Look at the growth in the number of Christian denominations over the past 2,000 years.
◊ 33 CE – 1
◊ 1800 – 500
◊ 1900 - 1,900
◊ 1970 – 18,800
◊ 2000 – 33,800
◊ 2007 – 39,000
◊ 2025 - 55,000 (projected)[i]
Are you getting the picture? It seems that about all it takes to create a new Christian denomination these days is find some followers and a few Scriptures to base it on. The facts make it very clear that just about anyone can create a new Christian denomination in America, as well as in other parts of the world, today.
How did a single Jewish sect -- led by the Jewish Jesus -- become a universal Gentile religion with approximately 40,000 denominations today? Prior to the founding of America the number was less than 100, so the real question is what happened in America.
My thoughts on the subject are these. First, America provided an environment of freedom that individuals had never experienced before. This environment included freedoms of speech, the press, religion, economic opportunities and expression. Many Americans shared what they thought in the public arena.
Second, in the 1,700s some of the new denominations introduced a new conversion ritual – an emotion based experience. The new method was based on creating guilt and a corresponding feeling of helplessness. The convert must have had a personal religious experience of overpowering emotions rooted in a specific time and place. Their meetings were often characterized by seizures, convulsions, and uncontrollable weeping. Prior to this, potential converts were required to undergo a period of instruction that taught the basic doctrines of the religion and rituals. Instructions or emotions?
Third, a new belief introduced by Martin Luther to counter the authority of the Roman Church made a Bible the ultimate Christian authority, but every individual, it held, would have the true meanings divinely revealed to him or her. In the new environment of American freedom, many shared their understanding of what the words of their Bibles meant. The problem, however, was that they also declared their version to be “the Word of God.” Their “Word of God” declarations conflicted and contradicted each other in numerous cases.
Fourth, what has happens when members of a church hold opposing beliefs – it splits into two separate churches. At first there was 1, then 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32, then 64, then 128 . . . and now 40,000.
Here are a few questions for you to ponder.
(1) What do you think the Jewish Jesus would say about this – after all it is all being done in “his name”?
(2) How many of the thousands of denominations that exist today teach the same message that the historical Jesus taught?
(3) How many Christians, or members of other religions, have ever done any accurate research about the histories of their religions?
(4) Do you think established religious institutions will change or relinquish any of their power if they are proven to be wrong?
(5) What effect does your religion have on life on earth today?
(6) Do you believe that God values “right beliefs” over “right action?”
What do you think? If someone is going to be a believer, don’t you think they should be an “informed” believer?