About three weeks ago, I began leading a six-week discussion at our church on how to study the Bible (theologically). During the most recent session, someone asked about the origins (or cause) of denominations within Christianity.
Because of time constraints, I opted for the simple (and somewhat over-generalised) response: denominations tend to emerge as a result of differing interpretations over certain important passages or specific beliefs. Connected with this, denominations often form due to the practical outcome of these differences–i.e. people have different views over how the church should operate and/or conduct itself.
My response was either satisfactory (in spite of its brevity) or less than helpful (because of its brevity); it’s hard to know because no follow-up question was asked. However, it appears that I was completely mistaken in my understanding and I now need to go before the dear friends in this study and beg for mercy. How do I know I was wrong? Because Jack Kinsella has shown me why, in his wonderfully insightful ‘Omega Letter.’* About half way through his ‘article,’ Kinsella offers this bit of theological clarity:**
There are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Anglican, Lutherans, Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Anabaptists, Brethren, Methodist, Apostolic, Pentecostal, Charismatic, African, United, Quakers, Mennonites, Unitarian, Messianic Judaism, and dozens more Christian-themed cults, like British Israelism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on.
In Genesis we read of the Tower of Babel, an effort by Nimrod to unite the world under his authority, and how God dealt with it.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis 11:6-7)
According to the Bible, when the Holy Spirit is withdrawn, Nimrod’s effort will be duplicated by the antichrist who sets up a universal government under his authority and unites it via a single religion under his control.
During the Church Age, God divided the Church into denominations to prevent that from happening prematurely.
Human beings are not all born the same type of people. We are split in profound and fundamental ways and then set radically free to find our own way. We are born with a sense of God-consciousness, but we are free to seek His face or reject Him altogether.
The Bible is deliberately obscure enough to empower all the various denominations without any one of them growing too powerful – God demands faith in His Son, not faith in a church.
Who knew?! God is the cause for denominations.
(For those taking part in our study [who happen to read this]: this is a decent example of eisegesis).
* Said with tongue nearly burst through my cheek.
** I’m ignoring the multitude of problems with Kinsella’s argument.