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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 many people believe it is. First of all, ownership of historic Christian truth 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, or have the slightest idea about denominations. Christianity itself is not the reason we have so many churches teaching so many different things, it is mostly because of man's own stubbornness and rebellious nature. The unpalatable truth is, the "primary" reason that we have so many professing Christians who hold to contradictory and diverse views of scripture is because not all who say Lord, Lord, have received the Word as Lord of their lives. Moreover, everyone who says that they are a Christian, are not actually 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 truth and what is consistent. Nor is it because scripture cannot honorably and correctly be understood by us. It is because many have simply chosen not to receive what the scriptures plainly say either because of their own lusts or wants, tradition or obstinacy.

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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

So it's not that we aren't furnished by the Word and the Spirit thoroughly enough to make a correct determination of what is true and trustworthy, and what doctrines we hold that are in contrary to what is written. The divisions are because the will of man is often in contrast to the will of God, and that moves him to make personal or private interpretations in order to justify it. Mind you, I'm not saying that true Christians never disagree, for they most certainly do. But the word Christian today is used in such a far-reaching manner that it includes everyone from Catholics, to Homosexuals to hate groups and revolutionaries. his is the main reason for this perceived great gulf of divisions. In other words, anyone can argue that they are Christian, and thus make Christianity divided. But is it really?

1st Corinthians 1:13

  • "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"

My point here is that Christ is not divided under different Baptist, Catholic, Puritan, Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian, the body of Christ is a group of people, not a denomination labeled group. Simply taking the name Calvinism, or Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist does not make anyone Christian. Throughout history we have had professed Christians who burned people at the stake, or tortured them mercilessly in the name of Christ. Did that mean that they actually were true Christians divided from other Christians who didn't believe in such actions? I think not. A Christian is prescribed by their wearing spiritual cloth, and faith consists of more than an individual merely confessing that he is Christian. True Christianity is a way of life, which is pervasive and defined by the word of God, not simply by a label or moniker that someone 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."

The deeper spiritual message here is that the 7 women are the church and Christ the one man who can take away their reproach, but they want to cloth themselves and feed themselves, which is the duty of the man. All they want from him is to be called by his name, a spiritual portrait of the compromise of these woman. The bride of Christ eats the bread which is the word of God (Matthew 4:4), not their own bread, and they wear the apparel or clothing which is the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10), not their own apparel. And simply being called by Christ's name will not take away the reproach of anyone, only being a true bride will. Being a true Christian entails being born from above a new creation. This lack of understanding f a true bride is how many professing Christians in our day have deceived themselves. For they have not considered wisely the most fundamental of Biblical principles. Namely, "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?"

Yes, in our day doctrines can vary widely from church to church, even in the very same denomination. So it's not necessarily a denominational problem. It's more of a self-imposed hermeneutical and exegetical problem, exasperated by an unwillingness to submit completely to the "authority of scripture." Let's face facts, man is vain and full of pride by nature. This is often euphemistically called, self-esteem. Therefore his will is to do everything he can to justify himself that his will is perceived to be correct, rather than proven wrong. It is this conviction to have his own will done (rather than earnestly desire the will of God) that is at the root of professing Christians holding many diverse and erroneous doctrines. These include church traditions, popular authors theories, what they have been taught and what the "want" to believe, as opposed to what the word actually says. This all plays a major role in people rejecting just correction and instruction in righteousness in order to hold on to deeply ingrained teachings. Moreover, we can't discount simple wickedness where man just willfully and resistantly refuses to "receive" God's word.

Mark 11:29-33

  • And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
  • The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
  • And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?
  • But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
  • And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things."

