By Kevin Cauley
Last week I started an e-mail conversation with a man who was a member of the Methodist church. The conversation started because he had seen an article that I published on our web site, “Is the Church of Christ a Cult?” His contention was that any group that claims that they are the only one’s going to heaven are a cult. He sees the churches of Christ as making that claim, and so, according to his definition, they are a cult. The first response to this is, of course, that his definition of a cult is obviously flawed. While it is difficult to put a precise definition upon the concept of “cult,” we usually know them when we see them. The churches of Christ that I know are obviously not cults. However, there is another, deeper, issue that needs to be discussed in this regard, and that is the question of the validity of the system of denominationalism. I submit that this is the real issue, because it is the assumption of the system of denominationalism that all denominations are equally accepted in the sight of God. Hence, if one religious group claims that salvation can only occur through that one way, then that kind of thinking is anti-denominational, and if it is anti-denominational, then it must be cultish. In other words, anyone who denies that denominationalism is a viable Christian system must be a cult. Instead of having the discussion of what is and what is not a cult, instead, we should focus upon the legitimacy of the concept of denominationalism.
In today’s culture, we are seeing around us the ultimate fruits of the system of denominationalism. Those fruits are basically the complete rejection of the word of God and the substitution of God’s word with the words of men. The issue of homosexuality in denominationalism today tells the tale. Leaders among the Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and now some members of the Lutheran denomination have publicly come out and endorsed the idea that homosexuality is not something to be condemned as sin, but to be tolerated as an alternative lifestyle and given recognized place within said denominations. When confronted with the issue within their own denominations, leaders of these denominations fail to turn to the scriptures to solve the problem, but instead, turn to their church disciplines and manuals, documents written by men. Case in point: in the Methodist denomination, the jury of people who judged the case of the lesbian “pastor” stated that they found nothing in the church discipline that she had violated. It wasn’t the Bible that determined the validity of her behavior, but the church discipline. The issue of homosexuality in the religious world today is exposing to the religious world at large what members of churches of Christ have known all along. Denominationalism is not a viable Christian system and ought to be rejected.
Denominationalism is not a viable Christian system because it seeks to elevate the doctrines of men above that of God’s. Homosexuality is just one issue. There are also the issues of women preachers, church organization, God’s plan for man’s salvation, New Testament worship, and many others. In each of these areas, denominationalism has placed the words of men above the words of God. They have substituted their own church disciplines, creeds, and confessions of faith for God’s word; they have elevated the teachings of men such as Charles Wesley, John Calvin, and Martin Luther to above-God-status, perhaps not in their words, but clearly in their actions. Jesus condemned such attitudes and teachings in Matthew 15:18, 19 “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Lip service is all that the denominational world pays to Jesus in our times. When such a situation exists, Jesus calls such actions vain, empty, meaningless. Can a Christian system be valid and viable when elevating man’s will above God’s? It cannot.