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Old 07-19-2006, 11:31 PM   #1
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Why are there so many denominations?

Trevster mentioned starting this thread in the now locked atheism thread but since Trevster never got around to it, I'm starting it myself.

Obviously anyone can comment here, but I'm really curious as to what my fellow Christians think about this (since I'd gather must atheists would surmise that there are so many denominations because it's because "it's all a lot of crock"). I hope the thread doesn't get derailed. But if it does, I suppose I'd understand after the shameful behavior in the atheism thread.

So why are there so many denominations within Christianity? Here's my thoughts:

First off, it'd be fair to say the question should really be, 'why are there so many denominations in Protestantism' because there are no denominations in Catholicism. Granted their was the Great Schism and the various branches of Orthodoxy, but those, of course are not Catholic. And there are those obscure Christian groups that were never a part of Catholicisms (like the Coptics?). But I'm going to focus on Protestantism.

The reason there are so many denominations in Protestantism is because Protestants generally recognize the Bible as the source of authority in faith (though how MUCH authority varies from denomination to denomination). As a result it's up to each believer (or group of believers) to determine how the Bible should be interpreted. I think it's safe to say that many if not all Protestant denominations believe that their interpretation of scripture is the correct. . .the other denominations are misguided or if you're of a more conservative denomination this carries more weight with you--"not following the Bible." The Catholic Church on the other hand reserves the right to interpret Scripture. It is not up to individual members to do so. Furthermore, while in Protestantism, the Bible has traditionally been the authority, in Catholicism the Church (with a capital C) is the authority. I live on an island that is probably 95% Catholic and I've noticed that they even use the word "church" differently. For protestant, the church in the spiritual sense, is the members. For the Catholic, it would seem the church in the spiritual sense is the Organization.

So I would venture to say (and Catholics on the site please feel free to correct me if my analysis is wrong--after all this is a Protestant's take on things) that you cannot start a "seperate" Catholic church the way you can with Protestantism. To do so, you would have disavow the authority of the Church, and in so doing would no longer be Catholic but in fact Protestant.

As for Protestantism, as long as we allow for people to draw their interpretations about scripture rather than ceding authority to a higher "Church Power" we will always have different denominations.

Which raises the next question. How important are denominational differences? Why are you the member of the particular church that you are? How free to you feel to float between denominations? Where do you draw the line between mere differences of scriptural application and serious "doctrinal concern?
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Old 07-19-2006, 11:40 PM   #2
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It's like that old joke told by my Western Religions prof in school years ago:

2 Catholics, 2 Anglicans and 2 Baptists got stranded on a deserted island.

The 2 Catholics got together and started the Church of the Blessed Virgin. The 2 Anglicans got together and started the Church of The Holy Cross. The 2 Baptists got together, argued and started the First Island Baptist Church and the Second Island Baptist Church.

I have no idea really about the denominational splits because I was raised Catholic. Frankly my experience is that within Protestantism, if you don't like the church you are in, you shop around and find one that appeals to you more. With Catholics, you kind of ignore the things that displease you, crunch away happily on your birth control pill and don't bother switching your affiliation.

But another thing is that Catholicism is really deeply ingrained in culture for a lot of people. Not Americans, but a lot of Europeans, Latin and South Americans, Filipinos and so on. The feast days of saints are public holidays, the church is part of your social fabric and so it's not just a religious thing but has a very distinct cultural component within your ethnicity. That is largely absent in Protestantism by comparison.
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Old 07-19-2006, 11:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
It's like that old joke told by my Western Religions prof in school years ago:

2 Catholics, 2 Anglicans and 2 Baptists got stranded on a deserted island.

The 2 Catholics got together and started the Church of the Blessed Virgin. The 2 Anglicans got together and started the Church of The Holy Cross. The 2 Baptists got together, argued and started the First Island Baptist Church and the Second Island Baptist Church.

I have no idea really about the denominational splits because I was raised Catholic. Frankly my experience is that within Protestantism, if you don't like the church you are in, you shop around and find one that appeals to you more. With Catholics, you kind of ignore the things that displease you, crunch away happily on your birth control pill and don't bother switching your affiliation.

But another thing is that Catholicism is really deeply ingrained in culture for a lot of people. Not Americans, but a lot of Europeans, Latin and South Americans, Filipinos and so on. The feast days of saints are public holidays, the church is part of your social fabric and so it's not just a religious thing but has a very distinct cultural component within your ethnicity. That is largely absent in Protestantism by comparison.
I've got to figure out how to use those emoticons because if I knew how there would be a laughing smiley face here.

Excellent observations. I think a lot of evangelicals do feel more comfortable "shopping" around. My denomination has always been very "seperate" so I never had that comfort level. Your observation about culture is so true. In Saipan, where I live, Catholicism is very much ingrained in the culture. There are very few Chamorro (they are the main indigenous people of Saipan) Protestants, and virtually none in my denomiation. Rosaries, and whatnot are a seemingly inseperable part of what it means to be Chamorro.
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Old 07-20-2006, 12:02 AM   #4
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i'd say one reason is because people are always arguing about petty differences in their theological opinions, can't get over it so they start a new kind of church.
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Old 07-20-2006, 12:05 AM   #5
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I don't know. I find it very silly and even against the Bible to tie yourself to a denomination.
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Old 07-20-2006, 12:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
I find it very silly and even against the Bible to tie yourself to a denomination.
This is exactly why no denomination or individual can claim absolute truth.
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Old 07-20-2006, 01:59 AM   #7
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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar


This is exactly why no denomination or individual can claim absolute truth.
Actually, they can.
The essential Christian doctoran/belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is the same throughout the mainline denominations. It's the nonessential parts that they differ on.
The absolute truth is Christ being "The way, the truth and the life," and the only way to God the father as he says he is. Any denomination, if it's truly Christian, won't differ on this.
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Old 07-20-2006, 02:42 AM   #8
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Originally posted by coemgen


Actually, they can.
The essential Christian doctoran/belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is the same throughout the mainline denominations. It's the nonessential parts that they differ on.
The absolute truth is Christ being "The way, the truth and the life," and the only way to God the father as he says he is. Any denomination, if it's truly Christian, won't differ on this.
Truth!
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Old 07-20-2006, 10:11 AM   #9
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I didn't start this thread since as an athiest, I didn't feel it was any of my business to bring up this question.

