Ideological and intellectual differences constitute an inevitable norm in this universe. Thoughts and beliefs vary according to people’s understandings, conceptions and even environments. Difference is still deemed healthy so long as it lies in partialities and secondary issues, but it becomes unhealthy if it lies in principles, universalities, totalities and constants.
A cardinal principle is indivisible. It is to be or not to be. Either you believe or not believe in it. As for partialities and secondary issues, they may differ, vary, ramify and become subject to such healthy difference among people which maintains the cardinal principle.
However, if difference lies in cardinal principles, the original idea is blasted and the single cardinal principle is replaced by several cardinal principles over which people disagree. As a result, people go very far when identifying the cardinal principle to such an extent which renders the discovery of the truth something unattainable and so there becomes no room for agreement any longer.
At that point, claims multiply, allegations vary and common ground vanishes to such an extent which makes reconciliation unfeasible and the truth too narrow to accommodate all of those claims and allegations.
Therefore, the sound dogma is distinguished from the unsound one by the consistency of principles, universalities, totalities and constants even if partialities and secondary issues vary.
A sound dogma has homogenous principles even if subordinate matters are heterogeneous. But, if principles are as heterogeneous as the subordinate matters, a dogma then can never be sound, given the irreconcilability of the principles and elements of this dogma to which the followers of this dogma are expected to agree.
If the principle is multiplied, secondary issues are ramified to such an extent that the ramifications of the same idea or belief are irreconcilable, the truth cannot be discovered and the common denominator cannot be identified.
Let us know the major denominations in Islam and Christianity so that we will determine the areas of agreement and disagreement among the followers of the same religion and judge the consistence of the articles of faith and practice in both Christianity and Islam.
Whenever the articles of faith are consistent, a faith is then more likely to be sound and genuine. Otherwise, a given divergence in creed among denominations per se serves as evidence of the futility, invalidity, absurdity and falsehood of faith.
Major Christian Denominations
Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism
Areas of Agreement among Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism
|Areas of Agreement among Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism|
|Holy Trinity||Belief in the Holy Trinity|
|Jesus’s Sonhood of God||Belief that Jesus is the son of God and in his propitiatory sacrifice and second coming|
|Sunday||Belief that Sunday is the Lord’s day|
Areas of Disagreement among Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism
|Jesus’s Nature & Will||
The Oriental Orthodoxy believes in one nature and one will of Jesus Christ
However, the Eastern orthodoxy believes in two natures and two wills of Jesus; one is human and the other is divine.
|Believes in two natures and two wills of Jesus; one is human and the other is divine.||Believes in two natures and two wills of Jesus; one is human and the other is divine.|
|Holy Spirit||The Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father alone.||The Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son.||The Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son.|
|Mary (Position)||Mary is venerated as Theotokos (Greek: ‘God-bearer’). This means that the son she bore was God in human form. She is first amongst the saints and ‘ever-virgin’.||Mary was a holy woman who was chosen to bear the Son of God. Her perpetual virginity and intercession are denied.||The view is similar to the Orthodox church – the title ‘Mother of God’ being used more commonly than Theotokos. This title forms one of the ‘Marian Dogmas’ of the Church. The others are Mary’s perpetual virginity, assumption and immaculate conception.|
|Mary (Assumption and Immaculate conception)||The Assumption is accepted, but the Immaculate conception is rejected.||Both are denied. The claim that Mary was sinless is rejected – only Christ was sinless.||Both are accepted|
|Sacraments||There are at least seven Sacraments (known as ‘Mysteries’ in Orthodoxy): Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Holy Unction, Marriage (Holy Matrimony) and Penance (Confession). The list is not fixed.||Generally, only two sacraments (also known as Ordinances) are recognised: Baptism and the Eucharist (often called ‘Holy Communion’ or the ‘Lord’s Supper’).||The number of Sacraments is fixed at seven and is the same list as that in Orthodoxy, with the exception of Chrismation, which is generally known as ‘Confirmation’.|
|Sacraments (Effect)||The Mysteries convey grace to those who participate in them worthily.||There is a diverse range of opinions, but many Protestants regarding the Sacraments as symbols or reminders of Grace already given.||Agrees with the Orthodox position.|
|Eucharist (Significance)||Commonly termed the ‘Mystic Supper’ or ‘Divine Liturgy’ – This makes present Christ’s sacrifice and therefore forgiveness of sins is obtained through it. It is also an encounter with the Risen Christ.||The Eucharist, like Baptism is only a symbol of grace. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharist is also rejected.||The position is similar to the Orthodox. The Eucharist is also known as the ‘Holy sacrifice of the Mass’.|
