THAT old troublemaker Martin Luther turns 630 in a few days. You might wonder what he would think of the Christianity in the 21st Century.
Martin Lutherwas not kind about Protestant groups other than his own, particularly the Baptists who had won many converts from the Catholics.
But Luther also seemed to think that denominations were unnecessary. “I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians,” he said.
But he had already opened a can of worms. The rise of thousands of denominations within the Christian faith can be traced back to the movement to “reform” the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century.
The word denomination is not found in the Bible. The original church was a single congregation of Christ’s followers.
Diversity is a good thing in Christianity. Disunity is not.
Eventually, you didn’t even have to be a Christian to be denominational. British writer Quentin Crisp said when he told the people of Northern Ireland that he was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”
The great theologian J.B.Phillips said he understood why some people could not comprehend why the churches can’t “get together”.
He said: “The problem is doubtless complicated, for there are many honest differences held with equal sincerity, but it is only made insoluble because the different denominations are (possibly unconsciously) imagining God to be Roman or Anglican or Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian or what have you.
“If they could see beyond their little inadequate god, and glimpse the reality of God, they might even laugh a little and perhaps weep a little. The result would be a unity that actually does transcend differences, “
One thing’s for sure. There will be no denominations in Heaven. But there might be plenty in Hell.