Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

The One True Church?

Written by johnleemk on 2:47:46 pm Jul 28, 2007.

One thing that befuddles me quite a bit about monotheistic religions is their tendency to insist on conformity, because they see it as equivalent to unity. Considering the invalidity of this thinking in other aspects, it seems to stand to reason that theology should be no less free from such ideas. (Though, I suppose, it is quite dangerous to bring in reason into a matter of faith.)

Being a Christian, I am mindful of the fact that the Bible often refers to one united church. What confuses me is the consistent assumption on the part of many (especially those of the Catholic persuasion) that to be united, the Christian community has to follow one set of doctrines and to assume one denominational label.

As far as I am concerned, the church consists of all Christians, regardless of what they call themselves. And for me, the only determining factor of whether you are a Christian is whether you believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, and accept his redeeming gift. (I think this simple definition is sound by virtue of the fact that a thief crucified at the same time as Jesus who placed his faith in Jesus was told that he would be with him "this day in paradise".)

If you accept these latter two definitions, then surely it sensibly follows that it doesn't matter whether you are a Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, or Greek Orthodox, or what have you — as long as you adhere to the basic tenet of Christianity, you are a Christian and thus part of the universal church.

For this reason, I am always puzzled when some — typically Catholics (not surprising, since "catholic" is the Latin word for "universal") — argue that only one denomination is the one true church. (The most prominent person to recently do this was the current Pope.)

Disappointingly, this usually results because of a dispute over the definition of Christian, as opposed to over the definition of the church. (Some people may try to spin the argument as over what constitutes the universal church, but boiled down to the basics, it is revealed as a debate over what constitutes a Christian.)

Usually, the reason for this exclusive thinking — whether it emanates from fundamentalist Baptists or zealous Roman Catholics — is that additional requirements have been tacked on for salvation. To be a saved Christian, it is not enough to believe in and accept Jesus; you have to perform certain deeds.

The precise nature of these deeds differs from sect to sect, but they all boil down to the same conclusion: these "Christians" are placing their trust in something other than Jesus. I am reluctant to categorically claim certain people to be unsaved, since "judge not lest ye be judged", but I do have my doubts over the validity of these people being saved believing Christians, if they opt to deny the fundamental tenet of Christianity that demands Christians place their trust in Jesus alone.

I don't believe man is capable of fully understanding God. It is impossible to be completely certain of God's nature. That is why I think so many different interpretations of Christianity have cropped up, resulting in so many different denominations. (Even prior to the Reformation, Catholicism did not have a complete monopoly on Christianity.)

However, all these differing interpretations are worked up about is the details, which though they have some significance in themselves, are nothing compared to the most important tenet of Christian belief, which is ostensibly shared by all Christian denominations. (I say ostensibly because I find Catholicism to place too much emphasis on putting faith in someone other than Jesus, placing Catholicism as propagated by the Vatican in the category of exclusivists whose definition of Christianity is warped.)

At the end of the day, I don't see a reason to get worked up about the one true denomination. Christians already have the one true church in the community of people around the world who have accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour.

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