Friday, February 4, 2011

Distinctions without a difference?

Denominations arose for a variety of reasons and some of them for reasons having more to do with ethnicity, historical accident, politics or even personal ambition than with differences of doctrine. But others exist as entities because of significant doctrinal distinctives that ought to make a difference to a conscientious Christian. Russell D. Moore, in "Where Have All the Presbyterians Gone?," notes data indicating that denominations are becoming less important in the United States:
Are we witnessing the death of America's Christian denominations? Studies conducted by secular and Christian organizations indicate that we are. Fewer and fewer American Christians, especially Protestants, strongly identify with a particular religious communion—Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. According to the Baylor Survey on Religion, nondenominational churches now represent the second largest group of Protestant churches in America, and they are also the fastest growing.

More and more Christians choose a church not on the basis of its denomination, but on the basis of more practical matters. Is the nursery easy to find? Do I like the music? Are there support groups for those grappling with addiction?

This trend is a natural extension of the American evangelical experiment. After all, evangelicalism is about the fundamental message of Christianity—the evangel, the gospel, literally the "good news" of God's kingdom arriving in Jesus Christ—not about denomination building. ....

.... "Being a member of a church doesn't make you a Christian," the ubiquitous evangelical pulpit cliché went, "any more than living in a garage makes you a car." Thus these evangelical ministries tended not to talk about those issues that might divide their congregants. They avoided questions like: Who should be baptized and when? What does the Lord's Supper mean? Should women be ordained? And so on. .... [more]
Russell D. Moore: Where Have All the Presbyterians Gone? - WSJ.com