Are Denominations Biblical?

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Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
In regards to Church of Christ churches, my understanding is that they do not believe in denominations or any governing body above the local church. They will fellowship with other CoC churches, yet they feel it imperative to remain independent. I am not too familiar with the CoC, but my understanding in their rejections of denominations is that they do not find this to be scriptural. What would be the best argument against this?
I think it safe to say the majority of us are members of churches that belong to denominations, so we don't have a problemw with this, yet I am finding it difficult to explain to someone that denominations are acceptable, commendable, and/or biblical. I do believe that accountability would be a argument for a church beyond the local congregation, but what might be some verses to back this up?
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I don't think churches should be "independent". I think they should work together to support each other as Paul commends some of the churches for in his letters. (Sorry, I don't have the references handy.) But I don't think the concept of dividing into denominations by theological particulars is taught in Scripture. I could be wrong.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't think churches should be "independent". I think they should work together to support each other as Paul commends some of the churches for in his letters. (Sorry, I don't have the references handy.) But I don't think the concept of dividing into denominations by theological particulars is taught in Scripture. I could be wrong.

So then in effect, you agree with the Churches of Christ?
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I don't think churches should be "independent". I think they should work together to support each other as Paul commends some of the churches for in his letters. (Sorry, I don't have the references handy.) But I don't think the concept of dividing into denominations by theological particulars is taught in Scripture. I could be wrong.

So then in effect, you agree with the Churches of Christ?

Not if the CoC feels it imperative to remain independent. I said I don't think churches should be independent. They should cooperate together to share financial and spiritual burdens and so forth.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
If you believe in Presbyterian polity, you have no choice, as long as doctrinal and pragmatic differences remain. Eliminating denominations is desirable, but there are only two ways to do it--become an independent congregationalist or unite the Church.

Or you could take the WELS approach and just declare your denomination "the Church."
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In one sense, denominations are caused by sin, and are inevitable, both. So, to say as the CoC is reported above to say, that they are anti-denominational seems foolish, since they are a defacto denomination. But perhaps, what they are saying is only that they are anti-hierarchical, as many denominations are. They deny the "structure" of denomination, preferring only to maintain a kind of "flat" equality of form and function. How this would be different from typical Baptist or Congregational conventions or associations? I don't know. Probably less formality and supervision of collective activity, or conformity of beliefs and practice (under discipline of the whole).

I think it was Hodge (or Warfield) who used money as an illustration of denominations. If you could have one bill, which "denomination" would you rather have, $1? $5? $10? $100 ? The money is the same currency, unless it is counterfeit. However, each is worth more than the other. So too with church denominations. If it is recognizably Christian, it is the right currency. However, what distinguishes one denomination from another is one's superior value. You want the denomination that will give the most bang for the buck, if value is being measured by fidelity to the truth.

So, pick your denomination. If someone says, "Denominations are bad--each "bill" should buy exactly the same amount," this is naiive. Churches vary in quality. Furthermore, churches that are unaccountable to the rest of the (or some) larger body are adrift. Most separate denominations are between the "total control" of the hierarchical pyramid, and absolute congregationalism. So, defining one's terms at the start of this debate is pretty significant.
 

Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
I agree with Rev. Buchanan, that denominations are caused by sin, but I'm not so sure that they are inevitable, at least if one is a congregationalist. If a local church is truly congregational, they will join associations, but they are free to join other associations as well, such as interdenomational assocations like ACTS 29, 9 Marks, T4G, and the Gospel Coalition, all which have the same binding authority as a congregational union would. This is one major strength of congregationalism as polity, it's ability to break through denomational barriers and theological barriers (such as baptism and how each individual church should function as a unit, as well as what type of worship is Biblical) that would normally cause there to be total separation. I would speculate that this was one reason Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a congregationalist, for its ecumencial capability.

This is not to say that I disagree with the fact that the C of C do, in fact, become a denomination, because they do by virtue of their belief that they can only associate with other congregations who agree with them on all things. My father grew up in a Church of Christ which banned all instruments, believed all Sunday School was evil, and taught all the other specifics of that branch of Restorationist theology which is nothing other than hyper-Arminianism.
 
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