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Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

Why Are There So Many Churches Teaching Differently?
-by Tony Warren


It's a Good Question. But the answer is not as complicated as some people would have us believe. First of all, ownership of historic Christianity is not by any particular group or denomination. No religious group can lay exclusive rights upon Christ (as some attempted to do). Christ may be found of those who have never even been inside a Church. Christianity itself is not the reason we have so many Churches teaching so many different things. Simply put, the reason we have so many professing Christians who hold to so many different views of scripture, is primarily because everyone who says that they are a Christian, are not Christians. That's the simple truth of the matter. It is not because God hasn't provided us with everything we need to know in order to make a just decision on what is right, or because scripture cannot honorably be understood by us, it is because many simply choose not to receive what scripture says.

2nd Timothy 3:15-17

  • "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
  • All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
  • That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
So it's not that we aren't furnished thoroughly enough to make a correct determination of what is true and correct what doctrines we hold that are in error, the divisions are because of the will of man in making personal or private interpretations. Mind you, I'm not saying that true Christians never disagree. They most certainly do. But the word Christian today is used in such a far-reaching manner that it includes everyone from Homosexuals to the KKK. And that is the main reason for this perceived great gulf of divisions. i.e., anyone can argue that they are Christian, and thus make Christianity divided. But is it really?

Simply taking the name of Christ does not make one a Christian. Throughout history we have had professed Christians who burned people at the stake, or tortured them mercilessly. But does that mean that they actually were true Christians? I think not. A Christian is prescribed by their wearing of the spiritual cloth, and faith consists of more than an individual merely saying he is Christian. It is a way of life which is pervasive and defined by the Word of God, not simply a label that one takes hold of.

Isaiah 4:1

  • "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach".
A true Christian eats the bread which is the Word of God (matt. 4:4), not their own bread, they wear the cloth which is the righteousness of Christ (Isa. 61:10), not their own apparel. And simply being called by Christ's name will not take away the reproach of anyone, they must be born from above a new creation. And this is how many professing Christians in our day have deceive themselves. For they have not considered wisely the most fundamental of Biblical principles. "By their works you shall know them."

Luke 6:44-46

  • "For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
  • A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
  • And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
Today doctrines can vary widely from Church to Church in the very same denomination, so it's not necessarily a denominational problem. It's more of an exegetical problem which is exasperated by an unwillingness to submit completely to the "authority of scripture." Let's face facts. Man is vain and full of self-esteem by nature. Therefore his will is to do everything he can that his ideas be perceived as correct, and his beliefs not be proven wrong. It is this conviction to have his will (rather than a desire to do the will of God) that is at the root of holding erroneous doctrines. In other words, Church tradition, what we have been taught, ego, pride, and vanity, all play a major role in people rejecting just correction and instruction in righteousness. And let us not discount simple wickedness where man just willfully refuses to "receive" what is written.

In a perfect world, all true Christians, after a period of time discussing and comparing scriptures with scripture, would sooner or later have to come to the truth of it. Because they (presumably) all accept every verse of scripture as true and authoritative and none to be ignored. And so comparing and harmonizing scripture, they would soon reconcile all of them to come to the proper understanding. But in reality, this is not a perfect world, and man still dwells in the body of this flesh. Therefore do men's own bias work against them in their consideration of scripture. It is God alone who can intervene and direct our steps righteousness that we walk the correct paths.

Proverbs 16:9

  • "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps."
Unfortunately, some Christians (and those who simply call themselves Christians) aren't really as interested in coming to truth as they are in attempting to find a verse that might appear to support a view that they already hold. And so in finding same, they will merely present it declaring, "..See, you are wrong". This makes them feel buoyed and justified in themselves. Thus they will proceed to ignore any verse you present as a retort, relegating it to being insignificant to the discussion. This is a demonstration of the ego and pride of man, not the humbleness/meekness of surrender to scripture that Christ spoke of. We all have this pride to some degree, but wisdom is in recognizing it and bringing it into submission. For the Spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak.

Let me give you a practical example. There are verses in scripture which "seem" to indicate that we are saved by works. And there are Theologians who read those verses, come to this conclusion, and then cling to it like it was their security blanket. No verse that you present to them which qualifies the verse in question will change their mind. Because they have become indoctrinated. So when you say, "what about this verse, or that verse," they will completely ignore or trample under foot the verse you request they read, and instead retort saying something like, "you've misinterpreted the verse" (even though you quoted it word for word), or they'll redirect the subject, saying, "No, what about this other verse?" In other words, they won't reconcile all the verses honestly to come to truth, they'll completely ignore or dismiss the ones which show their doctrine in error, and will present another which they think supports their view. It then becomes a battle of futility or a test of "who can give most verses without really answering the questions," contest. It has deteriorated into a contest of theological egos, not a search for the truth.

