Roman Catholicism: the largest sect of so-called Christians. (The term "so-called" is only reference to the title, ie, someone who believes his religion is based on Christ's teachings, not being born again or other definitions)
Greek (or Eastern) Orthodoxy: a half split from Roman Catholicism.
Protestantism: "protesting" from the Catholic Church, a result of the Reformation and another split from Catholicism.
Protestants sometimes add a fourth category: Cults.
Cults would include Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses and others.
However, this does not fix any of the underlying and fundamental problems of the system. And Catholics consider these cults to be part of Protestantism.
This system is outdated, revisionist, and over simplistic.
This system was invented by Catholics in relation to them. While them being the largest name holder of Christianity does give them some credence in setting up the classification, it fails to accurately predict the nuances.
In other words, by using this classification system, we play along the Catholic view of history. And there are obvious reasons why we shouldn't go along with the revisionists.
For example, all the classifications are based on its relation to Catholicism.
1. Catholic (Roman Catholicism) OR
2. Pretty much like Catholic no matter how much you pretend you aren't (Greek Orthodoxy) OR
3. Not a Catholic and protesting away from it, making Catholicism the "mother" (Protestantism)
It's all based on how Catholic you are! As I noted, Catholics consider Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons to be Protestants.
Catholics view all non-Catholic Christianity as rebellious and prodigal children to be subjugated under her wing as the "Mother of Christianity". I kid you not. I talk to a lot of Catholics, and this is what they tell me.
I know the classification system is entrenched in our textbooks in seminaries, history books, and such, The victor does write history. But for one, I refuse church history to be written by and from the point of view of the instigators of the Inquisition. It makes as much sense for the history of Jews to be written by Nazi Germany.
There are plenty of ways to categorize Christianity. I propose such a system:
1. Hierarchical Christianity
2. Common Christianity
3. Middle Christianity
4. Cultic Christianity
Hierarchical Christianity would be marked by the following things:
- A priesthood apart from the lay people.
- A priesthood with a patriarchal figure. The Pope and the Patriarch of Orthodoxy, amongst others.
- Emphasis on infant baptism.
- Emphasis on tradition.
- Emphasis on church authority as final. May manifest as a catechism.
- Emphasis on images, statues, icons, or other physical embodiments.
- Emphasis on saints and angelic beings.
- Emphasis on sacraments. May be seen, rightly or wrongly, as works salvation.
- No separation of church and state. Sometimes, the church is the state. Theocracy.
- Major in size.
Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy would fall under Hierarchical Christianity. The Chinese state church and other state churches would fall underneath Hierarchical.
Common Christianity would be marked by the following things:
- No priesthood apart from the lay people. The lay people are the priesthood.
- An adherence to the Bible and the Bible only as their rule for faith and religion. This does not mean they are free from errors of interpretations or conflict.
- Emphasis on believer's baptism.
- Emphasis on Bible's authority as final.
- Emphasis on separation of church and state.
- No images, statues, icons, or other physical embodiments, possibly except symbols such as the Cross.
- No emphasis on saints or angelic beings.
Most Baptistic denominations would fall under Common Christianity, along with non-denominational, and Church of Christ, and others.
Middle Christianity would be marked by the following things:
- A compromise between Hierarchical and Common.
- A conflict between a separate priesthood and priesthood of the believer. Presbyterians.
- A conflict between infant and believer's baptism. Presbyterians, again.
- A conflict between separation of church and state and theocracy. The Lutheran and Calvinistic state churches, for example.
- Emphasis on theologians and confessions. Calvinists, Lutherans, and such fall here.
- Basically, mix and match with Common Christianity, and you'll have Middle Christianity.
Most Protestant denominations would fall under Middle Christianity. The reasoning is that Protestants protested from the Catholic Church, and so would dilute their doctrines and traditions. Much of Common Christianity were never part of the Catholic Church and thus not should not be considered Protestants.
Cultic Christianity would be marked by the following things:
- A clear denial of the Trinity. This is the main difference between Hierarchical and Cultic, as Hierarchical usually does believe in the Trinity.
- A denial of other key components of the faith.
- Additional books of revelation. The Book of Mormon and the Watchtower, for instance.
- Minor in size.
As noted, Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses would be in this category.
Will it catch on? Probably not. Does it suffer some problems from the previous classification system? In some parts, yes. However, it is a struggle to keep it simple while also covering a lot of systems.