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So obviously different sects or denominations have different interpretations and apply different emphasis to various teachings of the bible, but I'm wondering if there is a word to describe when a person or sect has a certain belief that is unique from other versions of Christianity. For instance, if someone believes that Jesus visited the Americas (Mormonism), or that he did not die in crucifixion and went on to have a family, or even something extremely trivial and specific like, for instance, (I'm just making this up off the top of my head) Jesus was a born as a breached birth.

How could you say, "The Breachers (again, I'm making this up and am not trying to be disrespectful) have a _________ where they believe Jesus was born as a breached birth." Is there a word that could fill that blank that would mean "a unique or controversial interpretation of a specific aspect of Christianity"?

  • Perhaps "unorthodox view"? Or "minority report", but that's more for less controversial matters. – Birdie Jul 3 '18 at 23:11
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    As far as I know, there is no specific Christian word for such a thing. In English, words that seem to fit are unique, novel, and peculiar. Try english.stackexchange.com for more suggestions. – 3961 Jul 3 '18 at 23:21
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    Eastern Orthodoxy refers to all non-Orthodox, including Catholics, as "heterodox" – guest37 Jul 6 '18 at 0:01
  • The historical word is 'heterodoxy' or 'heterodox belief.' – zippy2006 Aug 1 '18 at 0:36
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A standard term for this is the noun distinctive. It is used to identify the beliefs or practices that separate one denomination or tradition from another, as opposed to those beliefs that they have in common.

For example, here are several examples of how this is used:

  • "Lutheran Theological Distinctives"
  • "Passing on the PCA distinctives to the next generation"
  • "Although the vast majority of Christian doctrines and beliefs are things that we hold in common, there are some 'Methodist distinctives,' and it is important for us to understand them." (source)
  • "[The] argument elevates aspects such as Anglican 'distinctives' in worship and liturgy, sacred time and space, decency or orderliness and sources of religious authority, at the expense of [...] more primary themes." (source)
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  • Well, damn. I just went through the OED's theology and doctrinal terms looking for sth that would match and could only find oddities like 'neodoxy', 'neology', 'sphalm', and 'theologoumenon' or – lly Jul 5 '18 at 18:10
  • ...outdated terms (at least in this sense) like 'neologism', 'peculiar(ity)', 'particular(ity)', 'stripe', and 'speciality'. They don't have a theological bent to their 'distinctive' entry (although it notes the noun use). Good find! +1 – lly Jul 5 '18 at 18:11
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    I would like if there was a neutral sounding word for this situation. It seems "distinctive" is that word, so I would rather like to make it more common. Great answer. – 3961 Jul 5 '18 at 18:58
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With regard to a view that does not affect a person’s salvation (for example, that Jesus was a breach birth), it would be acceptable to describe such a view as unorthodox, unique, or singular if no other Christian denomination subscribed to such a view or to simply say they “are of the opinion” that...

However, if a Christian denomination held to a controversial doctrine that denies one or more of the fundamentals of biblical truth, then that belief would be viewed as heretical. For example, a denial of the deity of Christ results in the view that Jesus’s death was insufficient to pay for our sins. A denial of salvation by faith alone results in the teaching that salvation is achieved by our own works. Believing a heretical teaching could prevent a person from coming to saving faith in Christ Jesus.

As unpopular as it might be to brand a teaching as heretical, Jude commended the first Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”.

J I Packer on heresies: “Since it is beyond the wit of man to invent a new heresy, it is a great help to know the old ones, so that one can spot them when they reappear in modern make-up.”

However, an uncontroversial opinion or interpretation of an insignificant detail of Christian belief would not be a heresy, merely a point of view.

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  • @Ily - Appreciate the edits - I didn't realise answers were subjected to such scrutiny, but I have taken note! – Lesley Jul 5 '18 at 16:39
  • @Leslie They aren't, really. I'm just doing a bit of copy editing to get my rep up a bit until there's a question I can helpfully answer. – lly Jul 5 '18 at 18:17
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    @lly Oh, yes they certainly are. Please do continue to make grammar, spelling, and format edits when you see the need for them. We all appreciate it. – 3961 Jul 5 '18 at 19:06
  • @Ily – It’s always good to learn something new about punctuation. As a matter of interest, my Scottish name is spelt Lesley, not Leslie. Leslie is the masculine form whereas Lesley is the feminine form. The Gaelic name means “the grey tower or fortress”. – Lesley Jul 6 '18 at 14:27
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Is there a word... that would mean "a unique or controversial interpretation of a specific aspect of Christianity"?

Is there a word? No. Heresy, conceit, dogma, unorthodox teaching, &c. do not imply any kind of uniqueness, as @Lesley's quote from J.L. Packer describes. [I stand corrected. It looks like the noun 'distinctive' is in some use for this idea.]

Is there a phrase? Sure. Christ's visitation of the Americas is a distinctive or unique doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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Words like this depend on the context/perspective you're trying to put forward. If you're trying to be unbiased but indicate the word may fall short of full interprative support, you may consider the word "dogma."

If you're trying to convey sarcasm, contempt, or disdain (not particularly Christian attitudes), then my may consider "conceit" or "heresy."

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