Where did church denominations come from?

By Ron Thomas — I have always been interested in learning from where church denominations came from. As I was looking through some church history books, I came across a section in the book, Church History in Plain Language (3rd edition, 2008), by Bruce Shelley. In the section “The Idea of Denominations” (pp. 306-308) there is a brief discussion on how the concept of denominations came into being in a religious context. It took root in the 17th century, then grew in the 18th and following centuries. Why did it come into existence in the first place?

“The Reformers [Protestant Reformation leaders, RT] had planted the seeds of the denominational theory of the church when they insisted that the true church can never be identified in any exclusive sense with a particular institution” (p. 307).

Continue reading “Where did church denominations come from?”

Us and them

By Brett Christensen — The only reason you and I are in Christ’s church is because we have heard the pure message of salvation as taught in scripture, and have believed it with enough conviction to obey it and continue in it. That’s not true of anyone outside the Lord’s church, whether they’re in some humanly established alternative church or even irreligious.

It’s good news that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the tragic corollary is that those not in Christ are not new creatures. We in Christ have an unassailable hope; those apart from Christ are living without hope. If God means what he says, then we cannot deny these truths. So the unpleasant reality about any person or group which has not followed God’s instructions on how to get into Christ is that they’re without God, without hope in this world, not having the forgiveness of sin which is available in Christ. Continue reading “Us and them”


Have you seen tree-covered mountains reaching for the sky, vast prairie plains with golden wheat swaying in the wind, or still yet tropical hills bathed in lush vegetation descending upon wide white beaches giving way to the blue ocean? What is your favorite landscape? Many contrasting topographical features can comprise a landscape.

For me, churchscape calls to mind a broad, sweeping look at Christendom revealing a wide variety of fellowships with countless overlapping and contrasting beliefs and practices. What compass do you use to navigate the churchscape? What matters to you? What should matter? Continue reading “Churchscape”

Is unity still a realistic pursuit?

The first pair of brothers was not united. Cain was jealous of Abel and killed him because of his righteousness, Genesis 4. Unity has always been a desirable pursuit, Psalm 133. It has not always been an easy exercise. Moses dealt with rebellious siblings, and Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. In Israel, tribe rose up against tribe. Abram’s sentiments to Lot are rarely heard: We are family, so let’s not quarrel, Genesis 13.8.

The early church dealt with challenges to unity at every turn. Judaizers, promoters of human philosophies, libertines, and greedy opportunists sought to slice the family of faith into pieces and prey on the weak. Continue reading “Is unity still a realistic pursuit?”


Among iris fanciers, the older versions of irises are known as “historic” or “heirloom” irises. They may be forty or a hundred years old or more. In most cases, these varieties are less prone to diseases than the newer, fancier versions.

Their form is usually simple. No ruffled edges or beards that separate from the petals, forming spiky horns. Some heirlooms have the same color on the three petals that point upward, or uprights, as they do on the downward pointing petals, or falls.

Others are two-toned or even two separate colors, such as yellow uprights with red falls. Many are fragrant beyond belief!

I like the name “heirloom,” as it is a comforting word. I have very few heirlooms passed down from my family, and I like to think of the people who have cultivated these irises as family members in a way that connects us. Continue reading “Heirlooms”

Denominationalism is the fleshly plan

God’s plan for mankind is ridiculous to a sinful world (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 6:1-6) so we must have an undeniable faith in his truth (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23; Hebrews 11:6).

Godliness is our new world and God’s Word teaches us what we need to know (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Doing what is natural to the flesh is guaranteed to violate God’s will (Matthew 5:27-48). Continue reading “Denominationalism is the fleshly plan”

How Should "Other" Christians Be Regarded?

This is our fourth biblical answer to religious questions proposed by a catechistic compendium. It asks how “Christians” should be regarded who do not belong to their particular group or denomination.

It is common for those involved in religious groups of which the Bible knows nothing to speak of hyphenated Christians, that is, Christians who belong to a denomination or group with its own system of beliefs, government, polity, and worship. People identify their “brand” of Christianity by the name of their denomination. The New Testament, however, is clear: one is a Christian, nothing more and nothing less, or one is not a Christian. Continue reading “How Should "Other" Christians Be Regarded?”