30,000 Protestant Denominations?
Question: If one
thing is clear, it's that there is one, single, visible Church that
Jesus founded. This multitude of competing, conflicting denominations is
no sign of God's work; therefore, it must be the work of the Evil One.
Somewhere in the midst of these 30,000 denominations, there is one true
church, and the rest are in sin and rebellion.
Answer: The "thousands-of-denominations" argument is very often employed
to prove all sorts of things. Here are some citations from letters
received from other Catholics:
How can all these denominations
claim to follow the Bible yet all come to different conclusions? How
can I possibly know which one of those above teach the truth when they
can't even agree on what the Bible says? The Bible alone has created
so much havoc in this world.
If there is only one Church, why
are there so many Protestant denominations? Possibly many thousands
throughout the world, as compared to only one Catholic Church? I do
see it as a sign of God's judgment that there are close to 30,000
The Bible alone can be dangerous.
In fact, the Bible alone IS dangerous. Look at Protestantism: 100,000
different interpretation of the Bible, 100,000 contradictions, 100,000
different denominations claiming to have the key.
Peter said that no prophecy of
the Scripture is for private interpretation. This is why you have
30,000 different Protestant denominations that all believe differently
from one another. This alone should give you a clue that Protestantism
is not the true Church of Jesus Christ.
So, the existence of many Protestant
denominations supposedly proves that the Sola Scriptura is
dangerous, that we should not try to understand the Bible for ourselves,
that the church of Rome is the one true church, and of course, all the
other churches are false.
Elsewhere I have written on the
significance of the heterogeneity among Christians. (See
They May Be One and
among Protestants). Here I simply want to make one important
addition, namely, that the allegation so often repeated by Catholic
apologists that there are 20,000 to 30,000 Protestant denominations is
simply FALSE . . . not to mention the double standard employed, for the
Roman Church is not exactly united. There are untold factions and
divisions, and diverse understanding of doctrine within Catholic groups
and by different Catholic theologians and individuals.
In an article entitled "30,000
Protestant Denominations?", Evangelical apologist Eric Svendsen
exposes the falsehood of this fabrication. Briefly:
Svendsen shows that the source of
this figure is the World Christian Encyclopedia (David A. Barrett;
Oxford University Press, 1982).
Barrett cites a figure of 20,780
denominations. However not all of them are Protestants. According to
Barrett, Protestants account for 8,196 (and incidentally, Roman
Catholics account for 223).
However, even this figure of eight
thousand Protestant denominations is misleading, for Barrett defines
"distinct denominations" as any group that might have a slightly
different emphasis than another group. The distinction is made on
the basis of jurisdiction, rather than differing beliefs and
Barrett breaks down the Protestant
bloc into twenty-one major "traditions" which are much closer to
what we usually mean by the word "denominations." It is interesting
that Roman Catholics are subdivided into sixteen such
Svendsen concludes, "In short,
Roman Catholic apologists have hurriedly, carelessly - and, as a
result, irresponsibly - glanced at Barrett's work, found a large
number (22,189), and arrived at all sorts of absurdities that
Barrett never concluded."