Are Denominations Dividing the Church?
How did today’s church get so divided – Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Orthodox, Mormons, to list just a few? Is it an abomination before the Lord? How do we figure out which group is following God’s truth?
To the outsider, Greek, Ethiopian, Syrian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Egyptian, Russian and other Orthodox groups don’t seem that different from each other or Roman Catholics – however, most are rich in rituals and traditions that have developed over the centuries and which are held dear by the faithful.
Mormons, a large and growing group, believe that their founder in the 1800s was visited by an angel who lead him to a manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which the church teaches is “another Gospel of Jesus Christ” – which is repudiated as heresy by fundamentalists. Similarly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists and Seventh-Day Adventists have their own unique teachings passed down by their founders, but rarely accepted by anybody else.
So, is all this division a good thing?
“To the average person,” teaches Pratt, “Christianity includes hundreds of different denominations that disagree with one another in name, organization, doctrine, worship, and plan of salvation. Such a situation clearly constitutes division, not unity. Yet all the denominations claim to be Christian and to follow Jesus Christ. If we really want to please God, however, we must forsake what we want and practice what He wants.”
After all, Ecclesiastes 12:13 teaches us that man’s whole duty is to fear God and keep His commands. We should be determined to do God’s will, not our own. Matthew 16:24 instructs us that to follow Jesus we must deny ourselves. “True religion does not consist of what pleases us,” says Pratt. “It is entirely a question of what pleases God.
“The fundamental consequence of denominationalism is that error is just as good as truth! If the denominational concept is true, then all denominations are acceptable to God even though they flatly contradict one another regarding worship, salvation, etc. This means error is just as good as truth and unrighteousness is just as good as righteousness. Denominationalism must be wrong because it says that error does not condemn.”