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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Bible Basics: An Introduction to Christian Beliefs

Don Stewart :: Why Don’t All Christians Agree on Doctrinal Matters? (Why Are There So Many Different Denominations?)

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Question 12

Why Don’t All Christians Agree on Doctrinal Matters? (Why Are There So Many Different Denominations?)

If the same Holy Spirit controls each and every Christian, then why doesn’t everyone agree on all matters of belief? Why are there so many differing opinions? Why do we find so many different Christian denominations if everything is so clear? Shouldn’t we expect Christians to agree on what they believe?

The Problem Is Not with God

First, the problem of Christians disagreeing among themselves has nothing to do with anything lacking with God or His Word. God is a God of order. Thus, we expect to find a consistent system of teachings that comes from Him.

Furthermore, since God is true, all facts that He reveals will be consistent. Since there is only one Author behind the Bible—God—any problems of understanding the Scripture are the problems of those interpreting—not of the Bible itself or its ultimate author.

Why Are There Differences among Bible Believers?

Why then the differences? There are actually a number of reasons. They include the silence of written revelation, our own lack of knowledge, and the possibility that we have not checked out all the information available. We can make a number of observations.

  1. God’s Word Is Silent or Not Conclusive on the Topic

    The silence of God’s Word on a number of topics must be recognized. Scripture tells us nothing about certain subjects in which we would be interested. The Bible acknowledges this fact. Moses wrote:

    The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 KJV)

    There are secret things which belong to the Lord and to Him alone.

    Jesus told His disciples that they would understand certain things at a later date. We read:

    You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things. (John 13:7 NET)

    While this statement refers to things that would be revealed later, there are many things that we will not know on this side of heaven. At times, the Scriptures may address a topic, but not in a conclusive or thorough manner. This must be appreciated.

  2. It May Be Our Lack of Ability to Understand

    A second problem is our lack of knowledge, or lack of ability. The Scripture itself recognizes our lack of knowledge on spiritual subjects. The psalmist asked that his eyes would be open to receiving the truth of God. He wrote the following:

    Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. (Psalm 119:18 NIV)

    On the day of His resurrection, when the risen Christ appeared to His disciples, we read the following:

    Then opened he [Jesus] their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:45 KJV)

    The Bible recognizes that we know only in part. Paul wrote the following to the church in Corinth:

    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (1 Corinthians 13:9 NET)

    The Message translates it this way:

    We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. (1 Corinthians 13:9 MsgB)

    Even the most learned of us will only have partial knowledge. Human beings will never be able to fully comprehend God.

    Consequently, we must come to the study of the Word of God with a certain amount of humility. We must appreciate the fact that we are limited in our knowledge.

  3. We May Not Have Studied Everything on a Particular Subject

    We should be careful to make our doctrinal judgments based upon the totality of Scripture. Often judgments are made by appealing to two or three randomly selected passages, or to some weak translation of a particular passage, rather than to all of Scripture. This type of study will not lead us to firm conclusions.

    This is why the Scriptures command us to test “all things.” Paul wrote:

    Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21 God’s Word)

    The Bible also commends those who check out the truth. In fact, special mention is made of the people in Berea who were constantly searching the Scripture. The Bible says:

    And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth. (Acts 17:11 NLT)

    Although we have done our best to be objective and thorough in putting together these various books in “The Complete Bible-Answer Series,” we certainly realize our own limitations.

    Therefore, everything that we, or anyone else, may teach should be checked out and verified from the Scripture. It is the only infallible source!

  4. All Bible-Believing Christians Agree on More Things than They Disagree

    Something else needs to be emphasized. Christians do disagree with one another on certain doctrinal points, and the many denominations illustrate this fact.

    However, it must be stressed that Christians agree on much more than they disagree. Bible-believers are united in accepting the main truths of the Christian faith. This includes the following basic truths:

    The Bible is God’s written revelation of Himself to the human race. In the Bible we find that Jesus Christ is the living God who became a human being. He lived a sinless life while here on the earth, died on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world, and then rose from the dead on the third day.

    He soon thereafter ascended into heaven and will come back some day to judge the living and the dead. Those who believe in Him will have everlasting life in God’s presence and those who do not believe will be separated from God for all eternity.

    These are a few of the main points which all Bible-believing Christians embrace. In comparison to what unites us, the differences which Christians have, are relatively minor.

    Thus, we can conclude that believers in Christ are more united in their beliefs than they are divided.

Summary - Question 12
Why Don’t All Christians Agree on Doctrinal Matters? (Why Are There So Many Denominations?)

There are a number of matters in which Bible-believing Christians disagree with each other; the existence of the various Christian denominations illustrates this fact.

However, any problems are not due to God or His Word. He and His Word are perfect. It is our system of interpretation that is fallible.

The reason why believers differ among themselves can be attributed to a number of things. For one thing, God has not revealed everything that we would like to know about Him ? only the things which we need to know. Also, He may have only partially revealed truth about a particular subject; His revelation on the subject was purposefully incomplete.

In addition, Scripture recognizes the lack of knowledge that all of us have on spiritual subjects. Even the wisest of us has only partial knowledge about any issue. Because we only know partially, we should test all things that claim to be spiritually true.

There is the possibility that we have not considered everything that the Bible says about a particular subject. Thus, our view may be based upon insufficient information. We may need to study the subject further. It is because of these reasons that well-meaning Bible-believers disagree with one another.

Having said that, it is crucial that we emphasize that Bible-believing Christians are in agreement among themselves on the main beliefs of the faith. There is no disagreement among Christians concerning the sinlessness of Jesus Christ, the fact of His death on the cross for the sins of the world, that He rose from the dead, or that He is the one way to reach the one God.

Consequently, there is much more that unites us than divides us.

In What Ways Should Christian Doctrine Be Studied? ← Prior Section
What Do We Do When Certain Doctrines Seemingly Contradict Each Other? (Paradoxes and Concurrent Truths) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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