The Denominational Divide…An Unforeseen Blessing.


By Agur Israel Thomas
3 July, 2020 (Updated 10 August, 2020)

We all know the negatives with regard to denominationalism:

  1. Division is wrong in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
  2. It sends a bad message to the world
  3. Catholics use it as proof of the need of the Papacy and Papal authority over canon and scripture interpretation while 
  4. Cults tout themselves as the very opposite of the Protestant dysfunctionalism.  

After I got saved I came to learn of it & became ardent for Non Denominationalism; indeed, the very notion of having any name in relations is akin to the violation of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. 

Divisions sometimes cannot be Avoided
As I grew older in the faith gaining knowledge & experience along the way, I began to understand the reason why there are divisions.

  1. Biblical discoveries (or, rediscoveries) will almost always face skepticism 

The Protestant Reformers were virtually Reformed because of the teachings of St. Augustine.  So, when Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) raised doubts or concerns about the extent of God’s sovereignty, and man’s depravity which soon sparked a debate between those who sided with Arminius and those who were with John Calvin (1509-1564).  

The result was a permanent split between these groups.  I consider these two, the two main divisions which over time, formed into subgroups.

  1. Human fallibility guarantees contention.  

As inspired as Paul & Barnabus were, as both men were personally chosen by Jesus Christ [thus becoming Apostles which means, “Sent Forth” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)], they’ve ended up going their separate ways due to disagreement over the question of bringing John (Acts 15:36-40). 

Often, denominations come about for four main reasons I can think of:

  • To promote what is discovered/rediscovered in scripture, i.e. Adult Baptism (Anabaptists to Baptists)
  • To separate due to persecution (Puritans)
  • To reform the church, i.e. reaching out to the outcasts as at that time, no one was (Methodists)
  • To bring back what is lost or forgotten, i.e. church unity (Non Denominationalism)

Thus, it is not so much  violation of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 as it is an unfortunate quarrel  amongst members of the body.

Actual Benefits of Denominations

Now to the point, it is actually a good thing we have denominations; not that I welcome the disobedience of the given verse, but it is one of the unforeseen blessings. 

  1. Two Opposing Groups will Learn from Each Other
  2. Knowledge of the Scriptures will Grow and gaining also, a Greater Appreciation for, or gaining a New Understanding of God
  3. Multiplicity of Growth
  4. Blame Not to the Whole

Two Opposing Groups will Learn from Each Other
In the subject about Free Will (Unlimited Atonement) vs. Predestination (Limited Atonement), the one in writing about the latter will try to be fair in the attempt to explain what it is & why it is believed.  However, s/he will be tempted to commit the Straw Man fallacy, or, will mischaracterize the doctrine because his/her idea of, is a presumption. 

Limited Atonement is not the easiest doctrine to accept for anyone.

But when s/he is engaged in a discussion or debate with the other, s/he will gain a far better understanding of the doctrine as it does not come from his/her own side but from the very side s/he is opposed to.

In the subject about Free Will (Unlimited Atonement) vs. Predestination (Limited Atonement), the one in writing about the latter will try to be fair in the attempt to explain what it is & why it is believed.  However, s/he will be tempted to commit the Straw Man fallacy, or, will mischaracterize the doctrine because his/her idea of, is a presumption. 

Limited Atonement is not the easiest doctrine to accept for anyone.

If we were in that position we would be invested in defending what we believe in so what do we do?  Search the scriptures to see if:

  1. See of the claim is at all, valid (Acts 17:10-11)
  2. If it is invalid then it is our duty to undermine that claim (Titus 1:9-11)

Knowledge of the Scriptures will GrowGaining a New understanding and appreciation for God.
In either case, we would search the scriptures to truly know if one or the other is true and through it our knowledge of the scriptures will only increase.  This always come when we explore new subjects. Some of us are more curious than others, but in hearing of viewpoints we find disagreeable would not only spark curiousity but provoke investigation if the matter, stands.

And in the process of, or the in the end of searching, we will gain a new view of God; not a complete revision but rather an aspect of God we may have never thought of before. If for example you are an Arminian, you would gain a greater appreciation for God’s sovereignty, or the love of God for all people, if you are a Calvinist. If you are not a Methodist (not speaking of United Methodists) but belonged to an extremely closed and exclusive church, reading about Methodist history offers a lesson on Evangelism where class impartiality God blesses. Finally, if you belonged to a theologically weak church, a neighboring church that happened to be the opposite of your own is a godsend alternative.

