Examining the Doctrine of the Church of Christ Denomination
The Church of Christ denomination is much more prevalent in the southern portion of the Bible Belt, and down south if you call them a denomination...well, let's just say "Them's fightin' words!" This is one of their foundational tenets. You might be asking yourself, "What's the big deal? Who cares if they think they are a denomination or not?" The answer is that it's not a big deal, unless you know the logic behind why they make the claim. It is simply this: if they accept being called a denomination, then that would relegate them to a position within the Body of Christ. But their claim is that they are not just a part of the Body of Christ, but that THEY ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST!
The sad thing is to hear what great lengths they will go to in order to shun the label of "denomination." They will actually redefine the term in such a way as to cause the unaware to agree with them. As an ex- member, I have heard so many definitions for the word "denomination" over the years that it's hard for me to remember them all. The most common one they use is that a denomination is "a group or thing that has come out from an original group or thing." Now that fits their theology just fine, thank you, because it allows them to say that all denominations are "groups that came out from the original group" which, you guessed it, the original group is them... the Church of Christ! This also allows them to claim that you are not a true Christian and you are not going to heaven, because you don't belong to the one and only, true Body of Christ. Convenient, but ignorant.
A denomination is simply a certain type of the same thing, such as a denomination of money. Let's say I had $50 in my pocket. And we'll say that it was a $20 bill, two tens, and two fives. Each of those denominations is a form of paper money. They are different denominations and are of different values but they are each considered to be of the same currency. But according to the Church of Christ denomination, some of the bills are real money but others are not, because a denomination is a "group or thing that has come out from an original group or thing." Their obvious flaw in this scenario is called "circular logic." Why are they not a denomination? Because "they are the true body of Christ!" And why are they the true body of Christ? Because "they are not a denomination!" The word "denomination" comes from the Latin word "nomin", which means "name" and the prefix "de" means "of." So, "de nomin" simply means "of the same name." And in the case of the church, it would be of the same name... Jesus!
Paul addresses the issue of denominations in I Corinthians 11:18-19.
He says, "For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
The Greek word used in this verse for “division” is schism, which simply means a division.
The Greek word used here for “factions” is hairesis, which means dis-unity.
So on the surface it seems as though Paul is condemning these divisions… or is he? In reality, under closer scrutiny, he is virtually endorsing these divisions or denominations. Why? Because he says in verse 19 that the divisions allow our congregations to be separated into groups that can be identified as “approved” or “not approved.”
If I go into a new city and I want to go to a Church of Christ, I simply look in the Yellow Pages under “Churches of Christ.” If I want to go to an Assembly of God, I do the same. This way I don’t unknowingly go to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I’m sure that the Lord would prefer perfect doctrinal unity in all his congregations, but He knows that won’t happen this side of Heaven. Even the three Church of Christ denominations can’t decide on the issues of multiple cups, musical instruments or multiple loaves for communion. So basically we are back to square one, it doesn’t matter so much what you call your church (Church of God, Church of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ, etc.), but more importantly, what you teach.
Paul also addresses this issue in I Corinthians 12:12-31,
12"For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20But now there are many members, but one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
So we see that God says that there is one BODY of Christ (one Church) but is has many members or parts. Those parts all have their own individual callings and functions. Unfortunately, the Church of Christ denomination says to all other members of the body: "I have no need of you...you are not a part of the body!"
Oddly, the Church of Christ denomination seems to hang their hat on one focal point to "prove" that they are not a denomination. It is that they have no headquarters. They are individualistic or autonomous (which is just an excuse for being divisive). In other words, they say that because the early church had no headquarters, and THEY have no headquarters, that proves that they are not a denomination AND they are more like the original church than YOUR church. Sadly, this is just another example of being blind to the obvious. If you ask them what would designate a "headquarters" they would usually say, "a centralized governing body that decides doctrine and behavior for multiple congregations." We would agree with that definition. Unfortunately, that leaves the Church of Christ denomination out in the cold, because the early church DID have a headquarters, using the church of Christ's own definition. It can clearly be found in the 15th chapter of Acts. The sticky subject of what to do with the Gentiles came before the leadership of the church. So they got together as a body of leaders and came up with an official decree, determining the doctrine and behavior to be adhered to by the different congregations, which was sent to many (if not all) the then known congregations in many cities and countries.
So, this proves that the early church DID have a headquarters with a governing body that set down the guidelines for doctrine and behavior. Strangely, this example sets them at odds with the early church, and yet they see it as something to brag about.
Jesus prayed in John 17:22, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity." Jesus stressed UNITY, but the Church of Christ denomination stresses AUTONOMY. They accuse other congregations of causing division, when in reality, they are one of the most divisive groups in the church.