Denominations: Fracturing Doctrine

Christians believe almost unanimously that God’s Holy Word is infallible. There are no errors in it. Christians will stand and declare God is not a God of confusion. He is not a God of chaos. As Christians we declare His Word as Truth.

God’s Holy Word is so precious so as to be the final authority of itself. The concept of Sola Scriptura demands Scripture to explain and to support itself. There are no  contradictions.

The “traditions of men” create contradictions in ways His Word is interpreted. The Christian doctrine of eternal punishment is one of many issues that are rooted in the “traditions of men.” The “traditions of men” are the root of the fracturing of the church.

The “traditions of men” create contradictions in the ways His Word is followed. Denominations are the handiwork of men. The Christian church was under assault from within almost since it formed. A review of the Church’s history confirms this to be true. The good folks at “Truth For” have studied the breakout of the Church. They diagram and explain the process of denominationalism. Read their work here.

The Church first forms under the Gospel of Christ and concerns itself with “making disciples.” It is not long before the “traditions of men” assert themselves. Soon there will be debates, divisions and splits over obeying Jewish laws, respecting covenants, faith, works and more.

On the one hand Christians as a whole and particularly Church Leaders are espousing the eternal truth of God’s Holy Word. There are disagreements. Church Leaders argue and contend with one another over basic Christian doctrines. The disagreements run deep and eventually there is a split between factions belonging to the various Church Leaders.

The factions become denominations based on the “traditions of men.” There are chapters to be written and read debating denominational Church history.

We are the parties culpable for denominational-ism. We are responsible for defending what we believe and exactly how far we might go in our defense. Will we draw the line sharply and discount the theology of our brother to the degree we separate from them?

“I have seen the enemy and he is us.” Here’s another cliché: “We are our own worst enemy.”

We choose to separate our fellowship because we disagree.

We set up the opposing arguments and rehearse them to the point our only expertise is the lie swallowed. Our theologies are formed by various standards and Scriptural interpretations. We establish the rules of establishing the standards. We become the judges of what is true by our interpretation of His Word.

We are allowing, even advocating that same Word to be used to contradict itself. More often than not we, Christians, are perpetrating the contradictions.

I do not believe God’s Holy Word is corrupt in any way. I am convinced that well meaning men and women have corrupted His Word. I do not want to be one of those well meaning people. I do not want to judge the “least of these.” My grip on my old theology has been loosed. There are so many contentious points in so much of our traditions.

This little essay is the work of the Holy Spirit in me.  He has grown me. He makes my path to Him straight. He continues to grow me. He has shown me my former doctrines and theologies are demonstrably wrong.

I confess. I was once “a slave to the law.” I followed and practiced the “traditions of men.” I was a legalist and loyal to my interpretation of Scripture. My interpretation has been influenced by the “traditions of men.” To this moment I wrestle with various “traditions of men.” Many traditions are well founded and worthy of defense. Many if not most other traditions are poorly founded in God’s Holy Word. It is these that cause the divisions.

My interpretations of His Word form the basics of my personal theology.

In 1999 the Lord shook me awake. He placed in my spirit a wanting to know Him, know His Truth. He wanted me to look closely at my ways. He wanted me to recognize that my path was to destruction. He wants me to strive to clearly understand Him. Some folks reading this may say, “Who is this hypocrite? God wants him to clearly understand God?”

I ask that question of myself frequently. Who am I to even think God would want me, of all people, to clearly understand Him? Who am I really?

In 1999 the Lord pushed me to take Him seriously. The Lord blessed me with mentors. Three men came into my life. Each was a Christian and each was an evangelist. The Lord exposed me to preachers and teachers of many stripes. I learned to spot the heretic and false prophet. I learned and relished for a time the hot debates with people who disagreed with me. I was not deterred in any way from attacking another person’s belief. My pride pushed me to develop a set of “traditions of men” that benefited me.

I argued over things I knew little about and pretended to be an authority.

My mentors are persuaded by their respective sets of “traditions of men.” Their beliefs formed what they teach. They taught me what they believed. Their beliefs formed what I learned. Their beliefs became mine. I was fully engaged in that denomination.

The Lord has led me from the legalism of my doctrines to liberty in Him. The Lord, if only for a little while, supplied me with wisdom. He led me to prepare sermons on this subject. The preparation shed His light on my need to ask Him for wisdom.

I am impacted by God’s admonition that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” Wisdom is a jewel of immeasurable cost. God’s passion for His creation is bejeweled in mercy. My theological reformation begins in mercy.

God is love. God is Sovereign. His love is seen in mercy. Mercy for the “least of these.” I know His mercy first hand. He has given His mercy to me. I am not alone in His mercy. His mercy is given to the whole world.

It should be a basic tenet of Christian doctrine. God is love. He is sovereign. His Sovereignty is worthy of our attention. His love is Sovereign. It’s all mercy.

I am learning that I need to question my old theology. I need to cull it of the false doctrines that are known as the “traditions of men.”

Understanding God’s mercy was the starting point. God has me examining my beliefs on wisdom, disputable matters, denominational-ism, Communion meals, church membership, baptism and more.

I have learned the “traditions of men” are the motivation behind the split between believers.  My positions on things have turned away from what some would call orthodoxy.

My understanding of an eternal hell has changed. I believe there is a place called Sheol or Hades and I believe those places are dark, unlit and in a word, hell. I believe some folks will cross through hell, some will linger there, some live in hell at this moment and will live the entirety of their human lives in a dark unlit place.

My understanding of baptism has changed. I believe the act of baptism is sacred and I believe we should think of it that way. At the same time, I no longer believe there should be any kind of separation between believers because of a style of baptism. A Southern Baptist being fully immersed is no less a believer than the Assembly of God member who was fully immersed and came up shouting an unknown language. Neither of those are any greater than the Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran or Catholic who was baptized by sprinkling.

Membership in the Church is not complicated. Being part of His Bride only demands a belief in Him. Any other act of contrition or ritual is superfluous. We divide ourselves over this issue. This kind of division is precisely what Christ warns against. It was He Who gave the Royal Law. It was He Who commanded we love those who hate us. It was He Who surrendered to the Cross so that all would be drawn to Him.

I do believe God is in this work. For every word I type I am made a little wiser. Even if I type words that are not what He would want typed I learn in my rebellion. He strengthens me in my weakness. He weakens me when I am too much into myself and too little into Him.

It is not one of my goals to be divisive or to foster divisions. My prayer is the Lord will lead the writing of these chapters, phrases and words. My prayer is hopeful that all will see that the divisions we support do not bring glory to our Father or to the sacrifice of His Son.

I am simply a Christian. The choices made are made by Christ. I don’t have the power, insight or wisdom to make a choice that would trump the Lord’s. No one does.

That’s it in a nutshell. I pray it is a blessing.  It is only necessary to love our God with all our hearts, minds, souls and spirits.