Are Christian denominations good or bad?


luther-95theses-humor-memeI’m currently in a Church History class going through the Reformation period of Christianity. During the Reformation, Martin Luther’s partner in crime (literally) was Philipp Melanchthon. After Luther’s death, Melanchthon carried the torch as a leader of the movement spreading throughout the Medieval world. In the years following the start of the Reformation, there were several different strains of non-Catholic Christianity that popped up.

To withstand the Catholic majorities at the time, these non-Catholic groups started talking about what it would look like to unify under one banner. Believe it or not, even though all these movements were really young and were reacting to the same problems they saw in Catholicism, these groups had really big differences between them that were hard to overcome.

In these conversations, an aging Melanchthon used an old Greek philosophical phrase to suggest a way forward: Adiaphora. Greek for “indifferent things”, he used it to describe how he felt that some beliefs and practices could be considered adiaphora (non-essentials), and could be compromised on for the same of unity. He argued with his fellow Lutherans that some beliefs were more essential to Christianity than others and didn’t require so much division. The others around him, of course, disagreed.

This got me thinking about the trajectory this set for us today. We now feel perfectly free to think a whole host of different things and still call others Christians. And yet still, much of Christianity’s most bitter judgmentalism and cries of heresy, unfaithfulness, sin, and arrogance are directed towards other who are also trying to follow the God of Jesus best they can. This has caused rifts, schisms, splits, and divisions into a huge number of Church denominations. Is this healthy for us? What does Christian “unity” look like? Do we all need to look the same?
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Love your neighbor…even other denominations | Matthew 22:34-40


When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:34:40

I find it fascinating that this opens with the fact that the Pharisees were only respecting Jesus and calling him Teacher because he had smacked down their fellow Jews who happened to be in a different “denomination”. How often do we do this? How often do we latch on to a teacher not because God meets us in their  proclamation, but because they reaffirm our beliefs and/or put down those we disagree with? Fellow family members in the people of God, no less! How dare we?

This is why I find it brilliant that Jesus stresses the vertical in the greatest commandment, but he also throws in the necessity of loving our neighbors as well. Don’t miss this. He essentially adds a human-relational dimension to the Shema, one of the most beloved of Jewish texts! And so he incorporates how we treat others as just as essential as how we love God. When we don’t love those around us-especially the fellow people of God that we disagree with-we break the most important of commandments and fall short in loving our God.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Holy Spirit exorcizes, no matter who you are | Matthew 12:24-28


But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

Matthew 12.24-28

Even those that are not the people of God exorcise by the Holy Spirit. Don’t be so quick to discount the healing just because you disagree with the person or even if they’re not Christian! God is the Gospel of healing. However shalom happens, it is the Spirit that brings it.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.