Have you ever wondered why there are so many Christian churches? Has that ever bothered you? Why would that be anyway? All Christians have access to the Bible. All (well, most) Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior; yet, there are countless denominations, and even non-denominations.
The two greatest commandments are in fact to love God with all your heart, mind, might and strength, and also to love your neighbor as yourself.
However, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep his commandments. Which commandments is he talking about? There are the ten commandments, of course, and the higher law for those commandments. There are also countless others.
Do all Christians keep all the commandments? Do they agree on how to keep those commandments? Are there any Christians out there who think some commandments are outdated? Here are some examples of commandments Christians churches follow/don’t follow differently:
1. Keep the Sabbath Day holy (Exodus 20:8) – Does this just mean go to church? Does this just mean think about Jesus more? Does it mean that you spend the whole day a little differently than every other day? Is this commandment even valid anymore?
2. Be baptized of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5) – What age should people be baptized? Do little children need to be baptized? Should baptism be done by sprinkling or by immersion? What must we do to be worthy of baptism? Who has the authority to baptize? How does one get baptized of the Spirit? Is baptism really even necessary for salvation? What was Paul talking about when he spoke of baptism for the dead?
3. Do not commit adultery and flee fornication (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:28, 1 Corinthians 6:18) – Most Christians agree on not committing adultery, but what about fornication? It has become more and more common for Christian people to live together and engage in sexual relations before marriage. Is this an outdated commandment, or is it still valid?
4. Love one another (John 13:34)- This one should be easy, but it isn’t. Does ‘love one another’ mean that we accept all behaviors around us, even if we don’t believe in them? Can we still love one another but not agree or condone or vote for causes that go against our beliefs, or does that mean we don’t love our neighbor? Does this commandment trump keeping the other commandments God has set?
5. Let your light so shine (Matthew 5:14-16) – Does this just mean that we are good people, or does this mean that we share the gospel of Christ with others? Should we be vocal about our beliefs, or be quiet about them so as not to offend those who do not share our beliefs?
6. Throw away the things that make you sin (Matthew 5:29-30)- Well, what things are sins? Does the definition of sin change as times change or are all the abominations spoken of in scripture still abominations?
7. Pray to the father (Matthew 6:5-13)- Should we only pray to the Father, or is it also acceptable and encouraged to pray to Mary? How often should we pray, and should we recite prayers, or speak from the heart?
8. Partake of Christ’s body and blood in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19-20) – Are we literally partaking of Christ’s body and blood, or is it symbolic? What are we promising to do when we do this? How often must we do this, and does it matter what we use as representation of the body and blood? How should the body and blood be blessed and passed?
Each of these commandments, and many, many others, are interpreted and kept in diverse ways in the hundreds of Christian denominations in the world. It is not only the commandments, but also doctrines which are disagreed upon. Here are just a few of the doctrines that Christians do not agree upon:
1. The truthfulness of the Bible – Is it inerrant, or is it just a book full of good ideas? Does it tell us everything we need to know, or are some parts no longer relevant due to the changes in the world? Did all the Bible stories actually happen, or are they just ways to teach us a message?
2. The nature of God – Are God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost three separate beings or one being? Does God have a body or not?
3. Salvation – If we accept Jesus and are baptized, are we guaranteed salvation, or can we lose it based on our deeds? Do we have to keep the faith? Do our works help us be saved? How does repentance work? How do we know if we are forgiven, or are we just automatically forgiven?
4. The Second Coming – Is it going to happen? Will there be a rapture? What will happen if Christ comes again?
5. Life after death – Will we really be resurrected? Do people go straight to Heaven or Hell after death, or is there a resting place before the final judgment? Is there even a Hell at all? Will everyone who didn’t accept Jesus on this earth go to Hell? What is the third Heaven that Paul saw?
6. The priesthood – What is the priesthood? Are there guidelines as to who should be ordained to the priesthood? How is one conferred the priesthood? What does one with the priesthood do?
It is true that there are many doctrines that Christians generally agree on, such as the divinity of Christ, that he was born of a virgin, that he lived on earth and died for our sins, and was resurrected. These other doctrines are essential to know, however, because our understanding of them can completely change the way we live, how we interpret scripture, and how our churches function.
Even in the early days of Christianity, Paul chastised the people for moving away from the doctrines of Christ. He said to the Galatians (1:1-6):
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, I have only begun to scratch the surface of the differences in Christian denominations. Some other differences are how Christians feel about:
1. Abortion – Even if we don’t agree with it, should we vote for it to be banned, or vote to give a woman choice?
2. Suicide and Euthanasia – Is this the equivalent of murder or is it sometimes acceptable? Is it forgivable?
3. Contraception – Is birth control always wrong to use, or is it okay in some or all circumstances? What kinds of contraception are acceptable?
