Chaplain John Oas

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Chaplain John Oas

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FAQ#5: Why are there so many branches of Christianity? Which one is right?

There's no denying that Christians have done an outstanding job of splintering off into a staggering number of denominations and sects. A 1995 census of religious groups in America identifies over 150 Christian denominations (including 19 different Baptist groups), and doubtless many more exist worldwide. Which of them, if any, is "right"?

First, it should be noted that differences of opinion among Christians are nothing new. The New Testament contains a number of accounts of disagreements and factions among the earliest believers. Unfortunately, this ancient trend has never changed and is unlikely to do so, given the weaknesses and shortcomings of Christ's followers. Though Jesus himself expressed the desire that his Church be characterized by love and unity (see John 17), Christians through the ages have rarely lived up to this standard.

Having acknowledged that, it is also important to realize that the vast majority of differences among Christians have arisen from disagreements over "non-essential" issues. Should baptism be by immersion or sprinkling? Can women be ordained as ministers? What form of church government should be adopted? Is dancing permissible for Christians? While some of these questions may be important and worth debating, none of them can be considered absolutely essential to the faith.

And with all that disagreement over peripheral issues, Christianity has remained remarkably consistent on the central beliefs that define the faith: the divinity of Christ, his sacrificial death for our sins, and the need for repentance and faith to enter into a right relationship with God. That is the heart of the Gospel, and it has never changed. Sure, some people have called even those basic beliefs into question, but in doing so they have placed themselves outside the Christian faith.

So it is probably impossible to find one group or denomination that is right about everything, but we can all be right about what matters most.

Are you ready to be right about what matters the most?
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