|Eucharist (Presence of Christ therein)||During the Eucharist, the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit (in Greek: epiklesis) upon the gifts (the bread and the wine). They then change into the actual body and blood of Christ. The precise way in which this happens is a divine mystery.||The bread and wine, being symbols, do not change substance. There are, however, a wide variety of views held within Protestantism on this subject (e.g. some Anglicans accept the Catholic view, whereas Baptists deny it).||As in Orthodoxy, the Priest invokes the Holy Spirit during the Mass. However, the consecration becomes effective through the Priest, who acts in the person of Christ. The gifts change completely into Christ’s body and blood and this change is termed ‘Transubstantiation’ i.e. the outward appearance remains the same, but the substance changes.|
|Eucharist (Distribution)||The consecrated elements can only be received by members. Orthodox policy is to have communion in both kinds (i.e. both the bread and wine are given to those present).||The elements are usually offered to all Christians who feel able to partake of them. The vast majority of Protestant churches have communion in both kinds.||As with Orthodoxy, only members of the church may receive. In some Catholic Churches, the bread alone is given to the congregation, the Priest receiving the wine. However, it is becoming common for churches to have communion in both kinds.|
|Salvation||Salvation is “faith working through love” and should be seen as a lifelong process. The Ultimate aim of every Orthodox Christian is to obtain Theosis or union with God. This is done through living a holy life and seeking to draw closer to God.||Salvation is the free and unmerited gift of God to man. It is obtained by grace through faith in Christ alone. Through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we are rendered acceptable to God and judged righteous (justified) in his sight.||Salvation is by grace, specifically sanctifying grace, which is given initially through Baptismal regeneration and then maintained through the Sacraments, which are ‘channels of grace’.|
|Purgatory||An intermediate state between earth and heaven is recognised, but cleansing and purification occur in this life, not the next.||Purgatory is rejected – Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient to remove the penalty for all our sins.||An intermediate state of cleansing and preparation for heaven. Also a state where the punishment due to unremitted venial sins may be expiated.|
|Scripture (Importance)||There is one source of divine revelation: Tradition. Scripture forms the oral part, and the writings of saints, decisions of ecumenical councils etc. are also part of it.||Scripture alone is the only infallible guide and the final authority on matters of Christian faith and practice (One of the foundational principles of Protestantism).||Alongside Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition (i.e. teachings handed down from Christ and the apostles to the present) are to be considered sources of divine revelation. Tradition and scripture are interpreted by the magisterium or teaching authority of the church.|
|Bible (Composition)||Accept the 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books, but also a collection of books not found in the original Hebrew Bible. These are known as Deuterocanonicals i.e. a second canon of scripture.||Protestants reject the deuterocanonicals as not being inspired scripture and term them Apocrypha (Greek: ‘Hidden Things’).||Agrees with Orthodoxy as to the validity of these books.|
|Worship and Liturgy||The ‘Divine Liturgy’ is the centre of Orthodox spirituality. Worship is usually in the vernacular, though Greek is also used.||There are a wide variety of worship styles. Examples include the spontaneity of the Pentecostal churches, and the more traditional worship of the Anglican churches in the Catholic tradition.||Worship is centred around the Mass. Following the Vatican II council (1962-5), greater emphasis was placed on worship in the vernacular, though the traditional Latin (‘Tridentine’) Mass is also used.|
|Apostolic Succession||This is an important part of Orthodox belief and ensures continuity with the church that Christ founded.||With the exception of the Anglicans and some Lutherans, this idea is rejected. Rather it is important to emphasise continuity of teaching with that of the apostles, rather than a direct line of succession.||As in Orthodoxy, this is of vital importance to the church. There is also some degree of mutual recognition of the validity of Orthodox ordinations.|
|Saints||A special group of holy people, who are venerated. They may act as intercessors between God and Man and may be invoked in prayer.||All Christians are saints, called to imitate Christ. Only Christ may mediate between God and Man.||The position is very similar to Orthodoxy. For sainthood, it is also required that at least two verifiable miracles have occurred as a result of the intercession of that person.|
|Pope (Authority)||As the Bishop of Rome, he has a primacy of honour when Orthodox, not of jurisdiction. At present, his primacy is not effective as the papacy needs to be reformed in accordance with Orthodoxy. His authority is thus no greater or lesser than any of his fellow Bishops in the church.||The Pope is the leader of the Catholic church, having no authority to speak for the church as a whole.||The Pope is the ‘Vicar of Christ’ i.e. the visible head of the church on earth and spiritual successor of St. Peter. He has supreme authority (including that over church councils) within Christendom (The Power of the keys).|
|Pope (Infallibility)||Papal Infallibility is rejected.||Protestants also reject Papal infallibility.||The Pope is infallible|
|Clergy (Qualification)||Priests and Bishops must be male, but deaconesses are permitted, though the order is dormant.