4. Death penalty – Is the killing of others for a crime committed ever justified? Should we be able to make that call?
5. War and military service – Should war be avoided at all costs, or is it sometimes the right thing to do to defend our freedoms, lands, and families?
6. Eating of meat – Is it murder to eat animal flesh, or is meat a gift from God for His children?
7. Marriage – Should marriage be between only a man and a woman, or should any consenting adults be allowed to marry? Should priests remain celibate or be allowed to marry?
8. Divorce – Is divorce ever acceptable? If one is divorced, can he/she remarry and remain part of the body of Christ?
I am by no means the first person to realize the vast differences between Christian denominations. I read many articles discussing it. Most of these articles say that we should respect all Christians, regardless of disparity, and learn how to love each other. The people writing these articles usually also show sympathy that other Christians don’t know the full truth like they do.
I totally agree that we should respect all Christians. However, look around. Do Christians really love and respect each other? Many do, yes. However, I am saddened at the flat out bashing and judging that goes on because of the differences Christians have. I read all the time where Christians call out other Christians and say they must not be true Christians, because Jesus wouldn’t think or do what they are thinking and doing.
Most Christians believe they have the full truth, and they most closely follow the Lord, Jesus Christ. I fully and wholeheartedly believe there must be absolute truth in Christianity. There must be. All of the things we have discussed must have a true answer from God. He does have an answer for all the differing opinions of men and women. There is a pure doctrine. None of the doctrines I listed can be more than one way. There must be one answer. To be acceptable in the Lord’s eyes, we must keep his commandments as He intended for us to keep them. We must know the truth. How do we find it?
The answer most commonly given amongst Christians is to use the Bible. Well, don’t most Christian denominations (and non-denominations) use the Bible? They definitely use it, and yet there are countless combinations of beliefs in Christianity. This doesn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong – I believe with all my heart that the Bible is true. Those who have a conviction of this are right.
I have studied the Bible many times in my life, and it is a book I treasure. I know it is the word of God. To say there is not confusion, though, would be a lie. There are many verses in the Bible which are very difficult to comprehend, and many concepts are introduced but not elaborated upon. Have you ever come across a scripture you didn’t understand? The book of Revelation is incredibly difficult to fathom… there are many others as well.
Did you know there are over 100 English translations of the Bible? I definitely haven’t read all of these translations, but I do know from looking at a few different ones that if you compare a scripture passage in different Bibles, often you will find that the meaning is not the same. Even more astonishing is that I have read interpretations of the same scripture from the same translation that didn’t match – in fact, they were opposites.
An example of that is Luke 24:39:
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
I have seen religious articles that use this verse to prove that the resurrected Christ is a spirit, and in contrast, to prove that He has a body.
The Nature of God
1. John 8:16-18, 28-29
And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law,
that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these
things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
2. John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Means of Salvation
1. James 2:20-26
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that
by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
2. Romans 10: 9 -10
Here is a scripture verse I want you to consider in the same chapter of Ephesians (vs 11-15):
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Is Paul talking about himself and the other apostles following Christ’s resurrection? He could be, but most Christian religions strive to follow the words of these apostles as found in the New Testament. Nearly 2000 years later, Christians still do not have a unity of faith, and are nowhere near accomplishing it.
I have done a lot of reading on what Christians believe about prophets. I have read articles where individuals really want to believe in prophets, and feel they are needed. They just don’t know where to find them.
In 1820, in Manchester, New York, a 14-year-old boy was looking for truth. In his town, the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches were promoting their religions, looking for followers. They were all very convincing, but spoke harshly of each other. They tried everything to denounce the other religions.
This boy was a believer in God, and he wanted to align himself with one of these Christian faiths. He was overwhelmed, and uncertain of which church to join, as each church interpreted the Bible so differently. He said,
What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
This boy started looking for an answer. One night, as he was studying his Bible, he found this verse in James 1:5-
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
This verse pierced him to the very soul, and he knew that if anyone needed wisdom from God, it was him. He decided that if James was right, he could receive his answer through prayer.
Up until this point, the boy had never prayed vocally. He chose a beautiful, clear day in the Spring of that year to go out into the woods to pray aloud to God, and hopefully receive the answer he most desperately sought.
The rest of the story is best told in his words:
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.