A little background might help. For the purpose of limiting our discussion to Christianity we will start around 1500 C.E. There was one Christian church – the Roman Catholics (some statistically insignificant others existed). In 1519 Martin Luther, a Catholic Priest, challenged his church with 95 issues of dispute. In 1521 the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Luther. Luther formed his own church and this emboldened others to do the same. The age of Protestantism began.
Three fundamental ideas of salvation emerged. The Catholics at that time said we are saved by our works. Luther said we are saved by faith alone. John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterians, said we are saved by grace. These ideas remain today as objects of debate.
Fast forward three hundred years to the New World – the western hemisphere (the Americas). Immigrants were flooding in by the boatload. With the east coast largely settled vast hoards of dreamers headed west, hoping for a new land of milk and honey – they were following their hopes of owning their own land, of finding riches, of stability for their families, of religious tolerance. The westward expansion was so rapid that many of the church leaders lagged behind. With no ready leader the growing small towns built their own churches and formed their own brand of Protestantism. Among these are the Southern Baptists, the Disciples of Christ, the Mormons, the 7th Day Adventists, and the Jehovah Witnesses. There were many more, some now lost to history.
One might have thought that the theological debate around salvation would have been enough to stir self-serving attitudes. But no, many more rituals of dogmatic Christianity were to evolve.
The Christians argued: Is life as simple as understanding the forces of good and evil? Can we categorize any behavior as either for Jesus or for Satan? Do we dunk or do we sprinkle? Do we sing and dance or do we retain some somber dignity? Does our work define our faith? What does ‘work’ mean? Is work so simple as daily prayer? Does work actually require a wheelbarrow and shovel? Is life predestined? Does God already know what is to happen next? What about free will?
Is there but one truth? Does one Christian have to be wrong in order for another to be right? Is Christianity a win/lose proposition? Must wars be fought over religious ideology? Must people turn against one another in the name of Jesus? Are Christians called to evangelize? Does evangelize mean we must convert other Christians to our particular model? Does evangelism suggest we are in possession of truth and we must convert others to our truth?
Well, what does Jesus say? What is most important? Does the Bible contain a hierarchy of rules with some more important that others? Did Jesus trump some of the old laws? Does the law of Jesus trump the law of Leviticus?
Simply put – the many varieties of religion (denominations) serve to keep people apart rather than to unite the people under the banner of a loving God.
Jesus was very clear about what was most important:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
None of this answers the fundamental question? What is the truth? All all Adventists evil? Are all Catholics evil? Is there but one true denomination? Some think yes – their denomination is the one true road to heaven. My own thought is more simple – spiritual truth is personal.
We recommend keeping it simple – Love God and love others.
Anyone who adamantly evangelizes for their version of truth serves only to divide the faithful.
See Mormons and Anti Mormons for more entertainment about divisiveness.