Priests and deacons may marry before ordination but not after. Bishops, on the other hand, must be celibate.
|The majority of Protestants do not require celibacy as a condition of election to the clergy. Many churches practice female ordination, including those within the Anglican communion, where the issue of female episcopacy is currently being discussed.||All clergy are required to be male. Priests and Bishops must also be celibate, with the exception of Eastern Rite Catholics and Anglican married clergy who subsequently convert to Catholicism. These groups are allowed to have married priests.|
|Marriage and Divorce||Divorce is generally only allowed in cases of adultery||Marriage is not unbreakable. Divorce is discouraged, but permitted as evidence of human weakness. Some denominations permit remarriage in church.||Marriage is seen as an unbreakable contract. Remarriage after divorce is not permitted.|
Major Muslim Denominations
Sunnis and Shias
Areas of Agreement between Sunnis and Shias
|Areas of Agreement between Sunnis and Shias|
|Belief in God||Belief in God alone, without partner, son, child or incarnate|
|Belief in Prophet Muhammad||Belief in Prophet Muhammad as a servant, prophet and messenger of God|
|Belief in the Qur’an||Belief in the Qur’an as the word of God and a first and foremost source of legislation|
|Belief in the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition)||Belief in the Sunnah as Prophet Muhammad’s teachings and second source of legislation|
|Belief in the Pillars of Islam||Belief in the five pillars of Islam, including the testimony of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage|
|Belief in the Unseen||Belief in God as well as His angels, Scriptures, and messengers, along with the Day of Judgment and predestination|
Areas of Disagreement between Sunnis and Shias
|Area of Disagreement||Sunnis||Shias|
|Prophet Muhammad’s Successor (Caliph)||Believe that Prophet Muhammad did not explicitly choose a certain successor and succession (caliphate) is subject to consultation (Shura) among Muslims||Believe that Prophet Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib and his offspring in accordance with the command of God to be caliphs|
|Mahdi||Believe that the Mahdi will be named Muhammad, be a descendant of Muhammad, and will revive the faith||Believe that the Mahdi will be Muhammad Al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam returned from the Occultation, where he has been hidden by God since 874|
|Sunnah (Hadith)||Believe in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad which is transmitted on the authority of the Grand Companions of Prophet Muhammad by trustworthy narrators through reliable chains of narration||Believe in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad but they trust only traditions transmitted through their Imams, Prophet Muhammad’s descendants through Fatimah Al-Zahra’.|
|Prostration on the Ground||Believe in the permissibility of prostration on the ground without covers like rugs or carpets||Believe in the obligation of prostration on the soil without covers. They are recommended to prostrate on At-Turbah Al-Husainiyah or Mohr. It is a piece of soil taken from the soil of Karbala where Al-Hussain bin Ali was martyred|
|Nikah Al-Mut`ah (Temporary Marriage)||Believe in the prohibition of Nikah Al-Mut`ah||Believe in the permissibility of Nikah Al-Mut`ah|
|Reliability of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad||Believe in the reliability of all Grand Companions of Prophet Muhammad, excluding the well-known hypocrites. According to Sunnis, Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and `A’ishah are all reliable and trustworthy. Sunnis seek God’s pleasure for all Grand Companions.||Believe in the unreliability of some Grand Companions of Prophet Muhammad who did not believe in Ali’s right to caliphate, like Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and `A’ishah.|
|Infallibility||Believe in the infallibility of prophets only||Believe in the infallibility of prophets as well as their imams also|
|Adhan (Call to Prayer)||The Sunni Adhan is almost the same as the Shia one, but the following statement is added in the Sunni Adhan for the Dawn Prayer “Prayer is better than sleeping”||The Shia Adhan is almost the same as the Sunni one, but the following statement is added in the Shia Adhan “Make haste towards the best thing”|
|Self-Flagellation||Believe in the prohibition of self-flagellation||Disagree over the prohibition of self-flagellation|
Analysis & Comment
It is very evident that difference among the Christian denominations lies in principles and totalities. We notice that they differ over the nature of God Himself that consists of three persons. They disagree over the nature of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin not to mention the Bible itself.
This means that Christianity as a faith is a religion without overall principles or universalities which are in common among all or at least major Christian denominations. As such, the truth about Christianity cannot be discovered. Thus, this can be seen as confused, disturbed religion.
As for the difference among the Muslim denominations, it lies in partialities and secondary issues. Muslims, both Sunnis and Shias, believe in the same principles and universalities, that is, belief in God and His angels, scriptures, and messengers, as well as the Day of Judgment and predestination.
Sunnis and Shias believe in all prophets including Prophet Muhammad and in the Qur’an as well as the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad though they differ over the way of compiling this Sunnah. They also believe in the pillars of Islam and the articles of faith.
After all, it is safe to say that Islam has one, original, genuine essence which is shared by all Muslim denominations and consistent with the previous messages and scriptures. This means that Islam is the genuine extension of the true religion of God from Adam’s time up to the Day of Judgment.
4- Wikipedia (the Free Encyclopedia)
What a unique comparative article!!