What about different denominations?

by Matt Slick

The reason there are different denominations within Christianity is because the Bible allows for us to have differences of opinions. Within Christianity there are very few essential doctrines that define what it means to be a Christian. These essential doctrines are,

  1. Jesus is both God and man (John 1:1,14; 8:24; Col. 2:9; 1 John 4:1-4).
  2. Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:14).
  3. Salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:1-2).
  4. The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:8-9.
  5. There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8).
  6. God exists as a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  7. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (nature of incarnation).

As long as a church believes in these essential doctrines, then it is Christian. However, there are many things in the scriptures that have been interpreted in different ways. For example, on what day of the week should we worship, Saturday or Sunday? Should we baptize by sprinkling or baptize by immersion? Do we take communion every Sunday, once a month, or once a year? The answers to these questions do not affect whether or not someone is a Christian. It is in these issues, and others like them, that denominations are formed. It does not mean that one denomination contradicts another. It means that though they agree in the essentials, they differ in some nonessentials. This is permitted in Scripture:

"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind," (Rom. 14:1-5).

Sadly, there is another reason for denominational differences and that is the failure of Christians to live according to the will of God. The truth is that we are all sinners and we do not see things eye-to-eye. It is an unfortunate truth that denominational differences are due to our shortsightedness and lack of love. But, the good thing is that God loves us so much that He puts up with our failures. There waits for us,in spite of our differences,a great reward in Heaven. Neither salvation nor damnation is dependent upon our differences. Our salvation is based on our relationship with Christ.


David E. R. Shaner said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. May God bless the work of your hands!

As a Catholic, I believe that Jesus himself instituted the Church to be unified "as he is with his Father"--and the Church is intended to be Catholic. But I think we can both agree (if you're inclined to say the Creed every now-and-then) that "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" certainly does include even schizmatic churches--as long as these churches teach what is in line with the Bible. Or for that matter, teach the Bible...Jesus didn't die on the cross to make us feel better about ourselves, to make us rich in things, give us something to do on Sundays, create a boo-boo list of things we can and can't do (without understanding or caring why), or--OR--even have Really Good Hair, but because we basically are insufficient, worthless and we need him to help us do better by ourselves and other people.

Okay, your turn....

I'm going to add your blog to my Follow List, and would like it if you would at least consider following mine.

Lloyd said...

First of all David, I would like to thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on this post. I do respect your decision to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church. However, I strongly believe that there is only one biblical authority and that is the Word of God (Holy Bible).

I think the only point that I can agree with you on would be that Jesus Himself instituted the church. I fully understand why my Lord Jesus died for me on the cross. If the "creed" you are referring to is the "Apostle's Creed", I am aware of it and have read it many times. However, I must point out to you that the word "catholic" with a lower case 'c' does not mean the Roman Catholic Church, but the universal Christian Church as a whole. It refers to "ALL" churches that have our Lord Jesus Christ as the head of their church and believe in the essential Christian doctrines.

Thank you for adding my blog to your "follow list" and it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will convict you of the truth. Blessing too you. Lloyd

David E. R. Shaner said...

Okay, my turn...and if I sound argumentative, I apologize: this would go better as a spoken conversation.

The New Testament came well after we killed Jesus, as it was assumed he would come back very quickly. We have the Bible itself because of holy tradition. We have the Bible presented in the order that it is because of tradition. I don't know what you would call the concept we call "Sola Scriptura," but I refer to the idea that the Bible--which remember the New Testament POSTdates Jesus' walk on Earth... Let's try this: I used to work in a bookstore and had a customer that insisted that the King James Version was the version Jesus preached from, and therefore the only valid Bible. Really? I am HORRID at history, but wasn't that translation made in 1516 or 1615? And wasn't the original text (the "real" Bible) in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek? And again, wasn't the best part of it written only after the Apostles decided that first-source oral tradition was about to turn second-source? What was before the KJV? Sure, it wasn't the NAB, RSV, Douay-Rheims, etc., but the oral tradition of the Apostles, the first priests of the "catholic" Catholic Church. I don't know what Protestant tradition you follow, but I was Baptist. The Baptists were some kind of offshoot of the Mennonites, or the Something-or-others, because some man decided he knew better than someone else and as consequence started his own church. I would rather, because we ARE merely men indeed, not have a man tell me he can improve on the Original and Best. I mean, wouldn't that be scary?

My e-mail is posted on my blog, and I would rather converse by that medium than this Comment Page, but here and now I am your guest. Could I have a glass of water? It's so hot in Alabama...

Lloyd said...

