Friday, May 28, 2010

Why So Many Denominations?

It is very common for supposed "Calvinists" to be charged with "arrogance" in their defense of the historic Reformed Christian faith. It is almost a certainty that this accusation would come from those who purport to hold to a "Bible only" paradigm of theology, piety, and practice. In their biblicism, these folks, however, fail to realize that it is actually within their position that hubris is intrinsic, and upon the fetid cesspool of their self-styled, isolated interpretations of Scripture that the multiplicity of cults and sects flourish.

Unwittingly, though seemingly defending the tenet of Sola Scriptura, these earnest souls have, in reality, bought into the serpentine lie of the Garden of Eden and have gorged themselves on the apple of Gnosticism. Allergic to tradition, they have looked within themselves for the answers, and like the first couple, have been found naked, wandering, and destined for demise.

"Whenever we think of the gospel merely in terms of some vague religious feeling, rather than the record of the work of God in real history, we're thinking in a Gnostic direction. Whenever we display indifference to or suspicion of the physical world, we're betraying a kind of Gnosticism. Whenever we think of our salvation as a way to escape the limitations of human nature (including the limitations of our embodiment) instead of a pilgrimage of faithfulness within the good limits of our createdness, we're thinking like Gnostics. Whenever we think that true faith is just a matter of spiritual insights and sensations, or something that addresses only our motives, and not a matter of evoking specific works of love and obedience in the real world of space and time, of matter and history, we're thinking like Gnostics.

Today, Gnosticism among contemporary Americans takes a slightly different form. Some of us may not be convinced that it's evil to have a body, but we are suspicious of our embodiment in the sense that to be embodied means to live in history, it means to live in a particular community, and it means to live in creation. Roger Lundin again has said that the form of our contemporary Gnosticism is to embrace the idea that the individual self can know truth immediately without any reference to the created order that Solomon himself relied on to know truth; without any reference to the community of faith that we're a part of, which is the church; without any reference to the tradition that we're a part of, which would be the theological tradition of the church. I think that's one of the reasons why denominations and sects have flourished in America; we have something like twenty-thousand denominations in this country-some outrageous number like that-because of the fact that we've been instilled with this idea that each individual has the capacity to know truth apart from any tradition, apart from history, apart from what God has done in the church or in nature
" (Kenneth A. Myers, 'More than Meets the Mouth Or, the Meaning of Meals,' Modern Reformation, July/August, Vol. 18 No. 4 2009, pp. 19-24).


  1. This is good. I'm often amazed at the profusion of denominations here in the U.S.

  2. Many, in a misguided attempt to distance themselves from everything Roman Catholic, have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in their refusal to accept the legitimacy of tradition, and so have created heretical traditions for themselves.

    There's no escaping tradition, nor should it be escaped from.


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