Christian denominations are a matter of personal preference...?


I am in my freshman year at a small Christian college. One of the required core courses is called “Introduction to the Christian Faith,” and is taught by a very intelligent and kind Church of Christ pastor. In general, the class has merely summarized basic Christian beliefs, most of which I agree with.

However, last week, the professor brought up his idea that denomination does not really matter. He said that we should choose our Christian denomination based on our own personal preferences. For example, if we like liturgical dance, we should look into a Pentecostal church. If we like having ordained leaders, we should consider being Catholic or Anglican. In the end, though, he doesn’t think denomination has any effect on eternal salvation. In his mind, all Christians (even Catholics) are “safe.”

I know that he is not correct here, and that the Catholic Church is the one true church. I would like to be able to explain why I believe this to my teacher, but I’m not sure of the best way to do that. Any suggestions? One thought I have is trying to show him why I conclude that, since different Christian churches have varying - and sometimes conflicting - beliefs, doesn’t that mean that they cannot *all *teach the truth?

Thanks in advance for any input you can give!

My fiancee likes to say that as well (She’s non-denominational).

Lately, I’ve been thinking of this argument:

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, as all Christians should agree on.

And if one of our missions as Christians is to grow closer to and better know Christ, we should constantly be seeking out Truth. This too, Christians should agree to.

However, knowing that many denominations believe differently in certain doctrinal issues or the form of worship. Obviously, not all doctrines which contradict can be true, because Truth cannot have contradictions. And because of this, there has to be a teaching that has the whole Truth, or at least most of the Truth if you think that no denomination has the whole Truth (of which I would disagree with, because I do not think Christ would leave us hanging like that). And in this, then, Christians should seek that which contains the most Truth, and preferably all of Truth.

In saying that denomination is a matter of choice is in a sense true, because we choose where we belong, but saying that it doesn’t matter which denomination you choose, is a bit of a folly. While, if you seek only to be saved, by whatever means, then sure, it doesn’t matter, but if you are really seeking Truth (aka. truth in Christ), then it certainly does matter which you belong to.

That’s just some of my thoughts for now.

Truth does not bow to our personal preferences. We should all be seeking truth, even when that truth causes us to change our lives and get rid of some of those things that we personally prefer. The very fact that there are any denominations of Christianity is evidence that truth has been compromised. Catholicism is not a denomination, but rather the original from which the others split. You might start there.

Since the Catholic Church is not a denomination, he is technically correct.

This is a good way to start, yes. And further to point out that these differences, far from what many Protestants like to happily and uncritically accept, are not “nonessentials” or unimportant, they are questions like how one is justified, what are the means of receiving grace, is baptism necessary for salvation, should it be don’t to infants, etc. You need to force him to take an honest look at history, which most Protestants won’t do…history shows his idea of basically “any church is fine” is NOT one of any Church Fathers. It’s also not taught in Scripture, which shows a hierarchical Church given authority by Christ, it’s not what the early Christians lived out or believed, in fact no one believed this until the 16th Century. My experience though is that getting any dedicated Protestant to honestly look at these facts is near impossible since these truths invalidate every church except the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church…good luck, but I’d say praying and gently mentioning to him that you disagree with his position and letting him decide if he wishes to pursue it further is probably the best course.

Good point. :thumbsup: My professor does seem to include Catholicism as one of the many Christian denominations, though, so I just thought I’d try to take things from this point of view to start.

Considering the atcual question, I would not get into a lot of details on why the Catholic Church is the one, true Church. I would just point out how absurd it is to believe that people should follow their personal preferences rather than seeking truth, wherever it may be found.

Thank you! You explained exactly what I was trying to get at. I just wasn’t able to develop my thoughts as well. This is definitely a good explanation of Truth.