Hello again David... There is no argument from me because I think I have pretty much explained what I believe in when it comes to our Lord Jesus Christ. Please read the side bar entries and it will enlighten you as to what my blog is all about.

I would hope that you see that I trust only in what the Word of God has to say about the salvation of mankind. I am not interested in any speculations or personal opinions on why you may have chosen to join the RCC. I have done my homework regarding the history of Christianity and, to be quite frank, have a hard time understanding why anyone could believe all of the false doctrines and fables of the RCC.

This is not to antagonize you, but I say this in the love of our Lord Jesus. I have seen endless debate and dialog regarding the battle between Christians over "Sola Scriptura" and I must tell you, I will not entertain the debate on this blog.

I again thank you for your visits and comments but must let you know that my blog will not be a sounding board for the RCC doctrines and traditions. May our Lord bless you in all your endeavors?

Brother in Christ, Lloyd

todrawneargod said...

Nice post. It is certainly true. And sometimes, sadly, there are discrimination in many denominations... We should help build up and not break each other. I certainly agree with you...

Sometimes we focused too much on the nonessentials and our differences which only leads to division...

todrawneargod said...

Lloyd, I was a Catholic. I was born a Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church. I studied in a Catholic School during High School. For four years in highschool, I came to know more about the life of the saints (e.g. Saint Therese Of Avila, etc and the Apparition of Mary) but I did not have a relationship with God. It was when I was in college when my roommates who are Christians told me and shared to me the Gospel and about having a relationship with God... In my journey, I learned many things and my relationship with the Lord deepened. I learned to read the Bible daily, and I love it! (not letting it sit on the shelf full of dust) and on the journey reading the Bible (God's Word spoken to man, written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit) I've learned that there are many teachings or doctrines in the RCC that is contradictory to the Word of God.

I'm happy to be in the Truth and the Truth has indeed set me free...

Lloyd said...

todrawneargod - Thank you so much for your visit and testimony for the Lord. You are right when you say that sometimes we focus too much on the nonessentials which in turn causes division. My wife was also a Catholic growing up and when she became an adult she discovered the same thing that you did regarding the teachings and doctrines of the RCC. God bless you my sister in Christ. Lloyd

Daily-dabble.com said...

Excellent post and some great discussion in the comments too!
I believe we share the same views on the RCC, unfortunately I have many Italian relatives who were raised up Catholic and sadly most are no longer even practicing any kind of faith. I find it so sad that most Catholics I've spoken to don't read the Bible for themselves at all, but, as you've said, this is not the place for such discussions.

I'm glad you wrote this post about different denominations, I'm sure it will bless all who read it.
God bless you.

Carl said...

It seems this post is suggesting that denominationalism is justified by the "opinion" factor.

Modern believers have different opinions. First century believers had different opinions. The solution according to Paul was to have the same mind.

When the Corinthian believers (carnal as they were), were following different opinions, Paul raked them over the coals. Jesus is the only One to follow, and separating over opinions (is this not the heart of denominationalism?), as far as I can tell, is sin.

Since I have discovered this in the Word, and believed it (instead of just dismissing it), I have come into a vast wealth of Christian thinking and fellowship with believers who think differently (and better?), and I am a richer Christian for it.

Denominationalism creates Christian ghettos, where everyone within the denominational camp is afraid to discuss with others, to interact. By implication, this shows a lack of confidence in their grasp of the Bible. After all, if you are seeking to know what God's will is through a careful, consistent, reading of the Bible, all opinions will need to be filtered through the truth.

Bring on the opinions. I wanna learn and study!

By the way, I am a very opinionated fellow, but I refuse to shut myself into a group who only thinks, talks and nods the way I do - how impoverishing!

A man once told me...

"Truth has the best arguments"

(I think it was on a bubble gum wrapper!)

Anyway, come visit me at http://doesthebible.blogspot.com.

Maybe give a comment.

I look forward to a discussion of doctrine, reproof, correction, and/or instruction in righteousness

Lloyd said...

Carl - Thank you for your visit and comments. It is my opinion that this whole issue is not about "denomination" or "non-denomination", but whether a church is a "Christian church".

As it is laid out in the post above, there are the "bottom-line" essential doctrines that make a church "Christian" and they are: 1) Jesus is both God and man; 2) Jesus rose from the dead physically; 3) Salvation is by grace through faith; 4) The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; 5) There is only one God; 6) God exists as a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; And, 6) Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (nature of incarnation).

Now when you come right down to it, the name of a church has nothing to do with what the folks that make up the body of Christ believe in, if they are true followers of our Lord and Savior. You can call yourself a non-denominational church, but still you have folks making up the body that have backgrounds that come from denominational churches. A rose is a rose no matter what you call it.

