Can My Dementia Keep Me from Christ?
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Can My Dementia Keep Me from Christ?
Top Question

Why Are There So Many Denominations?

If we have one Bible and the same Holy Spirit, why is there so much division in the church? It’s heartbreaking to see today, but it isn’t a new problem. In the New Testament, the apostles were deeply concerned about schisms and divisions. It’s not as though there was unity from the beginning; even the early church was fraught with division, and these fractures have continued to splinter with time. When we consider these divisions, there are a few things to remember:

The problem is not God, it’s us.

The root of schism and division is often pride—it’s people wanting to go off and do their own thing. Our own sinful, blind hearts keep us from seeing the clear teaching of God’s word and agreeing with one another. We have failed to obey the Lord, to yield to the Scriptures, to love our neighbors, and to serve one another in humility.

Even the Roman Catholic Church, which often claims to have no division in comparison to thousands of Protestant denominations, has considerable diversity of beliefs and practices.

The fact of the matter is that we’re all prideful sinners, and we won’t achieve perfect unity on this side of heaven.

Despite the divisions, there can be some unity now.

There’s only one true church. Those who have put their faith in Christ make up one body, of which he is the head (1 Cor. 12:12–27; Col. 1:18). Though we might belong to different denominations, the church is composed of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation who will one day stand together before God’s throne, worshiping him (Rev. 7:9–12).

Further, though denominations are often formed around what divides us, there are essential core doctrines that make up the Christian faith and unite us. We are united by our shared faith in Christ, so we must hold to a pure gospel—salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. We must cling to Scripture as God’s inspired, inerrant, and authoritative word by which he reveals to us his Son.

Historic creeds like the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed offer brief summaries of this shared Christian faith, summarizing key beliefs such as the Trinity; the incarnation; the life, death, and resurrection of Christ; and the hope of future, resurrected glory with him. Historic catechisms and confessions define a true church in the simplest possible terms: A true church is a place where the pure gospel is preached, the sacraments are administered as instituted by Christ (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and church discipline is exercised (see the Belgic Confession, Article 29). These primary doctrines leave a large umbrella under which many denominations can operate as faithful members of Christ’s church.

Guidelines for Choosing a Denomination

Though there is only one true church, there is not only one true denomination. Though denominations differ on things like church polity, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the mode of baptism, many hold to the same core doctrines that unite us. As you consider which denomination to be a part of, here are a few questions that can help guide you:

  • Does this church uphold the core doctrines that unite all believers? Consider the church’s statement of faith and church practices. Do they align with a historic, shared understanding of the Christian faith as taught in the Scriptures? Do they preach a pure gospel of salvation by grace alone, by faith in Christ alone?
  • Does this church faithfully proclaim God’s word? Be like the Bereans, searching the Scriptures to test and discern the truth (see Acts 17:10–15). Does the church’s teaching align with your conscience as you study God’s word?
  • Is this church close to me? Sometimes our preferred denomination may not be the one in our neighborhood. That’s where considering both unifying, or primary, doctrines in contrast to dividing, or secondary, doctrines may be helpful to evaluate. Sometimes it may mean driving to the next town to attend a church that more faithfully aligns with God’s word; sometimes it may mean being willing to compromise on a secondary issue in order to connect with God’s people close by you.
  • Is my pride keeping me from achieving unity with this church? While it’s important to be discerning, it’s also important to check our hearts. There’s no perfect church, but churches that demonstrate a humble need for Christ and a dependence upon his word are places where people can grow in unity together (see Phil. 2:1–5).

What Does the Bible Say?

  • Schisms in the church: Rom. 14:1–15:7, 16:17–18; 1 Cor. 1:10–17, 3:1–23; 11:18–34; Phil. 1:15–18, 3:17–19; Titus 3:9–11; James 4:1–12; Jude 1:17–23
  • False teaching: 1 Tim. 1:3–7; 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 John 2:18–27; 2 John 1:9–10
  • The body of Christ: Romans 12:3–5;1 Cor. 12:26–28; Heb. 12:22–24; Rev. 21:2

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