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.