The bottom line is... do you believe in the essential doctrines that makes a church "Christian". Both non-denominational church and denominational churches have the same "hang-ups" over non-essential doctrines. Paul stressed that we must be of one mind and that mind is of Christ.

I believe that when you say "Denominationalism creates Christian ghettos, where everyone within the denominational camp is afraid to discuss with others, to interact." you are lumping a lot of good Christian churches into a category that draws a false conclusion. There are both denominational and non-denominational churches that fit into this category if they do not teach and believe in the core essential doctrines of the Christian church. What is important is that they preach the TRUTH of the Word of God and show unity and love to those around them.

So my friend in Christ, it makes no difference to God whether you worship Him in a building that has a name that does not reflect a mainstream denomination... what matters is that you are worshiping Him and that you have accepted as your Lord and Savior His Son, Christ Jesus.

Gold Speck said...

During the first few hundred years of the Church's history, Christianity was illegal and Christians were scattered abroad over the face of the earth, under severe persecution. From the beginning, false religions purported themselves to be the true Christianity. This began so early that we even hear mention of it in the epistles. We still possess the writings of many of these early Christian writers, such as Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement, etc. When they were pressed to account for why theirs was the true Christianity, they flashed their credentials. Ignatius was the personal student of the Apostle John, for example. All of these followers of Christ were a single community, with a common faith. When Christianity was at last legalized, the Christian leadership gathered together in Councils, the first of which was in a city called Nicea. (Just as had been done by the Apostles in Jerusalem, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit , Acts 15) These Christians came from Africa, India, the Middle East, and Europe. Here, they set down in writing specifics of their common faith. Many of their statements were a reaction to the false claims of 'heretics', such as Arius (whose beliefs were nearly identical to modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses.) Imagine this for a moment: all Christians were in a single body, the Church, all professing the same, one faith. Even with the difficulty of communication in those days, even with the lack of a single, agreed-upon canon of Scriptures, even under such persecution, the faith remained one. They stated their beliefs together in a Creed, known as the Nicene Creed. (This Creed has done a pretty nice job of nailing down the 'essentials'.) There were no denominations. A Christian belonged to the Church, where the successors of the Apostles had been appointed to lead. If someone outside this 'organization' claimed the authority to lead, the sheep would not listen to the voice of this false shepherd. (If you will read these writings from ancient Christian past, I don't think you will find them to agree with your views on the Church.) Tragically, there have been a couple schisms among those having this Apostolic heritage... quite complicated... but the Reformation headed in some radically new directions, under new leadership, with thousands of new denominations, with various teachings. If you examine your church and find it to be the very Church that was founded by Christ, the one with a faith that has not changed, then stick to it. I am glad my Catholic brothers value their Apostolic heritage, and am not seeking for them to 'cross over'. But the existence of various denominational organizations among Christians is unacceptable. Let us pray together, as our Lord prayed in the garden, that we would all be one...

Lloyd said...

Gold Speck - Thank you for giving us this history lesson on the early church. Even though you speak boldly concerning the RCC being the church that Jesus instituted… would you ever admit that your faith is based on false doctrines and teachings that are not found in God’s own Word (Holy Bible)? It is interesting to know how much influence the teachings and doctrines of the RCC can have on a person's personal witness. My prayer is that you will continue your search for the truth of the gospel which is only found in the Holy Bible. God’s blessings and prayers. Lloyd

Gold Speck said...

Lloyd- I mentioned in my first post that I belong to the Orthodox communion, but with all the traffic you have on your site, I'm not surprised you overlooked this detail.
I agree with you that the Word of God is the only ultimate authority over the Church. But the Holy Bible specifies in John ch.1 that the Word of God is the person, Jesus Christ. He alone is the authority, not our sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are true because they are a unique revelation, testifying to the Truth... not the other way around. The Church is the body of Christ, and I Tim.3:15 tells us that it is the Church, not the Bible, that is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth.
We believe that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church at Pentecost, leading her throughout the ages, and has preserved her deposit of faith, unchanged. Our faith, I would contend, is defined by that which our Church has believed always and in all places. There is much room for personal opinions, so long as they stay within specified parameters. And there have been, and will continue to be, a degree of variation in aspects of our practices. This is necessary, as the Church expands into new cultures, and as she responds to developments in the world.
But, no, I don't believe that any of our dogmas are innovations. Our Church has a certain reluctance to write things down as dogma, anyway. She almost always does so only as a defensive response to heresy. Even if our bishops convene and make new declarations, if these statements are not received by the laity throughout the world as being in accordance with the consensus of the whole spiritual experience, these are rejected. This has actually happened on occasion.

