Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the divided church

I had to laugh when I saw this article about how American protestants are more picky tied to their toothpaste than their denomination. (I can’t believe people research these things!)

Of course, the headline makes it sound completely ludicrous, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me.

First, pay attention to the question asked – it was whether you’d consider “another” denomination – meaning you should say yes if you would consider being Episcopalian instead of Lutheran, for example. (For those of you who are unfamiliar, Episcopalians and Lutherans are among that seem to me most like Catholics – although people in those denominations might violently disagree.) It’s a much bigger leap from being Episcopalian Church to the Assemblies of God (think Pentecostal / revival meetings).

But more importantly, I don’t really put a lot of stock in these denominations anyway. I see them more as different styles of worship / learning that work for different people – but not as fundamentally different belief systems.

The Bible has lots of language about the body of Christ – one body in which we are all different parts. There’s no way Jesus would have wanted to see a Church so divided as modern Christianity is. As far as I’m concerned, if you believe Jesus Christ is the son of God who came to earth and suffered (died and rose from the dead) to save us from our sins – then you’re a Christian, part of one Church, and that’s that. Which church you choose to worship at doesn’t make you any more or less a Christian. (Lots of people would disagree with me about this.)

[Plenty of Christians don’t consider Catholics to be Christian, which, as far as I’m concerned, is either rather misinformed or rather disrespectful. It’s about as correct as going around saying Protestants aren’t Christian, they’re just Protestant.]

I want to say that I think it’s REALLY important that the Christian Church has had all these movements, even if they resulted in (hopefully temporary) divisions in the Church. While the Catholic Church has on one hand done a fantastic job of producing a lot of great Christian thinkers and developed and preserved numerous invaluable traditions, it has on the other hand tried stifle many ideological movements.

In particular, the Reformation-based focus on reading the Bible, rather than merely letting your local priest read and interpret it for you, was very important for modern-day Christians, both Protestant and Catholic. Other benefits of the schisming of the Church include alternate forms of worship (the solemn and the dancing-and-clapping styles); the opportunity for women who feel called to lead congregations to be able to do so; the welcoming of people back into the Church who no longer feel welcome/comfortable in their old church.

But ultimately, I think these are all examples of God working through our brokenness – NOT the way God wants the Christian Church to be.

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