As I write this, yesterday was the anniversary of the start of the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. The council was there to discuss whether Mary the mother of Jesus was the Christ bearer or the God bearer. At the end of the council the decision was in favor of the “God bearer” and those siding with the “Christ bearer” were kicked out of the church or left on their own. Those who left continued to worship Christ and God in their own way, establishing their own brand of Christianity.
I grew up part of the Wesleyan church. It was named after John and Charles Wesley who were kicked out of the Anglican Church which had left the Catholic Church. The Wesley’s then started the Methodist church. The Wesleyan church split from the Methodist church over how they chose their pastors and the slavery issue. For a while it was called the Wesleyan Methodist church but then merged with the Pilgrim Holiness church and formed the Wesleyan church. You will find some Wesleyan Methodist churches still around, because they left when the merger took place.
According to Wikipedia there are over 41,000 different denominations in the world. Did you get that? I thought we were supposed to be one. Anyway, this kind of got me thinking. How many times has the church had a schism and kicked someone out only for them to start a new brand of Christianity? Or how many times did a group leave because they didn’t see Christianity in the same way that they others did? And who really has the truth? How do we know that our brand of Christianity is the truth? It is only our brand because it was Spirit of God choosing it to be the victor. At least that’s what we are told. However most of these were simply church votes.
I’ve been to many church and denominational meetings about many different things and there is no real looking to the spirit to answer the questions before us. We vote for what we want and decide that is what God wants. How do we know that these councils were any different?
Then there is the Bible. How many of you actually know that there are several different books in other denominations around the world? The protestant bible in America has 66 books, the catholic bible has 73, the Greek orthodox has 76 etc… So who has the correct bible? All of us started as one and yet we can’t even agree on our text. What if there should be more books? What about fewer books? When the bible was first put together it wasn’t some divine intervention, it was several church councils.
So how can anyone say they really have the truth? We really only have what has been passed down to us by those in charge. It was that kind of person that Jesus yelled at repeatedly for abuse. How many times over the last 2000 years has our theology changed? A council in the early 300’s (Council of Nicaea) decided Jesus was indeed God; everyone else is free to leave. Another council 100 years later decided that the Spirit was also God. Several councils took this under consideration before it became orthodox. So it took the church 300 years to settle on that Jesus was actually God and another 100 years to create the Trinity. Those things that we hold so dearly today and without believing in them many would say that you could not be a Christian. What about those people in the first few centuries when that belief was not orthodox?
Anyway, for those that think they have it all together in their theology, maybe you really don’t. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to say “the Bible tells me so” or “the bible says it and that settles it”, because if anything the Bible hasn’t settled anything. In fact those who think they know the Bible seem to split the church apart. So being right in doctrine does not seem to work for the church. Maybe we should try to be right with each other instead. Jesus did say “love your neighbor” but I don’t remember him ever saying get your doctrine right.