SOURCE: The first church I remember attending was an Assemblies of God church in Albuquerque, N.M. After we moved, my family joined the Evangelical Free Church of America in St. Louis, Mo. Now I am on staff at a non-denominational church in the area while I finish up my Master’s at a Presbyterian Church of America seminary. And my favorite writer is C.S. Lewis, an Anglican.
These are the ecclesiastical flavors in which my mind has soaked. And I have loved it. I love denominations. That’s not to say that I would like to be in a denomination, but I appreciate them enough to write about it.
Denominations are beautiful. While some within the Church see them as schismatic and unhelpful, I see them as lovely, imperfect variations on a single, pure theme.
But personal preference aside, are denominations actually biblical? That’s a difficult (and perhaps unfair) question.
Try asking it another way. Are Baptists biblical? Are Methodists biblical? Are Lutherans biblical? Or is it only us “non-denoms” who have gotten things right?
On issues that aren’t the Gospel and don’t pertain to the Gospel, Christians have this wild freedom to lovingly differ with their brothers and sisters.
Paul reminds the Corinthian church that he preached to them the pure, unadulterated Gospel. The Gospel is of first importance to the Church (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
Opponents of denominations will argue that Paul is calling the Church to unite around the Gospel and forsake all other creeds and confessions. (“I’m not a (insert denominational label), I’m simply a Christian.” After all, denominations focus us on the secondary issues when what we need to focus on is the primary issue: the Gospel of Christ.
But rather than explicitly forbidding ecclesiastical denominations (a concept that didn’t even exist in the early church), Paul is reminding one local congregation in central Greece to focus on one thing as of first importance. He doesn’t say that other issues are not important. But he is reminding them of the overshadowing primacy of the Gospel.
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SOURCE: Church of Christ members tell their denominational friends that the Church of Christ is not a denomination. But, their friends are simply not buying it. Here are six reasons why:
1. To name an organization or institution is to denominate it. The various, so-called, scriptural names for God’s people are not names at all, but rather, they are descriptions of “what” they are. The English word, “church”, is an erroneous translation of the Greek word, “ecclesia’, which only means a group or assembly. It carries NO religious connotation what-so-ever. To single out a descriptive term, and use it as a title, is to give God’s called out people a title that He did not authorize. Many Church of Christ members try to evade the issue by using the lower case “c” in “church of Christ’. Not only does this evade the issue, but it is grammatically wrong. Failure to use correct grammar cannot keep something from being what it is.
2. But, one might argue, “The ecclesia is the bride of Christ, therefore it should have the name of its husband”. This would be a good argument except for one very important fact. And that fact is that the custom of the bride taking her husband’s name is a Western custom, and it cannot be stretched out of context to cover an Eastern situation. Does the Bible say, “Mr. and Mrs. Ananias?” Does it say, “Mr. and Mrs. Aquilla?” Libraries contain stacks of documentation confirming these two cultural differences.
3. When most logical thinkers see a prominent sign, similar to the signs of all denominations, put up on a building similar to all other denominational buildings, they correctly conclude that the sign indicates property owned by a denomination.
4. And, from the viewpoint of their friends, where do you find the name, “Church of Christ”, in the phonebook? It is very clear to them that it is found in the yellow pages with all of the other denominations. And it does not make any difference whether they spell it with a little “c” or not.
5. Denominations have creeds. Churches of Christ have creeds. And in the words of one of their own notables, “There is only one thing worse than a written creed, and that is one that is not written.”
Probably the most harmful aspect of their creed is the manner in which truth is determined. For example, when an issue comes up, instead of prayerfully studying all sides of it, they seek out the conclusions of the brotherhood preachers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with soliciting the opinions of respected brethren. What is wrong with this approach is the rejecting of all other viewpoints without looking into them. When they do this, the brotherhood position becomes their creed. One very dangerous tenet of this creed is the judgmental position that all are lost who do not agree with it. This attitude is very visible in the so-called “sound” Churches of Christ.
Matt Slick of http://www.carm.org explains why there are different denominations.