Why are There so Many Different Churches and Denominations in the Christian Faith?

  • One question that often puzzles many people is, “Why are there so many different churches and denominations in the Christian faith?”
  • To understand the reality of the many different Christian denominations it is important to look at two key issues: theology and culture.
  • Some church denominations arise as a result of a particular theological viewpoint or set of doctrines they’ve chosen to emphasize (ex. baptism, the Lord’s supper, free will, etc.).
  • Other denominations begin as a result of a unique cultural background (ex. the Evangelical Free Church of America comes out of the Scandinavian-Pietistic tradition) or because of their approach to embracing and/or engaging the culture in which they exist (ex. the Calvary Chapel movement began in the 1960’s as an outreach to the American Hippie culture).
  • Sadly, it is also true that there are denominations that have arisen out of situations of conflict between brothers and sisters in Christ. When the Church is divided as a result of sins like selfishness or pride this does significant damage to our witness to the world.
  • The reality of numerous denominations within the Christian faith serves to remind us that God has entrusted the mission of advancing the gospel to diverse, fallen, and fallible human beings. This should lead all Christians to exercise humility in regards to our differences.
  • Ultimately, the true hope of the Church is found in Jesus’ promise that “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). To God be the glory!

For more information on the history and doctrines of the Church, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible For Students available in our online store.

The Question, “Did Jesus really claim to be God?”

  • Many skeptics and critics of Christianity will argue that Jesus never really claimed to be God. They will say that Jesus was simply a good teacher who was later deified by his followers. However, this claim just doesn’t stand up to the biblical evidence.
  • In John 8:58 Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” Upon hearing this, verse 59 says the Jews tried to stone him! Why would they attempt to kill Jesus here? Because in their eyes he had committed the ultimate blasphemy, he had claimed for himself the very name of God, I AM (Exodus 3:14).
  • In John 10:30 Jesus states, “I and the Father are one.” Again, verse 31 says the Jews tried to stone Jesus. Why? They tell us in verse 33, “We are not stoning you for any good work… but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
  • In Luke 6:5 Jesus declares, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” While the term “Son of Man” has messianic meaning, the clearer statement of deity is found in Jesus’ claim to be the “Lord of the Sabbath”. God created and instituted the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11). Thus, God is the only rightful Lord over it. Jesus is clearly identifying himself here as the God who is Lord of the Sabbath.
  • We see further evidence of Jesus claiming deity in the fact that he received worship from people and did not rebuke them for it (Matthew 14:33; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; and others). This was significant in that God had declared that he alone was to be worshipped (Exodus 20:3; Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13-14).
  • How do we know passages like the ones mentioned here weren’t later insertions into the biblical text? Because we have such an overwhelmingly large and early collection of ancient New Testament manuscripts that reveal Jesus’ claims to deity (over 5,500 partial and complete Greek NT manuscripts dated to within 300 years of Christ).
  • The biblical testimony is clear, and the historical evidence is abundant, Jesus Christ claimed to be God and his followers recognized and worshipped him as God. Jesus Christ, the eternal God, humbled himself and became a man so that we could be forgiven of our sins and be reconciled to him (Colossian 1:15-23).

For more evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ, please check out Jason Carlson’s chapter on the Resurrection in the book Apologetics For A New Generation, available in our online store.

The Question, “How long were the days of Genesis chapter one?”

  • Young earth creationists view the days of Genesis chapter one as literal 24-hour days, while old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists view them as long ages of time (possibly millions of years).
  • The plain reading of Genesis one, and the most natural interpretation of the Hebrew text, is that “day” refers to a literal 24-hour period of time.
  • Genesis one uses the Hebrew word yom for “day”. In each of the creation days of Genesis one yom is accompanied by a number (“first day”, “second day”, etc.) and paired with the words, “And there was evening, and there was morning”. Everywhere else in the Bible where yom is used this way it refers to a literal 24-hour day.
  • Had God wanted to communicate that creation took place over long ages of time there are many other, and better, Hebrew words he could have used. However, God used the construct described above.
  • The pattern of a six-day work week followed by a seventh day of rest (the Sabbath), which was given by God to Israel as a sign and commandment (Exodus 20:11, 31:16-17; Deuteronomy 5:15), only makes sense in light of God creating and resting over a period of seven literal 24-hour days.
  • Christians who seek to redefine the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis one to accommodate long ages of time typically do so because they believe there is tension between God’s word and modern-day science. This accommodation is unnecessary, however, as the Bible is not at odds with science, but only an interpretive framework of the science.
  • As Dr. Ron Carlson once said, “Wherever we explore, whether it be the macrocosm of astronomy, or the microcosm of biochemistry, wherever we discover truth, it is always consistent with God’s nature and God’s word, the Bible. There is no contradiction.”

For more information on the days of Genesis and the age of the earth, please check out Dr. Carlson’s lecture, Evolution vs. Creation available in CD or MP3 in our online store.

The Question, “Why are there so many translations of the Bible?”

