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What is the church? What's it supposed to be like and why

Why are there denominations?

Postby Glenn Guy » Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:01 pm

Why is Christian unity impossible? Why is there not one Christian Church with one truth, one Christ, one Body? With a holy, canonized, singular text, why is there division in every subdivision of all the thousands of Christian denominations?

A global church body completely unified in consensus as to their knowing of Christ, his will, and the way in particular that he wants his church/children to be, would be a valuable and beautiful thing for the church (and by extension, the world). However, not even through Christ, the bible, the cross, his death and resurrection, the holy spirit; even together with their unifying power they are not enough to form a strong, thorough, brotherly binding consensus even for a lasting moment in the history of the fragmented organization (maybe maayybe in Acts. The reason there is no way possible to a consensus of a Christian truth or a consensus of Christ is that there are millions of Christs/millions of bibles - very possibly one per Christian (you may say that this does not affect "the Truth", but that's exactly the heart of what this post is looking for and hopes to find).

If you look at the church (today or throughout it's history, even in Acts) and are honest to yourself, you will easily observe that Christians are those who decide what the bible says (about women leaders/pastors, baptism, infant baptism, loss of salvation, unborn babies in heaven, divorce, suicide, dogs-going-to-heaven, eldership, pre-destination/election (!), confession, head coverings/ jewelry, tattoos, to name a very brief few) -- not God. They decided what it says before it was written/ canonized and they decide it almost as easily uninterrupted today despite having a canonized, 'unifying' holy text (not to mention the other more modern Christianities which I'm not even talking about here, they wrote their texts too recently to be of much consequence to this debate). Therefore I offer that Christians, individually and corporately, decide who is/was Christ, and Christians decide what the bible is and what it says (it isn't their fault, they truly have no choice but to) - this is why I submit that a unified consensus, that a unifying and true, holy "Truth" of Christ and his holy bible will never be possible for Christianity.

I hope and am sure there is interesting dialogue to be had on this subject of unity in the truth of Christ and unity of the church and her beliefs. Please don't hesitate to rip my argument to shreds and point out where I'm wrong or misguided. (I'll comb this post to make sure it abides by the posting commandments but please let me know before you take it down and I'll gladly amend).
Glenn Guy

Re: Why are there denominations?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:00 pm

1. Christianity is a big tent, allowing differences of perspective and opinion as long as one subscribes to the nonnegotiable basics that unify all Christians:

A. God exists
B. God is holy
C. Jesus is God
D. Jesus was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again.
E. There is salvation only in Jesus Christ
F. We have one objective: salvation (both for ourselves and others)
G. We live by a core of moral principles based on the character of God.
H. The powerful example of Christ can change human behavior for the better
I. The Bible is God's revelation of himself
J. Baptism, of some kind
K. The future physical resurrection of the dead
L. Eternal judgment

About these things all Christians believe in unity with each other.

2. There are differences in belief (denominations) because Christians are thinking people. We are not lemmings who close our eyes, toss our brains in the trash can, and follow blindly.

3. The diversification of the church in denominations is healthy, as all diversity is healthy. They have allowed the Gospel to reach wider segments of the human population, as different people are attracted to different church bodies. They have also raised questions that have deepened people’s understanding of the Word of God through the study requires to address those questions. The varying perspectives create debate and sometimes heated argument, but all in all the diversity and variances enrich our understandings, hopefully challenging us all to think deeper and investigate further.

4. All being of one persuasion is not a desirable thing. It is only through the proliferation of differences that we can attain to the truth of the one true God (Eph. 3.10: “the manifold (many-variegated, many colored, many sided) wisdom of God”).

5. One could therefore also affirm that denominations are part of God’s will for His Church so that diversity in secondary matters could exist within the overall unity of the faith.

6. Some denominations were shaped by local politics and cultural situations. Not every strategy or perspective works in every locale, and Christianity has the flexibility to accommodate cultural divergences. Protestant traditions diverged as they became regionally focused. At the same time, Protestant unity often transcended political divisions.

7. Note that the unity Scripture advocates is spiritual rather than organizational. Paul's letters were addressed to individual congregations that were struggling with dissent, and he is encouraging them to live at peace with one another. There are truths that all Christians are unified in their belief over. In other words, we will gel when our minds are transformed when we see Jesus (1 Cor. 13.9-12; 1 Jn. 3.1-3).

8. Denominations are sometimes the results of what different congregations wish to stress: God's sovereignty, God's love, feeding the hungry, the authority of the Word of God. This is not to claim that emphasizing one facet means discarding another, but churches are free in Christ to emphasize one strength over another (Gal. 2.9-10).

9. Some denominations are subscriptions to different kinds of governmental system, whether hierarchical (which some deem a benefit), or the independence of each congregation (which others deem of value). The Bible didn't specify how are churches are to be governed except by godly people (elders), so the structure is open to variation.

As Jennifer Power McNutt said, "The earthly church is always contextual in nature. It must function in a particular time, space, nation, culture, and language. At the same time, it is called by God to proclaim a divinely revealed message that attests to the person and work of Jesus Christ for all time, space, nations, cultures, and languages. ... Christianity has never looked exactly the same in every time and space. Nor has one hierarchy governed it. Contextualizing the church is not a scandal or a weakness. On the contrary, the ability to adapt to context has been one of Christianity's greatest strengths."

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