Is Christ Divided? Why are there so many denominations?

Is Christ Divided? Why are there so many denominations? Part 3

Denominationalism had received acceptance by the late 15th century.  Luther’s ideas had not been championed by Melancthon, Luther’s second in command (who later had come all the way to the New Testament position on most subjects but did not have the generalship to lead) and the gaffe left, gave rise for the world to have another who could decipher his beliefs from the inspired Word of God and tell mankind what God intended to say by His apostles in the Bible but was unable to articulate.  Among those most famous in this area was a French lawyer named John Calvin.  Born in the late 15th century, Calvin left Roman Catholicism while a young man and went to an area around Geneva, Switzerland.  The world now had two reformers of German descent, but that was about the only thing they had in common (Martin Luther had also aspired to be a lawyer).  When the Pope called on Charles V (a defender of the faith) to condemn Luther, Calvin was not going to risk such insult.   Invited to Geneva by the city fathers to reform the church, Calvin found his Jerusalem.  What had started out as a desire to restore the church of the New Testament in doctrine and practice soon became a climb to fame and fortune.  He forgot God and became god.   In Geneva, Calvin found the opportunity to preach the old Augustinian doctrine of predestination and write his catechism, called the Prayer book.  He eventually took the power of the government and in the first five years of his power executed 58 people and exiled another 75.  His boldest move was the execution of a Spanish doctor turned preacher, Servetes, in 1553, which they burnt alive atop his own written books that had come to Geneva to debate Calvin in public discussion.   He seemingly took no interest in his own native country of France but sent missionaries and preachers to her for years.  His doctrine came to England through one of his converts, John Knox, then to Scotland.  Calvin taught that God had chosen a select “elect” and nothing good or bad they might do would change their eternal destination, but, and if you were chosen to be eternally damned, there was nothing you could obey, do, or believe that would change your eternal consequences.  He sided with Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper and for this reason could not be a Lutheran.  His unearthly cruelty was evidenced in many ways.  He is said to have starved to death his oldest daughter for disobeying him.

No one had ever heard of the Presbyterian Church until John Calvin started it.  If she is the select of God, what happened to all those who lived and died before John Calvin was born? I guess it is alright to be “predestinated” to eternal life and not know about it, but what about being “predestinated” to eternal damnation and never having a chance? The Calvinist think the better they live, the more proof they are “predestinated” to eternal life, but if you NEVER knew you were “predestinated” to eternal damnation, it would be a little raw to wake up in Hell having lived all your life being an exemplary student of the life of Christ and not know you could never have been anything but LOST!!

Other doctrines the “lawyer from France” did not check with the Word of God about were “inborn sin” (called hereditary total depravity) and sprinkling for baptism.  I have often wondered why every Presbyterian has their children baptized (sprinkled) when one of them might be hereditarily totally depraved?  Maybe the doctrines of penances of Roman Catholicism was error, Mariolatry was sinful, and transubstantiation was completely absurd, but the idea that once you are in a certain family God would select you because of your parents church affiliation for eternal life seems a little profound.

At the same time in history King Henry VIII of England decided to divorce his wife and marry Anne of Boleyn.  Henry, being King, thought nothing of doing everything his way.  When he received word the Pope had decided to excommunicate him, Henry flew in a fury and started his own church which in the American continent is called the Church of England.  This church did not start as a reform movement, it started over who was the “guilty party” (whatever that is, I have never read this verbiage in God’s Word).  Not being among the reformed movements, it still spawned another of the modern day denominations called the Baptist Church.  Henry passed the decree that no one worshipped God in England in any other church than the Church of England, or be killed.  So corrupt she became in a short time that there arose a “separatist movement” that was a reform effort called, in mockery, the Baptist Church, started by a minister of the Church of England in 1602, John Smythe.

Is Christ Divided? Why are there so many denominations? Part 2

Europe had grown tired of the Roman Pontiff by the 14TH CENTURY.  The Papacy continued to increase, BUT a secret lust in the bosoms of Protestants for ecclesiastical power and patronage worked in the members of the Protestant Popes, who gradually assimilated their new church to the old.  Creeds and manuals, synods and councils, soon shackled the minds of men, and the spirit of reformation gradually forsook the Protestant church or was supplanted by the “spirit” of the world.

Luther was not alone; there were other “giants” in religion which appeared on the scene.  Erasmus and Zwingli.  Erasmus was the son of a protestant preacher out of wedlock and Zwingli was the scholar from Switzerland.  These two men helped set the minds of men looking toward the writings of the apostles and them alone.  Erasmus (who had personal conference with Luther) wrote: “the Roman Catholics have cultivated a religion of external acts and substituted pilgrimages, indulgences, and relics for true faith.”  Erasmus wrote:” the source of doctrine MUST BE the Bible, not the church; we have too long drunk from the fountain of the Papacy rather than through the word of God, and now we are in the troubled streams of traditions of men.  We must exalt the Bible above the church as the source of doctrine.”  Reading the writings of Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper one will think he is reading from a learned member of the Church of Christ, today.

Then appeared John Calvin, a very cruel man (it is recorded that he literally starved his oldest daughter to death to punish her for disobedience).  Calvin renewed the speculative theology of St. Augustine, and Geneva in a few years became the Alexandria of modern Europe.  The power of religion was soon mugged in debates about forms and ceremonies, in speculative opinions.  Fierce debaters were more interested in burning heretics than seeking truth.   Still, the wound inflicted upon the “man of sin” would never heal, it was incurable, his day of sole ruler in Europe, was over.

