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


Can the expression, “Solo Scriptura” be replaced with “BIBLE ONLY” please? Please? …

please? :innocent:


Sure go ahead. We don’t believe in “Solo Scriptura” though so it is a pointless distinction.


The phrase Sola Scriptura can’t because that isn’t what Reformers like Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and Buscer meant.


I wouldn’t personally say “bad”, but predictable. I have discovered that within Catholicism there is ample room for a tremendous number of variations on doctrinal perceptions. Unfortunately, once the Reformation began, and in the centuries to follow, each of these viewpoints tended to lead to the feeling that only by breaking away could one follow up on “truth”. Today the number of denominations numbers in the thousands, with in some cases only the minutest difference in doctrine. But to some few zealots, these tiny differences mean certain hellfire for those not in agreement. The splintering will continue with fewer and fewer of those seeking the foundation of Christianity missing the boat over what scripture aptly calls “straining at gnats”.


When I was protestant as a child / teen / college student, I tended to think that the differing of denominations, generally speaking, wasn’t too important. There were outliers like Mormonism that changed the fundamentals of the faith but I didn’t think it was a horrible deal that there was Baptist or Church of Christ or Methodist or Anglican etc., since it seemed they all believed the same about repentance and Christ and salvation.

I think one issue that ended up being an eye opener for me is that when I was growing up in the 2000s, this was the same time that many Christians seemed to be arbitrarily changing their views about same sex couples and same sex marriage. And then even more than that, I started seeing articles attempting to rewrite history. I dug into the reasons for why people were doing this and I didn’t seem to find anything of much sustenance other than, “Because I want to”. None of my classmates from youth group or Sunday school seemed to care about the ‘why’ part.

This was around the same time I was becoming atheist/agnostic in general but when I eventually came back to the faith I wanted something that was objective and dependable even if I didn’t like the answer. That’s when I discovered that Christians had arbitrarily changed their views about other topics as well (divorce, contraception, and this new thing I read about called the Eucharist).

But yeah, I think the vast majority of protestants don’t think denominations are as big of a problem as they are.


When I was Protestant, I didn’t view denominations as a good thing. They were (and still are) a bad thing, because they meant divisions in doctrine, which must mean that some of them are wrong.


Thoughtful post.

Yet I feel a straw man is with us with the statement that for some there is “no visible society” with the church.

Generally speaking , I would think that P churches are just visible as Catholic churches, save for the papal office, and maybe college of cardinals. But yes, some P churches have more institutional organization than others.

Maybe some only have a congregation with its bishop/ presbyter. …somewhat similar to first churches, although apostolic oversight is now only thru their writings and tradition.


Greetings and welcome to CAF. I will tell you like i tell everyone who espouses this ridiculousness. Either you have the truth (Jesus) or you do not. He is not “kinda the way, some of the truth, and sort of the life”. Surly you do not, as a Christian, profess partial truth to an unbeliever who you are discipling. If you dont have the fullness of truth then all of what you do have is questionable. Even if you dont think the Catholic church has the fullness of truth, please stand up for your own fullness in Jesus and stop with the notion that the fullness of truth cannot be had. I find it most dangerous to profess anything other than having the fullness, or “a monopoly” on truth.



I think this is just a different use of words, and I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying. I don’t profess to know everything to nonbelievers or anyone else. I don’t think that humans have the ability to know everything, or be absolutely sure of many things, which is why faith is necessary. God certainly knows everything and we can come to know Him in our limited way, but I don’t think that’s the same as having the fullness of truth ourselves.

Moreover, my statement was about an organization claiming a monopoly on truth, meaning that they alone can discern, ultimately through faith, divine truths. I don’t mean to attack the Catholic Church, but the thread asks for Protestant opinions, and obviously all Protestants doubt the authority of the Catholic Church.


Are those my only two choices ?

It seems as long as the church is filled with convalescing spirits, not made perfect yet, we will struggle between abusing freedom and going “any we want”, or the other extreme, of leaders abusing their “jurisdiction”, of turning Christ’s model into a familiar earthly, visible model, of “lording over”… the mess of the west (western church).


If we use OT as prototype, I think that when one proclaimed the Word of the Lord as a prophet, it was to be taken as such, in full measure. Yet the responsibility was upon the hearer to “stone” the prophet if later it became clear he indeed spoke falsely.

So by all means let us speak boldly and in fullness of truth, “having an unction from Holy Ghost to know all things even though seeing thru a glass darkly.” But know this, that such a high calling has equally high responsibility for accuracy, shared even by the hearer.


I’m not familiar with any Protestant church that says there is no visible church. What Protestants typically say is that no one institutional organization is exclusively constitutive of the visible church. Denominations are institutional structures created by and for the visible church, but they are not the church itself.


But as someone said earlier, many of the Protestant denominations believe the “Fundamentals of the Faith,” but have a different approach towards missions, church management, charitable works, which Bible translation is best, etc. These are not Fundamentals, and therefore don’t have to be the same from church to church.

Catholic parishes are the same way. Some have Parish Council, while in others, the priests run the parish. Some have a huge emphasis on the arts, while others don’t. Some have Altar and Rosary Society, others don’t.

What I’m trying to tell you is don’t equate Fundamentals with “non-essentials.”
HOWEVER–there are moral issues that many Protestant denominations have departed from traditional Christian teaching over. Abortion and same-sex marriage come to mind. The Church (both Catholic and Protestant) has always taught that these acts are evil. But now certain mainline Christian denominations are teaching that both of these are acceptable behaviors.

