Some religions have what might be described as unpalatable, or at least 'weird' beliefs, from an outside perspective, and sometimes they hide these beliefs from new members and reveal them only to members once they've become well-established in the religion. The most obvious example outside of Christianity is Scientology, which seems to present one face to the outside world and to new members, but a slightly (or significatnly) different world view once you are accepted into it.

This post is notmeant to be judgemental of that practice, for what it's worth, I would just like to know where this pattern exists within Christianity.

Are there any Christian branches which display this type of pattern of behaviour?

I know most do not. As far as I know, there's not any aspect of Catholicism or most branches of Protestant that is deliberately hidden from the outside and only taught to long-standing members. Usually, most churches wear all of their beliefs and practices on their sleeve.

  • 4
    LDS have some secret/private practices, but I don't know if they have any secret theology.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 10:04
  • @curiousdannii that's fascinating! If you have any links to examples or evidence, I would appreciate that as an answer.
    – TKoL
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 10:05
  • Part of the trouble with this question that I've just realized is that it's the age of the internet now, so churches which might have had secret knowledge 30 years ago may have had to adapt to the information age and stop keeping those things secret. Again pointing to Scientology, where they are no longer capable of keeping their beliefs secret anymore.
    – TKoL
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 10:06
  • 2
    @curiousdannii I wouldn't say secret, but sacred non lds article. For example temples have open houses after construction/renovation. Washington DC one has an open house in April - June 2021 where the public is welcome to come and see
    – depperm
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 11:06
  • 1
    @TKoL: See Christian mysteries and disciplina arcani.
    – user46876
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


Which Christian branches/sects have information about their belief system hidden from new members but revealed to established ones?

Historically this has been done in the early days of Christianity. The Early Church practiced this method, in some areas, in order to avoid ridicule, scorn, misunderstanding and possible blasphemy from the part of pagans.

In parts of the Early Christian Church, many aspects of Christian theology, including some sacraments and sacramentals, the so-called disciplina arcani, were kept hidden from the pagans lest they become objects of ridicule, and were also introduced gradually to catechumens or new converts. As the Age of Persecution ended, the secrecy was gradually relaxed. But the term continued to be used, and the same word is used in the Eastern Orthodox churches to describe "mysteries" and "sacraments". This is not usually so in the West, although theologically many aspects of sacraments are recognized as mysteries in the main sense described above, especially (for those churches accepting it) the doctrine of transubstantiation in the Eucharist. Hence Pope Paul VI's papal encyclical of 3 September 1965 on the Eucharist was titled, from its opening words, Mysterium fidei. In the Roman Rite Catholic Mass within or immediately after the formula of consecration of the wine, the celebrant says "The mystery of faith". Originally the term "Mystery" was used for the sacraments generally in both the East and the West, as shown from the "Mystagogical Homilies" of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and the work, On the Mysteries by St. Ambrose of Milan.

Although all the official doctrines of Christian churches have long been fully public, the loosely defined area of Christian thought called Christian mysticism often concerns the contemplation of sacred mysteries and may include the development of personal theories about them, undertaken in the knowledge that they can never be fully apprehended by man. - Sacred mysteries (Wikipedia)

The Knights of Columbus within the Catholic Church had have secret initiation ceremonies, but these do not engage on Church beliefs. They are simply keeping their ceremonies secret, thus equating secret to private! In January 2020, the Knights decided to drop their secret initiation ceremonies.(See: In major change, Knights of Columbus drop secret initiation ceremony)

”Secret” is not always the best phrase to employ at all times in reference to certain situations within Christianity. For example the the term secret for Vatican’s Secret Archives (Library)! A better understanding for the word for secretum would be private.

The Vatican said on Monday the new name would be the Vatican Apostolic Archives. This removes any potentially “negative nuances” from the Latin word “secretum”, which the pope said in a decree was closer to “private” or “reserved” than “secret” when the archives were first named in about 1610.

They have not been secret in practice for a long time anyway: like most state archives, they are open to qualified researchers after a period of time. The collection of papers, documents and parchments dates as far back as the eighth century, making the archives one of the world’s most important research centres. - Vatican's Secret Archives no longer officially secret after renaming

  • In my opinion, a better translation of secretum in this context is "reserved". Resulting in the name: the Vatican's Reserved Archives. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 19:15
  • Thanks for your input. the so-called disciplina arcani, were kept hidden from the pagans lest they become objects of ridicule, and were also introduced gradually to catechumens or new converts. is the sort of thing I'm looking for, fascinating that this sort of thing was going on in Christianity pretty much right away!
    – TKoL
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 17:00
  • @TKoL No problem! I am still looking for other cases..
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 17:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .