Is Denominationalism God's Plan?

The Encyclopedia of American Religions, published in 2005, is 1,250 pages and contains discussions of 2,300 religious groups. /1 The American religious landscape is in total chaos. Religious division creates cynicism, arguments, broken families, friendships, and communities.
Could anyone justify this as God’s plan? Can God be pleased when we divide and disagree?
What does Scripture say about denominationalism? It neither mentions nor presupposes the existence of denominations. Denominationalism is a recent, man-made invention (1 Timothy 4:1). We should never read Scripture through denominational lenses. For example, we cannot look at passages such as 1 Corinthians 12:12-17 and presuppose Paul is validating religious division.
Paul condemned religious division in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” He also wrote, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
Jesus began his church and it is described as the body of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22,23). Jesus prayed that all his believers would be united in this one body (John 17:11-26).
If denominationalism is right, then we have the freedom to differ on matters of doctrine and God will concede these differences. Therefore, the Bible will not be the absolute authority but a book of suggestions. Ultimately, though, it makes God irrelevant and man all powerful because we can tell God what we will believe and not believe. This sounds a lot like Satan telling Eve, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
Denominationalism taken to its logical conclusion is universalism. If we can all have our own beliefs, then we cannot be wrong. What does this say about Christ dying on the cross when everyone will be saved anyway? Christ’s death will have been pointless. Christ will demand that we take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38). We can then say, “I don’t want to” and Christ will have to say, “Ok, I’m sorry. You can be saved anyway.” God will be our puppet on a string.
Psalm 119:89 says, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17 tells us that we have all we need in Scripture to be complete in salvation, doctrine, and service to God.
“If God is a Being of truth, and if He is the Author of Christianity, how can there possibly be so many contradictory teachings within the community of believers, and yet all of them be right? This is a logical absurdity.” /2
Can a church teach Jesus is eternal and another church across the street teach that he was created and God be pleased? It is impossible that both these doctrines can be correct. To say that we have a Bible we cannot agree on is to say that God failed in giving us a Bible we could understand.
We must all humbly submit to God’s will as found in the New Testament and seek the unity God demands: One Lord, one church, one salvation, one doctrine, and one people (Ephesians 4:1-6; Galatians 3:28).
If we look at this from God’s perspective, we find it easier to understand. Man says, “Choose the Church of your choice” and Christ says, “I only have one church.” Man says, “I have my doctrine and you have yours.” Christ says, “There is only My word and nothing else” (John 12:48). The Lord wants all of us to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But that can only be done his way and in his body (John 14:6).
1/ http://tinyurl.com/aohfg
2/ Wayne Jackson, Gospel Advocate, November, 2003, p. 24.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

3 thoughts on “Is Denominationalism God's Plan?

  1. Denominations are named entities. The Lord’s ecclesia is no such thing. All churches, including c of c are denominations, formed and named by man, not God. Any entity that can be identified by a name is man made.

  2. Hello, John,
    Thank you for reading Forthright and specifically my articles. Names do not create denominations. Names are a result of denominationalism. If there were only one church, the Lord’s church, as Scripture dictates we would only need to call it the Church. The Church is called many names in the New Testament. That does not make the Lord?s Church a denomination because they didn?t exist for hundreds of years after the New Testament was written. Denominations are created by their doctrines, not their names.
    Richard Mansel

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