellowship, we live out our deep commitment to love one another. In discipleship, we follow the call of the Lord Jesus to obey and to teach all things commanded by Him. In mission, we proclaim the gospel to all people and minister to human need as Jesus did.

As a covenant community we practice mutual accountability among our members. We accept the steps outlined by Jesus: first, going privately to the one who sins against us; then, if necessary, returning with one (1) or more witnesses; and finally, if needed, involving the congregation. When the church deals with sin, we seek to respond with compassion and concern. The objective of church discipline is to restore the erring church member and to maintain the integrity and purity of the church’s fellowship and witness.

I have not included the part of the description of the church in Articles of Faith and Practice that include Life of the Church:  Ordinances and Practices and Mission of the Church.  That would be too much text to put into this post.  But I didn't want to leave the impression that what I've copied above is the sum total of what's written concerning the church in our Handbook.

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1 hour ago, Navidad said:

First, being a Protestant is most often defined as being a member of a church that aligns with historic Protestant beliefs. One joins a Baptist church and one is a Protestant because Baptists have historically identified themselves as Protestant. The individual who just joined the Baptists may have no idea what it means to be a Protestant, but all of a sudden he or she is one!  It is group identification based on a specific denominational, group, or church affiliation. At the same time, being a Christian is thought of by Protestants (caveat to follow) as an individual commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior - an individual belief in the atonement. The difference between being a Protestant and a Christian is that the first is identity by historic group identity; the second is by individual commitment, faith, and belief.

This seems to be a "No True Scotsman" argument:

Quote

No true Scotsman, or appeal to purity, is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample. Rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule – "no true Scotsman would do such a thing"; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.

Philosophy professor Bradley Dowden explains the fallacy as an "ad hoc rescue" of a refuted generalization attempt.[1] The following is a simplified rendition of the fallacy:[4]

Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge."
Person A: "But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."

That seems to be what we are doing:

  • You: "Not every Protestant is a Christian."
  • Me: "{D}escribing a non-Christian Protestant ... seems akin to describing a non-mammalian dog."
  • You: "Being a Christian is thought of ... as an individual commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior."
1 hour ago, Navidad said:

Technically the leadership of the specific group should vet the person as to their Christian testimony prior to allowing the person to join.

Protestantism and Christianity are taxonomic classifications that lack a gatekeeping function.  Consequently, the boundaries of these groups are fuzzy.

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

That doesn't always happen well. I also believe that while members, some fall away from their faith commitment.

Do they stop being Protestant because they "fall away from their faith commitment?" 

Do they then start being Protestant again when they return to that faith commitment?

What does "faith commitment" in this context mean?

Who gets to decide such things?

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

The Baptist part of me believes in eternal security; the Mennonite part of me believes that one can lose his or her way and faith.

That "eternal security" thing has always been a toughie for me.

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

So, is it possible to be a Baptist or Methodist and hence a Protestant, but not have a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior? Yes. Hence the statement "Not every Protestant is a Christian."

So you are defining "Christian" has only those people who, in the moment or on a given day, "have a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior."  I'm not sure that works.

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

I would say the same thing about members of the LDS Church?

Our Church is situated quite differently from "Protestants."  We have a gatekeeping function: the membership roles of the Church.  A "Latter-day Saint" is not necessarily someone who presently has "a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior," and is instead someone who is a person who has been baptized into the Church.

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

It is possible to be a LDS by association, but not a Christian by personal faith commitment.

I can't get on board with such a fleeting definition of "Christian."

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

I mentioned a caveat. This bothers me greatly, but there is a group within Fundamentalist Protestants, very conservative Evangelicals,  and perhaps Pentecostal Protestantism who have decided that in some cases, whole groups are excluded from being Christian by virtue of their very group affiliation.

Yes, I've encountered such folks.

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

This betrays the belief that being a Christian is an individual commitment and adds extra layers to what is "normally" required to be considered a Christian. This exclusion is leveled at times at Roman Catholics, the COJCOLDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and a few others. These very conservative Protestant folks look at the group affiliation and deny that anyone therein could be a Christian, regardless of personal commitment to Christ. I reject this view, as do a majority of Protestants.

Glad to hear it.

That said, I think we view the definition and application of "Christian" in some fairly different ways.

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

Last, I don't really like charts such as the one you posted (no offense) because they tend to identify Christians by group affiliation and not by individual commitment.

I understand.  It's not perfect.  But then, so is identifying Christians "by individual commitment" and not by "group affiliation."

As a practical matter, and in pretty much all circumstances, I am not situated to grant or deny the label of "Christian" on any other group or individual.  I don't claim to be able to discern and quantify their "personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior."

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

At the extreme right side we have Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox folks. They fit the historical grouping of Christianity as a world religion, but fail to account for the fact that people come to Christ, whether by profession of faith, or that plus baptism, one at a time.

