Here’s a church practice I’d like to see permanently retired: Denomination-bashing.
There are over 30,000 denominations of Christianity worldwide. Now, I understand that not everyone is going to practice their faith in the same way. The problem is, we’re constantly arguing over who has the correct interpretation of Scripture. We spend a heck of a lot of time explaining not only why our doctrine is right but why another denomination has it all wrong.
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, “The Bible is clear about [fill in the blank].” I would be able to retire in style to a tropical island of my own. It’s a nice sentiment, but there’s one problem.
It ain’t quite true.
If the Bible were so clear, we would have one type of Christianity. Everyone would study the text in the same way, resulting in the same answers. There wouldn’t be any disagreement about doctrine, because we would all understand the Scriptures to mean the same thing. There would be no reason for our thinking or our interpretation to evolve. There would be no need to understand cultural context and cues.
But that’s not the real problem with “The Bible is clear…” mentality. When someone says that, it puts a period on the conversation. It means, “I don’t agree with you, and I’m done talking to you.” It shuts down the possibility of further discussion. A person would be just as effective saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong. Neener, neener.”
This little phrase reduces our faith to little more than an argument about whose doctrine is the Official Way to Practice Our Religion. It builds walls instead of bridges. It allows pastors to preach on the other guy—to give Sunday messages that, instead of leading us to deeper faith in Jesus, simply explain why those people can’t possibly be real Christians.
You know what? I don’t care who’s right. There is no situation in which I find it remotely acceptable to spend the better part of an hour lecturing on why someone else’s religion or doctrine or theology is wrong. Just in case anyone has forgotten, neither did Jesus. He said he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He healed Gentiles. He told the Samaritan woman that one day, theological differences wouldn’t matter.
If a church is spending any time at all trying to convince people that some other church has things all wrong, then that church is putting emphasis on the wrong things. Lead people to deeper faith; encourage spiritual discipline; help believers to live a more Christ-like life. But lay off your superiority when it comes to differences in doctrine. That doesn’t do anything to foster healing and wholeness.
It’s time that churches stopped saying to each other, “You’re doing it wrong.”