You know you are hip when you categorize yourself as “post”-something. And, in my never-ending desire to be hip (sarcasm), I bring you the “post” group with which I most identify. I direct you to the title.

So what is post-denominationalism? To me, it is about making the most of what we have. It’s part realism—part idealism.

Notwithstanding God breaking up human language at the foundation of the unfinished tower of Babel, unity is a big, big deal to God. Now, I am tempted to throw out some neat metaphor to illustrate how important unity and cooperation are among various elements of the natural world. Unfortunately, pretty much every metaphor for that has become trite by now. So I’ll skip the flowery language and move on to the heart of the problem: Unity does not describe God’s believers and never has. Considering the fact that Jesus prayed for this right before he died, this has to be one of our foremost endeavors. If it isn’t, God’s enemy will find every way to use it to his advantage. This is the foundation of my idealistic bent. A purely idealistic approach, I would call “non-denominationalism” (though this often passes as it’s own denomination). I would love to see a day in which there are no denominations.

But I’m also a realist—denominations, at least in the short term, are going nowhere. I have nothing scientific with which to back this up, but a mixture of experience and intuition have lead me to this conclusion. After all, what are we going to do with all those buildings we’ve made? I remember driving from California into Arkansas—a state, proud of it’s southernness and it’s holiness—for the first time as an adult; all I could think was, “Wow, this place has a lot of church buildings.” I was not impressed.

So what do we do if we can’t get rid of denominations? I say we make them irrelevant. Even if they don’t immediately go away, they might later. And even if they don’t, no one will care. So how do we make them irrelevant? First, a foundation.

You and I on Sunday morning might sing songs and listen to a preacher in different buildings. You’re building might be hip (yes!) with cool lights and a rockin’ band; mine might be rather bland. I may have communion (or Eucharist, if you like) once a week, you once a month, and some really radical people might break bread in their homes together every day (where have I heard that?). You guys might believe “once saved, always saved”—a fair interpretation of Romans 8:38-39—and that continuing a life of sin means you were never saved in the first place; my people might believe that you can be given salvation and then lose it—a fair interpretation of Hebrews 10:26-27 and 2 Peter 1:5-10.

But these are hardly the things that Jesus spent his time addressing. Imagine going to Jesus today and asking him whether we should baptize by full immersion or by sprinkling? A Jesus who would actually dignify that question would seem to fly in the face of the Jesus in Matthew 12, among other scriptures. My guess is he would say, “Haven’t you read Romans 14 and 15? Get baptized and when you’re done, come do my work.”

Romans 14 and 15 are groundbreaking yet tragically neglected. When Paul wrote this, Christians of a Jewish, Hebrew background were clashing with the Christians of a pagan, Greek or Roman background. The Hebrew Christians had grown up their whole life observing an astoundingly complicated set of laws handed down from God through Moses on Mount Sinai. This law was the foundation of all Hebrew culture. It was their identity. So when the law forbids the eating of various foods and now, by the law losing it’s force after Jesus’s resurrection, those foods have been made okay, what was a Hebrew Christian to do at the sight of a Greek Christian eating a BBQ pull pork sandwich at Whole Hog Cafe?

In Romans 14 and 15, Paul is essentially saying: “Look guys, there are some things that are disputable. You guys need to keep these things from getting in the way of the real work of God.” Paul specifically mentions three things in these chapters: eating meat, drinking wine, and observing special days. I believe these are specific examples of the general principle laid out in verse one: do not quarrel over disputable matters. Also, let’s be clear, the belief that it is wrong to eat meat is not right. This is made explicitly clear in Acts 10. So, is it kosher (pun absolutely intended) to say that Paul is allowing people to cling to certain beliefs, even when they are wrong? I don’t know how you could read Romans 14 and conclude otherwise. Therefore, I’m going to submit to you that there are very few indisputable matters. Of course, it is crucial to identify them, but most matters are subject to differing, yet reasonable interpretations.

