Why are there so many churches? This question is frequently more of an attack on the Christian faith than a genuine inquiry. The underlying assertion is that if Christianity were “true” and real, and if Christians weren’t “all hypocrites”, there would only be one denomination, to which all Christians would belong in perfect love and harmony…
Here is my own un-churchified, un-theologicalized answer to the question, offered to anyone with an open mind. I say “open mind” because some of the people who ask such questions, while thinking of themselves as being open minded and tolerant, have a very closed mind when it comes to the Christian Church.
The whole matter of “religion” in general comes into the answer here, because what needs to be considered is that other religions and belief systems are divided to at least as great an extent. Hinduism is an umbrella religion consisting of many different beliefs, “paths” and millions of gods. Buddhism has sub-divided endlessly since its inception, often with friction between the schools and organizations. Muslims are clearly at each others throats (literally) in many parts of the world and have been since Mohamed. So to accuse only Christians of division is unrealistic and intolerant.
The problem lies not in the nature of the Christian faith but in human nature. When Jesus Christ walked the earth there was one Christian faith, and Jesus even had a hard time getting some of his followers to understand or to accept what he was trying to teach them then. From the moment he left this world human nature began to attempt to wrest the Faith from those he entrusted it with. Some thought they had better ideas. Some wanted to ride on the success of the movement. Some wanted to benefit financially from it, and some simply misunderstood it. Some insisted that their own “revelations” trumped those passed on from Christ and the apostles.
Now bring the whole problem forward to our present age. When someone with a strong opinion and personality doesn’t like what he sees in his denomination, he attempts either to change it, or to go off and start his own church. He may have very good reason to, if what he has seen is in fact a serious departure from the faith once delivered to the saints. Many churches and denominations have been started as a genuine way of attempting to right what has gone wrong.
Alternatively, he may be mistaken, misled, or self-serving. He may alter what he’s heard because he really thinks he’s right-even if he isn’t, and he proceeds to convince others that he’s right, possibly using a little exaggeration or deception to help the process. In such a way entire pseudo-Christian cults are born, and millions of people-gullible or just fooled-are misled.
When a man or woman claims to be a Christian there’s no immediate guarantee that he or she really is one, any more than a box popping up on your screen claiming to offer your computer a clean-up for free is genuine or hassle-free. And this problem is humanity-wide. It’s not just within the Church, it’s in politics, the retail world, advertising, the workplace, education and the home: it’s everywhere. So do yourself a favor: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because there are numerous divisions in the Church-some of which are perfectly legitimate-it doesn’t mean there’s no truth to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what’s the fix?
The fix is to consult the instruction manual-the Bible-as it was originally written, and use it to discern who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. Don’t even believe your organization’s claim that its own translation of the Bible is the right one: check it out for yourself. And what about the common accusation that the Bible was “All written hundreds of years after the fact”, and that “It’s all been changed hundreds of times”? Please refer to my post: