Why does Christianity have so many denominations? - Deepstash
Why does Christianity have so many denominations?

Why does Christianity have so many denominations?

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Why does Christianity have so many denominations?

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Christian Denominations and the Early Church

The global body of more than 2 billion Christians is separated into more than 45,000 denominations - Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Apostolic, Methodist — the list goes on.

Christianity has so many branches because of differences in belief, power grabs and corruption.

The early church, spanning from AD27 to AD 325, was divided chiefly based on geography. According to Professor Bruce Gordon, worship styles and interpretations of Jesus' teachings varied based on regional cultures and customs.

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The Arian Controversy

The Arian controversy in the early fourth century divided Christians in the Roman Empire. Arius, a priest from Alexandria, claimed that because Jesus was "begotten", he was a lesser divinity than God. However, Athanasius, an Alexandrian theologian, claimed Jesus was God incarnate.

In AD 325, at the Council of Nicea, a group of theologians gathered by Emperor Constantine and rejected the views of Arius. However, Christians continued to be divided on this subject for over a century.

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The Great Schism

In 1054, the Eastern Orthodox Christians split from the Western Roman Catholics.

The groups disagreed on the taking of the sacraments. The Eastern Orthodox Christians also disagreed with the Roman beliefs that

  • priests should remain celibate
  • that the Roman pope had authority over the head of the Eastern church

The Catholic Church successfully suppressed other potential Christian offshoots by sustained persecution against some labelled heretics and using a new system named inquisitions.

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Denominations explode

After the Protestant Reformation in 1517, the number of denominations began to multiply.

  • The Reformation, started by Martin Luther's 95 Theses, claimed that the Bible was the ultimate authority over all people, not a church hierarchy.
  • By the 17th century, the contemporary word "denomination" began to describe religious offshoots debated whose interpretation of scripture was correct. From these debates, denominations such as the Presbyterians, Mennonites, Baptists and Quakers, among others, took root. 

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