This past Sunday I made a visit to a good friend’s church and was delighted by their manner of teaching. It was a different denomination than the one with which I typically affiliate myself, which gave me the idea of writing a statement of my beliefs regarding Protestant and Catholic denominations. Without proper teaching on this matter, the church can act shameful by acting upon a misunderstanding of denominational purpose and mistreatment of believers who worship differently yet are on the same level of faith. With this post, I wish to counter that behavior as kindly, clearly, and effectively as possible.
(Note: All Scriptural quotations are taken from the New King James Version. Also, the statement about The Everlasting Man and C.S. Lewis’ faith was based on information here:
Gorman, Robert F. “G.K. Chesterton.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January. EBSCOhost, ezproxy1.hcplc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=88801619&site=eds-live)
The Purpose of Denominations
I should first like to point out that the true church, before Christ, is not a carefully-subdivided community; rather, it is one united body. Because of that, the denominations in the Christian church should not denote a hierarchy of “true,” “less true,” and “false” believers, and they should never be set in opposition toward each other. Instead, these sacred groupings are simply a means of briefly telling others the specific doctrine and/or system of church government one believes in. Denominations are a way of saying, “Yes, I am participating this race at the same speed as you and for the same purpose; I am just running in the way that best suits me as a child of God.”
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” ~Galatians 5:6
The Treatment of Differently-Affiliated Believers
If one is truly saved, it does not matter which denomination he chooses to guide his spiritual life; he deserves to be treated the same way as he would treat himself. Those of other denominations mustn’t look with disdain and despair upon a fellow believer and try to re-evangelize him. The people who do so attempt to judge the church according to man’s inventions and not according to the all-leveling judgement seat of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As long as two believers in two different denominations agree on the essentials—believing that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that everything it says is completely true—they are equal in God’s eyes and must be the same in the eyes of one another.
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” ~First Peter 3:8-9
My Standpoint on Catholicism
Although many Catholics believe in many of the same essentials as Protestants do—that man is totally depraved, that he needs a savior, that Jesus is that Savior—they also differ on points such as prayer to the saints and confession to priests. Nevertheless, I believe Protestants can learn much from their Catholic counterparts in the faith. One of my greatest heroes, G.K. Chesterton, wrote tremendously encouraging apologetics books (Orthodoxy, Heresy, The Everlasting Man) and was also a staunch Catholic. Not only can we learn from them, but they can also evangelize. Going back to the example of G.K. Chesterton, we find that The Everlasting Man helped C.S. Lewis turn to God as his Savior…and Lewis was quite the influential Protestant, to say the least.
Although I do not practice Catholic traditions, I do believe that Catholics can make a beautiful difference in the world by co-laboring with Protestants in helping the unsaved see their sin. Pope John Paul II, a devout Catholic, helped others see the evils of Communism, and that helped the United States’ cause during the Cold War. Because of all these things, I believe many Catholics are ultimately our brothers and sisters in the faith.
I hope this post has helped clarify not only my beliefs on denominations, but yours (more importantly). Ultimately, we should consider those who believe the basics of the Gospel to be fellow, equal children of the most high. Overall, no matter what denomination we are affiliated with, Christ is our Head, and we should take pride in belonging to Him…not Pastor John Doe’s denomination.
December 16, 2017