If you’re not familiar with how we do things here at ChristianPig, I’ll encourage you to look around and see the type of content we have from contributors who are all across the political and religious spectrum. But if you are familiar with how this ship sails, then consider with me a topic that I hear thrown out every now and again especially in a setting such as this.
That’s right: Denominations. Let’s talk about them.
When discussing different sides of the same story, it’s fairly easy to widen the rift between both sides of the spectrum. Where Christianity and theology are concerned it’s the same story, but among a people who are supposedly “united” by the very Jesus they seem to be debating. You can see how this gets messy. I have almost certainly seen friendships, small groups, and churches divide over things that may or may not be trivial in hindsight.
Some will say that denominations are unnecessary and actually hinder the commission of Christ to the universal Church. I submit that denominations are not perfect in any way, however, their existence is more important to the complete fulfillment of the commission of Christ. Let me explain.
Church history is filled with divisions with the way we see Jesus and how we determine the way we are to live out what He has told us to do. I think it’s brought to fruition in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, but that’s another topic.
Certainly this cannot be okay! Someone has to be wrong, right? Maybe both, who knows? But how can a disagreement ever be okay?
I have to admit, you bring up a great point. Disagreements are not ideal, but welcome to the real world, because they happen. People are stubborn and opinionated, which isn’t the greatest combination. In the big picture, we are sinners saved only by faith in Christ through the grace of God but we still live in a fallen world and are still prone to sin. And we tend to disagree on a lot.
For example, Baptists and Lutherans disagree quite a bit, but baptism’s a big one. In common terms, Baptists practice believer’s baptism where they baptize someone after their conversion. Lutherans, on the other hand, are convinced that baptism brings conversion (through regeneration) as a means of grace and regularly baptize infants.
It’s not just baptism either, as we have historically argued over church polity and ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, covenant theology, and a ton of other “ologies.” Not only are theological arguments littered all over church history, but the practice and fulfillment of each position are huge points of contention as well. Things like evangelism methods, corporate worship service, church discipline, etc.
We have an issue obviously. That we can ironically agree on. So what does this mean?
First of all, it must be our foundation to understand that our faith is collective not individualistic in nature. The Great Commission was given to the Church and we fail when we try to accomplish it on our own. Unity is necessary here, as it’s hard to separate a collective commission from community. This is most easily and biblically fulfilled in local bodies of believers; but simple logic shows that people are going to disagree on how those churches are supposed to run and what they believe.
As much as I love my Pentecostal friends, I have a lot of disagreement with their theology of and their practice of worship. I mean a lot. So much so that I am convinced that we could not effectively gather in a corporate worship setting to give the Lord praise and glory together.
I have Presbyterian brothers and sisters who who are convinced that baptizing infants is necessary in their Covenant Theology. I disagree wholeheartedly and would not be able to celebrate with them in their practice of the sacrament of baptism.
Surely the solution is not to gather together anyways and neglect our understandings of the Word of God? We all have biblical convictions that should be derived solely from our understanding of Scripture but we also should come to grips that some of our brothers and sisters will disagree with us. And it’s not a good thing that we have these disagreements but it is a very true reality. So, in order to keep our peace it is necessary to separate and gather with like minded believers.
But there are times when we can gather inter-denominationally. Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians do this so well in ministries like The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. While these are both large scale, this is probably more easily accomplished locally and usually in a community outreach setting. That is a very good thing when believers can lay aside their differences to accomplish a bigger purpose. And I wholly respect what other denominations can bring to the table such as Traditionalist Baptists and their passion to reach the lost and even Orthodox Presbyterians who are committed to biblical worship and are family oriented in their faith. We would do good to glean from the good on all sides.
I happen to be a Baptist and I disagree even with other Baptists. I know I very well could be wrong, but I know which side I fall on on the topics I’ve looked at and am convinced the Word is to be understood and practiced in a certain way. But guess what? People think otherwise.
And that’s okay.
All believers are ultimately founded upon the work of Christ and His Word, and that’s pretty solid standing ground. Find a local church that shares your convictions and your practices, strive to remain biblical and consistent, and plug yourself into the work of the Kingdom. That’s where unity can be found in the presence of divisions.