One Christian Worldview?

I believe that there is only ONE Christian worldview, even though there are many different versions of Christianity.

There are tens of thousands of different Christian denominations around the world, so conclusively proving my hypothesis would require a lifetime of study.  So, to make it more possible to investigate my hypothesis, I will limit my claim geographically to the United States:

(OCW) There is only ONE Christian worldview in the USA.

There are only about 1,200 Christian denominations in the USA, so that narrows down the scope of the work considerably. Narrowing the scope of the question to the USA, however, does not get around the great historical divisions of the Christian religion. There are three main branches of Christianity, and all three are represented in the USA:

  • Catholic
  • Orthodox
  • Protestant

If there is only ONE Christian worldview held by Catholics, and only ONE Christian worldview held by Orthodox Christians, and only ONE Christian worldview held by Protestants, then we could compare the three Christian worldviews, and determine whether they are the same, or have a few minor differences, or are significantly different from each other.

But the following three claims are controversial too:

1.There is only ONE Christian worldview in Catholic Christianity in the USA.

2. There is only ONE Christian worldview in Orthodox Christianity in the USA.

3. There is only ONE Christian worldview in Protestant Christianity in the USA.

I believe that claims (1) and (2) are true and easy to establish, and that claim (3) will take a good deal of effort to investigate and confirm (or disconfirm).

One important objection to (1) is that there are as many different conceptions of God and Jesus and salvation as there are Catholics, and that some of the theological disagreements between Catholics are about very basic religious issues.  Let me grant that the factual claim here is true, or true for the most part.  There are many different and conflicting religious views held by different Catholic believers, and the disagreements are sometimes about very basic issues.  Nevertheless, the content of a Catholic Christian worldview should NOT be determined by polling Catholic believers.

The problem is that Catholics are, in general, very ignorant about matters of religion, even about their own Catholic faith.  Only about one in three Catholics knows that Easter is a Holy day in the Christian faith which celebrates the (alleged) resurrection of Jesus.  That means that only about one in three Catholics have even a tiny clue about the content of their own Chrisitan faith.

I would expect a Hindu who was raised as a Hindu in India, and who had only recently relocated in the US in the past five to ten years to be aware that Easter was the primary Holy day of the Christian faith and that Easter was a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  So, knowing what Easter is about doesn’t mean that one has any significant knowledge about the Christian faith.  Therefore, a large portion of the one-in-three Catholics who know the meaning of Easter probably don’t know much else about their Christian faith.  I would be surprised if one-in-three of those Catholics could provide a well-informed explanation of their Christian faith.  So, at most, about one in nine Catholics has at least moderate knowledge about the content of the Christian faith.  Polling such religiously ignorant people would be a waste of time, at least if one is interested in determining the content of the Catholic Christian faith.

There is a much simpler and easier way to determine the content of the Catholic Christian faith in the USA: study the creeds of the Catholic Church and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Catholics in the pews may not bother to study these official statements of the Catholic Church, or the content of these statements might go in one ear and out the other (because there is only air occupying the space between the two), but there is no better way to determine the content of the Catholic faith.  If these official statements are consistent with each other, especially in terms of the very basic questions that form the structure of a worldview, then we can derive ONE Christian worldview from those statements, and that will constitute proof of claim (1) above.

I’m not sure if Orthodox Christians are as ignorant about matters of religion as Catholics are, but the Eastern Orthodox church does have creeds and other official statements of belief, so we can use the same simple and easy approach to determining whether there is just ONE Eastern Orthodox Christian worldview, and the content of that worldview.

Protestants are a whole different ball game.  Protestants are not quite as ignorant as Catholics about matters of religion, but they are still generally ignorant on such matters: only about half of protestants know that Easter is a Christian Holy day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.  So, polling protestants about their religious beliefs would also be a waste of time.  We should adopt a similar strategy as with Catholics, and look at creeds, Catechisms, and official statements of faith to determine the Christian worldview(s) of protestants.  But there are over a thousand different protestant denominations in the USA!  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life studying a thousand different catechisms and statements of faith.

Protestantism in the USA can be divided into three main “traditions” and into about a dozen major “families”.  So, if we look at the largest denominations from these various traditions and families, we can get a good idea of the variety of religious beliefs that are the official beliefs of different protestant churches.  Just as we can divide Christianity into three main branches, we can divide protestants into three main traditions:

  • Evangelical Protestant Tradition
  • Mainline Protestant Tradition
  • Historically Black Protestant Tradition 

These three traditions cut across the dozen or so families of protestant denominations.  Click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart:

Protestant Families and Traditions

I will make three more claims, which will require a good deal of investigation to test and confirm (or disconfirm):

4. There is only ONE Evangelical Protestant Christain worldview.

5. There is only ONE Mainline Protestant Christian worldview.

6. There is only ONE Historically Black Protestant Christian worldview.

If I can establish that each of these traditions has ONE Christian worldview and establish the content of each worldview, then we can compare those worldview to see if they are the same, or have a few minor differences, or are significantly different.  If they are the same then that would give us the content of the ONE protestant Christian worldview, which could then be compared to the Catholic Christian worldview, and to the Eastern Orthodox Christian worldview.

Here are the major protestant denominations I plan to look into:

Major Protestant Denominations