Yes, I know. Many Christians believe they are Christians and others are not; those with different beliefs are not true Christians. Protestants may say that Catholics have too many man-made rules. Catholics may disagree with Protestant's biblical interpretations. Eastern Orthodox follows the Julian calendar, disagreeing with the use of the Gregorian calendar. Each group has some traditions that they uphold as gospel. Let's take a breath.
We have so much in common! Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants are branches of Christianity. Instead of focusing on our differences, we can be thankful for God showing himself to those who seek, no matter the tradition.
Beliefs in common in all of these three main branches of Christianity:
the Bible to be the Word of God; all have the same New Testament; it was not in 1666 that the Protestant KJV excluded the Apocryphal books of the Bible
belief in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Jesus is the Son of God and our salvation is through Jesus
we are called to spread the faith
we participate in communion and baptism
I am thankful to both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches for preserving the books of the New Testament through the centuries. I am thankful they agreed on the early creeds that outline Christian beliefs, including the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. Many Protestants continue to use these creeds.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic church separated in a Great Schism in AD 1054, This divide was partly over differences in doctrine and partly over political power. The Roman church excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople and the eastern church retaliated by excommunicating the Roman pope Leo III. These ex-communications were mutually lifted in 1965, recognizing each other as different expressions of similar faith.
The Protestants broke from the Roman Catholic church over a series of protest movements that took different forms, the most famous one being in 1517 in Germany. Essentially, the Protestants opposed some of the centralized powers of the Catholic church leadership and focussed on individuals reading the Bible in their own language and accepting Jesus as the way to salvation. Since that time, the Catholic church has made many reforms.
Because Protestant churches have decentralized, there are thousands of protestant denominations. The National Association of Evangelicals charts 40 denominations, organized by their theological tradition. These traditions do not mean that only one has the truth, but rather that different traditions speak to different people. God makes himself present to all who seek him.
The goal is not to give up any tradition; believers want religious freedom to worship in a way that is meaningful to them. Christianity will never be united as one. But we can listen to, respect, and accept one another.
In writing my novel, Out of Brokenness: The Forgotten Followers, I had to make some decisions about the characters. For example, I follow the Protestant view that Jesus had brothers and sisters born of Mary, while the Catholic view is that these brothers and sisters were in fact cousins, as Mary remained a virgin after Jesus' birth. In addition, the novel shows a priesthood of all believers, without the need for a priest to take our confession or for Mary to act as a mediator for our prayers to God. I follow the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant view that Mary Magdalene is not the same person as Mary of Bethany or a prostitute who washes Jesus' feet; she is healed by Jesus and a patron and disciple. Most of the differences in Christian doctrine do not affect the novel.