By Kristen Johnson
If you’ve ever wondered what “other” Christians believe, or you have friends and family members who worship in a denomination other than your own, then Adam Hamilton’s book Christianity’s Family Tree: What Other Christians Believe and Why is the book for you.
Most people I know do not attend church, or if they do it’s not necessarily the denomination they were raised in. I am a prime example of this phenomenon. I have been a very committed Methodist now for 4 years. However, I was raised in a Pentecostal church (Assembly of God) and have also participated in youth groups or regular church services in Baptist, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Foursquare, Presbyterian, and Nazarene churches. I have family members who are Orthodox, Baptist, Evangelical/non-denominational, and Nazarene, and quite a few who don’t believe in God at all or choose not to attend church if they do. That’s a whole lot of different ideologies, creeds, and traditions to think about!
What I love about Pastor Hamilton’s book is that he really seeks to find where we all have common ground, and where we can learn from each other. He also gives readers a brief history of Christianity in general, a brief history of each of the 8 major denominations he discusses, and major beliefs of each. The core beliefs are all held in common (generally a belief in the Nicene Creed and Apostle’s Creed) but each denomination varies in everything from a belief of pre-destination (or not), to how we view Mary/Saints and church leadership, our focus on the end-times (or not), our emphasis on community service or evangelizing, all the way up to how we serve Communion, worship during services, and how we adorn (or not) our Churches. We also have differences on beliefs about which books should (or should not) be included in the Bible.
I have read several books on world religions, and I studied the subject in college and graduate school, but for some reason a discussion of the differences in mainline Christianity was never discussed. I found it to be very important to me to understand how “others” view God, how and why they worship the way they do, and what our differences and commonalities are. Reading about the history of the various denominations (and Christianity as a whole) was also extremely helpful and important.
It’s time to continue to work toward serving the world together. Look for commonalities among us and not what divides us.
Romans 12:18 (NRSV): If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Serve all with love.
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