Denominations

I was a life-long member of 1 Protestant denomination and believed it taught the truth (I know that remains their sincere intention). When we moved, I looked not for the nearest Protestant church but for the nearest church of my denomination. Many Protestants who grew-up in one specific denomination are that way.

Many other Protestants are comfortable changing denominations when they move. They will typically look for a church that is close, at which they “feel” comfortable and that does not preach too contrary to their personal beliefs. This frankly is odd, as Protestant theology varies significantly. On the other hand, the uniquely Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (invented in the 16th century) ultimately allows each person to determine their own beliefs.

Of this latter group of “denominational hoppers,” one Christian community rarely considered is the Catholic Church. Few can articulate why that is beyond vague misconceptions, but it is often rejected out-of-hand. I know that I did.

In fact, the Catholic Church is not a Christian denomination but is the Christian Church itself. Scripture is clear that Jesus founded 1 Church and history easily shows that to be the Catholic Church. Men such as the reformers (over a millennium after Christ) or modern day preachers opening storefront churches can not create something equivalent to the Church directly founded by our Lord.

To be steeped in history is to cease being Protestant.

Cardinal John Henry Newman (convert)

What is common with our brothers and sisters in various Christian communities (which Catholics call separated Christian communities) is membership in the invisible part of the Church through valid Christian baptism. This is the Mystical Body of Christ, where Christians are members of the body headed by our Lord. On earth, we are also known as the Church Militant reflecting our struggle against the worldly and toward holiness. The Church Militant is part of the Communion of Saints, which also contains those being cleansed for Heaven (in Purgatory; the Church Suffering) and those who are now in Heaven (the Church Triumphant). In this way, ALL Christians are united (even if they do not know this, it is still true).

Where we get into trouble is with the visible part of the Church. The only purpose of which is to make saints (that is, to help as many people as possible get to Heaven). All Christian communities intend this, not just the Catholic Church. However, truth matters.

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Read these verses carefully. To “remain in my word” you must understand *what* the Word means. How can you remain in something correctly if you misunderstand it? I am not being rhetorical here. Stop for a minute and think about this. This entire passage hinges on it.

Remaining in His Word will make you His disciple and you will know the truth. Knowing the Word (correctly) is knowing the truth. Through actual truth you are set free. Being His disciple spreads truth and sets others free. His Word (when properly understood) = truth.

What if another good person of a different (Protestant) denomination has come to know God’s Word differently than you? He or she is absolutely convinced, as are you, that they are correct. They faithfully live their life by their differing understanding of the Word. Does it matter? Of course it does – to believe otherwise is the heresy of indifferentism. Further, “versions of truth” cover a very wide spectrum of mutually exclusive beliefs. If there are multiple versions, then there is no truth at all – only relativism. We are then not remaining in God’s Word but our own. His misunderstood Word ≠ truth.

Jesus instituted 1 visible Church, under Peter, to protect the truth He revealed to mankind. To be effective in her mission of saving souls, that truth, the truth, the only truth, must be steadfastly kept and faithfully taught. Only the Church protected until the end of time as promised by our Lord can do this with certainty. Other Christian communities outside of full communion with Christ’s universal Church do so to varying degrees. While never their intent – the full truth never-the-less is not present, what is taught may suffer from error and some teaching, to be blunt, is flat-out false.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus alone is the way and the truth and the life. Do you know His truth or another version of it?

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Comments

  1. But, but, George… the issues Protestants differ on are not essential! On the Essentials, everyone agrees!

    I would have told you that, back in my days as a “frankly odd” Protestant who attended whatever denomination suited me at the time. When my mother told me that I had to speak in tongues to be saved, while my Baptist church told me I had to be re-baptized because my infant baptism didn’t count, I began to see that “what must I do to be saved” is the MOST ESSENTIAL issue – and our answers to that question were all over the map! Once I began to see this as a PROBLEM, my days as a Protestant were numbered.

    At least you were consistent in your adherence to one Protestant doctrine. I was a litte too “broad-minded,” shall we say….

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