Catholics, Protestants, and 400 denominations

When you meet a person on the street and say that you are a Christian, what you mean by that and what a stranger thinks may be galaxies apart from each other.  Bill Maher has commented on how ridiculous it is to believe that a cracker turns into the body of a guy that’s been dead for 2,000 years, and your salvation depends on eating it.  That’s one way in which the outside world views Christianity.  And when other people hear that, that’s what they think of all Christians.  The reference is to the Roman Catholic teaching of transubstantiation, and most Protestants find it ridiculous also; yet they break the bread and take the cup.  That’s just one example of thousands where Christians disagree.

I wrote an article in April called Roman Catholic Christians  in which I listed several things that Baptists and Catholics agree on, all having to do with the work and divinity of Jesus Christ.  Recently there have been some new comments, and I’ve responded to those, but that’s so far back I decided to bring it up again.  Baptists and Catholics are often considered polar opposites, but agree that Jesus was the sinless Son of God, and that his crucifixion makes salvation possible.  (Revisit the original post for a more detailed list.)  These are just two specific groups of Christians; there may be thousands.  Between some there are monumental differences, others much less noticeable nuances, yet there are hundreds of versionsof Christianity out there.  Among Protestants there are Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, Church of God, Church of Christ, and someone help me if I attempt to form a complete list.  After the Protestant Reformation the Catholic Church divided between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, the Church of England (Anglican) left to do their own thing, and so forth.  I don’t even know how to classify the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but they represent a brand of Christianity in Africa that survived the invasion of Islam. 

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of different types of Christians that run the gament of doctrinal beliefs.  And even among “Christians” the debate can get hot over issues like full immersion verses sprinkling, speaking in tongues, female ministers, and even dress code.  What it means to be Christian depends on which of the groups you ask.  An Amish or Mennonite in Pennsylvania would answer differently that a liberal Baptist in California.  Those are just American examples.  The underground church in China has a much more New Testament, Book of Acts concept of the Christian church than we could ever imagine.  So what is the solution to this widely diverse dilemma of various Christian faiths?

The solution is Jesus Christ.  (Did you really expect me to come up with anything else?)  When we get to heaven, we’re going to find out that no one group got everything exactly right.  That’s the beauty of the gospel message: no single person can do everything exactly right, but Jesus has already done it.  We get credit for his righteousness.  Each group, church, denomination and house church is doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and that’s what is required of us.  We read and interpret the scripture, we try to do it, we fail, and God forgives us.  It takes faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ to be a Christian, and everything else is details.  But as they say, that little bit of difference makes all the difference.

8 thoughts on “Catholics, Protestants, and 400 denominations

  1. I expect the first comment to be about how either the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witness are not Chrsitians, but a cult. Some people feel that way about the Seventh Day Adventists. Let me go ahead and respond to that now. A “Christian” is a follower of Jesus Christ, and regardless of whatever else they believe that you don’t, the label Christian is applied because they believe in Christ. We all disagree about things; that’s the point of the article.

  2. <“After the Protestant Reformation the Catholic Church divided between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox,”

    Um, no. The Great Schism occured about 500 years before the Reformation. Check your history.

    – Timothy

  3. I stand corrected. At any rate, there are many differecnt Protestants (the first were Lutherans) and there has also been division within the Catholic Church. There are even a few Catholics (the Mel Gibson variety, for instance) that do not recognize Vatican II. They have their own Pope, and continue to conduct mass in Latin.

    Thanks Timothy. It’s a good thing people are looking over my shoulder. It keeps me honest.

  4. In response to the comment you left on my blog: no I haven’t played that game, but I do feel your pain. When I first got the Wii and we were always playing the sports game I did have some sore muscles.

  5. You said, “Each group, church, denomination and house church is doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and that’s what is required of us.”

    We are certainly required to do the best we can in following Scripture, but I question whether every “church” is fulfilling that requirement, and whether there truly should be several “churches”.

