Would the Real Peoples' Front of Judea please stand up

(Sorry, the subject line is a bit of a joke mixing a couple of pop culture references. Don’t take it seriously.)

As a new believer, apart from YEC, and apart from the diversity of other religions, one of the things that really troubles me is the fractious nature of Christian fellowship.

Can anyone point me to a succinct summary of all the factions and their differences?

I have been listening to The Bible Project, Paradigms podcast series, and finding it amazing! :pray:

At the same time I am embedded socially. I came to faith partly through social contacts that lead me to be attached to a fellowship community, and hence, doctrine.

It seems to me Christianity is not just another Oprah Winfrey self-help brand. It doesn’t seem we are supposed to just, as an individual, choose the colour of our parachute.

The Pauline scriptures at least, seem to say, we are commanded to unified fellowship and evangelism, in total service of loving God and loving others.

So Oprah and Deepak and Eminem are out the window, but, the problem still remains.

Why are there so many competing schools as to how to do this?

To bring it back to my personal.

I don’t need specific counselling but if there was some kind of diagram to explain how all the factions differ, it would be helpful. (School of Rock was the other pop culture reference I had in mind…)

I probably can’t bring The Bible Project insights to my fellowship community. But even if I was to try to, I would at least like to know what layers of trouble I would have to navigate.

P.S. I am probably stretching beyond the purpose of BioLogos with this and recent posts - links to more appropriate channels gratefully received :pray:


Any such summary would be misleading because…

  1. The differences in beliefs between members within most groups are generally greater than the differences between the groups.
  2. Such succinct summaries are made according to the questions thought important by the maker of the summary.

Unity is not the same as uniformity. Uniformity can only be created by suppression and pretense – which is a only superficial appearance of unity – ultimately a lie and delusion. Real unity is found in the acceptance of the difference between people.

This implies a number of errors and falsehoods…

  1. That our salvation (parachute) is to be found in what we believe.
  2. That we are to check our brains at the door and simply accept what a group dictates to us.

Why are there so many different species? 8.7 million species on the earth, 350,000 species of beetle alone. Diversity is both a characteristic of life itself and a necessity for survival. So I would say that the diversity in Christianity is also a sign of life. And eliminating that diversity would lead to its destruction.

Ok, let me be more blunt, then.

Why are we followers of Jesus commanded to fellowship and evangelism, while at the same time, everyone seems on terminal trajectories in every opposing direction?

To bring it back to the personal, how can I engage in good faith with my local fellowship community, and The Bible Project, at the same time? My background in Western individualist lliberalism says pick what you like, and avoid arguing the cause – and this is very attractive to me, because I am very much an introvert.

But at the same time it’s very clear from the NT we are commanded to form open communities of fellowship, worship and evangelism.

“Diversity” doesn’t achieve that. It’s a heart-warming idea that enrichens communities, workplaces and so on.

But for me it pretty much kills any faith orientation. I only have time for an actual God, not just an arbitrary God who tells me fibs customised to my background. Once again I refer you to Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.

We’re commanded to be kind. United in, by kindness.

Wherever you see that, that’s Christ. That’s the incarnation.

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I note your points: i.e.

  1. That the fractious nature of Christian fellowship troubles you;
  2. That you’d like to see a succinct summary of all the factions and their differences;
  3. That you have an opinion regarding what the “Visible Church” should be, to wit: substantially more unified in belief and practices than it actually is;
  4. Why the variety/diversity/“speciation” (my word)/“competing schools” in “unified fellowship and evangelism, in total service of loving God and loving others” (your words, I hope)?
  5. That you’d like to see some kind of diagram to explain how all the factions differ.

IMO, that’s a tall order, and the following is how I choose to respond.

  • I have in mind Sidney Lanier’s poem: “The Song of the Chattahoochee” which speaks of the Chattahoochee River’s flow from its origin “to the plain”.
  • Apt metaphor or not, “the Gospel” is like the waters of the Chattahoochee River, starting in the hills (of Judea), flowing down and throughout the world “to reach the plain”. Why is the Visible Church so un-unified and disorderly? Because, I’d say, the terrain that the Gospel flows through isn’t the same everywhere.
  • As for “a succinct summary of all the factions and their differences” and “some kind of diagram to explain how all the factions differ”, I offer:

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway: the resources mentioned above seem daunting, but would seem to me to be important, if not essential, in pursuing a reasonably-thorough grounding in beginning to understand the different varieties of Christians.

On the other hand, I think a shorter-but-equally-challenging-task would be to grapple with two readings from Scripture:

  • Jeremiah 17
    5. Thus says the Lord,
    “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
    And makes flesh his strength,
    And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
    6. “For he will be like a bush in the desert
    And will not see when prosperity comes,
    But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
    A land of salt without inhabitant.
    7. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
    And whose trust is the Lord.
    8. “For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
    That extends its roots by a stream
    And will not fear when the heat comes;
    But its leaves will be green,
    And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
    Nor cease to yield fruit.
  • And Proverbs 10:25. “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more,
    But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”
  • Then ask the Lord how to trust Him, and ask yourself “How many false things can I believe, still trust the Lord. and yield fruit in a drought?”

Echo chambers are just naturally occurring situations. Even before Jesus we see the Jews in the Torah creations factions. In the New Testament we see them developing with “ some say they follow Paul, some Apollos and ect… people are not perfect and develop different groups they prefer. For example, I really dislike YECism. You’ll never find me being very active with lots of them on any deep level. We can be nice, go to the same church and ect…. But there will always be a clear divide. I’ll always have to heavily self censor my main passions because it would constantly cause problems.