Reformation became the order of the day; and this, assuredly, was a great matter, however it may have been managed.  It was a revolution, and revolutions seldom move backward.  The example that Luther set was of more value than all the achievements of Charles V, or the literary and moral labors of his distinguished contemporary, the erudite Erasmus.

It is interesting how extremes begat greater extremes in every step of the reformation cause, to the dawn of the present century.  The penances, works of faith and supererogation, of the Roman church drove Luther and Calvin to the ultraism of “faith alone”!  Churches that started in European states HAD status and were THE religions of those states in which they began.  What saved Luther’s life on many occasions was the only fact that he was before a German court and Germans!!  I am told that still today, the Germans pay a tax to keep the Lutheran church buildings operating!

In debating, the Protestants had lost all affection for truth, and would as soon have “communed in the sacrament” with the Catholics as with one another; speculative abstracts of Christian Platonism, the divine mysteries of Egyptian theology, became alternately the bond of union and the apple of discord, among the fathers and friends of the Reformation.

The five great dogmas of the Geneva reformer (Calvin) were carried to Amsterdam, and generated in the mind of James Arminius, in 1591, five opposite opinions; and these at the Synod of Dort, in 1618, formed a new party of Remonstrants.  (Some new names you are not familiar with have disappeared but were the leading denominations of the day.  They did not survive the 100 year mark, but they were extremely important at that time).   This is JUST 500 years, ago.  Has your church been mentioned?

Into Britain came Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Arminianism!  Like all raw material, they were introduced, were immediately manufactured anew.  There were extortions, but the beggarly elements of opinion flourished more than on their own native soil.  Abroad it was no better.  The Saxon reformer had his friends; John of Picardy lived in the grateful remembrance of the Geneva family; and James of Amsterdam speculated in a very liberal style among all the Remonstrants at home and abroad.  See! you have never heard of some of the “greats in religion” of the 16th century!!   And Jesus prayed that we would “all be ONE.” The Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostals and more, have not historically arrived, yet!!

 

Is Christ Divided? Why are there so many denominations? Part1

Since the full development of the great apostasy, foretold by the Prophets and Apostles, numerous attempts at reformation have been made.  Three centuries, carrying with them the destinies of countless millions, have passed into eternity since the Lutheran effort to dethrone the “Man of Sin.”  In this period many great changes took place in our world.  Nations composing the western half of the Roman Empire greatly benefited by adjustments and no person acquainted with either political or ecclesiastical history can reasonably doubt man is now better.  Time, that great arbiter of human action, the great revealer of secrets, has long decided that all the reformers of the Papacy were public benefactors in all the states/countries in which they were welcomed.  The Protestant Reformation has proved to have been one of the most splendid eras in the history of the world, and must long be regarded as one of the most enlightening interpositions in the behalf of the human race.

We Americans owe our national privileges and our civil liberties to the Protestant Reformers.  They achieved not only an imperishable fame for themselves, but a rich legacy for their posterity.  When we contrast the present state of these United States with Spanish America, and the condition of the English nation with that of Spain, Portugal, and Italy, we begin to appreciate how much we are indebted to this faithful intelligence evidenced by Martin Luther and his heroic associates which began the reformation in 1519.    Mr. Luther restored the Bible to the world A.D. 1534, and boldly defended its claims against the impious and arrogant pretensions of the haughty and tyrannical ‘See of Rome.’  In a moving debate in defense of his life, Luther declared the now famous words: “Here I stand, I will not move, so help me God!”  Unfortunately, at his death, there was no Joshua to lead the people, who rallied under the banners of the Bible, out of the wilderness in which religion, and the spirit of reformation that he had flamed, to the “promised land of the New Covenant.”  His “back to the Bible” was soon quenched by rival political interests.  A secret lust for power and ecclesiastical supremacy was seen in the bosoms of Protestant churches.  The “new” movement was gradually assimilated back to the old.  Creeds, manuals, synods, and synods soon shackled the minds of men, and the spirit of reformation gradually forsook the Protestant church.  They became just the second act of error that had followed the Papacy.

Calvin, renewed the speculative theology of St. Augustine, and Geneva in a few years became the Alexandria of modern Europe.  The Spirit of Christ was soon merged into political burnings of heretics; the honorable debate in the arena of ideas was lost.  Still, however, in all these collisions much light was elicited; and had it not been for these extremes, it is problematical whether the wounds upon the “Man of Sin” would have been as incurable as it has since proved itself to be.  With Calvin’s staunch, unflinching demeanor, his followers, the Presbyterians, gained great foot holes in the minds of the seeking, intelligent that for the first time actually had a copy of the Word of God in their own languages and in their own houses of worship!

Reformation became the order of the day; and this, assuredly, was a great matter, however it may have been managed.  It was a revolution, and revolutions seldom move backward.  The example that Luther set was of more value than all the achievements of Charles V., or the literary and moral labors of his distinguished contemporary, the erudite Erasmus.   The long-seeking freedom in the political arena found its new home in the new denominations that were springing up all over Europe.  Some came into being without even confirmed beliefs.  The Baptist (Separatists) for example existed 80 years, from their inception in 1603 A.D., before they ever decided on the mode of baptism they would have in their churches.  First called Anabaptist, the other sect were called Pedobaptist.  Neither sect had the power to enforce their definition of baptism, which the Holy Spirit had already decided some 1600 years earlier.  Penances and works of faith drove Luther and Calvin to their “faith only” doctrines, not the Bible!