1,586 Religions In America

By Johnie Edwards

The March 1980 Good Housekeeping reported a study by Mr. J. Gordon Melton as to the number of religious faiths in America. At that time Mr. Melton reported about 1200 religions in America.

According to an article in the Saturday, November 26, 1988 Port Arthur News entitled “Research Indicates New Faiths Growing,” Mr. J. Gordon Melton of Santa Barbara, California said 835 new religions have been formed since 1940. Mr. Melton is director of the Institute for the Study of American Religions and editor of the Encyclopedia of American Religions. Melton is a United Methodist.

A new edition of the Religious Encyclopedia to be published in December of this year will list 1,586 United States faiths according to Mr. Melton.

There seems to be no end to the starting of new religions. As we read such reports of the formation of new religious bodies, one is surely made to stop and ask, “Does the Word of God authorize the formation of all these religious bodies?”

Old Testament Prophets Foretold One Church

One would think that the Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning the establishing of many religious bodies, as we see so many in existence today. But this is not the case. The prophets wrote by inspiration and told of the coming of only one religious body. The Lord said through the prophet Zechariah, “Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem” (Zech. 1:16). Here Zechariah saw the coming of only “my house” – one house. The Lord’s house is the Lord’s church. Paul told Timothy, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Isaiah saw the establishing of only one religion. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2-3). “The Lord’s House” (singular) is predicted in the words of Isaiah! Remember the Lord’s house is the Lord’s church (1 Tim. 3:15). This religious body was to have its beginning in the city of Jerusalem, in the last days as all nations flowed unto it, according to Isaiah.

The New Testament Reveals Only One Religious Body

As we leave the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the establishment of the Lord’s House and look into the New Testament to find its establishment, we find that only one church was established. The church foretold in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. Acts 2 records the beginning of the Lord’s house, the church. It is on the day of Pentecost, the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15-16) about 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning as the Holy Spirit guided the apostles of our Lord to preach the truth in its fulness for the first time. On this occasion the gospel was preached to the Jews. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). This event took place in “the last days” (Acts 2:16-17) just as the prophets had said (Joel 2:28-29; Isa. 2:2-3). The gospel was preached, men heard it and the preaching of the ‘gospel convicted the sinners of their sins as the word pricked their hearts. As a result of this preaching, they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” As believers, they were told to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). About three thousand were baptized and Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Did you notice the phrase, “the church” which means only one.

The Lord Established Only One Church

The simplest way to see that there is only one church revealed in the New Testament is to notice what the Bible teaches about the body. Paul said “there is one body” (Eph. 4:4) and he told the Colossians “for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). There is one body and the body is the church, so there is only one church established by the Lord; if not, why not?

There Is One Faith

Paul wrote the Ephesians and said, “There is one faith” (Eph. 4:5). Mr. Melton reports there are 1,586 faiths in the United States. There is quite a difference in what the Bible says and what actually exists. The word “faith” in Ephesians 4:5 refers to a body of truth, the gospel. Galatians 1:23 says that Paul “preacheth the faith” while Paul told the Corinthians that he preached “the gospel” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). To preach the faith is to preach the gospel and to preach the gospel is to preach the faith. Jude said, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Jude refers to “the faith” and that means only one faith! By the way, all of it has been delivered and there are no new revelations.

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 2, p. 45
January 19, 1989