Denominations

D L Henderson
10 min readSep 7, 2023

September 5, 2023

In some of my essays I have denigrated denominational Christianity. That was unfair in the same aspect as when people misunderstand why God laid down the Law to Moses and the Hebrews. Denominational Christianity has the same purpose as the apostle Paul described the purpose of the Law of Moses.

The apostle Paul, writing about being justified by grace (the gift of faith through Jesus) as opposed to works (obeying every facet of the Law), wrote this: “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law. But the Scripture {the Five Books of Moses} has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the Law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” — Galatians 3:21–25, New King James Bible.

Replace “the Law” with “Denominations” in this passage of Scripture, and you may see my point.

So, applying these verses to Denominational Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant — as it is today, they all may have maintained both the Law of Moses — as in the Ten Commandments — and the Beatitudes of Jesus — as in the Sermon on the Mount — acting in the same way as “guardians” or “tutors.” That is a good project.

The two unfortunate aspects — which are central to my complaint — are that all are presenting the same dynamic, that is, establishing closed boxes of the precept: individuals can get right with God by their own efforts, performing good works. Thereby they continually instigate a futile and unedifying intellectual war of words that benefits no one.

Again, unfortunately, that precept comes with the addendum: if you are trying to be good and you balance your good works against the bad ones, you are justified before God and get to go to Heaven… At least you are trying to be good. How could God possibly deny you Paradise?

Well, let me show you how…

There is this forgotten and essential verse, “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” — Ephesians 2:9, New Living Translation. Wouldn’t the reward-for-good-works scenario bring about great adversity between people in Heaven? …One upmanship; I’m better than you; I’m better looking than you; I deserve a superior position; I’m smarter; I’m stronger; ad nauseam… I’ve had enough of that nonsense in this life. I don’t want any part of it in Heaven! Would you?

While writing this essay, something came to mind related to the “Chicken or the Egg” question, “Which came first?”. On one hand, the Scriptures say that works cannot make us right with God, but John the Baptist demanded “…produce fruit worthy of repentance.” — “fruit” obviously meaning “works.” Is this one of those “contradictions” cynics complain about? Allow me to explain…

Self-justification is different from a change of heart, and actually, works have their roots in self- centeredness. That kind of thinking opposes any need for changes within a person. It’s not unlike the thinking justification by peer pressure — the “I’m okay/you’re okay’’ nonsensical philosophy, ending dramatically with the foolish expression, “I want to go to Hell, because all my friends are there.”

So, you have a very low opinion of your friends?

God requires first a change of heart to be followed by good works, only, the good works God has prepared for us to do, There’s the difference. Your works or His? Your efforts or Jesus’ gift?

But I digress…

Returning to my line of thought, there are many other verses that the Denominations exclude — ones that are essential to get right with God. For example, “You must be born again.” Jesus said it, I believe it, but I never heard it mentioned in my Presbyterian Church. “Repent…” Never heard that either. Did you ever hear it?

Elementary Sunday School gave me all the Bible stories, Moses and the Red Sea, King David, Jesus and the Little Children, and so on. However, in Teenage Sunday School, the teachings were about becoming a member — not of the family of God, but of University Presbyterian Church! I was left on my own, like an orphan, to figure out the rest of the Bible on my own. But why should I, a teenager, read the Bible? I already had too much homework! Besides, nobody ever told me why I should. Next, when I was considered an adult, allowed into the main Sanctuary, I heard sermons infused with philosophical maxims, not the teachings of Jesus. So, the only schooling I got that would eventually affect my life was that there is a God in a place called Heaven, and that Jesus passed through Jerusalem some time ago.

Nevertheless, in a minimal way the Presbyterian Denomination was my tutor, and they taught me some basics. I must assume it is the same for others educated in other Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations. Perhaps I should show more gratitude for that tutelage. I can now see that Denominations have apparently been part of God’s plan all along, setting up a platform for acting out our choices.

Moving onward and upward, faith says that Jesus has done it all for everyone; He does it all and is doing it all; He has included me in His amazing grace; He wants to include you, too. Yet, we all have to make choices. Do we want Relationship or will we settle for Religion?

After all, people at my age, at least, are far closer to the end of life than the beginning. We are pretty much self-satisfied because of whatever success and comfort level we have achieved. Unlike most of my contemporaries, I personally have pretty much failed at everything I engaged in, Yet, I still have come to accept the conclusion, “Well, that was that.”

Such a static mindset prevents any continuation of asking questions. It stops the quest for finding any transcendental answers which give enlightening revelations. It prevents any perseverance toward higher ideals for our lives. In my generation which related to the Woodstock celebration and like the Hippie Movement, it all seems to have become dead and buried. A lot of people these days just stare into their computer screens, phones, and laptops with deadening eyes. That is a serious problem…

This is the conundrum facing people today who have been trying to do the right things. Society has become ill equipped to handle any truth, or any justice, or any righteousness.

