One of the criticisms made by Catholics about the Protestant movement is that it is continually dividing into more and more “denominations.” The number of denominations cited can be anything from 33,000 and upward. The reason invariably given to explain this state of affairs is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
I’m not so sure that this argument is quite as overwhelming as Catholics might like to think. The logic seems unsound. If it were sound then when we Protestants see division in the ranks of the Catholic Church we would by using the same logic suggest that the Catholic Magisterium is to blame for the differences of viewpoint. Presumably, most Catholics would see such an assertion as wayward? Well, then, if a Protestant believes that the Bible rather than the Magesterium is a sufficient rule of faith how is it that Catholics conclude that a difference of opinion abut our sufficient source is a valid argument against its sufficiency?
Whatever. That’s merely an en passant observation since my focus here is not upon the method of argumentation used against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura but upon the actual division within the Protestant movement since that division is undoubtedly a reality. The suffix that Catholics usually add to their argument against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is that the denominations “all disagree with each other.”
Does that assertion adequately describe the reality? Do we Protestants all disagree with each other? The 33,000 figure (apparently lifted from the World Christian Encyclopedia – [ check it out](" http://www.amazon.com/World-Christian-Encyclopedia-Comparative-Religions/dp/0195079639"), it’s only $300+) implies that there are 33,000 different viewpoints or opinions i.e. total cacophony. But I respectfully submit that an objective analyst would probably not draw that conclusion. We Protestants do not disagree about everything. For example, it’s reasonable to assume that most Protestants have no trouble reciting the Nicene Creed – including the filioque, incidentally – as a public profession of faith.
So, how “divided” are Protestants? Not as much as some might suggest, perhaps?