What are the most controversial and heatedly debated doctrines in Christianity? To be more precise, I'm looking for examples of doctrines which are:

  • objectively popular, i.e., there is a significant amount of Christians who believe in this doctrine.
  • objectively controversial, i.e., there is a significant amount of other Christians who reject this doctrine for different reasons, and it is not uncommon for debates to ensue when the doctrine or its rejection are brought up in the presence of an opposing party.

Answers that substantiate claims of controversy with objective statistics would be preferred.

Note: for the purposes of this question, to disambiguate the meaning of significant amount of Christians let's assume that if a doctrine is defended by at least 1 million Christians and rejected by at least 1 million other Christians, then it is objectively popular and controversial.

Note 2: given the potential combinatorial explosion of comparisons between different denominations, I would suggest that answerers define their own 'controversy scores' to help them rank controversies. One option could be to sum the numbers of Christians for and against the doctrine, or use the minimum between the two, etc. Another criterion to rank controversies could be the degree of importance attributed to the doctrine by the defending party (or to its rejection by the antagonist side). For example, if the doctrine or its rejection is considered essential for salvation by either party, that should definitely add bonus points to the controversy score. An answer listing the "top 5" or "top 10" doctrinal controversies according to a criterion thus defined would be perfectly fine in my opinion.

Note 3: another way to identify (and justify) the existence of doctrinal controversies is by finding examples of public organized debates between notable apologists representing the different positions in dispute. For example, see Debating the Eucharist // Cameron Bertuzzi vs. Matt Fradd.

  • this seems like a matter of opinion. What signifies significant amount of Christians? Do denominational differences count (lutheran vs catholic, LDS vs baptist, etc)? If so which ones? Some differences may be debated by some but not others, does this reduce controversial nature?
    – depperm
    Oct 4 at 14:37
  • @depperm - see the last edit. Oct 4 at 14:41
  • this then looks very broad. denominational doctrinal differences are exponentially/factorial large (catholic vs lutheran, catholic vs baptist, ..., lutheran vs baptist, ..., next denomination). Count the number of denominations larger than 1 million (quite a list) and factorial that, and then multiply by the number of differences. There is at least one, but often quite a few differences
    – depperm
    Oct 4 at 14:49
  • @depperm - I can see two ways to solve that. I can raise the threshold to, say, 5 millions, to make it more restrictive, or we can define a 'controversy score' to rank controversies. One option could be to sum the numbers of people for and against the doctrine, or use the minimum between the two, etc. Oct 4 at 14:55
  • here is a very small sampling of 8 denominations and 6 points of doctrine. This article mentions potential of 9 differences that can be found. This to give a sense of how massive an undertaking this question is asking for. Getting a good count of who is for/against doctrine I don't think is actively tracked globally.
    – depperm
    Oct 4 at 14:58


Immortality of human soul

Hell Fire

  • I dunno, I'm pretty sure these are the least controversial doctrines in Christianity. Almost all Christians would say that if you reject the Trinity, your soul is going to go to Hell forever. In event this isn't a good answer or a good question as far as I'm concerned. It is a good example of why it's a bad question though, so thank you!
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 4 at 16:25
  • @peter there are millions who say these three are unbiblical. There are many millions who say that they are. That is a fit for this question
    – Kris
    Oct 4 at 17:58
  • @Kris - since my question got closed (I kind of anticipated this possibility, although I did my best to prevent it), I'm accepting you answer so that I can at least get some reputation points back in return :). It would still be helpful though if you were to cite a few references to justify the items on your list. Oct 4 at 18:18
  • Perhaps you will need to direct the question to one denomination at a time. As a jw I find these 3 the most controversial doctrines when interacting with most other denominations. Catholics would cite perpetual virginity and other parts of Mariology
    – Kris
    Oct 4 at 18:53
  • @kris FWIW, I don't think Catholics would say that (Protestants maybe, if they're talking specifically about their relation with the mothership). I think Catholics would say "The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist" is the perpetual controversial subject. Followed by prayers for the dead, faith and works and Filioque, infallibility. Then Marian dogmas and iconoclasm. But yeah, I do think that if SpiritRealmIvestigator wanted to aim the investigation in that direction these questions have potential, you'd have to be on the lookout for dupes though
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 4 at 20:11

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