Notwithstanding all that, this is nothing new. It was the same when Jesus walked on this Earth…

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, but the world did not know Him. He came to [his] own, and [his] own did not receive Him…” John 1:10–13, Berean Literal Bible.

Today, many make a choice to depart from denominational churches, because many essentials have been omitted by the modern “Teachers of the Law.” So, most people don’t really have the opportunity to get to know Jesus or the Bible.

The danger here is that too often such people are left as orphans to choose to make up their own teachings, picking and choosing what to believe and what to reject. For convenience, many use a menagerie of divergent sources to piece together what is, in effect, their new denomination! Otherwise, they may choose the paths of agnosticism or atheism, or they develop some other philosophy which they can believe is transcendental and existential.

However, let me offer this alternative universe:

“…But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to be children of God — to those believing in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of will of flesh, nor of will of man, but of God.” — ibid.

From https://impeccablenestdesign.com/name-meaning/the-spiritual-meaning — “The spiritual meaning of a name goes beyond its linguistic origins and refers to the symbolic and energetic qualities it carries. Each name vibrates at a particular frequency, which can attract certain energies and experiences into one’s life.”

I realize that that is a secular view, a mystical idea from a metaphysical, philosophical religion, but it is germane to my point. So, further…

Many of us who have been, or who are still denominational, have used the phrase “In Jesus Name.” It has become trite and meaningless, at least it had become so in my mind.

This online reference may help relieve this blandness in our minds: https://csbible.com/greek-word-devos-onoma. — Discussing the Greek words for “name,” the author writes, “In Jesus’ name” is in our lexicon almost daily, closing our prayers. So Peter healing the lame man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth comes as no surprise. But acknowledging this tradition got me thinking about all the times I do something in my name, with faith in my own abilities as if I’m the one with power. It’s a very human reaction to do things in our name in our lives, whether it be to fix a relationship, work harder, get healthier, or anything else.”

Why am I considering the meaning of a name so important?

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” — Acts 4:12, New International Version. Saved me!

It is like using our name to authorize a check from our bank account… or think of “the power of attorney” that a Notary Public has:

https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/about-notaries/what-is-a-notary-

“What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is an official of integrity appointed by state government — typically by the secretary of state — to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents. These official acts are called notarizations, or notarial acts. Notaries are publicly commissioned as “ministerial” officials, meaning that they are expected to follow written rules without the exercise of significant personal discretion, as would otherwise be the case with a “judicial” official.

“What does a Notary do?

A Notary’s duty is to screen the signers of important documents for their true identity, their willingness to sign without duress or intimidation, and their awareness of the contents of the document or transaction. Some notarizations also require the Notary to put the signer under an oath, declaring under penalty of perjury that the information contained in a document is true and correct. Property deeds, wills and powers of attorney are examples of documents that commonly require a Notary.

“Impartiality is the foundation of the Notary’s public trust. They are duty-bound not to act in situations where they have a personal interest. The public trusts that the Notary’s screening tasks have not been corrupted by self-interest. And impartiality dictates that a Notary never refuse to serve a person due to race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer.

“As official representatives of the state, Notaries Public certify the proper execution of many of the life-changing documents of private citizens — whether those diverse transactions convey real estate, grant powers of attorney, establish a prenuptial agreement, or perform the multitude of other activities that enable our civil society to function.”

There’s a lot of interesting phrases in this long definition that reflect similar traits of the authority in Jesus’ name. For example, like the Bible is “a document is true and correct.” “The public trusts,” or Jesus “never refuses to serve a person due to race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer.”

Jesus never refuses anyone, but always requires proof of “their true identity, their willingness” to accept and “their awareness of the contents of the document or transaction.” Not for nothing. God doesn’t refuse anyone, but He requires us to turn away from a lot of deeds and attitudes we cling to and turn to Him and trust His ways. By His authority God is more than able to change any obstacles in your life — within you and circumstances outside of your control.

Ask God, in Jesus’ name, to write you an authorized blank check. His checks will never bounce. They are notarized by the Holy Spirit.

There is this one prerequisite… You have to ask: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” — Romans 10:13, Berean Standard Bible. So, go ahead and call!

It;s a free phone call. So try calling often and with persistence — like when we were in High School and used to try to call our girlfriends and boyfriends…

Listen, please, consider, respond if you will. There are no “pop quizzes,” just God’s offer of free tuition and graduation to eternal life. You may feel ill-equipped to understand all of this. So, start talking to Jesus and reading the New Testament of the Bible. Slowly but surely you will begin to understand

Nota Bene: I choose to use various Bible translations, including the original Greek texts, which convey the same idea but in a way that I would prefer saying them out loud. As my source, I most frequently use biblehub.com, because it lists most translations and often includes audio options. Please, I’m not trying to be “cute” or trying to trick people as some part of a fraudulent scheme.

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D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between