Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Why are there so many divisions and denominations when we all basically believe the same thing (the gospel)?  Isn't that a tragic thing that we have to be so divisive?  Why can't we all just be one denomiation?

1 comment:

Daniel Kim said...

It is true that Christianity has different denominations. But I think it's a bit of a mischaracterization to call the existence of denominations "divisive". People of different denominations still consider each other brothers and sisters, as fellow Christians. (that’s why we call these divisions “denominations” rather than different religions)

So why are there denominations? That is a very complex historical question... more complex than asking, "Why are there different states within a country?" There are some differences among the denominations such as our understanding of predestination and free will, our mode of worship or baptism, etc.. But again, as the question itself suggests, these are peripheral issues.

Besides these peripheral issues, I would say the existence of denominations is due mostly to historical reasons. For example, when people came to America, it didn’t make sense for them to identify themselves as Anglican (Church of England) anymore. But what are we to do? Tell the Church of England to no longer call themselves the Anglican Church and no longer worship in cathedrals?

We can say: Well, different peopel can worship in different styles, but let's just unify the whole church by dropping these denominational names. That sounds nice, but when we play that out, I think we can see that it's actually rather dismissive of the rich history of these denominations to bring them to where they are. We will be telling the Anglican church to dump the name Anglican; we will be telling the Greek Orthodox denomination to no longer call themselves Greek. That would sort of be like asking all the Chinese people to adopt the last name “Lee” for the sake of unity of China. I think we can be united while maintaining the different historical traditions of denominations.. and that’s actually what we find.

There are some in-fighting among the denominations, of course, but even among Christians, such in-fighting is considered a loser thing to do. (sort of like if a person from Texas started to fight and argue against Nevadans.) Besides, humans being what we are, I doubt that dropping the denominational label would stop some people from engaging in petty in-fighting.

On the whole, I think existence of denominations pay tribute to the different historical traditions of different groups of Christians, and they do not threaten the unity of Christianity apart from the fact that there are these different denominational labels on their church signs... (which can unfortunately cause some people to get the impression that there are so many divisions)