I think it's like mentioned earlier, a difference in theology and interpretation of doctrine. Also, it's a power play, if I can't be the leader of this religion, I'll form an offshoot. Anyone have a list of all the denominations, not just Christian. I would imagine it is fairly long.

ETA found one list of Christian denominations, many of the names are just for each country like Baptist Union of Great Britain or Baptist Union of Australia.

Wow, there's a lot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of..._denominations

Islamic denominations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_denominations

Hindu denominations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_denominations

Figured I should toss in a list of religions too

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions
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Old 07-20-2006, 10:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by trevster2k
I didn't start this thread since as an athiest, I didn't feel it was any of my business to bring up this question.

I think it's like mentioned earlier, a difference in theology and interpretation of doctrine. Also, it's a power play, if I can't be the leader of this religion, I'll form an offshoot. Anyone have a list of all the denominations, not just Christian. I would imagine it is fairly long.

ETA found one list of Christian denominations, many of the names are just for each country like Baptist Union of Great Britain or Baptist Union of Australia.

Wow, there's a lot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of..._denominations
Actually, I think there's a lot more if you really break it down. You can see in that list this:

# 6.4 Presbyterian and Reformed Churches

* 6.4.1 Presbyterianism
* 6.4.2 Reformed / Congregationalist Churches

That splits a LOT farther because my denomination is Christian Reformed (and our specific Christian Reformed sect here started by Calvinists splitting from the Dutch Protestant Reformed), but there's also just plain Reformed, and others like the United Reformed Church, etc.

This is a pretty long list:

http://dir.yahoo.com/Society_and_Cul...ons_and_Sects/


Like coemgen said, all denominations subscribe to the basic Christian truth. They differ based on the finer points of theology, politics, and worship styles.
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Old 07-20-2006, 11:03 AM   #11
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I have another question, if the majority of the planet participates in all these religions and the general principle behind most of these religions is love for your fellow man and good stuff like that, how come there is so much bullshit going on in the world? This just came to me after looking at all those lists of religions.
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Old 07-20-2006, 11:14 AM   #12
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The basic answer to maycocksean's question is that God placed His Perfect Word in hands of imperfect people. Scripture notes the beginings of splinterings on a number of non-essential issues during the time of Paul.

Still, as coemgen notes, we can distill the essential Truth of Christian doctrine.
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:33 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
I don't know. I find it very silly and even against the Bible to tie yourself to a denomination.
So where do you, personally, draw the line? Would you be okay with my church which believes in observing the seventh-day Sabbath and doesn't believe in eternal hell? Would you be okay with the Catholic church where you acknowledge the authority of the Church?

I personally feel the fact that we all believe in Jesus as our Savior is enough when it comes to salvation, so why can't we get together under that simple truth? Could it be because, historically, at least the different denominations didn't feel those "petty" differences were so petty. Perhaps, Trevster has a point. Maybe our individual denominational leaders wouldn't like the idea of ceding power?
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by trevster2k
I have another question, if the majority of the planet participates in all these religions and the general principle behind most of these religions is love for your fellow man and good stuff like that, how come there is so much bullshit going on in the world? This just came to me after looking at all those lists of religions.
Well, I think the "simple" answer is that, if you accept the argument persuasively made in atheism thread that "love for your fellow man and good stuff like that" is not an ideal tied exclusively to religion, you'd have to say that humanity, regardless of religion or lacktherof, has failed to live up to these ideals . It appears religious motivations for such ideals provide no exception to that failure.

And when you think about humans living perfectly up to ideals of any kind have a pretty poor track record. We've yet to see a utopia created in this world. If anyone actually succeeded, I'm sure we'd all join that bandwagon and heartbeat.

But, we don't give up. We keep trying to make the world a better place, and I suppose that's ONE reason why religion still thrives as well. The belief that the ideals are good, and they are attainable, we just need to stay the course.
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:47 PM   #15
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That's kind of a hard question for me. I don't believe in a Bible which is full of relative truths. I wouldn't be okay with those things you listed because I think they go against some fundamental teachings of the Bible and show a lack of faith in God's word. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the church should have authority (in fact, it condemns it. It's legalism). It also is VERY clear that Hell does indeed exist. The fact that anyone could look past things like this is a warning sign that they're trying to twist the Bible in such a way that is convenient for them.

There are some things the Bible isn't so clear on as well, and these are the things I find silly for churches to squabble over. Should rock music be played in the service? Should dancing be allowed? There's so many little things that the Bible isn't really clear on but people feel the need to be divisive over.

I sometimes ask people what their faith is and they'll say "I'm a baptist" or "I'm a lutheran". I don't feel comfortable with this. It's almost as if they're tying themselves to the beliefs of their denomnation instead of the idea that Christ is their saviour, and I think this is a dangerous tjng to do. What's important is the personal relationship with Christ and a will to follow Him, not sticking to the rules of your church. When people ask me I say "I'm a Christian".
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