In debating circles, this tactic is often called, presenting "dueling scriptures." But truth is, scriptures do not duel with each other. Men do! Therefore these men are really at war with themselves.

A sound hermeneutic is founded upon the second basic principle. "No scripture passage can contradict another." All scriptures must first be recognized as authoritative and completely true, and then reconciled with all others. We understand that in situations where there are seeming contradictions, one scripture must qualify another. We can go to the example of when Satan tried Christ in the desert:

Matthew 4:6

  • "And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."
The scripture Satan presented was true (all scripture is). But he deceitfully used it "as if" it was an island which stood alone. Many Theologians use that exact same tactic today. Satan was taking that scripture out of context and without considering that other scriptures "qualified" the scripture which said His angels would bear Him up. And what was Christ's response? It wasn't to say, "You're right my scripture contradicts yours so we don't know what is true." His response was to show how scripture was authoritative, but must be in harmony with the 'whole' of the Bible.

Matthew 4;7

  • "...It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
In other words, there is more to it than that verse Satan referenced. Jesus says, look also at this other scripture which says that we are not to tempt the Lord our God. i.e., One scripture qualifies or limits another. They both are true, but must be harmonized in the light of the 'whole' Bible in order to understand what is really being said. The unfaithful of the Churches will seldom do this if it means correction because they don't want to change their Church tradition. Therefore are there many different views held among professing Christians.

On the Other hand, the faithful steward or caretaker of scripture, when presented with God's witness which does not support his view, will not simply ignore it, but will receive it as truth (after all, it too is God's Word), will surrender to it's authority and harmonize it with the other scripture. This is because we starts out with the most basic of fundamental biblical principles. We agree all scriptures are true and authoritative and we study them to see what is being said. For example, in the case of the apparent contradiction of Salvation by works we would agree:

  • YES, the Bible says, he that does not keep the Word of God will not be Saved. That's true. But it also says that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. So then, we know that it cannot mean that we can keep the law in working for our Salvation, rather careful consideration of all relevant scriptures indicates that our works are the evidence of your Salvation. So that anyone without this evidence, cannot be Saved. Then we would present testimony to 'the whole' commentary of scriptures which proves that.
You see the difference between the faithful steward of God that earnestly desires to do the will of God and so with all readiness of mind receives all scriptures, and the unfaithful who in his own will rejects verses which contradict what he wants to believe? One agrees both scriptures are true, and reconciles them together with scripture following. The other simply ignores or wrests (twists) the passage given (as if it is insignificant or can be manipulated), and submits another verse "as if" that negates the verse you gave. That's not a search for truth, that is a search for self justification. That's an example of the lack of nobility or integrity to consider all scriptures "honestly." God gives us the perfect example of this Christian nobility in His testimony of the Bereans.

Acts 17:11-12

  • "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
  • Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few".
This is the integrity or nobleness of true Christianity. An honesty where when they heard these teachings which were different, they didn't dig up scriptures to try and make Paul's witness to God's Word, a lie. Rather, they (with an open mind) searched the scriptures that Paul bore witness to, because they wanted to see if what He said was true. Not many professed Christians today would do this. They would not be this noble or honest, they would be more inclined to handle the scriptures fraudulently. The Holy Spirit of God works within us against this lack of integrity.

2nd Corinthians 4:2

  • "But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
The hidden things of dishonesty. The exact opposite of the bereans who were noble (honest) in their integrity to handle the Word of God not deceitfully in blindly following the Jewish traditions, but honestly. This is what is sorely lacking in the Churches today. Honesty in dealing with scriptures that our Church traditions or doctrines don't cloud our mind or blind our eyes. The Bereans knew something which the Churches today have forgotten. That all scriptures must be received with all readiness of mind (an open mind to them), taken in context, and harmonized with all other scriptures that speak on the subject. The faithful Church does this and that is how they know that what is being taught is the truth, or is error. Therefore, they are assured that the bible says all these things and they cannot be deceived into false gospels by false prophets. He tries the spirits by the Word of God. So in theory, all faithful Christians should "in time" come to the truth of scripture, but in reality we still dwell in the sinful fallen flesh, that we sin in thought as well as deed.

Romans 7:23-25

  • "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
  • O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
  • I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
But by the Spirit of God dwelling in us we 'should' be continually growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord that we become more and more accurate in our understanding. To the Glory of God, many of us do recognize our sins in holding to erroneous doctrines and turn away from our beliefs to follow what is actually written in scriptures. But we must not be high minded in our knowledge, and realize that even this is by the Grace of God, and we can take no credit for it. Thus we have compassion on those who have not yet come to this knowledge of truth, and witness to them patiently.