  • One question that often concerns both Christians and skeptics alike is, “Why there are so many different translations of the Bible?”
  • The issue here is this, Christians claim the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative word of God. If this is the case, why then are there so many versions, or translations, of the Bible?
  • When considering the different versions of the Bible it is first important to recognize that all mainstream Evangelical Bible publications (i.e. NIV, ESV, CSB, NASB, NKJV, etc.) are in agreement on the essential revelation of Scripture. The reality of different translations does not mean they possess wildly divergent revelation and doctrine.
  • Where the various mainstream Evangelical Bible translations differ, it is usually related to stylistic differences (i.e. the degree to which translators seek to emphasize contemporary language) or in their translation preferences in regards to the original languages (i.e. some Hebrew and Greek words and phrases can be translated multiple ways). Even in the latter case, however, the essential revelation of Scripture is upheld in each of these versions.
  • We can be confident in our modern day Bible translations, even with the many different versions, because there exist so many ancient manuscripts from which our modern day translations are derived. For example, there are over 5,500 partial and complete manuscripts of the Greek New Testament dated within 300 years of the time of Christ.
  • At the same time, there are versions of the Bible that Christians must absolutely reject. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible called The New World Translation. This translation contains numerous differences from the ancient manuscripts of the Bible. These differences were intentionally created by the Watchtower Organization to make it appear that the Bible agrees with their man-made theology.

For more information on the nature and history of the Bible, please check out the many interesting articles in the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, available in our online store.

The Question, “How can I know the will of God for my life?”

  • Oftentimes when people express a desire to know God’s will for their life, what they mean is they want God to reveal his specific plans and purposes for them through some miraculous intervention (i.e. a burning bush, a talking donkey, an angelic visitation, etc.).
  • While God does sometimes speak to humanity through such engagement, more often we discern his will for our lives through more basic (though still miraculous) means: Scripture, prayer, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Bible is God’s inspired word, his special revelation of truth to men and women (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As such, we can confidently go to Scripture to discern God’s will and to find guidance for our lives (Psalm 119:105).
  • Prayer is another powerful tool for discerning God’s will. God invites his people to approach him through prayer in every situation (Philippians 4:6). Furthermore, God’s word assures us that he hears and answers our prayers (Psalm 17:6; Proverbs 15:29; 1 John 5:14-15).
  • God also reveals his will through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within all who’ve placed their trust in Jesus Christ (John 14:15-18, 26-27; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:12).
  • When seeking God’s will for your life it is important to remember that God is immutable, he does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). Therefore, we can be assured that God will never lead us on a path that is contrary to his previously revealed truth in Scripture.
  • If you ever think to yourself, “I believe God wants me to (fill in the blank)”; and if that idea is contrary to what God has already revealed in Scripture, you can be sure it’s not God who is leading you.

For more information on the nature of God and discerning his will, please check out Dr. Carlson’s lecture, What is God Like? available in CD or MP3 in our online store.

The Question, “Can we really know the true meaning of Scripture?”

  • Recently during a Q&A session a young man suggested to me that we can never be certain of the true meaning of the Bible as there are so many different interpretations; and because of this, he proposed that Christians should be less rigid in our beliefs and more open to other religious and cultural perspectives.
  • While this is a popular notion with many in our world today, there are some fundamental problems with this idea that we as Christians must be ready to address.
  • First, the Bible is actually very straight-forward in what it teaches. The will of God, his norms for our lives, his plan of salvation for the world, these are all concepts that can be easily discerned by a plain reading of Scripture. Different interpretations of the Bible are more often the result of people choosing to willfully reject the plain teachings of Scripture than they are the result of Scripture being hard to discern.
  • Second, what is the purpose of the Bible? It is our loving Creator’s message about how men and women can have a relationship with him and know his will for our lives. Now, if that is God’s intention for Scripture, wouldn’t we expect that our perfect God would communicate that to us in a clear and easily discernable manner? And again, this is what we find in the Bible.
  • Third, while different interpretations of the Bible are possible, different actual meanings are not. The Divinely inspired authors of Scripture actually intended to convey discernable truth to us. In other words, there is a correct interpretation for every verse in the Bible.
  • The Bible is the inspired word of God, given to be “useful” to us (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God superintended the writing of Scripture so that we could know and be confident in his revealed truth to humanity (2 Peter 1:20-21).
  • When difficulties arise in our reading of Scripture, the answer isn’t to throw up our hands and say, “We can never know the Bible’s true meaning.” The answer is to pray, study, practice good exegesis, and allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the meaning of God’s intended message to us.

For more information on today’s flawed views of truth and Scripture, please check out our friend Shane Idleman’s book, Answers For A Confused Church available in our online store.

