A Double Question:

Which is the Most Biblical Denomination?

Which is the Most Biblical Theology?

ARTICLE QUOTE: "I think that we may need to re-define that word 'evangelicalism' and somehow place a firm barrier between ourselves and the heretics who have so successfully infiltrated us."

At some point it was probably inevitable that these questions would come my way. This is the form which the question took:

'I read somewhere that you have been a keen student of Bible study since the age of 16 and that that is now between 40 and 50 years ago. After all those years I just have to ask you two associated questions:

1. Which, in your opinion, is the most biblical church denomination?

2. Which, in your opinion, is the most truly biblical theology?

I think that your answer to these questions could help a whole lot of people!'

My Response:

Here is my best current effort (at the age of 62, that is 47 years after I recall kneeling by the side of my bed and beseeching the Lord to give me a deep understanding of His Word), to address these questions.

1. Which is the Most Biblical Denomination?

First of all, I honestly think that the age of denominationalism has now passed. I formed this opinion when I spent some time preaching in the local churches of 2 or 3 denominations here in the UK. I discovered that local churches mostly no longer had any sort of teaching or guidelines coming from their denomination's 'headquarters' and in both clearly evangelical and also liberal-influenced congregations, little contact still existed between local churches and their denominational (supposed) leadership. Both liberal-influenced and evangelical deacons often frankly told me that they had just about given up on their official 'denomination.' I discovered, for example, that most of the best baptist churches had long since withdrawn from the Baptist Union of Great Britain. In fact, in my last two years as a travelling preacher, I withdrew from preaching in BUGB churches at all. Then, as recently as 2005, I had some contact with an 82 year old minister who still did some preaching. I did not entirely see eye-to-eye with this elderly pastor in every single area yet I nevertheless came to greatly admire him for his refusal to compromise. He was one of the 'old school' - a clear product of denominationalism. He had originally been a Presbyterian pastor, but upon coming to see that the baptist denomination was more biblically-based (in his eyes, at least), he had joined the baptists. He had been a strict 'reformed man' (Calvinist) for over 30 years. One day this very worthy man made this surprising comment to me,

"Robin, make no mistake that the age of the denominations has now passed; the denominations are now dead."

I recall that I did not immediately answer but simply smiled, for I had come to exactly the same conclusion about two years earlier - yet I was fascinated and quite shocked that a man who had been so steeped in the whole denominational approach, over perhaps 40-50 years, should be of the same opinion!

Yet I would not be too critical of Protestant denominationalism: it was undoubtedly the best thing available for perhaps 350 years or more. But today when we look at what separated Methodists from Presbyterians and Baptists from Congregationalists, we tend to smile, for those things which caused a separation were really not all that important at all! Not - that is - in comparison with today's rampant heresies! They seem to lie in the area of justifiable, reasonable and honest differences of opinion among true believers.

But surely few - if any - can still believe that just one Christian denomination are 'God's own.'

Surely few can still think that the Holy Spirit is only at work in just one organisation governed by very fallible men and women!

Surely it is far more reasonable to believe - in common with J.C. Ryle and several other of the leading evangelical thinkers of the last two hundred years - that since Christian conversion is an entirely spiritual matter which necessitates the activity of the Holy Spirit - who works entirely where He wills - then believers may genuinely come to Christ in any setting in which the Word is honestly preached and expounded, yes, even in places where doctrinal knowledge could be stronger.

So, in answer to the question, 'Which is the most biblical denomination?' I think that all of the main Christian denominations were partly biblical, just as long as heretical teachings were rejected (and the denominations did officially reject heretical teachings). But every one of the denominations were a little 'patchy' - it really all depended on the local minister/pastor, his walk with God, and his commitment to Holy Scripture. Because of this, and because the denominations often separated over things which were not of the importance which their leaders often seemed to believe, the question is probably logically flawed.

I consider that there are true Christian believers in all of the denominations, although I use that word 'denominations' with a little concern since I really believe that denominationalism has now left the scene - even though there are still some denominational leaders, who maybe are existing in a 'little ivory tower' mentality, who are even yet unaware of this.

Today in those few denominational areas which still seem quite strong and unified (for instance, the British evangelical reformed movement and the Southern Baptists of the U.S.), one notes worrying indications of a certain complacency and the placing of one's store and confidence in one's denomination - rather than in Christ.

Today, biblical evangelical leaders (that is, leaders who accept the evangelical 'high' view of Holy Scripture and fully accept the great creeds), are usually prepared to work right across denominational boundaries. In short, it is more important to be an evangelical Methodist than to be a Methodist, it is more important to be an evangelical Anglican than to be an Anglican - and so on. The real enemy is Liberalism and liberal theology and its devastating effects.

2. Which is the Most Biblical Theology?

I honestly believe that every single attempt at forming a fully biblical and consistent theology is not without shortcomings.

