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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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Christian Unity and Ecumenism, A Study

Microsoft Word – TopicTalk.Christian Unity2005.pdf

Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God?

In an article written by Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate General Secretary—Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations for National Council of Churches USA (www.ncccusa.org/news/100909tklament.html), with the title “Religious Ignorance, Bigotry and Ill Will: A Lamentation for 9/11,” and written in response “to threats by the pastor a small church in Florida to burn the Qur-an on September 11,” he writes in part that should Rev. Jones burn the stack of Korans, “It would not be simply an attack on a book, albeit a book considered sacred by 1 billion people, but an affront to the very God that is worshiped by those 1 billion people (not to mention the 2 billion Christians, and Jews, too, that worship the same God).”

Thankfully, Rev. Jones of Dove World Outreach Center did not publicly burn the Koran as he said that he would.  All might be said and done over the fiasco caused by such threats, but misconceptions and “religious ignorance” still linger, and will remain among us.

Take for example the belief of Dr. Kireopoulos, as noted above, that Chrisians, Muslims, and Jews all “worship the same God.”  Though it is true that Muslims, Jews, and Christians claim to all worship God, in reality, they do not.  Only one of the three worship the true God—and it is not Islam nor Judaism.

Some might immediately reply, “bigot,” or “ignorant,” or worse.  But a look at the Bible settles the issue.

Islam does not teach that Jesus Christ is God.  Neither does Judaism.  Both do not teach that the Jesus revealed in the Bible, who was crucified on the cross and “rose again from the dead”) is the only Savior of the World.  Judaism would have you look for another Messiah, and Islam, too, would leave you in doubt about God’s (Allah’s) mercy towards you.

Only Christianity teaches confidence in God’s mercy—through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-24; Romans 5:1ff; Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9–Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).  Islam and Judaism do not, nor does any other religion.

It was Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through (by means of) me” (John 14:6).

In another place, Jesus says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40)

Just a bit later, Jesus continues, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life (John 6:47).

And concerning the falsity of such statements as Dr. Kireopoulos (and others who share his opinion) that Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God, Jesus Himself to the Jews of His day says, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.”   In the same chapter, Jesus also says, “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me,” and “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:42, 45, 47).

These words of Jesus highly contrast those who worship the true God from those who do not.  What is said of Jesus and His Word?  What is believed about Jesus and His Word?  What is believed concerning the Bible and the words therein and concerning the Christ revealed in them? Further investigation would demonstrate that the three religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are “miles apart.”

In addition to these words of our Lord (and so many others like them), St. John in his first letter (epistle) wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1-6).

St. John also wrote these words, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:10-13).

If these words from the Bible are not clear enough, I don’t know which are.  Judaism and the Koran do not say these kind of things, nor can they.  A closer look at their respective doctrines (teachings) will reveal, not similarity, but great difference; not how close they are to one another, but how far apart.

And this is as much true for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as it is for the various Christian denominations.  Not all say the same thing.  And not all are truly Christian.

Though all denominations claim to have and use the same Scripture and Christ, in reality, they do not.  Not all teach the same thing concerning Christ and His Word.

This demonstrates, not unity, but disunity; not sameness, but difference.

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