    From where do you draw your conclusion that all “churches” are “doing the best they can with what they’ve got”? And, as case in point, doesn’t Paul speak strongly against the Church splitting and running in different directions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)?

  6. While it may be unfortunate that there are many Christian churches, I’m not sure there’s an alternative. The Protestant Reformation may have been unfortunate but necessary. The Church at the time was corrupt, and the Reformation may have been necessary to save Christianity. Maybe there “shouldn’t be” several churches, but the fact is there are several churches, and the dividing lines have been drawn that prevent us from all getting back together. Salvation is an entirely personal matter, between an individual and God. “Church” is something believers do corporately. The few basic things we agree on is what makes us Christian, and since there are a zillion churches, we are afforded the luxary of choosing one that suits us. Each believer, consequently, has the responsibility to find a church that teaches scripture, and therein lies a potential for problems. Each Christian believer needs to know enough scripture to be able to recognize the truth when they hear it; and conversly, untruth.

  7. There is One true Church. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. {Not a denomination}
    We, as christians in the body of Christ, make up His Church. It is a living Church. Our bodies are the temple of the living God. His Holy Spirit dwells within us, Praise God! 1Cor. Ch.1 vs. 10-14 Paul is speaking of divisions among the early church. It should not be. The Lord Jesus has given us His Word, the Bible, to guide us in all truths. We may not all see scripture revelation exactly the same, but we should study on the differing issues together not divided. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord. We should love one another, be kind to one another even though we do not agree on some of the same teachings. However, I stress that we should study God’s Word to show ourselves approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed. Let’s strive to be of one mind and one accord. Denominations broke off from the catholic church, bringing with them certain teachings instituted by the catholic church and not Jesus Christ. As true believers we need to seek instruction on how Jesus taught the early church to worship and practice. Jesus made it simple; we need to be teaching the flock about the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus our Lord that died for us and provides us with His ever flowing grace. Should we continue in sin that grace may abound. God Forbid. Romans 6:1. There is a growth process in the Lord. We start out as newborn babes. Let us grow up in Him though and desire to grow. Let us build on the foundation that the Lord Jesus Christ has already laid for us. The Bible instructs us to be careful how we build there upon. Let us build on the foundation of God’s truth, not man’s. What God instituted and not man. I was brought up around the Baptist denomination. Not long after I truly surrendered and gave my life to the Lord, at the age of 27, the Lord put someone in my life to teach me about what was wrong with linking myself to a denomination. We are the Church of the Living God, and we should carry His name not that of another. We are quick to say as Christians Iam a baptist, or methodist, or another denominational name. This puts us under man’s doctrine, not the true word of God. I am aChristian, a believer and follower of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want to worship and fellowship Him in truth and simplicity by the way He set it up when He walked down here. 2Cor 11:3. If we are linked to a denominational fellowship, what happens when the Lord reveals to you something different than the belief that that denomination has? Do you stand on what the Lord has revealed to you through His Word, or do you submit to the institution of man. Our church fellowship is open to Bible study. We do not follow man’s doctrine. We need to be following God’s Word in truth. Let’s see what the Bible, our roadmap, says about it. May we be able to unite together as the Church of the Lord Jesus who died for us. The one body, one Church he delights to call His people.

  8. Bward, well said. The scriptures you site are excellent, I agree with you completely. However, I believe we are instructed in the New Testament to support a local chuch congregation. We should be a part of the local church, and not “forsaken the assembly of ourselves together.” Joining a church necessitates linking up with a denomination. We should strive to find a local assembly of believers that read and teach the Bible, but that local church will have some name over the door. Denominations are simply ways we identify with believers of the same persuasion. George Washington advised against the formation of political parties, but every president elected since him has belong to one or another. Even the label “non-denominational” becomes in itself another label. Like I said, though, the unity is in Christ, and extends to every believer. There will be no signs, labels nor denominational organizations in heaven.

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