Challenge: Traditional Christians Are Divided

Posted: July 17, 2012 by Amy Hall in Choosing My Religion, Weekly Challenge

Continuing with our Mormonism theme this month, here’s an objection I often hear from Mormons:

There are more than 30,000 different traditional Christian denominations, but the true church, the LDS Church, is unified, just as Christ said it would be.

How would you respond to this? Take your best shot, then Brett will have Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry here to answer the question on Thursday.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Brett’s new booklet, The Ambassador’s Guide to Mormonism, which will start shipping very soon!

  1. So the Mormons are unified, huh?
    A quick Google shows that there are dozens and dozens of Mormon splinter groups and sects.

    But the important thing is, what are the (LDS) Mormons unified around? Unity for the sake of unity is worthless. Being unified in false doctrine is not a good thing.

    “Traditional” Christians may not be completely unified on every nuance of theology, but those of us that can assent to the ecumenical creeds are unified in the essentials of the faith.

  2. Albert says:

    Tacking on the word “true” doesn’t make it so.
    I could say, well, yeah, but the “true” Christian church is the one I go to. I would still have to show evidence that explains why I believe my church is the “true” Christian church. This doesn’t excuse any “true” Mormon from providing evidence as to why they are the “true” church.

    I know, I used a lot of quotes. It was either that or wrap them with tags.

  3. asurnameboy says:

    The “unified” Mormon church is unified like the Calvary Chapels are unified. In part because of the mandatory reading/sermon schedules they are on. But one thing that was said that isn’t true is the statement “Christian”. The LDS church is not a Christian organization nor are the members considered Christian, because they do not hold to the central core of Christianity like the Trinity and the person of Jesus.

    As I thought more and more about your post, I realized they are not unified. They have branched off. I first thought that most cults are unified… look at Islam, but then again, Islam is kinda divided into two parts. Then I thought, how does that relate to Mormonism – here’s how; you have the Mormons that own the land that was foretold by Joseph to be the new Jerusalem, who do not belong to the LDS church. your also have the TLC that branched off of the LDS church.

    These splits or divides occur because doctrinal differences, but they were originally of one mind. So, although it may appear that they are unified, like the pitch you get from the missionaries, that is just a front.

  4. Jesse Evans says:

    First, I really don’t think the 30,000 number is accurate. I’ll have to research it more thoroughly but the way I understand that figure to have been reached would greatly skew the numbers. If there is denomination ‘A’ in the US and the same denomination exists in 237 countries they would count as 237 different denominations. Maybe I’m mistaken. This hasn’t been an issue of much interest to me so I will defer to someone more educated on the topic if they wish to correct me.

    Second, as pointed out by others, there are divisions within Mormonism as well.

    Last, and most important, I’ll reiterate what Mike said. Though there are theological differences between Christian denominations, most that I am familiar with are in agreement on the central doctrines of the Christian faith, whereas Mormons are not remotely in agreement with the central doctrines. Where differences exist it appears to be largely secondary and tertiary issues.

    Additionally, most Christian denominations (excluding ‘Christian’ cults) don’t claim to be the ‘true church’ that is the only way to salvation. Most view those of other denominations as brothers and sisters in Christ. This shows me that though we may have some differences, ultimately, we are far more united in our belief than these kinds of arguments and statistics would lead people to believe.

  5. Erik says:

    I guess the answer would have to depend on their use of the word ‘unified’. Do they mean that all Mormon churches are exactly the same? I know for a fact that they’re not. True the Mormon church is ‘unified’ in the sense that individual churches within Mormonism will teach the same (or at least similar) lessons each week. True that they all answer to a central authority. And while there are splinter Mormon churches, what I would call the ‘main church’ certainly has the appearance of unity, not unlike the Roman Catholic church.

    But the better question is what does the Bible mean with respect to unity? Without going into a long drawn out comment, we could probably best summarize it in what Augustine said over 1,700 years ago: In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, charity. I can think of no better way to simplify the teachings of the Bible toward Christians than in this saying.

    The problem is that people look at the existence of multiple denominations to mean that we are all divided in our beliefs, that somehow every different Christian denomination has a belief that is completely different from another. While there are groups of churches that call themselves Christian and may have in fact very different views from other Christian churches, you can find among the major denominations some very important points of unity: the essentials.

