Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why so many denominations?
What does it create?
Did you ever wonder why there are so many denominations created from so many different doctrinal points of view? I mean what must people think when they hear believers take loud and uncompromising stands in favor of the Scriptures being inerrant, and then they see a thousand different interpretations and doctrinal constructs, all based upon those same inerrant Scriptures? The obvious question must be, “If the interpretations are so varied, and if the interpretations are errant, than how important is it to claim the Scriptures are inerrant?” That is an honest question.
Pull up a chair and listen as believers argue about all sorts of issues ranging from baptism to eternal security to Bible translations to the 24 hour creation day to eschatology and on and on. And the doctrinal slants are so deep about almost everything that entire denominations must be formed. But that was never God’s intent and it only undermines and hinders the proclamation of the gospel.
The gospel was never meant to be a collection of minuscule doctrines that are mainly for theological debates and in general have no use in the lives of average believers. In fact, a committed believer from a “baptismal regeneration” denomination mirrors a committed believer from a “baptism is symbolic” denomination. What does that tell you? It tells you that for all the sound and fury about denominational distinctives they are generally meaningless in the devotional life of a believing follower. Many times they create an atmosphere of self righteousness and judgmentalism.
The overarching and foundational message of the Scriptures are Jesus and redemption. There are other important teachings, but they all find their source and destination in Jesus and His gospel. When we take smaller issues and magnify them so as to create doctrinal idols and walls of separation between believers we do a disservice to the kingdom of God. It is human nature to desire to be significant and right. And along that line we have given way to splintered doctrines and we have formed groups, not formed primarily to crystallize evangelism, but to elevate what we portray as our doctrinal difference and purity.
But that agenda has led to many unfortunate divisions over issues that are either insignificant redemptively speaking, or are unclear Scripturally. And that projects sectarianism to the world and obscures the glory of the Risen Christ. I can recall a nationwide conference that was headed by a well known pastor and teacher, and one from whom I have been enriched. However, the main speaker gave a multi-part sermon series entitled, “Why I am a Calvinist.” Really? The entire world is going to hell, and pastors in the west have minimal devotional lives, and the church in general is in desperate need of a sweeping revival, and God wants those hundreds of pastors to know why this man is a Calvinist? If that isn’t doctrinal idolatry I do not know what is.

And therein lies my point. We have left the core redemptive doctrines of the faith and the person of Jesus Christ and have instead become enamored with fringe doctrines and our own favorite doctrines that we believe define us as Biblically pure. It is self righteousness disguised as exegesis and it divides where no division is necessary. Of course there are false teachers and heretics that are deceived and are systematically stripping Christ of His exclusiveness and they are presenting redemption in a doctrinal kaleidoscope which wreaks of universalism. Those issues must be addressed with firmness, humility, and uncompromised Scriptural integrity.
But that is not what usually divides professing evangelicals who resist the Osteen or Warren brand of theology, or lack thereof. It is usually some quirky doctrine or ritual. It is sometimes music, or communion methodology, or mode of baptism, or church leadership structures, or many other differences of opinion. I suggest that reducing doctrine to such things is a departure from the gospel and the divine redemptive mission.

Ti.3:8-10 - 8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
10A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;

Paul exhorts believers to good works and to avoid arguments. The heretic Paul commands us to avoid is one who teaches a works based salvation or one who teaches “another Jesus”.

I Tim.6:3-4 3If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

gain the strife enters when we create nano-doctrines around which we form ecclesiastical cliques.

Rom.16:17 - 17Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

hat doctrine have we learned? The doctrine of Jesus Christ and His gospel. When you hear men, in the emergent movement for instance, teachings some strange doctrines that hardly mention the cross, or clearly suggest all religions have Jesus somewhere in them, that is a man or woman who is causing divisions contrary to sound doctrine.

Col.2:20-23 - 20Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21(Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.

ules Christianity is not Christianity.

I Tim.4:1-7 - 1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
6If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
7But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

gain, rules Christianity.

Heb.6:1-3 - 1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3And this will we do, if God permit.

reating distinctives and organizing around those doctrines is immature and many times elevates those distinctives higher than Christ Himself. Today we have some denominations that actually claim they can trace their roots all the way back to the upper room, and some all the way to John the Baptist. So self righteous.

Ti.2: 1-15 - 1But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
2That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
3The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
6Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
7In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
8Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
9Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
10Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
15These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

ook at that first verse. Paul exhorts Titus to teach things that are “sound doctrine”. But notice in the following verses the things Paul outlines as sound doctrine. I don’t see any of the cardinal doctrines of the church. Where is the Trinity or hell or the virgin birth or many of the other doctrines we would consider foundational? Of course the New Testament deals with those issues elsewhere, but it is obvious that the doctrines (teachings) that are most effective in manifesting the character of Christ, and that God can use in “adorning the doctrine of God our Savior”, are those which mold our lives into humble servants. Sometimes in our passion to be theologically orthodox, we lose the passion to be like Jesus. Those two issues are not inevitably linked.
I have written a previous post about separating ourselves from heretics. But I fear we have constructed walls of separation among believing followers of Jesus that should not be there. And usually those walls are built upon small doctrines that are not redemptive and whose only practical use is to divide. If we are to reveal Jesus to a lost world we must rise above these petty differences.

1 comment:

Steve said...

"We have left the core redemptive doctrines of the faith and the person of Jesus Christ and have instead become enamored with fringe doctrines and our own favorite doctrines that we believe define us as Biblically pure. It is self righteousness disguised as exegesis and it divides where no division is necessary."

Amen, brother ! You're absolutely on the mark that doctrinalism is rooted in self-righteousness, and point to its effect: division.

Valuing our private interpretations above the unity Jesus prayed for us (John 17:20-22), we forfeit the glory He rests on unity...and show the world we don't ourselves believe that Jesus was sent by God (ibid).

God forgive us !!

In Jesus, Steve