Sadly, many today have grown comfortable in their error and consider anyone bringing scriptures which contradict their teachings to be "attacking them" or their Church. They are uncomfortable with scriptures which prove their doctrines wrong, and that is often manifested in them striking out in anger. For all their speaking about the gross errors of the Catholic Church concerning tradition, many Protestants are clinging to that exact same form of tradition in holding to their group or denominational teachings over the Biblical mandates. Nevertheless, the Spirit works mightily in many to overcome this error.

We can be sure of one thing, God informs us in scripture that the Lord resists the proud, but gives Grace to the humble. The ability to ignore scriptures in order to hold onto Church doctrine is rooted in pride. It's not our job to condemn them. In love and with patience we pray that many will turn from false teachings and receive the truth of the Word. We can but witness to that truth, and ask that the Lord would reveal it to them. God uses our prayers as a means of His working for good.

James 5:16

  • "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man, availeth much."
Our prayers are carried to God as a sweet savor (odor) because Christ is the burnt offering which carries it. In truth He is the righteous man who takes our prayers before God perfectly. So again, let us not be puffed up or proud in our understanding, knowing full well that it is only by the Grace of God that any of us know what we do about the scriptures.

But we also know full well that the Church is responsible, and it both can and must discern truth in doctrines. It's obligated to do so. There is no grey area, there is no lukewarm. There is only black and white and hot and cold. Scripture does not compromise, and neither should the Church capitulate to the pressures of the world around it.

Our job is to bear faithful witness to the truth, and God will show the increase. Judge not, but do not shy away from correcting with scripture, that others may come to know the truth of what is written. God's word is not our enemy, unless we fight against it. Unfortunately many do, and that is the primary reason we have so many different doctrines. They stand against the Christ of the Bible, and want a Christ of their own making. they are offended by the Lord's Christ.

Luke 7:23

  • "And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."
John 16:1
  • "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended."
Many in the congregations are offended by God's Word and they fight against it with a vengeance. Denominations are not the end all in salvation, and simply taking the name of Christ doesn't give one salvation. Salvation is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we truly have it, we will not walk in the dark, we will be guided into the truth of the Word (John 14:17; 16:13). But as 2nd Timothy 2:15 says, we must study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen who need not be ashamed. Which of course means that those who don't, may very well have need to be ashamed. For though the Holy Spirit teaches, it is through the scriptures that it teaches.

1st John 2:27-28

  • "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
  • And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."
We 'can know' and must abide in these teachings. We do that by careful study of Word, without which we will hold to any doctrine and can be deceived by any smooth talker. Precious and few there are who travel the narrow way, and many there be that travel the wide road. As in Israel there was a remnant, so there is a remnant in the Church today. A faithful remnant out of the larger whole. In this time of falling from the faith, we shouldn't be surprised that there are so many different teachings, so much running to and fro, so much deceitful handling of the Word of God by individual Churches or professing Christians. Even within relatively faithful denominations Churches are falling away in droves now. But the true Church is not a denomination. It is a chosen people "called out" of many nations unto service to the Lord. To be sure, God knows who are His.

So, why are there so many denominations? First because all who call themselves Christian are not Christians. Second, it is a biblical fact that the body of Christ cannot be divided (Matthew 12:25-29; Mark 3:24-26; 1st Corinthians 1:13). Just because one denomination or group believes that it's best to immerse to baptize Christians, and another group believes that it's best to sprinkle water to baptize doesn't mean that the Church is divided or has no unity. People who point to the proliferation of denominations as proof of some flaw in Christianity don't really understand Christianity. Their arguments that it would be one group united as Jesus desired if it was true does not stand the test of scripture. Jesus Himself told the Church there would be different groups, and that still they were all of the same body.

Luke 9:49-50

  • "And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
  • And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."
Clearly, and without ambiguity all Christians do not have to follow one group to be Christians. They merely have to follow Christ. And so this idea that because there is more than one denomination means Christianity is fractured or fragmented into competing sects is without merit. In fact, historic Christianity is the common denominator that brings all true believers in unity. The love of God, the earnest desire to do His will, these qualities of true Christianity may be found in any biblical Church of any organization. That there are many denominations doesn't mean no one has the truth, it means the truth is not subject to denominations. Is Christ divided? No, and neither is His Church. Those are the key words. His Church. There are many Churches today, but few are His Church.
Peace,

Copyright ©1998 Tony Warren
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Created 2/12/98 / Last Modified 12/4/99
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