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Why so many Christian Denominations?

Blankman, Drew & Todd Augustine.  Pocket Dictionary of North American Denominations.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

The preface of this introductory booklet of denominations in North America (which includes such nonChristian groups as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons) states, “There are thousands of denominations in North America” (7).  This is not difficult to imagine, as within most of the mainline denominations, a number of subgroups exist.  Apart from Roman Catholicism, it would appear, the various church bodies subsist under various names and designations.  However, even Roman Catholicism, for its claim to unity, is vastly divided and far from united.

One might wonder why all these categorizations (denominations) exist.  The reality of Christendom today seems to be that of fragmentation, not unity in the confession of the same faith.  The “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” and “one body” of Ephesians 4:4,5 appears nonexistent.

The ecumenical movement strives for the visual demonstration of a united Christendom, albeit in a quite deficient way.  Agreeing to disagree does not work in the realm of God’s revelation in Christ.  Nor does emphasizing only the areas of agreement among Christians offer the solution for uniting the differing church bodies under one umbrella.

The answer to bring about true unity in Christendom is not to minimize the differences and to maximize the agreements.  Neither is the answer to focus only on what might be determined to be the essentials and then allow considerable freedom on “other” teachings deemed by some to be nonessential, even though God has spoken about these very things, too (i.e. the ordination of women, the acceptance of homosexuality, redefining sin, etc.).

The answer for today’s fragmented Christendom is to turn from its departure of Holy Scripture and the doctrine of Jesus Christ to it, and to continually pray and strive for genuine unity—not the sham unity of a false and deceiving ecumenicalism, but the true unity of faith which demonstrates itself in same-saying—that is—confessing together as one—the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture.

Here, however, is right where the problem lies…Not all do or will confess the same thing concerning Christ and concerning the doctrine revealed in the Holy Bible.  This is really the reason why so many different denominations exist today—because not all say (teach) the same thing.

What is the Bible?  Who is Jesus?  Who has the hope of eternal life?  What are the Sacraments?  These are questions that call for answers, and for which various answers will be given.  The fault, however, is not to be found in the Holy Bible.  The fault is to be found in those who disbelieve it and use it contrary to God’s will, which we only know from Holy Scripture itself.

As God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).

And also, as Jesus Himself says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word (John 14:23).

So why do all the various denominations exist?  Because they do not all teach the same doctrine.  And because they do not all believe, teach, and confess the same doctrine, they do not consistently all believe, teach, and confess the same Christ.

St. Paul writes, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).  Even a little departure from the Word of God can (and has) led to apostasy from the true and saving faith.

Though one may continue to believe in Jesus for salvation from sin and death, such faith is quite weakened (and weakening) should one also continue to believe in even theistic evolution or deny the miraculous accounts of Jonah, Jesus feeding the 5000, etc.  Really, it is inconsistent to say that one believes in Jesus and His Word and yet to deny the very Word given by our Lord.

Believing in Jesus Christ and denying Holy Scripture is inconsistent for the Christian and for Christianity, for one who truly does believe in Jesus Christ will also hold His Word to be true.

How can one rightly believe in Jesus Christ if that one continues to deny that very Word which testifies of Christ?  Here we are not only talking about the Words themselves, but also about the meaning of the Words—not the meaning which we place on them—but the meaning which God attaches to them, Scripture interpreting Scripture.

By God’s grace, and only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, does anyone have the hope of eternal life.  This means that eternal life is the gift of God and not the work of man (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is faith in Christ alone that saves.  This is true (John 3:16-18).  And one is saved only as one remains in this true faith.  For this reason is it necessary to continue in the Word of God—that one remain in such faith and thus be made more sure of God’s grace in Christ.

Any other doctrine than God’s will only lead away from and not to, Christ and eternal life.

For this reason, St. Paul writes, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

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“True and False Religion”

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.

John 14:6

How many religions exist in the world today?  I guess it depends who you ask.   Should you ask one who holds to the pluralism of the day, the answer would be many.  Should you ask a Christian, he will say that there are really only two religions in the world, the true religion (Christianity) and the false religion (all others, regardless of name).

The true religion, Christianity, teachings salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.  Christianity teaches that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  There are no other ways (Acts 4:12).

The false religion, that is, all other “religions,” teach salvation by what man does, even if it be so little that man does.  This teaches that man contributes in some way to his salvation.  This is a far cry from what the Bible teaches, that man cannot save Himself, even just a little bit (i.e. Ephesians 2:8-9).

Now ask the question, how many Christian denominations exist in Christendom today?  Again, I guess it depends who you ask.  Even thousands might be the answer according to some.

However, should one define Christendom as the body of Christ, there is only one, for there is only one Lord and one faith (Ephesians 4:4-6).

So why so many denominations?  Simply because not all have the same faith.  Not all hold to the one Lord.  Not all confess the same Christ.  Not all believe the Holy Scriptures.  Not all have the same doctrine.