At least we can reject all of those theological approaches which are really compromises with this world and amount to attempts to domesticate God (to make God seem a bit more 'tame' and like us). At one time biblical theology more or less separated over the Calvinist/Arminian approaches. I am not going into those things in detail here because we, and others, have done it elsewhere.
There were always true Christian believers in both of these groups who were/are being true to as much theology as they could/can understand and cope with at the present time - that should go without saying. But I know that many of our regular readers are well able to cope with a little more theology and would want me to go further. Okay. For what it is worth, I think that there are flaws in both Calvinism and Arminianism but I think that the Arminian flaws are rather greater. Too much in that particular brand of theology seemed to amount to an attempt to domesticate God. To say: Hey, this is hard, but if we explain it in such a way it will be easier for people, if we explain it in such a way, people can be seen as more important and central. It was preachers who operated from an Arminian base who started to believe that it was quite fair to emotionally manipulate people in order to 'get a decision for Christ.' In this manner, human psychology came into evangelicalism and the work of the Holy Spirit effectively became demoted. Appearances became too important. Today appearances remain far too important in all evangelistic initiatives operating from an Arminian foundation. There seems to be this underlying philosophy to impress people.

But Calvinism too has flaws. All round, it is a more fully biblical theology, especially as Calvin himself expounded it. But the later Calvin-ism started to go into foolish extremes and seemed to provide an entrance for Fatalism (a pagan doctrine) into Christianity. This was largely because of a misunderstanding on the teachings of Election and Predestination. Both are biblical teachings, but in full-blown Calvinism, both become perilously close to a Fatalism which is never found in the Scriptures. God is certainly more holy in Calvinism - and so He should be! But unfortunately, an actual over-stress on holiness, sovereignty and grace also led to a distorted picture of a God who willingly intends to destroy the overwhelming majority of the Mankind which He Himself created! In its worst excesses, Calvinism appears to picture a God who is seemingly teasing and tantalising people, apparently offering people a salvation which He truthfully never intends to give them since He has long since decided upon a tiny group who will be saved, the rest will burn for eternity, no matter how many worthy traits such people may have. In hyper-Calvinism human decision is reduced almost to an irrelevance, yet the Holy Bible continually stresses the importance of our human decision. The Bible certainly presents a picture of a sovereign God but continually refuses to suggest that human decision is thus rendered meaningless. Yes - strict hyper-Calvinism seriously upholds a distorted picture of a "Loving God." If such a picture were truly biblical - which, happily, it is not!! - one would have to seriously question that such a God could indeed be 'A God of Love.'

So - ultimately - both Arminianism and Calvinism went into unbiblical extremes. Of the two - as originally expounded - the latter is biblically stronger; but there have always been true biblical believers in both groups - it is according to one's current level of understanding, personal growth, and various background influences which will decide which way people will be inclined to move. Fortunately the work of the Holy Spirit is not unduly hampered by flawed theologies as long as the Name and message of Christ are preached without compromise.

Meanwhile the 'Orthodox' catholic theologies have unfortunately long since been overcome with too much concern for ritualism and superstition and a 'priest' who is seen to serve in place of Christ, even though the priesthood is now dead. An unspiritual legalism is to be found almost everywhere. Yet, without question, there are true Christians among such Orthodox people.

Regarding evangelicalism, somewhere within the broad sweep of what is loosely known as "evangelicalism" one will (in my honest opinion), find the most biblical approach. But it should not surprise that it is this very area in which the Holy Spirit can probably be expected to be most active, that Satan has planted the greater number of deceiving teachers!! Evangelicalism is replete with unbiblical frauds and shysters even though most of these people do not know that they are frauds since they themselves are so satanically-deceived!

Due to the activity of these charlatans, especially of the 'health and prosperity' type, modern evangelicalism is frankly a mess during this early 21st century, and yet I believe that it is because it is the most biblical theology overall that our adversary plants counterfeit preachers within it so freely. Yet record numbers of genuine evangelicals (that is: people who hold a genuine God-believing, liberalism-rejecting theology), now seem to be withdrawing from all local church association; such is the widespread anger and disgust at the current state of the average evangelical church; this is the British situation and I understand it is similar in other countries. I think that we may need to re-define that word 'evangelicalism' and somehow place a firm barrier between ourselves and the heretics who have so successfully infiltrated us.

So to answer this second point, I truly believe that - overall - conservative evangelical theology is the most biblical form, although lamentably, at the present time errors are to be found within it almost everywhere. The form which developed from Luther seems especially strong (although, in my opinion, they have remained far too close to the Roman Catholic view on the sacraments). Meanwhile the Calvinistic strain also has many strong points but 'limited atonement' (in my opinion, completely unscriptural) must be rejected, and so should 'covenant theology' be rejected. An evangelical, or biblical, Inclusivism based on these strong theological pedigrees and upholding New Covenant theology (placing Christ absolutely central)would seem to be the best and most fully-biblical approach.

But as long as Christ is preached and the Gospel expounded (in liberal theology Christ is no longer preached, nor is the Gospel expounded), the Holy Spirit may be active in convicting souls to Christ in several theological traditions.

Robin Brace, 2007.