Is denominationalism an obviously bad thing according to (most) Protestants?


#1

Catholic Answers may not be the best place to understand fellow Protestant perspectives, but anyways:

As a Catholic, I have tended to look at denominations from the point of view that it’s the opposite of the nature of the Church. That is, denominations ultimately form competing churches, even if they ultimately share in the one Catholic Church in various, incomplete ways (again, Catholic perspective).

Some Protestant definitions of the Church say that the Church is not really equivalent with any visible society or institution but rather makes up the totality of believing Christians. The extreme view here is that denomination whatsoever doesn’t make a difference.

So anyways. Do Protestants thinks so many different denominations is a bad thing? Or do they find it normal considering the nature of the Church?


#2

When I was nominally Protestant, I didn’t. When I was almost Lutheran, I did, and then became Catholic. :stuck_out_tongue:


#3

If my knowledge is correct, the original Reformers like Luther and Calvin did accept a visible Church, which is part of the reason they were horrified over lack of Protestant unity. If only they could see what happened over time…


#4

Not sure about denominations being good or bad. Look at Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, as well as Christianity. It seems to be in our nature to change, and explore as we experience our spirituality.


#5

Some will say “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only” all the way to the extremes of groups who will not even pray with those outside their denomination.


#6

The ones I deal with most frequently don’t. They are you mega church/non denominational types. They just look for the pastor that makes them feel good with his sermons, they don’t tend to look much deeper than that.


#7

What is denominationalism?

I think most Christian denominations arose when some group of people deemed all forms of Christianity they had access to either decayed or in such need of reform that they had no choice but to split off in order to have an opportunity to practice their faith according to what they considered a correct understanding of Divine Will.

Denominations are evidence that Christians are not of one mind, but those who start them typically consider their split a necessary evil that they were forced into, rather than an inconsequential thing to be done for light reasons.

Christians change denominations in the belief that it makes no difference–and indeed, a good number of Christians couldn’t explain the actual difference in theology between their denomination and any other–but I don’t think anyone ever started a denomination without believing they were acting according to a very grave difference that left them no alternative but to split off. (The religious equivalent of snake oil salesmen do not count, obviously. Those are predators, not preachers, though.)


#8

How would you say that the non-denominational pastor makes them feel good? Perhaps contrast how a non-denominational pastor would make somebody feel vs. how a Catholic priest might make someone feel?


#10

Perhaps there’s one or 2 folks at that “feel good” church that may actually love Jesus. Maybe they’ve been told their whole life that they’re worthless - and now somebody’s introducing them - simply - to a man who promises to love them unconditionally. Maybe even a pastor or 2 - in the vast sea of “feel good” charlatans - that’s doing the best he or she knows how to lead people to Christ. Maybe that “feel good” church is the only one they can make it to. Maybe Christ can use that silly sermon that’s focused too much on feelings and not on scripture , to save somebody’s life.

Reminds me of something a guy said long ago - something about noticing a spec in our brother’s eye, while ignoring the 2x6 in our own…


#11

That’s weird…much different than the pastor at my non-denominational church. My wife prefers the sermon there over a homily at her parish any day.

When we leave my church we normally have something to talk and think about…something really applicable to our daily lives. A lot of the time when we leave her church we look at each other and say “what was he talking about”?


#12

In my experience before I converted yes, but with a different spin.

It isn’t talked about as much it’s more like there’s some denominations that are basically the same and we can all coexist. Then there’s others that need to fix their theology, but we can be chill. And then there’s the crazies who call themselves Christian but aren’t.

The focus is on difference in belief and figuring out who’s right. In my experience there was no worry over disunity per se. No idea of a visible church for sure.


#13

My answer is that denominations are a reality because human beings, even the best and most pious human beings, intellectually and historically have different understandings how best to live out the Christian life. We have different understandings and opinions, we have different experiences, we are from different cultures, we have different things that feed our desire to live a Godly life and so on and so forth.

However, God uses our humanness, if you will, to spread the good news of Gospel to different places and cultures. So it is not a good thing that we are divided however God even uses our division to reach people who otherwise would never hear the Gospel message. There are people who would never consider going to an “Old traditional church” who will gladly attend a Hillsong Service and in the midst of what many of us would consider an irreverent rock concert with a little bit of Jesus thrown in, that person comes to love and cherish Christ and his faith grows and He seeks to repent of sin and live for Christ. On the other hand, someone who thinks a Hillsong service is nothing but a show may find Christ in a traditional Baptist church with a piano/organ/choir and hymns. Still another may find Christ in the theological deeper teaching of Reformed Churches or in the beauty and peace of a Catholic Mass.

Christ came to seek and save the lost. If He chooses to do that in an Assembly of God, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox, or even Joel Olsteen’s theologically shallow and feel good teaching Lakewood church then who am I to complain about it.