Blame Not Laid on the Whole
With that, if a scandal hjas erupted one church, i.e.: “The 2nd Baptist Church of Atlanta”, then all the other Baptist churches would not be seen as guilty as they’re not associated with, or under the leadership of that particular church. That benefit most surely extended to non-Baptist denominations. While many would still fault the church as a whole, they cannot deny the totally decentralized nature of Protestantism unlike the Roman Catholic church whose reputation greatly marred by recent scandals which makes it far easier for its enemies to label it as evil.

Multiplicity of Growth
Do you remember reading Nehemiah where the wall was built most speedily because everyone worked on their own wall as it is close to their home? So it is with denominations, but only this time, it is individual movements.

Individual denominations, unincumbered by a hiearchy or chain of command, can individually start their missionary endeavor at their pace, employ their own methods, and empowered by their own leadership. This is in itself can be a fatal weakness admittedly. In Nehemiah’s wall, you have individual builders who might have used different construction methods and standards which can easily result in the feet of Nebuchadnessar’s statue made of Iron mixed with miry clay. And yet, those individuals are building the wall not just to protect Jerusalem but their own homes… they will build their walls as strong as they could do so. So it is with denominations.

Sure, those denominations have beliefs we disagree with, but they do believe in the right Gospel. And, because of so many denominations, if a hostile government eliminates one group of missionaries, there are many more waiting to replace them.

What Denomination is Winning the Church Debate, or Will We ever Know?

You might be wondering if there is ever an end to denominationalism, as in, would we know what denomination is right, or mostly right after all, before Jesus’s 2nd coming?  Maybe.  And while it might be a denominational bias on my part, I’ve seen more Baptist churches than any other I can recall.  There are Baptist churches of various kinds from traditional Baptists to nondenominational churches yet have in their practices, Believer’s Baptism (Adult Baptism, but the rite not strictly for adults), rather than Pedobaptism, and the same churches believe in what’s called “Eternal Security” (For Calvinists, it’s Perseverance of the Saints but unattached to Limited Atonement).

However, it may have more to do with what makes sense to us as Americans than what is more biblical. Particularly in the United States we treasure the notion of individual freedom and free will, and so between Adult Baptism, Believer’s Baptism, and Pedobaptism (Infant Baptism) … Adult Baptism and Believer’s Baptism would be the most sensible than Pedobaptism. What is likely the trend rather than not is a view that the congregation (or the Laity) has the final word on church policy rather than the leadership (Clergy). The United States is a “Democracy” (a Republic, actually), and so average American Christian would be uncomfortable with the Clergy dictating policy without their say.

While it may merely be a trend according to national sensibilities, it did not stop God from using the Baptists. It may be that the Baptists have the least biblical confessions, but nevertheless used them to great effect around the world, just as He used some of the weakest of Christians for His glory.

By the way, if you do not know the Gospel, or are only familiar with the Four Spiritual Laws, please go to this link: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/107887481/posts/3144016129 Thank you!

IMAGE SOURCE:
Montpelier Methodist Church of Baldwin County. RawPixal.com
https://www.rawpixel.com/image/433838/free-photo-image-church-christian-methodist

Published by a.israelthomas

A Protestant Christian whose mission is to defend the Gospel, the fundamentals of the Faith, and to reach the lost for their salvation. The Icon that I'm using conveys multiple purposes of a Christian believer. The sword represents our mission to evangelize; not through force of arms, but through the truth of the word of God (Psalm 19:7-9). The shield represents our obligation to defend the truths of the scriptures and the confessions of the faith (1 Peter 3:15). Lastly, the wings represents the grace, love, gentleness, and care we must show and give to each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord, and everyone else around us - to the righteous and to the unrighteous - as God has loved us (Ephesians 2:2-3 & 1 John 4:19). IMAGE SOURCE: Sword Shield FreeImg.com https://freepngimg.com/png/32238-sword-shield/icon

One thought on “The Denominational Divide…An Unforeseen Blessing.

  1. Respectfully, Augustine really didn’t believe these things. He once said: “During the time, moreover, which intervenes between a man’s death and the final resurrection, the soul dwells in a hidden retreat, where it enjoys rest or suffers affliction just in proportion to the merit it has earned by the life which it led on earth. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead are benefited by the piety of their living friends, who offer the sacrifice of the Mediator, or give alms in the church on their behalf.” (On Faith, Hope, and Charity 29:109-110) So he professed to believe in Purgatory and the value of our works on earth to help them. The Reformers certainly weren’t influenced there, since all, or nearly all, believed in it. I don’t know exactly what he said about free will, but I haven’t read anything suggesting that he or any other father believed in Justification by Faith Alone. Perhaps someone I haven’t heard said that, but there are certainly many fathers who believed contrary. I don’t know about Limited Atonement. As a Manichaean, Augustine obviously believed in Total Depravity, but he ceased following it.

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