Interestingly, this is one reason for the growth of Evangelical and non-denominational churches, many of which teach that both abortion and same-sex marriage are sin.

What I’m trying to say is that these acts (and other sinful actions) are NOT “non-essentials,” and the Protestant churches recognize that these actions are NOT in the same category as a “non-essential” like whether or not the Church uses the KJV or the NIV.


We all certainly have a “line in the sand” on what is and isn’t authentic Christianity. However, we need to be very careful when declaring some are not following authentic Christianity. We humans tend to put our opinions and prejudices into our determinations. We tend to make our own experiences and traditions to be the norm of what Christianity should be and look like.

Edit to add.

I grew up in rural Alabama. There were 3 Baptist churches and 2 United Methodist churches in my community. All the kids at school were either Baptist or Methodist. While I was Baptist many of my friends were Methodist. What I observed as a child was that while the doctrine of our churches was slightly different on a few things we still all considered each other part of the family of God. We ministered to our community together, went to each others evangelism services, the Baptist youth choir sang at the Methodist church and vice-versa. The Methodist preacher would be invited to preach at the Baptist church and the Baptist preacher at the Methodist church. Things we disagreed on was rarely spoken about but things we agreed on was proclaimed loudly. We worshiped together, prayed together, ministered together, and made meals for each other when someone was sick or a loved one had died. Our relationships wasn’t defined by our differences they were defined by our common faith and love of Christ and His people and the world.


I don’t even doubt the authority of the Church. The Church was given the task of proclaiming the gospel. The question that generally exists is whether we have done that faithfully.



Yes, and of course, any religion tends towards organization because humans are social creatures.

When a Catholic (or even an Orthodox Christian) calls the Church visible, we do not mean merely that there are external and organizational elements. But rather, that the visible element of the Church was intended by Christ as the means of full communion with the Church.

In other words, Christ wanted people on Earth to be able to identify where his Church is.

As Augustine said, don’t just ask for where the church is. Ask for where the “Catholic church” is.

This was essentially the teaching for the first thousand + years before the Reformation. You can even see it in a cursory manner in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, himself a bishop. He says union with the bishop ensures unity with the universal “catholic” church. Clement of Rome even earlier deliberately points out the office of bishop out as that establishment that ensures communion with the original community of the Apostles.

I would argue the NT is just as explicit, or obvious in practice. Explicit when Christ gives the Apostles and their church real jurisdiction to exclude and excommunicate as well as govern the community (“bind and loose”; Mtt. 18:18-19, etc.). In practice, we see this in Acts 15 with the council of Jerusalem.

Why should the church obey the Council of Jerusalem unless it was a very real exercise of the Church’s genuine authority as a visible society? I would argue that, based in Protestant approach, one would not have to obey the decision of the Apostles and elders here because it is just “one example” of the visible church in action. How do you discern when the visible church is in fact the fullness of Christ’s authority? Doesn’t it make sense (even ignoring the evidence itself) that Christ would want us, in every age, to know where to go?

The canon of the Bible itself, and the fundamental Creeds and Christology of the early church, presume a visible Church that had real and lasting authority because it contained that authority under Christ’s promise that the “gates of hell would not prevail” on the church founded on Peter.


What do you make of a Catholic like me deliberately praying before, kneeling before, and adoring the Eucharist in the context of Eucharistic Adoration?

Just be honest, because I may have a follow-up.


I don’t believe the bread and wine turn into the literal Body and Blood of Christ. However, I don’t think you believing that somehow disqualifies from being a legitimate and sincere follower of Christ. And if you do believe that the bread and wine have literally changed into “Christ” then I understand why you would kneel in front of it as if you were kneeling in front of Christ when He is at the right hand of the father in heaven or when He returns to earth and will be present with us again.


That is kind and understanding answer.

The larger point, though, is the reality in question. For mistaking a piece of bread to be the Eternal Word of God is no small mistake. Objectively, it would be idolatrous, no? Even if the person were not subjectively intending to partake in idolatry.

I maintain that teaching on the Eucharist is one example where we can’t merely say Christians should be allowed to believe either this or that. The Eucharist is something Christ himself commanded we do — as a primary way of recalling his very redeeming sacrifice.

For the reformers, this was obvious. Calvin was stressed to see such divergent teaching going on. As Dr David Anders argues, himself a former Calvinist, one way to understand the Protestant Reformation is an attempt to work out the doctrine on the Eucharist. The Protestant Reformers had bitter words towards even each other when it came to this.

I admit that the Protestant has a hard time reconciling this kind of thing: What is essential? What can Christians disagree on? How do we know?

No Christian that I know of discourages diversity. The Catholic Church is diverse in many ways, in culture, liturgy, spiritual traditions, and even theological approaches. The issue isn’t diversity. It’s: How do we know when diversity is no longer catholic unity? What crosses the line and how do we know?

That’s one of the reasons the Church is visible in the Catholic sense, so I believe: That we may know where the boundaries are.

Just as the Church did in Acts 15.

*Sorry I keep adding to this post. I keep thinking of relevant things.


If you want to exclude me from “being a legitimate Christian” because I don’t believe in transubstantiation then that is your choice. I am confident in the grace and mercy of our Lord. If I am wrong, then I believe His grace and mercy will overcome my error. If you are wrong, the I believe His grace and mercy will overcome your error.

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