Yet for us, there is one Christ.  There is one way of salvation.  It is not our way or the way of the world or the way of other so-called religions.  It is the way of Christ.   It is Christ!  Amen.

Luther

“Whenever you consider the doctrine of justification and wonder how or where or in what condition to find a God who justifies or accepts sinners, then you must know that there is no other God than this Man Jesus Christ. Take hold of Him; cling to Him with all your heart, and spurn all speculation about the Divine Majesty; for whoever investigates the majesty of God will be consumed by His glory. I know from experience what I am talking about.  But these fanatics, who deal with God apart from this Man, will not believe me. Christ Himself says: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). Outside Christ, the Way, therefore, you will find no other way to the Father; you will find only wandering, not truth, but hypocrisy and lies, not life, but eternal death. Take note, therefore, in the doctrine of justification or grace that when we all must struggle with the Law, sin, death, and the devil, we must look at no other God than this incarnate and human God.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p29).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, look with mercy on us sinners, so prone to seek our own ways and to heed the ways of the world.  Lead us not into temptation that we forsake you.  Deliver us from evil, that we cling only to You, and find in You alone our refuge and help.  Be our God and we Your holy people.  Amen.

We preach Christ

 

We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block

and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks,

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24

 

Foolishness!  It is utter foolishness—to preach Christ and Him crucified!  It is a stumbling block!  Who wants to hear such things?  It doesn’t “grow” the church.

Such is the way many perceive the preaching of Christ.  Of course, we should expect nonbelievers to take such a position, as St. Paul the apostle describes.  They do not believe in Christ.  They seek their own way, their own means of salvation.  The salvation of God they deplore.  But within the church?  How could this be?

Within the church, there is a battle going on.  Many would like to deny this and say that “all believe the same thing.”  But is this the truth?  Should we ask, “What is the Bible?” various answers will be given.  Should we ask, “What is the purpose of the Bible?” not all would say the same.  Should we ask, “What is Christianity?” we would hear a divided, not a united, response.

These “differences” demonstrate, not a unity, but a disunity.  They are not positives, but reveal the sinfulness of man, for if true external unity did exist, we would all say the same thing and be saying the same thing.  Our doctrine and confession would be one.  But as it is, we do not all confess the same doctrine.  Nor do Christians everywhere teach the same thing.

These things are so, not because of so called “interpretation” as many presume, but because not all take Christ at His Word—not all believe what Christ did and how He works.  Not all believe what God says.  It is a question of belief vs. unbelief.

Christ crucified is a stumbling block and foolishness because His way is not according to our way.  God saves by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone.  Reason and human nature would lay salvation on us somehow.  But God speaks differently.  He reveals life in death; strength in weakness; wisdom in folly; and honor in what is despised.  Thus do we see Christ, God in the flesh, dying for the sinner; strong, yet weak; wise, but foolish; honorable, yet despised.

God and His ways are opposite from our own ways and the ways of the world.  And thanks be to God that this is so, for those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God!

Luther

“True Christian theology does not present God to us in His majesty, as Moses and other teachings do, but Christ born of the Virgin as our Mediator and High Priest.  Therefore when we are embattled against the Law, sin, and death in the presence of God, nothing is more dangerous than to stray into heaven with our idle speculations, there to investigate God His incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty, to ask how He created the world and how He governs it.  If you attempt to comprehend God this way and want to make atonement to Him apart from Christ the Mediator, making your works, fasts, cowl, and tonsure the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall, as Lucifer did (Is. 14:12), and in horrible despair lose God and everything.  For as in His own nature God is immense, incomprehensible, and infinite, so to man’s nature He is intolerable.  Therefore if you want to be safe and out of danger to your conscience and your salvation, put a check on this speculative spirit.  Take hold of God as Scripture instructs you (1 Cor. 1:23, 24): ‘Since, in wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, it please God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’  therefore begin where Christ began – in the Virgin’s womb, in the manger, and at His mother’s breasts.  For this purpose He came down, was born, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and died, so that in every possible way He might present Himself to our sight.  He wanted us to fix the gaze of our hearts upon Himself and thus to prevent us form clambering into heaven and speculating about the Divine Majesty.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p29).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us from presuming Your Word to be our own and Your ways to be our ways.  Humble us that we turn away from our self-righteousness and look to You alone for comfort and salvation.  Keep us in the true faith, that denying ourselves, we confess our sins and trust only in Christ for help and strength.  Amen.

 

Lutheran, Catholic, Protestant: A Cursory Study

A Comparative Study, Lutheran, RC, Protestant.pdf

Guide To Church Shopping

GuideToChurchShopping.pdf

Does Being Lutheran Still Matter?

In short, the answer is a resounding YES! Read the PDF to learn more. Confessional Lutheranism DOES mean something–more than something–confessional Lutherans confess Christ in their teaching (doctrine) and by their practice.

DoesBeingLutheranStillMatter.pdf

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