To think that these who professed to love God and be His children really couldn't tell, is to kid yourself--to lie to yourself. Of course they didn't want to honestly answer the question because their answer would reveal their deceit and hypocrisy. Just as it would today. You can give many professing Christians 20 different Scriptures all saying the same thing, and at the end of it they will look at you and say, "I can't tell," or "there are other opinions," or "what about what this author said about this question," as if another opinion might actually trump the infallible word of God. But like those who wouldn't answer Christ honestly, it's nothing more than an exercise in deceit. Yes, 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) would all accept every verse of Scripture as true and authoritative, none to be ignored. Thus in comparing and harmonizing Scripture, they would soon reconcile all of them to come to the proper God breathed understanding. But in reality, this is not a perfect world. Man still dwells within the body of this flesh. Therefore mankind's own bias works against him in their very fallible consideration of scripture. It is not in man's witness alone, but the Spirit of God alone who can intervene and direct our steps unto righteousness that we humbly walk the correct path of surrender to the authority of the word.

Proverbs 16:9

  • "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps."

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 one, they will merely present it declaring, "..See, you are wrong." This makes them buoyed and feel justified in themselves. Thus they will proceed to ignore any other verse qualifying verse you might present as a retort, relegating it to being insignificant to his or her own. This is a demonstration of the will 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 for what it is and beating it into submission. For the Spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak.

Psalms 51:17

  • "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

A broken spirit is a humbled spirit, and a contrite heart is a repentant heart, the kind you very seldom see with regards to errant doctrines. Man doesn't like God getting all the credit, he wants some credit for himself being better than others and coming to Christ. That's pride, not self respect. Many churches believe this because they want to, not because it's written in Scripture. Let me give you a practical example. There are a few verses in scripture that "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 verses 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 that "you've misinterpreted the verse" even though you quoted it word for word. Or they'll redirect the subject, saying, "What about this other verse?" In other words, they won't reconcile all the verses honestly in order to come to truth, they'll completely ignore or dismiss the ones that show their understanding is 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. Does this mean that the truth is not readily seen? Not at all, it only means that the heart is so deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) that we don't even know the depths of it. In debating circles, this tactic is often called, presenting "dueling scriptures," when the truth is that scriptures do not duel with each other. Scriptures don't have an ego, men do!

Sound hermeneutics is founded upon the second basic principle that "no Scripture passage can contradict another Scripture." All scriptures must first be recognized as authoritative and completely true, and then reconciled with all others. We have to understand that in situations where there are "seeming" contradictions, one Scripture must qualify another. We can see an example of when Satan tested 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 using it without considering that other scriptures "qualified" the scripture that said God's 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." He didn't say, "You make a good point, I cannot say which is true." His response was to show how scripture is indeed the final arbiter and authoritative, but must be in harmony with the 'whole' of the Scriptures.

Matthew 4:7

  • "...It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

In other words, true, but there is more to it than that verse Satan referenced. Jesus says, look also at this other scripture that says that we are not to tempt the Lord our God. In other words, one scripture didn't contradict another, it qualified, limited or explained another. They both are true, but must be harmonized in the light of the 'whole' Bible in order to understand what is really the truth or correct teaching. The unfaithful of the churches will seldom do this if it means correction because they don't want to change their church tradition. Therefore there are many different views held among professing Christians precisely because Scriptures are not harmonized, but catalyzed, where they break off into all sorts of doctrines that are not supported by the rest of the Bible. They really haven't made Christ Lord of their lives.

Luke 6:46

  • "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"

When Christ is really Lord of your life, you will listen to "all" that He says and keep (guard from loss) all His commandments. That's why the Holy word says, if you truly love Christ, "Keep His commandments." It's an evidence of true love. We don't look at His word as something we must try and get around, but something that is unassailable and cannot be disputed. By contrast, if we look at Scripture as a means to our own ends, rather than our Lord and Master's authoritative word that we need to receive, then we're kidding ourselves by calling God Lord.