The fact is that regardless if these divisions are supposed to be here or not, they are and they are not going anywhere short of the messiah turning up in the flesh with his rod telling everyone this is this. Which is not how I think it will even happen.

So divisions are here to stay. It’s also difficult in America to find a non YEC congregation. They exist for sure but are far to little.

Best bet is to find a church you like with people who are loving and use judgement on when and how often to bring up where you differ. It’s like that with any friendship. I have friends thst hate horror. I would ruin our relationship if everytime we hung out i just talked about horror instead of what we both like which is nature. I have some friends that don’t really like nature. They are into video games and anime and it consumes essentially all their free time. If when we hung out all they talked about was games or all I talked about was spiders and birds we would bore each other to much and not want to hang out.

As for the rest I felt everyone before me answered it well.

Only other thing is to remember we are all biased. We can’t be unbiased even if we recognize it and do our best to present unbiased work. So when reading a book on this subject of divisions it’s good to get background information on the author. A Catholic historian in America will probably view the split as something very different from a southern baptist in America.

Alright, let me step back again.

Why did God inspire the production of Scripture that conveys His instruction to humanity about how to understand our relationship with him, do it in a way that is understood in 1000 conflicting ways? By people who quite often insist the other 999 are doing the devil’s work?

Why does this happen?

Why should I believe dude number 483 who says his interpretation is correct and everyone else is a liar? If I’m tempted by his arguments, must I really spend years investigating and rejecting the other 999, before I commit?

The equivalent question pops up about Christianity vs other religions, but that is given much better answers.

Of course, I can personally and do just trust and believe on our Lord Jesus Christ. But it gets tricky when it comes to fellowship, and envangelism, because then people expect agreed doctrine

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The more sensible ones would tend to say something like “#465-#502 are just slightly different, but not in a very significant way (e.g. the difference between PCA, ARP, and OP). #400-#464 and #503-#600 have some more significant differences, but in secondary and tertiary issues still (add most other more conservative reformed denominations to the earlier set). Most of the rest I can agree with on primary issues, if not on much else (pretty much everybody else). Some are wrong on enough primary issues that I do not consider them overly good theologically (e.g. PCUSA).”

(I’m in the PCA, in a church which is closer to OP than many, and whose liturgy is more like Lutheran than many)


Anything more than the doctrine of kindness is less and heresy.

Good analogy.

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Prayer and God’s guidance are factors. I left a church 10 ½ years ago and spent several months looking. I was invited to one by its pastor on false pretenses, as it turned out. He left in less than a year, and I’m still there.

I don’t think everyone is. If the group you know is opposing rather than accepting then I think they are focused on the wrong things and aimed for self-destruction.

Learn what you can where you can. But eventually you should graduate from kindergarten.

It is Uniformity that doesn’t achieve anything.

Diversity certainly enriches the community and workplace. Uniformity is a pride warming idea that strangles communities, workplaces and so on.

Diversity only pulls the rug out from under… the delusion of certainty, the utility for power over others, and the reliance upon your own abilities,

The God you have captured and nailed down in your mind is not an actual God but a very small construct which is as bound by your own limitations as it is chained to your will. It the diversity of thought about God which pulls us out of these limited human constructs.

Which is exactly what you are going to get with a uniformity of thought about God.

I think it’s a process. Jesus spent decades studying the word before spending 3 years teaching disciples and Paul spent decades helping those disciples.

So you study. When someone counters your argument and it’s logical you either counter it and show its holes while sealing up your own or either you change. It’s not meant to be understood in one year. It’s meant to be studied for your whole life. Where you are at now probably won’t be where you are in theory years from now. You cross each bridge when you get to it.

As to why? It’s not a matter of God making it to complicated it or simple. It is what it is. The simplest things can be a hurdle for another person.

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Many thanks :pray:

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Hmm, I think I well understand what you’re getting at. When I was an agnostic, I was big on the idea that if there was a God, It would be infinitely incomprehensible to human thought, and not be bothered communicating with us puny motes of dust, so why bother pursuing delusions of comprehension?

I still think that we are vastly ill-equipped to understand God. But now, as a follower of Jesus, I know that God actually engages in communications with humans, which for us, apart from prayer, actually takes concrete form in Scripture.

He wants us to have a kind of understanding of Him and what He wants of us, and has told us quite specific and concrete things within the framework of that understanding. (e.g. Matthew 19, Jesus on marriage and divorce randomly comes to mind). Far be it from me to say God wouldn’t or shouldn’t communicate in a way designed to foster a diversity of conflicting interpretations, but much of what we have in Scripture just doesn’t seem to be designed that way. Indeed, Paul tells us God is not the author of confusion.

God is not the author of confusion in a worship service – keep what Paul was saying in context, please. God is very much the author of confusion in Genesis 11:9. It is all a matter of what serves God’s purpose. The confusion Paul is talking about is that which comes about when everyone tries to speak at once in a worship service NOT when people believe different things. It is frankly the confusion which comes about when people insist that everyone believe as they dictate, shouting out their prophecies and teachings to drown out those of others. There is NOTHING in 1 Corinthians 14 about needing a uniformity of thought about things.

That kind of rhetoric has been used as a justification for keeping us in the 1st century AD and allowing no changes of any kind. I certainly do not agree that God has given instructions about the only way people are to be allowed to live. On the contrary, Jesus has given us principles and rules of thumb to guide us in living in a world which is allowed to change: teaching us that the love of God and the love of our fellow man is whole point of all the laws God has given to us.

BTW I often say that in one way at least God is more knowable than we know ourselves. This is because God is not some confusion of good and evil as we are. In that respect we can know God well.

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