Any statement, true or not, that is repeated often enough will cometo be accepted by many as fact, or at least allowed to pass without protest because no alternative seems at hand.

From many church gatherings, particularly in the higher echelons of the ecumenical movement, we hear that “denominational differences are the greatest source of confusion and a constant obstacle to the effective witness of the Church in the world,” or that “denominations are a sin against Christ,” or that “the greatest scandal of Christendom is denominationalism.”

There may indeed be some who commit the error of placing loyalty to a denomination above loyalty to Christ, or of elevating a minor doctrine to a place of major importance. Yet generally speaking the statements quoted above are untrue.

The best answer to an untruth is the truth. The best way to correct error is to state how it differs from the facts.

The chief cause of confusion to the unbelieving world is, not denominational differences, but the uncertain notes heard from countless pulpits, the frank denials to be found in many classrooms, and the much publicized deviations from Christianity by some who call themselves Christians.

A few years ago there was confusion and alarm in the medical world because a certain preparation of a new vaccine was found to cause the disease, not cure it.

There is no question that there is confusion today about the Church. Nor is there any question that many outside the Church disdain her claims and go on their way churchless—and Christless.

Can it be that many in the Church have missed the message of the Church? Can it be that many have looked on the Church primarily as an organization whose purpose is to change the social order rather than to bring men and women into a right relation with God through faith in his Son?

Denominational differences are minor in their implications compared with those differences of belief that center in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that are to be found in almost every major denomination. Denominational differences are insignificant when compared with those views that are a part of and come from a rejection of the full integrity and authority of the Holy Scriptures—differences expressed by frank denials of truths clearly affirmed in the Scriptures.

Denominational differences are expressed in variations of articles of faith, church polity, and liturgical expression (or lack of it), but such differences are as nothing compared with the deviations of those religionists whose prime source of reference is the latest theories of scholars rather than the revelation to be found in the written Word and the One it reveals.

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Denominations represent differences of opinion regarding what are essentially secondary points—the mode of baptism, to cite one, or the degree of attainable sanctification, or organizational matters, or liturgical emphasis. But all major denominations have been united in their convictions about the essential content of the Christian faith. For this reason there has been and continues to be a spiritual unity within evangelical Protestantism that has no reference to outward organization.

These differences are no real obstacle to the propagation of the Christian faith, for the power of the Gospel depends, not on interpretations of truth, but on truth itself. Central to the gospel message is the need of lost men, the answer to that need to be found in Christ, and the building up of the believer in the faith.

The writer worked for twenty-five years as a Presbyterian missionary in a locality in China where there was also an English Baptist mission. There was no confusion worthy of note. The Chinese Christians enjoyed the freest and fullest fellowship, and unbelievers looked on all of us as Christians. In other places where there was “confusion,” it often seemed to have been generated by some overly zealous ecumenicists from abroad.

That confusion exists today is true. From too many sources there comes an uncertain note, not about minor issues, but about the person and work of Jesus Christ. The truths about Christ revealed in the Scriptures are often questioned or denied. No good purpose is served by blaming denominations for this confusion. Those who “trouble Israel” are those who no longer believe, preach, and teach the faith officially affirmed by their denominations in the past and clearly stated in the Word of God.

Proof that the existence of various denominations is not the barrier to cooperation some claim it to be is found in many organizations in America and on the mission fields of the world. In them, backgrounds and affiliations are of little importance if there is faith in a common Lord. But those who feel this way also reject without apology any alignment that holds in question what they feel to be the very heart and life of the Christian faith.

Who would consider a package more important that the food it contains? What physician is more concerned about the vial in which a vaccine comes than in the vaccine itself?

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Why is there clamor for the downgrading or elimination of denominations and the setting up of a unified organization, when the ecclesiastical manifestations of the Church are secondary? Why is there an apparent unwillingness to strive for spiritual unity on the basis of a common faith? Organic union of major denominations will not solve our problems, nor will it lessen the confusion of the world at large. Confusion will be eliminated and spiritual power restored when the content of the Christian faith as revealed in the Scriptures is given top priority by teaching and applying Christian truth in daily lives.

The word of the Lord to Zerubbabel is true for the Church today: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

To look for an answer to the world’s confusion in any place or way other than in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is but to invite further confusion.

To lay any foundation other than Jesus Christ as revealed in Scriptures is to insure the wasting away of that foundation.

To accept as basic truth any source other than the divine revelation in Holy Writ and the teachings based thereon is to drift to and fro on the tides of human opinion.

To look for salvation, in this life and in the life to come, in any other than in the Christ of Calvary is to make a mockery of the meaning of the Cross.

It is true that we are living in a confused world, a desperately sick world. To the Church has been entrusted the one word of hope, the sure cure, the way of reconciliation. Let her be faithful in her message, and the power of the Spirit of the living God will do what is impossible with man—dispel doubt, convict of sin, and bring into being new creatures in Christ.

But should the Church concentrate her energies on outward organization and continue to give top priority to secondary matters, she will fail in her task, and others will, under God, be called to fulfill his purposes.

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