Why So Many Denominations?
By Dr. Ken Matto
(Isa 55:8-9 KJV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. {9} For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For many years I had pondered the situation which seems to be prevalent only in Protestant Christianity and that is the multitude of denominations and independent churches. I had always believed that it was only a question of doctrinal beliefs which seems to divide the denominations. You will have Presbyterians which believe in Predestination while you have Methodists which believe in free will. Baptists that believe in believerís baptism and Reformed churches which baptize babies. You have Holiness churches which stress Christians Perfection and churches which teach that one can never be perfect on this side of Heaven. You have Free Presbyterian Churches and Free Methodist Churches. The reality is that if you find two churches, they will differ from each other even in several ways.
Why does it seem that if you place one Bible in the center of the room and ask representatives of four denominations to explain a single passage, you will get four different explanations? These things did not just happen but I believe they were planned in the wisdom of God for the preservation and perpetuation of truth. Now that sounds almost antithetical, having one truth and so many denominations and independent churches. That is the wisdom of God so the Gospel would not be locked up and thus prevented from being propagated.
The Locked up Gospel
What I mean by the locked up gospel is that the Gospel is made subject to the rules, regulations, and whims of the central leadership of a denomination and all interpretations are to be derived from those in charge. This situation normally happens in a world wide organization. When one looks at an organization like the Roman Catholic Church, their theology and belief systems are subject to the Pope and the Cardinals. If you attend an RC church in the United States, then Brazil, then Spain, you will notice that the mass is all the same except for the language. The Gospel is locked up and shrouded in the confines of a false system. Everything in this organization is determined by the central headquarters in Rome. Letís look at the Mormon Church. It is basically set up the same way. All of the individual churches must adopt the teachings which come out of Salt Lake City because that is where their apostles are. They use the Bible plus the Book of Mormon and the result is that the true Gospel is locked up and shrouded under their system. They hold the Book of Mormon on even par with the Bible and in reality that means the Book of Mormon has more authority. If you attend their individual churches including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you will find that their services and their teachings are all derived from the headquarters in Salt lake City. You have the same situation with the Jehovahís Witnesses in that everything comes from the headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. The services and teachings in their Kingdom Halls are all derived from the headquarters and are the same no matter where you attend. They too have locked up the Gospel, whatever light they had, and quashed it under their belief system so the interpretations supersede the actual Bible. When we look at these centralized systems, we see that the Gospel is made subject to a central authority and this is an impediment to disseminating the truth.
Dangers of a single world church
In allowing the Protestant Church to multiply denominations and independent churches, Godís wisdom shines through. As we saw in the previous section, a centralized system will tend to stifle the true Gospel and make it subject to a very few while enslaving millions to a certain belief determined by that very few. While God Ďs plan was for a worldwide church, it was not to be a worldwide church in the form of a single organization. The central leaders are totally out of touch with the people in other parts of the world rendering the assembly useless if it cannot be adapted to the needs of the people in the areas where the church is located. When one looks at the churches in the New Testament, they each had different problems and challenges. The church at Galatia had problems with those who wanted the Christians to follow the law along with grace. The church at Corinth had trouble with the abuse of speaking in tongues. Two different problems which meant two different solutions. A single man-made liturgical dogma would not help because two types of problems require two types of approaches. If one had to adhere to a single set of rules and regulations as defined by a central leadership, there will be no way that they could be applied to multiple situations. If the individual assembly deviates in any way, then the local superintendent or Bishop, can remove the leadership in the church and replace them with those who will strictly adhere to central leadership dogma. If you study Roman Catholicism, you will find no salvation plan and therefore those who adhere to that system are doomed to eternal damnation but that has never motivated the central leaders in Rome to do anything about it for hundreds of years.
Why Multiple Denominations and Independent Churches?
We have seen the danger of the centralized religions and how this approach is a total failure and allows only a few men at the top to control the beliefs of literally millions. In comparison to the single government religions, the multiplicity of denominations and independent churches in Protestantism may seem like it is out of control and it is anything but that. In the 1400ís, denominations began to form, the Moravian church was the first one and after the Reformation began in 1517, then more denominations began to form. The Presbyterians, the Anglican Church, The Methodists, the Baptists, etc. Each of these denominations began to start placing individual churches in different areas. In fact, the Pilgrims had broken away from the Church of England because they saw corruption and other problems which they could not fix. So they went to Holland and eventually they came to America. One can say that the founding of America was due to a church split. The Pilgrims came to America and it was for the purpose of ďAdvancing the Christian FaithĒ as written in the Mayflower Compact. So here we see that 100 people left the Church of England for the purpose of advancing the Christian faith and what happened was the founding of the greatest missionary sending and supporting country in history and that is still true today as the Gospel is sent out over the Internet, Shortwave, Literature, by Missionaries, etc.
Now that is one positive example of what a church split can do. The reason that God allows these splits is for one major aim and that is the perpetuation of truth. As time went on, denominations continued to degenerate in their beliefs, especially after 1859 when many clergy began to accept evolution and started questioning the reality of Genesis 1-3. When this situation occurred, many started to leave churches and find churches that were biblically based. The Independent church movement dates back hundreds of years and these started to show up as Christians chose not to identify with denominations which were going heretical.
Let us bring this up to today. If one looks at the denominations which were founded hundreds of years ago, you will find that many of them have gone apostate and Christians have left for the purpose of finding a church which does not attack or question Godís Word. So as one church becomes apostate, there will always be Christians who will leave to find or start another church. Before I stated that the reason God allows these church splits is for the perpetuation of truth. What I mean by that is if you walk into any newly formed, non-apostate church and ask the way of salvation, you will be told that Christ is the way of salvation. If you were a member of the Catholic Church and went to another parish and asked the way of salvation, you would get church dogma and rhetoric leading you to the same thing you had in the previous church.
I want to summarize this article by stating that as one church goes apostate, another one forms from its ashes. The reason it looks like Protestantism seems out of control with so many churches, is that as one becomes apostate and loses members to another or new church, the apostate church remains as long as there are some who want to remain there. So now you have two churches and if the new church goes apostate, then members from it will form a new one and this is the reason that God had allowed Protestant Christianity to perpetuate itself with so many churches because some are apostate and out of those comes the formation of new churches. So it is not out of control, but under the total control of God as true Christians continue to follow truth and reject the false gospel. By allowing churches to regenerate without a central government or having to obtain somebodyís permission, allows the Gospel to flow freely throughout the world, which means it will never be locked up by a few men who have rule over thousands.