Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1962
NUMBER 48, PAGE 1,12a

Why There Are Religious Differences

L. A. Mott, Jr., Las Vegas, Nevada

The present state of division among the religious peoples of the world has been variously explained. The Mormons, or Latter Day Saints, offer an interpretation of this condition which grows out of their infidel attitude toward the Bible. Most Protestants, while differing with some of the fundamental Mormon positions with reference to the Bible, have played into the hands of these infidels that wear the garb of religious respectability by agreeing with their views as to the cause of division.

Latter Day Saints lay the responsibility for division upon the Bible itself. J. Early Arceneaux wrote a booklet called Mormonism — A System of Infidelity. Robert H. West also recognized the fundamental nature of Mormonism when he wrote the tract, Mormon Faith and Infidelity. Brother West did not overstate the matter when he wrote that "the basic beliefs of Mormonism identify it as an infidel scheme," and that "the religious system of Mormonism" is "based upon the tenets of infidelity."

Aping the charges of infidels of earlier ages, the author of the Book of Mormon contends that though the Bible came forth in plainness and purity, it fell into the hands of an apostate organization, the Catholic Church, which removed many plain and precious parts, and that in consequence of this corruption of the Biblical text "an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them"; they are in an "awful state of blindness." (See 1 Nephi 13) Mormons argue that this corruption of the Bible accounts for the division among professed Bible believers. It is alleged that the Bible is so corrupt that it is impossible for all to understand it alike and thus, we are divided.

It is not my purpose to delve into the Scriptural statements and the external evidence which prove these charges to be utterly unfounded and to have their roots in ignorance and unbelief, but rather, to take issue with this explanation of the division among Bible believers. I challenge anyone to produce one instance in which division has occurred because men could not understand the Bible alike. I do not doubt that there are some difficult passages in which there is room for more than one explanation in perfect harmony with the context of the passage and with the general teaching of the Bible. But the denominational differences are not caused by these passages. The subjects on which religious people are divided are those concerning which God has spoken plainly. Division exists because many will not follow the Bible, and not at all because they cannot understand the Bible.

In 1 Tim. 4:1 Paul wrote, "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons This is one of those passages in which the word "faith" is used objectively. Sometimes "faith" is used subjectively to refer to that which is exercised in the heart of a person: Heb. 11:6 is an example. But in many passages "faith" is used in an objective sense to refer to what is believed. In this sense, "the faith" is tantamount to the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ.

The following are instances of this usage: (1) "And the word of God increased' and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith,"

(Acts 6:7) (2) The churches of Judea "only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc." (Gal. 1:23) (3) "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)

From these we learn that the faith was once for all delivered, is to be obeyed, preached, and contended for. But Paul tells of some who would fall away from the faith. They are unwilling to obey, preach, and contend for the faith.

What happens when some depart from the faith? Division occurs; for when some depart from the faith, we have two classes, one obeying, preaching, and contending for the faith, and the other obeying, preaching, and contending for something else. Any time there is division we can be certain that someone has left the faith. Obviously, the group that leaves the faith, not the one which continues therein, is responsible for the division As long as all preach, obey, and contend for nothing but the faith, division is impossible.

That these principles may be perceived in even a clearer light we shall now observe some specific applications:

(1) Church membership Under this heading we have the following paragraph in The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 22:

It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but 'one Lord, one faith and one baptism,' and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, 'baptism was the door into the church.' Now, it is different and while the churches are desirous of receiving members, they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their 'experience,' and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members. And while they cannot become members without baptism, yet it is the vote of the body which admits them to its fellowship on receiving baptism.

It is to be noted that Mr. Hiscox, the author of this manual, first discusses the subject of church membership as taught in the New Testament, or "in the Apostolic age." I am in complete agreement with what he says about this. It should be clear to all that the reason for division on this subject is not that we cannot see the Bible alike, for we agree on the New Testament teaching. We are divided for the sole reason that the Baptists have decided that the New Testament method is inadequate and that a "different" plan is needed. They have departed from the faith. We can be united when all preach and obey the faith.

(2) Baptism. Baptism, says Luther's Catechism, "may be performed in any one of three ways; namely, by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion." (p. 147) According to the New Testament, baptism involves a burial and a resurrection. (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) Are we divided because we cannot see the Bible alike? No; the Bible is clear. We are divided because Lutherans are not following the Bible at all but an entirely different book.

(3) Salvation by faith. The ninth article of religion of the Discipline of the Methodist Church asserts that "we are justified by faith only." (p. 28) But the Bible says we are not justified by faith only. (Jas. 2:24) Is there anyone who is unable to see that we are divided because Methodists are not following the Bible but some other book?

(4) Laws where there is no law. The Judaizers taught, "Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1) An ambassador of Christ taught that circumcision is a matter of indifference. (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:8) Here is an instance in which a schism was formed when someone made a law which is not in "the faith." Even in such cases as this, however, the division is caused when someone left the faith and began following human ordinances. The brethren who contend that only one container can be used to serve the Lord's Supper have committed this error. Division exists on this because these brethren made a departure from the faith.

Obviously, the only basis for unity on these and all other religious questions is the New Testament. Division comes when men depart from the faith; unity can exist when, and if, all men determine to obey, preach, and contend for the faith — all the faith and only the faith.