By Dennis L. Shaver
In our last article we discussed two attitudes (ignorance and pride) which we believe are responsible for the existence and perpetuation of denominations. We will conclude this study in this article by dealing with two more attitudes which contribute to denominations’ existing.
Denominations Exist Through Human Tradition
Tradition has been a downfall of man, in religion, throughout history. During the time of Jesus’ preaching he stated, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered; and many such like things ye do” (Mk. 7:13). In any denomination one can hear the cry of tradition, tradition. I have personally talked with many who use “it’s always been done that way” as authority for religious action. (I might also add I have heard this in churches of our Lord, and if it is not stopped it will create a human organization instead of a divine one.) I know, as we all do, that man is a creature of habit. If his habits are dictated by man or God, it makes no difference, he will follow them. Human tradition is dictated by humans, and it is a great cause of denominations. So many will accept a practice because “its always been done that way.” The apostle Paul wrote io the brethren in Colosse with this warning, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of !he world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). We need to preach this warning to all, for tradition is an easy way to be deceived. Many in denominations have become so used to a particular thing that they now believe that it is taught in the Bible. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Colossians said, “Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste no; handle not; Which are all to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:2023). Those who are Christians are not subject to human tradition, but to Christ. Human tradition creates “church ordinances” and men look to the “church” for guidance in their lives. Every individual, who intends to please God must look only to Christ and his word, for this shall be the judge in that day (Jn. 12:48). The traditions of many churches were not instituted by our Lord, but by the vanity of man, and they will lead to the destruction of the soul if obeyed. To defeat denominations we must defeat tradition and search for truth.
Because of Satisfaction-Many individuals are satisfied with their religious life the way it is. They are not looking for, nor do they see a need to change their religious beliefs. I once talked to a member of a denomination who admitted “her church” was not right in many ways, but she felt that one day they would change what was wrong. She was completely satisfied where she was, even if she was wrong ! I realize people want and search for satisfaction. When they find some kind of satisfaction within a particular denomination they seek no further. Even a church of our Lord had such an attitude, the church in Laodicea. It was their opinion they had everything and there was no need for change. According to our Savior, this was not the case. No Christian should become complacent. Christianity is within itself a continual process of growth and searching for more truth. “Then Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:31,32). Christians continually seek God and His will (Matt. 6:33). They not only teach others, they listen to understand and gain understanding. If one becomes satisfied, he no longer listens, and when he no longer listens, he no longer learns. As long as men will be satisfied with something more or less than the perfect will of God there will be denominations. We need to raise doubts in the minds of those who follow men and replace those doubts with a surety, the word of God.
Yes, denominations exist, because people exist. We must reach as many as we can with the power of God (Rom. 1:16). We cannot permit ourselves to become one of them with unscriptural attitudes and organizations and promotions to “fill the building.” Our work must be reaching and teaching the pure and simple gospel of the Son of God. Let us show, by our teaching and our living, that Ignorance, Human Pride, Tradition and Self-Satisfaction, are not a part of the church of our Lord, and not the way to please our Father. Invite all to learn of God (Jn. 6:44,45) and put off the bondage of denominations.
Truth Magazine XX: 38, pp. 602-603
September 23, 1976