1st John 2:4

  • "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

Rather than ignore, twist or circumvent God's word, while we claim to know Him, we accept what His word says, keep it, guard it from loss in the true Spirit and knowledge of Him. The faithful steward or caretaker of scripture, when presented with God's witness that does not support a view that we have held, will not simply ignore or twist it to suit his own will, but will receive it as truth (after all, it too is God's Word), ultimately surrender to its authority, and harmonize it with any other scripture in question. The most basic of fundamental principles in biblical hermeneutics, is that we all agree that every Scriptures is true and "authoritative," and thus one must be understood in the light of the other. Just as in the case when Christ was tested of the Devil in the wilderness, both Scriptures were true, it's just that one qualified or further explained the other. For example, in the scenario of the "apparent" contradiction of Salvation being by works and yet by grace, we would agree:
 
 
It is true that the Bible says he that does not keep the word of God will not be saved. But it also says that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. So then, we know that the first Scripture 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 our Salvation, so that anyone without this evidence in their lives, cannot be born of the Spirit and saved. Then we would present testimony to 'the whole' commentary of scriptures, which unquestionably proves that a tree is known by its fruits (Luke 6:43-45).

 
But this isn't a perfect world and we all don't think things out either reasonably or rationally. There are the faithful stewards of God who earnestly desires to do His will and with all readiness of mind will receive all scriptures, and then there are the apathetic and unfaithful who in their own desires will "effectively" reject verses that contradict whatever is his own will to believe. One agrees both scriptures are true, and reconciles them together with scripture following, and other simply ignores or wrests (twists) the passage given (as if it is insignificant or not infallible), and submits another verse "as if" that negates the verse you gave. In all truth, that is not a search for truth, it is a search for self justification. That's an example of the lack of nobility (integrity) to consider all scriptures "very honestly" in order to see what is God's truth. Our Lord 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 where there is a Spirit led honesty that when they heard these teachings which were different from what they had been taught, they didn't dig up other scriptures to try and make Paul's witness to God's word null and void. Rather, every day they (with an open mind to truth) searched the scriptures that Paul bore witness to, in order to see if what He testified to was true or not. Not many professing Christians today have this nobility and would do this. They don't really receive truth with all readiness of mind and would not be this honest. They would be more inclined to reject the witness, handle the scriptures given fraudulently, and regurgitate their own teachings and doctrines. But as with these men of Berea, the Holy Spirit of God works within us against the lack of integrity where we reject this dishonesty.

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."

Through the Spirit we must renounce or disown the concealed or hidden dishonesty that would have us treat God's word shamefully or deceitfully. This hidden or concealed dishonesty is the exact opposite of what the bereans possessed in being more noble (honest), with an integrity to handle the word of God justly, so that they would not blindly follow the Jewish traditions. When we ask "why are there so many churches teaching different doctrines," this is the starting point. This handling Scripture with integrity is what is sorely lacking in many churches today. Honesty in dealing with scriptures that our Church traditions or doctrines handed down in our church do not cloud our mind or blind our eyes so that we neglect the corruption of what is actually written for our own self-willed purposes.

2nd Corinthians 2:17

  • "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."

The "more noble" Bereans of old knew something that it seems the churches today have long forgotten--that all scriptures must be received as truth, with all readiness of mind (a mind opened 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 (1st Thessalonians 5:21; 1st John 4:1), or is error. Therefore, they are assured that the bible says all these things testified to them, and they cannot be deceived into false gospels by false prophets. We try the spirits by the word of God so that in theory, all faithful Christians should "in time" come to the truth of scripture. In reality, we are fallible and still dwell in the sinful fallen flesh so that we struggle with our own desires and will.

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."

By the Spirit of God dwelling in us we 'should' be continually growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord so 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 those beliefs to follow what is actually written in scriptures. But we must not be high minded in our knowledge, lest we neglect that even this is by the grace of God where we can take no credit for it. Thus we have compassion on those who have not yet come to this knowledge of truth, and in love witness to them patiently and gracefully.

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. This idea that because there is more than one denomination means Christianity is fractured or fragmented into competing sects is without Biblical merit. In fact, historic Christianity is the common denominator that brings all true believers in unity. The love of God, the devotion to His word, the earnest desire to do His will, these qualities of true Christianity may be found in any biblical Church or assembly. That there are many denominations doesn't mean that no one has the truth, it means the truth is not subject to denominations. Is Christ divided? No, and neither is His church. "His Church" are the key words. There are many churches today, but few are actually His Church.

Amen!

Peace,

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