Religious Denominations

Most, if not all, of the world’s religions have several denominations or sects as subunits to the main descriptive name. For example Christianity has Methodist, Baptist, etc. and Buddhism has Zen, Tibetan, etc.

Most of the worlds religions also have one central figure whose teachings comprise the core of that religion’s tenets.

The various denominations or sects generally expand upon the core teachings to various degrees, and sometimes completely disregard certain teachings of the central figure. At what point in the departure from the central teachings should a denomination or sect lose it’s right to use the main descriptive name? Doesn’t the addition to or omission of any core teaching detract from the validity of what the central figure taught?

I submit that only the denomination or sect that exclusively follows the teachings of that religion’s central figure without adding or omitting anything should have rights to the main descriptive name.

What do you think?

Manniac, I agree 100%. Now all we have to do is to figure out which denomination in, say, Christianity for example, most closely adheres to the teachings of Jesus.

. . . and therein lies the rub. I submit that each Denomination exists because they perceived a failure in all other groups to adhere closely “enough” to the received word. Luther did not intend to start a denomination, he thought he was pointing out to his Catholic bretheren where they had strayed from the path. Each successive Lutheran body (LCMS, LCWS, ELCA, etc.) came into being partly in order to hue more closely their perception of Luther’s perception of Jesus’ intent than the other Lutherans were.

I believe all denominations desire a coming-together; it’s the interpretation of scripture/teachings/etc. that promulgates the split(s).

It sounds nice, but the big problem comes from interpretation. I mean, that’s how a lot of the denominations of Christianity differ. Two specific denominations may be damn near alike, but their beliefe that one particular passage means two different things could be enough to cause a split, and who’s to say either is right?

For example, there’s a line in one of the gospels where someone mentions to Jesus “Your brothers and sisters are outside the gate,” or something to that effect. Methodists believes this to be literal, meaning Mary and Joseph had children of their own after Jesus’s birth; Catholic teaching believes that this is a translation difference, because in the original language, the word for “brothers” could mean “cousins”, so they weren’t direct relatives of Jesus, and thus, Mary maintained her virginity throughout her life. Which one’s right? Depends on who you ask, and therefore, you can’t say one is correct and has strict rights to call itself a follower of Christ and the other does not (yes, it’s a simple debate, and there are a lot more fundamental differences between Catholocism and the Methodist church, but it’s a simple example to help draw the point home).

Another complicating factor is that a lot of denominations exist for reasons that have more to do with history, geography, and culture than theology. (“Baptist” vs “Southern Baptist”, for example.)

Pretty much all churches who wear the name “Christian” would say that they’re trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. In the most important core beliefs, there’s less difference (at least among the “mainstream” denominations) than you might think. As the other posters have pointed out, most of the differences come down to interpretations of tricky passages. Presumably some of us are right on these issues and some of us are wrong, but that doesn’t mean those who are wrong are not “real” Christians.

I agree for the most part with the replies thus far. In Christianity, it does seem to be rather minute differences in interpretation.

The problem seems more pronounced in Buddhism. Many of the tenets of Zen, Tibetan and Mahayana come completely out of left field…baring no relationship to teachings of the Buddha as detailed in the Dhammapada. Similar to how the Book of Mormon purports to be additional revelations of Christ, the non-Theravada sects of Buddhism go way beyond Buddha’s teachings into the teachings of later monks who started out following Buddha’s path.

I’m at the epicenter of a denomination which is showing signs of splitting (I’m an American, Episcopalian Christian), and I can honestly say that both sides believe the are being more true to the teachings of Christ than the other side. The cause of the split is the ordination of a homosexual bishop and, as anyone who’s spent much time in Great Debates can tell you, on that issue, there are people who are firmly, completely, and utterly convinced that they are right and the other side is encouraging sin on both sides.

I think Martin Luther did the right thing in posted his theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg; I think what became the Anglican (includes Episcopalian) church did the right thing in splitting from the Roman Catholic church, because at the time these events occured, I believe the Catholic church was in the wrong. There are still reasons why I cannot become Catholic, even if they are only valid for me.

manniac posted

I think that if you ask me, tomndebb, Dogface and vanilla which denomination is doing so with regard to Christianity, you’ll get at least 4 different answers. You could get 8 or 16 – we tend to like a good discussion! :wink: