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What is the TRUE Cause of Divisions in the Church?



On 12/9/2011, in a Christian online forum, one Christian wrote the following, after some of us were for the most part, intelligently debating our different views which did not have trivial differences, but rather important differences:
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More diversions.  We are Christians.  Period.  We are that by Christ and we can't claim any other title.  Or anything that SEPARATES us from each other.  That brings division among us.

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them
 
1 Corinthians 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
 
I don't call myself a baptist, a methodist, this or that...I'm a Christian.  I was saved as a child.  I only needed God and His word.  


Here is my response to what she wrote:

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Certainly, Christians are not supposed to make divisions between ourselves.  The Bible verses you quoted directly apply to the issue of divisions.  However, your application of these passages is not quite accurate.

Yes, we are all Christians, and it is not an ideal thing to subdivide ourselves into denominations. However, these passages you quote are not just talking about trivial doctrinal differences between believers.  Until the 20th Century, most new Christian denominations were created because the older ones ABANDONED their BIBLE-based faith, and the new denomination was merely returning to the original faith.  Unfortunately, most new denominations today have NOTHING to do with returning to a BIBLE-based faith, but have distanced themselves more and more from biblical faith, redefining Christian doctrine and terminology so as to water down and abandon more of the Bible-based faith, and in its place, are providing a more "seeker friendly" (lukewarm but entertaining) environment, void of the Gospel mention of sin and hell. 

The important question is, who is REALLY the ones causing DIVISIONS amongst us, according to Scriptures? Is it Christians who are OPENLY trying to get back to a BIBLE-based faith,or are they someone else?  Please prayerfully consider who the Bible identifies as the REAL culprits behind divisions in our churches:

1 Cor 11:18-19
18    For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19    For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

Please note, the divisions Paul referred to in chapter 1 were not over trivial non-important things.  They MUST have been due to HERESIES that came into their church! The divisions were caused by HERETICS.  In case you think I am exaggerating, please consider these related Bible passages also:

2 Pet 2:1-3
1    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be FALSE teachers among you, who will SECRETLY introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
2    And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
3    and in {their} greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

(these false teachers are NOT Christians, but are wolves in sheep's clothing, pretending to be Christians, exploiting us with false words)

And also consider this passage:

Jude 1:3-4,16-19
3    Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our COMMON salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
4    For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
16    These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their {own} lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of {gaining an} advantage.
17    But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,
18    that they were saying to you, "In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."
19    These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

"Contend earnestly" is from epagonizomai: to fight, and it is where we get the word, "agonize" from. Unfortunately, most Christians today WRONGLY call such Christians that contend earnestly for the faith the ones causing divisions.  Wrong!  The ones causing divisions among us are NON-CHRISTIANS who pretend to be Christians!  And they cause divisions SECRETLY, using FLATTERY, not sharp or "divisive" sounding language or tone!

With this biblical context that teach us what division in the church is all about, let's take a closer look at the verses you quoted, and see what they really are teaching:

Rom 16:17-18
17    Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18    For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
(KJV)

Even though I now prefer the KJV of the Bible, the NAS is easier to understand in verse 18:

Rom 16:18
18    For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
(NAS)

We are NOT to shun those who earnestly contend for the true biblical faith that was once and for all delivered to us, but to shun those who have secretly introduced heresies by their use of smooth and flattering speech!

Now, let's look at the other passage that was quoted in regards to not having divisions between denominations:

1 Cor 1:10-11
10    Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11    For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

It is important that we earnestly work to all speak the same thing, having the same mind and same judgment.  This does not mean that we all shut up and just be happy that we are Christians.  It means that we are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Again, recall what Paul said in this same book about those who are causing these contentions:

1 Cor 11:18-19
18    For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19    For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

Thus, 1 Cor 1:10 and following is not simply talking about minor differences between believers, or who was more special because of who baptized who.  It had to do with DANGEROUS HERESIES that were associated with these seemingly more trivial issues.  It was in some way causing "divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned" (Rom 16:17).

There is a famous saying that I used to agree with, until I did more study and thinking about its meaning:

IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.

Yes, if you quickly read it, it sounds biblical, and most Christians seem to think it is.  However, a red flag should go up, if for no other reason, because this quote appears to be CATHOLIC in origin.  What are the essentials to a CATHOLIC?  One essential is to believe in salvation by WORKS, not faith.  MILLIONS of Christians were tortured and put to death for not agreeing to Catholic "essentials" such as this. So much for their talk of "liberty" and "charity." 

Even if this quote did not originate from the Catholics, it is still meaningless, UNTIL YOU CAREFULLY DEFINE WHAT THE ESSENTIALS ARE!  Heretics are VERY CLEVER in how they re-define the essentials, and we dumb sheep Christians who forget to continually and earnestly contend for THE FAITH, over and over are fooled by these re-defined essentials.  For example, most evangelical churches & seminaries in the USA today now embrace Emergent Church/Contemplative Spirituality/Dominionist heresies, which were designed to get Christians to help build the coming one-world religion and government of the Antichrist, and it is all being done in the name of "in essentials unity!"  The Catholic Church is behind this ecumenical movement, which is designed not only to bring together all "Christians," but also bring ALL OTHER RELIGIONS TOGETHER!