So where does that leave us? Post-denominationalism. Post-denominationalism has two parts, both of which serve a common purpose. First, we should restrict things that divide us to our time within our church buildings. If I believe that worshipping with instruments is a sin—a reasonable interpretation of Ephesians 5:18-19—then I’ll sing in a building with people that believe the same thing. However, and second, when we get out of those buildings, we need to leave the things of our consciences that divide us and focus on the indisputable things that unite us, even when we strongly believe the other side is wrong (Romans 14:3 is a double command: both sides, the incorrect and the correct must accept each other). Therefore, we should be united in service with all Christians who share in common the things that are indisputable: the power of sin to destroy, Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins, God’s supremacy, living according to the Holy Spirit (whether or not you believe He allows you to speak in tongues) and doing for others what we would have them do for ourselves.

Church buildings serve few productive purposes but I believe allowing us to briefly and temporarily separate according to our impossible differences is one of them. Many people are going to freak out by this and say that I’m sanctioning any and all belief and behavior. Trust me, there are things that are indisputably sinful and there are beliefs that are indisputably at odds with God. However, we must accept that even God knew we would disagree over many issues. Yet, the Bible seems much more concerned with our ability to live in true harmony with one another, despite those differences. Ultimately, the purpose of post-denominationalism is just that.

To make post-denominationalism work, we must be willing to get outside of the people group with whom we sing “Victory in Jesus” each Sunday morning. We must forge relationships with people of different congregations. And we really owe it to ourselves and to God to hear each other out. Perhaps the divisions we thought were there really aren’t! Perhaps we are wrong! I know I’ve been wrong about many things and no doubt continue to be wrong about others.

Try it. All of you. And tell your friends.


7 thoughts on “Post-Denominationalism

  1. MelancholyDane says:

    What kind of unity does God care about? Visible unity in one institutional organizational scheme? Unity in spirit? Unity in the truth? Unity at all costs?

    If there are any non-negotiable doctrines and/or practices, what would they be?

    Part of the problem is that we not only have disagreements about what doctrines / practices are non-negotiable, but we also have disagreements over the importance of those disagreements.

  2. Dan S. says:

    I heard once that the more alike people think the less people think. Accepting what has been taught to you, surrounding yourself with other people who think the same things and criticize those who don’t, this is the easy road, and the road most of us take, Christian or otherwise. It’s a lot more comfortable to talk ABOUT others who believe this or that, then actually talk TO others who do believe this or that, much less talk to them with the required humility to actually listen at the very beginning with the mindset that you may be just as wrong as you think they are. Cynical comment, but I believe this is why denominations will continue to haunt us and divide us.

  3. So suppose that there are a billion planets, if the special conditions are extremely, then a very few of these billion may be in the Goldilocks zone. Intelligent life can only arise on these fortunate planets. So the evidence of our existence on Earth actually gives us no reason to believe that we are truly special. This is called the anthropic principle which is sort of misleading because it has nothing to do with Man. Any intelligent life form, capable of asking that question will, by your argument, find itself specially favoured by God.

    Its an extreme example of the survival bias (

  4. Excuse my typos. I really enjoyed reading your blog by the way. It is exceedingly well written. You raise some very interesting issues. Although I beg to differ on many of your positions.

    • Thank you so much!

      You might be surprised but I agree with your observation regarding survival bias completely. I think it’s important to reiterate that my argument is not a reductive one; I think it’s much more grounded in the emergence school of thought.

      Therefore, it really doesn’t matter that my argument about the universe does not stand on its own. My convictions arise out of the interaction of numerous forces and circumstances.

  5. Samantha Covalt says:

    “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

    I remember vividly sitting in my room one night in high school reading the above. A prayer said by Jesus literally minutes before he is seized to be taken, tortured, and killed. And what does he pray for? Unity. Unity for His people so that the world may believe and know His love. Of all the things that could be prayed for, that is one that was close to Christ’s heart. I remember just being so struck by sadness realizing how much we’ve botched it up. Throughout history, whether or not it was well-meaning at the time, divisions upon divisions have come and truly hindered people from seeing Christ. Christ’s prayer always seizes my heart and makes me want to do my best to be ONE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s