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Non-Authentic Christianity
lin the U.S.

Definitions matter

To be “authentically” Christian means that the doctrines (Biblical teachings) that are officially held, taught by a church, and believed by its people, are trustworthy and true.  “True” doctrine isn’t determined by personal preference or opinion polls.  A teaching is considered “doctrine” when it is taught in the Bible with sufficient clarity and detail that reasonable Christian people (after careful study) agree that it is scriptural teaching.  To the extent that a church and its people teach and believe the teachings of the Bible, a church is authentic (legitimate, credible, dependable, reliable, orthodox, true).  To the extent that a church and its people teach and believe teachings that are unsupported or contrary to the teachings of the Bible, a church is inauthentic (non-authentic, erroneous, counterfeit, unorthodox, false). 

Religions that trespass beyond the boundary that divides authentic Christian and non-authentic Christian, are those that teach and believe contrary to even the most fundamental Biblical Christian beliefs.  Non-authentic Christian groups are sometimes referred to as “new,” “alternative,” or “novel” religious groups to avoid the negative connotations of referring to them as “cults.”  The word “cult” is often associated with “brainwashing” and “mind-control,” and may bring to mind the mass murder/suicides of the People’s Temple in 1978, the Branch Davidians in 1993 or Heaven’s Gate in 1997.  It is not our intention to make derogatory comments about any religion, or to question anyone’s sincerity or good intentions.  Our only aim is to define “Christian” in a way that is fully Biblical, so that we many determine where the gospel and mission outreach is most needed in the United States and around the world.

 

What matters

Historically, people and churches have been considered Christian based on whether they confess faith in the authentic Christian God (which is summarized in the ecumenical / universal Christian creeds) and in the authentic Christian gospel.  Though Christian denominations disagree on details of doctrine, churches have been identified as part of authentic orthodox Christianity if they agree on primary fundamental doctrines: the authentic Christian God and Gospel.



What we disagree on

No person or church that wants to be considered Christian is happy about someone saying that they are not.  Unfortunately, people and churches that want to be considered Christian sometimes disagree dramatically about who God is and on the content of the Gospel.  Historic orthodox Christianity has always believed in one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though details of exactly how to articulate this belief in the form of creeds took some time.  By contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (for example) officially teaches that the historic creeds of Christianity are an “abomination” (The Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith  - History, chapter 1, verse 19).  Instead of belief in the Trinity, they teach that God (Heavenly Father) has a body, that he became God, that there is more than one God (that Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are separate Gods), and that people can become gods. (Doctrine & Covenants, chapter 130, verse 22, The Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith History, chapter 1, verse 17, and the “King Follett Discourse”)  This brings us to two questions: (1) If Latter-day Saints believe that they have reason to be concerned about what orthodox Christianity teaches, is it not understandable that orthodox Christians would feel similarly about the unorthodox doctrine that Latter-day Saints seek to substitute for Christianity’s historic teachings? (2) Secondly, in defining authentic Christianity, what definition of Christian could be broad enough to embrace such divergent understandings of God, while being specific enough to exclude others that are not authentically Christian?


What we agree on

All who want to be considered Christian agree on three things: (1) they intend to believe in the authentic Christian God who really exists, (2) they intend to believe in the authentic Christian Gospel, by which they hope to dwell with God forever after they die, and (3) they intend to believe what the Bible teaches, whether or not they have additional volumes they consider as scripture.


Opportunity for Respectful Dialogue

Furthermore, we have reason to agree that there are large and substantive differences between the teachings about God and Gospel taught by historic orthodox Christianity and those taught by the Latter-day Saints and others such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who disagree with the orthodox Christian creeds.  Rather than ignoring these differences, why not make the awareness of our differences a starting point for respectful dialogue and detailed study of Scripture?


Some Statistics

It is the interest of the Christian Growth Initiative to see an increase in the numbers and percentages for authentic Christianity in all parts of the United States and around the world. We therefore have reason not only to monitor the percentages and numbers of Christians but also to take notice of the percentages and numbers of other religions.  This is especially true of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, due to their substantial growth and because they are  the only religious group in the United States that dominates not only a state but an entire region (see below).  We therefore have supplied the following maps of Latter-day Saints membership.