Competition within Christianity

In the USA, competition within a particular sector or industry is generally viewed as a good thing.


Auto industry:
When the auto industry was young, the consumer had limited choice in color and model if they wanted to buy a car. For example, a black Ford Edsel was the main option for a time.

Now, there are multiple carmakers and all possible vehicle sizes, shapes, and color choices to choose from. There is seemingly a car for every home and budget.

Mail and Package delivery:
At one point in time, the Government-run Postal Service was the main way to send letters and packages. Now, there is email, UPS, Federal Express, and other options.

Burger Resturants:
For a time, McDonald’s was the only burger place in my town when I was growing up… Now, Burger King, Wendy’'s, and multiple hamburger establishments afford a wide variety of choices when it comes to what kind of burger you may want to order.

American, United, Delta, Southwest, and many other airlines serve different cities and countries. Chance are there is an airline that flies to or near where you live or where you want to go.

One could argue that competition has benefited the ordinary citizen and society as a whole in terms of choice, quality, and cost. There are very few monopolies in any industry.

In Western Europe, for much of Christian history the Roman Catholic Church was the only option in Christianity. With the Protestant Reformation, other religious options became available. Nowadays, there are lots of different Christian denominations.


  1. Has religious competition helped or hurt Christianity in general?

  2. Is the Catholic Church stronger or weaker due to this competition?

I’ve decided to pose to CAF what I’ve been mulling over in the mind for the past few days.
Forgive me if it is a dumb topic, but I wanted to hear what others have to say about it.

Part of me thinks that competition by other Christian denominations has helped the Catholic Church stay true to its religious calling and historic mission and stay out of politics, like when it divided up South America between Spain and Portugal in the late 1490’s. .

However, Jesus in John 17:20-23 talks about the need for Christian unity, so part of me sees all the Christian denominations as troublesome, also.

Your thoughts?

Yes competition is a good thing. When one denomination holds all the cards it can lead to some pretty horrible abuses. There needs to be competition for accountability.

Well, the alternative is only having one choice of church. Even if that church was true, does it really count as you choosing truth if you have no other options?

I agree. And having only one God to choose from, so unfair, it’s like God is operating an unfair monopoly over the Kingdom of Heaven!:rolleyes:

Look, it’s obvious where I’m coming from faith-wise here, but I entered the Catholic Church with Very good reason: it is the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ.

I’m sorry but God’s kingdom is NOT a free market capitalist democracy, it’s the very best conceivable benevolent dictatorship! And that kingdom as Jesus proclaimed begins here and now on Earth in His church.

Christ founded one Church, one body of one heart, one mind and one faith, his one Bride…not 20,000+. And how can we even think "competition " is good in this context? Jesus definitely didn’t think so, the most fervent and repeating prayer he uttered on the night of his betrayal and arrest was that we, his followers, would be ONE, as he and the Father are ONE! So no, if Christ was to be trusted he didn’t think this post-reformation model of divided and bickering Christianity was best.

Lastly, I assure you that this “model” of faith does us NO favors winning converts. To anyone on the outside looking in they will see a religion in which its own adherents cannot agree on anything, be it large or small issues of faith and morals, and where figuring out which one has the right doctrine, the Truth, seems nigh impossible, and that’s if they’re even interested in exploring faith at all! I’ve known many non believers and ALL of them have looked at the divisiveness that marks Christianity as negative, confusing, and something that marks us as foolish. If WE who believe cannot present one consistent message of the truth, why should anyone outside the faith listen to any of us?

Basically this “competition” is a terrible terrible thing for the faith.

Christ didn’t set up His Church as if it were in some sort of competition. It’s about truth, not competing with others.

Competition tends to encourage the engagement of ego, which can lead to pride.
Christ is about the saving of souls, not the the competing with others.

What is the Gospel? It’s the Christ has triumphed.
This life is not a test of which church we will choose. It’s a gift of Life, of Being. Salvation is the sanctification of our souls so that we may be partakers of God’s divine nature.

