Friday, December 18, 2009

33,000 denominations and counting!

Here’s the Catholic version of church history in a nutshell: Jesus prayed for all Christians to be one (Jn 17:21); all Christians were one before the Photian schism, and then, with the Reformation, there has been escalating fragmentation so that we now have about 33,000 Protestant sects or denominations.

That’s a very intriguing take on Jn 17:21. On that interpretation, when God the Son Incarnate asked God the Father to make all Christians one, the Father answered his prayer by making Christians into 33,000 denominations. In other words, he gave his Son the polar opposite of what he asked for.

I suppose, if Jesus had it to do all over again (given the Catholic interpretation), he’d use reverse psychology on the Father.

And that’s not all. According to the Catholic interpretation, the prayer Jesus hasn’t merely gone unfulfilled. Rather, it’s gone progressively unfulfilled. The more time passes, the more unfulfilled it becomes. Christians started out as members of the one true church, back in the golden age before the Photian schism, but over time the prayer of Jesus has gone increasingly and exponentially unfulfilled.

On the Catholic interpretation of Jn 17:21, answered prayer is like a leaky container. God filled it to the brim, but as time goes by it drains away from full to three quarters full to half-full to a quarter full, and so on. Like watching a water cooler bubble and gurgle as it goes down…down…down.

So that’s how the Father “answered” Christ’s prayer. The answer is inversely proportional to the request. And with the passage of time it continues to diverge rather than converge. Indeed, to diverge at an ever accelerated pace.

That’s a very ingenious theology of prayer. It means that every good Catholic should have a pocket thesaurus of antonyms so that, whenever he prays, he can choose the right antonym to get exactly what he wants. First think of what you want, then look up a corresponding antonym which is diametrically opposed to what you want so that, by asking God for the antithesis of what you really want, he will unwittingly grant your wish by giving you just what you didn’t ask for.

It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it. But it helps to periodically reread Through the Looking-Glass to get yourself in the right frame of mind.


  1. Poor, poor, Jesus. We REALLY have to help him.

    Don't forget, by the way, that unspoken of schism, right in that "glorious millenium of unity under the pope," when the council of Ephesus mistakenly condemned Nestorius and created a schism in the church that was much farther reaching than the "Photian" schism you talk about.

  2. Yes John, although the Vatican has now conceded the basic legitimacy of theology of the modern followers of Nestorius:


    Back in the Middle Ages, almost all Christians east of Mesopotamia were Nestorians.

  3. How was the number of denominations determined? Source?
    I've seen that ~30,000 thrown around before, but not where in originally came from.

  4. Viisaus: I'm familiar with that document, and that, as you say, "almost all Christians east of Mesopotamia were Nestorians." They are almost all dead now, of course, and the 5th century schism that cast them off to be forgotten can't have helped in that regard. But neither Rome nor Constantinople will take credit for that one.

    Kraft: re. 33,000 denominations, see here:

  5. Kraft,

    It came from the same place Global Warming came from....

  6. The same source RC's use to bludgeon Prots with the many denoms "stat", also ranks Rome 5th on the all time murder list with just under 5 million killed.

  7. BK: I've mentioned that 5 million figure. No Catholics care to comment on that one either.

  8. "....reverse psychology on the Father....".

    I didn't know you could use reverse psychology on the Father?

    Geeesh, now I have to learn a new thing when I pray! grrrrr

  9. Steve,

    Actually, we believe Jesus' prayer to be infallible. The Church is no less one than it always has been. But there are many sects in schism from the Church.

    If you would like to avoid setting up strawmen when criticizing the Catholic Church or Catholic doctrine, please send me a note in advance.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  10. Principium Unitatis said...

    “Actually, we believe Jesus' prayer to be infallible.”

    Of course you say that. My point was about the logical implications and inconsistencies in the Catholic appropriation of this text. Do you really need to have that explained to you?

    “The Church is no less one than it always has been. But there are many sects in schism from the Church.”

    And therein lies the contradiction. If you quote Jn 17:21 as an ecumenical prooftext, and treat that petition as a goal which we should strive to reach, then you thereby imply that church history has thus far fallen short of the goal, in which case the terms of the prayer have been frustrated up until now, and for the foreseeable future.

    “If you would like to avoid setting up strawmen when criticizing the Catholic Church or Catholic doctrine, please send me a note in advance.”

    If you’d like to avoid raising maladroit objections when criticizing my arguments, please send me a note in advance.

    BTW, it’s a mark of your overweening self-conceit that you think people should turn to you for spiritual instruction on Catholic dogma. You’re a newbie convert to Catholicism (as of 2006). You have no theological degree from a Catholic seminary. You’re not a licensed Catholic theologian. And you’re not a member of the Magisterium. So try not to play the role of an authority on all things Catholic. It’s too much like the high school talent show.

  11. Disunity in the Trinity? If I were a Catholic, I suppose this wouldn't surprise me one bit. I've had a Catholic tell me Jesus failed to fulfill the will of the Father (per John 6:39), so I guess it makes sense that they'd believe the Father's fails to fulfill the will of the Son. Sad.

  12. Notice, too, that Principium Unitatis has referred to all of us Protestants as "sects" "in schism" from "THE Church".

  13. When Rabban Sauma, a Nestorian Christian ambassador of Mongol khans visited Western Europe in the late 13th century, neither European monarchs or even the papal courts prevented him from celebrating Mass with themselves.

    Rabban has been called a "reverse Marco Polo" - his own description of his travel to Europe can eb read here:



    And they went forth from that place, that is to say, from PARIS, to go to the king of England, to Kasonia (GASCONY?). And having arrived in twenty days at their city [BORDEAUX?], the inhabitants of the city went forth to meet them, and they asked them, "Who are ye?" And RABBAN SAWMA and his companions replied, "We are ambassadors, and we have come from beyond the eastern seas, and we are envoys of the King, and of the Patriarch, and the Kings of the Mongols." And the people made haste and went to the king and informed him [of their arrival], and the king welcomed them gladly, and the people introduced them into his presence. And those who were with RABBAN SAWMA straightway gave to the king the PUKDANA [i.e. letter of authorisation] of King Arghon, and the gifts which he had sent to him, and the Letter of Mar Catholicus (73). And [King Edward] rejoiced greatly, and he was especially glad when Rabban Sawma talked about the matter of Jerusalem. And he said, "We the kings of these cities bear upon our bodies the sign of the Cross, and we have no subject of thought except this matter. And my mind is relieved on the subject about which I have been thinking, when I hear that King Arghon thinketh as I think."

    And the king commanded Rabban Sawma to celebrate the Eucharist, and he performed the Glorious Mysteries; and the king and his officers of state stood up, and the king partook of the Sacrament, and made a great feast that day."

  15. John,

    And what would be the difference between a branch and a schism?

  16. Blogahon -- "The Church" which P.U. mentions was badly off its Scriptural moorings, in many ways, from a very early date. I know it is the method of Roman Catholics simply to assume that "The Church" (with the Pope of Rome in authority, of course) has always been what it has been.

    But you have to prove that, before you can even start asking dumb questions like the one you asked.

    Why not offer some context for your position before you start going off like that?

  17. Thanks for the link John

  18. Ecumenism Fail.

    Jesus does not want any of us to believe in lies or falsehoods; rather, he wants us to be united in the truth.

    The fact that he honors our free will and that men choose to go astray (in small and in large ways) does not nullify his prayers.

    Whether there are 1,000, 9,000, or 30,000 Protestant Ecclesial Communities doesn't matter much. There are too many, all teaching contradictory doctrines as truth.

    May Christ bless you guys and help us to get past the worthless polemics so we can seek him in truth together.