Definitions of Terms

widpicProtestant Church of Christ readers,

The most common objection I receive from your members is their insistence that your communities are not “Protestant”. We all want to be called what we want to be called, but precise language is very important in theology. I understand your position, but your position muddies theological discussion. Please consider how my use of language adds clarity to Comparative Religion—and includes a fair dose of charity!

PROTESTANT: You believe you “aren’t Catholic, aren’t Protestant, simply Christian.” You certainly are not Catholic, and your group was developed at a later time than 16th century Protestant groups. So it is true you are not “Protestant” (proper), but you are certainly “Protestant” (as an adjective). The word “Protestant” means “non-Catholic Christian”; it does not mean your groups were built in the 16th century. In addition, your communities were born out of Protestantism, share many Protestant traits, adopted the Protestant Bible, and protest the Catholic Church; your DNA is thoroughly Protestant.

PROTESTANT CHURCH OF CHRIST: My use of the qualifier “Protestant” when referring to your group as the “Church of Christ” is absolutely necessary. And since the word “Protestant” is a reasonable descriptor of your group, and since you call yourselves the “Church of Christ”, the complete descriptor “Protestant Church of Christ” is accurate and fair; it is not a slight in any way. The term is necessary in Comparative Religion because the Catholic Church (and the world) has used the names “Church of Christ” and “churches of Christ” for almost two thousand years. Any student of Christian history who reads of the “Church of Christ” knows that all uses of the term refer to the historical Catholic Church. Your groups’ adoption of the Catholic Church’s names adds confusion to any discussion, and our reasonable reference to you by our use of the qualifier is needed so that readers do not assign the name to the wrong body.

CHURCH(ES) OF CHRIST: Throughout history, the names Church(es) of Christ have always referred to the Catholic Church.

CofC (CoC): I’m not aware of any use of “CofC” for the Catholic Church, so I have no problem referring to the Protestant Church of Christ as “CofC”.

RESTORATIONIST CHURCHES OF CHRIST / RESTORATIONIST: My use of this term is an attempt to reason with Restorationist Church of Christ members who present themselves as overly sensitive to the term “Protestant Church of Christ”.

CHRISTIAN: I often end my descriptions of your groups and members with the accurate term “Christian”. By virtue of your proper baptisms (with water and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), we Catholics affectionately consider Restorationists as our brothers and sisters. However, you are not in full communion with the Christian Church; Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity.

GROUPS / COMMUNITIES: I often refer to your membership as “groups / communities”; not “churches”. There is only one Church: the Catholic Church.

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