In my view, "Christian" seems better left to a generic descriptor, rather than one that is granted or withheld based on subjective assessments about "personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior."

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

I have never seen a group baptism in the LDS, the Baptist, or the Mennonite church.

But you presumably have seen baptisms of individuals, yes?

Membership in the Church contemplates both an inward confession of faith (as you put it, a "personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior") and an outward expression of it as entry into a community of faith (baptism, recording of the individual's name in the records of the Church).

1 hour ago, Navidad said:

Certainly more than one person may be baptized on a given day, but indeed they are baptized one at a time, signifying their individual commitment and readiness. I also agree with someone else who posted that the chart needs updating. It is fairly exclusionary of groups like the LDS Church and Pentecostals. Best wishes.

Thanks.  Interesting discussion.

Thanks,

-Smac

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23 hours ago, Navidad said:

Here are the essentials that I believe all (within a 3% margin of error, or so) Protestants would unite around:

  • Not every Protestant is a Christian

  • Not every Christian is a Protestant

  • God the Father; Christ the Son; and the Holy Spirit comprise the Godhead

  • God can and has inserted Himself into human affairs
  • The Bible is or contains God's words given to humans and was written under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ's atonement provides the means for humans to be in a right relationship with God for eternity. Grace, belief, faith, and confession are essential parts of this relationship. Endurance is evidence of this relationship.
  • This relationship provides the basis for the existence of the Bride of Christ, the Church, wherein we learn, fellowship, and worship.
  • Baptism, by some mode and meaning is important.
  • God is love and full of compassion. He is also fully righteous.

You neglected to mention the predominant "A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible!" mentality is is predominant among pretty dang near all if not all Protestant bodies of believers.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/29.3,6?lang=eng&clang=eng#p3,6

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Maybe one difficulty here is what people and organizations mean by the word "church." Please LDS friends, correct me if I am wrong, but in my experience, LDS use "church" to refer to an organization with structure and hierarchy. So "the church" is the LDS organization, structured around the priesthood, led by God through a prophet. That is why there are membership rolls and the gatekeeping ceremony of baptism. And this organization, "the church," is the only Christian organization sanctioned by God. One can be Christian without belonging to this organization, but no other organization has God's approbation.

It appears to me that protestants reject this idea of a single organization that is sanctioned of God (and please, protestants, correct me if I am wrong). "Church," for protestants, refers to the whole community of Christian believers, regardless of organizational membership. It is a spiritual understanding, not a question of membership.

Catholicism uses both meanings. The church is a physical organization structured around the priesthood with a gatekeeping ceremony. But there is also the church as "the Mystical Body of Christ," the spiritual union with Christ. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (if you want to know about Catholic ecclesiology, read that whole page):

Quote

771 "The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men."184 The Church is at the same time: 
- a "society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ; 
- the visible society and the spiritual community; 
- the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches."185 
These dimensions together constitute "one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element":186

The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.187

And here, from the same source, is the summary of Catholic ecclesiology:

Quote

IN BRIEF

777 The word "Church" means "convocation." It designates the assembly of those whom God's Word "convokes," i.e., gathers together to form the People of God, and who themselves, nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ.

778 The Church is both the means and the goal of God's plan: prefigured in creation, prepared for in the Old Covenant, founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming cross and his Resurrection, the Church has been manifested as the mystery of salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She will be perfected in the glory of heaven as the assembly of all the redeemed of the earth (cf  Rev 14:4).

779 The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept.

780 The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men.

An interesting note. The gatekeeping ceremony to become Catholic is baptism. Catholics accept any baptism done with the proper form (in the name of the Trinity), matter (water), and intent. There is no priesthood necessary for baptism -- indeed, an atheist could perform an acceptable baptism if those three criteria are met. As scripture teaches, there is only one baptism. The joke (tinged with truth as many good jokes are) is that those protestant baptisms then are actually Catholic baptisms and protestants have joined the Catholic Church ;) 

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26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

This seems to be a "No True Scotsman" argument:

That seems to be what we are doing:

  • You: "Not every Protestant is a Christian."
  • Me: "{D}escribing a non-Christian Protestant ... seems akin to describing a non-mammalian dog."
  • You: "Being a Christian is thought of ... as an individual commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior."

Protestantism and Christianity are taxonomic classifications that lack a gatekeeping function.  Consequently, the boundaries of these groups are fuzzy.

Do they stop being Protestant because they "fall away from their faith commitment?" 

Do they then start being Protestant again when they return to that faith commitment?

What does "faith commitment" in this context mean?

Who gets to decide such things?

That "eternal security" thing has always been a toughie for me.

So you are defining "Christian" has only those people who, in the moment or on a given day, "have a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior."  I'm not sure that works.

Our Church is situated quite differently from "Protestants."  We have a gatekeeping function: the membership roles of the Church.  A "Latter-day Saint" is not necessarily someone who presently has "a personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior," and is instead someone who is a person who has been baptized into the Church.