#14

36 years ago when I had my Born Again experience, I had no idea where to go as far as church was concerned. I was 20 years old and my friends didn’t understand what happened to me and didn’t wanna hear about how Jesus Christ changed my life. I buried myself in the New Testament, (new king james version) and listened to a Christian radio statio n. I smashed all my heavy metal albums and threw them in the garbage. Thanks to the Christian radio station I heard about and attended a “Full Gospel Businessman’s” meeting at went all alone knowing nobody. There was praise and worship and I wept as the Holy Spirit touched me so powerfully. I got someone’s phone number and they directed me to a “non-denominational” Bible church which I immediately made my way to on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. I didn’t care about a denomination affiliation. It meant nothing and God blessed me with the assurance and He had led me there and was pleased with me. I cannot say enough how I didn’t care about religious or denominational affiliation. I eventually was baptized in an Assembly of God church with several other people… There’s more but…
Here I am in 2019 becoming Catholic.

p.s.
after being backslidden for 30 years, guess what radio station I’m listening to again? The same station from 1983! 103.5 FM Detroit, WMUZ. :slight_smile:


#15

I think the rise of the non-denominational mega church is an indictment of it, even has most staff will orbit around a similar view.

“I don’t care about the little details, I just care about Jesus”.


#16

Yes, and there is certainly diversity in unity.

The real issue is, at what point is the diversity incompatible?

One church says the Eucharist is Christ’s very substantial presence and so can be adored even outside the confines of Holy Communion (e.g., Eucharistic Adoration). And many Christians, including me, feel God’s presence and Word in this context.

But other Christians vehemently oppose this as idolatry, asserting that the Eucharist/Communion is merely symbolic and certainly should not be adored as Jesus Christ outside of the sacrament or ordinance.

The bottom line is: When Jesus called people into the “Church,” the new gathering of the people of God, did He intend this to be an actual society with leaders and jurisdiction? Or is just a belief in Christ that unites us such that we can go and form our churches in any way we want?


#17

In my opinion, humans worship differently because they are different. And more importantly I think it is dangerous for one organization to claim monopoly on salvation and Truth.


#18

This is not true of all non-denominational pastors. I have a friend (since childhood) who graduated from college and seminary (therefore, he is highly educated), and spent the first 20 years of his adult life pastoring Conference Baptist churches. After much prayer and consultations with mature and faithful Christians, including pastors, he and his wife made the decision to start a non-denominational church affiliated with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life.

There are many reasons why pastors and people prefer non-denominational churches. one of the main reasons is that the members and attendees are not required to chip in a percentage of their offerings to the denominational headquarters. Many churches that serve the poor or low-income people, or who are reaching out to non-Christians who aren’t even sure that there is a God, have a hard time collecting offerings to support their church, and are not the least bit interested in supporting a far-away “denomination” and ministries that they never see or benefit from.

If any Catholics here think that sounds scurvy–well, perhaps you haven’t heard this, but I’ve heard from lots of Catholics in my parish who refuse to give to the Diocesan Pledge because of various reason (most of which sound kind of silly to me). We’re hearing people say they won’t support the Diocese because of the sex crimes–I don’t see what holding back our monies will do to fix that issue. But my point is, many people don’t like to give offerings to causes that they will never see in action.

Another reason why people prefer a non-denominational church is because they mistrust traditional churches for some reason (sometimes because of a sex crime). I personally think that they are foolish to align with a non-denominational church because if an unsavory incident occurs, the victim has no one to appeal to other than the head pastor, There is no Denominational Headquarters that will come and investigate the charges.

And yes, there are quite a few non-denominational churches that have charismatic, charming pastors that are great speakers and/or musicians, and people are attracted to these places where everything is so exciting! But c’mon now, you know that there are Catholic parishes that attract more people because of a priest who is a great homilist and/or has started exciting projects and outreaches in his parish. This isn’t just a Protestant thing–the desire to be where the action is.


#19

I think all Protestants grieve over the inability of Christians to agree on essential teachings. However, from an evangelical perspective, many denominations share the essentials of faith but are divided over peripheral issues such as ecclesiastical polity and order.

For example, the differences between a Reformed Baptist and a traditional Presbyterian are not that great except in the area of church governance/organization, infant baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They both believe in a Calvinist soteriology. It’s just the peripheral issues that divide them.

As a Pentecostal, I don’t think I could ever be a Southern Baptist. They are just a different breed, and we have subtle but real theological differences. However, I can still recognize that there is a lot of stuff we agree on and I could attend their services and even participate in communion in good conscience.

I don’t demand that Baptists convert to Pentecostalism, but I do think that on certain issues we are right and they are missing the full picture. And on some things, I don’t really think it even matters if its done the “Baptist” way or the “Pentecostal” way. Some things aren’t worth fighting theological wars over.


#20

I think most of us would agree that it is not a good thing that the Church is split. However, we would also say that unity cannot be surface level, we need to agree on essential doctrine, otherwise we have unity in name only.


#21

The Calvinists believe that the church is both visible and invisible. The visible church is all those on earth who outwardly profess the Christian religion. The visible church in one place may be more or less pure depending on how faithful it is to the gospel, while the visible church in another place may have departed so far from the truth that it could rightly be called a “synagogue of Satan”.

This is why they could oppose Roman Catholicism and still not totally write it off as being completely outside of the visible church.

The Reformers believed unity was possible, but not because the church was “visible.” They placed unity in the context of Sola Scriptura. If Scripture was the standard for all doctrine and church leaders all looked to Scripture, then they expected everyone to come to the same conclusions. or nearly the same conclusions. It didn’t work that way, but that was what they initially hoped.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.