In my previous post we looked at the differences between major Protestant Christian denominations. If you took a look at it, you probably noticed that there are a lot of significant differences between them when it comes to beliefs and practices.
And you may have wondered, “Why all this division in the church? Shouldn’t we all be united and just get along?”
It’s an important question to ask. Thankfully others have already written some fantastic thoughts on the topic, so rather than reinvent the wheel, so to speak, I want to refer you to these two excellent discussions of the subject:
One fact that both of these articles rightly stress is that most denominational splits have been due to differences of opinion on doctrines that are considered to be of secondary importance compared to the historic “essentials” of orthodox Christian belief — essentials like the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, and salvation through faith in Christ.
What Christians should be seeking is unity-in-diversity.
We should appreciate how much we have in common in our love for Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our recognition of him as the only source of salvation and forgiveness of sins, our worship of the Triune God, and our esteem of the Bible as God’s Word.
It is these “core doctrines” that distinguish true Christian churches — in all their various denominational flavors — from every other religion, as well as from quasi-“Christian” sects and cults such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.
Which, by the way, we’ll take a look at in my next post! What do Mormons, JWs, Seventh-Day Adventists, etc. believe? What makes them distinct from traditional Christian denominations? Find out next time in my Handy-Dandy Guide to Unorthodox “Christian” Sects & Cults!
Oh, and before I go, let me leave you with this important quote from the preface of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, where Lewis gives a few thoughts on choosing a denomination to join. He compares the worldwide Christian church to a large house with many rooms (i.e., denominations), and those who have yet to settle on a denomination are like people waiting in the hall:
“I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may feel they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’
“When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
See you down the path.