I can't get on board with such a fleeting definition of "Christian."

Yes, I've encountered such folks.

Glad to hear it.

That said, I think we view the definition and application of "Christian" in some fairly different ways.

I understand.  It's not perfect.  But then, so is identifying Christians "by individual commitment" and not by "group affiliation."

As a practical matter, and in pretty much all circumstances, I am not situated to grant or deny the label of "Christian" on any other group or individual.  I don't claim to be able to discern and quantify their "personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior."

In my view, "Christian" seems better left to a generic descriptor, rather than one that is granted or withheld based on subjective assessments about "personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior."

But you presumably have seen baptisms of individuals, yes?

Membership in the Church contemplates both an inward confession of faith (as you put it, a "personal commitment to, faith in, and experience with Christ as Lord and Savior") and an outward expression of it as entry into a community of faith (baptism, recording of the individual's name in the records of the Church).

Thanks.  Interesting discussion.

Thanks,

-Smac

It may help you to think of "Protestant" as a name for a collective group of bodies of believers, which also exist as individual bodies of believers, without regard to how they behave morally or righteously. Just members of those bodies.

The term Christian, on the other hand, is used to denote whether or not someone acts or at least tries to act as Jesus Christ would if in the same situation or circumstances.  Based on how someone thinks Jesus would act.

So one term, Protestant, denotes group or body affiliation, regardless of how one acts, while the other term, Christian, denotes behavior and how one acts based on how someone thinks Jesus would act.

So, yes, someone could be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and still not act like Christ would act, thus not be a true Christian, in behavior, even though a member of the true church of Jesus Christ.

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6 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

An interesting note. The gatekeeping ceremony to become Catholic is baptism. Catholics accept any baptism done with the proper form (in the name of the Trinity), matter (water), and intent. There is no priesthood necessary for baptism -- indeed, an atheist could perform an acceptable baptism if those three criteria are met. As scripture teaches, there is only one baptism. The joke (tinged with truth as many good jokes are) is that those protestant baptisms then are actually Catholic baptisms and protestants have joined the Catholic Church ;) 

If what you are saying is true, then the Catholic church should consider LDS to be members of the Catholic church, too, since that same criteria is met when we baptize people as members of our Lord's church.  

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/true-to-the-faith/baptism?lang=eng

“The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water”

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2 hours ago, Ahab said:

No, and apparently I haven't done very well to explain this to you or you would already know that I do not agree with you on this, so I will try again....

To LDS... as I understand our position, and it is certainly what I personally believe... there is a big difference between THE church of Christ and THE body of believers who believe Jesus is the Christ.  

...that same difference you talk about when you talk about a Christian vs a member of a particular church, if I understand you correctly on that.

I state as a fact that a person can be a true Christian without being a member of the true church of Jesus Christ.  Any true Christian must of course be a member of some body, or group, i.e. a body of believers, whatever body of believers that body may be, but that body isn't necessarily the true church of Jesus Christ EVEN IF that body believes Jesus is the Christ while also believing salvation is possible only because of his atoning sacrifice and the ordinances of the gospel that he requires us to accept to show we accept him as our Lord, including faith, repentance, baptism in water and the purifying fire of the Holy Ghost, and obedience to all things that he requires us to do to show we are faithful to him.

I hope you know I was just kidding - busting on you! I know your position well - you have done a terrific job of explaining it!

Edited by Navidad
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30 minutes ago, Ahab said:

If what you are saying is true, then the Catholic church should consider LDS to be members of the Catholic church, too, since that same criteria is met when we baptize people as members of our Lord's church.  

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/true-to-the-faith/baptism?lang=eng

“The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water”

The Catholic Church has determined that LDS baptism is invalid because the form isn't proper (the radical difference in understanding the nature of the Godhead, primarily) and somewhat the intent (lacking the removal of original sin). Here is the in-depth answer: The Question of the Validity of Baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it is a decent explanation, and it does end on a positive note:

Quote

It is equally necessary to underline that the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a response to a particular question regarding the Baptism of Mormons and obviously does not indicate a judgment on those who are members of the Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints. Furthermore, Catholics and Mormons often find themselves working together on a range of problems regarding the common good of the entire human race. It can be hoped therefore that through further studies, dialogue and good will, there can be progress in reciprocal understanding and mutual respect.

 

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7 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

The Catholic Church has determined that LDS baptism is invalid because the form isn't proper (the radical difference in understanding the nature of the Godhead, primarily) and somewhat the intent (lacking the removal of original sin). Here is the in-depth answer: The Question of the Validity of Baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it is a decent explanation, and it does end on a positive note:

Hmm.  Okay.  Well, we consider Catholic baptism to be invalid, and we are certain that ours is valid, which explains why we are not in the same church that Catholics are members of.

Edited by Ahab
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