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DENOMINATIONS

13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1Cor 1:13)
24And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:24)


Denomination. What a strange word to use to describe something that God created, that mankind uses as a means of communicating with and worshiping God, and that Jesus, the Son of God gave His life for.

Denomination. The word brings to my mind negative connotations, much like swearwords do. It creates a feeling-type-picture of something I would wish to avoid if at all possible. Words like "outhouse" and "armpit" give me the same type feeling.

But that's just me. My feelings regarding words have very little or no connection with reality. For instance, names like Sammy give me negative feelings because of past associations. And names like David and Mark give me good feelings. Mary Ann, on the other hand, creates in me warm and tender feelings.

Those names effect me in the way I described. You might have just the opposite feelings toward them.

But how about Judas or Brutus? Chances are most people would regard those names pretty much like everyone else.


Enough about names and words. Let's see what the word Denomination really means and where it came from.

Nomination. I can't find nomination in the dictionary except as a derivative of "nominate." Nominate means (as we already suspected) "to propose for election, to appoint for office, and to name or appoint a date or place."

I don't see how any of that fits. I'll break the word down even further.

"Nom," like "nom de plume" means "pen name," in other words, not a real name, but a phoney one used to hide one's real identity. So, I suspect the word "nom" means "Name." I take it than that "nominate" means the name of an office or place. Makes a little more sense, I suppose: But surely there must be a better word to describe a place where God's people meet and worship. (We say; "What church do you go to?" And what we really mean is, "What denomination do you belong to?")

A little more investigation.

Above Nominate I find "nomenclature." Now, had it not been staring me in the face, I would have missed that word, but perhaps it might be a key. Nomenclature means: "Person's or community's system of names for things."

That makes sense. That being the case, shouldn't the word for segments of the Church be denomenclature-ion, or something such?

No, I guess not. Guess we're stuck with "denomination." Even though it is a repugnant word, at least it is easier to say.

Interesting; the word just below nomenclature is "Nominal." I have often heard of someone being a "nominal Christian." Wonder just what that means?

Nominal: "Existing in name only; not real or actual." No mistaking that meaning. And there's that word "name" again.

So now, it appears, we have a "name" of a place where people meet to worship, and a group of people who, as it would seem, go to that place, but are not really a part of them.


In summary, what we have so far is a place where, for our purpose we call Christians, meet called a "Nomination." No, that's not right, It's called de-nomination.

So, what does "de-" mean?


The dictionary says that de- means: "Prefix meaning; down, away (descend); completely (denude); added to form verbs and nouns implying removal or reversal."

I don't know about you, but it sounds to me like "Denomination" means to completely Not be a place where people come to worship God. Where true Christians will not be found. In other words; Not the True Church?


I must be missing something. Surely the Intelligentsia who came up with these names, and the so many others who followed suit for hundreds of years must have considered all this. And if there was a better word, it would have replaced this one by now.


Ok. So Denomination is the word (I suppose). Still doesn't sound very appealing to me.


So, how about the meaning, purpose, and history of Denominations, regardless of whether or not it is a reasonable word to use. After all, it is just a word. Right?

Denominations are groups of people divided. "I belong to this denomination, and you belong to that denomination." (And, of course, yours is wrong, and mine is right.) It's a division, but of What, and Why?

The Why part is easy enough. It's a matter of Math, which began when Adam and Eve were in the Garden. God told them to "Multiply," and fill the earth. That was easy enough, and I haven't heard of any resistance to that command from either Adam and Eve, or from any of their descendants.

"And fill the earth." That means to scatter. Or does it?

At the Tower of Babel, mankind tried to work together to "reach God." And God scattered them and gave them different languages to separate them and keep them separated. It sounds like God didn't want mankind to hang around one place.

Or is it possible that it wasn't staying together that God was concerned with, but rather the Tower, and the Means by which they were trying to reach God?

A topic for another investigation. Even more so considering that God gave the Gift of Tongues, which is a means for everyone to understand one another and bring them together, at Pentecost.

So people divide. And to this day, Nations divide, States divide. And families divide and scatter across the world.

So it's not surprising that denominations divide, and form smaller denominations, that divide and form tiny denominations - each certain that they are the one and only denomination that God smiles on and approves of.