The Inspiration of Scripture

  • The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1,500 years, in 3 different languages, and on 3 different continents.
  • Remarkably, in light of the above facts, the Bible exhibits a common theme and storyline from beginning to end – God’s love and plan of salvation for humanity – while also containing no errors or contradictions.
  • The incredible uniformity and consistency that we see in the Bible is truly miraculous. In fact, it is powerful evidence testifying to the fact that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
  • When Christians speak of the inspiration of Scripture they are referring to the process whereby God superintended the writing of the Bible through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the lives of its human authors.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (theopneustos in the Greek). What does this mean? In 2 Peter 1:20-21 we are told, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
  • God used average, fallible, sinful human beings to convey his exact words and message to the world. Though each author of Scripture had their own unique style, personality, and background, all of them were inspired by the same Spirit to record God’s special revelation in the Bible.
  • An illustration that can help us better understand this concept is this: Just as the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin Mary, a sinful human being, to produce the perfect Son of God, Jesus; in the same way, the Holy Spirit came upon the sinful, human authors of Scripture to produce the perfect word of God, the Bible.

For more on the inspiration of Scripture please check out Jason & Jared Carlson’s CD album, Answering the Tough Topics available in our online store.

The Genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke

  • One of the areas where skeptics often question the historical reliability of the Gospels is in the genealogies of Jesus recorded by Matthew (Ch. 1) and Luke (Ch. 3).
  • There are notable and significant differences between the two genealogies in these Gospels: they have different names listed, they are different lengths, and they seem to vary on some key details.
  • The most basic way to reconcile the differences in these two genealogies is to recognize that Matthew gives us Jesus’ legal lineage, establishing his right to the throne of David, which could only come through his earthly father, Joseph. While Luke provides us with Jesus’ physical lineage, which could only be through Mary, as Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
  • Matthew wrote his Gospel primarily for a Jewish audience. So, he was most concerned with showing that Jesus, as the Messiah, fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies connecting him to the throne of David.
  • Luke wrote his Gospel with a Gentile audience in mind. So, while Luke was also interested in showing that Jesus was qualified to fill the role of Messiah through his Old Testament ancestry, he was primarily concerned with demonstrating that Jesus had a true human lineage that could be traced all the way back to the first man, Adam. In this way Luke highlights Jesus’ solidarity with all humanity, as we are all descendants of Adam (Acts 17:26).
  • One question that often comes up in the study of the two genealogies is who was the father of Joseph (Mary’s husband)? Matthew says Jacob was Joseph’s father, while Luke says his father was Heli. This appears to be a contradiction.
  • The most plausible answer to this apparent dilemma is that Jacob was Joseph’s physical father. So, Matthew is correct. However, Luke is also correct in claiming that Heli was Joseph’s father. Heli was likely the physical father of Mary; and if Heli had no male descendants, when Joseph married Mary, Heli would’ve adopted Joseph as his legal son (a common Jewish custom). So, the two genealogies are correct in identifying both Jacob and Heli as the father of Joseph.

For more answers to common questions, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, available in our online store.

The Theory of Evolution

  • The theory of evolution is essential to the Naturalistic worldview which says there is no God.
  • Naturalistic evolution is based on a hopelessly illogical premise, the concept of spontaneous generation, or life arising from non-living matter.
  • Evolutionists point to natural selection as evidence of macroevolution. However, natural selection, which is basic science, simply demonstrates change within species or microevolution.
  • The lack of transition forms in the fossil record is a major problem for the theory of evolution. If evolution were true we should literally find millions of transitional forms, but this just isn’t the case.
  • Critiquing the theory of evolution does not make a person anti-science. We all share the same scientific evidence. The question is, what theory or interpretive framework best explains the evidence?

For more information on the theory of evolution, please check out Dr. Carlson’s 2 DVD lecture set entitled, Evolution vs. Creation, available in our online store.

the Trinity – How Can God be both Three and One?

  • When Christians speak of the Trinity we are not talking about three distinct gods (polytheism), nor are we referring to one God who manifests himself in three different ways (modalism).
  • The historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is that there is one divine Being, God, who exists eternally as three persons. The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the Trinity like this, “There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”
  • While the term “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly found in what God reveals of himself throughout Scripture.
  • In the Old Testament God tells us that he is one. In Deuteronomy 6:4 God declares, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
  • We also find in the Old Testament that God refers to himself as a plurality, using the terms “us” and “our” (Genesis 1:26-27; 11:7-8; Isaiah 6:8).
  • In the New Testament the Trinity is seen at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17); in the teachings of Jesus (John 14:16); and in Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The apostle Paul also acknowledges the three persons of the Trinity in his benediction to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:14).
  • Throughout the New Testament we also see that the Father is called God (Romans 1:7); the Son is called God (Hebrews 1:8); and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4).
  • Though none are perfect, there are some illustrations from the natural world that can help us better comprehend the triune nature of God. For example, water can exist as liquid, steam, and ice; and an egg consists of a shell, yoke, and albumen (white).
  • The doctrine of the Trinity can be difficult to comprehend. However, God has revealed the truth of his triune nature to us. While we may not understand this doctrine exhaustively, we can know it sufficiently to trust and believe.

For more information on the Trinity and other doctrines, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible for Students available in our online store.