Last week we noted the charge of “cult” that denominationalism levels at those who claim to be New Testament Christians today. One of the additional reasons this charge is leveled against us is that to the denominational world, it is unthinkable that the church of Christ (the church that belongs to Christ) would be one small group out of the millions of adherents to denominational philosophy. The proponents of denominationalism may confess that there is a “church of Christ,” but that it is far more broad and diverse than we believe it to be. In fact, they argue, that the “church of Christ” is merely the great body of believers throughout the world composed of the various denominations worldwide. In essence, they claim, anyone who believes in Jesus as their Savior is a member of the “church of Christ” regardless of what particular denomination they are a member. To disagree with this concept relegates the contester to the status of “intolerant” and “uncharitable” of other’s peculiar beliefs and practices. They ask, “how could one be truly loving of another by saying that they are wrong and need to repent?” Of course, Jesus was loving, but He demanded repentance out of those He dealt with (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17).
Somewhere in this mix, it will be pointed out that we all believe in the same Jesus and that this is the only uniting bond that we need respect when it comes to unity within the Christian world. Passages such as 1 John 5:1, (“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God�”) and John 3:16 are bandied about in an effort to “prove” that mere faith in Jesus (without any sort of God-work on the part of the believer) is all that is necessary to be part of the one great “body of Christ” and that this tenet of faith alone is enough to unite all believers. Such thought fails to take into account the words of Jesus in John 17:21-23, the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and especially Ephesians 4:1-5 where Paul lists at least seven uniting principles upon which Christians MUST agree, one of which is baptism. There is more to Christian unity than mere mental acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ. It is due to the purposeful overlooking of this one key and vital fact that denominationalism cannot see the division that it is in reality fostering upon its adherents.
Denominationalism is not a viable Christian system because it promotes divisions instead of unity. One of the primary accusations leveled against churches of Christ is that they are divisive. Those who make such an accusation say we are divisive because we demand that everyone else come out of denominationalism and unite upon God’s word instead of being tolerant of the (truly divisive) creeds and church disciplines of the denominational world. They claim that because we do not accept the same standard of salvation as the denominational world, that we are being divisive. What is truly amazing is that those who are part of denominationalism fail to realize the divisions that already exist among them. One denomination is named the Methodists, another, the Lutherans, yet another Presbyterian, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc. The names themselves are divisive. Paul told the church at Corinth that such division was sinful (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). However, this is not the only area of divisions. Ask a Methodist about baptism and see what they say. Turn around and ask a Baptist and see what they say. You will find two completely different answers given. Yet we are supposed to believe that you may “go to the church of your choice” and that will be “ok” with God? How can God be “ok” with such divisions in teaching regarding a very important subject? A subject important enough for Paul to include in Ephesians 4:1-5 as a fundamental principle of Christian unity? Jesus prayed for unity among believers, but not the unity that the denominational world espouses. Jesus prayed for complete and total unity as He and the Father were united (John 17:21-23). Can a supposedly Christian system be valid and viable when it ignores obvious divisions and even promotes and encourages them among “the saved?” It cannot.