Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thank God for denominations

One of the standard Catholic objections to Protestantism is the proliferation of denominations. Ironically, enemies of Christianity like Bart Ehrman raise the opposite objection: they allege that the early church suppressed dissent.

This unwittingly draws attention to one of the unappreciated values of sects, schisms, denominations, and even cults. In a theological controversy, you usually have winners and losers. However, this doesn’t mean the losers surrender to the winners, or ride quietly into the sunset.

Quite often, the losers simply break with the establishment and form their own associations. Rival factions. Even if they eventually die out, they generally leave some trace evidence of their passing. Church history is layered with fossils from extinct religious parties.

And one of the fringe benefits of this phenomenon is that it makes it far harder to for massive conspiracy theories like Bart Ehrman’s version of church history to gain traction. The winners have no monopoly on writing or rewriting church history. They can’t erase the record of past dissent.

If, however, Catholics had their way, that would play right into the worst suspicions of the conspiracy theorist. The official version would be the only version. There’d be nothing else to compare it to. You’d have to exercise blind faith in the official, expurgated version of events.


  1. "Church history is layered with fossils from extinct religious parties."


    i have to borrow that.

    How about Luther arguing with Zwingli, wasn't it, about the Lord's Supper, when he took a knife and carved in the table in Latin: Hoc est enim corpus meum, this is my body.

    I think that's how it happened.

    So you have Lutherans and Presbyterians.

    My history could be a bit off here, or even lousey, but the point is that I thank our Lord for denominations as well.

  2. Ditto. They keep tribal arrogances in check.

  3. Thank God for denominations.

    Thank you Lord.

  4. Besides, if not for denominations, we'd all be in the same church with Benny Hinn.

  5. The older I get, (the wiser I get?, debatable), the more problems theologically I see in all the denominations out there right now. Or maybe it's just the local churches that are the problems. Or maybe it's just me.

  6. "If, however, Catholics had their way, that would play right into the worst suspicions of the conspiracy theorist. The official version would be the only version. There’d be nothing else to compare it to. You’d have to exercise blind faith in the official, expurgated version of events."

    This is pretty much what happened to the losing Iconoclastic party in the 8th century Byzantium.

    John Mendham describes how RC/EO historians have slandered the memory of iconoclast emperor Constantine V "Copronymus" - "dung-named" being the childish nickname that pro-icon writers gave to him:


    pp. xl-xlii

    "The Emperor died while engaged in war with the Bulgarians, and few things have more delighted historians than to gloat with most unchristian malice over every circumstance of his death, and one writer after another, as they had previously blackened the character of Constantine, so they add something to make the dying hours of the Emperor more awful and terrific.

    Baronius concludes his remarks thus with allusion to Protestants: — "In such a leader let our innovators glory: him let them exalt as they do with praises; but let these blasphemers of the Saints hear the buzz of the beetle involved in his own dung: let them roll about the same stercoraceous pellets as did he — namely, while they equally augment the same filthy heresies — since, beyond all question, they also in hell shall suffer the same punishment of which he, when about to die, experienced so awful a foretaste: for, while he thus expressed his expectation of the sentence of eternal condemnation against himself, he signified no less than that all his followers would suffer the same."

    Thus, by this writer, Constantine was sentenced to eternal wrath, because he kept the second commandment and compelled others to do the same, and all we who observe that command are in like manner to be condemned! — Let us compare this account with a like history of the death of Calvin from the pen of the Jesuit De Ballinghem, for thus he writes: —

    "Of which blasphemies against Christ, and against the Virgin, and of his other heresies, a most miserable death was his reward: for he died being eaten of worms, agonized with a foul internal ulcer! Moreover, in invocating demons, in devoting himself to the furies, in cursing the day and the hour in which he first gave himself to literature and writing, he breathed out his miserable soul."

    So writes this Jesuit. Now for the fact: — "The remainder of his days (says Beza) Calvin passed in almost perpetual prayer. He departed without even a sigh, in the full possession of his powere to the last."

    If such misrepresentations were unblushingly put forth in an age when the art of printing, open to all, could easily manifest their falsehood, how much more might we expect this to be the case when books were scarce — when but few copies of a work could be published — when every statement which pleased not a dominant party could be easily destroyed. Had Beza published his account in the eighth century it would soon have perished, and the slanders of the Jesuit had come forth without contradiction."

  7. See also:


    "In mocking words, the council commanded that all writings opposed to icons be turned over to the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose job it was to prevent these writings from being read. This command was to be enforced by deposing clergy from office and excommunicating laymen and monks:

    "All boyish whimwhams and mad bacchanalia, the false writings that have been brought forth against the venerable icons, must be turned in to the Bishopric of Constantinople to be put away together with the rest of heretical books. If, on the other hand, anyone should be found hiding these, if he be a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon, let him be deposed from office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated."

  8. Interesting post, and today I received a mail about catholics saying protestants are wrong because they are always creating denominations, the article says:
    - protestants are against the body of Christ, they are always creating new denominations
    - Paul was against separation inside the church
    - protestants are fragmenting the body of Christ, there is not union.
    - the article uses lots of verses.

    I need some articles/links with biblical references so I can refute this article, can you help me, please?