Have you ever wondered, “If Religion, specifically the Christian Faith, is about unity (and it IS supposed to be!), how can there be 33,000* stated denominations in Christendom?” One man created a religion [Jesus] that rocked the western world forever, one whose message of unity that spread like a wildfire, has been divided so many times that the message is almost lost in translation…literally!
Furthermore, there is real heat between denominations – like fans of a sports teams who have real, emotional issues with fans of another team. Christians are supposed to be on one team, yet we’ll cannibalize internally, while simultaneously destroying the message of faith. Why? Semantics.
As someone who was a member of the Oneness Pentecostal movement for 15 years (nearly as fringe edge as you can get), I know a thing or two about a denomination that prides itself on the splitting of doctrinal hairs. And even within the 680* stated Pentecostal branches or denominations of a self-proclaimed non-denominational movement, there is plenty of sibling squabbles over who is right, and who is wrong, and more importantly, proclaiming that being wrong will keep you from Heaven.
Just so you know – this article isn’t being written to prove who is right, or what is wrong. I simply don’t know the answer to that question. What I can safely say, however, in answer to the ‘why’ question, is it is because there are a lot of people who think only I/we are right.
Semantical Example: Trinity vs. Oneness, Oneness Pentecost vs. Pentecost, or other Christian Faith’s?
Specifically, the battle is over whether or not God exists in a triune state, as the Trinity, that the Father is a spirit being, the Son (Jesus) coexists is a spirit being, and the Holy Ghost is a third coexistent spirit being, who complete the essence of a singular God/awareness, or, if the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were merely references, manifestations, exposures of that one singular God, otherwise known as Modalistic Monarchianism.
There are even Pentecostal denominations that agree with the Trinitarianism view of God, as most of Christendom does, while the Oneness Pentecostal doctrine believes that the Trinity is antibiblical and a fallacy of doctrine, to the degree that belief in the Trinity is a soul damning mistake – you cannot be saved believing in the Trinity.
I only bring up that idea because it is something I’m intimately aware of, but highlights the issue of splitting hairs and semantics.
Let’s pretend for a moment that it is a mystery, whether or not God exists as three coexistent beings or that He [God] is a singular spirit being that manifested Himself in the Father, later the Son and again as the Holy Ghost, models of the Monarch.
Now for the game changing question…
Does the Trinity vs. Oneness doctrine change the fundamental message of Christian Faith?
In other words, does a belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are manifestations of a single Spirit who brought the message of hope, faith, and salvation negate the value of the message or the one who believes the message and acts upon it?
Or in other words, does a belief that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are distinct spirit beings who brought the message of hope, faith, and salvation negate the value of the message or the one who believes in the message and acts upon it?
Semantical Example: Are you baptised in the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or in Jesus Name?
Let’s not go down the path of whether or not baptism is essential to salvation in the Christan faith or just a good expression of faith, we’ll all agree for the span of this article baptism is just something Christians do. No splitting hairs right?
The hair split here, at least the one I am proximate to, is whether or not being baptised in the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost is effective to salvation or if calling on the name Jesus during baptism is what causes the water to purify the soul.
How did this argument get started?
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” – Matthew 28:19, KJV
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – Acts 2:38
See what just happened? We have a hair to split. When Jesus offered his commandment, was that ‘name’ a grammatic singular, the descriptor for the office of the Father, and Son and Holy Ghost?
When Peter founded the Christian Church in Jerusalem during the Passover feast, and the Day of Pentecost (subsequently, this is the bedrock of the Pentecostal movement) when he responded to the plea of the Jews now found guilty for crucifying their Messiah, he declared to them that they would find solace for their behavior in repenting, being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Some denominations believe that without baptism, being part of the salvation process, you are destined to hell regardless of your heart, prayer, devotion, actions, and behaviors. Other’s believe the clearer wording of Scripture, that your faith in God’s gospel is the saving factor, and your faith in action leads to things such as baptism.
Other’s believe that your faith in God’s gospel and living it out is the saving factor, and your faith in action leads to performances such as baptism, healings, speaking in tongues, etc.
Now for the game changing question…
Does the way in which you are baptized, either calling on Jesus Name when going down into the water, or calling on the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost when going down into the water determine God’s pleasure with the baptism or change the effectiveness of it?
In other words, if you believe there is a spiritual reason to be baptized, and you also believe there is a spiritual outcome, will that purpose and outcome be negated or made right because the baptizer utters the words, “I now baptize you in the Name of Jesus Christ?”
Or in other words, if you believe there is a spiritual reason to be baptized, and you also believe there is a spiritual outcome, will that purpose and outcome be negated or made right because the baptizer utters the words, “I now baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?”
There is a real danger in the semantics of doctrine – some things are absolutes, but I fear men has decided many of those absolutes in God’s place and has taken the seat of Moses in the stead of the real High Priest – Jesus.
I for one am striving to see past the pettiness of squabbling over inconsequentials. We serve a God of details who certainly would have made it abundantly clear if those things were issues of division, and He did not.
Let’s strive for Christian Unity – there are too many problems in our world of today to devalue our time with squabbles!
*Article on the National Catholic Register about the number of Christian Denominations and what branches of Christianity they belong to.