Of course there is a movement, (or should I say movements) intended to break down the barriers between denominations. I wonder what happens to all the heart-felt beliefs that people were martyred for, and that bonded the members of one denomination so devoutly to one another: The barriers that made me right, and you wrong. Does everybody suddenly become right, and only the cults be wrong? And what about the "cults?" Are they not the real Church? But doesn't de-nomination, as shown above, also mean not being part of the real Church?

Again, another topic for another time.


So, division is natural it seems: Just as natural as multiplication. The two are opposites, and have opposite effects. They are also performed for different reasons. Multiplication is brought about by (intended at least) similar interests and love. Division, on the other hand, is usually brought about by selfish and opposing interests, and often anger and hate.


That may be part of the Why, and a little of the Wherefore. But what about the What?

Families divide, parents divorce and remarry, divorce and remarry, etc, etc (I am referring to the same people here). Children marry and leave home, and often leave home (even pushed out of the nest) long before time for them to marry.

That's families. And, unfortunately, that's so common it has become "natural."


That's families on this earthly plane. But what about the Family of God? Should that be divided as well? Is that normal? Is that what God wants or intended?

I think we are all in agreement that it is not. But what can we do about it?

I'm going to paint a picture of a new "convert" to Christianity; A baby; A "Newborn" of the "Born-Again" family.


"Come to our church. It's the only real church."

"Have you been baptized? Only sprinkled? Can't be a Christian unless you've been submerged."

"Was you baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? No? Oops, got to do it again."

"Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit like at Pentecost? Do you speak in tongues? Do you pick up serpents and drink poison?"

"Do you take of the Sacraments regularly and go before the alter often?"

"Do you. . . ?"

You get the picture.

So now you have everything going for you, "all your ducks in a row," as the saying goes. You have, and are fulfilling everything any of the strictest denominations could possibly require. You even have a menagerie of snakes in your garage.

A knock at your door.

"But do you read our Bible? Do you study our doctrines? You may do all those other things that don't mean a thing in our doctrines, but you are only partially saved if you don't come to our church."

So you learn that all you have learned, all you have done is for naught. You have to start over again.

One denomination stealing members from other denominations.


The Church is a Family; a family that criticizes, denounces and rejects its own members who do not agree with them.

And like families, when you change from one to another, you not only change your name, but your doctrines as well -- and fervently so. A Hatfield adopted by the McCoys.


But is the Church a family? I guess in a way it is, but the Bible tells us that the Church (notice that I capitalized Church this time) is the Bride of Christ. If the Church is in fact a family amongst itself, it is the Family of God!

Is the Church the Bride of Christ? I suppose it is; the Bible tells me so.


But the Church is the Body of Christ!


Should the Body of Christ be at war with one another? Shouldn't we be working together for the good of the Body? For the good of God? Should the fingers argue with the hand? And if they do (I should say since they do) can they be obedient to, and of use to the Head of the Body, which is Jesus, the One the Church is all about?

Is the Church for our own pleasure and grandizement, or for His?


Of course it should work together and be in agreement. And every denomination will tell you that it should. And of course, each denomination will tell you exactly what the entire Body should believe.

And that, dear soul, is the crux of the problem.


Churches dividing reminds me of a worm that can be cut into many pieces and each piece construct itself into another whole worm. They are called "organisms," which is what institutions like churches have been called.

Of course this is a modern problem. I mean, the churches of antiquity never had this problem. They were all in agreement. Right?

When was the first break in the organized chain called the church? Was it when Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door in the 1500's? This truly was a dividing point as the Roman Catholic church had very strong bonds up until that time that no one dare break. If you are other than Roman Catholic, regardless of your denomination or faith, you might consider that.

(A note of interest here. The dictionary defines Catholic as: "Universal; all-embracing; of wide sympathies and interests." I can't but help think of the Crusades, the "rack" (torture chambers for "heretics,") the Witch hunts, the martyrdom of Martin Luther amongst many other detractors.)

Given thought, there was another break before Luther; it was in the 9th century A.D. [Another note to those of you too young to remember what A.D. and B.C. meant before the modern intelligentsia got hold of them. A.D. (Anno Domini) is Latin for "In the year of Our Lord;" and B.C. means "Before Christ." Now they call it "before the common era." They will do anything to get Christ, and God out of our lives. In psychology they would call this "denial," however the very ones who have created the word to describe the process are very often the very ones who are doing the denying.

