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One true church

Some Christian groups or denominations have claimed that they alone represent "the one and only church" to which Jesus gave his authority in the Great Commission. The Roman Catholic Church, as well as the adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, each view themselves as the one and only original church. Other denominations believe that "the church" includes members of many denominations, believing in "an invisible church"; this is a standard view in Protestantism. Some Campbellite Restorationist groups believe their own denominations to be the one true church.

A similar theory to the Protestant "invisible church" doctrine arose in the 4th and 5th centuries, present in Novatianism and Donatism— both of which were condemned by the Bishop of Rome and the mainstream church in the Roman Empire at the time.

Others believe that in the New Testament period, there were no denominations, and the phrase Christian Church or "the church" refers either to all who follow Jesus in any form, or to all who follow Jesus in a particular location.

Others say apostolic succession is an essential element in constituting the one true church, ensuring it has inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority and responsibility that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles. A few denominations believe they have restored the original church, in belief or practice. The claim to be the one true church is related to the first of the Four Marks of the Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church".


  • Catholic Church 1
  • Eastern Orthodox Church 2
  • Anglican branch theory 3
  • Baptist churches 4
  • Iglesia ni Cristo 5
  • Latter Day Saints 6
  • One true faith (outside of Christianity) 7
    • Islam 7.1
    • Judaism 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9

Catholic Church

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the "one true Church"[1], "the universal sacrament of salvation for the human race"[2] and the "true religion"[2].

In responding to some questions regarding the doctrine of the Church concerning itself, the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated, "Clarius dicendum esset veram Ecclesiam esse solam Ecclesiam catholicam romanam..." ("It should be said more clearly that the Roman Catholic Church alone is the true Church..")[3] And it also clarified that the term "subsistit in" used in reference to the Church in the Second Vatican Council's decree Lumen Gentium "indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church".

One of the earlier councils (the Fourth Lateran Council) declared that: "There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation",[4] a statement of what is known as the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. The Church is further described in the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as the "Mystical Body of Christ".[5]

According to the Catechism, the Catholic Church professes to be the "sole Church of Christ", which is described in the Nicene Creed as the subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."[12]

In the encyclical Mortalium Animos of 6 January 1928, Pope Pius XI wrote that "in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors" and quoted the statement of Lactantius: "The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation."[13] Accordingly, the Second Vatican Council declared: "Whosoever, [...] knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.[14] In the same document, the Council continued: "The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter."[15] And in a decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, it stated: "Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognise the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise."[16]

The Church teaches that the fullness of the "means of salvation" exists only in the Catholic Church, but the Church acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of ecclesial communities separated from itself to "impel towards Catholic unity" and thus bring people to salvation in the Catholic Church ultimately. It teaches that anyone who is saved is saved through the Catholic Church but that people can be saved ex voto and by pre-baptismal martyrdom as well as when conditions of invincible ignorance are present,[17] although invincible ignorance in itself is not a means of salvation.

Eastern Orthodox Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church has identified itself as the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" in, for instance, synods held in 1836 and 1838 and in its correspondence with Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII.[18] Some Orthodox hold that there can be a kind of imperfect participation in the Church by those not visibly in communion with her. This is most famously expressed by Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, "We can say where the Church is; we cannot say where she is not."

Anglican branch theory

Apostolic succession is sometimes seen as one of the essential elements in constituting the one true church, ensuring it has inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority and responsibility that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles.

This is the position of those Anglicans who uphold the branch theory that, "though the Church may have fallen into schism within itself and its several provinces or groups of provinces be out of communion with each other, each may yet be a branch of the one Church of Christ, provided that it continues to hold the faith of the original undivided Church and to maintain the apostolic succession of its bishops."[19]

The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, according to that theory, are the principal branches of the one true Church, along with the Anglican Communion. Those churches, however, reject the theory, as do Anglicans other than the church faction often termed "Anglo-Catholicism". Anglo-Catholicism is a point of view that arose during the nineteenth century's Romantic era and which led to a renewed interest in things Gothic. The English Reformation was imagined by Anglo-Catholics to have been only a temporary and artificial interruption in the Catholic history of English Christianity. Anglicans generally do not subscribe to the idea that their church, with or without any supposed connection to the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches, constitute a "one true Church" to the exclusion of other Christian bodies.

Baptist churches

Many Baptists, who uphold the doctrine of Baptist successionism (also known as Landmarkism), "argue that their history can be traced across the centuries to New Testament times" and "claim that Baptists have represented the true church" that "has been, present in every period of history".[20][21] These Baptists maintain that those who held their views throughout history, including the "Montanists, Novatians, Patarenes, Bogomils, Paulicians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses", were persecuted for their faith, a belief that these Baptists maintain to be "grand distinguishing mark of the true church".[22] Howevever, most of these historical sects held to drastically different doctrines, and most of their beliefs would be classified as heretical by modern-day Baptists, e.g., the dualism and non-trinitarianism of the Bogomils and Albigenses.