Life is a gift. It’s not a test.

Well first off equating the Gospel to an industry…not a good idea imo. Anyway it’s not about competition, it’s about proclaiming the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, the Catholic Church. Truth being a key word. It’s also about mission. One of the missions given to the Catholic Church by Christ…

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Pope Emeritus Benedict gives a warning here about forgetting what the mission is…

In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality, The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.

It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine.

Competition is a negative concept for Christianity

  1. Is the Catholic Church stronger or weaker due to this competition?

the Church is wounded by division and competition. Men on both sides (Catholic communion and Christians outside of Catholic Communion) can be responsible for reasons of division and competition.

Bottom line… every individual AND the whole Church benefits from partaking worthy of the One Loaf.

Thanks to all for your insights and replies. Much appreciated.

I look down my street and see different churches all competing…and they are all Christian and do not come together so somebody must be wrong.

Or my belief that we are one under one roof is just another form of competition…

This true to life experience may help you in your thoughts on the matter:

“How I Solved the Catholic Problem”
by Kristine L. Franklin


I asked myself where was the “one body, one faith, and one baptism” St. Paul spoke about so passionately? I began to fear that the answer could not be what American missionaries were peddling, at least it couldn’t be the whole answer.
One day we drove through a small village where I counted three Pentecostal churches on one block. Before the arrival of protestantism, this town was united in its Catholicism. The Catholic parish used to be the center of the community, but now there were multitudes of competing Protestant churches, each promoting its particular brand of evangelicalism: Church of Christ, Presbyterian, non-denominational, Assemblies of God, Mennonite Brethren, and Baptists of every conceivable stripe were all there, scratching around for converts, and reminding their flocks that all the other groups were wrong (especially, of course, the Catholics).
I thought about this choose-your-own-church syndrome constantly. While all of us missionaries from these various denominations proclaimed the purity of our gospel, the truth was, there was no way for any of us to know for sure which of us had it “most right.”
I had no doubt that people who previously had no relationship with Jesus Christ were being saved and brought into God’s family through the great efforts and sacrifices of Evangelical missionaries. Still, along with the message “You must be born again,” came all the same difficulties of disunity and division that plague American evangelicalism.

CA Forum Response

For economic goods competition certainly is good. But in what way is it good? It is good in that it provides the good at the lowest possible price. It is good in that it promotes the most efficient production of goods. It is good in that it leads men to investigation hoping to improve production methods. But the good itself does not come from competition. The good exists prior to competition. That is, one has to know the product that will be produced prior to producing it.

In the case of cars they are fundamentally a means of transportation. The things that are made better by competition are attributes like safety, reliability, comfort and asthetics.

Apply this to Christianity I think we have to first realize the Christian Faith is a revealed religion. So if we consider the good to be the truth of the Faith then this is not something that can be made better by competition. This is an eternal reality revealed by God. What attributes of the Faith as Faith could you improve on? You can’t make the Faith more comfortable. Though in a sense you could if you made it less demanding. You can’t make the faith more beautiful. You can’t make it more reliable. So competition isn’t good for Christianity.

I do think variety can be a good thing. Certain homilies might be more instructive, or inspiring to various men. A particular work of art might convey the Faith better to one man. A certain philosophical approach might speak to some men and not others. So I can see variety as being a good thing.

But the Church is weaker because of competition. Various religious orders, different liturgical rites, different architecture, and different theological explanations all exist within the Catholic Church. I think this is fine and good. But the key is they exist within the Church. While there is variety there is still a principle of unity. As you mention Jesus calls us to unity. If variety leads to disunity then it becomes competition. Each church is competing for believers. And that is not good at all.

Truth is singular. Multiple denominations is just a byproduct of our fallen nature. Jesus sought to form one church…it is we that failed to keep it as such.

Would it then be a good argument to say multiple gods are good, so we can have more choice?

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