My Criteria ...


The analysis in these articles (see menu sidebar to the left) provides the criteria for choosing a church or denomination. This article lists the various criteria that I consider important. They are listed in the order of importance. See My Assessment of Various Denominations.

  1. The church must believe and teach the essential doctrines of Christianity.

    Churches which do not satisfy this criteria are not really Christian.


  2. Salvation is by faith which results in works. The emphasis in on faith.

    Most Christians (including Catholics) agree with this.


  3. Must accept scripture as the inspired Word of God but scripture must not be considered the only source of revealed knowledge. Other sources: (1) Doctrines of early church, (2) Unanimous opinion of the Church Fathers.

    Most Chrstians agree that the Bible is the Word of God. But many Protestants claim that the Bible is the only source of revealed knowledge (even though they themselves unknowingly add to it).


  4. Abortion is the murder of the innocent.

    Only the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and some evangelical fundamentalist Protestant churches take a firm stand on this. Many others allow abortion in certain restricted cases (such as rape).


  5. Fornication (sex outside of marriage) and adultery are seriously sinful.

    Personally, I use this as one of the litmus tests of Christian orthodoxy. If a denomination (or Catholic priest) doesn't believe this, in my opinion they have strayed from true Christianity.)


  6. Promiscuous homosexual relations are seriously sinful (as are promiscuous heterosexual relations).

    This is clear from the Bible.

    The Catholic Church teaches this but has done a terrible job of enforcing it. In my city, some priests regularly condone homosexuality.

    Many evangelical fundamentalist Protestant churches teach this as does the Orthodox Church.

    Personally, I use this as one of the litmus tests of Christian orthodoxy. If a denomination (or Catholic priest) doesn't believe this, in my opinion they have strayed from true Christianity.)

    Read more: Gay Marriage | Homosexuality

  7. Ministers should not be practicing sexual sin, whether promiscuous homosexuality, fornication (sex outside of marriage) or adultery.

    Some Catholic popes and bishops throughout history didn't practice this.


  8. Ordination of church leaders (bishops, etc.) is not valid if the person is unorthodox (heretical) in their faith or living a sinful life. The purpose of ordination is to serve the church, not to corrupt it.

    The Catholic Church has not always met requirement.


  9. Not a liberal interpretation of scripture (Bible is myth, modern day critical theories, non-literal).

    The Catholic Church technically doesn't teach this, but some priests do. Some Protestant denominations have this view.


  10. Liturgical service consisting of scripture readings, public prayers, recitation of creeds and prayers, homily (sermon), Eucharist.

    The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and some Protestant denominations (Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran) believe and practice this.


  11. Must acknowledge that some doctrines are heretical.

    When I studied the beliefs of some Protestant denominations, I was surprised to learn that some don't believe this.


  12. The Eucharist (Communion, Lord's Supper) is in some real way the body and blood of Christ. There is some kind of real presence and it is not merely symbolic or a memorial.

    The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is not in the writings of the Church Fathers. But from very early on the Eucharist was taken to those who could not attend the church service.

    The fundamentalist evangelical Protestant denominations do not meet this criteria.


  13. Baptism (when received in faith) actually remits sins. It is not merely a symbolic act or an act of obedience.

    The writings of the Church Fathers are very clear about this—there are many references from many Church Fathers over many centuries.

    The fundamentalist evangelical Protestant denominations do not meet this criteria.


  14. The papacy is not the Antichrist.

    I refuse to endorse a church which claims that the papacy is the Antichrist (Martin Luther taught this). The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (a conservative denomination) teaches this.


  15. Catholic-bashing is wrong.

    The Catholic Church has a historical continuity with the early apostolic church that the Protestant denominations do not have. In my opinion, the Catholic Church got more right than the Protestant denominations. Or to state it another way, Protestant denominations have more errors than the Catholic Church.


  16. All Christian groups who accept the essentials should be considered as valid Christian groups.

    The Catholic Church teaches this, as do many Protestant denominations.


  17. Value the writings of the Church Fathers, the creeds, and the early church councils.

    The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and some Protestant denominations do this.


  18. The Bible does not promise that we should not suffer.

    In the "word-faith" movement this is often accompanied by other teachings such as God promises us material wealth and perfect health.


  19. Allows the possibility of salvation for non-Christians.

    The Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations believe this. Some evangelical fundamentalist Protestants do not.


  20. The church as the mystical body of Christ is the collection of all baptized believers.

    The Catholic Church teaches this but adds much more to the concept of "church." Some Protestant denominations don't believe that baptism is necessary.


  21. The church should have responsible, pastoral leadership.

    Some house church groups seem to disagree with this, insisting that there are no leaders. I don't know how it's possible to have a group of people without leaders and leadership.


  22. No strong division between clergy and laity. The laity must be activated.

    The Catholic Church is probably the worst offender. It is stifling to be a member of the laity except for those rare individuals who are strong, charismatic leaders.


  23. A rich faith life requires the energizing of the Holy Spirit. We are all to desire this and to work towards it.

    Some groups are better at activating their members than others. The Catholic Church is generally not good at this.


  24. No insistence on young earth creationism, global flood, premillennialism / rapture (or any other end time view).

    Some Protestant Denominations make a particular end time view as a denominational distinctive.


  25. No views such as King James Only, Word-Faith, tongues necessary for salvation, soul sleep.

    Only some Protestant denominations have these views.


