“It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.”-Kierkegaard
Why are there so many denominations?
Have you ever wondered that, because I have! Enumerable denominations or “tribes” have become the central refutation I’m given by people who do not follow the Jesus way, and for many, it is a primary stumbling block in front of the door of the Kingdom. Why would someone come from one community of disunity to another? Truly, what are we inviting people into? I am not saying this to discourage anyone from sharing their faith, but the purpose of this post is to talk about who we follow as a potential solution to the issue of division in the church. Here we go!
Following the Bible.
He looked at me with eagerness to answer the question. “I think,” he said, “the reason we have so many denominations is because so many of us do not follow the word of God, the Bible.” Immediately I found myself agreeing with him, until I realized that following the Bible means many things to different people. The truth is that I have this habit of asking people what they mean, seeking understanding before I seek to challenge or provoke. The last thing I want to do is ask questions I already have the answers to in order to appear smart and challenging. Truthfully, I hate that.
Many atheists have been utterly frustrated with me when they are asking questions and I can tell that they are using my answers to lead to the next question. In other words, they appear to be seeking when in reality they are seeking to destroy. Whenever this occurs I choose to stop giving answers and ask questions in return. Many people will tell you that in order to be a strong “believer” you must have an answer for every question, and then they quote the passage from 1 Peter 3:15. Answering for the hope within us is not synonymous with having 30 reasons why Christianity is the most compelling religion on the planet. The Kingdom of God is beyond a study on comparative religion. How boring is that when the hope within us is the witness of the calling of the Kingdom of God!
Recently I was asked by a very honest seeker if I believed the Bible to be true. The student next to him immediately began to laugh as he stated, “Uh oh, here we go!” Calmly, I paused and said very simply, “Not yet.” There is a trajectory the scriptures bear witness to and it is a vision for the new heavens and the new earth. The Bible is a collection of books written in a culture completely different from our western ideal. The text must be considered in its context and understood that we may glean and receive from them what they are here to illuminate for us.
Following the Church.
Historically speaking, whenever the protestant church was conceived, one of the primary shifts that happened in the 16th century was a revolt against the papal authority. This in turn cut the ripcord on a ripple effect that would challenge the feudal system, the idea of mediation and the religious authority itself, as innovation and exploration expanded our world. New money gained outside of blood and family privilege would generate a new ideology called “Nationalism” and give the common man an ability to make something of himself. The Doctors of Philosophy no longer had to be monks committed to chastity. The Pope would no longer hold the place of authority over God’s church, and Luther would prove that this was unnecessary; which left the newly formed protestant church with one problem: who would take the Pope’s place of authority? For Luther, the answer was simple: The Bible.
Men would follow the Holy Scriptures and find themselves at complete peace under the rule and reign of the new church, because it was the Bible who was in charge and not the Pope. Unfortunately, this only led to parallel cruelty within the protestant church towards one another; killing and burning at the stake “heretics” who would not conform to the teachings of the “Bible.” And whenever a Calvin or a Zwingli would pronounce judgment, it was always because that person went against the Bible, which is another way of saying: “You’re not conforming to the interpretation of the Bible I am giving you, therefore, you must go.” The corrupt authority of the Catholic church had been replaced by the authority of the Bible, which was really a political facade to keep power over the people, through the mediators of men.
Following the Man.
Please do not misunderstand me.
I believe that the Bible is authoritative and inspired! I just think the scriptures can be twisted to justify anything (adultery, slavery and the mass-murder of innocent people) if it is not interpreted correctly by the only hermeneutic that brings life to men: Jesus.
“Is God mute?” This is the question I ask many of my wonderful Muslim friends when describing how we see Jesus as the Word of God. So whenever God speaks, He sounds like the Jesus we see in the Gospels. Whenever a person tells me, “Jon, God told me____” I always wonder out loud if that “prophecy” sounds like Jesus, who is the infallible Word of God. For Jesus had His own way of interpreting Scripture called the Yoke of the Rabbi. This was His interpretation, which He called “easy” and “light.”
What we should have done after the papacy was dethroned is put the right authority on the throne: Jesus. Jesus is not the Bible! When people begin to “unfriend” one other because of what one believes, it is the nasty leftovers of the worst of protestant praxis, and is a more civil version of burning people at the stake by ignoring, verbally destroying or alienating them from community. Let us take our lead from Jesus, who is our Shepherd and read our Bible’s the way Jesus did.
How did Jesus read His Bible? Coming soon…