You are right. He is not correct from a Lutheran standpoint, either. It isn’t dance, or praise bands, etc. that make a difference. It is doctrine.
It may be true that, to some degree or another, al Trinitarian communions/confessions/denominations are “safe”, but from our view, most have significant to varying truth mixed with errors. Errors can be dangerous.
Reluctantly, I have provided here two links from a Lutheran perspective on denominationalism. I say reluctantly because I know it is contrary to the prevailing “essentials, non-essentials” thinking today, and folks may react with dismay about it.


Thank you, Jon! Yes, I suspected that many Christians do not hold to my professor’s belief. It is nice to hear that from your point of view and also from the articles you linked to. I also believe that choosing a religion based on doctrine rather than individual preferences should result in a stronger faith.

Just as an aside, non-Catholic religious congregations are more appropriately called “ecclesial communities” as Christ only found one true “Church” – the Catholic Church.

As has been alluded to, the principle of non-contradiction says that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true.

The Catholic Church possesses the fullness of Truth and the means given to it by Christ to attain salvation (the sacraments). No other ecclesial community or religion is in possession of this raw fullness of Truth. All of the other Christian ecclesial communities are breakaways (or breakaways of breakaways of breakaways…) from the fullness of Truth and thus they are not in communion with the one true Church. Now, it is possible that some fragments of Truth exist in these other ecclesial communities. These pieces of Truth come from the only existing source of Truth – the Catholic Church. Therefore all other ecclesial communities, faiths, and religions are deficient if not completely false.

Salvation itself is in the hands of God alone, but to deny the Church is to deny or turn one’s back on Christ who is Truth.


[quote=missadeangelis;10113930As has been alluded to, the principle of non-contradiction says that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true. .

Actually, that is an incomplete explanation of the law of non-contradiction:
It states that contradictory statements cannot both be true** in the same sense** at the same time.

The problem is that language rarely is used ‘in the same sense’ when speaking of theology.

Fact 1: There is only one God.
Fact 2. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are each God.

Without discussing ‘sense’ the law of non-contradiction would say that the two facts cannot both be true, but we know that they are. Therefore, a blind application of the law of non-contradiction is a misapplication of the law.

The same applies to all the discussions of the ‘true church’. What is missing is the clarification of what is meant by ‘the church’.

If the church is a physical, earthly, entity with officers and possessions, and property, then the answer must be that there can be two or more true churches for those who believe that RCA and Eastern churches are both true. The source of ‘trueness’ should be discussed to see if it applies to Protestant or other churches.

If one takes the position that either the RCA or the Eastern churches are not true, then the discussion is solved by declaration rather than discussion.

But since ecumenical councils have not existed for many years, one might argue that the type of unity displayed by ecumenical councils was an idol similar to the temple.
The destruction of the councils would be similar to the destruction of the temple as an act of God preventing such idolatry and forcing us to look to the temple of Christ and the unity of the faith that transcends the trappings of the things of the earth such as egos, position, property, rank, organizations, etc.

If the one true church is simply made up of those whom Christ has saved. And it is He who has added to his church daily, so that no man or organization can take credit, and if in fact all those whom he has added are unified by Christ, then the discussions of a lack of unity are carried out by those who are not ‘in Christ’.

Scary thought…maybe I’ll stop discussing it and find someone with whom I am unified in Christ :wink:

It sounds like you are at a Protestant rather than Catholic college, so it is not surprising the Pastor has a different outlook on things. If he is your teacher and non anti Catholic I would be inclined to keep my head down and get through this required course without making too much fuss. Likewise if a Protestant went to a Catholic college it would be pretty annoying if he used the class to advocate sola scriptura.

At first glance, without knowing more, this is my thought as well, more or less. Is this class meant to be a discussion or debate between students and the teacher, or does the teacher have a certain amount of material he needs to cover without distraction? Are you thinking of asking him to hear you out privately, or on class time?

It would also be of benefit if the professor can explain:

  1. What does he understand Christian to mean?

  2. What does he understand Faith to mean?

It’s hard to engage in a study based on assumptions on what is understood to be studied.

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