Different Christian denominations hold different beliefs on issues such as icons.
Different Christian denominations hold different beliefs on issues such as icons.

The Christian church has been divided for nearly 1,000 years. First came the Great Schism in 1066, separating Orthodox from Catholic. Then came the Reformation in the 1500s, separating Catholic from Protestant. Since then thousands of denominations of all shapes and sizes have appeared on the scene. As much as they differ from one another, they still share many common beliefs.

Common Christian Denomination Beliefs

Christians of all denominations hold to certain basic beliefs. Among these is a belief in the Trinity, that God exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians believe in the existence of Jesus Christ and his divinity. They believe that God loves humanity and sent Jesus to die and rise again to save humanity from their sins. Beyond that, however, denominations differ greatly in their beliefs.

The Roman Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is the oldest of the Christian denominations, and it existed as the only denomination for 1,000 years. Unique beliefs in this denomination include a high veneration for the Virgin Mary, the role of the Catholic Church in connecting God with humanity and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). Catholics also believe in seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Pennance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and anointing of the sick. They also believe in intercessory prayers of the saints and transubstantiation. The Catholic Church is centrally organized, governed in a hierarchical structure from the Pope down to the Catholic believer in the pew.

Orthodox Churches

Orthodoxy includes several denominations sharing a set of beliefs and enjoying formal connections with one another. Unique beliefs among orthodox Christians include the veneration of icons, the independence of each Patriarchate (primary bishop of a given geographic area) and the same seven sacraments as the Catholic Church. They view the saints and the Virgin Mary in a way similar to the Catholic Church. Orthodox churches are organized geographically. Examples include the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Protestant Churches

Protestants are a diverse bunch. There are more than 200 Protestant denominations in the United States alone. They agree on certain tenets of faith such as the primacy of Scripture, the ability of believers to commune directly with God and that faith alone is necessary for salvation. Specific denominations have distinctive beliefs. For example, Presbyterian denominations believe in a set of theological principles known as Calvinism. Methodist denominations believe in humanity's free will and the potential for Christians to grow in holiness. Baptist denominations believe in Biblical inerrancy and reject baptism of infants. There are as many distinctive beliefs among Protestants as there are Protestant denominations.