Human Creeds and Denominationalism – The Fruits of Apostasy – No 3
The concept of denominational churches is far different than what we read about the one church described in the NT. So, what is a denomination? Do you remember your school days, sitting in a Math class? The teacher is teaching numbers and fractions. He/she tells you, a whole number is called the numerator. Fractions are denominators, parts of the numerator (the whole number). A denominator was never the whole number, it was only a part, and it took several denominators to make the denominator.
Religious denominations are like math denominators. They are not considered to be the whole church. They are different churches that together compose the whole church. A denomination is an organizational concept of many churches within the whole church, i.e., the whole church composed of many smaller churches, with no one denomination claiming to be the whole church. Note this quote from the “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “Denominations are associations of congregations – though sometimes it might be said that congregations are localized subdivisions of denominations – they have a common heritage. Moreover, a true denomination does not claim to be the only legitimate expression of the church.” p.310.
Many of the church leaders admit this denominational concept is unbiblical, but most of the members are ignorant of this fact. One of these leaders, Donald G Tinder, plainly admits that many members are unaware of the unscripturalness of the denominational concept. He writes, “Even though denominations within Protestantism have to be the largest expression of organized Christianity beyond the level of the congregation, there has never been much theological reflection on denominationalism. A look at theological textbooks, or church creeds, confirm this. Probably the simplest explanation for this omission is that the Bible in no way envisages the organization of the church into denominations. It instead assumes the opposite, that all Christians – except those being disciplined – will be in full fellowship with all others. Any tendencies to the contrary were roundly denounced 1.Cor.1:10-13. Paul could write a letter to the Christians meeting in various places in Rome or Galatia with every assurance that all would receive the message. Today, for any city or country, he would have to place the letter as an advertisement in the secular media and hope. P.310
So, how do people defend denominationalism? They usually go to Jn.15:1-8 and use Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches. They make Jesus the vine, denominations the branches. But, take note, this is contrary to the context. In the parable, Jesus is the vine, but the branches are individuals, not churches. Read the words, “you,” “he,” “him,” “anyone” (all are personal pronouns, referring to individuals, not church collectives).
Others turn to 1.Cor.12:12-26 and Paul’s description of the church as a body with many members. They say Christ is the head, and the members are churches. Again, the context shows otherwise. The context shows individuals, not churches. Another idea is that all follow different roads to same destination. This is a wrong view. In the Bible there is only one road (way) (not many roads) leading to heaven. That way is through Christ, not the church Jn.14:6. People need to learn which road leads to the destination.
Why is denominationalism wrong? 1. It causes confusion for those who want the truth. Think of a person who feels a need for Christ and His teaching. He begins searching for the truth. He goes to several different churches, all claiming to belong to Christ, but their creeds, doctrines and practices contradict each other in telling him how to get into Jesus Christ. He is confused and doesn’t know which one to choose. Yet, he does know that with one God and one book, there should be no such contradiction and confusion 1.Cor.14:33; 1:10. So, instead of finding Christ, he becomes disgusted with all of them.
2. Denominationalism is obviously a wasteful, extravagant system. How many billions of dollars are spent on outward ornamentation? On denominational machinery (colleges, hospitals, benevolent, missionary societies, printing houses, all promoting loyalty to their denominations, not Christ. How much more efficient and economical it would be if all professing Christians were of the same mind and judgment. If all believed and practiced the same thing, answering the real Lord’s prayer in Jn.17:20-23; 1.Cor.1:10.
3. Denominationalism is self-condemned. Their leaders, and many members, are aware of the fact that denominationalism causes division, instead of the unity Jesus desires. Several decades ago, this was admitted during a conference of church leaders at the “2nd world conference on faith and order of the world council of churches” in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1937. The following resolution was adopted. “We humbly acknowledge that our divisions are contrary to the will of Christ, and we pray God in His mercy to shorten the days of our separation and to guide by His Spirit into fullness of unity – We know that our witness is weakened by our divisions.” They admitted the obvious, and yet people today, are unwilling to lay aside their denominational creeds, names, organizations, and practices that create the divisions, and return to Christ and His church. They sometimes pretend to do so temporarily, for “union meetings” and “campaigns for Christ,” knowing this will give them greater strength and more appeal in a community effort, but when the meetings are over they then go back to their divisive ways.
4. Denominations are wrong because they have the wrong origin (started by men, not God). They exalt men (titles) over Christ, follow the wrong book (creeds), started at the wrong time and place, have wrong type government and organization, worship God in vain, contradict plain Bible teaching Jn17:20-21; Eph.4:3-6; and pervert the purpose and mission of the church.
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