Familiarity with Scripture

Question from Casey:
Ever read the Bible or any other religious doctrine?

Answer by SmartLX:
Growing up as a Christian, and attending Catholic primary school for many years, I became quite familiar with the Bible. We mainly dealt with the most well-known parts of it: Genesis, Exodus, the four Gospels and so on. I was never devout enough to try to read the thing recreationally (except for one attempt, from which I was soon distracted) but I think I was exposed to a great deal of it. Nowadays, I use Bible Gateway and other online copies of the text to look up passages as and when they become relevant to questions from the site, or my own curiosity. To be frank, the more I read the less I like or believe it.

As for other religious texts, like the Quran, the Book of Mormon or the Talmud, I mostly know their contents from quotes. I do of course make sure a scripture really says what I think it says before I attempt to describe its position on an issue or event. If you think I’ve misrepresented something in the Bible (going by your following question, Casey, it’s clear that you’re a Christian), let me know.

Jake and Andrea will add their experiences with religious texts, if they’re around.

Christian Denominations

“A Christian would immediately ask why you didn’t submit these questions to a Christian website to hear the answers from the horse’s mouth. I simply assume you’re after an external perspective which doesn’t favour one Christian denomination over another, and you’ll certainly get that here.”

Question from Tim and some other guy:
Hey, we are two students at an international school in Hong Kong. We have a project dealing with all the different denominations of Christianity. Would it be possible to answer a few questions regarding the existance of the thousands of denominations? Thank you.

1. What are the basic tenets of Christianity (the inclusive beliefs of all Christianity)?
2. Why is it that Christianity has broken up into countless numbers of denominations?
a. What caused this split?
3. Wouldn’t God want one, universal denomination of Christianity, instead of what it is now, split into thousands of sects?
4. Wouldn’t one inclusive group be more influential and attractive than split factions?

Answer by SmartLX:
A Christian would immediately ask why you didn’t submit these questions to a Christian website to hear the answers from the horse’s mouth. I simply assume you’re after an external perspective which doesn’t favour one Christian denomination over another, and you’ll certainly get that here.

1. All Christians believe that the “God of Abraham” exists, that He created the universe and that He designed human beings deliberately and specifically. They believe that Jesus Christ was God’s son, and/or a human incarnation of God himself, and that after he was crucified he rose from the dead. If you can find a self-proclaimed Christian who doesn’t believe even one element of the above, I can show you a lot of other Christians who wouldn’t regard that person as a Christian.

2. When a religion splits into two denominations, it’s called a schism (pronounced “SKIZZ-um”). People in the same denomination may argue a great deal, but when a particular dispute over religious practice, doctrine or dogma spreads far enough the two factions officially declare each other to be wrong in the eyes of their deity. That moment is when the schism happens, and afterwards the two groups are referred to using different names.

Christianity gets a lot of schisms because its doctrines are so extensive. There’s a mountain of individual points on which people can disagree. Another reason is that there are no real Christian theocracies left, and no denomination is able to force dissenters into line the way the Church once could. People are free to argue for their own interpretations of Scripture, which isn’t helpful when you want to keep two billion people unified.

3/4. If the Christian God exists, He probably would want Christians to unite under a single banner, and Christians of all denominations likely realise this. However, they reason, if the wrong denomination wins out and all Christians embrace the wrong doctrine, then nobody will really be doing God’s will at all. Those of each denomination think they’ve got the right one, and most often decide that Christian unity ultimately isn’t worth abandoning the “true” faith. It’s their way or nothing. Of course, this leaves all Christians at a gigantic impasse.