Why So Many Denominations?
In this world there are literally thousands of different denominations and religions and within those there are sometimes hundreds of different sects. Here at Guided By Truth we are often asked why we believe that our set of views are right. This is a good question, especially since there are so many differing ideas. While it may seem overwhelming to determine what is true and what is false, we believe that it is possible to find the truth in the Bible.
People choose their religion for different reasons. Some people desire to find acceptance in society, so their ambition to identify with a certain system of beliefs is sometimes a reflection of their quest to find that acceptance. Others may choose a religion that is unorthodox merely because it appeals to their desire to be “different”. Still others might choose a more popular religion so that they will easily fit in because they find comfort in the concept of a majority. Many people today are converting to Islam because they are lured by the regimental system that is required of its followers. Young people are often taught that they must look at all the different religions or denominations and choose the one that is right for them. Even within mainstream Christianity there are denominational labels or a desire to follow certain leaders or movements. However, the Bible teaches us that this concept with which we approach religion today is wrong. Determining what religion is right is extremely important. It should not be treated like a smorgasbord where we simply pick a religion that will satisfy us. Rather it should be based upon the truth of the Word of God. We should not be trying to choose a set of beliefs, rather we should first examine the Scripture and believe what it says.
There are certainly many different labels and “isms” that mankind has come up with. There can be benefits to such labels in that it may help us identify what a person believes. Not everything that is defined by a label is wrong for some of these labels accurately reflect what the Scripture may teach about a certain subject. The problem arises when people desire to find the proper label for themselves without first consulting the Bible. Labels should be applied to your views only after careful consideration of what the Scriptures teach, they should not be chosen because it best fits your lifestyle, personality or opinion. If we do that we soon become tied down to our own views and closed to what the Scripture may be teaching us. An uneducated decision is a foolish one. Many people are convinced that their view is right, even though they have not researched it through the Word of God. The Bible warns of those who think they are wise in their own eyes (Prov 26:12).
There is a philosophy that there are different denominations because of different interpretations of the Bible. That is simply false. It is man's misunderstanding, bias or ignorance of what the Bible teaches that is causing the division. The Bible says what it says, it is not up for interpretation. The word “denomination” actually carries with it the idea that there are different “truthful” points of view within Christendom. Some denominational beliefs are far from being Christian at all. Their differences are so vast that they can not be united with true Biblical Christianity. While no “denomination” is perfect, there are some that remain Biblical.
In his exhortation to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul warned of the folly of those who steadfastly followed their own group. The Bible tells us that God desires unity among the believers, and Paul stresses this point:
1 Cor 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
Paul appeals to us to agree with one another. It is important that we realize that this unity is to be based upon the truth. The Bible never teaches that doctrine should be sacrificed for the sake of unity. To do that is to merely agree to disagree, it is not the unity of the Spirit based on the truth of Scripture. Paul does not want there to be divisions among one another, but he does not want us to simply agree to have divisions in order to have unity. We are to be “united in mind and thought”, therefore we are to agree about what we believe. Christ is not divided so we should all be in agreement about His Word. I have noticed that believers who desire to know the truth, study the Scripture to find it, and have a working knowledge of the Bible generally do agree on almost every doctrine.
When we read the Bible, we should do so in the normal sense. God did not give us a Bible that would say one thing to you and something different to me. It says just one thing. It is not up for interpretation. We do not have to interpret the Scripture as if it were communicating to us in riddles or in some type of code. When the Bible makes perfect sense, seek no other sense. There are not many interpretations of the Bible, rather some people misunderstand the Bible. This is due to their ignorance of the Bible or their lack of consideration for the context of the passage. Often their bias toward the denomination they have chosen to follow will hinder their reception of what the Bible actually teaches.
Many Christian sects and denominations are merely man made religions that are not based on the Scripture, even though they claim that they are. The Bible says:
2 Cor 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Most religions may have the appearance of being right, but they are only the workings of Satan himself. Those who teach such false doctrines are servants of the devil and their end will be what their actions deserve. Any time we blindly follow a sect or group we put our faith in something other than the rock of Christ and we are on sinking sand. These denominations often teach a false Christ and false way of salvation. We should never align ourselves with such groups. Those that follow them are not believers in the Biblical Jesus. They have put their trust in a religion or set of beliefs, not the Bible. Notice what the Bible says:
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 6:15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 6:16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 6:17 Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord. NET
It is clear from these passages that there are different belief systems and not all of them come from God. Paul teaches us that we should not even align ourselves with these false systems, especially to do the work of the Lord. Certainly Satan has introduced a world of religions and sects meant to confuse people and keep them from Christ and His truth. Confusion does not originate from God, we all have the ability to read His wonderful word on our own and discover the truth for ourselves. We must start by opening the Bible and reading its pages.
One of the best ways to recognize a false set of beliefs is to know what the truth is. When we read for ourselves God's Word and by doing so determine some foundational and fundamental teachings of Scripture, we can quickly rule out any belief system that would detour from it. Below I have listed a few of these fundamental teachings from the Word of God, if any religion teaches otherwise, we can be assured that they are false.
Godhead – He is Triune in nature, yet is one. He is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; all of whom are equal, yet with some distinct roles. Any organization that does not believe in the trinity is false.
Jesus – He is eternal God and nothing less. He was never created, and is equal to the Father and the Spirit. He became a man to die for our sins and completed the work of God for our Salvation. Any group that teaches otherwise is false.
Holy Spirit – He is not simply a mystical force, but a person of the Godhead equal to the Father and the Son. He came to convict us of sin and points us to Jesus. He does not draw attention to Himself. The gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. He is not responsible for the activities being practiced by various sects that claim they are empowered by him. Anyone teaching that they are experiencing or using a gift of the Holy Spirit is false.
Salvation – We can only be saved by placing our trust in Jesus as our savior. Salvation is by God's grace and mercy alone, no amount of merit or works could ever get us into heaven. This can only happen by trusting in Christ as our Savior. There is no other way, any other way is false.
Eternal Security – The Bible is clear that we cannot lose our salvation. Any religion or denomination that teaches we can lose our salvation is conclusively following a works based salvation that is false.
Legalism – We are not under the Law, we are under grace. Any religion that teaches we should follow a strict set of rules and regulations, especially by observing the Law of Moses and man made laws, is fallen from Grace and is foolish. We are to be motivated by love not to sin, not the law. Any group teaching that such obedience is required is false.
View of the Bible – The Bible is the complete, perfect, infallible, inspired Word of God. There are no missing books, no mistakes, and no need for deletions. It is the final authority on all matters and no one is receiving any new or similar revelation today. Anyone who thinks any differently is false.