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12/19/2017 4:02 am  #1


How do I choose a denomination?

Long story short: I was non-religious for most of my life, brought up that way, and stayed that way until quite recently, when I became convinced of the truth of ‘mere Christianity’ (as C.S. Lewis would put it).

But since there is no Denomination of Mere Christianity (as far as I’m aware), I’m probably going to have to decide which denomination to go with.

Any advice?

I think that pretty much the first thing one should deal with is whether Sola Scriptura is true or not. I’ve been reading a lot about this from both Protestant and non-Protestant sources, but I simply can’t make up my mind.

 

12/19/2017 4:10 am  #2


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

Dry and Uninspired wrote:

Long story short: I was non-religious for most of my life, brought up that way, and stayed that way until quite recently, when I became convinced of the truth of ‘mere Christianity’ (as C.S. Lewis would put it).

But since there is no Denomination of Mere Christianity (as far as I’m aware), I’m probably going to have to decide which denomination to go with.

Any advice?

I think that pretty much the first thing one should deal with is whether Sola Scriptura is true or not. I’ve been reading a lot about this from both Protestant and non-Protestant sources, but I simply can’t make up my mind.

Yes, research what the early Christians believed in. Perhaps get a hold of the Didache which was essentially the early Church's first catechism. It was put together in probably the first century, perhaps contemporaneous with Paul. Other than that, research the Apostolic Church Fathers--try to figure out what they believed. Some of them probably personally knew the Twelve Apostles. Then after figuring out how the earliest Christians (i.e. those that directly received religious teaching from the Twelve Apostles or their successors) believed, look to see what church--if any--still preserves these teachings today. 
 

 

12/19/2017 10:25 am  #3


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

Personally, I've always had a problem with Sola Scriptura, which is one of the reasons why I'm catholic. It just doesn't make sense to me to speak of an infallible authority of Scripture without the infallible authority of a Magisterium; the earliest christians didn't even have the biblical canon yet. It was the Church that had to compile the New Testament canon, and until this issue was settled, the faith had always been taught to the faithful through some kind of Magisterium -- the Apostles who taught the faithful, then the disciples of the apostles, then the succeeding disciples and so on, in a form of Apostolic Succession -- and keeping in line with oral tradition. It simply seems illogical to me to believe that Sola Scriptura is a component of Christianity when the earliest believers simply relied on the authority of Tradition and the Magisterium; they didn't even have access to a biblical canon even if they wanted to; what propagated and kept the faith free from doctrinal error was the respect for Tradition, the teaching that had always been prevalent among Christians and which could be traced to Jesus and the Apostles, and the authority of a Magisterium, authoritative figures that could be traced back to Jesus' Apostles.

In fact, when the Church came to organize the biblical canon, it didn't just exclude books that seemed to have doctrinary error in them. A lot of works that were highly regarded by the early christians and Church Fathers (for example: the Shepherd of Hermas) didn't make it into the official Canon simply because they couldn't be traced back to the Apostles. This was the criterion of "apostolicity" which some authors speak of. The Church only chose works that had credible "apostolicity" in the canon; so even the whole idea of the authority of the biblical canon in some way traces back to Tradition and Magisterium.

(Not to mention that to me it seems pretty clear that if we are to trust the Scriptures to the degree faith calls us to -- as Special Revelation --, we can only do so if we believe the Magisterium that wrote and compiled the Scriptures were kept free of errors by God when it came to special teaching on faith. I already see a glimpse of the idea of papal and magisterial infallibility there).

And there's also the issue that pretty much no traditional church preexisting the Reformation accepts Sola Scriptura. It is not accepted as true Christian doctrine by the Catholic Church. Neither is it accepted by the Russian Orthodox. Or the Greek Orthodox. Or the Ethiopians. Or the Coptics. They all reject Sola Scriptura. To me, this makes SS an implausible candidate for traditional christian doctrine. And I think that the faith requires something akin to papal infallibility to give us a real guarantee that the faith will not be lost or perverted. Anyway, just my opinion on the issue.

 

12/20/2017 1:34 pm  #4


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

Dry and Uninspired wrote:

I think that pretty much the first thing one should deal with is whether Sola Scriptura is true or not. I’ve been reading a lot about this from both Protestant and non-Protestant sources, but I simply can’t make up my mind.

The first problem with SS is how to identify the books that comprise Scripture, the canon problem.

The second problem is that it presupposes a paradigm shift in the medium of transmission of divine Revelation at the end of the Apostles' lives. Whereas during the Apostles' lifetime the medium of transmission was the Apostles' teaching, "tē didachē tōn apostolōn" (Acts 2:42) - so that before the first NT books were written around 50 AD the transmission of Revelation could have been rightly described as "Sola didachē" - thereafter the only medium of transmission is a book. If that were the case, anyone hearing the Apostles preach would have been right to point out to them, "Excuse me, gentlemen, but if you want to optimize the use of your time, you should devote most of it to putting your teachings in writing instead of preaching, making sure that you are thourough and clear. Because any teaching that you have not put in writing will just be lost."

But apart from these problems arising from just common sense, there is the issue that Sola scriptura is against Scripture, specifically 4 Pauline passages.