In the introduction of The Trail of Blood, a Baptist text that explicates the doctrine of Baptist succession, Clarence Walker states that "The history of Baptists, he discovered, was written in blood. They were the hated people of the Dark Ages. Their preachers and people were put into prison and untold numbers were put to death."[23] J.M. Carroll, the author of the said text The Trail of Blood, also appeals to historian Johann Lorenz von Mosheim, who stated "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists."[23] Walter B. Shurden, the founding executive director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, writes that the theology of Landmarkism, which he states is integral of the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, upholds the ideas that "Only Baptist churches can trace their lineage in uninterrupted fashion back to the New Testament, and only Baptist churches therefore are true churches."[24] In addition Shurden writes that Baptists who uphold successionism believe that "only a true church-that is, a Baptist church-can legitimately celebrate the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Any celebration of these ordinances by non-Baptists is invalid."[21][24]

Baptists who uphold this ecclesiology also do not characterize themselves as being a Protestant Church due to their belief that "they did not descend from those churches that broke away in protest from the church of Rome. Rather, they had enjoyed a continuous historical existence from the time of the very first church in the New Testament days."[25] These views are generally no longer widely held in the Southern Baptist Convention although they are still taught by some Southern Baptist Churches and many independent Baptist churches, Primitive Baptists, and some "congregations affiliated with the American Baptist Association."[26]

Iglesia ni Cristo

The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that it is the one church founded by Jesus. Adherents hold that Iglesia ni Cristo is the only true church of Jesus Christ as restored by Felix Manalo. The church recognizes Jesus Christ as the founder of the Church. Meanwhile, its reestablishment is seen as the signal for the end of days.[27][28] They believe that the church was apostatized by the 1st or 4th century due to false teachings.[29][30] The INC says that this apostate church is the Roman Catholic Church.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
Isaiah 43:5

They believe that the Iglesia ni Cristo is the fulfillment of the passage above, and "east" refers to the [32]

Latter Day Saints

Stained glass depiction of the First Vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., completed in 1913 by an unknown artist (Church History Museum). Joseph Smith got the First Vision after he prayed about which church he should join.
It is our firm conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, as the revelations state, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30.)
Boyd K. Packer [33]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or "Mormons" believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was chosen to restore the original Church established by Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that after His Resurrection, and the subsequent deaths of the apostles, wickedness and iniquity ran rampant throughout His Church, and eventually it fell into apostasy and corruption, thus being lost from the earth. The movement does not seek, instead, to reform the Catholic Church, causing much conflict with other denominations.[34] Mormons therefore believe that from the late first century A.D. to 1830, baptism and other ordinances were absent from the earth.

Some among the Churches of Christ have attributed the restorationist character of the Latter Day Saints movement to the influence of Sidney Rigdon, a preacher who was associated with the Campbell movement in Ohio but left it and became a close friend of Joseph Smith.[35][36] Neither the Mormons nor the early Restoration Movement leaders invented the idea of "restoration"; it was a popular theme of the time that had developed independently of both, and they both represent different expressions of that common theme.[35][36] The Campbell movement combined it with Enlightenment rationalism, "precluding emotionalism, spiritualism, or any other phenomena that could not be sustained by rational appeals to the biblical text."[36] The Latter Day Saints combined it with "the spirit of nineteenth-century Romanticism" and, as a result, "never sought to recover the forms and structures of the ancient church as ends in themselves" but "sought to restore the golden age, recorded in both Old Testament and New Testament, when God broke into human history and communed directly with humankind."[36]

Mormons believe that God the Father and Jesus appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him that the creeds of the churches of the day "were an abomination in his sight" and that through him, God would restore (or re-establish) the true church.[37] Smith taught that the Great Apostasy was complete and required a full restoration of the original church. This included the Aaronic priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, and the full church structure consisting of prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. Joseph Smith served as the first prophet believed to be appointed by Jesus in the latter days. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes Thomas S. Monson as its incumbent president/prophet.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the following signs show that the LDS church is true.[38]

Sign References
Baptism ,
The Holy Ghost ,
Church Organisation
Miracles and Gifts of the Spirit ,
Revelation , ,
Persecution ,
Sealing ,
Baptism for the dead
Temple ,
Name of The Church
Missionary Activity ,

One true faith (outside of Christianity)