Many Christians are heavily influenced (whether they know it or not) by the teachings of "Christian" Soren Kierkegaard.  He is considered to be the Father of Existentialism.  By using very Christian-sounding words, and misapplication of the Bible, he re-defined what biblical faith in God means.  He effectively taught that biblical faith had NOTHING to do with thinking or evidence.  He taught that Faith consists in a SUBJECTIVE relation of absolute commitment to these [Christian] doctrines.

Yes, we can have a subjective response to the doctrines of God, but THEY ARE NOT THE BASIS OF OUR FAITH.  Objective evidence, such as the testimony of believers who walked with Jesus while He was on earth, is a big part of our basis for our Faith:

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Even though Kierkegaard does not appear to be credited for being the Father of Situational Ethics, I will argue that he was the father of this heresy. 

Situational Ethics in a nutshell, says, "Love is the ultimate law," which does not mean we have to obey God's commandments as the Bible teaches, but (t)his means that all the other laws are only guidelines to how to achieve this love, and thus they may be broken if the other course of action would result in more love.

In Kierkegaard's book, Fear and Trembling, he opened the door to the idea that Abraham was forced into a moral dilemma, where he was supposedly torn between either obeying God's command to not murder, and the more direct command to "murder" his son, Isaac.  This led to the commonly held belief in situational ethics by many Christians and others, where one is somehow justified in breaking one law to keep another "higher" law. 

This sums up Kierkegaard's view:

No imposed structures—even Biblical commandments—can alter the responsibility of individuals to seek to please God in whatever personal and paradoxical way God chooses to be pleased. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_existentialism )

The problem here, is that existentialism by definition, sees all FINAL AUTHORITY as residing inside of each of us, not outside of us:

Existentialism is philosophical and literary tendency that typically displays a dismissal of abstract theories that seek to disguise the untidiness of actual human lives and emphasizes the subjective realities of individual existence, individual freedom, and individual choice. It is virtually impossible to define absolutely as it is now so broad in its approaches but some of its major strands can be outlined.
There is an emphasis on each person finding their own way in life, on making choices, (including, in particular, all serious and momentous life-choices), for oneself as one sees fit without reliance on external standards or practice. This tendency to effectively deny that there is an acceptable basis for moral decision making diverges markedly from an earlier, and often largely unquestioned faith-related, emphasis that there could be, and indeed were, moral standards to which all might beneficially conform. (from http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/philosophy/existentialism.html )

In case you missed the application, one of the "external standards" that would be excluded by existentialists is the Bible!  They have the moral right before God to not have to live according to it! 

So, back to Kierkegaard's alleged dilemma. Did Abraham really have to choose between TWO conflicting commands of God, or not?
In the 10 Commandments, we are told, "thou shalt not KILL." However, most people do not know that there are at least NINE DIFFERENT Hebrew words in the Old Testament that are all translated to the English word, "kill." The Hebrew word for "kill" in the 10 commandments (Exod 20:13) is ratsach, which only means premeditated murder. The Torah (Old Testament Law) gives us quite a few examples of what IS murder, and what is not. God in fact many times commands Israel to KILL others, which biblically is not the same as murder.

For example, here is a passage where God commands Israel to KILL many of their own people:

Exod 32:27 And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Every man {of you} put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and KILL every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.'"

The Hebrew word for "kill" here is not ratsach, but harag, which means "to smite with deadly intent". It does not mean unsanctioned murder! How about the words used in the passage regarding God commanding Abraham to kill his son:

Gen 22:2 And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."

Please note that there are NO Hebrew words here specifically referring to killing, but it is certainly implied. This verse finally gives a specific Hebrew word for what God commanded him to do:

Gen 22:10 And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

The Hebrew word for "slay" here, is shachat, which at least 90 percent of the time has to do with Levitical sacrifices. This is not just some mere argument between synonyms. A VERY DIFFERENT Hebrew word is used here than the one used in regards to unsanctioned murder. If it was NOT different in meaning, then the Laws of God ARE IN CONTRADICTION! However, they are not in contradiction.

Recall that one of the main principles of existentialism is that all FINAL AUTHORITY resides inside of each of us, not outside of us.  This means that the Bible is not the final authority for all things.  We are the final authority.  This brings to mind some sobering Bible verses:

Prov 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

Prov 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

Prov 30:12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

Prov 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

In agape love, let us continue to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.  That means shun those who cause divisions (secretly teach heresies among us), not those who openly fight for God's Word.  Seek the truth and contend for it, agree to disagree, but don't shut up about what you believe is the truth when it differs from another Christian.  GOD will bring unity of the faith through this process, not on OUR time schedule, but on HIS.  In the meantime, let's not just be quiet about our differences, but lovingly continue to dialog about them.

Eph 4:11-16
11    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12    For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13    Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14    That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15    But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16    From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.


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