First we have these 3 passages which imply that not everything which was revealed by God was transmitted in writing by the Apostles, at least definitively not by Paul:

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter."  (2 Thess 2:15)

"Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim 1:13)

"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2)

The objection to sola scriptura from the three above passages could be ingeniously countered by positing that any knowledge that Paul transmitted only orally and which needed to be transmitted to future generations was put in writing by some other NT author, be it John, Peter, James, Jude, or Luke in Acts. I don't think any sola scriptura defender would actually resort to such convoluted argument, but even if they did, they'd still need to explain away this other passage from Paul:

"the Church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." (1 Tim 3:15)

In this passage, "support", rendered alternatively as "foundation", "bulwark" or "buttress", translates "hedraióma", a word used only once in the NT and nowhere else. To note, the usual word for "foundation" is "themelios", used in several places by Paul to refer to:

- Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:10-12),
- the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20), "Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone (akrogóniaios)" in this case, and
- those who belong to God, i.e. the Church: "God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his,"" (2 Tim 2:19).

The relationship between Jesus, the apostles and the whole of the Church in these passages with "foundation"/"themelios" mirrors the relationship between Jesus, Peter and the totality of the faithful in four passages with "rock" or "stone", namely those where:

- Paul and Peter call Jesus "the cornerstone", i.e. Eph 2:20 and 1 Pe 2:6-7 respectively, the latter using both "akrogóniaios" and "kephale gonias",
- Jesus tells Simon: "you are Rock (Kepha/Petros), and upon this rock (kepha/petra) I will build my church" (Mt 16:18), and
- Peter says that the faithful "as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house" (1 Pe 2:5).

The teaching from either set of passages is clear:

- Jesus is the ultimate foundation, the cornerstone, and it is so by Himself, by nature.
- Peter and the apostles are foundation by the grace of Christ, by participation in his firmness.
- The whole Church, "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph 2:20), is also foundation and support by participation.

The point is that it is the Church which is "the pillar and support of the truth", not Scripture. This statement, together with the quoted Pauline exhortations to hold to the traditions received orally from him, show clearly that the position of sola scriptura is against Scripture.

 

12/20/2017 1:47 pm  #5


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

After hopefully having discarded all denominations holding Sola Scriptura, you will have to evaluate those denominations that hold that the proximate medium of divine Revelation is Scripture plus the Apostolic Tradition, both interpreted by the divinely assisted and authoritative Magisterium of the Church. Basically you will have 3 choices: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox (mostly Copts and Armenians).

You may find helpful an article that I wrote several years ago precisely to help readers discern which of the mentioned "sets of particular Churches in communion with one another" might be the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
 

Last edited by Johannes (12/20/2017 1:48 pm)

 

12/22/2017 4:13 am  #6


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

Thanks a lot for the responses.

I am pondering. Will get back to you with my thoughts. Hopefully, soon.

     Thread Starter
 

12/25/2017 8:02 pm  #7


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

Remaining non-denominational is not acceptable? There are non-denominational houses of worship you could test. I was married in one and to me the absence of the (unnecessary) pageantry and ceremony marking other legacy religions was refreshing. 

 

12/26/2017 10:37 am  #8


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

lacktone wrote:

Remaining non-denominational is not acceptable? There are non-denominational houses of worship you could test. I was married in one and to me the absence of the (unnecessary) pageantry and ceremony marking other legacy religions was refreshing. 

 
Non-denominational in what sense? Aren’t so-called non-denominational churches generally Evangelical?

Also, I’m not sure if we actually have any where I live (Slovenia).

     Thread Starter
 

1/04/2018 12:54 pm  #9


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

I’ve been doing some research on apostolic succession and was wondering if any of you have any comments on this: http://www.ukapologetics.net/09/succession.htm

Any reply would be greatly appreciated.

     Thread Starter
 

1/04/2018 7:58 pm  #10


Re: How do I choose a denomination?

Dry and Uninspired wrote:

lacktone wrote:

Remaining non-denominational is not acceptable? There are non-denominational houses of worship you could test. I was married in one and to me the absence of the (unnecessary) pageantry and ceremony marking other legacy religions was refreshing. 

 
Non-denominational in what sense? Aren’t so-called non-denominational churches generally Evangelical?

Also, I’m not sure if we actually have any where I live (Slovenia).

That's not for me to know. If I was asked to opine about religion in general I'd say that their individual survivals are all based in evangelism to a greater or lesser extent. In other words, all have a character to them that can be irritating with enough exposure. I don't champion any of them. I consider the notion of worshiping a deity a one-on-one primacy with no reason in logic to channel it through a religion, or middleman so-to-speak. What I will acknowledge is the sense of community innate in religion and that, IMO, is a secular attraction first and spiritual one second.

Anyway, the non-denominational entry I experienced dispensed with the ceremony in its worship sessions and focused on the community with emphasis on the welfare of it's members. Being an atheist (wife a theist) it was a compromise I was comfortable making only because of its secular approach to worship. While in their company I got the feeling that it was a place where the congregation was comprised of people who were done with the more traditional, legacy religions. My upbringing was Catholic and by 8 years old I wanted out of it. I can't possibly be the only person who felt that way. That's how I can contrast the non-denominational I experienced.

 

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