Muslims believe that Islam is the original and primordial faith, or fitrah, that was revealed by the prophet Muhammad.[39] Muslims maintain that previous messages and revelations have been partially changed or corrupted over time[40] and consider the Quran to be the unaltered and the final revelation from Allah. Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, which are basic concepts and obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from banking and welfare, to warfare and the environment.[41][42][43]


Jews believe that the God of Abraham is the one true God. The Jews believe the God of Abraham entered into a covenant with the ancient Israelites, marking them as his Chosen People, giving them a mission to spread the concept of monotheism. Jews do not consider their chosenness to be a mark of superiority to other nations, but a responsibility to be an example of behavior for other nations to emulate.[44]

See also


  1. ^ B) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 297-301]
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ C) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 296s]
  4. ^ Fourth Lateran Council, canon 1
  5. ^ Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Vatican City, 1943. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
  6. ^ CCC, 811.
  7. ^ Kreeft, p. 98, quote "The fundamental reason for being a Catholic is the historical fact that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, was God's invention, not man's ... As the Father gave authority to Christ (Jn 5:22; Mt 28:18–20), Christ passed it on to his apostles (Lk 10:16), and they passed it on to the successors they appointed as bishops."
  8. ^ Schreck, p. 131
  9. ^ Barry, p. 46
  10. ^ CCC, 880. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
  11. ^ Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Vatican City, 1943. Accessed Aug 20, 2011
  12. ^ , 8Lumen gentiumSecond Vatican Council,
  13. ^ Mortalium Animos
  14. ^ , 14Lumen Gentium
  15. ^ Lumen Gentium, 15
  16. ^ Decree on Ecumenism ch.1.4
  17. ^ Paul VI, Pope (1964). "Lumen Gentium chapter 2". Vatican. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  18. ^ (Eerdmans 2003) vol.3, p. 867The Encyclopedia of ChristianityErwin Fahlbusch, William Bromiley (editors),
  19. ^ "Branch theory of the Church", The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3
  20. ^ McGoldrick, James Edward (1 January 1994). Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History. Scarecrow Press. pp. 1–2.  
  21. ^ a b Johnson, Robert E. (13 September 2010). A Global Introduction to Baptist Churches. Cambridge University Press. p. 148.  
  22. ^ McGoldrick, James Edward (1 January 1994). Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History. Scarecrow Press. pp. 1–2.  
  23. ^ a b Carroll, J.M. (3 December 2013). Trail of Blood. Challenge Press.  
  24. ^ a b Shurden, Walter B. (1993). The Struggle for the Soul of the SBC: Moderate Responses to the Fundamentalist Movement. Mercer University Press. p. 103.  
  25. ^ Slatton, James H. (2009). W.H. Whitsitt: The Man and the Controversy. Mercer University Press. pp. 14–15.  
  26. ^ Leonard, Bill J. (13 August 2013). Baptists in America. Columbia University Press. p. 1819.  
  27. ^ Anne C. Harper. "Iglesia ni Cristo". StJ's Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements (Sacred Tribes Press): 1–3. 
  28. ^ Johan D. Tangelder. "Sects and Cults: Iglesia ni Cristo". Reformed Reflections. Retrieved 2011-06-20. 
  29. ^ Adriel Obar Meimban (1994). "A Historical Analysis of the Iglesia ni Cristo: Christianity in the Far East, Philippine Islands Since 1914". The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies (Tokyo: Sophia University) (12): 98–134. 
  30. ^ Anne C. Harper (2001-03-01). The Iglesia ni Cristo and Evangelical Christianity. The Network for Strategic Missions. pp. 101–119. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  31. ^ (Pasugo, November 1973, 6)
  32. ^ (Lamsa translation; cited in Pasugo, April 1978)
  33. ^ The Only True Church
  34. ^ "When was it?". Answering Protestants. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  35. ^ a b C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, "Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of the Churches of Christ," p. 94, Abilene Christian University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-89112-006-8
  36. ^ a b c d Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, p. 544-545, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, ISBN 978-0-8028-3898-8, 854 pages, entry on Mormonism
  37. ^ (See Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith - History: Chapter 1:19)
  38. ^ Signs of the True Church
  39. ^ [Encyclopædia Britannica "Islam"] Accessed July 2013
  40. ^ Accad (2003): According to Ibn Taymiya, although only some Muslims accept the textual veracity of the entire Bible, most Muslims will grant the veracity of most of it.
  41. ^ Esposito (2002b), p.17
  42. ^ Esposito (2002b), pp.111, 112, 118
  43. ^ "Shari'ah". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 
  44. ^ "What Does It Mean For Jews to Be the Chosen People?" Pelaia, Ariela.
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