As an example of the role of dogma for us, we confidently worship the Holy Trinity, and only this God. Many other speculations have circulated regarding the nature and substance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit... and these false speculations were all 'based on the Bible'. (Just ask a Jehovah's Witness sometime if they believe everything in the Bible. They think they do!) The Councils that have been accepted by the Church are authoritative for us, because they testify to what the Church everywhere has always believed. In fact, it was at a Council at Carthage, upon much debate, that it was decided which books comprised the Holy Bible.
It is not my purpose here to argue that ours is the one, true Church. What is more needful at this juncture is to emphasize the need for Christians to gain a memory of their past. Nobody is saved alone; we are saved together. If, upon examination, we find that our own teaching and practice is out of step with the consensus of the champions of the faith of all ages, then something is not right.
Thank you for your prayers of blessing. May God have mercy on us both. Forgive me, Lloyd. I am a sinner.

Lloyd said...

Gold Speck - Thank you again for your visit and clarification. God will have mercy on us both..."All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"...that is a Biblical truth that neither one of us can deny. And the only reason why our Holy God will have mercy on us is because of His grace and the fact that we have dedicated our lives to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. God bless, Lloyd

Val Pym said...

The main reason why there are denominations is this:- Jesus said "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will quide you into all truth; .......and He will tell you things to come." [John 16:12,13 good to read this whole passage]The Holy Spirit is still revealing truth out of the Word. After the Word was restored after the dark ages, God began restoring Truth, and He is restoring it according to the pattern in the Types of Israel. The Truths contained in the Feasts of Passover and Pentecost have been restored and now He is opening up the Truths of the Last Feast. However as God moved on,some Christians received the new revelation but not all. They believed they had already come into "All truth" The fact is that "God has yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word." [as the old hymn says] Every revelation brings a deeper understanding of the Cross and what it purchased for us.God is about to move on into the revelation of the finished work of Christ which will cause the Church to rise up "unto the measure of the stature of Christ" Eph 4;13. It is important to be open to more revelation out of the Word. I could say a lot more but why not visit me on my blogspot www.http://valpym.blogspot.com
Val Pym

Lloyd said...

Val Pym - I want to thank you so much for your visit and comments. I believe that God's Revelation is found within the Holy Bible. Mankind has not touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what our Holy God has in-store for us. When God wants us to know of any new revelations He will give it to us through His Word by the Holy Spirit.

I look forward in reading more of your posts on your blog. God's blessings. Lloyd

Gold Speck said...

Val Pym-
In the portion of John's gospel you mentioned, Jesus told his disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit, not merely to them as individuals, but to them collectively, as a group. (The Greek text makes this clear, as the 'you' spoken by Jesus is consistently in the plural case, not the singular.) In fact, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church at Pentecost, and has remained within the community of the Church, guiding and preserving her, even to the present.
Jesus Christ is the fullness of the revelation of God. He is the Truth. He has never needed to be restored- he was not lost in the dark ages or at any other point in history. If the Church at some point had failed, later needing Truth to be restored, this would have been the failure of Christ- as he is the head of his Church. (Matt. 16:18) Many times in history, people have brought new revelations regarding what is in the Word, providing 'yet more light and truth' than that which had previously been known. (Gal. 1:8,9) These leaders have invariably drawn people away from, not toward, unity.
No prophecy or understanding of Scripture is subject to individual interpretation, but must agree with the deposit of faith of the community, which has been kept unchanged since the beginning. New revelation is the breeding ground for denominations.

Val Pym said...

God has given two witnesses to Truth - the Word and the Spirit. These both point to Jesus Who is Truth [the way the truth and the life] Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. He does that by breathing on the Word and bringing revelation out of it. The Church moves on by revelation. We have not yet come into all truth. it is too hugh and has to be an ever expanding revelation. There has always been resistance to Truth and persecution of those who received it. God moves on. We will not grow "unto the measure of the fulness of Christ"[Ephesians 4:13] or get to where He is leading by feeding on "yesterday's manna" [Exodus 16:16-21]We have to have an expanding vision of what took place at the Cross. It is much much bigger than going to heaven when you die. It's about reclaiming the Earth for God. The Church is effective for God in this world in direct relation to it's revelation of the Cross. It is God's only answer.
Concerning unity:-In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
"To whom much is given much is expected" Truth will make us more like Jesus Who is a Servant King.
Val Pym http://valpym.blogspot.com