  26. Not condemning of other religions. They should see the truth and the light of God in all religions (without ignoring the errors).

    Some Protestant denominations are blatantly anti-Catholic since they consider it to be a false, un-Christian religion.


  27. Baptism of infants is valid.

    The Church Fathers do not have a unanimous opinion of this.


  28. Divorce is allowed for (1) adultery, and (2) a non-Christian spouse of a new Christian initiates it.

    The Bible teaches this and Jesus states it.

    I have not found a single church which teaches this. Some recommend divorce for these cases but allow it for other cases as well. The Catholic Church doesn't allow divorce at all, only annulments (but in these 2 cases an annulment would likely be granted).


  29. Masturbation when visualizing or viewing images is sinful.

    The Catholic Church teaches this. Many conservative Protestant churches suggest this.


  30. War can be just in certain situations.

    Most Christian denominations believe this except for a few such as the Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish.


  31. Capital punishment is morally justifiable in certain situations.

    The Catholic Church teaches this but strongly discourages its use.


  32. Remarriage after divorce is adultery.

    Jesus states this. But does it remain adultery after the marriage vows and consummation, or after there are children born of the marriage? I don't know. Would Jesus have allowed re-marriage of those that he allowed to be divorced?

    The Catholic Church doesn't allow Catholics who are remarried after divorce to receive communion (unless they have had an annulment).


  33. Alcohol use is not forbidden but drunkeness and alcoholism are seriously sinful.

    The Bible does not forbid the use of alcohol but teaches that drunkeness is sinful.

    The Catholic Church is very soft on this issue. Many Protestant denominations allow alcohol and many forbid it. (Some of these even teach that the wine in the Bible was really grape juice — this is probably one of the dumbest things I've ever encountered.)


  34. Laws should be followed except where conscience dictates otherwise.

    We should consider the purpose of the law (safety, social well-being, etc.)


  35. Must allow for variations of opinions about the non-essentials.

    But Catholics must not allow this for fellow Catholics. Contentious, divisive proselytizing of the non-essentials is inappropriate.


  36. The Eucharist is in some way a sacrifice. The minister who leads it is in some way a priest.

    The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and some Protestant denominations believe this.

    This was the clear teaching of the Early Church Fathers.


  37. Confession of sins, possibly at a church service. Confession to a Catholic priest seems like a good way also.

    There were various practices in the early church including simultaneous vocal confession as part of the church service. Confession to a priest was sometimes required for being admitted back into the church for those whose faith relapsed.


  38. Works of charity. Serve the poor, needy, homeless.

    Most Christian churches do this, some more than others.


  39. Evangelism

    Most Christian churches do this, some more than others.


  40. Not a sermon-based, non-liturgical church service.

    There is no basis for this in the church until after the Protestant reformation.


  41. The sermon / homily should be focused on a topic from scripture (or a writing of a Saint, etc.) Not modern, touchy-feely, socially revelant, or just plain dumb (Calvary Chapel).

    I have rarely heard a sermon anywhere that qualifies. Because of this I prefer very short homilies / sermons (and I still have to wear earplugs sometimes).



A few miscellaneous criteria which I don't consider essential (and I don't necessarily agree with these).

  1. Joining a church or denomination (as a member) should not be equated with joining "the church."

    Joining the church is done via baptism.

    The Catholic Church and Orthodox Church do not meet this criteria.


  2. Must allow all baptized Christians who are not living in serious sin to receive communion.

    The idea the only members of a particular church / denomination is not in the writings of the Church Fathers.

    The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and some Protestant churches which celebrate the Euchrist do not meet this criteria.


  3. Membership in the church is via baptism. There is no need to join the church after this to be truly a member of the church and to receive communion.

    This seems clear from the writings of the Church Fathers. Once you were baptized, you were a member of the church and could receive communion.

    The Catholic Church and Orthodox Church do not meet this requirement.


  4. The only sacraments of the early church were baptism and the Eucharist.

    This is clear from the writings of the Church Fathers. The Catholic and Orthodox churches added others much later.


  5. Women can be ministers.

    There were women deacons and prophets in the Bible and the early church. Some early church councils refer to women deacons (but it is not certain whether they had the same role as male deacons). I can't prove that the emphasis on male ministers is an absolute teaching of Jesus and the apostles rather than merely cultural.

    Many churches forbid women to be ministers, particularly the Catholic Church; the Orthodox Church; and many evangelical fundamentalist Protestant denominations.


  6. There are no good methods of contraception available — all have side-effects such as mutilation of the body (surgical), health risks (the pill, IUD's), and extreme inconvenience.

    But I should note that it only pertains to those who are married.

    The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is gravely sinful (a mortal sin) but allows Natural Family Planning. However, they still recommend having large families.


  7. Ordination is merely the recognition by other ministers that God has called an already practicing minister to the ministry.

    This is clear from the Bible.

    The Catholic Church has a different view. Sometimes practising homosexuals and heretics are ordained, although this is not in line with church teaching.


  8. A particular church or denomination or its leaders are not an infallible authority (I should note that the teaching magisteriumof the Catholic Church claims to be infallible).

    Some denominations consider their denomination as infallible.


My Assessment of Various Denominations ...

Catholic

Orthodox

United Church of Christ

Lutheran - Missouri Synod

Lutheran - Evangelical Lutheran of America

Episcopal

Read more: Gay Marriage | Homosexuality

Free Methodist

Calvary Chapel