A long sidebar, wasn't it? I seem to have more "notes" than I do story.]

So, again, in the 9th century "after Christ" the Greek Orthodox church broke away from the Roman Catholic church. Could there have been any others before?

Around 300 A.D. the Church (Capital Church again) was highly persecuted. If you were a Christian, and refused to denounce Christ -- at worst you became food for the lions, at best you lost everything you owned and the one who "squealed" on you got a tenth of it all.

Then in 313 Constantine (Emperor of Rome) saw a vision, became a Christian, and said that everyone could worship how they pleased. Up until this time becoming a Christian meant great risk. It was Heart-Felt. With the edict of Constantine a person was a nobody if they weren't Christian. The word took on no more meaning than saying one's name: In fact, less.

Soon after this edict non-Christians were the ones being persecuted. Now you had to be a Christian to stay alive. I'll bet there was a flood of converts then. Wasn't much need for evangelism or missionaries as we know them today, do you think?


Interesting (poor choice of words) how when the persecuted have control, they become the persecutors. Like the Protestant period following the Reformation: When a Catholic was King, everyone had to be Catholic or die. Then, when a Protestant was King...!

In other words, what a person said they were meant nothing. They were whatever the King or Queen said they should be.

Kind of like now, huh? No king or queen to tell us how to think, just the Education System, the Media, and the prevailing popular opinion.

[Another sidebar. When I was young the question "Are you a Christian" was rarely asked. It was assumed that everyone was Christian, after all, this was a "Christian Nation," so at least everyone would say they were in order to be part of the "Norm," and be considered as decent folk. No, the question on everyone's lips was, "What church (denomination) do you go to?]


So it appears that Constantine was, at least for a long period of time, a consolidation of the church. Of course there were detractors, but they were in hiding.


Christians in hiding reminds me of an even earlier time. And who were these Christians hiding from? Why, it's the very one who we study in church each Sunday, that is Saul (soon to become Paul) of Tarsus.

Now we've come to a point in time -- not centuries, but just a few short years after Jesus. Surely at this point the Church is unified and believe the same doctrines. Right?

The Church is hiding from the Jews, and hiding from the Romans; in fact hiding from everyone who is not a Christian. It would be foolish to think that such a down-trodden and persecuted people, a people with such devotion to a cause, such a devotion to God, would be divided. Right?


"I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos...." (1st Corinthians 1:12) These are words spoken by Paul calling for unity because the Church was already trying to split up, and using for their name the very ones who were calling for unity.

Then there was the Judaizers who were trying to convert the new Christians to Judaism, or at least to compromise them.

In fact, even when Jesus walked this earth, all but the twelve deserted Him. And one of the twelve betrayed Him. Then when Jesus was crucified, the eleven went their own way. Jesus found Peter and the eleven back at the Sea of Galilee fishing, where He found them at the beginning of His ministry.


Division and separation is natural for us humans it seems. So what is the true Church, and how will we recognize it from all the rest of the fragmentized denominations? I think we may have a hint of an answer in the Book of John. Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you." (Incidently, the 14th and 15th Chapters of John have a lot to say on this subject.)

And who are the True Christians? Perhaps Jesus' admonition to the twelve gives us a hint. He said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...." (John 15:16-19)


So then, what is the True Church? What denomination should we join in order to be a part of the True Church? Where do the True Believers gather?

I don't have the answer to those questions; But;


If (and I am more inclined to believe, when) it becomes illegal, or at least ridiculed to be a Christian, I suspect the churches will empty out, and the few True Believers will huddle and work together. Differences of opinions will matter little when the Spirit of Christianity is what remains to bind True Believers together.


How, then, will a person know if others assembled in such a hiding place is truly a Born-Again Christian? By asking them about their doctrines? No my friend, but just by the mere fact that they are there.


[I believe a Post Script is in order here I believe. As in most of my searches, there are holes in my research and errors in my reasonings; And for every conclusion that I draw, there are at least two exceptions that void such a conclusion.

But it's not conclusions, or answers, that I am looking for in these searches, so it's not surprising that I find none. What I am trying to do is understand the question a little better.]


 

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