    I myself attend a Presbyterian church. I have also been a member of a Foursquare church and a Baptist church. While all 3 had variations in the non-essentials such as how they performed a service, what kind of music was used, varying views on whether baptism was by immersion or by sprinkling and various views on the existence and use of spiritual gifts, all 3 agreed in the essential teachings of Christianity: There is one God, who exists in 3 persons, Jesus is the only way to salvation, the Bible is the inspired word of God, we are to share the gospel with the world, etc. At each church, I could be very comfortable knowing I was experiencing unity in the most important aspects of our Christian walk.

    The non-essentials allow for a unique sense of freedom. God did not make all people the same, rather He created a world full of people from different backgrounds, with different preferences in terms of musical style, worship style, etc. The Bible does not dictate that we are to worship God in a particular way (though we are told to worship Him in spirit and in truth), but he leaves us the freedom to tailor our expressions in a variety of ways. Having the freedom for each church to share it’s own sermons allows the Holy Spirit to speak to individuals and congregations as the need for those groups arise, rather than follow a directed teaching list that may not meet the spiritual needs of every person at every time.

    For the most part, the different denominations within Christianity represent an amazing variety of cultural influences while also providing a means for people with similar callings in ministry to focus their efforts in a particular way. I see the existence of denominations not as a reason to attack the Christian church, but rather as evidence that we can be the very different people God made us to be, yet share in a common unity of faith. It is this unity that I believe the Bible is teaching, not the focus on similar sermons or a single worldly authority.

    God is our authority. He has revealed himself in the Scriptures and offered salvation through His son, Jesus. If the church universal is unified in these teachings, the varied expressions of faith in Him can coexist very well.

  6. Frankly this challenge is laughable. Like Mike Westfall said, all it takes is a few minutes of internet search and any lay person finds out that the Mormon church is far from unified. They too have members who disagree about various doctrines and interpretations of the teachings of Joseph Smith.

    I would be bold enough to say that there is not a single religion on earth that can call itself “unified” if by unified you mean there is no disagreement over doctrine. Every religion from Christianity to Islam to Judaism to Hinduism to more obscure things like Christian Science and the Bahai Faith have numerous sects. Whether or not you give these sects names like the Methodists, Baptists, Sunnis, Shiites, etc. does not mean the doctrinal disagreements do not exist.

    Ravi Zacharias gave a brilliant answer to a Muslim student who raised this question to him. He said, “Unity, does not mean uniformity. What ultimately defines whether you’re a Christian or not is not what denomination you belong to, but whether you know Jesus in your heart as well.”
    ( skip ahead to 5:10ish for this question)

    Not every question is explicitly addressed by scripture and thus sometimes doctrinal disagreements will arise. Not everyone worships in exactly the same way, and thus different churches are formed. This can’t be stopped. However, only deviation from the core truths of Christianity is what results in a false religion that still lives under the guise of Christianity. This is exactly what Mormonism is.

    • Erik says:

      Thanks for posting the link to the Ravi Zacharias video. That was a nicely worded response to the Muslim, and that answer certainly fits this question as well.

  7. Cody says:

    As Ravi Zacharis has said,
    “Unification does not equal Uniformity”

  8. Dawn says:

    I would even go so far as to disagree that “traditional” Christians, as they put it, are divided (depending on what they mean by the word “divided”). To suggest such a thing betrays an ignorance of what it means to be a part of the Church. The Church is unified around a core set of essential doctrines. If anyone deviates from them, then they are by definition not part of the Church. The only “division” that might exist is in relation to issues that are not essential (form of government, style of worship, method of baptism, etc.). But despite these things there is still unity. It is actually a beautiful thing to see the different denominations come together as one Body of believers who are in agreement about the necessary doctrines.

    And as everyone else has pointed out, the Mormon church has experienced plenty of division. Yet I’m also a little confused how they can claim to be unified when they don’t even have a set of doctrines that never change. I was under the impression that no Mormon doctrine is “set in stone” and unchangable. Am I wrong in that belief?