Conservative Christianity

Conservative Christianity
For conservative political views within Christianity, see Christian right.

Conservative Christianity (also called traditional Christianity) is a term applied to a number of groups or movements seen as giving priority to traditional Christian beliefs and practices.[1] It is sometimes called conservative theology, an umbrella term covering various movements within Christianity and describing both corporate denominational and personal views of Scripture.

The term conservative Christian is frequently used by Protestant evangelicals and Protestant fundamentalists as a way to distinguish themselves from the more liberal Protestant denominations, which stress the teachings of Jesus rather than the more severe methods of social control advocated in the Old Testament. This often leads to different understanding of what is and is not "conservative". It is also applied to the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches as well, not only in the case of moral theology, but also more traditional in the sense of the practice of Christianity itself.

The term traditional Christianity can be misleading as early Christianity began as a diverse movement. While virtually all forms of modern Christianity go back to a single form of Christianity that emerged from the conflicts of the second and third centuries, early Christians debated the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the relationship of Jesus to the God of the Jews, and which texts were inspired, among many other issues. [2]


General beliefs

There may be considerable overlap between certain aspects of Conservative Christianity and Christian fundamentalism, but the two terms are not synonymous. All core traditional beliefs of conservative Christians can be found in the three creedal statements, i.e. Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed; however, many Protestant evangelicals and Protestant fundamentalists reject creeds of any kind. The Protestant Auburn Affirmation in the 1920s asserted the five points of difference with the liberal Christianity of the time.

Controversy with the term traditional Christianity

The terms traditional Christianity and conservative Christianity are misleading as they imply that there is a single traditional Christianity. Diversity is not a new addition to Christianity and early Christians did not agree on basic principles of the faith.

It is true that modern day Christianity is diverse. To illustrate the diversity, there are Roman Catholic nuns, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Reformed neo-Calvinists, Appalachian snake handlers, liberal Methodist political activists, Pentecostals, and Greek Orthodox Christians. Several of these groups refuse to consider other groups "Christian."

Despite the rich diversity of modern day Christianity, Christianity in the first few centuries was even more diverse. In the second and third centuries, there were Christians who believed that Jesus was divine and human, God and man, which is what most Christians today believe. However, there were also Christians who insisted that Jesus was not divine, and was adopted by the one true God as his son due to his special righteousness. There were also Christians who argued that Jesus was completely divine, and not at all human. (For these Christians, divinity and humanity were incommensurate entities: God could no more be a human than a human could be a tree.) Some other Christians believed that Jesus was actually 2 separate being. One being was a man, and the other was a divine being. The divine being inspired Jesus’ ministry, but left him prior to his death.

The relationship of Christianity to Judaism also varied greatly among early Christians in the first, second, and third centuries. Some Christians believed that the Jewish Scriptures (which would later become the Christian "Old testament") were inspired by the one true God. Other Christians thought it was inspired, but only by the Jewish God who was not the one true God. Some Christians believed that the God of the Jews was an evil being. Other early Christians believed the Jewish Scriptures were not inspired by any divine being.

The texts that early Christians considered sacred also differed greatly. The Gospels that were eventually included were attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However at the same time other gospels were regarded as sacred. For example there was a gospel attributed to Simon Peter, another by the apostle Phillip, another by the apostle Thomas, and another by Jesus’ female disciple Mary Magdalene. Even the traitor disciple Judas received his own gospel treatment.

Despite the wide diversity of Christianity in the first few centuries, one version of Christianity emerged victorious. This version of Christianity insisted that Jesus was both human and divine. They also defined the doctrine of the Trinity. Finally, they decided on which books were inspired, and which would be included in the Bible. Virtually all forms of Christianity today emerged from this strain of Christianity that emerged victorious in the second and third centuries. This version of Christianity is sometimes referred to as traditional Christianity. However, it would be an error to say that most of the earliest Christians followed this version of Christianity.[3] [4]

Conservative Protestantism

Scholars, theologians, and writers

There are a variety of threads including the Conservative Evangelical Movement, the Holiness movement, the Pentecostal Movement, the Fundamentalist Movement, the Charismatic Movement and the Confessing Movement. Each has its distinct aspects, but also many similarities.

Conservative Protestant scholars and theologians include:



Popular conservative Protestant writers and Christian apologists include:

Conservative Catholicism

Conservatism in Catholicism primarily refers to the upholding of the Catholic Church official teachings concerning the sanctity of marriage, the prohibition of artificial birth control, the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, the importance of traditional male clergy, prohibitions on divorce and homosexuality, and other similar theological and moral matters.

The encyclical Humani Generis (1950) of Pope Pius XII began the process of affirming that the doctrine of the Catholic Church is compatible with scientific findings relating to evolution. See also Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have questioned the necessity of the death penalty in modern society, as well as having opposed the US War in Iraq, in addition to claiming as morally incompatible with Christian living: abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem-cell research. They also continue to call for arms control (but not elimination of gun rights) and for debt relief for poor nations.

Traditionalist Catholics

A traditionalist Catholic is a member of the Catholic Church who believes that there should be a restoration of the liturgical forms, public and private devotions, and presentation of Catholic teachings that prevailed in the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).[5]. There is a difference between "traditional Catholics" and "traditionalist Catholics", the former being Catholics loyal to the Church's teaching, but not necessarily desiring liturgical reform or a return to the Tridentine Liturgy.

Different types of traditionalists

Traditionalist Catholics may be divided into four broad groups.

  • Traditionalists not enjoying the favour of the Holy See: traditionalist priests and laypeople who practise their faith outside the Church, therefore existing in a state of schism, though they vehemently affirm their loyalty to the Church and to the papacy. The largest priestly society of this tendency is the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which was established in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a founding figure of Catholic traditionalism. Members of this category view the post-Conciliar changes as being unacceptable and doctrinally unsound. The fact that they recognise the official Church hierarchy while rejecting its decisions draws accusations of disloyalty and disobedience from the preceding group - whom this group in turn accuse of blind, un-Catholic obedience. However the SSPX bishops have remained in contact with the Holy See over their doctrinal discussions and in January 2009, Rome declared the implied excommunication of the SSPX bishops to be null, thereby confirming their status as "inside the Church [6]
  • Sedevacantists: priests and laypeople who regard the Pope and the bishops of the "official" Catholic Church as having supposedly fallen into heresy and therefore have forfeited their authority. Such people neither possess nor seek the approval of the Church's hierarchy. The terms "sedevacantist" and "sedevacantism" derive from the Latin phrase sede vacante: "while the chair [of Peter] is vacant", a term which is normally reserved for the period between the death or retirement of a bishop and the consecration of his successor. Sedevacantists usually date the vacancy of the papacy from the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, though some regard Pope John XXIII (1958–1963) as a true pope. Sedevacantist groups include the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV) and the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI).
  • Conclavists: priests and laypeople stemming from the sedevacantist movement who have given recognition to a nominee of their own, claiming them as the "true Pope". Since they hold that the see of Rome is no longer vacant, they are not, strictly speaking, sedevacantists, but they are often classified as such, since they reject the official papal succession (and do so for the same reasons as sedevacantists). Conclavist groups include the so-called true Catholic Church, the Palmarian Catholic Church, and the followers of David Bawden ("Pope Michael I").

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2003). Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-19-514183-2. 
  3. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2003). Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press. pp. 1–5. ISBN 978-0-19-514183-2. 
  4. ^ MacMullen, Raysay (1984). Christianizing the Roman Empire, A.D. 100-400 Publisher=Yale University Press. 
  5. ^ Traditionalist Catholics usually belong to the Latin Rite. See, however, the article on the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat
  6. ^

External links

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